Spend all week staring directly into the sun waiting for the transit of Venus to start? Here's what you missed on TV.
Well, Saw That Coming
Even if show creator Matthew Weiner hadn't hinted that someone was going to die on this season of Mad Men (season 5, episode 12), the downward spiral of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) made it increasingly plain that he was not going to get out of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce alive. But the fact that he couldn't get his brand new Jaguar (the agency's newest and most prestigious client) to start when he was trying to use the exhaust pipe to suffocate himself took the show's subtle black humor to a bitter new level, and the culmination of a series of jokes about the car's unreliability all season.
He's Got A Point
On Girls (season 1, episode 8), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) hopes to get Marnie (Allison Williams) out of her funk after her ex goes to Rome with his new girlfriend. Soon, the pair of them are flirting with a middle-aged Manhattanite (Bridesmaids co-star Chris O'Dowd) who thinks he's getting lucky with both of them. But when Marnie clumsily messes up his expensive rug, the power suddenly shifts: O'Dowd unleashes an epic, profane rant against both girls that sounds uncannily like every complaint critics have made about the preciousness and self-absorption of this divisive series.
The Win That Matters Most
On the season finale of Game of Thrones, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is in ruins. Though his cunning and bravery ultimately led to victory over Stannis Baratheon's troops, his father Tywin (Charles Dance) got all the credit. On top of everything, he became horribly facially scarred during the battle. Yet Shae (Sibel Kekilli), tenderly chooses to stay by his side as the proud man stays to regain his standing rather than fleeing the kingdom in disgrace. Dinklage plays the scene powerfully, as if Shae's devotion is the greatest reward possible.
What Are We Learning?
Remember when TLC used to be called The Learning Channel? On My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding (season 1, episode 6), we learn that when selectively-edited reality TV series turn their cameras on subcultures known for their insularity, it's only a matter of time before there's a giant fistfight between two women in bridesmaids dresses on the street in front of a courthouse minutes before a wedding. One of them, Diamond, is the maid of honor; the other, Mellie, is a twice-divorced exotic dancer who, according to a newspaper story in her West Virginia hometown newspaper, has already filmed a pilot for a TLC spinoff about her and her sister. Learning!
Accurate and Positive, You Say?
The big news of the Miss USA Pageant came after the broadcast, when a sulky Miss Pennsylvania claimed the pageant was fixed. (Pageant head Donald Trump is now suing her.) But the most idiotic on-air moment came when eventual second runner-up Miss Ohio, asked by judge Marilu Henner for an accurate and positive portrayal of women in film and TV, cited Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Y'know, the 22-year-old movie where she plays a prostitute that Richard Gere takes on a shopping spree. That's seriously the best she could come up with?
Rebooting The Glee Project
Last summer, The Glee Project ended up giving away a total of four guest star roles. Having apparently been told by the accountants to put a lid on it, the show is promising that only one of the 14 contestants this season will win. Because executive producer Ryan Murphy wants to be seen as even more inclusive than Lady Gaga, we meet contestants who are transgendered, wheelchair-bound, autistic and blind. So who wins? Why, the pretty, skinny blonde girl, of course! He may be inclusive, but he's still in showbiz.
Finally Some Progress
Duets is an interesting idea for a singing competition series -- the mentors not only give the young hopefuls feedback, they actually sing with them onstage -- but so far, it's all been mostly filler. For the first time, the mentors eliminated one of their singers this week, after an a cappella faceoff between Kelly Clarkson's Jason and Robin Thicke's Alexis. Unfortunately, both singers took on R&B classics ("Me and Mrs. Jones" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," respectively) that were simply too big for their thin voices, but Alexis came off worse and was the first of the eight singers sent off.
Call Me Fallon
Canadian overnight sensation Carly Rae Jepsen appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Thursday night to perform her ubiquitous hit "Call Me Maybe." Although she and her touring band (including one adorably dorky backup singer) did a fine version of the summer's hottest pop song, a viral video surfaced the next day that did it one better. Jepsen, Fallon and house band The Roots performed the song backstage with instruments you'd find in an elementary school music room: kazoo, ukulele, melodica, toy xylophone, bongos and lots of tambourines. Of all the viral musical hits Fallon has turned out, this has to be the most sweetly endearing.
Underground Comedy Goes Over
Cult comedy star Scott Aukerman has transferred his podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! to the screen for an IFC summer series. Along with bandleader Reggie Watts (who's due to become a comedy superstar any day now), Aukerman offers loose, goofy sketches and a put-on interview with another comedy star each episode. It's not necessarily for everyone (there's a definite sense that you have to be a comedy insider to catch all the jokes), but this week's quirky interview with Zach Galifianakis -- star of the Aukerman-created Between Two Ferns faux-interview show -- suggests that it'll be a nice way to pass Friday nights until Portlandia comes back.
Occupying The Real World
Though Maher and I are mostly on the same page politically, I find Real Time With Bill Maher nearly as irritating and facile as Rush Limbaugh's show. But occasionally, he stumbles upon something worth saying amidst the steady stream of derogatory names and sexist asides. This week, he had some genuine, sincere advice for the fizzling Occupy Wall Street movement, suggesting that adopting a more concrete set of goals and organizational tactics would do more to bring their core message across. Or as he put it, "I think it was Gandhi who said, 'The park? Again? Really?'"