Tuesday, January 26, 2021

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 4 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Employee” (B+)

For being in control of an entire floor, Zoey doesn’t actually seem to be in charge of all that much, and her employees have a better idea of what’s going on than she does. It could be because her mind is always elsewhere, though in this case Mo’s overly strong drinks resulted in her getting way too drunk and accidentally calling George to rehire him thinking he was…Max? Or Simon? That’s not clear, but she did play it far too cool with Max, who wasn’t happy that he felt like he was the only one focused on the business, even though Mo was working his own particular brand of magic. Though it’s not a good idea for Simon to start a relationship with Tatiana for professional reasons, they did connect on a personal level and it could be good for him since, regardless of Zoey and Max not working out and Emily rooting for Team Simon, it doesn’t look like Zoey and Simon are going to happen anytime soon (also because Aidan is back, which is going to complicate things in a big way). Maggie and Roger, on the other hand, does seem like a more possible occurrence, especially if Jenna continues to whisper in Maggie’s ear that it’s a good idea. It’s nice to see David realize what he needed in his life and go for it, and I’m sure that being a stay-at-home parent will produce its own challenges. In embarrassing song recognition, I misattributed “Stronger” by Britney Spears to NSYNC after the first few lyrics George sang and was promptly ridiculed by my wife.

What I’m Watching: Snowpiercer (Season Premiere)

Snowpiercer: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Time of Two Engines” (B)

This show is back just six months after its first season concluded and not too much more than that since it first started. It also just scored a season three renewal, so its characters are evidently going to survive for a while even that doesn’t feel likely at the moment. I do think that the casting of Sean Bean from “Game of Thrones” and “Legends” as Mr. Wilford is very strong, and he’s certainly indulging in the excess of his personality, which is far from kind to Melanie, who everyone seems to perceive as having deeply betrayed them. That’s especially true of Alex, who had no interest in getting to know her mother and only indicated a mild softness in comparison with the harsh, unfeeling nature of Mr. Wilford. It’s interesting to see how things have changed aboard Snowpiercer and how they’ve mostly rallied together, aside from a few rebellious elements and the unfortunate need for Andre to impose martial law. The leadership team of Andre, Ruth, and Bess has a diverse range of allegiances, and they seem most intent on the survival of the train and those aboard it. Zarah’s pregnancy being revealed and her being moved to first class surely won’t be taken well, though I think everyone has much literally bigger things to worry about with the giant who was apparently impervious to the freezing temperatures who managed to stop a full-fledged onslaught on the other train all by himself. The war is just getting started, and from the looks of it, both sides are equally in it to win.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Pilot Review: Bridge and Tunnel

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Euphoria (Special Episode)

Euphoria: Season 1, Episode 10 “F*ck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blob” (B+)

The first special episode of this show was really terrific, and I also just watched “Malcolm and Marie,” a fantastic film from series creator Sam Levinson that stars Zendaya. Hunter Schafer was my AFT Award winner for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and so it’s fantastic to get to see her almost exclusively anchor an episode. After Rue’s holiday hour opposite Ali, framing this one with Jules talking to a therapist was a strong way to approach it and to allow her to really communicate what it is that she feels. It’s fascinating to me how this show has introduced and addressed her transition, and how she views her connection both with men and with women. It’s also abundantly clear that she feels just as close to Jules as Jules does to her, and that final moment when Jules stopped by to wish her a merry Christmas was indicative of more positive things for them in the future. Hearing about her relationships and how she thinks she got to know Tyler better than she ever knew Rue was intriguing and heartbreaking, and the way she described the sexting with him as the best sex she ever had until he turned out to be such a horrible, manipulative fabrication was very intense. Coming home to find her mother there and eager to apologize after so many years of being absent was not what she was expecting, and that formative relationship, or absence of it, explains a lot about how she sees the world and how other people perceive her. I’m eager for this show’s official season two return.

What I’m Watching: Shameless: Hall of Shame

Shameless: Hall of Shame: Episode 4 “Debbie, Carl and Liam: They Grow Up So Fast” (B+)

I suspected that this hour was going to be about Debs and Carl and guess it makes sense that Liam would be part of it too. It’s crazy to me that both Emma Kenney and Ethan Cutkosky were only eleven years old when the show first started, and that Christian Isaiah was even younger than that on his first appearance – only nine! All three of them worked out superbly, and it was fun to end the episode with Kenney and Cutkosky being interviewed way back when. I’d say that the structure of this hour wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the previous halls of shame, but it was still a blast to see the very violent impulses that both Debs and Carl exhibited as children and the many irresponsible decisions they both made. I most enjoyed Carl not even pretending to exhibit remorse and then insulting the judge just so that he could sent to prison. I forgot that Frank had made Carl think he had cancer and then used Liam to beg for money, and also that Fiona had her own issues that led to a rock-bottom moment of Liam getting into her cocaine supply. Carl getting his nephew arrested was also something I didn’t remember, and I feel like there’s so much more that could have been into each retrospective episode and easily filled an entire season for each character. Carl selling guns when Fiona told him not to deal drugs and ending up with all of the teachers pulling out what he sold them when they heard a noise in the cafeteria was another moment that only this show could produce. Of all the significant others, I think that Kelly was my favorite, though I also liked Dominique. I do not miss Kassidi, who I’m pretty sure was murdered, which was pretty startling but not something I thought too much about since she wasn’t a great part of the show. Debs didn’t have much luck in the relationship department, with Claudia and Julia being the highlight, and it was a bit strange that Sandy didn’t even merit an appearance. Liam is probably the most ethical member of the family, but he seems more than eager enough to let the Gallagher influence corrupt him.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Take Three: WandaVision

WandaVision: Season 1, Episode 3 “Now in Color” (B+)

I’m still so curious to know what’s really going on and whether the developments we’re seeing are actually happening or if they’re merely something designed to keep them safe from whatever foreign elements are trying to intrude. The comedic storyline of this episode was an obvious send-up of many typical sitcom plotlines, like putting fruit in front of actresses to hide their pregnancies. I appreciated the unexpected segue into Wanda remembering that she too was a twin, which prompted Geraldine to break character and acknowledge that Pietro was killed by Ultron. She didn’t seem to understand why she knew that, and we just got that brief shot of her being ejected into a field with many modern-day vehicles. Vision also started to notice something was wrong when the doctor made his comment about not being able to leave and Agnes and Herb were suspiciously fixing the fence damage while noting that Geraldine didn’t have a home. Compared with the first two episodes, this one had more of a focus on the unexplained, dropping just a few hints to distract from the blissfulness of the sitcom, and making it seem that, though the other people in town might have noticed that something weird is going on, they may already know it. The doctor was nauseated by the speed he traveled with Vision but not all that floored by the fact that he did it. I’m particularly mesmerized by Elizabeth Olsen’s performance and her superb handling of the changing tone on this show.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 5 “Forbidden Fruit a flavor has” (B+)

Emily spent this entire episode telling herself that everything that was being said about Samuel being a player wasn’t true, and then she went ahead and indulged in a very passionate moment at the end. Sue seemed more distraught about it then she did since she actually knows Samuel’s wife and cares about her. I’m not sure why I never clicked through to figure out who the actor portraying Samuel was since I’ve been certain that I recognized him since his first appearance, and it makes so much sense now that he was Danny Rand on “Iron Fist.” This show and role are infinitely better uses of his talents. Everyone did seem to pivot to pretend like they were Emily’s most devoted fans as she appeared to be becoming famous, aside, of course, from her own family members, who couldn’t be bothered to come since they wanted to make a statement that they didn’t support Austin and Sue’s frivolous lifestyle. Those two aren’t on the same page on anything at this point, and it has nothing to do with the problems – namely, Sue and Emily’s feelings for each other – that initially plagued their relationship. Without a promising career as a poet to look ahead to, Lavinia, who is quickly becoming my favorite character, is trying to keep herself occupied and interested, and I like how she took Ship’s lackluster attempt at becoming smart as an opportunity for some academic role play, proving that “The Scarlet Letter” can be relevant in many ways.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Pilot Review: Losing Alice

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 1, Episode 4 “Therapy” (B)

It seems like Kat tends to leave her employees unsupervised at the cat cafĂ© quite often, and at least they’re not deliberately irresponsible even if they always encounter some big problem within moments of her departure. In this case, it was not being able to distinguish the batch with drugs from the one without it, and having each of them try one was a smart way of figuring it out. It became quite obvious as soon as Phil wanted to take off all his clothes to be invisible which one he had tried, and Randi did her best to take care of him. Tim Bagley, a familiar face from “Will and Grace” and “Monk,” was well-cast as Wyatt, the ever-present patron who would rather make up fake reasons to have his coffee replaced than just ask for the already free refills. Usman Ally from “Veep” had a mostly silent role as the therapist who was overshadowed by his clients, but what he did say was emphatic and indicative of a resentment towards the unkind comments so flippantly made by Kat and Sheila as they delved into the meat of their relationship. Picking apart the shortcomings of others wasn’t a very healthy way of seeing the world, and I don’t know what to say about Kat’s defense of galloping other than that it’s the kind of thing that only really exists in television or movies since no one would take it seriously in real life. At least it’s moderately entertaining to watch, even if it’s not thoroughly believable.

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 6 “Open Heart Surgery” (B)

It’s no secret that Drew has control issues and is relatively high-strung, and he would naturally impart his own neuroses a psych evaluation that his kidney donor was requited to have. I enjoyed her typical ribbing at the start of the episode, adding previous and future events to the shared calendar just after they were mentioned so that she could pretend she had properly informed him about them. Gina’s sudden obsession with her ex and his new girlfriend did threaten to derail her, but just as she’s able to function normally every day at work, she did perfectly during the evaluation even if Drew nearly messed it all up by trying to peek in through the outside window. Taking her shopping for cheap items was a nice present, and I love that she forced him to shoplift by hiding something on his body, a pack of gum that he was happy to share with his dialysis friends. Their bantering is pretty funny, and I like that Samantha isn’t the least bit ashamed to have gone to a different dentist than Jerry who had a better Yelp rating and that she shared the “Crazy Rich Asians” plot instead of her own personal details so that she wouldn’t be letting her guard down in any way. Eli being the one who others got hung up on was also quite entertaining. My favorite part of this show, however, is the fact that Gina makes Drew star in her videos and that, even though he’s incredibly awkward, he manages to play his assigned roles decently.

Friday, January 22, 2021

What I’m Watching: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 1, Episode 4 “The SAC” (B)

This show is still deeply peculiar, but I did find myself cracking up uncontrollably twice during the episode, and that’s not something that happens all that often. The first time was Neil asking Tommy how his sister’s cousin wasn’t also his cousin, and Neil’s response to Orly wanting to move 24,000 miles away so that she could travel all the way around the earth and then back was number two. I also loved Arpi’s immediate response to Jayden’s icebreak question about her favorite salty snack as bran flakes, which apparently have more sodium than you’d think. Arpi was very excited to go to Sacramento to combat oil drilling, and while her fears that Neil was sending her to sabotage her turned out to be unfounded, she was nearly felled by the giant blueberry pancake that Jayden stepped in to eat for his new best friend. I was quite concerned that he was up for a staring contest while he was driving, and fortunately no one was hurt in the process. It wasn’t a surprise to see Rachel Dratch, a frequent guest on “30 Rock,” as Ms. Adams at school, and of course Orly wasn’t actually doing anything bad but instead just rebelling in a relatively harmless teenage way that mostly involved being bored by her dad. Tommy got a little too into creating the finsta, attaching himself to the idea of Emmy even though she didn’t exist, and tipping Orly off in a big way as if his overuse of modern slang terms and abbreviations wasn’t obvious enough in itself. I would also beg to differ that no one under sixty is named Nancy – I have a good friend my age with that very moniker.

Round Two: Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 2 “Distressed Jean” (B)

This second outing was moderately predictable but still fun, and I think that this premise should work well as its characters develop beyond the initial setup. Jean getting a job to keep her busy, for instance, is one such positive change. Now her family members won’t have to argue about who has to babysit her and will instead only see her maybe once a day for a meal or even less frequently if she starts to build more of a social life. I like that the attraction between Jean and Danny is something that’s being so openly talked about, even in front of her children, while the presence of his wife, though they’re separated, is hindering any substantial progress on that front. Jean’s constant conversations with Sharon on her propped-up tablet feel very pandemic-relevant, but of course that’s just something that’s happening in normal life since this show makes no mention of our current situation. I would like to learn more about Jackie and Freddie’s lives apart from their connection to their mother, and I’m hopeful that they’ll get more of a focus going forward aside from just a little love life trouble and playing video games all day, respectively. Celia and Lane are being used pretty well, both far more into spending time with Jean than either of her children are and possessing more personality and individuality than you might expect from supporting characters. I’m happy continuing with this show – it’s light and fun, and I can’t really say that about most of the programming I currently watch.

What I’m Watching: The Stand

The Stand: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Vigil” (B)

It turns out that Harold’s cameras didn’t put him a step ahead of Frannie when she refused to dismiss her concerns about him being creepy, but he still showed up just as she had discovered everything and locked her in the basement long enough to execute the big explosion that was set to happen during the vigil. Nadine showed up and smiled while she was actively planting the devices, and it’s interesting to see the semblances of morality that emerge, like her not wanting children to get hurt even though they’re theoretically just going to grow up to be part of the wrong generation allied with Mother Abagail. Having her run into Flagg in the woods showed the different ways in which they view their power, and how she is legitimately afraid of what he might do, whereas he doesn’t feel threatened by her, merely annoyed. He dealt swiftly with Bobby Terry, played by Clifton Collins Jr. from “Thief” and “Westworld,” who tried to betray and assassinate him only to be violently dismembered in full view of everyone in Las Vegas by the angry Flagg in the elevator. As soon as he heard mention of Mr. Moon, he knew that was the third spy, but fortunately Tom’s reading abilities enabled him to find the same text elsewhere, learn its meaning, and escape in a truck right before he got caught. I’m not sure he’ll be able to make it back to Colorado or that they’ll be able to focus following their own disastrous events, but at least he’s safe for now.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 6 “The Thoughtless Woman” (B+)

It’s so hard to read Dory and to figure out if she’s just playing games with Chip or she’s really been convinced by all the mind work he’s done on her. Taking her out into the world was a bold and surely risky move, and I don’t even think that leaving her alone with the keys in the ignition was meant to be a test. He freaked out when the ice cream place that made his beloved caramel balsamic swirl – which sounds disgusting, by the way – and Dory managed to salvage the situation by suggesting another place which made her much happier, mostly because it’s a welcome change in her diet. Running into Marc was a worrisome development, but it didn’t even seem like Chip noticed, though he managed to post her name and location to social media very quickly after she reacted very poorly to being identified. It was a welcome “break in the case” for her friends, who did manage to finally see through the elaborate deception that was put on for them at the factory by Chip’s publicity-fearing parents. Portia’s “we actually did it, we put our minds to it and found Dory” was a bit too congratulatory, but they are indeed close now to finding her, even if she may not be eager to come with them if they do show up to rescue her. The role of Chip’s father was a good fit for Griffin Dunne from “This Is Us” and “House of Lies,” and Deborah Rush from “Orange is the New Black” and “Billions” was a great choice to play his mother. I’m curious to see how much following up they’ll do on these troubling allegations. I don’t often comment about the song choices on this show, but the closing number was really perfect.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 5 “Doctor Mindbender” (B+)

I had excused the dim-witted trio of Drew, Elliott, and Portia believing that Dory had written a letter that sounded nothing like her because of their gullible tendencies, but you’d think the police would be a bit more discerning than to trust that kind of correspondence which almost gives away the fact that she was being held hostage. Fortunately, the newly-formed search party wasn’t about to accept that, even if Drew did want to be politer than his friends, but after getting helpful information in the least helpful and most poorly-communicated manner, they got themselves into yet another regrettable situation with no clothes or money and a long walk back to civilization. Recognizing Chip’s face on the food Portia was desperately trying to open was a positive ending note, and maybe that will lead them at least to where Chip is currently holding Dory and actively brainwashing her. I assumed he would be angry about the fact that she admitted to killing Keith and April, but he’s just convinced himself it’s not true, something he’s now trying to do with her too. Telling her that she was holding a pear and not a murder weapon was indeed trippy, and April’s postcard in which she talked about being a “jumpy girl” before the doll’s head fell off was just as joltingly problematic yet somehow still seemed to soothe a very troubled Dory. What I’m not sure is if she’s resigned herself to this alternate reality or if she’s still fighting back, but Chip’s use of that very real voicemail will definitely make her feel at least temporarily closer to her kidnapper than to the people who call themselves her friends.