‘How I Met Your Mother’ and Other Fights I am Having with TV

Photo: CBS © 2013

Photo: CBS © 2013

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

“Our ninth season will tell the epic story of the longest wedding weekend ever.”

That’s How I Met Your Mother creator and executive producer Carter Bays in the official statement CBS released about the finale. It makes my stomach hurt. Look I completely understand artistic vision and no show runner can make all the viewers happy all of the time. Nor should they. They shouldn’t bow to viewers’ wants and desires. So if Bays and his co-creator and executive producer Carter Thomas want to spend the ENTIRE ninth season on Barney and Robin’s wedding, that’s their prerogative.

But, frankly, I don’t understand why. I was surprised to learn that Bays and Thomas had intended to end the series with viewers just getting a glimpse of the Mother as we did in the finale.  We’ve all invested eight years of our lives in this relationship and I, for one, would like to see it play out.  I want to see Ted and the Mother fall in love, maybe even get engaged. I want to see the Mother and Lily become best friends and share footwear. I want to see the Mother fully embraced by the gang.

Plus, for reasons I’ll never understand, the show has made such a big deal about the fact that Ted is still hung up on Robin. This last little do-si-do in the Ted and Robin dance is truly horrendous. Really we’re going to hold hands in the rain? The show has beaten the storyline in such a way that I’m worried there’s no way we can be happy if Robin marries Barney and no way we can be happy if she ends up with Ted.  They are slowly but surely sucking all the joy out of a show I once loved.

I get that Ted still being hung up on Robin may be somewhat realistic – some people do spend their whole lives trying to get over someone. But that truth doesn’t make Ted’s pining particularly interesting to watch.  For me to feel good about the Mother, I need to see Ted get over Robin and that can’t happen in one weekend.

In the “The Time Travelers” episode it seemed to me that the show was strongly hinting at the fact that the Mother was no longer alive. I still have this lingering fear that the Mother died when the kids were little and Ted has been married to Aunt Robin all this time. Is that what the flash forwards next season are going to tell us?

My other problem with this week’s big reveal is that it’s too little, too late. Timing is everything in romance and in television. What is arguably the show’s biggest moment happened at a time when I am past really caring who the Mother is. I am happy that she is a relative unknown. I’m happy for Cristin Milioti. TV is a tough business and it’s nice to see someone we haven’t seen before getting such a high profile role. Everyone is talking about her Broadway run in Once but I want to go back and watch the three episodes where Miloti played Johnny Sac’s daughter on The Sopranos.

How did you feel about the How I Met Your Mother finale? Talk about it below.

But it’s not just HIMYM that has irked me in the past couple weeks, I’m also bothered by the fact that:

Smash killed off Kyle: Ugh that episode was the worst. Kyle got the most amount of screen time after the show killed him off. And just a quick memo to Smash: We already get that Hit List is Rent. You really haven’t been subtle about that at all. And we already know that Jonathan Larson, who wrote Rent, tragically died the morning of the musical’s first preview. So did you really need the Rent poster in the background shot? No you did not. But if you were going to do that could you at least have the characters acknowledge Rent? The moment was already super meta because Jesse L. Martin stared in the original Broadway production of Rent. Honestly, I don’t know what the show was thinking with this maudlin VERY IMPORTANT EPISODE unless it was supposed to distract us from the rest of the show’s ridiculousness like Jimmy singing to himself or Tom becoming a different character every five minutes. Smash is in the midst of a colossal creative collapse. It’s rather fascinating to watch and see what they’ll come up with next (Derek being blackmailed?). I cannot wait until the cast is able to speak freely about what they thought about this second season.  Now that would be a show.

No closure on the Kalinda/Nick storyline on The Good Wife: I hear you. I don’t ever want to see Nick again either. But I do fear that the longer the story line goes unmentioned and unsettled, the more likely it could be that it could reappear when we least expect it. You can read my review of The Good Wife finale here.

Just about everything on The Following: I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m so willing to allow ridiculousness on some shows and so intolerant of it on others.  For example, I don’t prefer but will allow the fact that James ended up being the one to interview Mellie on Scandal (especially because Cyrus explanation was somewhat reasonable in the Scandal world). But everything on The Following irks me. Maybe it’s because the premise to begin with is so unsavory or that the show keeps trying to find some poignancy amid all the gratuitous violence but the FBI’s utter incompetence (seriously how many times did they go places without backup?) and the show’s lack of basic logic made what was supposed to be a dramatic finale completely laughable. Obviously Joe Carroll is not dead and I’m pretty confident Ryan will survive (obviously).  Maybe the show will take a page from the 24 first season playbook and kill off Claire.  I started to wonder what would happen in season two and how the show could possible eke out more episodes on this ridiculous premise and then I remembered, oh that’s right, I DON’T CARE. I won’t be watching.

Not one but two more seasons of Glee?:  What can I even say about such absurdity? The season finale was inane even by Glee standards. As most of us had predicted but none of us cared, Unique was catfishing Ryder. Suddenly Joe and Sugar were back sans explanation. Rachel appeared to sing one song and then disappeared for the remainder of the episode. Britney got into MIT. Blaine’s still in high school but he wants to marry Kurt (what show do they think they are on? 7th Heaven?)  Next season, I must break up with this show. I must. I might need to form a support group to get me through it because when the show is good, it’s very very good (seriously that “Everything was Beautiful at the Ballet” number was splendid) and when it’s bad it’s beyond horrid.

Are you in a fight with a TV show? Talk about it below.  And don’t forget to follow up my blog by clicking on the link in the top right hand corner.


It’s time to start a ‘Smash’ Support Group

Smash - Season 2

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

My friends, it has come to this.

On Wednesday, NBC announced that, effective April 6,  it would move Smash to Saturday nights. Once abandoned on Saturday, the beleaguered drama will be allowed to air the entirety of its second season.  Smash showrunner Josh Safran told TVLine this week that the final episode of the season “was constructed as a series finale.”

So we must make a decision. Do we jump off this Titanic of a show and spend our precious viewing hours elsewhere. Or do we go all in and commit to watching Smash until the bitter end. I, for one, am going down with the ship. I will watch Smash until the last curtain falls.

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve decided to stick with the show because heaven (on earth) knows Smash has some serious flaws this season. I’m mean seriously how is it possible that they managed to come up with a character who is more annoying than Ellis? (Oh don’t even pretend like you don’t know who I’m talking about.)

It’s moments like this when we need our fellow TV viewers the most.  I decided we so need to form a Smash support group.

Each week, the group will meet and

  1. Wear oversized scarves.
  2. Randomly send out a person to go and get coffee for the creative team.
  3. Pout and threaten to quit the group the moment someone disagrees with you even slightly (thanks to @sj_martin for this one).
  4. Drink martinis and throw them at each other (thanks to @beccarebec for this one).
  5. Blame all our problems on Jerry.
  6. Form a search party for Jennifer Hudson (Is she hanging out in New York City with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson?)
  7. Try to buy tickets for Bombshell and The Hit Lit.
  8. Debate whether Franco is a good match for Grace.
  9. Go out to eat and break into song for no apparent reason.
  10. Start to tell a story, stop half-way through and then NEVER revisit that story again.

Are you still watching Smash? Do you want to join the Smash support group? Talk about it below and tell me what you would like to see happen during our weekly meetings. Remember, we are in this together.

Can season 2 of ‘Smash’ be a smash?

Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC

Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

True story: A few weeks ago  I sat down to watch the advanced screener of Smash.  I watched an ENTIRE episode before I realized I had watched the second episode of the season and not the two-hour season premiere, which airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Sure I was mildly concerned that suddenly the show featured new characters who weren’t introduced. And yes I did find it a tad annoying that so many story lines were dropped sans any explanation.  But at no point did it occur to me that I was watching the episodes out of order. I only realized it when I went to watch episode two and realized I already had. It shows just what a mess the show was by the end of last season.  I thought the looniness that defined Smash‘s freshman season was simply continuing.

I loved the Smash series premiere last year. I had such high hopes for the series.  I watched every single episode of its freshman season. I wasn’t hate watching. I was watching with the hopes that someday the show would become the series I thought it would be in the pilot. And I would see sparks of potential – musical numbers that moved me. Relationships that drew me in (I loved Christian Borle’s Tom and Leslie Odom Jr.’s Sam). Anjelica Huston’s Eileen Rand in every, single scene.

And the problem wasn’t Ellis. Or Leo. Or Dev. Or Julia’s adoption. It was the way those storylines were executed. Ellis could have been a great character if he had been better written and better performed.  Think of Nolan on Revenge. He’s an equally ridiculous character but he’s much better written and infinitely better performed and we love him.

There were two near fatal errors.  Julia (Debra Messing) had an affair almost immediately. It’s hard to root for a protagonist who is not only cheating but cheating on the couch in the rehearsal room where there are a million open windows. I had no sympathy for her plight and that’s not a good thing.

The second was that Ivy (Megan Hilty) didn’t just change episode to episode. She changed scene to scene, sometimes sentence to sentence. Was she a vixen? Nice? Were we supposed to feel sorry for her? Hate her? Like her? Root for her? Was she strong? Weak?  By the end of last season when Ivy was overdosing, I said out loud to the TV, “Oh come on!” The disaster of a character I had come to know the first season wouldn’t even do that.

So Smash begins its second season hitting the reset button and hoping that viewers don’t have much of a long term memory. Dev is gone.  Ellis is gone. Julia’s family is gone (although poor Frank does get a send-off)  and so is Michael. That frees Julia up to date which is probably where the show should have had her in the first place (enter Rescue Me’s Daniel Sunjata). Storylines are completely dropped –usually with a mere throwaway line. Julia’s possible pregnancy? Gone. Ivy’s suicide attempt? Explained away.  Julia’s scarves? Gone, but strangely her clothes are still shapeless.

New characters abound. Jennifer Hudson joins the cast as Ronnie Moore, a Broadway star looking to change her good-girl image and Derek (Derek (Jack Davenport) is just the man to do it. Broadway stars Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) and Andy Mientus come aboard as singer/songwriters Jimmy Collins and Kyle Bishop who befriend Karen (Katharine McPhee). Hudson is predictably fantastic. She was my favorite years ago on American Idol and I always love to hear her sing. But her character is clichéd. Jordan’s Jimmy is a little too petulant and so far Mientus’ Kyle doesn’t really leave an impression. And we are still hearing about what an amazing talent Karen is and how she has that indescribable star quality.  The only problem is it still seems that Ivy is the one bursting with talent.

Anytime a show hits the reset button, it’s starting from a disadvantage.  New showrunner Joshua Safran is trying to fix the problems he inherited. It’s too soon to tell if he’ll succeed.   Did you watch Smash last season? Are you going to watch this season? Talk about it below.

My Ten Favorite Episodes of 2012

The Final Page, Part One And Two

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal ®

Last week I talked about my ten favorite shows of the year. And, of course, those shows had some wonderful episodes in 2012. “The Other Woman” episode of Mad Men  was my favorite episode of the year.

But this week I thought I would turn my attention to my ten favorite episodes on shows that didn’t make it to my top ten list (got that?). It’s the holiday season — I’m spreading the love around.

My 10 favorite episodes of the year:

1. “Stride of Pride,” 30 Rock (October 18, 2012): This is the episode where I fell even more in love with Liz Lemon.  In 22 glorious minutes, Fey took on the ridiculous argument that woman can’t be funny. Plus we got a fun guest appearance by Olympian Ryan Lochte and a scathing commentary about how Hollywood treats actresses in their 40s. What more could you want? If you missed the episode, NBC is repeating it next Thursday, December 27.You can read my review of the episode for Paste Magazine here.
2. “The Final Page, Part 1 and 2,” How I Met Your Mother (December 17, 2012): This is the episode that made me go, “Oh right. This is why I love How I Met Your Mother.” In the final moments of the episode, viewers learn that Barney has pulled a long con on Robin to get her to realize that she’s in love with him.  The episode harkened back to the show’s glory days with inside jokes and delightful rapport among the friends (the jinx rule was right up there with the slap bet).  Plus it managed to shock viewers even when we knew was going to happen. Here I was annoyed that the show was drawing out the Barney and Robin engagement AGAIN and then the show pulled off one of the best surprises of the season.  It really was legen-wait-for-it- dairy. Bonus points for a terrific performance by Ellen D.Williams.  YESI’MTALKINGABOUTYOUPATRICE!
3. “Handle Your Scandal,” Nurse Jackie (June 17, 2012): I tend to binge watch Nurse Jackie. I’ll watch an entire season in one week. Perhaps that’s why the season finale hit me so hard. The anguish on Dr. Mike Cruz’s face as his son is brought into the ER stayed with me for a while. As brilliantly played by Bobby Cannavale, Dr. Cruz was a great adversary for Jackie because, even though he was often awful,  you could understand his point of view. Jake Cannvale, the son of Bobby Cannavle, was fantastic as a lost teenager trying to find himself in all the wrong places.  Every character dynamic reached its peak in the show’s season finale.
4. “Pilot” Smash (February 6, 2012): No, the musical drama did not live up to the promise of its pilot (boo Ellis! Boo!) but the pilot was a fantastic hour that did everything right from character introduction to central conflict. Let me be your star, indeed.
5.“Jimmy’s Fake Girlfriend,” Raising Hope (February 14, 2012): First of all I should have given an honorable mention to Raising Hope last week.  The show is terrific and weird and terrifically weird.  Its humor is out there and hilarious. And this episode, which found Jimmy conjuring up a fake girlfriend to make Sabrina jealous, was genius. The comedy upended audience expectations by putting the will-they-or-won’t-they couple solidly together (a move which totally worked) and putting the couple together in the sweet way while staying true to the unique humor of the show.
6.“A Reunion . . . “ Don’t Trust the B____ in Apt. 23” (October 23, 2012): Everything came together in this episode that found James Van Der Beek desperately trying to stage a Dawson’s Creek reunion.  I love the glorious relish with which Van Der Beek good naturedly mocks himself and the show that brought him fame. Add in cameos by Busy Phillips, Frankie Muniz and Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I don’t want to wait to tell you how much I loved this episode.
7.“The Dream Team” The Good Wife (May 6, 2012): Let’s all think back to the time BN – before Nick. Before the show went all 50 Shades of Food Products on us.  In this third season finale, two of my favorite guest stars (Martha Plimpton and Michael J. Fox) return to try to take control of the firm. The episode also featured the fantastic ending of Kalinda starring at her door with her gun loaded as she hears a knock on the door. Too bad that didn’t work out.
8.“Always”/“The Final Frontier”  Castle (May 7, 2012 and November 5, 2012): I know I’m breaking my own rules by picking two episodes from the same show but I simply couldn’t decide. “Always” brought television’s best star-crossed couple together in a way the delighted fans and “The Final Frontier” had such fun with Nathan Fillion’s status in the science fiction genre.
9.“My Life/Your World Parts 1 and 2” Cougar Town (May 29, 2012): I love the wine-loving cul-de-sac crew and never did I love them more then when Grayson and Jules got married and Travis confessed his love to Laurie. The title sequence read “Welcome to Cougar Town: Hopefully this is only the season finale.” Lucky for us it WAS only the season finale. The show returns with new episodes January 8 on TBS.
10.“The Countdown Reflection,” The Big Bang Theory (May 10, 2012): Since adding Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik to its cast, this comedy has thrived. The fifth season finale, which featured Howard and Bernadette’s wedding and ended with all the cast holding hands as Howard launched into space, was the perfect combination of humor and sweetness.

Those were my favorite episodes of the year. What were yours? Talk about it below.

Who needs to be Ellised? The Most Annoying Characters on TV

Photo by: Patrick Harbron/NBC

By Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

To Ellis: The act of removing a terrible, irritating character from a show.

When Smash returns next year, the much reviled Ellis will no longer be a part of the show.  Thankfully the new showrunner course corrected and decided to exile Ellis instead of trying to save his character. No amount of rewriting could have fixed the show’s Ellis problem.

Sometimes characters simply don’t work – a combination of a poor story arc, bad writing and questionable acting choices. They are characters who are so annoying that we fast forward through their scenes. Their presence brings the whole show down.

A few weeks ago I talked about good characters stuck on bad shows. Today, I turn my attention to bad characters who need to be Ellised out of a show.  They need to go to that great season pass manager in the sky or at least join Ellis on his Starbucks run for the creative team.

Here are the characters I would Ellis off a show:*

Hazel (Kristen Schaal) on 30 Rock: Kristen Schaal is a funny lady but I am so tired of Hazel. As a one-off joke as Kenneth’s replacement, she would have been fine. But I do not need to see her on a regular basis.  Hazel’s shtick got old very fast. Her character gets more freakishly bizarre in each episode but I’m not the least bit curious about her.  This is the final season of 30 Rock. We can’t be wasting valuable screen time on her.

Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) on Revolution: Of my many issues with Revolution, my biggest one may be that I cannot stand Charlie. I probably should be rooting for the teen at the center of this post-apocalyptic battle but she is whiny and annoying. Honestly she could work with Emily Owens.  Revolution has been about shocking deaths lately. Let’s make Charlie one of them.

Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) and Declan (Connor Paolo) on Revenge: Sure Fauxmanda also is an annoying character but at least she serves an important plot purpose. Declan has absolutely no reason to still be on the show. The show keeps wedging him into the ongoing storyline. Really now Declan is going to become a part of a teen robbery ring? Paolo is returning to Gossip Girl for its final season. Can’t he take Allen with him and then the star-crossed duo can live out their remaining TV days on the Upper East Side.

Sam (Taye Diggs) on Private Practice: Why I’m still watching this insipid show is a blog post for another time but Sam is my pick for the worst character on TV right now. He’s an awful friend, a terrible romantic partner and a lousy brother. He’s a different character each week who is always righteously indignant about something.

Nick (Marc Warren) on The Good Wife: We can’t blame all the problems with the Kalinda storyline on Nick. The whole thing is the epitome of When Good Shows Go Bad. But Nick isn’t helping matters with his petulant sneer and penchant for food products.

Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) on Glee: When I first heard about Lengies’ casting last season, I was confused. The actress played a teenager on American Dreams, then actually got to play an adult on Hawthorne and now she was back to playing a teenager again? Her vapid character really doesn’t serve any purpose on this increasingly over-populated series. She’s not nasty enough to be fun to hate. We don’t have enough of her back story to actually care about her character. It would be easy enough to get rid of Sugar. I often forget she’s even on the show. And then Lengies, who I’ve always liked, can move on to another project.

*Please note that I decided not to pick on any child actor. I simply couldn’t do it.

Who do you think needs to be Ellised off a show? Talk about it below. And remember to follow my blog so you will know every time I have a new post.