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Arts in Review

Channel Surfing: Pre-empted

30 Rock, The Walking Dead, The Office in this week’s edition of Channel Surfing.

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by Sophie Isbister (Staff Writer)
Email: cascade.arts[at]ufv[dot]ca

I was excited to write Channel Surfing this week, because, as I told my esteemed section editor, my big plans included watching lots of TV. Little did I know, the two dramas I like to watch every Tuesday night were pre-empted on November 2nd by something called “The Midterm Elections,” whatever those are. As if the USA didn’t have enough electoral dysfunction, they have one every two years! And we thought we had a lot of federal elections in Canada.

So if something is important enough to give the boot to Glee and The Good Wife, it’s probably worth writing about. The long and the short of the midterm elections is this: the Democrats lost a lot of seats to the Republicans, anti-masturbation Tea Party maniac Christine O’Donnell did not get elected, economic issues were at the forefront and a lot of people were grumpy that their shows got pre-empted.

And that’s what you missed on Glee.

The Office

Knowing that this is Steve Carrell’s last season playing obnoxious paper-company-manager Michael Scott in the long-running Thursday comedy show The Office, I’m interested in the direction that the writers are taking his character. This week’s episode, the seventh of season seven, furthers Michael’s dissatisfaction with office management and sees him boarding a bus on a Christian youth mission to Mexico, only to panic and leave.

This mostly pointless action came about at the end of a mostly boring and not-funny episode about the christening of wunder-couple Jim and Pam’s new baby, Cece. I’m usually not a fan of episodes that are primarily set outside of the Dunder-Mifflin office: they’re like watching Stephen Harper play “With A Little Help From My Friends” on the piano. It’s weird and not all that entertaining.

30 Rock

On the more-funny half of Thursday Night Comedy Hour, 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin, another big-name star soon to leave his show) is searching for dick. Or rather, DIHC, drive, intelligence, humility and chaos. At the urging of his fiancée and soon-to-be baby mama, Avery (played by the hilariously shrill Elizabeth Banks), Jack ousts Liz Lemon from his mentorship program, the Donaghy Mentor Experience.

His ideal new mentor needs to possess DIHC qualities, and while Jack searches for this among the rest of the 30 Rock cast, scorned Lemon searches for answers to the problems posed by her visiting octogenarian father’s matrimonial meandering. Meanwhile, Tracey and Jenna are trying to, respectively, edit and create their pre-made NBC obituaries. The end of the always hilariously and tightly written episode shows Jack reinstated as Lemon’s mentor as he steps in to instil fear into Lemon’s father and send him back to Pennsylvania.

The Walking Dead

I’m not into zombies, really. I’ve never been a fan of 28 Days Later, Night of the Living Dead puts me to sleep, and yearly Zombie walk antics merely irritate me. But The Walking Dead, the crisp, creepy and decidedly non-campy re-imagining of the zombie genre, is seriously making me re-consider my stance.

“Guts,” the second instalment of this refreshingly non-formulaic series, finds our protagonist

(who I will call Sheriff Sexy) trapped in a tank in Atlanta. He gets rescued by a group of scavengers, but his shoot-em-up antics bring a world of walking dead pain upon the group, who is holed up in an abandoned department store. The mission in this episode is to escape the department store and get back to home base, where, unbeknownst to Sheriff Sexy, his wife and son are waiting.

In a show dealing with a war between the living and the dead, questions about the nature of humanity understandably come into play. This is usually my favourite aspect of film and TV in the post-apocalyptic genre, and The Walking Dead delivers. A particularly harrowing scene on the department store rooftop depicts a racist redneck villain attempting to assert control over the group, only to be handcuffed to a pipe. In the climax of the episode, the keys to the handcuffs get dropped down a pipe (one of only a few clichéd devices), and the group leaves the man to die of starvation, yelling “You’re going to burn in hell!” It begs the question, what is it that makes us human and do those qualities carry over into times of extreme duress? Should we leave the guy on the roof to die because he’s a total asshole, even though he’s human?

But if there’s anything I know about the post-apocalyptic-group-survival-dynamic, you don’t want a bigoted bully on your team. And if there’s anything else I know about the genre, the guy on the roof definitely will not die. My prediction: they’ve created a villain, and he will come back later to bite them in the ass. Sheriff Sexy should have listened to me when I was yelling at the screen, “Seriously, just kill him!”

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