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TV That Matters 9/16: Justified, Smash, 30 Rock

By Matt Ern, Columnist

Justified- "Thick As Mud"

A-

"Thick As Mud" continued Justified's stellar track record this season with another phenomenal episode.

 

Dewey Crowe wakes up in a bloody bathtub and is given an ultimatum and a gun: His kidneys have been stolen and unless he comes up with $20,000 cash in four hours, he isn't getting them back.  The premise may seem outrageous, but Justified pulls it off perfectly, and even acknowledges how extreme it is by referencing bad movies that use the harvesting organs and selling them for parts storyline.    

 

This leads to Dewey committing a string of robberies everywhere from appliance stores to strip clubs, with Raylan hot on Dewey's trail the whole time.  The chase culminates with Dewey locking himself in a gas station convenience store bathroom sure that he'll die of kidney failure any moment.  Raylan points out that Dewey should try and pee because "kidneys are for pissin'" which leads to the realization that his kidneys were never stolen.  Raylan shoots the bad guys, Dewey goes back to jail, and everything wraps up nicely.  

 

Everything about the storyline really works well dramatically, and there are even a few comic moments thrown in.  Raylan's interactions with Ash the prison guard have just the right amount of humor to them, which is not that easy to pull off considering Ash is a man Raylan ran over and then backed over in the previous episode. 

 

Other important developments: Limehouse really does have all of the Bennett's money (duh) and Quarles and Boyd finally come face to face. The ensuing conflict between them will certainly make for an exciting rest of the season.  Early on in the episode Boyd admits he doesn't have enough firepower to stand up to Quarles, but when they actually meet he stands his ground and gives a great speech about how Quarles is just a carpetbagger whose drug empire is doomed to fail.  

 

 

Smash- "The Callback"

B

I don't know much about producing Broadway musicals, but it seems like the process has been sped up exponentially on Smash.  Obviously this is done for the sake of telling the story which is fine, but it seems crazy to think in about a week they've written a musical and are casting their star. 

 

And speaking of casting Marilyn, they give the part to the more experienced Ivy, but given the fact that Katharine McPhee is the star of the show, you can bet Karen will somehow end up getting the role in the end.  I guess the interesting thing to see now is how we inevitably get there.  I think it's also pretty obvious that Karen and her boyfriend will break up eventually. 

 

Also mixed into the episode was Julia finding out (shocker) that it takes a really really long time to adopt a baby from China and Eileen's husband telling her she's an idiot to be producing a Marilyn musical.  They also treated Derek deciding not to leave the Marilyn musical as some sort of big character moment for him, but it felt kind of hallow for me.  I don't know if I just wasn't paying enough attention or that conflict really wasn't developed enough, but it just felt like "Oh, one of the main characters has decided to keep working on a musical with the other main characters.  Why wouldn't he do that?"

 

All things considered it was a solid episode, although I can't really say that I liked it any more or less than the first one.  I still think there's a good show in Smash but they haven't quite found it yet.  Hopefully the conflict of Karen not originally getting the part will make for some interesting storylines for her now.

 

30 Rock- "Hey Baby, What's Wrong?"

B

30 Rock's hot streak couldn't last forever, and the two-part Valentine's day episode was significantly worse than many of the other episodes this season, but it was by no means bad.  Most of its problems can probably be traced back to it being a double episode, which meant a lot of the plotlines dragged on for a bit. 

 

This raises a somewhat worrisome question: How many more of these double episodes does 30 Rock have planned this season?  The show is trying to fit a full season's worth of episodes into half a year's time, and in the five weeks this season has been going on there have already been seven episodes crammed in.  The last two-part episode had its own troubles (a part two that didn't live up to the great set up of part one).  If 30 Rock has many more of these double episodes planned it could be disastrous. 

 

On to the actual episode: Liz tries to finally have a successful Valentine's day with Criss, but a trip to IKEA to buy a new table promises to tear the two of them apart.  Jenna is getting ready to sing live on "America's Kids Got Singing" but has lost her voice, Tracey and Frank attempt to help Lutz pick up women, Jack finds himself attracted to Avery's mother, and Kenneth attempts to train the new page played by Kristen Schaal. 

 

I was really glad to see Schaal's character come back because she's very funny, but by the end of the episode it seemed like she had been reduced to a somewhat darker version of her stalker character Mel from Flight of the Conchords.   Schaal is too funny a comedian to be relegated to a re-hashing of a past role, and I hope the writers have something more planned for her. 

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