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I grew up in a series of small towns, each one depressingly smaller than the last, until I hit a school in which my graduating class was a mere 27 people. It’s a town where everyone has to at least leave to go on with their education, but since the nearest community college was a half hour away ( I took my last two years of theater there under the tutelage of a now famous award-winning playwright and actor), most never escape beyond the three hour Saskatoon and Edmonton area from this town. I’m sure many kids I went to junior high with are still in the Calgary area as well, but at least Calgary has developed into a more cosmopolitan center. After all, I ended up back here.

I recognize much of the teen age angst of Glee because it was my teen-aged angst. I had grown up with parents that valued an education above all else. They didn’t care what kind of education, just get one. I’m sure my vast knowledge of popular culture wasn’t their first choice, but I’m sure they appreciate me having something I love in my life. But even in the confines of these small rural outposts, I could find what I needed to stave off the boredom and quench the thirst for French New Wave and the discography of the Clash I developed in my teenaged years. It was better than going out and getting drunk like many of my classmates did. I’m pretty convinced that’s why my classmates didn’t talk to me.

But growing up in small towns with a more progressive personal mindset often got me in trouble with my peers. I never sat idly by as they tossed around bigoted terms that growing up in a 99% white town in the middle of the Canadian Bible Belt, and my reputation as a Commie loon follows me to this day ( I kind of wear it with pride). Which is why I clearly identified with ” Preggers”. I knew many of the blonde pretty cheerleader types who ended up pregnant by the eleventh grade, usually after wine coolers or beer at a party. I knew the slightly femme guy in the back who had a fondness for sequins and introduced me to his father as his girlfriend, and then I’d sit and listen to his father beg me to convince his son to rejoin the hockey team, despite the fact the last time the poor guy was on the ice, he executed a perfect double axel in the middle of a power play. In hockey skates no less. I was one of the kids so obsessed with my creative life that I was deeply offended when I didn’t get the part, or the assignment, or the song.

Watching last nights Glee was at times, for me, emotionally wrenching. I clearly identify with Kurt in a profound way. Not the coming out as gay part, but trying so desperately to maintain a relationship with a parent who disapproves of your passions. I had my brothers and mom as a buffer between me and my father. Kurt, an only child of a working class single father, has nothing. The fact that Kurt feels compelled to lie is heartbreaking, but it is like that across the world for gay teens. Ryan Murphy said in a recent L.A. Times article that a little of his own life made its way into his characterization of Kurt, and I can see it in the tender way Murphy laid out Kurt’s scenes with his father, played by a surprisingly good Mike O’Malley. Chris Colfer, in his scenes tonight, was both hysterically funny, touchingly sad, and devastatingly true to life. When Kurt comes out to his father after joining the football team in a bid to cover up why he was dancing around in black sequined lycra, it’s a pure moment. More shocking and pure is his father’s reaction- it’s kind of hard to deny your son may be gay when he asks for a pair of sensible heels when he’s three. Or has a hope chest. Which is full of tiaras. O’Malley plays it as a matter of fact, not deeply profound or overly emotional. It is what it is. He’s not overjoyed about it, but he certainly isn’t going to erupt into a homophobic screed.

The Quinn-Finn-Puck story line was a little more Degrassi conventional. First, this show does a great job playing off of Cory Monteith’s naive portrayal of Finn. He’s blank, he’s clueless, but he knows what he is and he is trying to figure out how to make it out without being enormously gifted at things that are more obvious paths of freedom. He plays on a losing football team, and he doesn’t have the grades to make it on academic scholarships. But he knows enough to realize he must get out of Lima. Quinn, pretty and perky, on a championship cheerleading squad, probably would score some sort of athletic scholarship at the very least,  but the news of her pregnancy leaves her in the lurch. She can’t escape with a baby on her hip.  Her telling of the “conception” to Finn was ludicrous to us in the TV audience, but would it really seem ludicrous to Finn? Think of all the guys you went to high school with who still insist you can’t get a girl pregnant if you have sex standing up. It turns out, though, Quinn has been naughty. She got drunk, and feeling particularly fat that day, she slept with Puck. He is the real father of her baby. Puck, never having a real dad, wants to do the right thing by Quinn, but Quinn also realizes that Puck, despite his good intentions, is never going to escape being a “Lima Loser”. She sees Finn as her way out of this hell, and even he isn’t a guarantee.

Meanwhile, we have the corresponding “pregnancy” of Terri Schuster, who now has her sister in on the scheme. Terri is a woman so obsessed with keeping her man that she’s not taking the more reasonable track in this sad situation, instead forcing herself to create an elaborate lie with padding and all. The news of Quinn and Finn’s little predicament gives Terri an idea. There is a sense of the illogical here ( how did Terri get into Quinn’s car? Why don’t we ask the ref’s at that football game that didn’t hand out that delay of game penalty when the team does the ” Single Ladies” dance?), but Murphy always brings in the more soapy elements with a dash of humor. Quinn is bewildered by the woman handing her prenatal vitamins, but Terri is oblivious to Quinn’s wary demeanor.

The ” D” story of Sue’s continued revenge on Will was probably the most laugh out loud funny in the episode. Sue’s minor celebrity gets her a slot on the local news, where she advocates caning and littering. But she’s told she is only as good as her last championship, and the affiliate boss knows her Cheerios are defecting to Glee. So Sue, in her own special Machiavellian way, gets Sandy Ryerson back on staff. He is in charge of all the arts programs, including Glee. ( Note: Figgins, played by Iqbal Theba, played a memorable villain of the week in the first season of Chuck. He played a guy nicknamed ” Wookie” by Chuck. And when you see that Mumbai Airlines video, you can kind of see why. Now imagine him without a shirt. Yeah, now you see it). They design a plan to steal away an increasingly frustrated Rachel, who loses her shit over not getting the solo ” Tonight”. Will is trying to teach her a valuable and much needed lesson- that Glee is a team, and all members of that team need a moment to shine. This is proven by Tina’s sweetly compelling performance of ” Tonight”, and Will pointing out that with greater confidence, her stuttering is diminishing. Rachel then tries out for this version of ” Cabaret” Ryerson is putting on. If there is one truly crushing moment in the episode, it’s the fact Lea Michele’s gorgeous version of ” Taking Chances” is only a mere twenty seconds of screen time.  Rachel and Will later confront each other about their perceptions and their goals. When Will still refuses to hand over ” Tonight”, still giving Tina a moment to shine, Rachel impulsively quits Glee. Meanwhile, Will’s work with the football team to help loosen them up ( leading to that fabulous dance on the football field), and garners him three more Glee club members. He’s now got eleven.

Last night’s episode was the first truly great episode since the pilot, and I certainly hope it’s the blueprint for the rest of the series.  Murphy’s previous high school show, Popular, had moments of complete camp and whimsy at first, but ended up becoming completely ridiculous a lot of the time ( it’s still genius, but it’s massively flawed genius). This show could go off in a million different directions. But this is what I have noticed:

  • The show is a musical, but not every episode is going to be heavy on the musical numbers. I think this helps it from turning into a version of Fame- The Later Years.
  • It’s got a massive ensemble cast, and there are lesser characters, like the Cheerios and Footballers who help make up the show choir, that will get a bit of screen time without having much else to do. But if Murphy remembers to keep focus on one kid a show, it will get better.
  • The pacing was better on this episode, and it will continue to get better. Anyone familiar with Murphy’s previous shows knows he is a guy who fits a lot into episodes, and sometimes the timelines don’t add up. But he does somehow make it work.
  • The cast is winning, but I am beginning to think where the writers are taking Rachel is dangerous territory. I know she’s supposed to be a self absorbed spoiled brat, but she was at least likable. I found her disturbingly unlikable this week. I know it was a set up for next week’s episode, but be careful.

Quoteworthy:

“All you need is some limed corpses beneath the floorboards.” – Sue to Sandy at his very creepy house.

Grade- A-

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I spend more time in the fandom of this show than I do for any other.  I also admit that in a perfect world, I’d be writing it and the Leonard-Penny relationship would have never been an issue. 

But I don’t write it. I’m also not a fanfic writer or even much of a fanfic fan ( though I’ve read some doozies in my life for various fandoms). But I am a WRITER, so even if I might prefer Penny showing Sheldon the ways of the world, it’s not my place to question the writers of this show about their choice. After all, it annoys me when a world I have crafted so meticulously over time gets ripped by a vocal group of fans without knowing what the ultimate endgame is. While I believe I know what the endgame for this show is, I really don’t have a clue. Plus, Chuck Lorre surprises me more than most sitcom writers.

The guys have returned from the arctic looking like wooly mammoths ( except Sheldon, who looks like Evil Spock from ” Mirror Mirror”). They settle in at home, and Leonard goes to tell Penny he’s home. Broken sitcom convention # 1: Normally, there would be some give and take, with the couple’s kiss coming towards the end of the episode ( see: Ross and Rachel, Friends, ” The One Where Ross Finds Out”). These writers have Penny and Leonard making out before the credits.

Turns out, Sheldon believes he has proven String Theory at the North Pole. Also turns out that his comrades have fudged the results to make him happy ( seriously, Sheldon in close quarters for three months? I’m in love with Sheldon, fer chissakes, but I would have gone along with the sled dog plan myself). This has Sheldon confronting the very happy at the moment Leonard, who admits to it quickly, and also admits to the plots they came up with to murder Sheldon ( really did like the idea of tying someone to four different sled dog teams and yelling mush). Heartbroken, Sheldon retreats to his room, where Penny attempts to cheer him up by first singing ” Soft Kitty” ( ” I’m not sick.” ” I don’t know what your sad song is.” ” I don’t have a sad song, I’m not a child!”), then trying to relate a story about losing out her spot as head cheerleader. She also manages to spoil a bit of Star Trek, which causes Sheldon to cry even harder.

After suffering the humiliation of informing the Physics department that he did not, in fact, prove string theory, Sheldon is mocked by Kripke at work- twice. Devastated, Sheldon resigns and takes off to Texas, where Mom is. Penny insists that Leonard goes and bring him home ( all S/P shippers together- awwwwww). It doesn’t take much- Mary Cooper just insists that evolution is an opinion, which sends atheistic Sheldon into a tizzy, and he heads home, where this will promptly be forgotten by next week.

The show ends with Leonard and Penny in bed together, where, let’s face it, it’s really weird.

Jim Parsons can do no wrong. The show always works best when Sheldon is the center of the episode and we are forced, along with the rest of the cast, to try and balance Sheldon’s unique world view with the structure of ” normal” society. This took it one step further. Sheldon is a character very much in control at all times, and it was fun to see him breakdown a bit. Everyone has their breaking points. We just discovered Sheldon’s.

As for the other story, Leonard and Penny- I’m curious to see where this is going to go, I admit it. I want to see how this idea, so unpopular with a segment of the show’s fandom, plays out. I know a lot of people complain of the lack of chemistry between Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, especially since the chemistry between Parsons and Cuoco is electrifying. But I find they do have chemistry together. I enjoy their scenes together. I find their chemistry quieter, less intrusive than non-existant. It’s atypical of the sitcom standard to put the less explosive couple together.  The fangirl in me may be disappointed, but the writer in me is curious to see what the writing team has in store for us.

Grade- A-

PS- I could handle a spinoff of just Sheldon’s mom. Laurie Metcalf is a genius.

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The talk sucks.

This little nugget from Barney explains the relationship talk so well, don’t you think?

See, Barney and Robin’s kiss at the end of last season caused Lily to a have a ” woo” moment, but they played it off as neither of them really wanting to take it forward. Except they have sex all summer long. That info makes Lily crazy, and she begins to pressure them into having ” the talk”. Robin insists they’ve tried to have ” the talk”, but neither of them likes “the talk” , so whatever. Why do they have to define it? Lily can think of one reason- you don’t end up going to a hockey game with built like a Mack truck Brad ( ” Wow, there are really six of them…” Robin exclaims after seeing his six pack) and having Barney going to the game to punch Brad in the face. So Lily tries the next logical step- lock them in a room until they have ” the talk”. And when push comes to shove, they decide to lie. Except the only people they’re lying to is themselves. Barney and Robin are a couple. Just don’t tell them that.

The other story, Ted, starting his new job at Columbia as an adjunct professor ( ” P-R-O-F-… F?”) gives us a schizoid douche Ted, as he changes his mind about what kind of professor he is going to be thirty times in ten seconds ( “You can call me Ted. Professor Mosby. T-Dog. Don’t call me T-Dog”). Turns out his ” class” is really Economics 305.  But as we know, the mother is somewhere in that Economics 305 class.

The show was uneven all through its fourth season, with some really great moments in between totally suck ass moments. This episode is a smashing return to form. It plays with the concept of relationships needing specific labels while admitting that the labels help the rest of the world know what you are. The show, for all it’s comedic brilliance, has been one of the best examples of the masks we place on everyday to impress a society that judges. Barney and Robin refuse to label their relationship for themselves out of fear and past mistakes, but in their own way label themselves as the iconoclasts they pretend to be. Lily’s obsession over the Barney and robin dynamic fits with Lily’s desire to be perceived as New York Typical ( even her double dating couples fantasy was oddly Americana- camping? Can you see Lily camping?). Even a woefully underused Marshall was complicit- he sees Professor Ted as Indiana Jones, and gets him a fedora and bull whip. But it’s Ted, so worried as always of what people really think of him, that learns a lesson. Late for his class, he doesn’t have time to think about a persona. He just talks about architecture.

Grade: B+

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I was one of those people last year who was on the fence about Fringe. I found the first half of the season unbearably slow and antiseptic. That all changed as the season went on, and the last two episodes sealed it for me. I even placed the series on my One Hundred Greatest Television Series list. So I was eager to see what the season premiere would hand us.

What it handed us was a wallop of emotionally charged story telling with a dose of “Ohmigod did they just do that?” horror.

It turns out that this show is a worthy successor to my beloved and late X-Files.

We start with the piercing sound of metal on metal, and then a guy staggering out of a car crash, bleeding from a head wound. He runs off as a crowd gathers. He gets access to an apartment building and promptly kills a man. He then takes out a contraption that seems  to plug into the soft palette of the mouth, causing shape shifting. He takes on a new body, leaving the old one on the floor. Then he leaves.

Meanwhile, Peter and Walter are having one of their cute moments at a grocery store. It’s Peter’s birthday on Friday, and Walter has it in his head that Peter needs a birthday custard. Peter insists he hates custard. Walter, in his permanent state of self loathing psychosis, neglects to register this. Seems alternate universe Peter adored custard. This world’s Peter just wants to get the hell out of the grocery store. He gets his wish with a phone call.

This is where we meet Agent Jessop. She’s been assigned to find out about the car crash. Seems the shapeshifter  has crashed into a FBI issued SUV. Peter arrives with Walter, angry and panicked. Jessop tries to get some answers about Peter’s relationship to the FBI, but Peter is having none of it. The SUV belongs to Olivia, who is nowhere to be found. Jessop and Peter argue about what she needs to know ( apparently, nothing, it’s classified) while Walter fiddles with the SUV. Suddenly, Olivia crashes through the windshield, unconscious and bleeding.

This all happens before the title card.

Olivia is rushed to hospital, clinging to life, Peter and Walter on her tail. the doctors inform our beloved Bishops that Olivia won’t make it. Walter refuses to believe this information, and we get a beautiful scene of Walter, helplessly and lovingly standing over a shattered Olivia, with Peter mournfully observing through a window.

 Jessop heads off to FBI headquarters, where Broyles confronts her. It’s a routine accident, and she is ordered to sign off on the report. Broyles then crashes Peter’s pity party, and informs him that he is off to Washington. seems that the government wants to shut down Fringe division. Peter himself then questions the existence of Fringe. We then see Jessop at a computer, trying to get into the Fringe files. She uses a stolen password to get access.

Rachel ( the fabulous Ali Graynor) shows up to execute her sister’s living will, and she tells Peter to say good bye. Peter does so, only to be shocked by Olivia suddenly waking and speaking in greek. She cannot recall anything that happened to her, but knows instinctively that she is in danger and begs Peter for her gun.

Peter returns to FBI Boston to discover that his credentials have been revoked. Jessop then rescues him, taking him with her. She gives him the file on the accident, but expects answers about FRinge. Peter tells her that they do nothing. Jessop is going after a guy she believes is involved with the accident, but discovers a dead body. Peter calls in Walter, who gets into it with an M.E. Jessop gives him the body to take to his lab.

A new guy walks into a shop. He asks the man at the counter for a Selectric 251. He is informed it never existed. The new guy insists. The counter dude tells him it’s been six years, and he won’t be waiting forever.  The new guy sits at the typewriter and types in that he has finished his mission and asking for extraction. Then, in a mirror, he sees his answer. His mission is not over. Finish it. And kill her.

Charlie shows up, and gives Olivia a story about his days as a police officer in which he was shot and hospitalized in the line of duty. He also tells her that she now has a gun under her pillow. Olivia finally admits being afraid, and that she cannot load her gun.

Walter has Astrid making custard as he performs an autopsy on this mangled body. Turns out our dead guy was a victim to a shape shifter.  He then shows Jessop and Peter a video of experiments he and William Bell did on a girl a while ago. They were trying to make her see God. They got a tale of the shape shifting mercenary.

Broyles in front of the senate is a hoot. He refuses to be talked down to by Senators who know jack about what he does, and tells them that he has spent his whole life protecting them from fears both common and strange. Unimpressed, they pull Fringe Divisions funding. Broyles meets Nina outside, where she tells him to save the day. And they kiss ( nearly died at the kiss).

Jessop and Peter are called into a mortuary with a body matching wounds that Astrid has red flagged. Jessop informs him that her father was a soldier and that he was adamant that he always finish his mission. Peter then clicks on the fact that the shape shifter’s mission was Olivia, and he flies out of there like a bat out of hell.

The shape shifter, though, has now taken over Olivia’s nurse, and is asking leading questions to Olivia, who really cannot remember a thing about the accident or anything else from that time. Disappointed in getting no new information, the shape shifter attacks Olivia. Jessop arrives and shoots the shapeshifter, who takes off through a window. Peter, Jessop, and Charlie all head to the hospital’s underbelly. The shapeshifter gets behind Charlie, who shoots. Jessop and Peter both run to where Charlie is, and he’s standing over the dead body of the nurse, broken contraption beside them.

After a nice Olivia and Peter moment in which Peter brings her flowers and they talk, Peter hand Broyles the shape shifter gadget, and tells him to use that to save Fringe’s funding. Our last moment is Charlie in the hospital basement. He’s lugging something to the incinerator. Turns out- it’s Charlie. Charlie is no longer Charlie, it’s the shape shifter.

Overall, a thrilling, quick, tight episode. I’m still unsure about our new agent, Jessop. She’s shown with a bible at the end. Is she looking for something to confirm end of days? Our regular cast is in good form, and the story is now taking real shape. I’m not much for mythology shows, but I’m totally getting wrapped up in this one.

Grade- A

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5:50 Going for a quick cigarette outside before awards begin.

6:00 Opening spiel, then NPH singing in a white dinner jacket. Yummy.

6:04 ” I grew up on television.”

6:05 Shaiman and Whitman wrote the song. Knew it.

6:07 Tour of the Emmy set.

6:09 Funny Emmy clip reel.

6:11 Jon Hamm ( sigh) and Tina Fey ( sigh). Supporting Actress in a comedy.

6:12 WTF Chenoweth?

6:13 The winner is… Kristin Chenoweth (stunner shocker but happiness!) She sobs her way funnily through her speech. I wanna hug her.

6:08 Comedy categories first. I’m suddenly very nervous for hubby Jim Parsons.

6:21 Some Neil and Hodgman funnies, then a convenient plug for HIMYM.

6:22 So surprised 30 Rock won a writing award. (Sarcasm)

6:27 Jon Cryer wins. Why?

6:28 One very pissed off NPH/30 Rock fan right here. ARGH!

6:33 I’m very worried about the rest of my picks. I’m 1 for three. The one- writing.

6:35 Justin Timberlake presenting Actress in a Comedy series. And he’s funny and charming.

6:36 Toni Colette wins. I’m way off tonight. I’m trying to figure out what tonight is gonna be. Watch Charlie Sheen win in a couple of minutes.  This is turning into a nightmare show for me 9 although I like Toni and Kristin, I like their shows, but I honestly thought they wouldn’t win).

6:39 NPH asks Cryer to show the envelope. It really does say ” Jon Cryer”.

6:41 The GG girls turn it over to Tina and JT, who thank Lorne Michaels for their Guest Actor wins. Then the GG girls present  Best Comedy direction to The Office’s Jeff Blitz.

6:48 Rob Lowe presenting Actor in a comedy. He mocks himself.

6:52 I’m gonna drink an entire bottle of wine right now and drown ,y tears because Jim Parsons did not win.

7:29 I have spent the last forty minutes trying to fix a computer crash. Rundown- Reality shows no surprise, mini/TV movies are pretty ho hum. Dr. Horrible- hilarious! Love the buffering jokes. And Captain Hammer to boot. Jessica Lange beats out Drew Barrymore.

7:59 Apparently Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco were on stage with Jim Parsons when he presented. I didn’t notice as I laid at the foot of my TV stand staring worshipfully at a comedy God who was robbed of his Emmy. Really, I need a life.

8:01 I do not have a problem. All of you shut up.

8:02 Jimmy Fallon won as a member of the SNL writing team, right?

8:03 Jimmy is making me laugh. He hasn’t done this since he was on SNL.

8:05 It has to be “Motherlover”. Seriously.

8:05 It’s the Oscars team. Are you kidding me?

8:06 Ricky Gervais. Worshiping at the feet of the king.

8:07 ” Me, again.” HA!

8:08 Gervais present best comedy variety show to The Daily Show. Never disappointed when TDS gang wins. As I am also much in ,love with Jon Stewart. Have been since his MTV talk show in the mid 90s.

8:16 Prezzie time. But no Prezzie speech. Thank God.

8:17 Drama time. Great. Night should be ending soon. Crushing disappointments tonight. Cryer/Baldwin just took me out.

8:19 LL and Chris O’Donnell not funny at all. Supporting Actor goes to… Michael Emerson. My best friend Rosie probably just screamed with joy. I still couldn’t tell you what role he played.

8:21 Chris and LL also doing Supporting Actress. And that award goes to Cherry Jones.  Who is a theater goddess, so we are delighted.

8:23 In Memorium.

8:33 Hot vampires!

8:35 Ellen Burstyn and Michael J. Fox present directing for drama.

8:36 The award goes to the E.R. dude.

8:37 Now they present drama writing. I’m guessing… Mad Men.

8:38 Yeah, shocker again (Sarcasm).

8:39 Yeah, I’m one of those guys at Starbucks with a computer or notebook, writing away.

8:40 Simon ” Hot accent” Baker is presenting the actress drama award to Glenn Close. I am WAY OFF  with these damn acting awards this year. WTF?

8:44 Right now I’m kinda hoping Hugh Laurie wins and makes me 0-for-eight for acting awards.

8: 48 Dana Delaney presents Actor in a drama.  Bryan Cranston wins. This is the one I get right. And he rightfully deserves it. His performance is searing.

8:52 Bob Newhart presents Best Comedy. And drones on a bit.  But has some good lines.

8:54 30 Rock. Which is about as surprising as me eating peanut M&Ms.

8:56 I have never been so unhappy to see Cat Deeley in my life. I want my final award.

9:00 Emmys are going over.

9:00 I’m actually looking forward to Criminal Minds.

9:01 Sigourney Weaver presents best drama to Mad Men. No effing surprise.

That is it for the night and the year. Early surprises in acting awards turn into a night where many repeat winners come along.  Still crushed about Jim Parsons losing. May never be okay again…

Can’t wait until The Big Bang Theory premieres tomorrow night.

Till the next one ( Golden Globes in January, everyone!)

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Glee Episode 1-3 ” Acafellas”

The beginning of every new series is going to be rough. The chances of choppy waters increase when said show is ambitious and epic  like Glee is. That is not to say that “Acafellas” was bad. On the contrary, it was a delight in many ways. But after the genius of the pilot and the solid second episode last week, I was slightly disappointed with this week’s Gleeful outing.

The show has the potential to collapse under its massive ensemble cast- there are at least twelve significant roles on this show. That is a lot of people to try and work in to a show, complete with individual story lines and moments to shine. And this episode ended up feeling overstuffed and under developed simultaneously.

The valid question off the top, asked by Cheerleader Quinn, was whether Will had even tried to fulfil his performing dreams. After shop teacher Henri returns from his cough syrup induced thumb amputating shop accident, a sad round of ” He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” with Will, Ken, Sheets and Things’ Howard, Henri, and Sandy ” Stay 50 Feet Away From Children” Ryerson leads will to form an a cappella group, launching into a really fun version of Montell Jordan’s 90s classic ” This Is How We Do It”. This plays into Will’s B story, where he bonds with his dad ( the fabulousity that is Victor Garber- alas, no song), who admits his failings with ease. Fathers on television are routinely maligned, often absent and mean. It’s nice to see a father-son relationship that is rather warm and friendly.

The other story of the episode, the Glee kids hiring that annoying prick Dakota Stanley, honestly didn’t go anywhere. I get that they were trying to create a bit of tension between Finn and Rachel, and allowing Quinn and her minions try to disrupt Glee quietly, but it just felt… ugh. With no Glee performances this week, the show felt kind of empty.

The one thing that did work well this episode was the “C” story between Mercedes ( Amber Riley, so fantastic on ” Bust The Windows”) and Kurt ( Chris Colfer, a TV star in the making). Mercedes instincts were right on the money, but she allowed insecuirty and fear ( and a couple of ne’er-do-well Cheerios) to get her hopes up about Kurt, who was being a supportive friend. Ryan Murphy said in an interview that he wanted Kurt’s coming out to echo his own, so the one real moment of the entire episode was Kurt tentative telling to Mercedes, followed by a tear and an acknowledgement that he really wasn’t as brave as Mercedes wanted him to be.

Overall, there were some good moments, but over all, the cluttered, scattered tone left me wanting( and too much Terri- I really dislike her). Rumor has it next week is going to be a hum dinger of an episode, focused on Colfer’s delightful Kurt. I certainly hope all the love I’m hearing is legit, and not just a bunch of TV critics trying to sell me snake oil.

 Quoteworthy:

” I have no thumbs!” Henri, in a game of one ups-manship

” The parents discovered we’re feeding their kids prison food”.- Figgins

” Josh Groban likes a blousy alcoholic.”- Josh Groban, cementing my belief he’s a singing comedian.

” Is cliche a bad thing?”- Finn

” I’m going to ask you to smell your armpits.”- Sue to the Cheerios

” If you blow this for me I’ll shove my arm so far down your throat you will be able to taste my arm pit hair.”- Ken to Puck.

” I told Figgins we’d end up with a bunch of pansies if we didn’t get some hot wood in their hands.”- Sandy

Grade- C

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I could go on and on about the technical flaws I saw on last nights episode ( the musical numbers were way to polished and the AV was out of sync), but I’m not. No. Because I am in love with this show.

The fact I love this show should be no surprise to anyone, as I am also deeply in love with Ryan Murphy’s previous high school dramedy Popular  (Mary Cherry forever!). Glee in many ways hits similar tones comically and dramatically as this late 90s cult classic, and the struggles the students face are also similar. The slightly awkward, overly ambitious girl crushes on the cool jock boy who dates the pretty blonde cheerleader. There are kids with speech impediments and disabilities, and they aren’t all a size two. Murphy creates a real high school feeling. Then he throws on show stopping musical numbers.

Now, the audio of ” Gold Digger” is amazing, but it was hampered last night by poor mixing and editing.  In fact, that was an issue with all the musical numbers last night. If this show is going to work over the long haul, they have to fix it. Off sync is distracting.  And the “Push It” number was amazingly cringe worthy and hilarious at the same time. I watched it mouth agape and sniggering the entire time. That was right on the edge of appropriate and Murphy probably knows it ( the man also created Nip/Tuck, which has been crossing that line for years).

But there were some really great moments in the episode- Will and Emma’s chalk dust on the nose, Finn and Rachel bonding over their mutual love of music, Finn making the angels cry with that popping balloon, Rachel’s speech on teenage sexuality that made her a hero to a certain faction of horny teenage boys, every moment Jane Lynch and Jayma Mays were on screen, and the realization that Quinn and the Cheerios can kind of sing. As the Cheerios go in to spy for Sue Sylvester, expect high jinks to ensue.

The flaws,  though, have the potential to be too distracting. I like Jessalyn Gilsig a lot as an actor, but her character Terri is shrill and shrewish. I honestly wanted to punch her at various moments ( though I did snicker when she pointed out the children’s bedroom as the room for ” their daughter or gay son”). The Cheerios are still way into Mean Girls territory and have yet to be really fleshed out as characters. The same thing can be said about the jocks. There are those sync issues and they need to dirty up the vocal tracks as well ( last night was a little too polished and studio for my liking- only ” Take A Bow” came close to any real emotional connection, aside from Jayma Mays’ Emma sobbing through ” All By Myself” in her car).

Then there are the highs. The appealing youngsters are delightful as the ” island of misfit toys”, as Sue called them. Matthew Morrison ( Tony nominee for Light In The Piazza and the original Link in Hairspray)  is charming as Will, who only seems to come really alive when he’s at the school, doing Glee and interacting with the students. The incomparable Jane Lynch is clearly delighting in playing the vindictive, spoiled, entitled cheerleading coach, who gets the school to pay for European dry cleaners and for some reason has seen an elementary school production of Hair. There is sharp humor and commentary about relationships, the high school caste system, and the general malaise of education systems in North America.

After the completely charming pilot, this was a good follow up episode.

Pilot received an A from me. ” Showmance” gets a solid B+.

Quoteworthy!

Rachel: I guess I don’t have a gag reflex.

Emma: Years from now you’ll find that a blessing.

***

Coach Tanaka: I’m a minority so they can’t fire me, I’ll always be able to provide for you.

***

Kurt: Wait! One day you will all work for me.

Other things of note:

  • Figures guys would join the Celibacy Club to try and bed their chaste girlfriends.
  • Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, is going to get a big episode coming up that Ryan Murphy has said is based on his own high school experience. If you know anything about Ryan Murphy, you can probably figure it out.
  • I tend to hate cheerleaders in TV world. These ones take the cake.
  • Quinn and Finn. I hate cutesy couples with rhyming names.
  • Amber Reilly has a voice and a half!
  • I do not remember the disco revivial of 1993. Anyone else?

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I normally look upon stunt casting with a wary eye. When done right ( Paul Rudd’s sweet Mike on the final two seasons of Friends, Leslie Jordan’s wickedly fey Beverley on Will and Grace), it’s magical. When done just because ( Britney on anything), it’s cloy and distracting. It’s best if the stunt casting makes sense. It’s better when the guest star gets smashing lines. TBBT had been doing the stunt casting thing well. Till this week.

Summer Glau, star of The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Fox ( but produced by WB- hence the crossover), is actually quite dynamic on her show ( she’s honestly the best thing about it). But she was wasted on this episode with mostly monosyllabic answers to the constant attention of Howard and Raj. When the guest star gets no real funny lines on a sitcom guest spot, you have to wonder.

Fortunately, the Penny-Sheldon dynamic was fabulous despite the fact they were barely on screen together. Kaley Cuoco is truly turning into a charming and funny lead as the show goes on, because even without the guys to play off of, she was great, nonchalantly painting her nails as Jim Parson’s Sheldon gives wackadoodle directions to get his flash drive out of his locked desk drawer. ( The show is getting better with it’s callbacks recently, with mentioning of Howard’s new “relationship” with Leslie Winkle and the come back of “wackadoodle”). Jim Parsons, gifted physical comedian, spent nearly the entire episode sitting down, but still managed to be utterly delightful every second he was on screen. Johnny Galecki’s Leonard was also great this week, as he is having a ” I hate Sheldon” week and needles him more than usual ( but still plays peacemaker between Sheldon and a nosy Penny).

Things we learn this week:

  • Given enough time, Howard can actually come up with a clever pick up line.
  • Given the opportunity, Raj will steal that pick up line.
  • Penny has a job playing Anne Frank in a small 99 seat theater above a bowling alley. Hey, it’s an acting job, folks.
  • Sheldon keeps his flash drive locked in his desk, but the key for the desk in in his room, and nobody is allowed in his room.
  • Sheldon is way obsessed about trains.
  • Raj is susceptible to the placebo effect, and apparently cannot read labels on beer bottles.
  • Howard, though in a relationship, has a flawless reason to try and sleep with Summer Glau- ” It’s Summer Glau!”
  • The guys go to the Apple Store and mock the people at the Genius Bar.
  • Sheldon has a new packing system involving RDF tags, a scanner wand, and a complex cross referencing system.
  • Sheldon takes all the fun out of sarcasm, according to Leonard.
  • Sheldon’s vote outweighs the other three.
  • Sheldon is wary of voiding warranties, but is more obsessed with keeping season 1 of BSG on TiVo. Leading me to ask- don’t they have the DVDs?
  • Sheldon’s MeeMaw calls him ” Moonpie” because he is so ” nummy, nummy”. And only MeeMaw can call him that. For the first time, Sheldon shows a streak of sentimentality.
  • Leonard is reading Noble Laureate George Smoot’s ” Wrinkles in Time”.
  • Are you meaning to tell me Penny doesn’t know a USB port from a power button?

Overall, there were funny moments, but the use of Summer Glau was limited, and the real story got lost to the B story, simply because Jim and Kaley shine as the adversarial friends.

Penny line of the week: ” What up, Moonpie?”

Sheldon line of the week:’ It’s like talking to a chimp.”

Howard line of the week: ” One beer and it’s like he’s M. Knight Charmalamalan.”

Raj line of the week: ” You got me. Now, what are you gonna do with me?”

Leonard line of the week : ” Looks like you’re between a rock and a crazy place.”

Grade- B

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Dial Idol has a close race between Allison (NO!!!!!), Jasmine, and Jorge heading off into the sunset.

The new rule- Judges save. It’s not as horrible as the idea floating out there that the judges were adapting the SYTYCD judging model ( America votes the bottoms, judges eliminate after a dance off). But I know that Idol fans, for all their complaints of  Jennifer Hudson-Chris Daughtry- Michael Johns unfairness, prefer to have the vote without judges interference. I know I do- and  I love love LOVE the three singers mentioned above.

So the group car wreck- er- number- let’s just skip that. I’m too tired to even comprehend it right now.

Is it me, or is RyRy looking particularly stupid tonight. I am tired. Daylight Savings and all.

Do the producers put these callback moments through Autotune or something. They always sound better in these callbacks. Except Jasmine.

And why would I bother to watch anymore if Adam and Danny are really the chosen ones? I want Alexis and Allison or Lil if necessary.

The Ford Music Video- not that sucky.

Rig Pig- safe.

Allison- safe. ( I love it when DI gets it wrong…)

Jasmine- down to the stage.

JT Wannabe- safe

Married Hottie and Megan Joy- Married stays, Megan to the floor.

Jasmine and Megan… and Megan is safe! Whooo! So relieved. She’s at least interesting. Jasmine is not interesting at all. They are making her sing as the judges deliberate. Why, God? I hate the sing out.

I want my Kanye and Kelly. Where are they?

Randy tells Jasmine sorry, not good enough. She cries. RyRy comforts her. We get the package and whatever sets in for me.

Kanye comes out and does “Heartless”, which is one of the best songs off of 808s and Heartbreaks. He has never been a great singer, but this song uses his limited vocal range and mixes his more light, sing-songy rap style to excellent effect.

Did they shrink the swaybots this year? I hardly have noticed them.

Those crazy ass screaming teens are too young for you, Kanye ( I know exactly how old he is, we were born a mere month apart).

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how one performs on the Idol stage. Awesome Kanye.

Scottay- safe. No surprise.

Alexis- safe. Thank the soul of Jimi.

Mopey- safe. Geez. And you know something? Sky is blue.

Anoop Doggy Dogg- to the stage.

Madame- safe. Sun is yellow.

Jorge… Lil… come on, we know it Jorge. And there he goes to the stage. Lil is safe. No kidding.

And they are going to make us wait. Poor guys. I hate RyRy for doing that to you. But Kelly’s gonna sing. We love Kelly. The Original Idol.

( I am clearly a Kelly girl from way back when, and I honestly think that the slam her last album got was unfair- it’s a mature, beautiful piece of melancholia).

This Idol re-visitation is gonna be weekly. Cool. Kelly looks fabulous, and is sweet and charming. She launches into ” My Life Would Suck Without You”, which is awesome if a little to reminiscent of ” Since U Been Gone”. I adore her still.

And so, we come down to Anoop and Jorge. And Anoop is safe… poor Jorge is gonna sing as the judges chat.

My friend, the awesome Melissa in Baltimore, had been hearing that only one person would end up getting eliminated due to the phone mishap ( Idol-13 is a porn number… whoops).  But Simon puts that to rest with a sharp “No.”

That is Carrie singing ” Home Sweet Home”, a awesome cover of the Mötley Crüe road song classic. And we say goodbye to two.

Next week- more hell. This season is disappointing in so many ways.

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I know it’s late. Busy week.

We open with paintball. Finally we get to see the guys play paintball. And typically, Sheldon is anal retentive and insane. Physics team paintball strategy meeting? Stargate episodes as strategy? Poor Howard, though, still forever a mama’s boy. Leslie Winkle is back, and she and Howard, trapped in a shack, talk about the difficulty of war ( she killed her team in a hail of friendly fire). Dialog lifted out of every classic war film ( including Raj’s tribute to Robert Duvall). Leslie and Howard start making out. Leonard calls to Howard, who replies ” war is hell” and continues to make out with Leslie.

TBBT universe is also in an economic crunch, and the boys are complaining about cutbacks. Sheldon’s theory is that they should all be fired to fund his research ( our Sheldon is full on back!!!!!) Leslie, though, tells Howard his request for new equipment is approved, leading to a discussion of quid pro quo in which the boys suss out Howard’s reason for failing to cover them in the paintball has to do with his hooking up twice in the shed with Leslie. Bombarded with opinions about how unfair it is that he’s getting rewarded for sexual favors, Howard points out that it is indeed unfair, but he was also having sex while they were not, and that’s merely delightful.

Howard, though, gets a taste of Howard’s own medicine when it becomes clear that Leslie is only using him as a bought and paid sex toy/arm candy when he almost is disinvited to Geneva on a field trip with Leslie after refusing to go to her sister’s wedding. Leslie insists she would be uncomfortable without using quid pro quo as then they would disintegrate into a real relationship with ” feelings and crap”. Howard accepts this and asks his mom to rent him a tux.

The actual A story involves Penny accidentally shooting Sheldon’s ” spot” on the couch with a paintball gun, causing Sheldon a few uncomfortable days in which he sighs incessantly during Halo night’s Chinese food meal. Leonard though, throws himself in the line of fire at the end of the show by admitting that he had actually been buying Sheldon’s cashew chicken from a different restaurant and putting into the bought containers from a now closed favorite. For two years. Sheldon goes into an existential crisis, but insists the cushion, recently cleaned and brought back, still isn’t right.

Overall, the episode had very funny lines, and real out loud laughter moments ( the look on Howard’s face after sex with Leslie- priceless). The story was a little repetitive ( how many times can we talk about Sheldon’s spot?), but as long as one can wring humor from it, I guess the writer’s will continue.

Sheldon line of the night- ” They don’t talk incessantly for no good reason?” in response to Leonard’s query about what makes a good friend.

Grade- B-

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Christine Baranski and Jim Parsons

Christine Baranski and Jim Parsons

Think about Friends and the two primary love stories that happened on that show. Both the Ross and Rachel dynamic and the Monica and Chandler dynamic had the underlying foundation of friendship. Ross and Rachel, though, not being enormously close at the beginning of the series, entered into a romantic relationship fueled by sexual desire, low self esteem, fits of jealousy, and temper tantrums. It was after that original break up and several close calls over the years that you began to see a maturation of the relationship, cemented in the birth of the baby that only happened due to a moment of what I’m sure is self pity on both their part, and the eventual realization that frankly, they had been a couple the entire time, though they tried to deny it. It was an evolution of character, for sure, but it was annoyingly long and painful over ten seasons that the writers literally had to write the ending they did, or else they would have been shot at like wild dogs. The Monica- Chandler relationship, though, was less melodramatic in tone, more real, a natural evolution of an existing friendship that was already pretty close, and as mature as a relationship can get because, after all, it’s Friends.

Why do I bring up a show that is in constant reruns but has been off air for six years? Well, as I was watch this week’s episode of TBBT, I was struck by the balance that Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, and the writing staff are bringing to the Leonard- Penny relationship. They have formed a friendship that appears pretty solid, sweet, caring, and gentle, but the obvious crush Leonard has on Penny hangs over them both. It’s not the total focus of their relationship, but neither ignore it. At the same time, both characters show a surprising impulsive nature. Penny’s is more obvious ( this episode having a prime example), but Leonard’s impulsive behavior is more damaging to his immediate interests. he cannot for the life of him keep his mouth shut, and it interferes in his goals. He cannot shut off his brain, and therefore he ends up spouting of what really should be part of his inner monologue.

Needless to say, this episode ends up giving a lot of food for thought about Leonard as a person. Tie what I just wrote into this weeks Slate article ( and I must say, a pretty good one) about Sheldon having Asperger’s.  I’m not overly familiar with the diagnostics of Asperger’s, just what I’ve read on Wikipedia, but I share some of those traits- active but odd, certain routines, pursuit of narrow interests, disjointed, quick speech patterns. and I know I’m not the most empathetic person in the world, and I am a ginormous klutz. I do not believe I have Asperger’s, as there are many of the characteristics I do not have. I always considered myself a raging misanthrope, a cynic, a pessimist, a fatalist. Chuck and Bill insist Sheldon is not an Aspie, and Jim Parsons ( genius- there is a person I wouldn’t mind having a conversation with) tows the party line pretty well while acknowledging there is no way Sheldon could be anything else but one.( His answers in the Variety series were a tightrope act without a net on this issue.) This plays into this weeks learn about Leonard episode as we finally figure out the reason why Leonard actually puts up with so many of Sheldon’s quirks and is always prepared to knuckle under.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Dr. Beverly Hofstadter. Some may call her an analytical cold fish. I call her Sheldon in a dress. Leonard calls her “mother”.

First off, my kids want Rock Band ( I admit, I do as well, but the price tag is enough to make you pause). This weeks cold open has the guys playing the zeitgeist consuming game. It was funny, but not as funny as last week’s episode of Sheldon abandonment. Leonard’s phone call to his mother wasn’t as funny as say- Sheldon’s phone call with his mother in episode 2-7 The Panty Piñata Polarization. But when Penny runs into Beverly at the broken elevator, we get an idea of why Sheldon doesn’t faze Leonard, as Dr. H launches into a theory of the passivity of the tenants due to the dust on the sign and tape blocking the door ( and I must say that in theory, she is absolutely correct, but in practice, fixing it means no more stairway walk and talks). Penny asks an innocuous question about Leonard when he was little ( ” I think you meant young, he’s always been little.”) that turns into a therapy session with a neuroscientist as Penny blubbers on about no longer being ” Slugger” to her dad. Sobbing Penny leaves Dr. H by Leonard’s door, and his mother informs him that all he needs to do to get Penny into bed is find out the brand of cologne her father wears. Who knew it’d be that easy?

This leads to a scene similar to one we’ve seen played out by Sheldon and Leonard a couple of times dealing with sustenance. Leonard tries desperately to please his mother with tea, but the oolong, loose tea, steeped three minutes, milk warmed separately, a teaspoon of raw sugar cup is cold, like mom. Sheldon is clearly taken with Dr. H, whom he sees as an ideal mother- analytical, smart, emotionally efficient, not prone to hitting you with a bible because you don’t eat brussel sprouts. Although a particularly disturbing side of Sheldon comes out when he gets excited by the prospect of viewing the Power Point presentation of her paper on her sex life with Leonard’s father ( and poor Leonard for having to deal with that issue, because he’s clearly been forced to observe it).

Leonard ends up taking Mom to work, where Howard and Raj have way too much fun at Leonard’s expense. Apparently, Leonard is the black sheep of his family, a lowly physicist, while his younger brother is a tenured law professor at Harvard, and his sister is on her way to curing diabetes. Leonard gets them back by telling his mother that Raj can’t speak to women unless he’s drunk and that Howard still lives with his mother. Raj’s case piques her interest a bit, but Howard’s amuses her more than anything- ” An adult Jewish male living with his mother is so common as to be sociological cliché.”, then deduces that they both have a pathological fear of women that they hide by developing an ersatz homosexual marriage ( leading Leonard to crow ” You brought your husband to work!”) This sets up a classic old married couple style fight between Raj and Howard involving Howard always having to speak for Raj around women,  an incident at the comic book store, and the fact Raj says that Howard never wants to talk about what’s really the issue at hand. What does Sheldon get out of this exchange? ” You went to the comic book store without me?”

Leonard, having decided that alcoholism is a valid career move, goes to Penny, and the two of them get wasted on white wine while Sheldon goes to the hospital for a brain scan with Dr. H. The two clearly Vulcanesque people have drawn the conclusion that they are exceedingly comfortable together, and are shocked that someone ” as workaday” as Leonard is their link. This leads to a scene where  Sheldon and Dr. H have a discussion about doing… something, needless to say, it’s filled with sexual innuendo, which is disturbing coming from Sheldon.

Leonard and Penny have moved on from white wine to tequila shots. Drunk, Penny allows Leonard to lick salt of her neck ( he gets very into it, I must say), and after his shot, discovers his lime in Penny’s mouth. Make out session begins ( he spits that lime out and it got some major air, dudes), and it moves into the bedroom, where those impulsive behavior issues come into play. Penny impulsively decides to sleep with Leonard. Leonard impulsively tells Penny that sleeping together is a Freudian nightmare that he’s frankly okay with. That gets him kicked out of bed, out of the apartment, and he returns across the hall to find his mother and Sheldon singing along to Rock Band. That’s what he was trying to convince her to do.

The closer was a bit of a downer considering how funny the show was in the middle. Dr. H goes to leave, giving an obligatory hug to her son ( if you can call it a hug at all). Penny and Leonard have no bad feelings about the night before ( and  they never, ever have to talk about it). On the way down the stairs, Penny again falls into the trap and ends up sobbing about her parents, prompting Dr. H. to ask her to fly to New Jersey and have a brain scan. Penny sniffs ” Will it help?”.  ” Well, it would certainly help me,” Dr. H intones.

TBBT had it’s cast on fire this episode- everyone got a good line in, it was balanced evenly between the three leads, the two supports, and the guest star. Johnny Galecki, who had been reduced to being the reactionary to Penny and Sheldon the past season finally got a half hour to shine. Sure there were outdated pop culture references that weren’t funny a decade ago ( JarJar Binks? Really? Although Simon Helberg’s impression was spot on. His gift for mimicry surprises me every single time), but I don’t care that much. I love this show.

Sheldon quote of the night: ” I’d like to do the math.” How exceedingly perfect.

Grade- A-

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It seems we learn something new about our beloved Sheldon every week.  Last episode, we learned that he is surprisingly persistent when it comes to say… rock wall climbing. This week we learn that Sheldon has no qualms in lending money.  Seriously. The man who made a label for everything including the label maker lends money quite easily with no strings.

Shocking, I know.

The show has consistently funny cold opens, and this one as exceedingly hilarious. We see our four nerds staring at what looks like a complex math problem on a white board, and then the proclamation that there is no answer. No, no, let’s work the math again- apparently, they’re trying to pick a movie theater and restaurant that meets Sheldon’s high standards. Failing this, they attempt to amend their usual plans ( 7-11 Slurpees instead of Icees, dinner after the movie instead of before, and one theater got knocked off for not having Red Vines, which is ridiculous, as Twizzlers are far superior, and if  you are lucky, you can find Nibs, which are made by Twizzler but are small little cherry flavored licorice bits that are the best candy in the world…) There is only one solution, and Leonard, Raj, and Howard leave Sheldon behind, staring at the white board and sighing ” They’re right. It was the only option.”

Penny, on the other hand, ducks into the boy’s apartment to avoid the landlord. She’s behind on her rent, and she’s miserable about it. Sheldon, surprisingly, offers her money to make it through. Penny’s reluctant to accept, but does take it ( with some hilarious physical comedy by Kaley Cuoco, who never gets enough credit, honestly).  But she’s a nice girl who begins to torture herself about it ( and it’s all in her head, as Sheldon never once mentions it first, and never questions her expenditures, which seems un-Sheldon like somehow, but it’s endearing that he trusts his friends with money when he doesn’t trust them with food). This ends with a mini break down over Shrimp with Lobster sauce take out, in which Sheldon warmly offers her more cash if she’s still cash strapped, and Penny storms out ( and returns for her fortune cookie, then she slinks out again looking rather pathetic).

Leonard decides to help Penny by looking at her expenses, but it’s clear Penny is reluctant to let anything go ( cable… acting classes… shopping… I’m basing that last one on the beret meltdown she had). The $1800 at the L.A. County Court House catches his eye, and Penny admits that she bailed ex-boyfriend Kurt out of a legal scrape. Leonard then fashions himself as Penny’s Lancelot and manages to convince the three very smart people playing Talisman across the hall that they need to go on a real life quest for Penny’s money. Even the Lord Of the rings argument falls on snark- as Sheldon points out, Frodo’s companions had a very hard time on the journey to destroy the ring. But they do join him on the journey to Kurt’s apartment, where Leonard gets called ” Lenny” ( heh- Lenny and Penny), Sheldon is mildly offended Kurt doesn’t remember him (  the last time they met, Sheldon was the Doppler effect), Howard insists that Leonard is going to die, and it all ends with Leonard ending up with Kurt’s IOU written on his forehead with permanent ink.

The closer has Penny paying Sheldon back in full after Kurt decides to pay Penny back. Leonard tries to discern whether Kurt admitted being shamed into it, but Penny says it was apparently all Kurt’s idea, and how he’d grown, and how they’re going out to dinner. Leonard looks miserable as Sheldon says that minstrels will actually write songs about Leonard’s achievement. The show ends with Leonard looking pained as Sheldon makes up a ditty about the brave pursuits of Leonard ( with a line about Raj’s nervous bladder to boot).

The show has a habit of taking tired old sitcom tricks and giving them a bit of a fresh spin ( usually, ” Never A Borrower Nor Lender Be”  ends with a near disintegrating friendship as the borrower forgets or splurges and the lender grows increasingly irritated about the fact they aren’t getting paid back- this was the complete opposite of that). I must give credit to the writers for taking cliched comedic premises and making them fun again. It was a truly delightful Penny and Leonard episode ( with a good dose of Sheldon), and I must say that Kaley Cuoco deserves some recognition from people for her comedic charms. It’s unfair that pretty girls can’t be funny, too.

Sheldon line if the night:  ” I’m never silly.” Were truer words ever spoken?

Grade- A-

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You just knew Leonard wanted to have three seconds to himself every once in a while. We get a half hour of Sheldon a week. Imagine living with the guy…

Leonard, you see, needs to use a specific laser for an experiment, but it’s only available after hours, so he’s pulling the night shift at the lab. He told Sheldon he would be unavailable to drive him to work and that Sheldon would need to make other plans, but Sheldon ignored that advice and still expects to be chauffeured by Leonard. There’s also a bit with stimulating Star Wars sheets ( which leads to the question- Stimulating how, Sheldon?) and a snarky remark about the stagnant state of Leonard’s career.  Leonard proceeds to tell Sheldon to take the bus, but Sheldon refuses since buses have no seat belts and they won’t allow him to lash himself to the seats with bungee cords. When that proves fruitless, Sheldon knocks on Penny’s door, and invokes the favor clause built into friendships. Penny agrees to drive Sheldon, who nitpicks about her check engine light ( it’s been on for a month), Penny’s drinking coffee while driving, her route up Euclid Avenue, her not slowing down for speed bumps, and decides to pepper her with arcane trivia and science games.  Penny shows remarkable restraint until Sheldon starts up about the engine again, and she pulls over and kicks him out of the car.

After work, Sheldon runs into Leonard in the cafeteria, where he expects a ride home. Howard agrees with Sheldon’s opinion that Leonard said that he wasn’t able to get a ride to work. Leonard said nothing about the ride home. Howard regrets this decision when Sheldon is denied and expects a ride home with Howard, which involves Howard’s scooter and Euclid avenue’s speed bumps. Convinced Howard is trying to kill him, Sheldon is again abandoned and calls Raj. When that appears to no longer be an option, Sheldon returns to Penny for a ride to Pottery Barn to return the star Wars sheets. Penny slams the door.

The gang decides to proceed with an intervention, and set up an appointment for Sheldon at the DMV. He proves to be a giant ass there as well, and the DMV lady stamps a learner’s permit just to get rid of him. At home, Howard sets up an elaborate simulator ( Sheldon’s desire to drive the batmobile is denied). It proves to be a disaster, and later, while still trying to learn how to drive, Sheldon ends up on the second floor of the Glendale Galleria and crashes into the pet store. Sheldon decides he is ” transcending the situation” and quitting, as he is a Homo novus, and simply too evolved for the plebian task.  He then moves into his office at the university. Leonard conveniently decides to forget to tell him the experimient is over, just for some peace and quiet. After all, when Sheldon comes back, Leonard is the permanent chauffeur again.

A moderately successful outing, as it’s all A story and a lot of Sheldon. The drving simulator stuff is pretty hilarious.  There are great lines for Jim Parsons, but the rest of the cast aren’t given enough to do.

Grade- B-

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After last weeks disturbing Ted story about how he kept nailing Aunt Robin, I half expected an episode that opened on the kids receiving electroshock therapy to burn the images away. Or an episode in which Ted pesters Barney into admitting his actual feelings for Robin ( Lily would have told Marshall a while back, as this season we have established Lily cannot keep a secret to save her life). But instead we get a standard HIMYM gem in which Ted and Barney mack on some barely legals, Marshall and Lily do cute and cheesy romantic stuff, and Robin wears very little clothing at some point and is the cynic in the whole shebang.

Story A: Ted and Barney meet some hot young thangs and try to set up a date. Seeing their band played was nixed because Barney didn’t want to be the bleached blonde skank waving her boobs at a Van Halen concert ( although Ted does point out those girls usually get to have sex with Van Halen- I sure hope he was referring to Van Halen circa 1984…). Exchanging phone numbers was also eschewed by the Barnacle ( if they have your number, they can call and cancel and you are screwed in a very unpleasant way).  But they agree to meet the next night at McLarens. But it starts to snow. Heavily. So much so that they are the only two in McLarens the next night when Carl tells them to take off, he’s closing early to go and set up beds for the homeless. Instead, he agrees to allow Barney and Ted man the bar till their dates show up. This allows for a cool Cocktail inspired sequence that ends with the boys breaking liquor bottles and glasses all over the place. It also fulfills a dream they both have in which they open a bar called Puzzles ( why Puzzles? That’s the puzzle). They girls finally arrive, and ask to bring the whole band with them. The guys agree, but our band is actually the Arizona Tech Fighting Hens Marching Band. Oopsies, boys. Needless to say, fifty drunken college students are not neat, and when Carl calls to inform them he’s on his way back, they move the party upstairs to the apartment, where B&T agree not to open a bar. Then they decide to start a band. Named Puzzles.

Story B: Marshall and Lily started this cute airport pickup thing a while back in which the picker upper wears a chauffeurs hat and carries one of those signs with the arrival’s name on it, and the one who is arriving brings a six pack of local microbrew from where ever they had been. Since it’s the HIMYM universe, they are able to take this on the plane. But they have decided to put this aside. But it’s Marshall and Lily, so that didn’t last long. Marshall feels guilty for letting Lily’s lunch time phone call go to voice mail, and Lily admits to herself Marshall would be there waiting for his beer ( leading to them both believing if they don’t follow through on their ritual, the other would leave them for someone hotter, and in Marshall’s case, more height appropriate). Marshall convinces a barely dressed Robin ( the radiator was broken, apparently, but Cobie’s baby bump is getting noticeable) to drive him to the airport. On the way there, Marshall and  Robin get into a fight about love and rituals- Robin thinks they’re stupid, leading to Marshall to call her a robot. Robin, hurt, pulls over, and while they fight, the car gets buried in a ton of snow by a plow. Marshall admits that he loves these little rituals he and lily have, and apologizes for his snide remark to Robin, and the two escape the car and somehow make it to the airport. Where they discover Lily’s flight was delayed in Seattle.

Story C ( Which feeds into story B): Lily commandeers Rajit ( yay! Rajit!) and goes to get a six pack of microbrew from Seattle in NYC because of the sudden guilt that Marshall wouldn’t get his beer ( and again, that image of the blonde Amazon in he head). It turns out all they had was a keg. Lily gets it. She waits for Marshall. Who shows up with  the Arizona Tech Fighting Hens Marching band Now they have to get a marching band each time one of them gets home from a flight.

Overall, a cute, charming episode that still felt like a bit of a letdown after last weeks’ disturbing but gut wrenching Barney episode. Neil Patrick Harris needs an Emmy STAT.

Grade: B+

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Sheldon, Sheldon, Sheldon. Oh, Sheldon. You wonderful, arrogant, narcissistic jackass. You cannot boil people and relationships down to algorithms. No matter how hard you try. You may be a genius, but you forget- with imperfect creatures like humans, there are simply too many variables.

Last week’s episode was a bit of a let down, but this week, with Jim Parson’s socially clueless Sheldon centre stage, the show hit a good one for the most part. We start with one of the greatest cold opens ever. Sheldon and Raj are debating the best kind of pudding- Raj is in favor of Tapioca, Sheldon is 100% correct in say chocolate ( chocolate fudge pudding, to be precise). Sheldon then attempts to regale his table with a fact about the plant tapioca comes from, but Leonard, Raj , and Howard refuse to allow him to finish his thought, allowing Jim Parson’s physical comedic gifts shine through as Sheldon desperately tries to interject his arcane knowledge and gets shot down. He spasms, contorts, and as desperation sets in, literally looks as though he’s about to fall apart, until Leonard deems it cruel to continue. Sheldon explodes, then drinks water in the most ridiculously desperate way imaginable. ” You promised you’d stop doing that,” he tells Leonard bitterly afterwards.
Sheldon has a bit of a conundrum. See, he needs a certain lab at the university. This lab is apparently under the control of one Barry Kripke ( see last weeks episode- the dude with the speech impediment that only Raj mentioned. Leonard informs our beloved egomaniac that Kripke only allows his friends to use the equipment Sheldon needs, which causes Sheldon to decide to-*GASP*- make Kripke his new friend. Of course, he does this in the most Sheldon way imaginable. He creates a questionnaire ( which seems to resemble an S.A.T. judging from everyones reaction to it). When that proves to be enormously frustrating for him ( he’s upset his friends don’t take the questionnaire seriously, although to their credit, they answered it), he takes to the next logical step- the children’s book section of the local bookstore, which leads to Sheldon meeting a little girl and unaware of social niceties, he comes off as looking beyond creepy. Leonard pulls him away before the inevitable happens.
Reading Stu the Cockatoo Is New At the Zooallows Sheldon to create a greaseboard with the title algorithm on it. He calls Kripke and follows it till he reaches a loop. Howard remedies this by giving him an escape, which cause Sheldon to remark, ” I’m surprised you saw that.”  Howard remarks on how he finds it amazing Sheldon has any friends at all.

Sheldon’s out was to go indoor rock climbing with Kripke. This ends rather amusingly with Sheldon, who’s fear of heights is ” non-existent” but his fear of falling very real, passing out about halfway. I was actually shocked Sheldon even attempted it, as Sheldon is not known for taking any risks at all. But he manages to get Kripke to come over for food ( leading to him deciding that Penny’s name is not hot enough and renaming her. Howard’s little aside about not looking so bad considering actually end up making the last episode now funnier, which is a major comedic achievement). The rest of the gang, not pleased with this new friendship with someone who essentially amounts to a geek who bullies than simply because he’s only a tad less geeky than they are,are then infomed that Sheldon can only afford in his life four friends. Leonard is safe as he is the roomate, Penny because of the fact that she adds something different, and Howard- well, I’m not even sure why, other than Sheldon was miffed Raj answered the lycine question wrong on the questionnaire, so Raj was eliminated from Sheldon’s friend list. But when Sheldon tries to get Kripke to allow him access to the equipment he needs, Kripke informs him that there is a schedule he has no control over. Sheldon, non plussed about the futility of his efforts,  simply decides Kripke is now out and gives Raj the dumplings.

Strong work from Jim Parsons throughout the series means that Sheldon episodes are more likely as the series continues. That’s an issue with breakout characters on sitcoms, particularly ones as well played as Sheldon. But everyone had a few jabs and one liners, and Leonard finally got a chance to tell Penny how he and Sheldon became friends ( basically, he was allowed to be Sheldon’s roommate as long he didn’t whistle). But it was truly a Sheldon moment, and it shined. I laughed, I laughed, I laughed some more. And thank God for quick closers, as we see the guys staring up at a passed out Sheldon, dangling from a harness as he again failed to make it up the rock climbing wall. It was less than ninety seconds. Brilliant.

Grade- B+

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  1. The Big Bang Theory– a bit of a let down considering the glorioski ending of the Christmas/Saturnalia episode, but still, nothing better than Sheldon running down the hallway shreiking ” Don’t hurt us! Don’t hurt us! DON’T HURT US!”. BTW, the guy who plays Kripke- yes, I know people who are pissed about the ” speech impediment”, but whatever, I laughed, I’m a huge bitch and some Brits may even call me that other one I really hate- but anyhoo, I came across his Livejournal blog in my daily email reading, and he’s a crack up there, too.
  2. How I Met your Mother– will somebody hand Neil Patrick Harris the motherfucking EMMY ALREADY! God damn it, people, he was amazing this week.
  3. Criminal Minds– well, it was okay. C level for me. Wasn’t as taken in as I was on other episodes. WTF was up with MGG’s hair?
  4. 30 Rock– I wanna be Tina Fey. Still. Really, really badly. I am nowhere near that funny. Or that pretty. Damn it. I’m gonna eat another three giant M&M Chocolate chunk cookies…
  5. No House means no House and Cuddy sex watch this week. And apparently Chase and Cameron are still alive, although you could never tell from their screen time.
  6. Kevin James has the number one movie in America this week and it took in over $34 MILLION. WTF, America?
  7. Joaquin Phoenix used to be on my husbands list. Now I’m afraid to run into him in a dark alley. Come back, sexy man who played the Man In Black, and get rid of that wooly mammoth you’ve become.
  8. Obama rules.
  9. Obama will be president on Tuesday, and I’m taping MSNBC while at work. Oh, yeah, I upgraded to digital cable so I could have MSNBC, KTLA, WGN, and HBO Canada.
  10. Oscar Noms will be out on Thursday.

Anyone want to add anything. Comments are open. And yes, I avoided the news about the DC-KC breakup because- well, whatever.

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Five fiction, five non-fiction, ten great. These are not in order, because I simply cannot choose.

Beautiful Children ( Charles Bock)- an astonishing debut novel, set in Las Vegas, about a missing child, the seedy underbelly of America’s city of sin is a character in it’s own right. Stunning, searing prose makes a slightly leaden premise shine, and the mixed up teens that populate the novel are colorful and believable.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination ( Elizabeth McCracken)- the loss of a baby prenatally at any stage is painful, but to lose on in stillbirth has got to be beyond anguishing. McCracken’s personal tale is alternately heartbreaking and touchingly funny, as she tries to put together her life after the loss of her baby. Devastating.

The Lazarus Project ( Aleksander Hemon)- the fears of immigrants and anarchists in early 20th century America meet with the search of self, as the steeped in the Balkans culture author creates a world in which everyone is suspicious and everything is crucial to being at peace with oneself.

Lush Life ( Richard Price)- Price is one of my Favorite authors, as he is a master of dialogue, and i appreciate dialogue above all else. This novel, set in post- 9/11 Lower East Side New York City, is astonishingly detailed and richly written. He does lose some of the plot as he feeds his bigger themes, but damn it, when has being a big idea guy been a bad thing?

My Revolutions ( Hari Kunzru)- a former 60s radical lives a quiet suburban life with his wife before memory and blackmail turns his world upside down. A marvelously written tale about idealism gone awry, and the life long consequences of action.

Netherland ( Joseph O’Neill)- Another New York City in a post 9/11 world novel, certainly, but this novel about class, displacement, transplants, and rootless lives makes for a great companion to Price’s novel.  But it’s more than that. It may be one of the great love stories of the decade.

Outliers: : The Story Of Success ( Malcolm Gladwell)-  I admit to finishing this book approximately fourteen hours ago. The famed writer of people and social structure has created a book that makes you go ” Huh. ” As he observes the habits of highly successful people, Gladwell reminds us that the obvious sometimes is the only thing that leads us to fulfill our dreams.

Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies And the Birth of New Hollywood ( Mark Harris): 1939 may have been the pinnacle, but the year everything changed forever remains up to debate. The 70s has been used extensively, as has 1969, but Harris’ ruminations on 1967 may be the most compelling argument of them all, that the best picture nominees of 1967 ( The Graduate, In the Heat Of The Night, Bonnie And Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and Dr. Doolittle) are the snapshot of the upcoming cinematic revolt.

The Post-American World ( Fareed Zakaria)- the famed pundit gives his views on a world in which the U.S. role will shrink, but as opposed to being a pessimist, he seems encouraged by the decentralization of power- as long as it goes right.

The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare And How It Changed America ( David Hajdu)- a painstaking history of how pop culture is apparently to blame for society’s ills ( some things never change…), this book is possibly my favorite of the year. The history of William
Gaines, who was the center of the controversy, leads us to the ultimate prize. After losing his comic book empire, he went counter culture and gave us MAD. Brilliantly told.

Would be on the list if not written by a friend: The Real McCain ( Cliff Schecter).

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25. Constatines ” Hard Feelings”

Canadian art-punks bring us a grinding, hard charging about the difficulty of emotions.

24. Ne-Yo ” Closer”

Usher’s heir apparent delivers on a R&B-hip hop jam that is smoother than creamy peanut butter.

23. T.I. ” Whatever You Like”

He’s such a generous guy, over trippy hio hop beats and a surprisingly warm chorus.

22. Jordin Sparks f. Chris Brown ” No Air”

Gorgeous, soaring vocal gymnastics by two teen sensations as they sing about the importance of oxygen, but the devastation of love.

21. Kings Of Leon ” Sex On Fire”

Southern gothic melodrama, with ringing guitars, as the Followills literally set things a flame.

20. Kid Rock ” All Summer Long”

Someone had the courage to do what I always thought about- put ” sweet Home Alabama” and ” Werewolves of London” together and see how similar they are. Add lyrics about partying and booze and sex, you have a classic summer jam.

19. Vampire Weekend ” Oxford Comma”

Bouncy African beats mixed with lyrics about sex and punctuation. I’m not joking.

18. Flo Rida ” Low”

Inescapable spring jam about Apple Bottom jeans and Reeboks with the straps.

17. Adele ” Chasing Pavements”

Soulful ruminations about being torn between love or happiness.

16. Kanye West ” Love Lockdown”

Autotune works for the master, and he creates a song about loss and love that is for the ages.

15. Rihanna ” Take A Bow”

“Disturbia” got the glory, but this song about kicking his ass to the curb remains her strongest single.

14. Sam Roberts ” Them Kids”

More folk country rock from the Canadian master of the guitar, with a charming SIMS inspired video mixed with 50s nostalgia.  A song about the fact kids don’t dance to rock and roll anymore.

13.  P!nk ” Sober”

” So What” maybe the typical hard rocking kiss off we expect from her, but Pink’s second single from her album is a more mature, honest song about divorce, alcohol, and love.

12. Katy Perry ” I Kissed A Girl”

Bouncy fun about same sex experiments and old fashioned button pushing. Not as jaw dropping as Jill Sobule’s track of the same name, but this grimy flirty track is a delight.

11. Estelle f. Kanye West ” American Boy”

Soulful British song stylist asking for a trip to NYC. Girl knows her shit. Discofied brilliance.

10.  Ting Tings ” Shut Up And Let Me Go”

Duo of punk inspired dance artists sing about how you are never gonna hit this again.

9. City And Colour ” Waiting…”

Quiet acoustic jam about waiting for the end of everything. Depression sounds almost peaceful.

8. David Cook ” Bar ba Sol”

Grinding punk guitar stylings mixed with lyrics about regretting the night before, where alcohol and possibly blonde skanks played a role in humiliation. Did I just say that?

7.  Billy Talent f. Rise Against ” Turn Your Back”

Two of the modern punk bands of note dress us down for ignoring the ecological disasters looming in the near future.

6. Duffy ” Mercy”

Sixties style pop soul with a Dusty vibe, and a girl with a voice grittier than gravel.

5. Hedley ” Old School”

Jacob Hoggard reminisces about setting tires on fire and the days where little mattered except getting wasted behind the old school.

4. Coldplay ” Violet Hill”

” Viva La Vida” has gotten all the glory, but this first single remains their grittiest, gungiest track. And the lyrics are mysteriously baroque and the vocals soar.

3. Metro Station ” Shake It”

Eighties inspired dance rock. God, how I’ve missed this stuff. Vaguely reminds me of Flock of Seagulls and Loverboy. Weird, but wonderful. And frickin’ catchy.

2. R.E.M. ” I’m Gonna D.J.”

Alt rock fore fathers come back to form with raging guitars and a plan for the end of days. I wanna be at that party.

1. M.I.A. ” Paper Planes”

I want to thank Seth Rogan and David Gordon Green for allowing this song to explode after the trailer for Pineapple Express introduced it to the world. Clash inspired guns and cash registers mixed with trip hop beats and the idea of exceeding what your borders permit. Stunning.

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20. David Cook David Cook

The mysteries of life. Idol winner’s first albums as a rule are supposed to suck hardcore. Except if you’re Kelly and manage to sneak ” Low” on yours.
Or Carrie and you luck out with ” Before He Cheats”. But David C. managed to do something surprising- delivering a rather cohesive ( more shocking considering the group think writing) rock album that was among the best rock albums of the year. ” Bar Ba Sol” is simply one of the best rock songs of 2008 period, and ” Light On” has grown on me significantly over the last several weeks.

19. Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago

I picked up this album simply because it has one of my daughter’s names in the title. I love it when I discover something in the process, though, of picking up crap stuff with my kids names on it. Spare acoustic tacks that feel like winter in Canada ( or Wisconsin, where it was recorded in a cabin), Justin Vernon’s elegant isolation remains bleak and unrelenting.

18. Ne Yo Year Of The Gentleman

I try to avoid flavor of the month hip hop soul stars. Couldn’t resist ” Closer”, though, and this album shows a maturing I didn’t expect.

17.  Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

It’s not as accessible or fun as St. Elsewhere, but I deign for people to tell me this album isn’t going to be regarded as a classic in ten years time.  Cee-Lo remains one of the most underrated singers in music, and Danger Mouse is a musical genius.

16. Billy Talent 666

A Live album from the St. Catherines punk purists with a matching DVD. They are fantabulous live, and they hit all the right notes and sing the hits as well as fan faves. ” Devil In A Midnight Mass” still remains scorching.

15. MGMT Oracular Spectacular

Experimental yet somehow classic, the Brooklyn duo create magic on their second full length album, and believe me when I say we are all better off to just buy it. Influenced by New Order and space rock that would make Bowie proud, I recommend just listening to ” Kids” and reminding yourself of happier times.

14. Adele 19

Duffy had the big hit, Amy the big headlines, and Leona the big benefactor ( Simon Cowell), but Adele has the big voice, and her songs are not written by frickin’ Jesse McCartney. Simply stunning.

13 Rise Against Appeal To Reason

More punk purists, this time with an decidedly Marxist lean. They are passionate and surprisingly successful- this album debuted at 3 on te Billboard charts.  Political and rocking.

12. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III

He’s a wordsmith that would make Eminem smile, and his prolific bootlegs and internet releases make him a tad over exposed, but he is quickly becoming the MC to listne to. ” Lollipop” is hook filled fun.

11. Coldplay Viva La Vida

Their previous album was so controlled, I wished for some imperfect note to remove the museum like quality. This album is messier, sonically more diverse, baroque and the punkiest we’ll ever hear them. Lyrically as pretentious as ever, at least it rocks harder. Which is still not much, granted.

10. Girl Talk Feed the Animals

Danger Mouse started the internet mash up, but Gregg Gillis perfected it. ” Set It Off” indeed. Brilliantly wacky.

9. Black Keys Attack and Release

Highly recommended to me by a good friend, I finally picked it up about three weeks ago and have been grooving ever since.  With Danger Mouse producing ( what, him agian?), the Akron duo create a world of spare, historical guitar noodling delta blues minimalism. And if that all seems to be contridictory, you’re right, but it works.

8. My Morning Jacket Evil Urges

Blow my mind, moutain men, why don’t you? The soul brothers of my beloved Flaming Lips, these guys mix a gorgeous falsetto, southern rock, space jams, and veiled political references . Why am I coming to them so frickin’ late? Someone? Anyone?

7. TV On The Radio Dear Science

Funk is awesome. Team it with apocolyptic lyrics and the general feeling of doom, you get this masterpiece of an album.

6.  Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend

I can see how people can hate this Ivy league, hyperliterate band with a fondness for Paul Simon’s Graceland and the solo work of Peter Gabriel ( who is namechecked in “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”). But I love the fact they can simply create gently African melodies while asking ” Who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma?” More fun that it should be.

5. Kings Of Leon Only By the Night

They are becoming one of my new faves, as they take the best of Skynyrd and add some U2 and becomebetter. They always seemed inauthentic in their southern gothic style, but this album launches them out of parody and into the forefront of the Southern rock revolution happening right now. My Morning Jacket has competition…

4. City and Colour Bring Me Your Love

Dallas Green’s solo side project is quickly eclipsing his day job in Alexisonfire. This album, a natural evolution from Sometimes acoustic heartbreaks, is by far the best Canadian album this year ( no one comes close- sorry, Nickelback). All those comparisons to Neil Young’s Harvest are justified.

3. Kanye West 808s and Heartbreaks

The man is broken. His mama died tragically and his fiancee dumped his ass. He has put the bravado aside and created an emotional, adult album with little hip hop braggacio. Stunning and suprising.

2. R.E.M. Accelerate

Whether it’s the hugley catchy vocal hook of ” Supernatural Superserious” or the quiet rage that seeps into ” Houston”, the end of days grandstanding of ” I’m Gonna DJ” or the dressing down given in ” Living Well Is The Best Revenge”, this album says two things. R.E.M. is not fine, and you know what, they still have it.

1. Jenny Lewis Acid Tongue

It’s becoming clear to me Jenny Lewis can do no wrong. I adore Rilo Kiley, her day job band, but her solo work impresses the hell out of me. This album, simple, folksy, county, rock, psychedelic, often all at the same time, remains my favorite this year.

Worst of the year- Scarlett Johannsson Anywhere I Lay My Head

She can’t sing. Not in the charming way Tom Waits can’t sing. She lacks charm as a vocalist, and this album of Tom Waits covers offends the Tom Waits fan in me.

Biggest relief: GNR finally releases Chinese Democracy

Biggest disappointment: GNR’s Chinese Democracy. I’ll never be okay again. It made me cry. Not in a good way. Flashes of genius are overshadowed by an over produced mess.

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davidc4

My undying devotion to the one known as SBF during American Idol is legendary. The punk rock chick in me is needing to know that rock still has a place in the pop culture universe, and AI is the music equivalent to the Psychic Friends. Rock indeed can sell in today’s market, even in the context of a popularity contest disguised as a talent show. That being said, AI this year was also awash with pure talent.

The typically quick turnaround ( 10 weeks) of our reigning champs debut means two things. One, it’s uneven. Two, it’s a good representation of what we shall expect in David Cook’s career. Overall, DC’s independent debut/ mini masterpiece Analog Heart, self written and self produced, is a better album. That doesn’t mean David Cook is a bad album. On the contrary, in the realm of Idol world, it’s freaking Abbey Road to Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway ( the Sgt. Pepper’s of this analogy) and Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts ( Let It Be). ( Chris Daughtry’s album would be Let It Bleed– similar, but not the same, regardless of what other hacks try to say). It also is one of the better rock records of the year. Take it from someone who is coming out of her GNR denial and realizing what crap that record is. DC is modern despite his throwback sound.

Songwriting by committee, though, rarely serves a rock album well. With names like Chris Cornell, Raine Maida, John Rzeznik, and Kevin Griffin, DC is working with some of the best, most melodic songwriters in the biz. The delicate ” Permanent” ( co-written with Maida and Maida’s wife, chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk, and it has her fingerprints all over it) is the loveliest song on the album. the lead off single, ” Light On”, has grown on me significantly since my first review, and is now one of my favorite songs of the year, with it’s minor key intro and soaring chorus. ” Declaration” ( a.k.a. the other song played on SNL) is melodic and rocking. ” Bar-Ba-Sol”, the best track on the album, is blessed with an asymmetrical melody, grinding guitars, and a solo that peels the paint off the ceiling, teamed with an awesomely off-kilter vocal melody. ” A Daily AntheM”, a holdover from his solo writing, is the truest song, the one completely in his voice, and it’s connection on an emotional level with me is pretty amazing.

Not every track works for me. I know fans love ” Life On the Moon”, which is blessed with a great melody, but the lyrics buckle under the titular conceit.  DC’s usual hyper-literate lyrics are missing ( go check out Analog Heart for comparison sake- once a word nerd, always a word nerd, but clever and CLEVER play differently). ” Come Back To Me”- I have listened to that song a dozen times and I can’t remember much about it. It’s lost among stronger material. ” Mr. Sensitive” is too on the nose ( I like my rock songs with a little quirk in them). The inclusion of the truly now grating ” Time Of My Life” is certainly not DC’s fault, as I’m sure 19 Entertainment contracts stipulate the Idol will forever be saddled with that claptrap.

It’s not a perfect album. It is, however, thoroughly enjoyable, well produced ( props to Rob Cavallo for not making it sound like it went through a digital blender, but like a rock record), and overall, considering this year in music, one of the better albums of the year.

Grade- B

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