Monday, August 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 2, Episode 6 “New Case, Old Murder” (B)

This show just got very dark, transforming Lavinia from someone who got away with murder to a powerful heiress with her aims set very squarely on Josh. Calling him “lawyer” makes him seem less like a person and more like a target. Larry always called him Josh, and we also found out eventually that he didn’t do it, while the question now is who Lavinia killed, not if she killed someone. Getting caught on the hot mic in the bathroom congratulating herself on getting away with murder wasn’t helpful since she can’t be retried for the same case, and Carol Anne seems much more concerned with restoring her good name and winning a retrial than helping her number one foot masseur to convict Lavinia for something everyone is aware that she did. It was good to see Jaleel White, best known as Steve Urkel from “Family Matters” and more recently seen on the short-lived “Me, Myself, and I,” as Atticus Ditto, Jr., Carol Anne’s key rival who kept trying to make his campaign pitch every time he spoke, only to be followed up by Carol Anne’s own efforts to curry favor with her voters. Dwayne deputizing Ann was downright scary, and this place is just getting more and more ridiculous. I’m not sure what was more awkward – Josh’s frequent diarrhea or the way he acted when both Carol Anne and Nina were around him at the same time. I particularly enjoyed their reactions to seeing each other on the boards that def definitely didn’t have to do with murder.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 2, Episode 5 “A Change in the Team” (B)

I was a bit surprised that things seemed to be wrapping up midseason, and I wondered what case might next fall to Josh and his one-person team. I had expected that this case was going to turn out the same way as the first one, with no one really having murdered the dead man, but instead, we got something different: Josh was on top of the world, ready to have the night of his life with Nina and enjoy eternal admiration from Lavinia, but now he has a much more arduous task in front of him. He knows that Lavinia killed Freda, which makes whether she killed Edgar somewhat irrelevant since that’s still a murder, but he’s had the case tossed in his favor after Carol Anne totally lost her cool and went berserk in front of the judge. Having Dwayne back on the team is a good thing, especially since he admitted in court that he thought Lavinia had done it, but I’m not sure he and Anne will believe Josh when he shares what he knows with them. Something tells me that Lavinia is going to be held in even higher esteem now that she’s been exonerated, and getting some sort of justice, which is what Josh is going to try hard to do, is going to prove exceptionally difficult if not impossible. Anne’s comments about getting Josh in Secret Santa and office parties being weird were a little much for me since there’s only so much suspension of disbelief possible when tuning in to this show.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Pilot Review: Carter

Carter (WGN)
Premiered August 7 at 10pm

We’ve never seen a show about someone who either writes about or plays a detective on television and then starts consulting about it in real life, have we? In fact, ABC premiered a series about just the same thing called “Take Two” less than two months ago. Technically, Bravo in Canada beat that one to the bunch with this series, which originally debuted back in May. There’s a reason that so many procedurals continue to exist, because they’re evidently popular with audiences and they do tend to be entertaining. This show was immediately very Canadian in its opening moments, with Harley explaining that he went to Canada after fleeing Hollywood following his red carpet blowout, and of course he’s from a small town where everyone knows each other and where the mayor would offer him a police consulting job. Jerry O’Connell has starred in a number of television series over the years, and at least this one doesn’t ask him to take himself seriously, employing his talents in the best way possible. The only other actor I recognize is Kristian Bruun, who was the much-tormented Donnie on “Orphan Black,” and his fortunes as Dave here don’t seem to be all that much better. Sam’s flirtation with Harley seems a bit too obvious and forward given how different their lives are, but it’s a foregone conclusion that something will happen eventually. For decent fun, this show is fine, but, given its lack of any true originality or creativity, it’s hardly must-watch television.

How will it work as a series? He said he’s not going to take the job, but that doesn’t mean he won’t still tag along on cases out of sheer boredom, and there’s apparently more of a mystery regarding his own life that he’ll have to solve, a process that’s sure not to be conducted too privately or discretely.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be decent, but it’s the ratings that really matter. The show did so well in Canada that it got a second airing on another network, CTV, and now it’s playing on WGN, which is yet another platform that should be easy enough to attract another audience. I’d expect to see more of this show in the future.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Casual

Casual: Season 4, Episode 2 “The Missing Piece” (B+)

In my review of the season premiere, I neglected to address any of the future things that were subtly featured as part of the regular plot. Val taking a driverless Uber home was a particularly relevant occurrence in this episode since she was hopeless to redirect it and then opted instead to redirect her interest and start a surprising new business. The more advanced version of Alexa that Alex was speaking to was entertaining, especially when Alex cursed at her and she responded that his remark was hurtful. As usual, Alex is fighting hard against something harmless that he’s hopeless to stop, trying to get Jeff to back off when all he’s trying to do is help and Rae is all about him being involved in her life. He tried to throw his relationship with Annie into overdrive, something she really didn’t want, and he needs to take a step back to realize what’s happening around him. I knew there was something up with Laura’s relationship but did not comprehend that she had essentially moved in with her new girlfriend without being invited to do so, creating some tremendous awkwardness and instability. Living with Val probably isn’t a bad thing for either of them, but we’ll have to see how it goes. Leia seemed like she was freaking out when she found out she was pregnant, but Leon warmly accepted the news as positive, and I think it should be good for the two of them, especially considering Leon’s recent frustration with everything going on around him.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pilot Review: Lodge 49

Lodge 49 (AMC)
Premiered August 6 at 10pm

Sometimes it’s just not clear where a pilot is headed, and this show made me truly wonder what the pitch was and why exactly anyone opted to turn it into a full-fledged series. I knew I recognized star Wyatt Russell, who appeared in “Ingrid Goes West” and played a far less likeable, ethical character in another underrated Sundance film, “Cold in July.” Here, he’s an aimless former surfer who doesn’t seem to understand how the world works, holding on to pieces of property that no longer belong to him and readily spending money without actually having a way to make any himself. Contrasting him with Brent Jennings’ Ernie, who has worked hard all his life without much to show for it, sets up expectations for I’m not exactly sure what. The final scene of this episode was considerably more poignant and purposeful than anything else in the opening hour, but that doesn’t change the fact that Dud is still a dud and that he’s not going to be any more worthwhile as a character now that he’s paid Ernie the $2000 fee he didn’t have to pay. Following characters who don’t know what they want to do with their lives and are in no rush to find out is a gamble, and this journey feels a whole lot like other cable efforts such as “John from Cincinnati” that just didn’t pan out, regardless of how they may have sounded in the initial meeting. This show might eventually find itself, but it doesn’t seem to have any clue where it’s going.

How will it work as a series? It’s billed as both a comedy and a drama, but I still can’t figure out if it’s supposed to have supernatural content, like Dud being destined to run out of gas right in front of the lodge, or if it’s just a straightforward show with an annoying lead character.
How long will it last? Puzzlingly, it’s received mostly positive reviews, which I can’t understand. Its ratings aren’t great, though AMC has never been a network that puts as much stock into viewership numbers as others do. Still, I think this might go the way of “Feed the Beast,” a high-concept series that just didn’t stick.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul (Season Premiere)

Better Call Saul: Season 4, Episode 1 “Smoke” (B+)

This show took an unusually long break since season three, returning in late summer instead of midwinter or early spring, and it’s really great to have it back. I didn’t find the third season, while still good, to be quite as consistently excellent as the first two, and I’m pleased to say that this seems to be a very positive start to the fourth cycle. It’s incredible how much Chuck, in his untimely death, is still one-upping his brother and making him feel like he hasn’t amounted to anything. Jimmy couldn’t even stay on the phone to listen as Howard rattled off his many accomplishments, and he responded heartlessly when Howard expressed that he blamed himself for Jimmy’s death, when Jimmy should be well aware that he is the one responsible. Seeing Jimmy have a heart attack of sorts while working at Cinnabon demonstrates the loneliness he’ll eventually experience as he pushes away those who continue to give him a chance, namely Kim and Howard. The storyline involving Nacho and Gus isn’t all that enthralling just yet, but I was thrilled to see Mike take on his new job with a surprising gusto, appearing to enjoy riding around on the cart and gleefully detailing the many security issues he’s already noticed in his first day on the job. I’m ready to see things start to connect and to have Jimmy officially get into the illegal business, a move that is sure to irk Kim and make her leave Jimmy behind for good after giving him so many second chances.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 4, Episode 8 (B)

Well, I didn’t see that coming. Killing off one of this show’s two leads in the middle of an episode is a bold move, one that makes considerably more sense with the information that Ruth Wilson wanted to leave the show. A few weeks ago, this show was renewed for a fifth and final season, so it doesn’t appear that there would have been all that much more for her to stick around and experience, but I suppose there comes a time for everyone to move on. Having her death confirmed by Noah is made all the more powerful by the fact that we’re still going to have the chance to see her again, with one of the final two episodes of the season sure to feature her descent into despair. I wasn’t ready for the irreversibility and seriousness of that moment after an episode featuring comedy about Cole and Noah being mistaken for a gay couple and Anton getting himself into trouble before taking the best shower of his life. I do applaud the way that things came together and Cole ended up in Milwaukee with flowers and then could so easily drive to O’Hare to pick Noah and Anton up when they happened to get stuck there. While Cole is devastated, I can only imagine how Luisa will feel knowing that she’s still alive but was his second choice, and I’m curious to see what role both of them will play in the final season without Alison as a connection anymore.

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 4, Episode 8 “Demons” (B)

This show came up in conversation with another TV fan who didn’t know that it was anything more than a movie, and it would be hard to believe that things would end up in 1491 with characters being beheaded when you look at the very different 1995 film and the 1962 French short on which that’s based. It does make some sense that the fight to save time would be taken back to a crucial era in our history where stakes seemed much higher and more weight was put on beliefs that were deemed either heretical or prophetical. It’s a good thing that Jennifer wasn’t burned at the stake as a witch, and of course we had some anachronistic weaponry from Cole and Cassie to save her at just the right moment. Olivia found herself a great right-hand man in the primary who didn’t want to listen to the voices. It’s always a shame to watch things play out where the good guys almost get the upper hand before it all turns and the weapon is completely destroyed with Titan on the move to who knows where. At least Adler got the suit working in time for Cole to make his escape and save everyone except Deacon, who honestly went out the way he probably would have wanted. Now that 1491 is a thing of the past, I’d hope the last three episodes won’t feature as many beheadings and people being burned alive. Cole is the one emphasized as the savior, but I think that the women on this show – particularly Emma and Hannah – may be the ones to save the day and save time itself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Casual (Season Premiere)

Casual: Season 4, Episode 1 “Carrie” (B+)

I had almost completely forgotten about this show, one that I always found to be underappreciated. Even though its third season wasn’t quite as good as the first two, I still see that I wrote that I wouldn’t want things to have ended at this point, and so, fortunately, we have eight episodes left to finish out everything. They all premiered on July 31st, and in addition to playing catch-up, I’m still going to watch one per week to make it last as long as possible. Flashing forward a few years is a helpful device, because we’re able to see how things are completely the same for Valerie in a way that isn’t helpful for her and is giving her nightmares, while the way that both Alex and Laura is completely different, though they’re fated to fall back into old habits. Valerie doing a therapy session with Leia showed how much she hasn’t progressed while her onetime assistant is now married to a much angrier, unhappier, and gradually anti-American Leon. Finding her neighbor dead and alone is going to serve as a serious wake-up call to make some changes in her life. Alex hasn’t just lost his facial hair, he’s also now an overprotective dad who thinks that his idyllic relationship with Rae and their daughter might last while she clearly has different expectations. I knew I recognized his potentially Republican love interest, and she was played by Dorian Brown Pham, best known as Kirsten on “Wilfred.” Laura has settled into what appears to be a healthy relationship with her new girlfriend, although not wanting to go out at the end of the episode might have deeper implications for the stability of her new life. I’m eager to see where all this goes and happy to report that this is a positive start to this show’s final year.

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 4, Episode 7 (B)

It’s definitely true that out of all the characters on this show, Helen is pretty much the most interesting. Maura Tierney is also the only performer to earn any Emmy attention during the show’s run, and she often gets the best material. I did feel for the first ten or fifteen minutes of this episode, as I have for some of this season thus far, that she was just around to be angry about everything and judgmental towards everyone. Fortunately, that changed as the episode went on and she got to gawk at Sierra’s complete lack of self-awareness, talking about Helen’s perfect life and revealing rather unsubtly that she had slept with a married man whose wife she really liked. Arriving into hippie territory took a more dramatic turn when Helen became the guru after she started talking about having had four kids and demonstrating that she had more life experience than anyone else in the room. Sleeping with Sierra was almost a footnote, since her experience in the sensory deprivation tank, one which was sure to go poorly, sent her rushing home and into Vic’s arms, hardly the ending I would have expected. Noah also found himself in a parental role after a terrible driving session with Trevor, helping to set Anton on the right path and away from enlistment by offering to take him to see the school he wanted to attend. With just three episodes left in this season, it makes sense that we’re getting to the point where the season-long mystery, albeit the one that’s been most in the background as compared with previous plot points, is becoming current, as Cole showed up in Chicago to drive Noah and Anton around in frantic search of the missing Alison.

Monday, August 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 4, Episode 7 “Daughters” (B+)

This episode reframed how we look at this show in a really cool way, showing how Hannah and Emma have experienced events and how they look at the world, in a welcome return to the type of time travel familiar to this show. Both have essentially been living for the sake of their mothers, but they’ve been appreciated in remarkably different ways. I’m so pleased to have been correct in my suspicion that Emma is indeed Cole’s mother, though how she got there doesn’t make entirely as much sense to me. From what I can understand, Olivia tormented Jones by making her think that she was killing Hannah over and over again, and somehow Emma was able to watch this happen as Jones was experiencing it. Seeing how little Olivia valued Jones’ offspring compelled Emma to realize that she’s been living a life for all the wrong reasons, and Olivia confirmed that by calling her an extension of herself, and hardly an ideal one at that. While it seemed that she had jumped to her death from Titan, it appears that she actually went back in time to, for the first time in her life, become her own person. I like the idea that Hannah and Emma, two daughters who haven’t really experienced time in the same way as anyone else, are now together creating the future that they’ve both come to know. Jennifer’s quick return after her ill-fated trip back to the past was a harsh reminder that we’re close to the end now, and the light-hearted nature of some recent episodes shouldn’t be considered an appropriate sample for what’s to come, especially not for poor Deacon.

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 2, Episode 4 “A Hole in the Case” (B)

The latest of Anne’s conditions didn’t have the disastrous effect I had expected – which was her owing a whole lot of money for the auction item she accidentally raised her hand to bid on – but it did present a major breakthrough in the case for the prosecution that explained how Lavinia could indeed have killed her husband and transported him a far distance without actually moving herself. Of course the town of East Peck would have a guy named E-bay known for having and selling things but who had no connection to the famed website of the same name. The revelation of the unnamed houseboy as a potential suspect didn’t go too far, and Lavinia’s double identity as her childhood friend wasn’t all that relevant either. It was fun to see Jim O’Heir, best known as Jerry from “Parks and Recreation,” as handwriting expert Michael Poisson, who complimented Anne’s style and then tore apart Josh’s less-than-masculine writing when Carol Anne presented it in court to bait Josh into getting worked up. Carol Anne’s campaign is an entertaining subplot, distracting voters from the fact that she’s pregnant and that she’s a woman, two things that aren’t usually this exaggerated but might unfortunately deter some less evolved members of society. This show always goes over the top, especially with its “lady driver” device that’s referenced at least once an episode this season, but under it all there are definitely some echoes of truth that go over best when presented in such a mocking format.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 2, Episode 3 “The Murder Clock” (B)

This show continues to get sillier and sillier, which I realize is the idea, though at least it’s still quite entertaining. Lavinia is even more skilled than Larry at making herself look guilty, getting caught in disguise shoplifting and then carrying a plate to throw at Josh to the courtroom while claiming that she couldn’t even be bothered to bring her wallet. As if the court wasn’t already prejudiced against Carol Anne, we learned that her youthful flair was part of the reason that Judge Kamiltow’s voice ascended so many octaves that he’s now impossible to understand. Carol Anne’s emotions are all over the place in this exaggerated portrayal of pregnancy, and stopping by Josh’s house in a fragile moment only to see him shielding Nina from the cannonball that nearly took her out despite assurances from his realtor that he was out of range won’t make their professional or personal relationship any easier. Josh was plenty awkward whenever he realized that Nina had showed up right behind him while he was talking to the camera, and as if always the case on mockumentary shows like this, he would probably be better served not to talk quite as freely about secretive things while on camera and in public. While there were some shocking developments, we’re not really any closer to figuring out how might be guilty in a case that I imagine will resolve itself in a way similar to last year’s, with the late husband likely being felled by a falling clock pushed by no one.

Pilot Review: Burden of Truth

Burden of Truth (CW)
Premiered July 25 at 8pm

Kristen Kreuk has been keeping her TV work loyal to the two networks that started off her career – CBC and the CW. The Canadian network aired “Edgemont,” and the US broadcaster that emerged from the ruins of the WB and UPN continued “Smallville” and then her follow-up show, “Beauty and the Beast,” which ended in 2016. Now, her latest series began on CBC back in January and is now airing on the CW. What I can say about this series is that it doesn’t feel like so many other pilots because of the angle it presents, framing its protagonist as highly committed to her work, which itself feels far from noble. At one point, she’s actually told that she’s not the good person in this story, and it’s only once she sees someone experience the effects that were allegedly caused by the vaccines that she starts to flip sides. Having her return to her hometown where no one likes her even before she explains why she’s there definitely suggests much more to the story which can be explored later, and being a pariah is also going to make her attempt to become a do-gooder all the more challenging. Though Kreuk isn’t always the most emotive performer, she does seem well-cast here. I don’t feel that this kind of show, which is a procedural despite the story-specific modifications, is one I need to be watching, but when it comes to pilots I might otherwise forget, this one was considerably more engaging than I had expected.

How will it work as a series? The last scene of the episode dropped a big bombshell, which was that Joanna finally gave in to ethical pressure and decided to show up to do something about this epidemic, regardless of whether her client was indeed responsible for it. Whether she’s going to quit immediately and just volunteer to help remains a question, but she’s definitely going to burn bridges in pursuit of her new altruistic aims.
How long will it last? This show premiered almost three weeks ago (I’m a little late on my review, of course) to decent reviews. In Canada, it was already renewed for a second season back in April following the conclusion of its first run. While its ratings are not much to write home about, even for the CW, I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to keep showing episodes of this series if they’ve already been commissioned and developed by another network.

Pilot grade: B-

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Pilot Review: Castle Rock

Castle Rock (Hulu)
Premiered July 25

I wasn’t too thrilled about watching this pilot because it was billed as horror, something that I make sure to avoid since I’m just not cut out for the genre. Fortunately, the opening hour had only one jump scene in which a face suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and while it was certainly creepy, to me it felt more like a thriller. There was a very clear attempt to link this show in its early scenes to the classic, beloved film “The Shawshank Redemption,” also adapted from a Stephen King story, by referencing a previous warden and his unfortunate fate. This show definitely feels different from that one, with something clearly not right at play, starting with the mysterious young man found down the cellar who was apparently told by the late warden to ask for the lawyer with his own controversial ties to the town. I recognized a lot of faces in this episode, including Noel Fisher from “Shameless” as the prison guard who felt compelled to advocate for a client, Andre Holland from “Moonlight” as Henry Deaver, Oscar winner Sissy Spacek as his mother, Scott Glenn from “The Silence of the Lambs” and much more as his would-be stepfather, Jeffrey Pierce from another enhanced prison thriller, “Alcatraz,” as his younger self, Melanie Lynskey from “Two and a Half Men” in a role that much more resembles her recent turn in “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” Ann Cusack as the new warden, Josh Cooke from “Better With You” and “Longmire” as her right-hand man, and, of course Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn of “Lost” fame as the late warden, with Frances Conroy from “Six Feet Under” as his wife. There’s a lot of talent here, and while this opening hour managed to be dark and decently enthralling, it didn’t captivate me in the way I needed it to in order to keep watching.

How will it work as a series? There was evidently more to the warden’s violent suicide than just his fear of retirement, and seeing him tell the young prisoner to ask specifically for Henry Deaver demonstrates that there’s something much deeper and more elaborate at play here. Nothing all too supernatural aside from the young Henry’s survival has been referenced just that, but I’d expect a turn towards the spooky, with some potential ghost reappearances of characters we presume to be dead, down the road.
How long will it last? Three episodes premiered all together on July 25th and an additional two have already been released since then. Reviews seem to be pretty good and Stephen King has a lot of fans out there, so I’d expect that this show will keep going for a while, even if it there aren’t any stories left on which to base new episodes and seasons.

Pilot grade: B