In the visual arts, I watched three DVDs this week:
The second season of Happy Endings is, seven episodes in, much funnier than the first. How much funnier? There's a bit they cut from the first episode — a fake commercial voiced by Eric Stoltz — that it significantly funnier than anything I remember actually making it to air in the first season. It's tempting to attribute this solely to the addition of former Community writer Hilary Winston to the staff, but it's probably just because over the course of the first season, they discovered the particular strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses of their ensemble and applied that to the new scripts. Not that having a Community vet in the writers room hurts. It's still not tremendously original, and some of the characters are defined as well as I might like, but all in all it's a really solidly constructed and well-written sitcom, which is more than you can say for most.
Oh, so that's what happened to Mark Brendanawicz! The funny thing about Mark is that when I started watching Parks and Recreation earlier this year, I had no idea the character had ever existed, nor that Paul Schneider had ever been on the show. That's probably due to not being exposed to people talking about the show until I started following a lot of Community fans on Twitter in September 2010, right before the third season started. Anyway, I don't think I'll miss him; when the show was being developed, it probably seemed like a good idea to have a character like him occupying the middle ground between Leslie and Ron on the government-employee spectrum, but once Leslie got over her crush on him, there wasn't much point in keeping him around. As for the rest of the season, I was a little disappointed that Andy and April's relationship didn't work out, but I really liked the way they introduced Adam Scott and Rob Lowe to the cast, so it all worked out.
After expressing some reservations about continuing with The Big C after finishing the first season, someone — college pal Kirsten, maybe? I wish it was easier to search for Facebook comments — recommended I keep going. So I did, and so far I like the second season more than the first. Having Cathy's secret out in the open makes a huge difference, I think. Except in the case of Adam, who was no prize last season and is even more of a jackass this season.
In the literary arts, I finished two books, sort of.
College pal Lisa suggested we start reading Wodehouse together, and we recruited a few other college friends to join us. We started with Wodehouse's first book, My Man Jeeves, which I'm told doesn't represent Wodehouse at his best, but I think starting from the beginning is a good way to see how an author develops his or her voice over time. It's a funny book, and I'm looking forward to talking it over with the gang.
Another week, another sort of book by Jane Austen. This week it was Sanditon, of which she wrote 11 chapters before abandoning it. It's really fascinating how different it is from any of her completed books, being much more about a community of people than about any one person specifically. There were elements of this in Emma, thanks to its length and its being set entirely in and around Hartfield, and one might look on it as a natural outgrowth of that aspect of Emma. I was particularly tickled by the character Mr. Parker, who is indistinguishable from many community and economic development specialists I've met over the years. It's a real disappointment she never finished this novel; I'd love to see how it turned out, so much so that I'm contemplating trying one of the several continuations that have been written. Next up on the Austen front: the juvenilia, then I'm done!