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Qualler's Episode of the Month: April 2011

April has brought an embarrassment of riches on the boob tube. Some old faves have returned, while new faves have hit series highs. It's also been a ridiculously good month in Minnesota to watch TV, what with the schizophrenic weather patterns, taking us from sunny, totes gorgeous days to snowfall in the course of a few hours. Such is life in Minnesota. The best of television of April took we sun-starved Minnesotans away to magical places, like Pawnee, Indiana, and some made-up place called Westeros.

Friday Night Lights, as Chris pointed out on Blogulator Radio episode three, doesn't start in the most thrilling way possible. And frankly, episode two, "On the Outside Looking In", which aired on NBC on April 22, of the Texas-based gentle drama is not among its most thrilling, heartwrenching, emotional chapters like the best of Dillon, TX has provided to us. But, at the very least, the episode spent a little more quality time with the Taylor family than we had spent in the season premiere, devoting most of the episode to Tami's struggles coexisting with her new co-workers at East Dillon High School and Coach getting his East Dillon Lions to stop fighting and start believing in his program. It all lead up to arguably the first spine-tingling moment of the final season, when Coach wrote "State" on the markerboard before a Lions game, which got his team to stop the in-fighting and listen to his message. It's a trope that FNL has done for many seasons, but the way it's done never ceases to be great.

Parks and Recreation
also continued its superb third season with its tenth episode, "Soulmates", which aired on NBC on April 21. There isn't really much else that can be said that hasn't been said before in this space about P&L, except that the show seems to be approaching Seinfeld-level greatness with regard to the number of memorable plotlines packed into one episode. Likewise, I think a few years down the road, we will lovingly quote Tom Haverford's food names and happily recall when Ron Swanson and Chris has a burger cookoff and then realize that the two plot strands happened in the same episode, the same way it's hard to remember how the Junior Mint episode of Seinfeld also had Jerry trying to recall a woman's name whose name rhymed with a female body part ("Mulva?") I suspect that comedy nerds like us will look upon kindly many years from now.

Game of Thrones
, HBO's newest entry to its library of ridiculously high-budget and well-produced dramas, started off a bit shaky with its pilot episode "Winter is Coming", but demonstrated how good the show could be in its second episode "The Kingsroad", which aired on April 24. As someone who has read the first book of which the fantasy-ish series is based upon, I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of someone who has not read the books at all on the series thus far (Chris? Doktor? Sean? Eh?) But, the scene that sold me on the series is also the scene that sold me on the book: the incident that occurs between sisters Arya and Sansa with the butcher's boy and Prince Joffrey. (What can I say? Arya's my fave character in the book.) The scene was shot deceptively simply and realistically, demonstrating none of the high-fantasy-type visuals one would expect from a show with roots in (arguably) the most nerdy genre of fiction. Knowing the kind of sheeee-at that goes down in the second half of the book and, likely, the second half of the season, it gives me a very good feeling about the quality of the series going into the future. And, there was enough Skinemax-y kind of stuff in "The Kingsroad" to get Brigitte actually interested in watching more. It's what True Blood would be if True Blood had any clue about how to develop characters: a highly-produced sexy time, but with a story with actual, shall we say, stakes (get it? Cuz vampires don't like stakes? Yeah? No? Okay.)

Justified
continued its ridiculously great season two run with possibly its best episode ever, "Brother's Keeper", the ninth episode of the FX series, which aired on April 6. Building on the spellbinding courtroom town hall scene in episode eight "The Spoil", Mags Bennett throws the aforementioned-in-that-scene "Whoop-Dee-Doo" at the Bennett family ranch, inviting the whole town to demonstrate its Harlan County values, which are ostensibly family values, anti-corporate, anti-taking-the-coal-from-their-hills values. Of course, there's an added layer to that, what with the Bennett family, and especially the slippery Mags, trying to get what's hers. That sends Raylan Givens, the fictional man for whom Chris and I are competing for BFF-dom, into a dizzying turn of events that I won't spoil here, except for the fact that the turn of events are remarkably entertaining and cinematic to watch as they unfold. The great thing about this season of Justified, and in particular demonstration in this episode, is how, as well the show has done mixing procedural with serial elements, it is even better in creating a rich environment with multiple colorful characters and a rich sense of place. The entire "whoop-dee-doo" is rich with bluegrass music and hometown values. Justified, as such, has officially transcended from "very good" to "great", and this episode ushers that new era in.

Which makes it a little unfair of me to name Treme's second season premiere "Accentuate the Positive" as Qualler's Episode of the Month, which originally aired on April 24. Like much of the first season, David Simon's newest masterpiece (and yes, it is also a masterpiece, Bill Simmons, so maybe you could make your NBA-as-TV-show analogies with a show like Treme instead of a show that already has a lot of praise attached to it, and is no longer on the air. Oh, and also, your column looks suspiciously like the series Blogulator friend Josh has been writing about on his Kansas City Royals blog "Royalscentricity", "Equating Your Royals To a Character In The Wire") doesn't do a whole lot plot-wise. But then, when did The Wire ever do anything memorable plot-wise until its final few episodes of each season? No, Treme's second season does nothing but bring us back to a wildly rich, absolutely magnificent environment with lovable characters just trying to make it in New Orleans. Okay, I just spent this whole paragraph trying to distance this show from The Wire, yet the scene I am pointing out was the final scene, where the child trumpet player learning the opening measures to "When the Saints Come Marching In" encounters the dead body that the police officer David Morse is investigating is haunting the way the best scenes of The Wire were: so much is said in the look the two citizens of NOLA give to each other. Welcome back, Treme; I missed you.

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  1. Blogger DoktorPeace | 5:50 PM |  

    Stakes!

    PWaHAAHAHASHSHSHHASHHAHAHAHHWHPWHPWHHPWAHPHPWHAHHAAHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHA!

  2. Blogger chris | 10:08 AM |  

    I can't wait to watch all of these eps (I've only seen P&R!), but I really think you need to watch Community's "Critical Film Studies" - even better than the D&D one.

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