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TV That Matters 3/8/12: Smash, Justified, 30 Rock

By Matt Ern, Columnist


Smash- "Let's Be Bad" 

Grade: B

Smash has settled into the comfortable position of just being good enough to hold my attention.  Nothing about the show especially interests me anymore (although the preview for next week's episode looked pretty good) but the show is doing enough things right that I can't really say anything bad about it other than it's sort of bland.


"Let's Be Bad" mostly spends it's time setting up conflicts to come to a boil next week, but it manages to be relatively entertaining while doing so.  Julia's son is arrested for trying to by pot, which puts the adoption process in jeopardy if he's caught again.  It's a solid plot but the actor playing her son is one of the worst I've ever seen so it gets dragged down a bit. 


In slightly more promising plots, Julia is starting to rekindle her affair with Michael and Ivy is starting to crack.  Her relationship with Derek is strained when he asks Karen to give Ivy singing tips.  Watching Ivy start to spin out of control (not so subtly paralleling Marilyn's own fall from grace) is certainly entertaining, but it looks like we'll have to wait till at least next week for the payoff.    


Smash is doing a perfectly adequate job, but I'd like it to be just a bit better.  The pieces are there and there are some interesting character dynamics but they haven't quite come together yet.  Hopefully as things start to pick up in the future some of it's blandness will fall away.  I still think there's a good show in Smash.  



Justified- "Watching The Detectives" 

Grade: B+

While Quarles is the villain pulling most of the strings right now, Limehouse is quickly becoming my favorite big-bad on the show.  He's pragmatic and perfectly happy to watch Quarles and Boyd destroy each other and exhaust their resources dealing with Raylan.  Limehouse has made promises to back both Boyd and Quarles, which may backfire.  Or it could leave him in the driver's seat and running Harlan's criminal underworld.  


Qualres plans this week specifically revolve around framing Boyd and Raylan.  Boyd is backing a new sheriff in the coming election because Quarles has the current one in his pocket- so Quarles blows up the sheriff's car knowing Boyd will be the likely suspect.  Quarles also brings Gary back to Harlan, if only to kill him as a message to Raylan.  And of course Raylan is the number one suspect in Gary's death.  


The homicide investigation into Raylan coincides with a federal investigation into whether or not he is a dirty cop.  Certainly Raylan has done some suspect things in the name of catching the bad guys, and to a federal investigator there may not be a distinction between that an actually being a criminal.  Raylan's close ties with Boyd come back to haunt him yet again when the investigator suggests Raylan is on his payroll. 


In the end the investigations are dropped (as we knew they would be) but they offered a compelling episodic plot in a season that often spends its time setting up complicated season long arcs.  In past season Justified has been much better at blending the case-of-the-week format with larger stories, and this episode was a good return to that balance. 


30 Rock- "Alexis Goodlooking And The Case Of The Missing Whiskey"

Grade: B+


This was a relatively straightforward and sane episode of 30 Rock compared to some of the outrageous things that have been happening this season.  All of the plots are grounded in some sort of realistic conflict and the characters behave like real people.  The wackiness of 30 Rock can be fun sometimes, but I enjoyed had basic this episode was.  


Frank's mother finds out he's dating someone named "L" but he's afraid to let her find out it's his old high school teacher who went to prison for molesting him.  So he tells her he's dating Liz, which naturally spirals out of control about as quickly as you'd imagine that situation would.  


But the B and C stories in this episode were better than main one.  Jack gets Kenneth a job in the standards and practices department and instills in him a bit of his own business world paranoia.  Jack points out to Kenneth that his coworker is actually trying to sabotage him and helps Kenneth find a way to get him fired.  


After a visit from a past coworker that he destroyed similarly, Jack realizes it would be wrong to change Kenneth and make him as paranoid as himself, but it's too late.  I'm a big fan of the Kenneth climbing the corporate ladder storyline and I think what the writers have been doing with his and Jack's relationship this season has been great.  


Rounding out the episode is Jenna and Tracey solving the mystery of who drank all of Pete's whiskey.  As a blonde actress, Jenna has done several pilots where she places a good looking police detective with a special power, so she knows how to solve the crime.  And Tracey settles into the role of encouraging sidekick.  It was one of the best Jenna stories the show has done in a while.

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