Friday, August 29, 2014

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 2, Episode 7 “Asterion” (D)

Talk about a nosedive. This show just isn’t recognizable anymore, and these extensive time jumps didn’t particularly help matters. I’m not sure what the rush is since is still the middle of the season and there seems to be no reason to run all the way ahead. I can see the effect this show is going for, making its events seem and feel all the more dated, which should be productive and emphatic but comes off instead as off-putting and grim. Seeing Bill come up behind Virginia for a moment of forbidden romance at the wedding before he started berating her by pretending to quote her apologizing for her past lovers was pretty miserable, and it’s hard to understand the man he has become. The fast-forwarding did manage to portray Libby in a more positive and human light, though I’m at a loss as to why she was standing around in her undergarments while having a big fight with her husband. It’s good to see Ann Dowd back at least as Bill’s mother, though I’m not too convinced by the pretext of it and the extreme drama of having Bill invite her back into his life. All of a sudden, Austin is back in the picture, united with a new bride who’s perfect for him after an introduction only a few minutes earlier (in the time of our show), and now he’s become a slightly better person. Virginia, on the other hand, is a perpetual punching bag, condemned by all parties for her inability to truly focus on her relationships. I’m not sure how much more of this show I can take and may choose to abandon it midseason.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Leftovers

The Leftovers: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Garveys at Their Best” (A-)

This episode was enormously effective, flashing back to before the rapture to showcase all of our favorite characters – excluding Meg and Dean – and to see what they were up to in their more normal lives. It’s most eerie to see both Laurie and Kevin Sr. interacting with people in a usual way. What’s very clear, of course, is that few of these people were actually happy, evidenced most in Laurie’s negative reaction to Kevin smoking and his desire to save the deer and Nora’s inability to retrieve a simple phone call while her husband sat completely distracted on his phone at the table with his kids. Seeing Jill happy with her brother at home was a real surprise, and Matt too seemed so full of positive energy with his non-comatose wife around. This episode managed to still incorporate a good degree of foreboding eeriness, particularly revolving around the deer and Patti’s prophetic visions of something bad on the way. What was most mesmerizing was the rapture event itself, since it seemed by the tail end of the episode that there wouldn’t be time left and this had to be a few years before the big day. Instead, it struck at the most devastating time possible, literally severing the link between Tom and Jill, disappearing Kevin’s adulterous mistake into thin air, removing Nora’s entire crazy family in an instant, and, most powerful of all, removing the baby in the sonogram Laurie was looking at. What a heart-wrenching hour which makes me incredibly excited and anxious for the finale.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 2, Episode 7 “Walk This Way” (B+)

What an explosive episode featuring, more than anything, a whole lot said that can’t be taken back. Most shocking was the confrontation between Terry and Ray since they never really come to blows, physical or verbal, and when they have in the past it’s never a good thing. Ray telling Terry that no one wanted him was hurtful, and Frances was right to come to his defense regardless of the veracity of his claims, and telling Ray that she knows exactly what she saw was a questionable move but one which will certainly protect her since Ray knows that Terry would never forgive him for offing her. Mickey giving Conor the car was the second biggest mistake of the hour, as evidenced by Daryl’s complete meltdown after he went ballistic on the car that Mickey shouldn’t have given to his grandson. Ryan O’Nan’s Stan seemed like a good friend for Bunchy, but kissing him definitely was not the right move given his negative reaction. Marvin’s business friend talking to Ray closed in the walls of all the worlds on this show, and while Ray trying to keep Bridget away from Marvin really is for her own good, he’s only pushing her closer by telling her not to see him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Abby tried to divorce Ray soon, but he won’t take that lying down. I enjoyed Ray’s visit to Steve Knight’s house and his interaction with Bob, particularly the fact that he ended up having to give him a ride home. Ending the episode with Ray calling Kate, Ashley waving to Bob, and Ray dancing with Conor was very productive and powerful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Last Ship (Season Finale)

The Last Ship: Season 1, Episode 10 “No Place Like Home” (B+)

Now this is what I’m talking about, even if this wasn’t a perfect episode and I could have predicted many of its developments. That said, this is exactly the excitement level and proper use of the outside world that I think could have “powered” the show until now (pun intended for those who watched). Hearing a specific hail acknowledging the continued mission of the Nathan James and then seeing a purportedly friendly face upon arriving into port made it seem like things might actually be okay. It was great to see Titus Welliver’s rebel leader again, and though his actions may be murderous, his intentions may not be all that bad given what Alfre Woodard’s Mrs. Granderson is up to. Rachel’s realization that they were making people sicker instead of curing them was worrisome, and Mrs. Granderson not even trying to deny it made matters even more disconcerting. It wasn’t too hard for Tom to find his family once he was on land, but unfortunately he didn’t make it in time for his wife, which is sad but helps to add a certain level of drama and weight to everything since a glowing reunion would have been too neat and perfect. Discovering that the city is powering itself with the bodies of those who have died is disturbing, and I’m curious now to see how the show will be transformed if the ship stays on land or if they venture out to seek a better society. I’m of course hoping they don’t go far, since this kind of dystopian society is the reason I signed up for this show. I have some doubts that’s how things will go, but I’m much more inclined to check in for the season two premiere now.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Eric Dane as Tom and Rhona Mitra as Rachel

What I’m Watching: True Blood (Season Finale)

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 10 “Thank You”

If I had to describe this finale in one word, it would be rushed, due mainly to the plethora of time jumps in the final few minutes that didn’t really have much of a point. But that’s not quite doing it justice, because there’s little about this finale that’s actually satisfying. The usual trope that a penultimate episode is better than the final hour is true here to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that was a perfect and fantastic installment. This episode contains just one bit of “action,” which was a rather ridiculous speedy execution by Eric and Pam of all their Yakuza pals which seems like it could have happened a few episodes ago. What took the focus of the hour was a spur-of-the-moment human-vampire wedding laced with awkward comedy since everyone there had a reason to feel uncomfortable. There’s nothing quite as generous as demanding a timely wedding because you’re on a clock to voluntarily meet the true death, but I suppose that Bill has done as right as possible by Jessica considering the nature of their first meeting. I am very pleased by how her character turned out given how things could have gone. No one else’s fate was too important, which is somewhat interesting with a large ensemble like this. Sookie proved to be terribly annoying right up until the end, taking a painfully long time to not use her light to kill Bill but to stake him instead. The flash-forward to everyone with kids and pregnant felt a bit too neat and happy, not quite right for this show. TV billionaires Eric and Pam seemed far too sterile, but then there was a dark ending to it all right before the final picnic scene. It’s strange to end on a shot of Sarah Newlin, who was a fantastic character who has pretty much just been tied up and abused for the past few episodes, completely miserable and hallucinating her dead gay vampire ex-husband. It’s a bizarre way to end, but I guess I couldn’t have expected anything different from this show. I just wish it been more even, emphatic, and exciting after so many years.

Series finale: B
Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica/Ashley Hinshaw as Brigitte
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica
Best Season: Season 1/2
Best Episode: You’ll be the Death of Me (Season 1 Finale)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 4, Episode 4 “Reckoning” (B)

This was a decent episode, but I didn’t find it to be terribly consistent with the hours that preceded it. That’s mainly true regarding Ruth, who I’ve always found to be a great character but who here aired her thoughts about Jesus Christ and eternal damnation for those who don’t believe a bit too publicly and arrogantly. Sure, she reached out to Naomi and invited her to come to services after to apologize, but it didn’t fit with her character that she would start out being so embarrassed by her loud, rude comments. Meanwhile, Durant was more polite than ever before, generously opening up his home to Eva, offering to give her money and returning to take sexual favors as payment, saying instead that they were friends. I’m not sure that’s the case, but Durant does have just as many allies as he has enemies. Cullen, meanwhile, is continuing his annual return to prominence, seen as the most competent man around by just about everyone, even able to make the most of an ill-advised run in with Indians. Campbell seems determined to show Mickey who’s boss, and I don’t think that he’s a problem that will go away so easily. Speaking of such things, the Swede doesn’t seem ready to be out of the picture just yet, sticking to his story and going head to head with Aaron ready to keep up the charade for as long as possible and ensure that his religious zeal continues to influence the Mormon people.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 4, Episode 4 “Dream Baby Dream” (B-)

I think that this show is the darkest show on television. Recently, I’ve considered that maybe it was “The Bridge” or “The Leftovers,” which live in miserable places, but I think this series takes the cake. Watching what goes on in military school is so immensely disturbing, as an already distraught Kyle is forced to watch a violent slapping game and then be its victim when he refuses to take part, and then to be locked in his room by his sympathetic headmistress when he tells her that he found a gun and a suicide note on his desk. Since we saw his sister, it’s hard to know what’s real, but I do think he’s very much in danger. It’s not as if Linden and Holder are going to help him much now either since their situation has imploded in a terrible way. Carl’s source put the whole thing together for him, and, while he does deserve some credit for asking Skinner’s wife the uncomfortable question about him liking young girls, he pretty much had it handed to him. The sight of all the bodies lined up by the water was a horrifying sight, but not as disconcerting as the car with Skinner in it slowly being raised from the water, somewhat reminiscent of the show’s own watery beginnings when Rosie was a much more innocent victim. With Linden having family problems and Holder falling back into bad drug habits, is there any way that the two of them make it through this and manage to protect Kyle and solve that case in the process? I’m not optimistic.

Emmy Awards: The Morning After

I didn’t get a chance to post reactions after the show last night, so here goes. I miss the days that awards shows used to have clips galore and really get excited about the shows or movies or whatever that were nominated. In an effort to keep the show to a strict three hours, there wasn’t a single montage, and even the tribute to Robin Williams was unexpectedly short. They asked comedy stars what the best direction they got was, but that was the only time that the nominees were announced in a creative way. The funniest part was inarguably the Billy Eichner and Seth Meyers clip featuring a laugh-out-loud moment when a woman answered unintelligibly about the name of the awards show. Weird Al’s main title theme music with words bit was fun, but hardly as funny as it should have been.

And then, there were the winners. I correctly predicted a dismal four wins, three of which were in top categories – “Breaking Bad” for Best Drama Series, “Fargo” for Best Miniseries, and “The Normal Heart” for Best TV Movie – and the fourth of which was Allison Janney for “Mom.” I’m more disappointed in the winners than in my predictions, namely because Janney was the only series winner who hadn’t won before for her show, and she already has five Emmys. Giving Cranston his fourth trophy, Margulies her second (for this role), Paul his third, Gunn her second, Parsons his fourth, Louis-Dreyfus her third, and Burrell his second suggests that there is nothing creative or new about the Emmys. It doesn’t matter that other actors had better submissions since clearly the favorites always win. Somewhat along the same lines, the miniseries and TV movie acting prizes went to stars of projects that have been nominated before, “Sherlock” and “American Horror Story.” I’m not arguing that they’re not deserving, and it’s more exciting to see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman take home Emmys even if they couldn’t be there to accept them, but it’s strange that these standalone categories still have repeat nominees. “Fargo” was probably the best thing on television this past year, but “True Detective” will be back in the same format next year, so why are they in different categories? That’s a whole separate mess.

As always, I conclude that I like the nominations process more, predicting the nominees, watching the announcement, and then screening all the episodes submitted. Maybe it doesn’t matter to voters which episodes were picked, but that’s still what gets me most excited about the Emmys.

In more satisfying news (for me, at least), the 8th Annual AFT Awards, my own choices for the best in television this past season, will begin in September when I take some time off to get married! Stay tuned, and then get ready for what’s sure to be an exciting pilot season! Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Final Emmy Winner Predictions

For some unknown reason, the Emmy Awards air tonight (Monday) as opposed to last night (Sunday). I prefer keeping the ceremony on the weekend, but I suppose it’s all the same. I’m already 2/4, correctly predicting Allison Janney and Uzo Aduba but missing Joe Morton and Jimmy Fallon in favor of David Morse and Bob Newhart. Now, the questions are whether “Breaking Bad” will be edged out by “True Detective,” and if “Modern Family” can be finally be taken down by “Orange is the New Black.” Plenty of these categories will be extremely competitive, and I’m honestly not sure what’s going to happen. I’m hopeful that it won’t just be a boring repeat of the past but rather that there will be a lot of creativity and first-time wins this year. I’m excited for the show, and will post some brief reactions either immediately afterwards or the next morning. Enjoy the show, and leave your thoughts in the comments! For detailed predictions in all applicable categories, click on the hyperlinked category name.

No guts, no glory:
William H. Macy for Best Comedy Actor

Breaking Bad

Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)

Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Josh Charles (The Good Wife)

Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)

Felina (Breaking Bad)

The Secret Fate of All Life (True Detective)

Orange is the New Black

Ricky Gervais (Derek)

Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Allison Janney (Mom)

Lesbian Request Denied (Orange is the New Black)

Special Relationship (Veep)


The Normal Heart

Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)

Matthew Bomer (The Normal Heart)

Allison Tolman (Fargo)

Fargo (The Crocodile Dilemma)

The Normal Heart

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

The Voice

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 2, Episode 12 “It Was the Change” (B+)

Now this was a pretty packed episode and a fitting penultimate hour for the season (though the finale is 92 minutes, which is sure to be an experience in itself). Even if she is fated to be transferred to another prison, it’s good to see Piper get one last chance to dig into the prison and realize that things are actually awry, mainly the plumbing issue and the files she got caught redhanded with by Caputo. She may even have found her meal ticket if the files in her hands are damning enough to serve as blackmail. During the storm, it was fun to see certain characters deal with the situation, like the gullible Pennsatucky and Boo, while it was much more serious and less entertaining for others. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for Figueroa when she saw her husband kissing another man after she ignored Caputo’s many calls and treated everyone at the prison so terribly. More flashbacks to Vee’s past reveal that she was above nothing including sleeping with her son and then having him killed immediately after by her cop friend because she thought he was competing with her in business. Red not strangling her made her the better person, but then Vee had to come back after alleging a truce to wail on her. I certainly hope this isn’t the end for Red, but especially with Taystee realizing that she can’t hate Poussey, I don’t see how the tables can’t turn on Vee in what’s sure to be a very transformative and memorable finale.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 1, Episode 6 “PTSD” (B+)

Now here’s a fun episode, with Jimmy and Gretchen engaging in an immature competition to get even sexually speaking after Gretchen dared Jimmy to get a naked picture of his celebrity interview. To be fair, Megan, played by Ginger Gonzaga from “Mixology,” seemed pretty into the idea of Jimmy as soon as he touched her foot, and it didn’t take too much convincing for them to sleep together, though it did devastate Edgar, whose continual waking up with a knife does seem more than a bit concerning. Gretchen, on the other hand, easily hooked up with an ex – Venti the barista – while Jimmy had trouble finding an ex who still liked him. He did leave quite an impression on his newly married ex, however, which I suspect will come up again soon just as he and Gretchen have endearingly agreed to be exclusive. Lindsay did a number on her new friend, which seemed like quite the necessary break from her normal life with her boring husband. I like how Edgar and Lindsay, who could both be terrible characters, are being used, and I liked Lindsay’s history confusion throughout this episode. Ending with the montage of how toxic Jimmy and Gretchen really are, highlighted by Megan furious about the nature of Jimmy’s piece and Venti being fired for leaving during work to have sex with Gretchen, was fun and very appropriate for this non-couple gradually becoming a couple who delight in ruining the lives of other people for their pure enjoyment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What I’m Watching: Married

Married: Season 1, Episode 6 “Invisible Woman” (B+)

I like how all of this show’s episodes are framed, in this case by Russ’ disappointment by perceived as invisible when a girl changed in front of him and his daughter at the pool. This installment was all about Russ’ weird tics and fantasies, unable to concentrate on getting the job done, so to speak, because a father was helping his child study for a math test by preparing her with all the wrong information. Lina sending Russ back to the doctor’s office to intimidate the receptionist was funny, but not as much as her initial unwillingness to play along in his phone sex. She managed to get on board, of course, even when he started using the very illogical line about putting a baby inside her. Their closing grocery lettuce bit was pretty amusing too. It was interesting to see how excited Jess gets by the prospect of Shep going back to work and to watch that implode as the eager young actress ends up pulling out to move to Iowa and have a baby. Demanding that he counsel her to get an abortion and continue her career climb wasn’t exactly reasonable, but it makes sense that Jess would be upset that things are going to return right away to the status quo of Shep sitting at home without much motivation in life. Ending the episode with a shot of her being asked if she was alone in a bar was more serious than usual, and let’s hope it doesn’t mess up her marriage in an irreversible way.

What I’m Watching: Rectify (Season Finale)

Rectify: Season 2, Episode 10 “Unhinged” (B+)

There were a number of times this season that I thought I was going to give up on this show, mainly because of what I would most accurately describe as glacial placing. It turns out that everything that happened this season was leading up to Daniel reexamining his life and realizing that maybe people weren’t wrong about him after all, and that he would be better off starting fresh somewhere where no one knows what he’s done. That deposition was tough to watch, especially when he asked Foulkes if he would let him go home this time. It’s good that what Ted confronted Daniel about with Janet in earshot didn’t get spoken aloud, and instead Daniel gracefully made his exit. This is hardly a finale full of closure, and it’s a good thing that this show was renewed for a third season earlier this week so that we don’t have to keep wondering about whether Daniel actually did it and know that we’ll never have the answer (though it’s still possible the show will never address it with certainty). It seems like all forces except for Tawney, Janet, Amantha, and John are rallying against Daniel, which is a shame. It’s good that Tawney’s moving on, while Amantha’s decision to dump John isn’t necessarily the best plan. Daniel is a fascinating character, to be sure, and so is Tawney. This show is full of great personalities, and I think that it just needs to be a bit more consistently enthralling in season two to keep my attention.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Adelaide Clemens as Tawney / Abigail Spencer as Amantha

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 2, Episode 7 “Lamia” (B+)

While nearly all of the other shows I watch are nearing the end of their respective seasons, it’s nice to have a show like this that’s just getting into the meat of its events and building up its story to rev up for an intense second half of the season. This episode, more than any before it, brought all of its characters together in a clear and defined way while also examining the nature of what it means to be a good guy, which it could be argued that none of our characters are. This was the most normal that we’ve seen Eleanor be as of yet, but she sure didn’t react well to the idiocy of Ray. First and foremost, however, she’s an employee, and therefore she doesn’t let her twisted murderous tendencies get the best of her when she has a job to do. It’s devastating to see Adriana affected very personally by what she’s doing, and I suspect that won’t be the last of such suffering. Agent McKenzie cut right to the chase with Charlotte, whose life is now on the line since she so quickly decided to become an informant, albeit not on her own terms. Watching Marco present to the class was very powerful, although this episode’s most dramatic moment was Sonya finding out that Hank shot her sister’s killer when he was unarmed. There’s a lot going on here and adding such personal trauma in the midst of a draining separate investigation can’t possibly make anything better.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What I’m Watching: Tyrant

Tyrant: Season 1, Episode 9 “Gaslight” (C)

Essentially, all that’s happening here is that Jamal is being made to look like a fool and playing exactly into the untruths that Bassam and John are feeding him. Its over-the-top nature was best evidenced by Tariq’s immediate response of “Don’t believe them, I’m being set up” after Jamal had the plane shot down and then had Tariq taken into custody. Bassam definitely didn’t take Leila into account, and she’s at her fiercest when she’s actually on her husband’s side and trying to make sure that he asserts himself so that others don’t take advantage of him. That’s exactly what Bassam is trying to do, and there’s no way that this transition goes smoothly. Molly is doing her very best to blow the whole thing, acting miserable during dinner and feigning American dislike for fancy food, and then snapping at her sister and her children to ensure that they get out of Abuddin as quickly as possible. Hearing her yell at John and Lea for allowing Bassam to go ahead with his plan demonstrated just how much she’s not happy with it, and she’s doing an excellent job of raising red flags and tipping others off to the fact that something’s going on. This show has yet to renewed for a second season – fellow FX freshman “The Strain” was a few days ago – but either way I’m still curious to see how the finale will set up what would surely be a very different and likely much darker second season.