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Kether Donohu is everything.

It’s unclear at what point in this week’s You’re the Worst did the FXX comedy’s season-and-a-half’s worth of similarities to Bojack Horseman, Netflix’s animated horseplay romp, boil over into something approaching the subversive . . . or at least distinctive. Edgar’s descent into the world of the improvisational arts plays out as a rerun of Todd Chavez’s, but with perhaps less wry contempt. How about when Jimmy’s meeting with the big media execs reminded us all yet again that Hollywood is a dark, sun-drenched space of corporate synergies and that the stories we want told will always entail “imagineering” more “literary pollination” than we’d hoped for? Perhaps the best Bojack-y element from this episode was the Hollywood sign being a potential target of alphabetic castration. But Ollywood Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things? Let’s Find Out? may have to wait.

Still, how does a series that is, whether intentionally or not, the slower moving (humans and cable television are simply at the disadvantage here) version of a series we already love, find distinct footing when there’s an animal-riddled alternative readily available? Both shows are overtly about ennui and the big city dwelling almost-adults that have forced the term into the think-piece word banks of our times. And both shows are implicitly about the same big city and, in being about Los Angeles, explore materialism and privilege and the encroachment of media in the ways all Hollywood productions do but we don’t care to notice until the Kardashians are involved to signal that we should have strong feelings about this stuff one way or another.

This week’s episode of You’re the Worst is in many ways lackluster and unfulfilling, like many episodes of Bojack would be if you had to watch one at a time, but what it does an excellent job of highlighting is the difference between the two otherwise indistinguishable comedies. While Bojack is about individual adulthood, with a hearty underbelly of masculinity, You’re the Worst explores, more than anything, romantic relationships. (Whoa don’t get too excited. The very heteronormative sort. Sit down gays.) There’s a tremendous amount of overlap between the two, which leads to several shared thematic threads, e.g., Angeleno sidekicks with hearts of gold and traumatic histories are always not-too-brown Latinos. But if You’re the Worst can in one episode break our hearts following the girl who runs away, then subsequently break them again when it holds onto the boy who stays, it can recycle all the Hollywoo jokes it wants. There’s a thoughtfulness in its humor and its underlying drama, that breathes life into its visibly retreaded premise. Gretchen and Lindsay literally studying for a Bechdel test would be ingenious whether it was live action or animated or both. There’s clearly a space for smart-dark laughs. Apparently, at least two nearly identical spaces. And if Jimmy had picked Bones over NCIS to novelize, which was certainly an option on the table, I would’ve enjoyed the David Boreanaz jokes all over again.

So yea, tldr; if you love one show give the other one a shot. Basically that was the point of this. #explicitpointstoarticlesnow

gonzagaginger

Watching ABCs new midseason comedy Mixology the other night, I realized that it had completely won me over. Sneakily in fact. As a rabid consumer of scripted television, I rolled the dice on the series based purely on my appreciation of novelty and gimmicks. It’s literally pegged as “a Romantic Comedy with a Twist.” I’m in. A whole series focused on one night at a club in (fake) New York City, the premise seemed a bit imbalanced, but unique and ambitious enough to get us through these tough TV times. And at first glance, Mixology is barely that. There was something gratingly awkward and clumsy about the first few outings. Everyone seemed to eye their soulmate within moments. It was hard to believe why anyone would stay at this club for a whole hour, let alone a season. Episodes overlap significantly to the point that it’s impossible to tell if you’re watching a rerun for about ten minutes each week. Flashbacks and back stories are drawn out all the way back to birth and aren’t as entertaining or insightful as the narrator pretended they were. There’s a narrator.

But for everything that Mixology misses the mark on, there seems to be something done undeniably right. Nine episodes in, strangely enough, I don’t hate any of these people. To be fair, the bar at this bar was set unreasonably low in the pilot. When an obnoxious Brit throwing up seemed to be the most sincere thing to come out of anyone’s mouth for a whole episode, there’s not really any other direction but up. But in time, British guy, played charmingly enough by real Brit Adam Campbell, grew repentant and sincere. The bad girl/good girl duo of Maya and Liv eventually find their stride somewhere in the middle of a genuine friendship. In fact, all of the women in the show organically coming together becomes such an intriguing surprise as the show proceeds that the trigger warning drenched dirtbag schtick of the male leads stopped making me gag. This week even the bartender succumbs to hijinks that humanize him, if not just give him another thing to do besides flirt and play horrible guitar. A cliche I wholly expected to run amok for the rest of the series.

And that’s precisely what caught me unawares. Mixology is a series backed by mainstream stalwart Ryan Seacrest of all people and in its first few episodes, egregiously poured on every cliche and trope you could imagine about modern big city nightlife, 20/30-somethings looking for love, and lazy television comedies about those things. The characters were secondary to the their character types for so long — from unassuming token Black guy to bubbly blonde bottle girl — it was hard to believe this wasn’t just a cynical and mocking portrait of a small but overexposed subset of Americans. In fact, it was and probably still is. But that’s no way to live for a young comedy. We need the warmth and sweetness of the good cliches played sincerely — love at first sight, bad girl with a heart of gold,  girl power, etc. — to make the others easier to swallow. We need to believe what these characters are doing matters. The stakes need to matter. The characters themselves need to matter. And surprisingly enough, eventually it happened.

Everyone had finally showed up to the party. Surely, as a viewer you can have your favorites (don’t pick Bruce) but the whole cast has become fleshed out enough for that not to seem like a challenge anymore. There are now a variety of TV-friendly personalities drawn out in colorfully broad strokes to enjoy or berate. Particularly, Ginger Gonzaga and Kate Simses as Maya and Liv are gorgeous enough to watch 10 horrible episodes of anything but have actually began to play well off each other and develop a rapport that hints at their going out together this particular night being more than just for narrative contrast.

The ice has been officially broken, so go ahead and jump in to Mixology if you’re so inclined. It’s fun and light with enough will they or won’t they to keep you coming back each week. Or wait, until it’s inevitably canceled by ABC and catch the whole series on HuFlix drunken and lonely one Saturday evening in the near future because watching beautiful people play pretend is just as good as going out yourself and having fun. I’m pretty sure.

Abbie Mills

Four episodes in, I’m ready to call it. Fox’s Sleepy Hollow is the best new series of the season. Excuse me, I meant to say: Sleepy Hollow is currently the best series on all of broadcast television. And this week’s “The Lesser Key of Solomon” adds a lot to an already stacked cache of appealing plot points and longterm storytelling elements. We are blessed with more time with Jenny Mills, our Lt. Abbie Mills’s estranged sister, who sports a compelling mixture of resentment, familial longing, and conviction like sporty sleeveless tees. The sisters Mills have a complicated past that prior episodes have teased out, but this episode serves well to remind viewers that they are indeed sisters first. Fighting, petty, grudge-holding, loving, loyal sisters. Along with Ichabod, Jenny and Abbie, for the time being, have put together an admittedly hostile but undeniably appealing core group of protagonists who just so happen to be heroines of color in a creepy, scary, US history-tinged fantasy world in upstate New York. All these things are better than whatever else you’re watching.

And heroines of color honestly can not be understated, largely because you will be hard pressed to find another on broadcast television at all, outside of maybe Nikita. (Wait, is that the same–No. It can’t be–Is she–YESSS!) And these two Black women are presented so unabashedly within this universe of action and mystery and intrigue, it’s almost as if televisions have somehow been found in homes of various sorts, on the mantles and walls of a broader audience of varying genders and colors, only just now. This show is certainly unique in its main cast’s demographics, but perhaps it’s most endearing quality is how that doesn’t seem to matter when telling a story about headless horsemen and demons and time traveling soldiers and German mercenaries from the revolutionary war. Really, you need to stop watching whatever else you’re watching.

This fourth episode also does extremely well in moving the series into the territory we all inherently want Sleepy Hollow to be in—a freaky, “monster of the week,” slowly unwrapping treat of a procedural, one we’ve been craving since the end of Fringe, and for some, since the end of X-Files more than a decade ago. Surely all the parts are in place: both major and minor antagonists and mysteries have been introduced with the hint of more to come; a rich corpus of both American history and supernatural mythos is up for grabs; Sleepy Hollow, New York is basically east coast Sunnydale, CA, very Hellmouth-y indeed; and lastly, we have a quirky team of able-bodied and mindful mystery solvers with various things to prove to themselves and others, a bunch of issues to struggle to resolve.

This last point is certainly the most important. Every one on the show is simply fun to watch and easy to invest into. Orlando Jones as the hard-nosed Captain Irving is refreshing and promising with certainly more to him than what we’ve seen. Tom Mison plays Ichabod Crane to a wonderful comedic affect that is never distracting when heads more seriously start to roll. Lyndie Greenwood, even though it saddens me deeply that this casts some serious doubt on how much Sonya will be present in the upcoming and final season of Nikita, is truly shining as Jenny. Still, how much of a regular to the show she becomes remains to be seen. But lastly and most notably, this is clearly Nicole Beharie’s show. She’s amazing. She carries the dramatic pacing and energy of the series in her small town cop holster and is simply gorgeous while doing it. No really, GORGEOUS. Honestly I’d watch her complete a Sudoku with her hair wrapped and her feet in bunny slippers while she sipped a chai latte and nibbled a biscotti each week for an hour. But that’s not to take away from how impressive this strange little show based on an often exploited 19th century short story has turned out to be. Still, if Beharie was headless, if I couldn’t watch her adorable face as she drives around town shooting monsters, wrangling her time-traveling partner and vigilante sister, all while managing her job and her silky, beautiful tresses, I probably wouldn’t watch. But for now I can still see her lovely head. You can too. Yay.

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Hannibal at its core is a visual feast. With a color pallet like that of a depressed Scandanavian lumberjack with a design degree, the series exercises your plasma and liquid-crystals just as it does your capacity for gore and icky stuff. The season finale this past week begins with Will finding a severed ear in his sink beneath his morning vomit. After weeks of dealing with feverish hallucinations and other treats of untreated encephalitis, it’s unclear really if this is even a strange start to the day. Will handles it, as he’s handled any bump in the road to this point, with a phone call to his pal, confidante, and therapist Dr. Lecter. It’s a curious testimony to how Will perceives his relationships with the other characters of the series. Surely, it makes sense to trust your therapist, and if that therapist so happens to be your friend, so then is the trust doubled—tripled if you share some murderous secret, as is the case with Will, Hannibal (and Abigail).

So blatantly an unhealthy relationship and violation of professional boundaries, the comfort Will draws from Hannibal represents possibly Will’s infatuation with the surface of it all, the way things look. He seems to actively accept his role as the unstable intellectual to the detriment of his physical well-being and the safety of those around him because that’s how the offer Jack places on the table and the image of him that’s attractive to everyone from Jack to Alana Bloom. If Will’s brain was simply inflamed and his methodologies were plainly crazy, Hannibal might as well start serving french fries and holding sessions on a futon in an office building. It’s serendipitous for Will to find someone—an intellectual like himself, meticulously concerned with appearance and artifice—to reinforce the image of Will Graham, the dynamic of series itself.

This is Hannibal. A beautifully designed, smart procession of images. If it were a murder mystery, the logic may fall apart somewhere before Abigail Hobbs is merely given incredulous jeers and snarky looks by the FBI for her involvement in her father’s murder spree and her own body count. If it were a police procedural, Jack Crawford would probably need a better reason to keep an notoriously unstable professor out in the field, armed and fugue-ing all over the place, than his so-called success rate in subduing the show’s rogue gallery of cooky serial killers, which in 13 episodes amounts to more of a fortunate string of outliving them. If Hannibal were any less beautiful, it would become too unabashedly clear that things are not as they may seem. There are no gargantuan moose (“meese” if you’re nasty) haunting Will. Gastronomical proficiency doesn’t equate to quality meat. And intelligence does’t mean psychopathy, no matter how much we’re told psychopathy means intelligence.

Will put his faith in the visage of a thoughtful psychoanalyst with a stylistic flare and a perpetual extra plate, and inadvertently, his fate in the hands of a psychopath. For some reason, with all his intellect, it occurs to Will that Jack may be the copy cat killer their team has been pursuing, before putting the puzzle pieces together and finding an unbelievably stunning portrait of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Behind bars, wearing a dull orange jumpsuit, Will Graham has finally seen past his elaborately grotesque hallucinations and what he finds is plainly ugly—a set up, betrayal, lost friends, disappointment. The framework remains ornate but the picture, after a gradual, satisfying buildup, has revealed itself to be simply sublime, leaving us all wondering: how will next season look?

Connie Britton

To the most cynically savvy viewer among us, the obvious question hanging over each new episode of ABC’s Nashville at this must be: which one of the lead female vocalists will be caught with their pants down, literally—cheating, two-timing, vow-forgetting, side-piece sampling, etc.—first? Each of these leading ladies has a case to be made for an upcoming oops, I’m in the wrong bed moment. Men in Nashville, TN apparently only come in the flavors of broken and heartbreaking. And if mothers all over the country find it necessary to warn their little girls about falling for musicians, there certainly has to be some sort of skull and crossbones sort of warning for politicians and athletes. It only makes sense for the ladies to continue to sample even after they’ve chosen entrees. So without further ado, let’s explore why, in detail, Rayna will get drunk and make out with Liam, the bad boy record producer guy.

That’s not to say that Juliette’s recent marriage and Scarlett’s faux love triangle (does Hailey make it a trapezoid?) won’t crumble in due time. The claim here that adultery and poor decision-making are on the horizon isn’t meant to be ambitious or even predictive. Rayna’s foreseeable transgression just speaks to how these familiar daytime TV stock characters and tropes have been revitalized in primetime by way of country-western lyrics and Wyclef. Rayna Jaymes and the girls are positioned, not at the mount of originality, but evidently, and more entertainingly, exactly where viewers want them most: firmly planted in familiar dysfunction. Adultery, corruption, drug abuse, Wyclef.

Mommy issues like Juliette Barnes’s usually grow stale pretty quickly on television (like the acting of anyone that has ever played Erica Kane’s daughter on All My Children) because it’s such a hard task to get the right smell of meth and neglect stuffed into the living rooms of the TV watching public. Never seems authentic enough or dramatic enough or we’re all just cold, jaded assholes because of our own mothers’ crack usage. Still, somehow Hayden’s Juliette has become a hypnotic example of an emotionally beaten daughter. She’s a hardened young pop princess with as much emotional baggage as blonde hair extensions and she carries it all as audaciously as could be desired. Her hurried marriage to star quarterback Sean Butler is the latest in her homages to real life celebrity hijinks, a nod to straight from the headlines sort of storytelling. Nothing groundbreaking here. So as we prepare for the Rayna-Juliette co-headlining mega tour (also pretty much written on the wall since the pilot episode), what we can also reasonably expect from Juliette is the continued impulse-driven bad girl act. Groupies should be on alert.

Let us not forget doe-eyed Scarlett and her dual suitors—the ex-boyfriend and the music partner. It’s hard to tell which she makes sweeter music with, perhaps because they have both revealed themselves to be patently subpar beaus while redeeming themselves just slightly enough to keep things interesting. Is it better to realize your mistakes and try to get back the girl that got away or to pounce on your crush as soon as the opportunity arises? Is it worse to start out a petty, insecure, and overbearing boyfriend, or in essence become one while dating another woman? Either way, Scarlett at some point will have to break a heart or two in Nashville, which will likewise come as a welcome non-surprise to many fans.

But why will Rayna Jaymes undoubtedly win this race to unfaithfulness, you ask? Well simply put: Everything begins and ends with Rayna. She is the matriarch of this series and Connie Britton has done a superb job making us all remember a simpler time when Patsy Cline and daytime soaps were legitimate religions for most Americans. She shines on the small screen and has brought all that undeniable magnetism from season 1 of American Horror Stories to Nashville this year in large doses. All of that and her newfound propensity to handle life’s hiccups with a bottle in her hand makes it a safe bet to assume she will have some huge, easily avoidable but nonetheless engaging, life-shattering slip up. If only because she is the actress and character most trusted in the cast to be able to pick herself back up. Deacon might be able to pull this off too, but Nashville is, if anything, about the women. Rayna is simply queen (even if “co-headlining”). And the queen needs to eat first. Liam the music man will increasingly look like food to her as the season moves towards its finale.

With that resolved, the next most pressing question on the Nashville menu would then have to be: Wyclef?

In the early moments of this week’s Gossip Girl premiere, the image of our Serena van der Woodsen on a train, seemingly battered by a lifetime of pampering and poor decision making, bleeding from her nose like her cocaine had been laced with shards of glass, highlights mortality as a theme in this farewell run of the series that has put the Upper East Side and its scandalous denizens on the map (of everyone who hadn’t previously owned a map.) Our sweetheart has apparently fallen victim to a Princess Diana amount of spotlight, extensively narrated, if not prompted, these past five seasons by the titular voice-over blogger. But these are the first minutes of the first episode of the final season of Gossip Girl, a show as much a vehicle for Blake Lively’s youthful leggy blonde-ness as Gossip Girl is an implicit euphemism for Serena and the girls in our world like Serena, those that solicit and inspire gossip through glamour and celebrity. And smart viewers know that Serena isn’t going anywhere. However, the series does make an effort to go somewhere. Towards a hopefully satisfying close.

As I’ve discussed before, no one actually likes Gossip Girl. Even self-proclaimed fans must also proclaim just how disgruntled they’ve grown over the years and how disenchanted the series’ reluctance to even feign character development or growth has left them. The end of season five felt very much like a culmination of dead horse beatings. Serena once again outed herself as plainly everything bad about the trope she represents — the self-centered, self-destructive, socialite seeking attention — when she discarded both her relationship with Blair and Dan to pull a final ‘Hey, look at me. I’m someone. Love me.’ Coupled with the return of father Bass, because apparently we were all secretly pining for that, and Blair and Chuck reinstating their relationship, or something like that, the series had hit the reset button in various ways. The question remained, however, if the refresh would do us any good or would we find ourselves somewhere uncomfortably similar to where we’d come from when the show started. The van der Woodsen women are manipulative and oblivious. The Humphreys are sulking over heartache. Chuck has full-fledged daddy issues on display. Blair follows him blindly into calamity. Nate is ineffectual. The core of the show remains unchanged.

Season six begins with a reminder of how that may be in fact what we needed. A look back to the earlier seasons. Where’s Serena? proves to be a potently reductive, stripped down way of revisiting classic Gossip Girl. Reluctant alliances. Arbitrary competition. Horribly poor parenting on Lily’s part. All classic staples of the best GG storytelling. The group is back in full form and Dan, for all his faults, is apparently best utilized as the dark horse, the outsider, “Lonely Boy.” He reinforces the core group better than he plays nice amongst them and while his sulking may frustrate some, it establishes the UES as a place incomparable to the rest of the world, especially Brooklyn. While things may happen to Dan like breakups or disappointment, the Upper East Siders are apparently events in and of themselves that can resurrect from the dead as Vassar alums named Sabrina or crash civil union ceremonies and turn them into interventions. Dan is the straight man to this road act. With his self-righteousness and brooding in moderation, and everyone else willing to let go of the silly notion that they’re reasonable, responsible adults (Marriages? Pregnancies? Careers!? How gauche!?), we’re back on track. These are rich, spoiled, outlandish characters and these are their stories.

It’s even clear that relegating Ivy to hijinks with Rufus is a healthy decision consistent with Gossip Girl procedure for deviant characters. It’s not unlike sending problematic characters like Eric (or actresses like Taylor Momsen) to boarding school in London or Spain like Vanessa. And Ivy does well in the premiere to basically stay out of the way and plant seeds that can bloom within the next nine episodes (wow, it’s really almost over) without derailing anything important longtime fans would expect from a final outing with the gang that may never have fully matured out of their Constance Billard-St. Judes uniforms. It seems only right then that the final season start off feeling like they’ve almost put them back on.

How foreseeable does a reveal have to be before it ceases to be revealing? The question immediately comes to mind in the final moments of this week’s adventures in the White Collar division of Manhattan’s wacky FBI force. The episode showcases an FBI convention where highlights include an Inside the Actor’s Studio-styled interview with the presumed buddy cops of the year and law enforcement’s version of a science fair (also, there should be cookies available). Shockingly, the crime-free time that the FBI had anticipated for this little shindig is interrupted early on by crooks that don’t seem to take the sanctity of the event as seriously as Peter admonishes Neal to. But the latter still holds on to a grudge from last week’s betrayal (fueled by the betrayal prior to that and setting in motion the betrayal that occurs a bit later in this very episode).

As the season has progressed, it often seems that what we may have gotten ourselves into with White Collar is a melodrama with an aggressively overplayed signature note — trust issues. If either Neal or Peter were your best friend complaining to you about their significant other over sorbet and Ryan Reynolds movies while in pajamas, you would be hard-pressed to find a reason your friend should put up with this any longer. “He doesn’t deserve you!” you would proclaim with a snap and a neck roll. You couldn’t help but roll your eyes when your friend expresses how they feel imprisoned and disrespected and patronized constantly in their relationship. You would suck your teeth loudly when your friend tells you about the time their partner lied, stole, jeopardized your friend’s career, then fled the country. It just doesn’t make sense why they would continue with this. But in that instance and perhaps in this one, you would probably be blind to the unspoken dynamic at play here: Love Maintaining the status quo.

From very early on, this week’s episode, “Vested Interest,” speaks to the beginnings of Peter and Neal’s professional relationship to remind the viewer as well as the character’s of the strength and importance of their partnership. The need for Neal’s help in the Dutchman case is apparent despite Peter’s coyness, but Neal’s need for Peter must be parsed from the very premise of the show — Neal was caught and didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter but in general is a pretty good guy. But as the interview progresses a bit and the season’s Sam arc rears its head in the episode, we’re presented with, well maybe more reminded of, alternative and implicit justifications for their partnership. (Entertainingly ho yay interpretations aside; despite how fun a thoroughly erotic fan-fic story of Peter and Neal finally coming to terms with their yearning for one another, perhaps at a coffee shop or a hat store or as Neal paints Peter like one of his French girls, would be.)

Neal has daddy issues. Plain and simple. He’s had them since forever and they’ve been one of his biggest, most transparent character features since the love of his life exploded early in the series and he promptly forgot about her soon afterwards. Peter, with slight crow’s feet and mature gruff in his voice, exists so patently as a surrogate paternal figure that it should be no surprise that Neal’s unflinching youthfulness subsists without reproach from fans and characters alike. The way he womanizes as if women are simply bits of toys and candies; the way he rashly approaches any conflict or adversity without forethought; his apparent inability to handle the nuances of complex emotions; his largely juvenile and boyish demeanor. Peter seems to be the only man up for the job of setting him straight; sitting him down for the man-to-man talks a growing boy desperately needs sometimes. They’ve even been to a ball game together. To say that this is subtle would be to give too much credit, but it certainly keeps the dynamic of Det. Burke and Mr. Caffrey’s relationship more tight and interesting than any ankle bracelet ever could.

But from another angle, something Neal slyly suggests in the town hall discussion on the values of buddy cop-ing at FBI-con 2012 actually touches upon Peter’s implicit need for Neal. Neal spitefully hints at problems at home with Mrs. Burke and, not to take the point any further than necessary, it did at some point early on seem like Peter was having a hard time communicating with his wife, finding fulfillment, or being as exemplary at home as he is in the workforce. Elizabeth is portrayed as a beautiful, loving, and largely supportive woman these days but once upon a time, as in this episode as well, she was merely an afterthought, sometimes an inconvenience. Neal’s contribution to Peter and Elizabeth’s relationship is therefore undeniable. (Mozzie must be acknowledged here too.) It’s as if the Burkes, after some struggles, could finally conceive (the metaphor has grounding in several remarks made by the couple throughout the series) and the presence of the baby Caffrey has brought them even closer.

On both sides of the partnership between Neal and Peter there’s reinforcement of the value of family. This isn’t new to this season but what is new is the exploration into Neal’s actual family history. It definitely couldn’t have been a surprise that Neal’s father was in law enforcement when it was discovered several episodes ago because we already knew his surrogate daddy, Peter, is. All must remain the same and once again, the status quo seems maintained at all costs. Thus when the switcheroo finally occurs, surrogate dad for biological dad, there might not have been enough actual switch for viewers to take notice. Why would we be surprised that Neal’s dad would lie to him and keep his true intentions a secret, whether for genuinely altruistic reasons or just as an overbearing distrustful parent-figure, especially when this has been the premise of the series all along with Peter as dad? Why would Neal’s resolute attachment to an older man as he seeks to explore his own past and find the answers to questions he’s held on to for so long not lead him directly to his father? Again, how foreseeable does a reveal have to be before it ceases to be revealing?

I think the answer to the question rests on the appreciation one can garner from the elaborately deliberate set ups and pay outs of this series. Almost immediately after an exhibition of the best bulletproof vest in the world, the main character being shot doesn’t necessarily need to surprise you but certainly provides a provocative sort of assurance that White Collar means to coddle and protect you while it entertains you in the best ways it can muster. The world of the series is wholly artificial and manicured and neat with wholly manufactured grit (certainly neater and less gritty than actual New York City). The viewer is presented with surprises and drama not in a traditional sense of unsuspected occurrences and rising and falling action. Surprise, drama, and even family for White Collar are simulated and deconstructed and reinterpreted while the sheen and sturdiness of this world are painstakingly maintained. Sam as dad, in this sense, is less of a shocking reveal, but rather another brick laid to a solid foundation or another shiny thing to play with while safely inside. If at any point there was a fear of things being shaken up, the arrival of Papa Sam has surely put that to rest. And he was a pretty good dad on Everwood, so we’ll probably be taken care of anyway.

(And yes. I’ve ignored the A plot of the criminal of the week. But the plan was so lackluster and destined to fail that I’m fairly sure half of the fictional FBI agents in the vicinity simply ignored it as well, too distracted by those cookies.)