Tuesday, November 30, 2021

What I’m Watching: Succession

Succession: Season 3, Episode 6 “What It Takes” (B+)

In the middle of everything that’s going on, this episode felt like a fever dream, one that literally found the Roy family gathering together to discuss and pick the next president of the United States. To think that this is how it happens in real life is pretty frightening, and that’s part of the idea here, best expressed through Shiv’s inability to have her important perspective taken seriously. Alleging that her opinion should count twice as much as Roman’s wasn’t her best argument even if it’s probably true, and the ability of everyone else to simply ignore her very valid concerns about the fascist tendencies of their ultimate choice was extremely disturbing. Being forced to stand in a photograph expressing support for him was the last straw, but, like so many in real life, she wasn’t able to make any other choice in that moment. There was a solid cast of contenders playing the possible candidates, including Reed Birney, who I just interviewed recently, as another hapless vice-president, Stephen Root as Ron Petkus, and Yul Vasquez as Rick Salgado. I’m intrigued by the casting of Justin Kirk, a typically comic figure from “Weeds” who has made mildly dramatic efforts recently in “APB” and “Perry Mason,” as Jeryd Mencken, the candidate who refers to Hitler by his initial and thinks that it’s sometimes okay to invoke him as a role model. The notion that Tom’s obsession with going to jail is properly founded is unsettling, though his research continues to be light-hearted and absurd, and I have a feeling that he’s ultimately going to switch sides and take Kendall up on his offer for a way out of this.

What I’m Watching: Dexter: New Blood

Dexter: New Blood: Season 9, Episode 3 “Smoke Signals” (B+)

Say what you will about the necessity of this show, but it manages to get some great talent involved. I was immediately intrigued to see Molly Park show up as an alleged volunteer activist, and her later-revealed identity as a true crime podcaster makes her even more interesting. I first saw Jamie Chung in her role as Blink on “The Gifted,” and she’s since made memorable appearances on “Lovecraft Country” and “Mr. Corman.” It’s clear that Harrison has inherited a number of Dexter’s tendencies, putting his hands on the throat of one of the boys he saw tormenting and catfishing Ethan, and hopefully, like his father, he wants to help exact justice in a better way, keeping careful watch on Ethan’s violent inclinations and taking care of the bullies himself. There is absolutely something suspicious to his high scores and his response to being accused of cheating, but maybe it is superintelligence, which he’ll surely use to questionably noble aims. Dexter is hallucinating an increasingly violent Deb, who constantly threatens him and imagines using a woodchipper outside of the school, and that definitely offers a more severe image of what Dexter is doing than Harry’s careful, sophisticated guidance. Dexter didn’t end up being identifiable in the video footage of Matt shooting the deer, but now he’s about to give Kurt a ride home, very puzzled about why he would lie and say that Matt called him when he knows him to be dead. Edward Olsen’s roadside run-in with Audrey was a tense and memorable scene, and I still want to know more about who Iris was and what happened that has so affected everyone who knew her.

What I’m Watching: The Great

The Great: Season 2, Episode 2 “Dickhead” (B+)

It’s really fascinating watching how Catherine is trying to implement change and relying on her advisers for different things while not necessarily cluing them in to all of her plans. Velementov and Orlo both understand how the establishment works and what must be done, but they also didn’t inform Catherine of everything, like their stabbing of one noble they knew would never work with their new regime. Archie’s role was particularly interesting since the patriarch held a compelling sway over even the unruliest of nobles who were disrespectful enough of Catherine to share his true feelings on her and then urinate in the room. Catherine managed to make it to the coronation in the dress she wanted to wear with Peter not having a speaking role and even to announce a few sweeping changes, like freedom of religion in the country. There are so many elements plotting and trying to figure out how to cope in this new world, with Elizabeth actually offering the best advice and ignoring Archie’s suggestion that they kill Catherine and she be crowned instead. I think I’m most excited to see how characters like Grigor and Georgina are adapting to their new reality, firmly on Peter’s team but not content to see how it feels to be relegated to second-class citizenry. Marial is adjusting quite nicely to being back on top, enjoying the luxuries of free movement and fine fruits, content even to indulge Velementov because it fed her self-esteem. Catherine’s patience is wearing thin but she’s accomplishing things remarkably nonetheless.

Monday, November 29, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Great (Season Premiere)

The Great: Season 2, Episode 1 “Heads It’s Me” (B+)

I’m so happy that this show is back, and this was a fantastic season opener. I remember watching the season finale having just heard that the show had been renewed, and what a wonderful decision that was. I wasn’t sure if this whole season would be them at war, and I like that a treaty has now been signed but Peter apparently has no intention of honoring it while Catherine will surely want to kill Peter more than ever. It’s good to see that Catherine is still a reasonable leader, eager to lecture kids about why they shouldn’t play soccer with a dead man’s head and urging a smart plan rather than Orlo’s bloodlust. Peter’s attitude was not at all surprising, refusing to assess the situation or admit that he was trapped, even ordering that his adviser be “searched for balls” when he expressed anything but the utmost confidence. While Peter was prepared to eat a rat after debating the various culinary options, Catherine knew exactly how to get to him by preparing a delicious-smelling pig just over the water. I’m particularly intrigued by the way supporting characters like Grigor and Georgina, who need Peter to be present in their relationship and have no desire to die if he does in fact end up being killed. Marial’s unwillingness to even acknowledge any wrongdoing on her part after simply switching sides did seem to impress Catherine, who has less to worry about with traitors in her midst than with the duplicitous nature of her husband, who wants twenty minutes a day with her and her son and also plenty of sex with his very disgusted and uninterested wife. Casually offering up Leo’s head, which he had mummified as an apparent gift for her, cements his extremely twisted misunderstanding of her needs. That final scene with her look as everyone was chanting “Empress Catherine, huzzah!” was formidable.

What I’m Watching: The Shrink Next Door

The Shrink Next Door: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Foundation” (B+)

It’s incredible to see just how disconnected Ike is from reality, so intensely focused on different moments yet not processing them the way others are. He didn’t care that his wife was not happy about him filming the birth, where he proudly declared that it was a boy only to find out that he had mistaken the umbilical cord for a penis. He wasn’t paying enough attention to cancel a lavish deli catering delivery for a bris that wasn’t going to happen, and it wasn’t because he was sleep-deprived since, despite his empty offers to do what he could, he’s nowhere near as invested in being a parent as he is in bleeding Marty dry of any of his “assets.” Lowering his financial contribution to the foundation and offering to buy shots for everyone around him at the open bar were the clearest signs that he’s trying to be as minimally responsible as possible while controlling everything. Upselling the $1000 per plate to a $6000 savings for the whole table should have been appalling yet seemed perfectly in line with what he’s been consistently doing, while he can’t even be bothered to shell out money for a nurse for his babies since he doesn’t believe his wife needs the help. The $20,000 bid for the baseball was his most egregious gamble yet, and the supposed heart attack he saved Marty from was entirely of his own doing. The saddest part is that Marty met a kindred spirit who would have been good for him in Hannah, but sensing a threat to his omnipotence, Ike brought up with her for him, something that he may never know but he’ll surely be furious to find out if he can ever bring himself to see what Ike is actually doing to him.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 3, Episode 5 “Sang from the Heart, Sire” (B+)

The idea of everyone gathering together for a family sing-along to distract from the problems of the world and of the moment is a very familiar and relatable concept that has persisted throughout history, and the specific circumstances of this event are merely what make it applicable to this situation. After Mrs. Dickinson was horrified that the quilt she donated was having its value determined by bidders, she and Edward noticed how much they were being shunned in public, which turned out to be thanks to Edward’s letter expressing a degree of sympathy for the Confederacy. Having a sing-along was a great idea since it rallied not only Edward’s spirit but also Sue’s after she was completely exhausted and not remotely in the mood to even respond to Austin’s repeated attempts to spend time with the baby. Things went well for a while but then quickly devolved, and Austin’s vow to leave his father’s firm to become a divorce attorney, beginning with his own divorce from Sue, was harsh but didn’t bother her since she figured that he would forget he had even said it by the time he was sober again. Sue giving Emily notes on her poem didn’t sit well, but her discovering that Emily had been sending the very personal poems to Colonel Higginson was the most painful moment, one in which Sue likened Emily to Austin, which is the cruelest comment she could have made. Lavinia’s vow of silence was rather typical, a supposed gesture of support that was more about her introspection, and Henry’s time spent with the unrecognized regiment is a better serious, if still peculiar and distinctively stylized, focus on the actual war that’s going on in this show’s universe.

What I’m Watching: The Morning Show (Season Finale)

The Morning Show: Season 2, Episode 10 “Fever” (B)

This was definitely a dramatic episode, one that tried to come close to the impact of Alex and Bradley going on live television to take down the toxic culture at their network in the previous finale. But even though the sexual harassment and assault storyline in season one was also invented, there was something that felt less genuine about Alex getting COVID and then being featured in her own lengthy, truth-laced rant on camera about how she was coping with it. What spoke to me more was the way in which the real-world consequences for normal people were explored, like Daniel quitting and citing the realities of him being a black man sleeping in his car while he was driving out to LA to get his grandfather. Cybil being the only one to sit masked in a meeting about postponing the launch, which Cory had to wait on but finally decided to do, was another solid but subtle example, as was Cory putting glass up around his desk after he and Stella looked at each other and realized that maybe they shouldn’t be sitting quite so close together. Cory confessing his love for Bradley wasn’t the redemption I thought we might get from the man who nearly blew up her newfound same-sex relationship, and she seemed too focused on finding her brother, which she did thanks to Alex’s encouragement of her using social media, to truly process it. I’m not sure what to make of Paola showing Cory the video of Mitch, and whether that fully closes Mitch’s storyline or threatens to open it again in a potential season three. I do like these characters and did find this show mostly compelling this season despite a few questionable points, and I would certainly watch more of it if a season three was commissioned.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Reese Witherspoon

Sunday, November 28, 2021

What I’m Watching: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 2, Episode 6 “Heart-Shaped Charm” (C+)

It’s very possible that this show has too many characters. At first, it was all about Rick and Ronald, the kidnapped girls, and the two private investigators searching for them, but now the focus has theoretically shifted to Jenny and Cassie, with numerous subplots going on that always seem to be taking up the majority of time in each episode. Travis’ efforts to out them as cops to remain undercover didn’t go so well for him since he was followed to his later reunion with Jenny, but he got abducted for almost the entire episode by Ren and Donno, who had absolutely no idea of who he really is. Cassie approached Max when she realized there might be a connection between her and what she’s been looking into this whole time, and it would be helpful if the kids thought to trust her since she could absolutely help them avoid what’s likely to be a violent and unpleasant fate. Mark’s decision to visit Wolf’s farm under false pretenses didn’t go too well, and the way in which Wolf commanded the dog to obey him and saw through Mark’s deception was unnerving. Sticking around to do some digging is not going to end well for him, and it’s also not like we want Ronald or Scarlet to be rescued since they’re both terrible, dangerous people. Things are about to be shaken up by Jag’s impending arrival, though I think that Ren is ultimately going to win out in the battle of the cartel siblings.

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 2, Episode 6 “A Dishwasher, a Fire and a Remote Control” (B)

I recognized actor D.B. Sweeney as the hapless chef Bert right away, and I was trying to figure out where I know him from since I hadn’t remembered seeing him for a long time. It turns out it was probably “Life as We Know It” and “Jericho” back between 2004 and 2006, which was a formative time for me in terms of my TV watching during high school. This was a lackluster part not on the same level as his previous roles, but he was still having fun talking about his vegetable soup with steak and other very problematic ideas for a kitchen that needed tremendous improvement. This was obviously much more about Gina than it was about Bert, and how her sunny nature doesn’t make her the best boss since she wants to avoid confrontation with anyone at all costs. Bette bonding with Jerry because they couldn’t sleep was a nice subplot, and I’d be fine if that storyline stays platonic and they just become good friends, especially since it doesn’t seem like Jerry is moving out anytime soon. Peter really shocked Spencer by kissing him, though we know there’s also more going on there with Peter that hopefully Spencer will be sensitive to once it eventually comes to light. Drew not feeling a sense of purpose anymore and putting his house on the market after Maddie didn’t want to travel with him was a huge step, and one that he’s surely going to need to be talked out of by Gina, who will realize that she has to give him some attention or a more permanent role at the facility if she doesn’t want him to spiral completely out of control. I enjoyed seeing Todd Robert Anderson from “You’re the Worst” as Drew’s patient, but I wish he had had more of a role and maybe even shared a scene or two with his costar Kether Donohue, whose Gabby hasn’t exactly been getting great material on this show.

What I’m Watching: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 2, Episode 7 “College/Pohantoon” (B)

Al going to college is a big deal, but it was never going to be easy, just like so many other adjustments to the American way of doing things. I enjoyed the casting of John Ross Bowie, an actor I feel like I’ve seen in so many projects over the years that it looks like I probably recognize most from “The Big Bang Theory,” as the professor who reacted poorly to Al coming to see him and then was beyond intimidated and subservient to Riley when he showed up to knock some sense into him. Getting Hazel’s input on all this is also always fun, and, after getting the adjustment he hadn’t necessarily earned, Al put his newfound psychology knowledge to use to work on Riley and the effects of his separation from Vanessa that he still hadn’t quite accepted. It was great to see more of Art’s dating life and how he so quickly found out when he wanted to go to a particular restaurant that Lois had previously been married to a big-time football player who, worse than anything else, Art had really liked. Lizzie was probably a bit too eager to rub it in his face and get his reaction on camera, but that does tend to be the way of doing things in this family, mocking rather than comforting, showing a different kind of support than perhaps the traditional loving way parents and children are supposed to be there for one another when things get tough.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

What I’m Watching: Psych 3: This Is Gus

Psych 3: This Is Gus (B-)

For a show that went off the air seven years ago, there have been a lot of follow-up movie specials that I feel like many cancelled series wish they could get off the ground. Maybe it’s just the willingness of this show’s stars to reunite for these one-off movies, and the fact that Peacock is the perfect streaming service to host them, with this one arriving less than a year and a half after number two, which premiered as an offering the same day Peacock first went public to audiences. I enjoyed how the actress who had been hired to play Selene’s sister asked if Shawn and Gus had Peacock, to which they responded it clearly didn’t exist, and I also appreciated the reference to how Rodriguez has “always been there,” a nod to actor James Roday’s decision to start using his birth name again to acknowledge his heritage. It was fun to see Lassie in a limited capacity, repeating the restaurant order instructions rather than the clever breakdown of the case they were supposed to be feeding him, and for Henry and Chief Vick to be featured in small parts too. Juliet’s excitement at being included in Selene and baby things was a blast to watch, and my favorite aspect of this show continues to be Shawn’s fake names for Gus that he occasionally accepts. The premise here was definitely absurd, but watching these guys continues to be entertaining. I’d tune in for a fourth movie and beyond, though I think other series should certainly be ahead in the queue for the TV movie treatment.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

What I’m Watching: Home Economics

Home Economics: Season 2, Episode 8 “Two Thousand Pounds of Sand, $240” (B)

This episode aired a week before Thanksgiving but is totally seasonally appropriate, presenting a very relatable concept of the next generation taking over hosting duties to mixed results. The rarely-seen matriarch of the Hayworth family, Muriel, has always been a bit out of touch with the way the world works, and she was experience a real sense of hopelessness as she found herself to be increasingly relevant. Not being needed to help make Thanksgiving was particularly bad timing, and leave it to the three hapless siblings to ensure that one dish got ruined enough that they would need her to swoop in and take over. They didn’t plan to screw up the entire dinner but managed to do that, but getting together in Sarah and Denise’s humbler apartment felt more genuine and family-like than having a private chef making Caribbean delicacies and an accompanying musician in Connor’s mansion of a home. I enjoyed the introduction of Denise’s travel influencer sister Jojo with her bringing trash from her car rather than a gift, and Denise’s reaction to her talking about the many things her parents had or hadn’t given her was extremely entertaining, leading up to a sentimental ending about how Jojo actually envies everything Denise has. Sarah trying to drive home the “real tradition” of Thanksgiving being smallpox was very much in line with her eternal efforts to reeducate those around her, something she seems to do especially when she doesn’t expect her audience to be receptive to the information she is putting out into the world.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 7, Episode 6 “Deus Ex Latrina” (B)

Naturally the legends would end up not where they were planning to but instead in 1986 literally hours before Chernobyl, and then they would go ahead and warn people so that one of the most historically significant events didn’t happen at all in the way it was supposed to. I did appreciate the renewed focus on Bishop and how he hunted the legends to get revenge for them abducting him, only to find out that he had been replaced with a robot version of himself so that he could serve out his purpose as a time master with a militant Gideon keeping him in line. Assistant Ava was doing a pretty good job of that before she got jettisoned into the temporal zone, and now Bishop was able to show that he didn’t need dignity and eject out of the Wave Rider on a toilet just in time to land on the legends as they were about to finally use the time machine to escape their confinement. It will be fun to see him join forces with them as he explains what he has learned to be true, and it’s convenient that another perfectly good and functional Wave Rider exists out there for them to eventually retake. The human Gideon’s newfound relationship with Gary is an interesting development, one I would consider positive since it means that Gary isn’t obsessing about Nate’s relationship with Zari, something he’s being awfully public about rather than just discussing directly and openly with her.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Flash (Season Premiere)

The Flash: Season 8, Episode 1 “Armageddon, Part 1” (B)

It’s weird to have this show premiere now, but it hasn’t been that long since I last saw it given that its finale only aired a few months ago in July. I had remembered reading something about a major crossover in this premiere, but I didn’t realize that – fortunately – it’s all confined to this show, which means I don’t have to pick up a number of series I don’t usually watch for just one episode. It’s fun to see Brandon Routh back as Ray, though he seemed a bit cockier than usual, especially in his interactions with Chester and his complete lack of awareness that Barry and Iris weren’t exactly expecting an unannounced visitor. It’s good that he’s there, of course, given the newfound threat against Team Flash, one that seems like it’s going to be infinitely epic in nature. After easily outthinking the poker gang, Barry went up against a far more formidable nemesis in Despero, and I like that he’s choosing to do what he does best, which is to be honest and forthright about his sincere intentions, to show Despero that he could never become the threat that he believes him to be. That concept is similar to what Superman did on “Superman and Lois” with John Henry that ended up working out in an interesting way. I’m curious to see what the next few episodes bring in terms of familiar faces, and how much time we’ll spend on subplots like Allegra fighting to be taken seriously in her new role.

Monday, November 22, 2021

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 5, Episode 4 “Faulty, Okay?” (B+)

I’m not sure there’s anything I enjoy more on this show than Issa being incredibly awkward and just committing to it even when it becomes painfully obvious. Responding to a question Nathan didn’t ask in front of everyone else was one such moment, and things didn’t get much better after that. The earthquake happening at the beach was an interesting moment, and of course that meant that Nathan dropped all the pizzas, resulting in one of those sand-covered slices being rescued from the ground and eaten anyway. I loved that Issa thought for a moment that Resha and Nathan were literally having sex in front of her when he was applying sunscreen for her and then thought that they must be sleeping together in general, something that Molly helped to clarify instantly by bluntly asking it in the car. Issa was quite distracted by the aggressive social media campaign that Crenshawn was leveling against her, but it’s good to see that she was able to be open and honest with Nathan at the end of the episode, indicating, as he echoed, that she didn’t want to be friends with him. Following that moment up with another minor earthquake was a fun way to highlight the instability of everything, both literally and metaphorically. Molly trying to decide between two of Nathan’s friends was an entertaining subplot, and she seems to be in a pretty good space at the moment. Kelli is still hooked on that whole being dead thing, telling anyone who will listen all about it.