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TV That Matters: Dr. Who, Parks & Rec, Downton Abbey

By: Matt Ern Columnist Parks and Rec- “Soda Tax” B+

“Soda Tax” was a small improvement from the previous episode, but I still feel like the show is falling short of its usual mark.  None of the subplots held up for me, but Leslie’s story was well-done as usual and that’s the important thing about Parks and Rec.  As long as they still remember how to write for Leslie then the show can’t go wrong.


Leslie is faced with her first piece of business as a City Councilwoman- proposing a soda tax on giant sized soft drinks.  Pawnee’s Restaurant Association opposes the tax and threatens Leslie that they’ll have to lay off workers if the tax is enacted.  Leslie finds herself wondering whether she’ll have to forsake her values to be a good councilor.  I really like the new conflicts Leslie is facing in her new position and the way they illuminate her character.  It rings true to see her get her dream job and then find new disappointments along the way.


The Chris and Andy storyline didn’t really work for me, however.  It’s getting a bit old to keep seeing Chris’ eternal optimism come up against his debilitating loneliness and I think all the Chris plots I can recall from the last season or so all sort of deal with this issue.  It’d be nice to see more from him.


Ben’s story was also lacking for me.  I don’t think he was so wrong in the first place to suggest the office memos have a unified font and I didn’t believe that April would really still be slacking off to the point that she could damage Ben’s job.  It didn’t seem right for the character given the way April’s grown so much over the course of the show.  Maybe season 1 April would only be willing to put in 12% effort but not the character we have in season 5.



Doctor Who- “Angels Take Manhattan” A(+)

I’m new to the Doctor Who-game myself; in fact this was the first episode I was caught up for.  This means I lack the perspective of longtime “Whovians” but it does mean that I crammed all of Rory and Amy’s story into the past two weeks which made seeing them go a little more heartbreaking.


The final moments of the Ponds’ story arc are as beautifully crafted as anything I’ve ever seen on television- made all the more so by the fact that the previous episodes built up the idea that they would decide to stop traveling with the Doctor on their own, and then have them resolve to stay with him.


The obvious comparison to make here is the farewell to Rose in “Doomsday,” to which I would say that “Angels” is far more devastating.  Watching Amy and Rory leap off the roof together, sure of only the fact that they would either live or die together, was a hundred times more emotionally crippling to me than watching the Doctor fade away at @font-face { font-family: "Arial"; }@font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

Bad Wolf Bay (which is a pretty impressive feat).  Not to mention the scene in the graveyard and Amy’s final line: “Raggedy man, goodbye.”


Besides being a perfect emotional climax and mid-season finale, the episode is incredibly interesting and well written.  The idea that the Doctor and Amy would have a book outlining everything that was about to happen to them is a neat trick, the temptation to look ahead (even at something as innocent as chapter titles) creating fixed time that meant that Rory was doomed to die in the 1930’s.  The angels are terrifying as always, especially as the Statue of Liberty.  Let’s also not forget that the episode’s final shot came from “The Eleventh Hour,” proving once and for all that Steven Moffat is better than all of us.



Downton Abbey- “Episode Three” B+

The driving force for this episode was Edith’s impending marriage to the Sir Anthony, whom it is universally agreed upon that he’s too old to marry.  Every one of Edith’s other prospects have gone by the wayside, quite tragically, and this seems to be her best option despite her whole family (and his) doubts about his age.


In the end, Sir Anthony balks during the ceremony and calls of the wedding.  There follows a truly moving sequence in which we see how crushed Edith has become and maybe even finally feel a little sorrow for her.  It doesn’t seem as though she will ever win, and this will undoubtedly be a very dark season for her.


Besides the wedding (the second in only three episodes this season!) there was a lot more happening, namely the Crawleys preparing to move into “Downton Place,” the slightly more modest home that seems to be their only option due to their financial troubles.  Matthew finally comes around to accepting Lavinia’s late father’s money to save the family, but Robert turns him down saying that he couldn’t take it.  It was not the turn I expected that storyline to take, but looking back now I can’t imagine it going any other way.


The subplot regarding Mrs. Hughes’ health seems to have been tied up for not, although I’d bet that it will resurface within the last few episodes.  And in upsetting Bates-news: his cellmate attempts to get him in trouble with the guards.  I’m personally hoping this particular subplot wraps up soon and we can see Bates out of jail interacting with the rest of the characters again- not just because he’s a hero who deserves freedom but also his character can do so much for the show when he isn’t just constrained to scenes with Ana each week.



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