I've been adoring Cougar Town of late, and can now confidently say that you needn't let the title put you off. It's misleading and inaccurate and in no way representative of what the show has actually become. I highly recommend you read Alan Sepinwall's enlightening interview with the show's creator, the intelligent and articulate Bill Lawrence (of Scrubs fame):
What began as a sitcom that lived up - or down - to its title instead morphed into a charming, goofy ensemble comedy. Instead of chasing after younger guys and obsessing over wrinkles, Courteney Cox's Jules is now playing den mother to a weird surrogate family in her cul de sac, trying to pass the time by drinking wine, pranking each other, writing songs and inventing silly games like the elegantly simple Penny Can.
Let's hope Lawrence gets to change the show's name like he wants to.
Parks and Recreation, 2.23: The Master Plan
Speaking of shows that went from average to awesome, how much do we all love Parks and Recreation now?
P&R was reasonably good but not brilliant in its first season. The second season, however, has been one of the most consistently excellent comedies on the air. The smartest decision was to realign the character of Lesley, who went from embarrassing uber-moron to enthusiastic but capable uber-feminist, admired and liked by her friends and colleagues. Plus the funniest of the supporting characters - Ron, April and Andy - have been given much more to do. I can't imagine a single viewer not being invested in the Andy/April romance, which is sweetness and sleepy sexiness personified, and which the actors make seem effortless and real.
I love Andy so much. Another example of a character who didn't work that well in the first season but who became irresistibly loveable in season 2. If you'd told me last year that I'd soon find Andy sexy I would have lost all trust in your ability to correctly judge others. RIGHT? He's fucking *adorable*. And I don't normally like dumb guys!
And yeah okay, I moaned about Adam Scott becoming a regular on the show because it messes with another favourite comedy - Party Down - but really I'm okay with the move because I want to see him on my tv screen for as long as possible and he has a better chance at a role with longevity if he becomes a main character on Parks. And of course he was as fuckable as ever. It's the deadpan delivery that gets me every time. I already like Lesley with him and I anticipate the chemistry between them will grow quickly.
Then there's Rob Lowe. He is so great. I usually find Ann boring but she was quite funny in this episode and I am definitely on board with a Rob Lowe/Ann romance, for the hotness factor alone.
Basically Parks went from being a comedy about a bunch of people who tolerate each other to a wonderfully warm and romantic comedy about a bunch of people who genuinely care about each other, and that's just so much more awesome. It's also why this show is more enjoyable than 30 Rock is these days: because it's got heart.
I'm not sure what happened to 30 Rock's heart but I know that a large portion of the viewership is much less enamoured with it than they are shows like Community, Parks, Modern Family, and even Cougar Town, all of which consistently give the audience reasons to be deeply invested in the relationships between the characters. In 30 Rock the central relationship between Jack and Liz currently consists of little more than Jack belittling Liz and Liz giving Jack advice that he never listens to. YAWN. I still find it very funny at times (the Tracey outtakes were sensational for example) but I don't really *care* about any of the relationships in the show, and that's what's letting it down. Trends in comedy come and go and if 30 Rock wants to survive it needs to move with the times; give us something human to connect with or be forgotten about the moment the credits roll. If Fey and co inject a little more drama and some smart, character-driven plots into the (relentless) absurdity, I have no doubt that I and the rest of the fanbase will fall madly in love with the show again.
The Vampire Diaries, 1.22: Founder's Day
I'll get my main complaint out of the way first, because I really loved this episode and generally found it to be an extremely impressive end to a season that, in its second half especially, has become increasingly more sophisticated in terms of its storytelling.
But first things first: killing off Anna? Absolutely fucking infuriating. And not just because I loved her and shipped her with Jeremy. Because A) She is now the sixth significant female character to be killed (Vicki, coded as the 'slut' and therefore expendable, was the first) and the fourth significant female character of colour to be killed (Sheila, Bree and Pearl were the others). And B) This was a prime example of fridging: she was killed in order to send Jeremy over the edge and make the decision to turn himself into a vampire. Her death served HIS story, not hers. In fact, her pointless death made it seem as though she didn't even have her own story.
The show gets a lot right when it comes to female characters but it has also failed us in this respect, and this rather alarming trend makes me worry about the fate of every future significant female character, especially those that aren't white.
That aside, the episode was breathtakingly exiting, erotic and disturbing. The arrival of Katherine was made of pure win and if ever an actor has improved so dramatically over the course of a season, it's Dobrev, who seems to become more ravishing and compelling with each episode.
I'm definitely into Jeremy becoming a vampire, because he is much hotter when he's not being a whiny little bitch. I just hope he takes more after Damon than Stefan.
Speaking of Damon, I loved everything about his storyline, from the being in love with Elena to the desire for redemption (please stay good Damon! You are, I believe, even more outrageously sexy when you're trying to be good; sort of an inverse of Stefan who is more appealing as a bad guy), to the seduction of fake!Elena. I've seen a lot of you theorising that Damon knew it was Katherine after the kiss - hence the lip touching - but I could see it going either way. His expression afterwards didn't suggest instant realisation; it was more *unsure* than anything else. Aside from which he's now in love with Elena so he's going to *want* to believe that was a real moment between them.
My ideal fic would be an extension of that scene (which I found to be the sexiest of the last year btw; I can't think of anything that even comes close to being that hot): Katherine convincingly pretending to be Elena and seducing Damon who genuinely believes it IS Elena. I love how twisted that scenario is and how gloriously it woobifies Damon. Of course I'm sure next season Damon will figure it out pretty quickly, if he hasn't done so already, but I'd LOVE it if we got to see Katherine fuck with his head for at least a while.
All in all, one of the strongest season finales in recent memory.