REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E09 - ‘The Thanksgiving Decoupling’

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It’s Thanksgiving this week on The Big Bang Theory and all of the gang have been invited to spend it at the Wolowitz household with Howard’s mother and Bernadette’s father.

Sheldon does not want to spend Thanksgiving with the Wolowitz clan (and makes some racially insensitive jokes likening himself to a slave, being forced to do something he does not want too… These were just, uh, I don’t want to even get started. Sure Sheldon can be ignorant of many things, but this was just too far. Quit with these jokes already.), and Penny tries to cheer him up by telling him stories about Thanksgivings spent in unlikely places that turned out to be enjoyable. She recounts the Thanksgiving she spent with Zack three years ago (you remember Zack, the guy who thought the others were going to blow up the moon?) in Vegas when they got “fake” married. 

… What?! Turns out Penny has been married to Zack for the past three years, and neither of them realised it was a real marriage. Obviously Leonard is pretty upset since Penny agreed to marry Zack (albeit in an inebriated state), but has always turned Leonard down when he asked. This leads to a few pretty heated moments between Leonard and Penny, compounded by Zack’s sudden reappearance to sign the divorce papers.

When I first heard the title of this week’s episode, I feared there was going to be a break-up. I’m not going to lie, I thought it would be Leonard and Penny. As soon as I heard about the Penny and Zack thing though, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking, ‘oh, that’s the break-up’, but then Leonard and Penny start fighting, and Zack shows up again, reluctant to sign the papers… This was an interesting curveball to throw into the Leonard and Penny saga, and I’m sure it caught many of us off guard, so hats off to the writers for keeping the Leonard and Penny drama interesting (at least for one week anyway).

Meanwhile, Bernadette’s father seems as reluctant as Sheldon is to spend Thanksgiving in the Wolowitz house, and tries to tune everything out by drinking beer and watching football. Sheldon, who grew up watching football under the tutelage of his father, makes a comment about one of the plays. This intrigues Mr Rostenkowski, who asks Sheldon about his childhood and knowledge of football. Sheldon tells Mr Rostenkowski about his father and his subsequent death, who feels sorry for Sheldon and they begin to bond. This upsets Howard greatly, because his father abandoned him when he was eight, and has yet been unable to bond with Mr Rostenkowski. The other two begin to pick on Howard, so he turns to the one person who can stick up for him, Bernadette…

This story was quite sweet to start off with… until of course I realised it was just being used as a vehicle to get Sheldon drunk and make further inappropriate comments to those around him. Sigh. Sitcoms don’t have to be laugh a minute all of the time, sometimes they can just have ‘aww’ moments, something The Big Bang Theory has struggled with for a while. They got it perfectly right last season when Howard rediscovered an old letter his father sent him, but they haven’t been able to find this balance again since. I am optimistic that they can though.

Overall this was quite an interesting episode, with a couple of stories I don’t think we would have seen coming. Sure there was the classic shouting of Mrs Wolowitz, off-screen, whenever someone mentioned food, to remind us of the classic show, and a bit about Raj, Bernadette and Amy cooking for Thanksgiving that never really seemed to go anywhere (which made the episode seem a bit off-kilter), but it made for a solid episode.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E07 - ‘The Proton Displacement’

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This week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory sees the return of guest star Bob Newhart as Doctor Arthur Jeffries a.k.a. Professor Proton.

Whilst stocking up at a pharmacy Amy, Leonard and Sheldon run into Professor Proton. This prompts Proton to contact Leonard to read over a paper he has written. Sheldon is offended that Proton did not ask him, and Amy tentatively suggests the reason for this is that Sheldon is annoying. Sheldon goes to Proton’s house to apologise, but Proton still refuses to collaborate with him. Sheldon decides to collaborate with another TV scientist, Bill Nye, as a form of revenge. After flaunting Nye in front of Leonard and Proton, Proton asks Leonard a big question (one Leonard has struggled with on many occasions): why does he put up with Sheldon?

Bob Newhart does a brilliant job in his role as Professor Proton - there’s a reason he’s a comic legend! - so it was good to see him back again. What I loved most about this storyline though was Leonard’s justification for being friends with Sheldon. Leonard, more than anyone, has difficulty dealing with Sheldon’s, err, ‘quirks’, so it was good to finally hear him admit why he continues to ‘put up with’ Sheldon.

Raj is going to have a “girls night” with Amy, Bernadette and Penny to make jewellery. Howard does not have any other plans, so he joins in as well. He is dismissive of Raj’s idea of glue and beads to make jewellery, suggesting instead that he bring a soldiering iron from work. Raj is clearly annoyed with Howard for crashing girls night, but does not say anything. When Howard shows up to the next girls night, Raj can’t take it anymore and lashes out at Howard. Howard does not understand why Raj does not want him there, and Raj explains why.

Hurrah for Raj finally standing up for himself! I was so happy to hear him say “I am comfortable with my masculinity” - it seems he is as over the ‘Raj is a girl’ jokes as much as I am! Just because Raj does not conform to a traditional model of masculinity does not make him any less of a man (or a homosexual), so good on him for sticking up for himself to Howard (the perpetrator of the majority of these jokes). Though these jokes are slightly hypocritical coming from Howard who himself does not conform to a traditional model of masculinity either… though I guess it makes him feel better about himself by making fun of others… Anyway, I loved Raj’s reason for hanging with the girls/this storyline overall, and I hope that he continues to hang with them for a long time to come!

One of the only complaints I have about this storyline was a small joke about Penny being too stupid to use glue. I know compared to the rest of the characters in this show Penny may be the least intelligent (in some ways, not in all), but this was just too over the top. As ‘stupid’ as Penny may seem sometimes, I struggle to believe that she is that stupid. I know it was just thrown in for a cheap laugh, but still…

Next week will mark the return of another guest star: Lucy (whether this is a permanent return is still unclear), another character who is accepting of Raj and his particular model of masculinity. And guess what? I can’t wait!

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - American Horror Story: Coven - S03E04 - 'Fearful Pranks Ensue'

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Race hate is the vein which seems to pump evil through the heart of this season of American Horror Story.  Episode four opens in 1961 where a young black schoolboy is killed and hung in the trees on his first day of school by ignorant, old, white men.  I found this a particularly stressful scene and certainly one of the most powerful yet. It seems the most terrifying to watch are the ones which replicate real incidents in history.

Then the creepy opening credits roll on this Halloween spectacular and we are sent to butler Spalding’s room.  This maniac butler has wall to wall china dolls and likes to hum along and sip tea from a toy tea set.  Not unsettling at all!  He is disturbed from his macabre high tea by a crash and a noise. Heading downstairs he witnesses the moment where Fiona Goode takes the life of her perceived competitor, Madison.  If only that man could speak!  He could, many years ago... who took his tongue? We find out here.

The private moment between Spalding and Goode is disturbed by more noises, this time the painful wails of Queenie.  Queenie’s sexual encounter with the voodoo Minotaur turned into a vicious attack and she is very near death.  Can Fiona and Claudia save her?  Will Delphine finally understand her wrongs in previous lifetimes, and how will the witches retaliate to this attack?

The Coven is in disarray and all the witches seem to have muchos problemos in their private lives: Nan has lost contact with Madison and believes she is dead; Madison is rolled up in a carpet awaiting disposal; Claudia has a husband who appears to be the Craigslist killer; and Zoe has lost her Fraken-boyfriend.  

Madam Delphine's resurrection seems to have sparked a war that has Zombie’s descending on the house.  They are meant to be the evil undead but too much TV as a kid in the 80’s means that I found myself humming ‘Thriller’ when they came out of the graves and half expected a bit of a zombie dance off!

A great Halloween episode.  Can’t wait to see which creepy road these storylines take us to next.

Review by JoAnn Duff.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E08 - 'The Lighthouse'

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In this episode all of the little things the season has been setting up start to pay off. A time jump has occurred (they finally went to sleep!) and it is now Saturday morning (everything that has happened in the season so far occurred on Friday).

Ted wants to go to the lighthouse near Farhampton. This is considered a very romantic location by the nosy receptionist (last seen in episode two), who does not want Ted going alone. Lily, frustrated with Marshall’s recent revelation to her, tells Ted to stop trying to find the one and “settle” for Cassie (the woman he met in episode six). Ted reluctantly takes Cassie to the lighthouse, despite all of the warning signs telling him not to.

Although not much time was spent on this plot line, the little gem of a flash forward we are given at the end of the episode made it worthwhile. I won’t say exactly what happened, but I will tell you it featured the mother!

Marshall and Daphne stay the night in Ted’s childhood home with his mother and stepfather (Clint) because of bad weather. Clint decides Marshall and Daphne need some conflict resolution and stows himself away in the back of their car until an opportune moment presents itself. Clint quickly drives Daphne and Marshall up the wall with his guitar, singing, and attempts at conflict resolution. Marshall and Daphne do indeed have some issues between them, but will Clint’s presence help or hinder these issues?

Barney wants his mum (Loretta) and Robin to stop fighting, and Loretta agrees to put it behind them if Robin is willing to as well. Of course Robin is not willing and shows up to breakfast in Loretta’s favourite blouse (which Robin won from her in a poker game in episode five). This just leads to an escalating war between Loretta and Robin, with Barney once again caught in the middle. In the heat of one of their arguments, Robin reveals something personal about herself to Loretta. Loretta is understandably shocked, and questions Barney’s decision to marry Robin. Can Loretta handle this new bit of information, and how will it affect her relationship with Robin?

This seemed like a pretty average episode of How I Met Your Mother… until the last two minutes clearly placed it on the good side of average. It was nice to see ‘old’ characters and plot lines resurface (and in some cases, be resolved), so I guess this new format isn’t that bad, but we are still quite a while away from the wedding…

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - American Horror Story: Coven - S03E03 - 'Burn, Witch, Burn!'

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Coven is cranking up the creep in episode three.  This episode is full of flashbacks, flash-forwards and a nod to Psycho.  I wonder if there is a reference to a classic thriller in every episode?

Madame Delphine is still coming to terms with her 180 year slumber. As a heartless, evil bitch who enjoys slicing slaves to pass the time, she really is struggling with the present day.  Her reaction to seeing Obama as a black President would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing.

Kyle the Franken-boyfriend is also a real mess.  Half monster, half boy, he is being healed very slowly by Misty Day in the swamps.  Poor Misty is lonely with only the swamp creatures and an old radio for company and quickly becomes overly attached to Zoe and Kyle.  She tells Zoe “ You can’t be your best self until you find your tribe.”  I think she has found ‘her tribe’.

The healing power of swamp mud, some Fleetwood Mac classics and enchanting spells from kooky Misty Day soon have Kyle’s scars disappearing.  Zoe seems to make yet another huge mistake by thinking it is the best idea in the world to send undead Kyle back to his mother.  In American Horror Story this is never a safe bet, and both Misty and Kyle are not too pleased with the decision. It’s soon revealed that prior to being dismembered in a bus crash poor Kyle suffered a Norman Bates style relationship with his mother.  Some kids just never have a chance.

Flash-back to Fiona Goode and her rise to become Supreme, flash forward to her failing body and grip on power.  Just when you think she is ready to succumb and hand over her reign there is a knife, a slit throat, and a dead witch.

After establishing the main characters, episode three really cements the main plotlines.  Cannot wait to watch episode four, but it will have to be watched in the daylight!

Review by JoAnn Duff.


REVIEW - American Horror Story: Coven - S03E02 - 'Fearful Pranks'

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The opening scene of episode two is a nod to ‘Deliverance’. Misty Day, a young girl suspected of witchcraft and burned at the stake, is still living in the swamps where she was murdered.  She has the power to bring the dead back to life and has no time for the cruel gator haters who receive a taste of their own medicine.

Zoe Benson on the other hand may be a good witch, maybe even the next Supreme, but she is absolutely useless at keeping secrets. She tells the police who come knocking on the door that they are all witches before they have even had the time to take a sip of tea.  If Zoe is to survive then she needs to get smart, close ranks with her fellow witches and  protect each other.  Luckily Fiona Goode is on hand to take control of the situation.

Madison shows the first sign of any kindness (well, a creepy, witchy kindness) by placing a spell in a morgue and creating a Frankenstein boyfriend for Zoe.  Is it better off to be dead, or alive but at the whim of these young, rebellious witches?

Luckily Fiona Goode, the Supreme, is on hand again and in no mood to let this situation escalate.  She is also pretty good at harbouring secrets of her own by keeping the resurrected Madam Delphine La Laurie stashed away in her quarters.  

Already we begin to see that Fiona is desperate to hold onto the witchcraft crown for a little longer and to be young and beautiful forever.  She can feel the age creeping up every time she looks in the mirror and it will be interesting watching her connive, trick and take what she wants and needs to desperately retain her youth and beauty.

Angela Basset’s character the Voodoo Queen is fully introduced in this episode, just as beautiful as she was in the 1700’s.  She returns with her Minotaur lover from episode one and are preparing for a battle in the darkness.

Oh and did you know?… Stevie Nicks is a white witch?!

Review by JoAnn Duff.


REVIEW - American Horror Story: Coven - S03E01 - 'Bitchcraft'

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American Horror brings out the big guns in the first two minutes.  Kathy Bates  plays Madame Delphine La Laurie, a character based on a real and terrifying murderer from history. She is living in a luxury mansion in 1834 New Orleans with her three odd daughters, yet despite their apparent wealth they are living in misery. Madame Delphine is crass, evil and completely psychotic, a part made perfectly for the amazing Kathy Bates.

Madame Delphine believes that smearing blood on her face can restore her youth: blood taken torturously from slaves (‘her pets’) which she keeps in her attic.  She also performs horrific mutilations and torture, but this seems just for her sadistic pleasure.  A chamber of mutilations, degradation and abject horror... all this before the opening credits roll!

Flash forward to present day and Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) is a seemingly normal teenager about to have sex for the first time.  It takes a shocking turn when her boyfriend begins to bleed form every orifice and dies in agonising pain.  Turns out poor Zoe has an affliction which means pleasure for her is excruciating pain and death for her lovers.  

Zoe is a witch, carrying a dwindling bloodline from Salem.  As a result she is sent away to  Miss Robichaux’s School For Exceptional Girls.  Here the old cast gather as new characters and some great new talent too: Emma Roberts plays Madison, a narcissistic young movie star; Gabrielle Sidabe is Queenie, a human Voodoo  doll; Jaime Brewer is Nan, a clairvoyant; and Jessica Lange literally reigns as Supreme.  

And so American Horror Story Coven begins...

Review by JoAnn Duff.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E07 - ‘No Questions Asked’

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This week’s How I Met Your Mother sees Robin sporting a skin-tight purple bodysuit, Ted sneaking into Lily’s room in the dead of night, and Barney trapped in an air vent.

Lily has not checked the most recent text on her phone, and therefore still does not know about Marshall having accepted a job as a judge (which will prevent them from moving to Italy and Lily doing her dream job). In order to delay the inevitable, Marshall enlists the help of Ted, Barney and Robin. They of course all want to know why Lily can’t check her phone, but Marshall wants them to do this for him “no questions asked”. When they start to protest, he reminds them all of times he has helped them out of sticky situations, “no questions asked”.

What follows is a series of flashbacks involving different members of the gang in increasingly ridiculous situations interwoven with their present attempts to separate Lily from her phone. There is also a minor-subplot in this episode involving Barney and Robin learning to work together as opposed to independently, but this was resolved almost as quickly as it was mentioned.

This episode was fun and light-hearted (in preparation for the coming storm between Marshall and Lilly no doubt). I bet the writers had a ball coming up with these scenarios, knowing they would never have to provide explanations for them. In all honesty though, this episode just felt like padding. I know they can’t have plot-heavy episodes every week, but the majority of this season has been filler. They’ve got a clear end in sight, and some plot points to sprinkle in every few episodes (just like every other season), but I think the problem comes back to the confined structure of this season. They’ve got limits on what they can and can’t do (they can’t have drama every week, but have to be doing something different in the hotel every few hours…), and that’s really taking it’s toll on the quality of the show. We’re only seven episodes in but still 42.5 hours away from the wedding - they have to sleep some time!

Anyway, they’ve managed to drag out the Marshall-Lily drama for another week, so I guess we just have to keep watching to see how that all goes down!

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E06 - ‘The Romance Resonance’

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It’s all about romance, errors and equations on this week’s The Big Bang Theory.

Sheldon figures out “a new method for synthesising a new stable super heavy element”. This new method spreads like wildfire through the world of physics, and Sheldon is really pleased with himself.  While he is bagging and marking all of the items he used to make the discovery (the whiteboard marker he was using at the time, the textbook he referred to), Sheldon realises he has made a grave error: he was out by a factor of ten in his equation. Sheldon is mortified, but Amy consoles him saying that the equation was tested and yielded results, so it was a “lucky” mistake. Sheldon does not believe in luck, and starts to abhor all of the praise and accolades being heaped on him.

Although this is not the first time Sheldon has made a mistake in his work (see S01E05 and S05E21), this is one of the few times we have seen him making a discovery and being praised for it. Sheldon has often exhibited jealousy and/or derision towards others when they have been successes, but we have rarely seen him as one. It was nice to see Sheldon being recognised as the prodigy we have often been told he is.

Meanwhile it’s the anniversary of Bernadette and Howard’s first date, and in order to celebrate Howard enlists the gang to help him perform a song he has written to mark the occasion. Although there is a minor hiccup on the night of Howard and Bernadette’s date, the song still goes ahead. This is undoubtedly one of the most romantic things I have seen on The Big Bang Theory, and to think it came from Howard of all people (remember what he was like in season one, remember?)!

Leonard is impressed with the lengths Howard has gone to in order to show his love for Bernadette, and challenges Penny to do something romantic for him. Penny struggles with this, and it looks like she won’t be able to come up with something. Everything all comes together in the end though, and we get two incredibly romantic scenes in one episode.

Although the moment between Leonard and Penny was not quite as sweet as the one between Howard and Bernadette, it was certainly up there. I have long been on the fence about the Leonard and Penny relationship - ultimately I want them to be together, but I feel that they got back together too soon - Penny has never seemed as ‘in love’ with Leonard as he has been with her. Admittedly Leonard has had feelings for Penny longer than she has for him, but it’s often seemed like she has been taking advantage of these feelings and has just kept him around to make her feel good. Anyway this episode has dulled my concerns, as it seems Penny has been feeling more than she has been letting on, meaning there may be hope for these two crazy kids yet.

There was a perfect balance between laughter and ‘aww’ moments in this episode, making it one of the better episodes this season. Scientific discoveries were made, romantic bonds were strengthened, all in all this was a great episode… and yet… what about Raj? Even Amy had her own moment at the end of the episode (how the audience gasped!), but Raj’s presence was somewhat limited in this episode. I know they can’t give every character a storyline, but methinks a Raj-heavy episode will be up in the next few weeks… stay tuned…

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E06 - ‘Knight Vision’

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This week on How I Met Your Mother Barney and Robin have some minister issues, Ted keeps making poor decisions, and Marshall still can’t tell Lily about his potential new job.

When the minister for Barney and Robin’s wedding arrives, Lily thinks he looks a tad surly and takes it upon herself to cheer him up. When Lily tells the minister about how she met Marshall, he becomes quite angry because that’s how Barney and Robin told him they met. The minister does not like liars, and will refuse to marry Barney and Robin if they have been lying to him. Will Barney and Robin come clean? And will the minister come around if they do?

The whole ‘strict minister’ thing was very predictable and not very amusing. However watching the cast recreate some of the more memorable moments of the show with the characters swapped around was definitely the highlight of this episode and more than made up for the disappointing ‘strict minister’.

Barney persuades Ted to hook up with one of the guests at the wedding, pointing out three potential candidates. Barney warns Ted to choose correctly, saying Ted won’t get any sex all weekend if he chooses wrong. Just as Ted is about to go for the girl Barney has most highly recommended, he changes his mind when option number two, Cassy (guest star Anna Camp), walks in. As soon as this happens we know Ted has chosen wrong, and are forced to watch as disaster upon disaster fall upon this poor girl, greatly reducing Ted’s chances of sex with her each time something goes wrong.

Since the show is trying to pave the way for the mother and wean Ted off Robin, we knew straight away that nothing would happen between Ted and Cassy, but they seemed to really want to eliminate all possibilities of Ted finding happiness with her. We already know how the story ends, surely Ted can have some happiness until he meets the mother? If they keep going down this path, Ted’s meeting of/courting the mother may seem like the act of a desperate man (if it already doesn’t to some...). I’ve expressed concern over this before: they just need to stop throwing ‘potential’ love interests at Ted, and really squash his feelings for Robin once and for all (easier said than done, I know, but if they don’t start setting up the groundwork now...). Speaking of the mother, I really thought we would have seen more of her by now. They threw her in the early episodes (meeting Lily, and her future happiness with Ted), but that’s been it. By no means does she need to be in every episode, but surely we are due for another dose of the mother by now?

Daphne preps Marshall for telling Lily about the job offer he has received to be a judge (his dream job) which will prevent their going to Rome (and prevent Lily from doing her dream job). When Marshall lets slip to Daphne that he has already accepted the job without telling Lily, Daphne becomes enraged and reveals part of her own past to Marshall. Can Daphne keep quiet to Lily about what Marshall has done?

This week’s episode continues on in the same vein as those from previous weeks, good without being great. There’s enough in the episode to keep me mildly amused, but not enough to keep me on the edge of my seat/rolling around on the floor laughing. As I noted earlier the best part of this episode was watching the cast recreate some memorable moments with different characters, but the cliffhanger of this episode was certainly right up there as well. I won’t spoil it here, but it seems we could be in for a big fight...

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E05 - ‘The Workplace Proximity’

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This week on The Big Bang Theory relationships are tested after a change in proximity.

Amy is offered a temporary position at Caltech, but is concerned that this may affect her relationship with Sheldon. She brings this up with him, but he does not understand why she is worried so raises no objections. Howard then explains to Sheldon that having Amy working at Caltech means they will be seeing one another a lot more, and that they may get sick of one another, claiming he would get sick of Bernadette if she were to work with him.

Sheldon, being the tactful person he is, tells Amy he no longer wants her to work near him. Amy has already accepted the job, so Sheldon suggests they not spend any time together at Caltech so they don’t get sick of one another. Bernadette questions why Sheldon would think they would get sick of one another, and he tells her what Howard said.

Here, the story diverges. Bernadette has words with Howard and kicks him out of their apartment for the night, so Howard stays with Raj. Meanwhile Amy is offended by what Sheldon has said to her, but again Sheldon does not understand. Leonard and Penny attempt to make Sheldon comprehend what he has done wrong, but he seems to think it is Amy who is in the wrong. Can Sheldon make amends with Amy? And can Howard make amends with Bernadette?

It was nice to see a story involving relationship drama that was not about Leonard and Penny, and it was good to see Howard and Raj hanging together once again. I miss seeing Howard and Raj together (though some of the jokes about the precise nature of their relationship are wearing thin), not that I don’t enjoy seeing Raj with Stuart, I’m just a sucker for the classics. Despite the somewhat predictable storyline there were plenty of witty one-liners to keep the audience amused (the award for best line goes to Amy when she is referring to Sheldon’s love of repetition - I won’t spoil it, you’ll just have to watch it for yourself and see). Overall, this was a pretty good episode, and I am looking forward to seeing what they serve up to us next week.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E05 - ‘The Poker Game’

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It’s Robin versus the Stinsons and Ted versus Marshall and Lilly in this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother.

After finding out that Ted is getting Barney and Robin not one but three wedding gifts, Lily is outraged because she thinks Ted did not get her and Marshall a wedding present. Of course it’s not as straight-forward as all that, because Ted is certain that he gave Marshall and Lily a wedding present, and is annoyed that they never sent him a ‘thank you’ note for doing so. In order for this mystery to be solved, cue the entrance of recurring characters Stewart and Claudia...

Meanwhile James keeps making cracks about how awful marriage is, and Robin takes issue with this (understandably). Robin has words with James, who runs to mummy (Loretta). Loretta is not going to let Robin be nasty to her son, and tries to take Robin down in a poker game. Robin wins, leaving Barney in the uncomfortable position of ‘choosing’ who to side with, his future wife or his family. Being Barney he is not able to deal with such emotional turmoil, and can’t seem to make things right between anyone. Loretta takes it upon herself to solve the problem by declaring war on Robin.

How I Met Your Mother has certainly been setting up many issues to be dealt with in later episodes, so I am curious to see what will be the biggest of them all/whether they will perhaps snowball somehow. Anyway, next week’s episode looks interesting with Barney apparently stealing Marshall and Lily’s story of how they met and passing it off as his and Robin’s. This looks quite entertaining, but I am still hanging out to see the mother meeting more of Ted’s friends...

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E04 - ‘The Raiders Minimization’

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On this week’s The Big Bang Theory Leonard’s mother makes her return, Sheldon makes a revelation to Amy, and Raj and Stuart make online dating profiles.

As part of her psychology class at school, Penny is required to read a book by Dr Beverly Hofstadter (Leonard’s mother), which contains some less than flattering stories about Leonard’s childhood. Leonard begs Penny not to discuss what she reads with him, but she does anyway. This upsets Leonard greatly, so to make it up to him Penny does whatever Leonard wants her to. Realising he has found a way to manipulate Penny, Leonard pretends to be sad a lot. He reveals his secret to Howard, who tries it out on Bernadette. Bernadette sees through Howard’s attempts to manipulate her straight away, and tells Penny what Leonard has been doing. In order to set Leonard straight, Penny seeks a higher power: Beverly Hofstadter.

Christine Baranski as Leonard’s mother is always an amusing guest-star, so it was good to see her again. However, all of these continual references to Leonard’s ‘mummy issues’ are wearing a bit thin. They were funny the first few times Leonard’s mother appeared, but it seems she is only bought back in order to embarrass Leonard rather than to develop his character.

After watching Raiders of the Lost Ark with Sheldon, Amy reveals a large plot-hole that ruins the movie for him. Determined to get his revenge on Amy, Sheldon starts trying to find something she loves that he can ruin for her.

Although this seemed like a rather light storyline following a petty thing that Sheldon would do, it led to a rather touching scene wherein we learn a bit more about the way Sheldon ticks as a result of his upbringing and the example set by his parents about relationships. Sheldon has been taking baby-steps in opening up to Amy since meeting her, and I found this one to be the most genuine so far. (See, this is the type of character development they should be doing for Leonard when his mother next appears, something subtle yet believable).

Meanwhile, Raj and Stuart sign up for online dating. After going through the hurdles of taking an attractive picture and writing an alluring profile, they realise that online dating may not be all it is cracked up to be...

I always enjoy seeing Stuart and Raj hanging out together, and some of the funniest lines in this episode were spoken by Stuart. It’s good to see that Raj and Stuart have continued to hang out, even if Stuart is not always included with the rest of the gang.

This was a good, solid episode of The Big Bang Theory. Last week’s excellent episode was a tough act to follow, so I am satisfied with this episode overall and will continue to be optimistic about the rest of this season.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E04 - ‘The Broken Code’

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This week’s How I Met Your Mother is all about friends... or a lack of friends... or how simply to be a good friend...

Barney replaces Ted as his best man with (guest star) William Zabka because he is angry that Ted held Robin’s hand two weeks previously. Ted tries his best to get reinstated, but this may not happen when he lets slip to Barney that he does still have feelings for Robin...

It was good to see Zabka again, but even better to see Ted become his nemesis. This could make for an amusing plot in a later episode, and I am looking forward to what the writers are cooking up.

Meanwhile Lily confronts Robin about not having any female friends, and encourages her to try and make one before Lily goes to Rome. Of course this is easier said than done, as Robin seems to hate every woman she sees.

This was an average episode of How I Met Your Mother. It was good to see ‘Marshpillow 2.0’ interacting with everyone (instead of just Daphne), but I feel the show will benefit from his arrival in the flesh. I am not naive enough to think he will be here soon, it will be several more episodes at least, unless they time jump forward a few hours. Regardless, I will continue watching to see how everything pans out.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E03 - ‘The Scavenger Vortex’

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In one of the funniest episodes of The Big Bang Theory I have seen in a while, the gang compete in a scavenger hunt designed by Raj.

After nobody attends Raj’s murder mystery party, they agree to do whatever it is he wants next. He suggests a scavenger hunt - not the traditional kind that involves searching for a list of items, but the kind done at elite universities which requires the participants to solve a series of puzzles to complete the challenge.

Not wanting to be saddled with Penny (the “liability”), Leonard suggests they draw names out of a hat. What ensues is a delightful ‘getting to know you’ kind of episode, where each character is paired with someone they normally would not hang out with: Amy and Howard; Bernadette and Leonard; and (somewhat predictably, but it’s okay, it’s always gold seeing these two together) Penny and Sheldon.

The highlight of this episode was definitely seeing Amy and Howard singing Neil Diamond together (multiple times!). I never picked those two as having anything in common (which is something the writers play with to start with), but once they clicked it was brilliant. I’m not saying I want to see these two hanging out together in every episode from now on, but it would be nice to see them together every so often as they have amazing on-screen chemistry.

About the only thing I can fault with this episode is Leonard moping when he thinks he has offended Penny, but Bernadette’s method of spurring him into action more than makes up for this.

Last week I was lamenting about the declining quality of The Big Bang Theory - consider those concerns gone! If the seasons continues with episodes nearly half as good as this one I will be satisfied.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E03 - ‘Last Time in New York’

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This week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, ‘Last Time in New York’, was only alright. It continued in the same vein as the previous two episodes, with Marshall and Daphne making their way to New York, Barney and Robin freaking out about their wedding, and Lily trying to cheer up Ted. Despite the liberal use of flashbacks in this episode, the new format seems to be growing stale.

Lily discovers Ted’s list of things he would like to do in New York before moving to Chicago, and we got to see some new flashbacks, as well as some from previous episodes. While it’s nice to be nostalgic every so often, the show seems to be trying to cash-in on its glory days, reminding long-time viewers how good it was (remember when Marshall ran Lily through with a broad sword?) to distract them from how lackluster it has become. Usually I like flashbacks in shows (and How I Met Your Mother is certainly the master of the flashback), but in this case I would consider the argument that flashbacks are just sloppy writing. The show is clearly trying to keep itself fresh (and fill time) under the strain of the new format they have gone with for this season, and I understand they have to use flashbacks in order to do this, but my question is what else have they got up their sleeves? Cue nice plot bomb at the end of the episode...

Anyway, apart from this little gem of information at the end, the rest of the episode wasn’t that interesting. Marshall and Daphne are continuing to bicker as they make their way to New York, and Barney and Robin fear the imminent arrival of their elderly relatives/their post-marriage sex-life. Here’s hoping Barney’s little revelation will make the next episode (I’d say episodes, but I’m not that optimistic) more interesting.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - The Big Bang Theory - S07E01 & S07E02

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The seventh season of The Big Bang Theory kicked off with two episodes back to back. Some time has passed since the end of the last season, but Leonard is still at sea and Raj can still speak to women. 

The first episode was... okay. It was by no means bad, but it wasn’t great either. Not quite what you would expect for a season premiere, but then again, I didn’t know what to expect after the rather disjointed season six. There are three separate story-lines going on in the first episode, the most interesting one revolving around Sheldon, Penny and Leonard. Sheldon is missing Leonard (although he won’t admit it), and has been using Penny to fill his place. They bond, and it’s nice. When Sheldon finally caves and they call Leonard it seems he is not missing either of them at all - he’s having the time of his life partying on the boat. Not much more about Leonard’s time on the boat is revealed, so I wonder whether this has been a regular occurrence or a one off.

Anyway Raj is still hung up on Lucy, so Howard takes him out to meet women, and Raj shares a bonding moment with Mrs Davis. It was reassuring to see that they haven’t backtracked on the whole Raj can speak to women thing, but apart from that it didn’t seem all that significant. I know they are going to bring Lucy back at some point (I don’t know how long she’ll be back for though), so I don’t see a relationship between Raj and Mrs Davis forming.

Meanwhile Amy and Bernadette go away on a conference together, but end up squabbling after they insult one another’s partners. The highlight of this storyline was watching the two girls celebrating when they realise men are hitting on them because they find them attractive, and not just as a way to get to Penny.

In the second episode Leonard arrives back from his sea voyage a couple of days early, and decides not to tell Sheldon so that he and Penny can spend some time together. Sheldon, being the observant person he is, quickly discovers that Leonard has returned and decides he can no longer trust what Leonard tells him. 

When Leonard left on his sea voyage at the end of last season, I was not sure whether they would do a time jump like they did between seasons two and three, or have a few episodes wherein Leonard is away (like Howard at the beginning of last season), but Leonard was only away for one episode. Not much was mentioned about what happened while Leonard was away, except that both Sheldon and Penny seemed to miss him, were spending lots of time together, and Leonard did not seem to miss them. I assume they showed Leonard partying for a reason, hence why Leonard did not come back in the first episode, but I am wondering what they are planning on doing with this bit of information about Leonard’s time away. I really hoped they would use Leonard’s absence to progress the Penny/Leonard relationship more. I know it would be hard to do when they are separated from one another, but perhaps it would have been nice to see Penny missing Leonard more. She did say she had been missing him a lot, but I wanted to see her missing him. I’m sure they could have achieved this if he had of stayed away for just one or two episodes more, but they must have their reasons for bringing him back so soon.

Finally there was a cringe-worthy storyline involving Howard and his inadvertent consumption of estrogen. Howard becomes weepy, emotional, and concerned about his outward appearance. In other words, he behaves like a ‘woman’ - don’t get me started... I am rather disappointed The Big Bang Theory would stoop to such lows. I have been a fan of the show since the beginning, and have watched as the quality of the comedy has declined in order to produce a few cheap laughs. I know that the show is currently the most popular sitcom in America and would probably like to retain this title, but I don’t think it needs to reduce itself to pandering to the masses in order to be popular. After a rather shaky start to the seventh season, here’s hoping The Big Bang Theory gets some direction and picks up its game for the rest of the season.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - How I Met Your Mother - S09E01 & S09E02

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In the hour-long season nine premiere of How I Met Your Mother, we are introduced to the new format of the show for the final season: it is going to take place across the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding (a time period of about three days). We get to watch as each character deals with some issues on their own, as well as how they all respectively meet ‘the mother’.

Marshall and baby Marvin, who have been in Minnesota spending time with Marshall’s mother before their big move to Italy (which may not happen now, since Marshall has been offered his dream job as a judge), are trying to get to New York in time for the wedding. All of this is complicated by the presence of Daphne (special guest star Sherri Shepherd), a brewing storm, and the fact that Marshall’s mother may spill the beans to Lily about Marshall’s job offer before he gets to New York to talk with her. Although the spars between Marshall and Daphne are humorous now, as well as the idea that it’s not going to be easy for Marshall to get to New York, I really hope they don’t drag it out too long. I understand it will take a few episodes, I just hope it doesn’t take most of the season - I want to see Marshall interact with the other characters, not just his new acquaintance.

Lily is missing her husband and son after their week apart, and turns to a stranger (Ted’s future wife) for comfort. Although I wish Ted would hurry up and meet her, I am glad the mother is getting screen-time and we are getting to know her a bit better. I think they may be trying a little too hard to make her out to be the perfect woman for Ted, and a perfect fit for the group, but hey, after what they have put Ted through for the past few years I guess he deserves the perfect woman.

Meanwhile, Robin and Barney have to overcome some hiccups in the hours leading up to their big day, such as finding out they may share a mutual relative, and the news of James’s (Barney’s brother’s) divorce. It seems the writers really want to push the idea that Barney and Robin are ‘meant to be’.

These aren’t the only things that may cause friction for Barney and Robin, as it seems Ted still has feelings for Robin (surprise, surprise) and may do something stupid in order to prove his love (again). Given the fact that Ted is supposed to be meeting his future wife in the next few days, I hope the writers are quick to resolve this whole ‘Ted loves Robin’ issue so his attraction to his future wife seems genuine and not just a rebound thing.

All in all, I am hesitant about how the final season will progress. I know How I Met Your Mother loves using flashbacks and flash-forwards, so hopefully we will see plenty of these in order to prevent the new format from growing stale, and to learn more about Ted, his future wife, and their relationship together.

Review by Heather Bale.


REVIEW - Sleepy Hollow - S01E01

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The classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman is given an apocalyptic make over in Fox’s latest supernatural thriller. Sleepy Hollow is the story you know and love with an apocalyptic twist. It’s also probably the most fun you will have watching television this season.

The pilot begins in the American Revolutionary War, Ichabod Crane beheads a mysteriously powerful horseman but not before being wounded himself. Ichabod passes out and when he wakes up the war is over, and has been for some time; it’s 2013. Ichabod meets Lieutenant Abbie Mills, whose partner was killed by a headless horseman that just happened to wake up at the same time as Ichabod. Abbie and Ichabod team up to figure out what’s going on only to discover that the headless soldier is actually one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and if he recovers his head he will kick start the apocalypse.

There’s no escaping the fact Sleepy Hollow is a little bit ridiculous but that’s part of its charm. The gothic genre is at it’s best when it embraces the kitsch side and runs with it and Sleepy Hollow seems be doing just that. There’s a headless horseman roaming the streets of a seemingly normal contemporary town, it’s hard to take that seriously. Yet somehow Sleepy Hollow drags you into the absurdity and soon enough devil-like horned creatures seem perfectly reasonable.

The pilot suffers the same pitfalls as most sci-fi/fantasy pilots, in that it’s fairly heavy on exposition. There are a lot of moments where people stand around explaining information that will probably make more sense later on. But in-between the bouts of exposition we get a sense of the kind of show Sleepy Hollow could be. The effects are not brilliant but that just adds to the classic horror feel that this show exudes. While the pilot had a number of large scale fight sequences, it was during the smaller moments that Sleepy Hollow really shines.

Abbie Mills is a fantastic female lead (not to mention a woman of colour) and the interactions between her and Ichabod are incredibly entertaining. The chemistry between co-stars Nicole Beharie and Tom Mason is magical. Much of the enjoyment to be found in the pilot comes from the relationship between Abbie and Ichabod and it will be the development of this relationship that makes or breaks this show. That and watching Ichabod attempt to negotiate the intricacies of the modern world makes for enjoyable television.

The story is familiar enough to be recognizable but there are enough differences to make it entertaining. Taking the simple story about a small town and adding an apocalyptic threat should be enough to sustain the story past one season. And the threat of an unknown enemy – anyone could be evil – makes this show incredible suspenseful.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sold by the pilot but there is enough there to keep me watching. I really want this show to be amazing and the pilot gave me hope that it can be. Let’s hope it lives up to it’s potential before Fox cancels it.

Review by Yvonne Popplewell

More of Yvonne’s work can be found at her blog.