Parks and Rec, Happy Endings Renewed

Two of my favorite comedies this year have been Parks and Recreation and Happy Endings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Happy Endings will receive another 22 episode season; same for Parks and Recreation, says Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix. This is good news, for all of us, because if these shows had been cancelled, it might had made me cry and I am a really ugly crier. No one needs to see that.

On the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, this news ranks somewhere between Woodworking and Welfare Avoidance, and above Haircuts.

The 2011 Awards: Part 3

As we come upon the final day of 2011, it’s our last chance to share some more award winners! And I’m glad we are. We had some other last-minute nominations, and as always, these reader nominees are marked with an asterisk (*).

If you haven’t already, check out Parts 1 and 2. And then read below to find out our final winners!

The 2011 Awards

The Finally Forgiven Award: Jennifer Morrison. After being the girlfriend we hated in How I Met Your Mother and single-handedly bringing the series down, it was hard to give Morrison a second chance. But we’re hooked on Once Upon a Time. It’s a role we can be pleased to watch. Morrison, you’re forgiven.

*Best Overseas Adaption: Wilfred. Having not seen the Australian version, this show is still very well put together. It’s dark and funny, and the way Jason Gann acted in the dog suit can’t be beat!

Best Show Based on a Book: Game of Thrones. I don’t think I even have to defend this.

Worst Show Based on a Book: The Secret Circle. The plotlines are a little blah, and the acting overall could use a lot of work. Overall, I wish they would have just stuck with a similar storyline to the books and then spun off into the new and different (a la The Vampire Diaries), instead of whatever I’ve been watching.

Star-Cross Lovers Award: Emily/Amanda and Jack, Revenge. Can’t these crazy kids just get together already? Can’t Amanda (the real one) just give up her vengeful plan and fall into the arms of her childhood sweetheart? Can’t Jack finally look her in the eyes and see who she really is? Doesn’t the dog’s unconditional love mean anything?!

Favorite Couple Award: Leslie and Ben, Parks and Rec. They just make me so happy! Seeing them together then torn apart (with a crying Batman to boot) was so hard. And now we have them happily together again. The final episode this year was just so heartwarming and happy. Love them.

*Most Promise, Least Results: Terra Nova and The Killing. It’s a tie! Actually, this category was suggested to me with a winner (Terra Nova), but I couldn’t let it go without tossing in another lament about The Killing finale. First, Terra Nova. The premise definitely had promise — going back in time to build a new society — but instead of spending time developing the rebuilding, we got another monster-of-the-week/separatist show with little character development. The Robinson Caruso aspect was missing. As for The Killing, well, from the best episode this year to the worst. Red herrings distracted us. There were too many characters. And we spent too much time with a political campaign that no one cared about. And do we need to spend more time discussing that finale?

*Worst Running Gag: Sandwiches, How I Met Your Mother. It was funny the first time. Real funny. But as the years have gone on, the occasional reference to “sandwiches” has become less and less of a recurring joke and more and more of a recurring reference to a joke someone told once. Not to mention that as adult Ted tells his kids more and more inappropriate stories about people hooking up and/or getting really drunk, the idea that he would be hiding any mention of marijuana (especially someone else’s use of it) seems more and more odd.

Best Competition Show: The Amazing Race. This might be one of the few times I agree with Emmy winners, but it’s sure fun to watch. I was laughing out loud a few weeks ago, seeing these teams dress up and do muscle man poses. Even the grandparents looked good!

Best Food Competition Show: Chopped. A new favorite. Just creative and interesting to watch. Plus, it’s nice to see a rotating group of contestants for a change.

Worst Food Competition Show: Top Chef. It’s past its prime and just needs to go.

Favorite Glee Musical Number: The Adele Mashup. I don’t watch Glee regularly, but they cast has always been talented in their musical numbers. Their 300th performance was no exception, and I’m impressed that they can even make an overplayed artist sound fresh and new.

Most Unbelievable Glam Job: Kate Beckett, Castle. I don’t watch the show, though I hear I should. There are two reasons: 1) The first couple episodes weren’t great, and 2) hard-as-nails Kate has now been glammed up as a supermodel. Somehow, I just can’t take her seriously anymore, even if it did increase a fan base.

Biggest Scheduling Faux-Pas: NBC’s Treatment of Community. Once again, something I don’t need to justify. You can just read my post here.

Biggest Overuse of the Word “Event”: ABC Family Channel. ABC Family Channel doesn’t have TV shows. Or episodes. Nope. They have events. Every day. Every week. Every commercial.

Biggest “Spoiler”: Sheriff Graham’s Death, Once Upon a Time. Dear E!, next time you want to write an article about a potential death in a series weeks in advance, don’t title it, Once Upon a Time Spoiler Game: Whose Big Death Won’t You See Coming?” After reading this headline alone, I watched every episode with the expectation that someone will die (and guessing, in each episode, who I thought it’d be). Therefore, there was no surprise in the sheriff’s death. Plus, once you suspected a death was coming, the foreshadowing in the episode itself was more obvious than ever.

Worst Blind Spot: Ben Harmon, American Horror Story. Ok, seriously. He saw Hayden get hit in the face with a shovel and buried her body. Then built a gazebo on top. And yet he still thinks she’s alive and it was all a plot against him? Seriously?

One to Keep Your Eye On: Vanessa Marano. From humble beginnings in Gilmore Girls (where, frankly, I couldn’t stand her) to a short part in the best season of Dexter, Marano is making a name for herself. And in a show I thought had little promise until I watched it, she shines as Bay in Switched at Birth. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

Longest Living Animal: Sammy, Revenge. I’m not the only one who’s noticed that a dog that was given to Amanda as a child is still alive, well, and active 17 years later. In fact, JC noticed it in episode one. Either way, I still love him.

Best Old Stand-bys: The Team from Leverage. Not sure what to watch? Go to Leverage. It’s a strong, entertaining show that’s always a good stand-by. Every character on the show is fantastic, and if that’s not enough, the adorable relationship between Parker and Hardison is probably one of the best on TV right now.

Christmas Challenge: Parks and Rec

PARKS AND RECREATION: 2.12 “Christmas Scandal”

Please note the title of this episode: “Christmas Scandal.” Seems to imply that there’s a Christmas element to this episode, right? I mean, heck, even Netflix’s description mentioned a winter festival. On paper, this was a Christmas episode.

In viewing, it was not. I’m heartily disappointed. I think a Christmas episode of Parks and Rec would be great (perhaps another time?), and this one just missed the mark.

The episode opened with a Christmas Follies skit put on by the Parks Department, as part of what I assume was a Christmas party. Then the preparations for the winter festival and tree lighting began. And that was…it? Well, there was a short discussion between characters about what they should get people for Christmas, but beyond that, you really didn’t have much holiday presence.

The real story of this episode was in a sex scandal that Leslie somehow got herself wrapped up in, even though she did nothing wrong. Her attempts to get out of it just made the situation worse, and while it was funny, it just wasn’t what I wanted to see when I thought about Christmas.

Not that they couldn’t have made it appropriate. I mean, while Leslie was hiding from the press, the rest of the team took over her Parks Department duties. There could have been a lot of fun things to see as Ron and team tried to put this festival together and things continued to fall apart. All we really saw was one raccoon.

Recommendation: While the episode may have ended in a Christmas carol and tree lighting, I wouldn’t recommend it for Christmas viewing. Watch it for what it is, not for Christmas spirit.

Moment of the Week: Parks & Rec

I know, I know. It’s surprising that I’d give Parks & Rec such a high honor after giving it such a tough time in its early seasons. But the show has vastly improved, and I really enjoy tuning into it now. Last night’s episodes gave us some great drunken moments for the characters, a little angry back-and-forth, and an actually tolerable (and funny!) Tom.

Plus, Ron Swanson is always awesome.

After all, without Ron, we wouldn’t have this awesome gif, courtesy of NYMag.com.

Ok, so maybe the gif itself is the moment of the week, I don’t know. But major kudos goes out to the show. Yay.

How Adam Scott and Rob Lowe changed my mind about ‘Parks and Rec’

I’ve never been a fan of Parks and Recreation. I tuned in for a good part of the first season, and I just found it forced and unfunny. I felt that Amy Poehler wasn’t nearly as cute as she thought she was, and it was a waste of a role for a talent like Rashida Jones. I just wasn’t a fan.

Sometime last season, I heard rumblings that the show got better. Well, I was still skeptical, and since I’m rather stubborn when it comes to TV sometimes, I still didn’t watch. After all, I’m a fan of Whedon. I supported Southland and Life Unexpected. I know how cult followings work. That’s what I thought it was.

But after watching Party Down, one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time (and one of the most painful cancellations), I started putting my faith in a man named Adam Scott. And hearing he was on Parks and Recreation, well, that was enough for me to put my hardheaded side aside and actually give it a shot.

Fortunately, nothing was really competing with it at 9:30 last night.

Anyway, I was less thrilled with Rob Lowe. I’ve seen him in a lot and never a comedy, and I also know that as an actor, he can get a little twitchy if he feels he’s underutilized (Brothers and Sisters, anyone?). But he’s decent, so I figured I’d just see what he could do.

Well, consider this my moment to tell you that the fans were right and I was wrong. The show has vastly improved (mainly because it has a plot that’s a lot more interesting than filling a hole in the ground), and the characters are actually entertaining (with the exception of Tom, played by Aziz Ansari, who is still very annoying, despite how I enjoyed his appearance in Scrubs). Most of all, Scott and Lowe were a dynamite team together. Ok, dynamite is overstating, but they were enjoyable.

Let’s start with Lowe, who was a bright and cheery spot in the show — in more ways than one. What was I expecting? Well, his typical character. The serious, but charming, political guy that we saw in West Wing and Brothers and Sisters. Personally, I was very entertained by how excited he was by everything. Sure, it was a character I’d seen in sitcoms before (I think Phoebe dated someone like him in Friends, played by Alec Baldwin), but it was still refreshing in a show that hadn’t impressed me before.

As for Adam Scott, well, he hasn’t shown his most wonderful true colors yet, though he is playing a great straightman against Lowe’s over-excited character. I’m still waiting for his jarring sarcasm to come through, and I think Parks and Rec does provide a platform for that. As for whether he’ll be a love interest for Poehler, as they advertised when he joined the show, well, I’m not as invested in that (if it hasn’t already been hinted at last season), but I’ll wait and see.

All this to say, I think Parks and Rec has changed my mind. Sure, it took two new cast members to do it (no one else is really impressing me, and Jones herself is still just a straightman to utter ridiculousness), but it’s turned itself around. Will I watch next week? I won’t make any promises, but there’s a good chance I will.

An early look at ‘Community’

COMMUNITY: 1.01 “The Pilot”

If you haven’t seen Community yet, well, it appears that you’re a little out of the loop. I’ve seen it, and I’m not special. I’m just your average TV-watcher that has an account on Facebook.

That’s right, you can see the entire Community pilot on Facebook. All you have to do is be a fan of the show, and you can watch it!

And you should. Because it’s hilarious. Well, let me clarify: I don’t necessarily think it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy. I mean, you might on some lines (say, when they make fun of Ryan Seacrest–how Joel McHale). But for the most part, you’re looking at very subtle lines and humor that might take you a minute to realize that you just got. And I think that’s fantastic.

I’m tired of shows forcing the humor down your throat. Say, Parks and Recreation? That show so desperately wants to be The Office (which is also losing some of its subtlety), that it’s painful.

But not Community. I mean, think about the one joke that we’ve heard all over the promos:

“I thought you had your law degree from Columbia.”

“Now I need one from America.”

You pause and you get it, but it’s not instantaneous, which pretty much encompasses the show.

Now, you have to understand. You probably won’t like Joel McHale’s character. But that what makes you want to watch him. He’s so despicable. I mean, he’ll do what he needs to do to get by. Anything. Lie. Steal. Cheat. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily all work out in the end, but does it really need to? If it did, where would we have the show?

My favorite part is definitely the characters. Some of the best shows take a group of people with nothing in common and puts them together to see how they interact. Even The Office did it. The only thing these people had in common was that they worked in the same place. This time? That they all take the same foreign language class. And man, these people have nothing in common. They’re fantastic when they all communicate–or don’t, as the case my be.

Anyway, it’s worth checking out. And personally, I’m glad NBC put it online early. Not only does it get great promotion for the show (trust me, you’ll want to keep watching), but it gives it a little competitive advantage over Glee, since we’ve already seen that show, too.

Plus, it’s a great tribute to John Hughes. The Breakfast Club really resonates throughout the episode, which is appropriate since they posted it a week after he died. I wonder if it was purposeful.

Maybe, maybe.

By the way, if you’re worried about Chevy Chase’s performance (as I was), don’t worry. He’s great. Quite fun and underplayed. I think he’ll be great in the role.

NBC: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Well, NBC has announced it’s upcoming new shows, as well as some shows that will be picked up. And to be honest, I can’t say I’m over the moon about any of them. Well, maybe one.

What’s original here? NBC seemed to be one of the networks we’re more curious about, what with ER‘s  good-bye and their newest pitch to have Leno have a 10:00 daily talk show. And yes, that Leno plan is still happening.

And while I have mixed feelins about Leno’s show (I think it’s a terrible idea, though at least it will be a backup to reruns at 10:00 on other networks), that now limits NBC to two hours of programming. So what do we have?

Well, in place of ER, we’ve now got two new hospital dramas, one of which has Michelle Trachtenberg as a nurse–something I doubt very heavily. Sorry, Michelle fans, but somehow that just seems odd to me. Can she play an adult? I mean, I saw her relatively try in The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, and it was painful.

We’ve also got Day One, which apparently has someone from Heroes involved (let’s hope season 1) and involves people reacting after a global disaster. Didn’t we do this a few years ago and call it Jericho? The frontrunner of that show is Julia Gonzalo, the most annoying cast member of the lost Eli Stone.

And then what? Parenthood? Oh dear, Maura Tierney, is there no hope left? At least Monica Potter’s finding work after Trust Me was canceled.

But where, oh, where are the original premises? I’m most looking forward to Community, mainly because it stars Joel McHale of The Soup, but from what I’ve read on other blogs, people are less enthused because it’s “just another multi-camera comedy.” I’ll take that any day over another Parks and Recreation, which, by the way, has been renewed.

Speaking of renewals, what about the ones we’re really wondering about? No news on Chuck, and contrary to various reports this weekend, it looks like Medium hasn’t yet been decided on yet, either. From what I can tell, you’ll have to wait until May 19, when they announce the fall schedule.

These are two very popular series. I’m still surprised they’re being debated.

Meanwhile, we can expect the return of Heroes, The Office, 30 Rock, reality TV, and at least one Law & Order series.

What else is missing? My Name Is Earl. Again, very surprised.

I should mention that all of these might not be fall shows–some may be winter or “event”–but I think there are some surprises and disappointments here. With such original series as Chuck and, of course, Kings, we’re stuck with the old and the done.

So here’s what I suggest. If you don’t like what you see, and you’re waiting for your favorite NBC show to appear, you better get moving. Write to NBC, post blogs, do what you must. You’re running out of time, and we’re running out of quality.

It’s a brand-new May

[To the tune of Dr. Horrible's "Brand-new Day"]

It’s a brand-new May
And the sun is high
All networks are singing
That they’re gonna die
Go a head an laugh
Hey, I’m a funny guy…
Tell everyone good-bye…
It’s a brand-new May…
[STOMP]

Yes, yes. It’s the time for season and series finales. Honestly, why is it that I don’t know yet which shows are having series finales? Oh, maybe it’s because it’s all up to cancellation announcements (no, we haven’t heard about Dollhouse yet).

Anyway, it’s the time of year–May and, well, the week before it–where finales rule and characters die. Who’s spouting springtime deaths?

Heroes, for one, unless they already did the damage they were planning with Elle and Daphne. Personally, I’m hoping for more.

Then there’s Smallville, which is killing off two to three characters. It’s questionable as to whether the third character will be in body or mind, but there will certainly be some carnage.

For a while there, we thought there’d be some death in Grey’s Anatomy. I guess we still don’t know anymore about that one.

And then there’s One Tree Hill, which is constantly trying to kill off Dan (though I hear he’s not going anywhere…yet), and there is the question of Peyton and the baby. And have they signed her or Lucas on for another season? I haven’t heard a yes or no yet. All speculation, though.

I’ve also heard that not everyone is in the clear on Desperate Housewives. But then again, that’s always the case.

House already greeted us with our death for the season. I can’t say anyone was expecting the Kutner surprise.

And then there’s Dollhouse. I know nothing about whether anyone will live or die, but it is Joss Whedon, so that’s always the chance. Plus, you hear the name “Alpha,” and you automatically get scared. I’d say there is a good chance for some terror and death–again, all speculation.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear that we’ve got some big episodes coming up on our favorite shows, and those are just the ones I’m willing to share info about or speculate on (and trust me, Dollhouse is complete speculation; I won’t share my opinions about who I think could kick it, though if you want to know my thoughts, just ask).

My point in all this is to not let your favorite finales pass you by. Somehow they’re sneaking up on me, so I don’t want you all to miss out! I mean, Heroes is tomorrow, people!

So here is a list of some of the shows I cover (and a few other popular ones that I know the kids are watching), so you’ll be sure to catch your favorites as they sign off (hopefully) for the summer. A complete list can be found here.

Monday, April 27: Chuck and Heroes
Wednesday, April 29: Better Off Ted
Thursday, April 30: Samantha Who?
Wednesday,  May 6: Scrubs and The Unusuals
Friday, May 8: Dollhouse
Sunday, May 10: Brothers & Sisters
Monday, May 11: The Big Bang Theory, House, and Castle
Tuesday,  May 12: Fringe
Thursday, May 14: Smallville, Parks and Recreation, Bones, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, and 30 Rock
Friday,  May 15: Ghost Whisperer and Prison Break
Sunday, May 17: Desperate Housewives
Monday,  May 18: Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, and One Tree Hill
Tuesday,  May 19: 90210
Wednesday, May 20: America‘s Next Top Model
Thursday,  May 21: Ugly Betty and Southland
Tuesday, May 26: Reaper and My Boys

So keep those eyes glued to the TV, people. It’s a brand-new May…

Welcome to the Fight Club.

30 ROCK: 3.18 “Jackie Jormp-Jomp”

The freshness and originality of this show is such a counter to Parks and Recreation that I just adore it.

The characters are so original, and the characters so far have not grown stale. In fact, they’ve grown stronger in their quirkiness.

For example, Liz. Liz is so dedicated to her work that when she’s required to leave, she just whines to her doormen/doorwomen about how she should be at work. It’s so uncharacteristic for her to have time off and to be away from the show.

Which is why it’s so much funnier when she falls into the grasp of the housewives. And I really loved the sequence of her explaining why she couldn’t spend the entire day with them, as the entire day goes on around her. It was great.

Personally, I thought that they would end up getting sick of Liz, therefore awkwardly telling her to stop hanging out with them. But nope. They were part of something bigger.

The fight club.

Though I love that Jack naturally assumed lesbianism. We were all going there, now weren’t we?

And on the other end of the character spectrum is Jenna, who will do anything to be known, loved, and believed to be in her early 30s. With Jack’s help, they convinced the world she was dead (all because a kid who was running the Kid’s Choice Awards misheard Jack–fantastic) just so that her film Jackie Jormp Jomp would succeed. It’s just like Jack.

And it’s just like Jenna to throw it all away at the prospect of someone finding out that she’s really fff—-.

Oh, and can I say that I also appreciated that they already had a memorial video made for her. Heh.

Overall, the show is just creative. It still lives in the world of quirk and unpredictability. They counter the possibility of staleness with surprise and fun.

Yet they’re still stuck in the day-to-day world of making the show. I loved that Tracy mentioned that Liz is always around to fix everything as he’s being dragged off and that Kenneth automatically goes to Jack as his superior if Liz isn’t around, even if there might be 40 people in between. (Though I wasn’t thrilled with the Kenneth-in-love storyline. It was just eh.)

Finally, let’s give one last shoutout to the satire involved. Mocking Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus with small complaint about sitting behind the Cyrus family and their hats was great. So was dumping green slime on someone right before presenting a memoriam. And the fact that a cartoon bear got uproarious applause while the creator of the cartoon had one lonely clap–sad but true.

Are you pro-’Park’ or pit?

PARKS AND RECREATION: 1.02 “Canvassing”

Will you hate me if I say that I’m still not impressed by this show? It feels like a wannabe The Office. I mean, the entire time that Knope was hosting that town forum, she was the epitomy of Michael Scott when he knew he was in a jam.

I mean, reading a book outloud? Seriously?

What’s worse is that you counter that with the amazing sales skills harnessed inside Michael’s ineptitude that we saw in The Office last night–suddenly you realized that Michael is actually a fantastic salesman, and it makes sense why he’s running a branch–and it just makes Knope even worse! (By the way, read a fantastic review of last night’s The Office here.)

But back to Parks, I’m just not impressed. I’m not finding the freshness. Hell, we haven’t even seen the freshness that was in the promotions? Rarely would I ask for characters to find a dirty bra and a bone in the garbage, but I’m really asking for it now.

What saddens me most is that the show seems to be dependent on Amy Poehler. Not that I’m opposed to Amy Poehler (wow, I’m starting to sound like my last post on this show), but tends to make some other stars fade into the background.

For example, Rashida Jones. I know she was in it last night–she canvassed alongside Knope for hours–but she certainly didn’t shine. In fact, I can’t even remember if she was in the entire episode. She has such a wealth of talent at her fingertips, and they aren’t even tapping into it. I mean, I know Rashida plays a great straight man for the comedic, but she’s certainly being held back. I don’t think straight man should be the same as…wood.

And once again, I’m still not seeing why she’s with her injured boyfriend. He’s still a jerk, and we haven’t seen any redeeming qualities. I DID find it funny when they walked into her apartment, only to find him and the other two canvassers playing Rock Band, but one funny instance isn’t saving the show.

I want this show to step it up a knotch. I’m just finding it really frustrating because it really does have potential. It just needs to make itself its own show and not a clone of The Office. Maybe that became problematic solely because at first the rumors would be that this was an Office spin-off. They need to get out of that mindset.

It’s got the acting talent and the writing talent. So where’s the show?