Archive for October, 2012

I’ve always been partial to Autumn as a season: the mild temperatures, the gorgeous scenery, the flexible wardrobe. As a result of that preference, or perhaps as another contributing factor, the back-to-back awesomeness of Halloween and Thanksgiving is by far, in my opinion, the superior holiday season of the year.

Sure, Christmas is quaint, but its squeaky-clean “true meaning” hardly compares to the party potential of dressing up as witches, ghouls and other monsters in a Pagan ritual to scare away demons and ensure a bountiful harvest. Plus, people give you candy, lots of it.

I also come from a family that celebrates the quirky and the offbeat, so the macabre-light of All Hallow’s Eve is the perfect excuse for us Woods to fly our freak flags (A full-size model skeleton is a permanent fixture in my childhood home. It wears a necklace of fruit, naturally).

But, as much as I love Halloween I have to admit that I have never been one to put an excessive effort into the design of my costume. Typically speaking I elect to craft some menagerie of common household items into a passable visage.

For example, I remember that for years I was the Grimm Reaper, which consisted of wearing a black cloak and holding a plastic scythe that we already had. By the end of a night of trick-or-treating I would shed the scythe, and then the cloak, leaving just a 10-year-old kid in jeans and a black t-shirt. “I’m a homicidal maniac” I would say, quoting Adam’s Family Values. “They look like everybody else.”

Speaking of Adam’s Family, after I shaved my head in the 6th grade it dawned on me that with my trusty black cloak, I could pull off a decent Uncle Fester. My mom applied the makeup, I borrowed a fake severed hand from the annual decorations and voila!

My mom’s ability of face painting is the most effort that I ever put into anything back then. My stunningly awesome Darth Maul costume (again, the black cloak and a foam light saber that I had made to have duels with my cousins) only required that I sit on a stool for about 30 minutes and give my mother a big hug afterwards.

In my Jr. High years I began to think a little differently about Halloween. I couldn’t explain it at first, but looking back now I know that I was reaching the paradigm shift where a Halloween costume is not about accurately depicting a character, it’s about looking hot. The scales finally fell from my eyes at my 8th grade Halloween Dance, when it became very apparent that, although awesome and time consuming to create, my head-to-toe Duct Tape Man costume gave off a distinct, and strong, odor of adhesive that girls found difficult to dance next to.

As a result of this, I went as Neo from The Matrix for the next two years. Which required only a black trench coat, a skin-tight black t-shirt that showed off my abs (I was in the best shape of my life back then, as sad as that is to say) and a pair of sunglasses.

For the remainder of high school, Halloween was all but monopolized by the school dance, which was girl’s choice…moving on.

In college I stuck to my tried and true method of choosing a costume. That is to say, waiting until the last minute and then throwing together some shabby nonsense. My first year, I bought a plastic cape from Dollar Tree and decided that was enough to make me a vampire. The next year, I just asked my mom what costumes she had that would fit me, which resulted in me strutting my stuff in some very tight bell-bottoms and a denim shirt with rainbows on the collarbones.

Heck, I’ll say it. I looked hot. Mission accomplished.

But then, finally, I cracked the code. Of all my costumes, through all the years, I have never been more proud of myself than my Junior year of college when I filled the role of the King of Clubs in a four man team. The idea was my friend Trevor’s and it was brilliant on two fronts. First, the basic concept was clever and not overdone. Second, it fulfilled the cheerleader effect, which states that an individual always looks cooler when they are part of a group.

That was the apex of my costuming. The next year I reverted to my old M.O., raiding my closet for a makeshift rendition of Professor Plumb. Sure, it was a group costume, but my heart wasn’t in it.

That was a great year on the non-costume front, however. Since my friends all studied respectable subjects in college like science, or engineering, we got access to a building on campus after-hours, trucked up a bunch of lovesacs and couches and watched a Horror movie on a projector screen.

That was also the first year I attended a live screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A night of good memories in its own right, further helped by my friend Cody showing up in both drag and full beard. Off-putting yes, but awesome.

The last two years have been difficult. As a newly graduated intern/entry-level employee, work has come before play, impeding my ability to ensure a bountiful harvest by ridding my village of malicious beings from the dark realm. Not that my All Hallow’s in NYC last year was a total bust. I was able to attend the annual parade in the Village (wish I had pictures, frowny face) and I watched two girls get into a full-fisted knock down drag out at a White Castle I stepped into after a screening of PA3.

But if there’s one thing Halloween is about, it’s about hope and bringing loved ones together. Even while I sit at my desk at work tomorrow night, my heart will be out there on the streets with the hooligans, street youths and other miscreants pulling off their shenanigans. I know that soon, if not next year, I’ll be enjoying the faint scent of artificial blood and prosthetic, the stomach ache brought on by a pillowcase full of candy and the inhibition-less chaos of our modern world.

Merry Halloween everyone.


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Well, faithful Wood’s Stock readers (or #Stockers, as I am now going to call you) we have finally reached the end of the fall premiere season, which means it’s time to make arbitrary comparisons between freshman TV shows based on categories I invent for my own enjoyment. As a reminder, the scoring is based on a football system. Why? Because it’s funner that way.








High-concept serials with a twist

Yes, a “high-concept” serial, by definition, is one that has some sort of unexpected or unique feature, but despite its redundancy adding “with a twist!” just makes everything more exciting. What else is exciting? Crafting a military/political drama that spends a large amount of its plot time underwater (ABC’s Last Resort), or tell a “searching-for-my-family” story in a post-apocalyptic dystopia (NBC’s Revolution).

Before either of these shows aired, Last Resort was enjoying submarine-sized critical buzz while Revolution – the J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau blackout extravaganza – was being met with more than just a shred of veiled skepticism. Favreau had, after all, completely blown it recently with Cowboys and Aliens and J.J.’s indomitable stock had fallen slightly after the back-to-back failures of Free Agents and Alcatraz.

Then they premiered to fairly comparable quality, with Revolution enjoying a bump from critical underestimation (and sneaky clever NBC post-olympic scheduling) while Last Resort thudded somewhat as its underperformance failed to meat raised expectations.

Revolution still isn’t great and Last Resort isn’t terrible, but as often happens the pleasant surprise wins out over the disappointment.

Winner: Revolution by 6, a touchdown with a missed extra point







Crime procedural with a quirky anti-hero

On CBS’s Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is a modern day British recovering drug addict whose gifted powers of observation and deductive logic make him a valuable consultant for the NYPD. On CBS’s Vegas, Dennis Quaid is a rancher-turned-sherrif who just wants to keep his little desert gambling town safe from the invading (and inevitable) influence of mobsters, money and political machinations.

Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock is the lesser of today’s three Holmeses, but it’s still fun to watch the greatest detective ever written genius-mumbling his way through seemingly inane clues to catch a killer in modern Manhattan. Throw in Lucy Liu as a female Watson and you have a recipe that doesn’t exactly sizzle but sticks to the ribs nonetheless.

Meanwhile on Vegas, Quaid has found the perfect surly character for his aging persona and for Vegas-files like myself it’s great to tickle your nostalgia bone by watching lawmen toting shotguns on horseback down Fremont Street. Plus, I like to watch Vegas as though it was a prequel to CSI, even though the two have nothing to do with each other besides being similarly-Nevada-set cogs in the CBS crime procedural machine.

Winner: Elementary by 2 points because of a pesky 2nd-quarter safety Vegas could never quite erase








Sitcoms whose entire reason for being is the mere existence of one or more gay characters

Ryan Murphy, the envelope-pushing creator of Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story, decided that he was going to single-handedly legalize gay marriage by making a tv show about a group of obnoxious and unlikeable characters and their non-funny dialogue. At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with. It’s a Quixotic task, to be sure, and one that he fails completely at doing.

NBC’s The New Normal, which revolves around a gay couple who choose to have a baby through a surrogate, leaves no stereotypical-stone unturned, no off-color joke unspoken and no subset of society un-insulted. Arrested Development proved that terrible people can be funny. New Normal merely proves that terrible people can be terrible entertainment.

By comparison, CBS’s Partners looks like a holiday marathon of It’s A Wonderful Life. The single-camera, laugh-track heavy comedy about a straight man and his gay best friend/architectural business partner/pain in the neck is derivative, uninspired and – in the heaviest compliment I can pay it – harmless. Were it not for the asterisk of being centered around a gay character, Partners would be the exact prototype flavorless conveyor-belt style programming that mainstream middle America gobbles up by the millions (i.e. According to Jim, King of Queens, Last Man Standing, Rules of Engagement). As it stands, Partners is a simple 22-minute bridge from one CBS Monday-night comedy to another, that manages to squeeze in a few chuckle-worthy quips every now and then. Neither is scoring any major points for equality in America, but at least Partners doesn’t make you lunge for the remote.

Winner: Partners by a field goal, the only points earned by either team in the entire duration of the game.








Comedies with a largely non-human cast

America, as I’m told, loves monkeys. Loves them. I’d be more baffled by this if I didn’t see example after example of how America also loves crap entertainment (lookin’ at you 2.5 Men and Bachelorette). So the idea of setting a sitcom in a veterinary clinic and promoting a female Capuchin Monkey named Crystal to series regular seems, objectively, like a stroke of business genius.

Apparently, however, America has limits (or NBC is just THAT unlucky) because no one watched Animal Practice and the show has already been cancelled, meaning the atrocious Whitney – and not the amazing Community – will be moving back to Thursday nights.

Compare that to ABC’s The Neighbors, a show about a family that moves into a gated community full of aliens (yes, aliens) that premise-wise sounds like a bad idea wrapped in a disaster and deep fried in liquid doom. Turns out, it’s actually kind of funny. Heck, it’s way better than The Middle.

Winner: The game is given to The Neighbors due to a forfeit technicality, robbing them of their chance to fight for the win.

Losser: For the second year in a row, the loser is America because Whitney remains.

Charmingly-endearing comedies with a heart

I saved this category for the last because it’s the Rose Bowl. As far as I’m concerned, Fox’s Ben and Kate and NBC’s Go On are the two best freshman offerings from the major broadcast networks.

Each one takes a turn from the typical sitcom genre. Ben and Katie completely sidesteps the overused and over-obvious Will-They-Won’t-They relationship by staging the male and female leads as brother and sister, while NBC’s Go On is actually a hybrid Dramedy centered around a man experience in group therapy after his wife dies.

Go On has the better ensemble while Ben and Kate has the better supporting characters. Go On has more consistent humor, but Ben and Kate gets you with one-liners. Laura Benanti is gorgeous, but Dakota Johnson is adorable. Matthew Perry is a seasoned pro, but Nat Faxon is a fresh face and one-half of the oscar winning writing partnership of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

How is a person to choose?

My simple answer would be don’t, watch them both. But for the sake of the exercise I give the edge to Go On because I love a good ensemble.

Winning: Go On by a late, fourth-quarter field goal. 

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I’d been feeling a little stir-crazy lately so I decided to hop in the car and get out of dodge for some well-deserved (I think) R&R. Since starting my big boy job in May I haven’t accumulated an awful lot of vacation time, so I wanted to go somewhere relatively inexpensive, nearby and somewhere I had never been before. Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of Grimm lately and thus, headed myself to Portland.

Portland, or the “City of Roses,” has a really cool vibe to it. Its 2.26 million residents make it the 23rd largest metropolitan area in the United States (thanks Wikipedia) and yet it preserves the mellow, kitschy feel of a much smaller town. It’s also very mossy, which is cool, and in October the humidity is manageable, if not pleasant.

Our hotel was right downtown (score) so we didn’t have to drive in and out every day, which made the whole place seem that much smaller, not completely unlike downtown SLC.

The city is actually surprisingly dark. Not in a sketchy, look-over-your-shoulder way like Queens or Brooklyn, but in a quiet, take-your-time-you-got-plenty way that, again, makes the city seem smaller than it actually is. Downtown is incredibly walkable, with a lot of great landmarks like VooDoo Doughnut, Powell’s Bookstore and a bridge (seemingly) at every block. My only complaint would be that it’s kind of hard to find a place to eat, which was made all the more frustrating by my iPhone charger shorting out the first night, leaving me in a perpetual digital darkness. The above photo is at a cool bar we found for dinner on the first night. They make a mean bacon bleu burger and they pipe in the audio from concerts at a venue upstairs.

I had gone to Portland with only four specific activities in mind: buy a book at Powell’s, eat a VooDoo doughnut, check out Imagine Dragons at the Roseland Theater and explore the Columbia River Gorge. Since three of those could be handled in a single evening we spent our first day driving along the Oregon coast, stopping at a few eye-popping vistas and quaint (read: affluent) seaside towns.

The Oregon coast is exactly as gorgeous as it is described but I was surprised at how much beach there was. You hear about it being nothing but cliff faces and rocks but at least for the portion of Highway 101 that we drove, it’s a happy medium of both stone and sand, which makes for some pretty stunning scenery. The rock formations also seem to just appear out of nowhere (see top photograph) like Stonehenge.

Day 2 was the city day, which began with a morning of exploring Washington and Forest Parks. If you’ve never been to Portland, Washington Park is the “Central Park” equivalent, except it’s much more forest-y and mountainous. It’s actually quite amazing, just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown and you’re in this dark, lush, rain-forest-esque network of trails. It made for a great morning jog and (also unlike NYC) you hardly ever run into anyone else at all and not ONCE did I have to run around a crime scene or people taking bridal photos. (The first time I ever visited Central Park I jogged past a taped-off scene with a body in a bag. No biggie.)

The Park is also home to the international rose test garden, which is a great place for a quick stroll…if you’re into that sort of thing.

Day three was the Gorge, which in hindsight or as a tip for future trips I would have liked to spend more time exploring. In a stretch of just a few miles there’s slot canyons, cliff-side vistas and, most notably, freaking awesome waterfalls.

The picture above is Multnomah Falls, the Gorge’s most famous. The picture didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped but you can imagine how cool it is in person. We were there in the October which means the water was at low flow and to give you an idea of the size, those two blue blobs on the bridge in the photograph are people’s rain-poncho’d heads. If I wanted a good shot I would have needed to get there at like the crack of dawn for a) the light and b) not having people in frame. Oh well.

This one is Horsetail Falls (or Ponytail, I’m still not sure which is which). It’s not particularly big but it’s always fun when you get to walk behind a waterfall. I took a gabillion shots before I finally found one that I liked. Normally I don’t like to blur water but I think it gives this shot a cool ethereal look, especially juxtaposed with the touch of sunlight on the right side. ANYWAY, enough jargon.

We found this slot canyon right when we were leaving which is too bad. I’ll need to go back someday and really explore it. The water comes to a giant log-jamb which is cool to climb around on and, I imagine, would be fun to swim around in if it ever got warm enough in the spring or summer. Then again, it’s a canyon in Portland that gets little sunlight so its probably always violently cold. In my earlier years I would’ve jumped in. Sigh, youth is wasted on the young.

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American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)

As far as Wood’s Stock is concerned (and the Emmy nominations ballots) the second season of AHS is actually a wholly new show, despite retaining it’s name and the lion’s share of its season 1 cast. For Asylum, the tricks and treats moves away from a modern day haunted house in Los Angeles to a 1960s-era center for the criminally insane, lorded over in Nurse Ratched style by a nun (Jessica Lange) who hides a flame for her Monsignor (Joseph Fiennes) and a penchant for dressing up in red lingerie. There’s also a Dr. (played by the indomitable James Cromwell) who experiments with the crazies and may or may not be building monsters in the woods out of his patient’s no-longer-needed body parts.

Oh, and there’s alines…or are there?

Season 1, or series 1 — or however it is we’re supposed to refer to the different anthology sections — was packed full of spooky fun, but Asylum does a better job at providing a more complete universe with more diverse and (dare I say) likeable characters. While it was interesting to see what kind of shenanigans would befall the Harmon family in AHS prime, there’s bona fide mysteries introduced in the premiere of Asylum that demand answers and justify the stellar ratings FX achieved with the show. It also gives season 1 MVP Evan Peters a little more heart and reason to be rooted for, despite the fact that he very may well prove to be a serial killer again.

The “mature” rating is more than accurate and AHS is hardly for the faint of heart. But if spooky fun is your cup of tea, or if you simply enjoy watching something completely unique that revels in flying it’s freak flag, check into the Asylum and don’t bother checking out.

Grade: A-

Class: Subscribe

The Walking Dead (AMC)

In case you didn’t hear, season 3 of TWD premiered to gargantuan, record-shattering, HULK-sized ratings. Long heralded as one of the best hours of drama on television, and one of the most original TV programs in a decade, TWD has gotten better and better, raising the stakes each season while diving deeper into the underlying theme of what it is to be human, and alive.

After a slow-burn season 2 that subtly built to a violent crescendo, Season 3 comes back after a time jump of several months, showing us a band of survivors that has evolved into an efficient machine under the unquestionable leadership of Rick. In 44 minutes, the gang register dozens (literally) of zombie kills as they hack their way into a run-down prison that may offer the group the safe haven they’ve dreamed of. Not a moment too soon, either, as Rick’s wife Laurie is only days away from delivering their child.

I loved the season 2 premiere, but after watching the 1st episode of season 3 I can honestly say that I haven’t been this excited to see what comes next since Rick found himself trapped in a tank in the middle of Atlanta in the pilot. If the storytelling and pace are preserved, Season 3 could easily be the best we’ve ever seen from a show that routinely blows me away.

Grade: A

Class: Subscribe

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Nashville (ABC)

It’s been interesting to watch the string of musical TV shows that have rolled out since Glee blew up three years ago. Last season gave us Smash, a “Let’s Put on a Broadway Show!” drama that struggled to work it’s auto-tuned music into the plot (Let’s go to the Karaoke bar…again!) and now we have ABC’s Nashville, the new season’s most well-reviewed drama (so far) that pits an older Faith Hill-type country legend against a new flash-in-the-pan country/pop post-teen label monster. The two women (Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton and Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere) spar over band-members, lovers, concert billing and sparkly dresses with Britton coming off as an overall nice though slightly self-absorbed musician who may have missed her exit sign and Panettiere coming off as a completely self-absorbed hack in a pushup bra.

The rest of the show is rounded out by a bunch of secondary characters — a jealous husband, a former flame, a controlling father, an old producer — and secondary plots — a new tour, declining record sales, mayoral politics and the changing face of American country music — but the main action is the grunge match that will play out between the old school and the new school, personified by the two well-cast and charismatic leading ladies.

It’s not exactly my cup of tee, partly because I hate country music and partly because I feel like they ripped of The Civil Wars without giving Joy and John any credit, but the production value is top notch, the universe is elaborate and, most notably, the music sounds good. Unlike the obviously lip-synced and uber-polished nonsense that permeates Glee and Smash, Nashville’s smartly-limited musical pieces actually sound like they could possibly be a human being singing into a microphone. I know, crazy right? I also give bonus points to the show for calling out modern country music for what it is, lazily written and produced drivel written by unsung musicians and made famous by no-talent faces.

Grade: B
Class: Subscribe if you like country music, Keep an Eye On if you don’t.

Chicago Fire (NBC)

From producer Dick Wolf (Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: CI, Law & Order: UK, Law & Order: LA, Law & Order: Trial by Jury) comes a series that looks and feels a lot like L&O but instead of solving crimes they fight fires. Chicago Fire has been largely panned by critics, with many expecting a thinly-veiled pleasure at waiting for the show to be axed (PUN!). I’m not sure all of the criticism is warranted but then again, CF isn’t particularly good either.

Starring Jesse Spencer (who inexplicably looks and sounds younger than he did on House) and a cast of people you’ve never heard of with largely forgettable faces, Chicago Fire’s 44-minute pilot is packed with about 230 minutes of melodrama. I’m not sure how they do this, it’s much like the old commercials for Golden Grams, but literally every second of screen time is filled with strained relationships, sexual tensions, feelings of inadequacy, physical toll, emotional anguish and what have you. Each and every character seems to be dealing with some sort of baggage and in what comes closest to being comedy the chief of the show’s fire station rattles of one cliched caricature line of dialogue after another.

The set pieces are impressive, and the show must cost a boat-load of money to produce, but even in Chicago, you don’t see multiple high-rise fires every day. At the rate these guys are working, CF might have better luck suggesting that Chicago has descended into some sort of post-apocolyptic wasteland by the time season 1 wraps. My advice would be to somehow add some levity, but it probably won’t last that long.

Grade: C
Class: Kill and Bury

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I don’t particularly care for teen movies. For one thing, I’m not a teen, and for another the writers tend to make mountains out of some pretty low stakes. Even the great Clueless, which I love and adore, comes down to whether or not Cher loves Josh, and he her. But even Clueless comes with an asterisk because it is a smart teen-movie satire, a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma and a tribute and time capsule to/of life in the 1990s.

I went into Perks expecting a certain thing that is hard to define. I knew from the promotional material and pre-release buzz that it wouldn’t be a typical “why doesn’t my 17-year-old boyfriend love me?” sobfest. I think I expected something along the lines of Juno, a smart-tongued nostalgia yarn with a killer soundtrack. Perks delivered that, but also something completely its own.

Perks tells the story of Charlie, an introverted freshman with an alluded-to history of mental illness who stumbles his way into friendship with a group of “Misfit” seniors, particularly a brotherly bond with Patrick (played with a masterful stroke by “We Need to Talk About Kevin”s Ezra Miller) and head-over-heels infatuation with Sam (Harry Potter’s Emma Watson, can you blame him?).

The movie is a bundle of fine performances, with each actor inhabiting a true human being with sincerity and personal demons. Patrick is a too-clever-for-his-own-good student who also struggles with the emotional distance of a closeted relationship with the popular high school quarterback. Sam is in recovery from a wild past, where in her younger years upperclassman would get her drunk at parties to take advantage of her “reputation” and all stemming from a much-too-young inappropriate encounter with her father’s boss.

Perks doesn’t revel in these demons, it doesn’t ask for your pity or even sympathy. If anything it opens a curtain on a group of high school students in Pittsburgh and invites you to simply observe as life goes on. There are themes about life, love and loyalty, but these are whispered in your ear to the backdrop of a superb blend of sight and sound instead of hung heavily over your head like an axe.

Director Steven Chbosky (who wrote the book upon which the film is based) also makes the wise decision of leaving the plot loosely oriented in time. The year in which the movie is set is never explicitly stated, instead leaving it up to the audience to derive the late-80s, early-90s mood from the mix tapes of David Bowie music, Rocky Horror performances and pre-Hipster use of vinyl records. In that way, Perks is not an attempt to define a generation but is, by design, a timeless tale of three friends in high school.

Its weakness is its length, running a full two hours and flirting with the cliff of viewer attention. The plot drags somewhat toward the end, but Chbosky steers it back and bookends his tale with a beautiful and satisfyingly open-ended finale. The casting is a revelation, and while both Miller and Watson do their best to steal the show, the understated honesty of Logan Lerman’s Charlie is remarkable and grounds the adolescent emotion. Hopefully, we’ll see much more of him in the future and in good projects like this. B+

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*Since 666 Park Avenue was the only new show to premiere last week, we’ll also take a quick look at returning favorites that premiered during week 2.

666 Park Avenue (ABC)

The seemingly perfect love child of two recently resurgent TV genres, 666 blends the soft-spooky “horror” (a loosely-defined genre when it comes to television) of hits like American Horror Story, Walking Dead and Grimm with the primetime soap success of fellow ABC sister-show “Revenge.”

While it has neither the delicious fun of Revenge nor the genuine thrills of Walking Dead, 666 manages to pull of a nice cocktail of sexy and scary, infused with the small screen chops of Lost’s Terry O-Quinn and a supporting cast of easy-on-the-eyes recurring characters.

The show focuses on young couple in the big city Jane Van Neen (worst name ever) and Henry, who take over manager duties for luxurious UES apartment complex The Drake after the post’s former occupant runs out the clock on a deal with the devil and is sucked into a sort of hellish wormhole in The Drake’s front door. While it’s never stated explicitly, we understand quickly that O’Quinn is the devil, or some sort of demonic middle man, who strikes deals for peoples souls in exchange for power, fame, beauty and riches.

What the devil wants with our young lovers is unclear, but its certain that something is afoot as O’Quinn casts his sidelong glances and lusting grins while the more-clearvoyant Jane beings receiving visions of warning, seemingly from the building itself.

I don’t think I’d go as far as some critics who have called the show “Devilishly-good fun” but 666 is better than its ratings would suggest. It is extremely well-produced and has a certain je nai se quois that makes for a great 44 minutes. It also dances perfectly on the line of just enough naughty and nice to entice without incurring the wrath of one million moms for its Disney-owned timeslot.

Grade: B+
Class: Subscribe

30 Rock (NBC)

Season 6 of 30 Rock — despite being a brilliant masterpiece too good for broadcast television audiences — had it’s ups and downs. The plotlines began to feel strained and you could not only see but smell the cold fingers of death inching around the show’s creative throat.

And so we find ourselves in yet another NBC farewell season and if the season opener is any indication, it could be the best 30 Rock we’ve seen since the powerhouse seasons 2 and 3. The premiere fires on all barrels, fast-forwarding us up to speed since the summer hiatus while delivering some of the best laughs we’ve had in a while and also some of the most pointed NBC-jabs we’ve seen. (Jack has decided to intentionally tank the network. “How long has this been going on?” Liz asks. “7, 8 years?” “6 Weeks” he replies. Rim shot. Score).

Like the best things in life, I’ll be sad when 30 Rock is gone but I’ll love watching it walk away.

Grade: A

Class: If you haven’t subscribed yet, slap self in face 10 times and rectify the situation immediately.


Castle (ABC)

When we last saw our dynamic duo, Castle and Beckett were in the throes of passion, having finally confessed their mutual affection.

When we see them in the premiere, they’re STILL in the throes of passion, the morning after Becket turned in her gun and badge and walked (rain-soaked, natch) into Castle’s arms.

Sure, there’s an assassin out to get Becket but that’s end-of-season drama, not beginning-of-season shenanigans, so the writers waste no time dispelling the shadows of seasons past to make room for a few weeks of casual romanticism.

As an episode, not the best, but it does get points for finally giving us what we’ve waited years for (on two different, spoilerific fronts) and not pulling some “Gotcha!” nonsense like an episode of House, Bones or — yes — moonlighting. Casket’s love is here to stay and a new Big Bad (perhaps the Biggest Bad?) should give us plenty to do come May sweeps.

Grade: B

Class: Subscribe


How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

For being one of my favorite shows on TV, HIMYM sure seems to be running on fumes. The lengths to which the writers will go to NOT introduce the mother have left frustrating for exhausting territory and what used to be clever non-linear plotlines have now digressed into a quagmire of Inception-level complexity where events unfold in flashbacks, flashforwards and flash-sidewayses all simultanesouly.

Seriously guys, just give us the darn mother and let Barney and Robin get married already.

That said, HIMYM is still comedy gold and the lone proof that Multi-cam comedy doesn’t have to be poison. This season is potentially the series’ last, so the expected onslaught of revelations and go-for-broke gimmickry should be a hoot to watch.

Grade: B-

Class: Keep and Eye On


New Girl (Fox)

Oh Schmidt, how I’ve missed you.

2011’s best new comedy (remember when I hated it? Funny how things can change) came back in roaring fashion, giving us the cockneyed adventures of Gladys Night and The Pips (there were 3 Pips, right?) we craved over the summer hiatus.

There’s some plotline about Jess getting fired (who cares) which pales in comparison to the big news of Schmidt having his penis cast removed and holding a re-branding party. The theme is “Danger” and the scene where Schmidt slaps his putrid cast on the kitchen table had me laughing out loud and dry-heaving at the same time. Max Greenfield is a God of physical comedy and all I can say is “Thank you, more please.”

Grade: B+

Class: Subscribe


Modern Family

I hate to say it but “TV’s Best Comedy” is starting to feel a little rote. The show stopped being groundbreaking a long time ago and has since become thoroughly mired in a pattern of “Introduce conflicts A, B and C; resolve conflicts A, B and C; Grouphug for emotional finish”.

The premiere ties up the loose ends from the finale with a few chuckles (Claire is obsessed about how Gloria’s pregnancy will affect her body) before sweeping through the worlds most awkward fast forward (in the form of a 360-degree shot of Jay and Gloria hugging), bringing us to the “present” where Gloria is showing, Cam and Mitchell are at peace over not getting a baby and Phil has grown a beard (Ty Burrell continues to be pure. bottled. genius).

It’s still great and its unfair to even compare MF to most TV sitcoms but still the bigger you are the harder you fall and I need a little more to keep my appetite wet.

Grade: B-

Class: Subscribe-minus

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