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Spoiler Alert Thursday (on Saturday)

My confidence was shattered last week when someone commented that all of the shows I commonly discuss are worse than “House”! I think my ego has recovered and, so, I present to you a really late Spoiler Alert Thursday. Some great TV this week (“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena), a lot of which was surprisingly metafictional (“Supernatural,” “General Hospital”). Also, some average TV (“Fringe,” “NCIS”) and some terrible TV (“The Cape”).

“General Hospital”: Given that it is a soap opera and time doesn’t really mean much internal to the story, I am nonetheless surprised and impressed that they’ve managed to drag on The Balkan stuff for another week. (I suppose I should hold off on commenting on Michael’s desire to become a mob enforcer until next given that this arc started on Thursday.) The real news wasn’t just the wedding of Sonny and Brenda, or the car bomb, or the abduction of Brenda, but James Franco’s two strange phone calls to Jason, the first immediately after the explosion which suggested that he played a role in the bombing. With Monday’s phone call, it would seem that he did not. The first phone call was a work of genius: it was nearly impossible to tell if James Franco was playing “Franco, the death artist” or “James Franco”: he was in a tux, had to attend a really important event, and made several references to the real James Franco’s life. I wondered if, like Joey Tribbiani, James Franco writes his own lines: according to the Yale English website, there are no graduate courses that take up metafiction; I didn’t bother to look at the website for that MFA in writing he did. All the same, it was brilliant and suggested that he’d return in late spring or summer.

“Fringe”: According to TV by the Numbers, “Fringe” has, at best, a fifty percent chance of renewal. (“Human Target” is all but certain to be cancelled–the fuck?) The most recent episode–a retro-episode of Peter and Olivia in their youth at Walter’s cortexiphan trials–raised more questions than it answered: if Peter and Olivia had such a bond as a child, why don’t either of them remember it? if Olivia could travel between universes as a child, why can’t she remember it as an adult? if Peter the child was aware that the was kidnapped from the other side, why doesn’t he remember it as an adult? The only element of new information is that Walternate figured out where Peter went when Olivia shifted to the other side and told the wrong Walter her secret. For the first time ever, I saw the Watcher in the background. A major accomplishment.

“Supernatural”: Despite the unlikely premise–Balthazer, claiming to protect Sam and Dean from Raphael, sends them into an alternate reality where they are regular humans acting in a show called “Supernatural”–the episode was possibly the best of the series, and among the best of any series at all. The best scene, obviously, was during the filming of a scene from “Supernatural”: Jensen and Jared (the real living people in our world) playing Sam and Dean (on our world’s TV show “Supernatural”) playing ‘Jensen and ‘Jared (in the alternate world) playing ‘Sam and ‘Dean (on the alternate world’s “Supernatural”). I wasn’t surprised that Misha/Castiel/’Mischa/’Castiel was able to do it, but I was surprised how well, especially, Jensen/Dean/’Jensen/’Dean was able to do it. This week’s epsiode was a bit of a downer, but I’ll talk about that next week.

A question raised by “Supernatural” and “General Hopistal”: what is with the use of self-portraits in the background when dealing with explicitly metafictional elements? Jared Padalecki’s house is adorned with pictures of himself and Franco’s hotel room is covered in self-portraits.

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”: I know I complained about the show’s somewhat pornographic bent a few weeks ago, but the mini-series finale was absolutely spectacular. The choreography of the primus was among the best ever seen on TV, and in most movies. (If only they found a way to make Jason Statham into a Saxon barbarian…) The episode managed to resolve a number of key conflicts that seemed, given an hour long episode, irresolvable: for instance, Batiatus’ feud with Tullius and Vettius. It also managed introduced known conflicts: for instance, Batiatus’ feud with Solonius and Ashur’s hatred of Crixus (with the single best bone break ever recorded on film). While the execution of Diona was supposed to be emotionally excruciating, I found myself unmoved: I didn’t care for before her repeated rapes and I was never a fan of her friend, Naevia, who had helped her escape. It was surprising that Gannicus survived. If nothing else, this opens the possibility of his return to Season 2 of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (of course, I remain apprehensive about recasting Spartacus).

“The Cape”: Finally cancelled!

“NCIS”: If Tony or McGee leave the show at the end of the season for whatever reason–a spin-off, transferred, dead, retired, etc–I’m not watching it anymore. The show is largely derivative, but what makes it work is that it knows it is derivative and the best episodes are knowingly parasitical on the “forensic/procedural” drama genre. To have Tony start directing episodes and bring up Jenny’s offer of having his own team over and over and over strongly suggests major changes for Tony. Likewise, constantly bringing up McGee’s more or less illegal activities (apparently okay during Bush presidencies but not so okay during the Obama presidency) also suggests changes for him. Lastly, the introduction of a new recurring character last week (she’s annoying!) and the promise of Ziva’s CIA agent boyfriend joining as a recurring character (Danny from “Without a Trace”) doesn’t bode well: it violates my number one principle of the hour-long dramatic show–Do Not Introduce Recurring Characters And Especially Do Not Introduce New Cast Members (e.g., “Human Target”; the only exception is the ensemble show, e.g., “True Blood,” “The Wire,” or shows that build in short-term recurring characters from the beginning, e.g., Joss Whedon shows, soap operas, etc).

March 3, 2011 - Posted by | Spoiler Alert Thursdays

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