Tuned In

While I Was Out

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HBO photo: Nicole Rivelli

I actually do manage to stay fairly unplugged while on vacation, so I had a lot of late-August TV waiting for me when the family got back to the Borough of Kings. I don’t have the diligence–nor, I bet, do you have the patience–for a full-scale roundup of what I missed, but:

Big Love. The finale was a decent ending to an outstanding season. I agree with some of the criticisms I read in the comments here that it seemed like there was too much going on at once; the resolution with Alby, Roman and Bill, Ana’s return and Barb’s decision to embrace her First Wifeiness were believable, but seemed crammed in. This is just a guess, but I recall the producers of Big Love saying at their last TV press tour session that they would not leave any cliffhangers or dangling threads at the end of this season, and I wonder if they were pressured to rush to advance a lot of stories before they intended to.

Mad Men. The episode before last–ending on that gorgeous By the Rivers of Babylon montage–was my favorite of the season so far. It even managed to pull off that most treacherous of period scenes, the beatnik club, without major embarrassment. (That Happy Days episode–“Fly away, little bird. There is no seed for you here. Only death!”–is forever burned in my memory.) Thank you, Jon88, for keeping up the Mad Men Krazy Kaptioning Follies in my absence.

Damages. Haven’t caught up. Not sure I plan to. Given that the series is so resolutely focused on plot over character, I’m thinking there’s no nuance I’ve missed in two episodes that I can’t catch up on in the next “Previously on Damages.” Anyone reason I should watch? (“Because it’s your job” doesn’t count. Probably the most important part of being a TV critic is figuring what you can get away with not watching.)

Entourage. Credit where it’s due. The last few episodes actually managed not to suck quite so badly. Returning to the Medellin storyline, after episodes and episodes of mostly filler, gave the show some drive again. And it was good to finally get an answer to the question of whether Medellin was actually as bad as it looked. Billy Walsh remains an unbelievable character, though: one minute he’s a passionate artist, the next he’s a summer-movie-writing hack, and though the show tried to explain it away in his scene with Ana Feris, it seems more like he’s just a cartoon who’s there to give Ari and E agita and to have whatever eccentricity a particular episode needs him to have.

Flight of the Conchords. Fortunately FOTC will get a second season, but they ended the year with an episode that would have worked equally well as a series finale. As with Big Love, though–as with a lot of HBO series–it was the second-to-last episode that I loved. Frodo! Don’t wear the ring!