Happy September everyone! Hope you all are enjoying the last warm glows of sunshine before the Canadian winter slips its cold fingers into your fleece onesie. September is a great month, no? It is the time for buckling down, falling into routines and squirreling away all those happy memories of summer. Also, it just happens to be the month where, one by one, old and new shows return to our TVs and PVRs. Now, while the promise of brand-spankin’ new TV has never did it for me, the return of my stories does warm the cockles of heart. So, in the spirit of the season, here are three short reviews of some of my favourite returning programs.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Season 9, Episode 1 – “The Gang Broke Dee”
Every episode of Sunny opens the same way. Black screen. Date and time. In “The Gang Broke Dee” it’s 12:15pm on a Wednesday. Sweet Dee grunts softly as she smokes, drinks and stuffs month old cake into her mouth. The gang broke her. She won’t even fight back to their insults. The gang isn’t worried about her horrifying depression. No, they are upset that she won’t fight back. So, in an effort to fix Dee, Charlie, Mac and Frank get her a gig at a stand up club. They figure since “she is in the sweet spot between suicidal and death… a place where most comedians thrive” that Sweet Dee can’t possibly fail. And she doesn’t. The set is a success and Dee starts to come out of her funk.
What I like about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is it’s commitment to a formula. Something sets the gang off, the gang goes crazy, a twist happens that makes things worse, then the gang settles back down at the bar. When Dee starts to succeed at being a stand up comedian, we know that failure lurks close by. We know that a horrible twist is coming, but it’s still surprising and funny when it happens.
The episode ends with Dee on the cusp of a stand up set on the Tonight Show. As they pull back the curtain for Dee to go on stage, the gang jumps out and yells “THE JOKES ON YOU!” It was all an elaborate set up. Dee goes nuts on the gang and wrecks the bar. As Dee fights back, the guys get what they wanted and Dee gets out of her funk.
While the episode doesn’t stray from Sunny’s usual formula, there are lots of laughs to be had. It is a Caitlin Olson showcase, featuring her delightful dry heaves, a godzilla-like meltdown and lots and lots of sound effects.
Wednesdays, 10pm, FX
Season 3, Episode 1 “All In”
We pick up this season of New Girl where the season finale left off. Nick and Jess are in the car together, leaving Cece’s wedding, giggling like two happy little kittens. Right then and there, they decide to go “all in” with their relationship. But when they return to the loft, they can’t go in. It’s too confusing – they are just starting a new relationship, but already living together. Plus their roommates are nutso. So, Nick and Jess drive off to Mexico to escape their problems. Meanwhile, Schmidt is still deciding between Cece and Elizabeth. He tries to break up with both of them, but can’t do it. He decides the best plan is to keep dating both. And Winston does a puzzle.
There is no basically no logical reasoning in this episode. All the lead characters are acting completely based on emotions (even more so than usual) and the resulting antics are bananas. Nick and Jess’s trip to Mexico makes no logistical sense. (For one, how did they get into Mexico while Nick was sleeping?) But their motives are clear. They like each other and don’t want anything to get in the way. Similarly with Schmidt, his intentions are pure (he loves both women) but he selfishly chooses not to choose.
As a result of the spotty storylines, the episode is lacking. Luckily though, since all the characters are acting melodramatic, this leads to a lot of hilarious detail moments where the lead actors can act as goofy as they want. (Lamorne Morris shines while puzzlin’.) There were enough laughs to smooth over the illogical storytelling.
Tuesdays, 8pm, FOX
Season 27, Episode 1 “Blood is Thicker Than Anything”
This is Jeff Probst’s 27th trip to a desert island. After 26 seasons, Survivor has found a pretty darn exciting way to keep things fresh for number 27. This time around, half the castaways are returning players and the other half are the returning players’ loved ones. Everyone believes that they will be playing with their loved one… But that would be too easy! After one night on the island, Jeff Probst announces that the tribes will be split as such: favourites on one tribe, loved ones on the other. Damn Probst, why you gotta play us like that?
Returning players have always been a bankable asset that Survivor relies upon for drama. Another highlight of any season is the episode where loved ones visit and compete in a challenge with their castaway. Naturally, combining these two elements is a winner. I’m surprised the producers of Survivor haven’t pulled this twist out sooner.
The first episode itself isn’t all that interesting. The first episode of any season of Survivor never is. There are too many new faces and not enough time to get to know everyone. Exile Island is back (to the groan of every viewer, ever ) but I will say this – thank goodness Rupert was sent to Exile Island right off the top. Enough is enough, Rupert. You had three chances already.
Wednesdays, 8pm, Global