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TV That Matters 11/3/11: The Office, The League and Grimm

By Matt Ern, Columnist

The Office-"Spooked"

Grade: C+

Halloween episodes, like any themed episode, are really hard to get right. When they work, like Happy Endings' did last week, Halloween episodes can be the highlight of a season. But more often than not they fall flat, like "Spooked" did. 

My biggest gripe with the episode was the way it made Andy and Erin's relationship the driving force of the plot. It's the same reason I lost interest in the show over the past few seasons: the Andy/Erin/Gabe love triangle is incredibly boring, not funny, and lacks any of the chemistry that Jim and Pam had in the early seasons. 

Andy and Erin's relationship always felt forced because the viewers had to be told that they were interested in each other. Jim and Pam's courtship was subtler as the viewer got to see them interacting in a way that shows they were two people who genuinely cared for each other. I never got that feeling from Andy and Erin, who seem like a forced TV relationship. 

The episode also featured Robert California trying to teach everyone some strange lesson about fear that didn't really make any sense.  The more I see of Robert California the more confused I become by his presence on the show.  It doesn't seem like the writers really know what to do with his character other than using him to scare Andy into wacky situations. 

The episode had a few money moments, like Kevin's reaction to finding out that mummies are real and a thing that are kept in museums or Creed's hatred of snakes ("You don't live as long as I have without a healthy fear of snakes, Bobby") but nothing really stands out as making this episode worth watching. 

As an end note: none of my problems with this season of The Office have to do with Michael leaving, they're the same problems the show has been dealing with since around season 6. Michael or no Michael, ‘The Office' is in trouble.

 

The League- "Ol' Smoke Crotch"

Grade: B+

Last week the creators of The League did an IAMA on Reddit where they hinted that Taco is actually a genius and is just messing with his friends by playing dumb. This completely changes the way you have to watch The League. 

Taco is still funny as an idiot stoner, but the idea that he is manipulating everyone with his idiocy is incredible. In "Ol' Smoke Crotch" Taco proposes a new business venture, "pee bibs," made from the leftover cocktail napkins from Kevin's wedding. The napkins are supposed to be tucked into your open fly when going to the bathroom to prevent dripping on yourself. 

It's a dumb idea, but throughout the episode Ruxin and Kevin are both shown to be using them. The idea that Taco is aware of how dumb the idea is, but has convinced all his friends to start using pee bibs is almost too much. 

The bulk of the episode focused on Ruxin trying to find a way to fire his au pair after she starts blackmailing him. He invites the always-creepy Rafi to live with them and hopefully scare her off. Pete is sleeping with the au pair and wants Ruxin to wait to fire her until after they can "golden gate", a sex act that Pete has never heard of before. This all culminates in a horrifying scene were Pete almost has to have a three way with Ashley the au pair and Rafi -- this is a really funny scene to look forward to all episode if you already know what "golden gating" is.

Kevin is feeling old after finding a white pubic hair, so he embarks on a spa day with Andre. At the spa Andre lets slip the fact that he used to use his own semen to reduce his acne. It's little moments like this that like that make the show for me. It's completely insane. 

The best thing about ‘The League' is that while it is a niche show about fantasy football, it's humor is accessible to someone like me who literally knows the smallest amount you can know about sports while still being aware that they exist. And if you're a sports fan, it gets exponentially better.

 

Grimm- "Grimm"

Grade: C+

Part crime drama, part fantasy, part one long product placement for Nike and Apple, ‘Grimm' is now the second show to premiere in the past few weeks featuring modern twists on fairytales. I have no idea why there's such a sudden interest in TV shows about fairytale characters, but Grimm takes it in a different direction than ABC'S ‘Once Upon a Time.' 

Nick Burkhardt is a detective in Portland who discovers that he is a descendant of the "Grimms," the authors of many famous fairytales. It turns out the stories were true and the Grimms were actually profiling various monsters. 

The pilot mostly deals with a race of creatures that are more commonly known as "big bad wolves." They hide in plain sight as normal people, but Nick and his family are capable of seeing them for what they really are.  

While investigating a kidnapping Nick befriends a reformed wolf named Monroe who helps him track down the kidnapper, an active big bad wolf. Nick and his partner Hank are able to save the kidnapped girl. 

The episode suffers from a lack of explanation as to why any of this is happening, but that's something they can hopefully fix in the future.

Grimm's approach to updating the fairytales is much more centered in our world than in ‘Once Upon a Time.' In Grimm the monsters and bad guys have just been inserted in modern day Portland and commit normal crimes like kidnapping and murder. There's a feeling of case-of-the-week format to the episodes.

‘Once Upon a Time' embraces the fantasy world and features direct adaptations of fairytale characters. While half of the show does take place in our world, the action is still dictated by magic and the rules of the fantasy one. ‘Once Upon A Time' dives into the back-story right away and is trying to create a much bigger story arc than ‘Grimm.'   

It's still early on in both series so it's hard to say which approach will win out and make for better TV. ‘Grimm' is certainly more accessible for people who don't want to buy into all the fantasy nonsense, but the ‘Once Upon a Time' out-there approach may end up making for some interesting episodes down the line.    

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