Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 7 “Phil’s Sexy, Sexy House” (C)

To enjoy this episode, and most episodes of this series over the past few years, you have to get past an obnoxious choreography and the suspension of much disbelief when it comes to characters not being self-aware or able to perceive things around them. Everyone coming to the house Phil was trying to sell for some alone time was the episode’s big premise, and them all showing up at exactly the same time was the gimmick that didn’t work as well. Some of it was forced, while other things, like Mitchell’s pole-dancing, were just random and felt out of character. Phil and Claire misreading their marital moments was among the more disappointing and unfulfilling plotlines, whereas Luke’s defense for showing up with his friends and a lot of alcohol was simpler and funnier. I did like Haley and Andy running into each other, being the only ones not to get caught, and then separating for a moment before Haley ran back in and jumped up into Andy’s arms, totally ready for a major makeout. I’m excited to see where that goes. Gloria’s family coming to visit after she spent the entire episode pickpocketing her family members to get their driver’s licenses is a less positive twist, and just goes to show that surprises aren’t always the best thing, especially when it comes to bringing all members of a large family to a foreign country with only one or a few people being fully aware of the plan ahead of time. I would have much preferred to see the whole family go down to Colombia (I think).

What I’m Watching: Casual

Casual: Season 1, Episode 8 “Bottles” (A-)

Usually, Thanksgiving episodes tend to be pretty gimmicky, and are rarely the strongest offerings of a particular show. I’d argue that this episode was actually the best one this show has produced yet, taking a break from its characters’ dating lives and slowing things down for one hell of an awkward Thanksgiving dinner that was initially supposed to be just four people and ended up being double that. Laura’s response to finding her mother having sex with the teacher she had her eye on was to engage in vicious revenge, inviting Drew’s new girlfriend and Valerie’s mother to Thanksgiving to ensure that it was as miserable as possible. Though Mae-Yi, and Drew, for that matter, should have known better than to accept the invitation, it was Dawn bringing her boyfriend, who just happens to be Valerie and Alex’s father, that really made things awful. Fred Melamed was inspired casting, and the excitement with which Charles and Dawn told horrific excerpts from Alex’s childhood was truly appalling. It was nice that Emmy was there for Alex, but the fact that she’s otherwise connected and nearly as unstable as any of his parents’ relationships growing up makes her presence all the troubling rather than comforting. Before things got bad, Dawn casually spilling Alex’s macaroni and cheese all over the floor and then replacing it in the oven with something she brought was a strong moment of terrible parenting and something that explains why Valerie and Alex have such a difficult time committing given the environment in which they grew up.

What I’m Watching: Limitless

Limitless: Season 1, Episode 9 “Headquarters!” (B+)

It’s nice to have a solid fun hour like this after some more serious deviations over the course of the past few episodes. Brian’s obsession with getting a room to call his own with the word “Headquarters!” emblazoned on it was absurd but very typical for him, and naturally he would casually leverage the fact that he, working with a capable team, could apprehend the FBI’s entire Top 10 Most Wanted list was both entertaining and awesome. Boyle was most annoyed with the team’s name, the Bruntouchables, but he got to track down a cop killer with Casey. James nearly drinking the kool-aid in his hunt for a cult leader was fun to watch, and I liked how much Mike enjoyed his clothing-optional vacation assignment and how little Ike liked being in Greenland for his mission. Rebecca’s reactions to Brian’s antics were, of course, most entertaining, and they even got to help prove that one of the most wanted men, Isiah Whitlock Jr.’s Lawrence Drake, was actually innocent. Naturally, Brian would suggest something as crazy as giving a man who broke out of prison an NZT tablet so that he could prove himself innocent, but it’s hard to argue with results. The montage of imagined Bruntouchables sequels was simply fantastic. With no sign of Senator Morra or Mr. Sands, it was a perfectly calm time for Brian to decide to let down his guard and tell his father what he’s really doing with the FBI. Let’s hope that doesn’t backfire or lead to a sudden and irreversible decline in his father’s health.

Pilot Review: Chicago Med

Chicago Med (NBC)
Premiered November 17 at 9pm

There are more and more TV franchises that seem to be popping up these days, and some of them aren’t even from the first franchise a particular TV mogul has created. After launching the first “Law and Order” series in 1990 and continuing to see one of its offshoots, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” begin its seventeenth season this fall, creator Dick Wolf has moved on to a new city and a new concept. “Chicago Fire” was first in 2012, “Chicago P.D.” the year after, and now comes “Chicago Med,” the latest show ripe for a megacrossover event on NBC. I gave the first pilot a C and the second a C-, and this show pretty much fits that same standard. For me, a medical show is probably least interesting out of those three setups, and what I mainly do when a watch a new show like this is wait to recognize actors from other roles and see how they figure into a new series I probably won’t ever watch again. It didn’t take long for me to recognize Colin Donnell from “The Affair,” who I now realize also played Tommy on “Arrow,” as the new surgery fellow. I’m always fond of Oliver Platt, but I think that his talents are better used elsewhere, and it makes perfect sense that S. Epatha Merkerson, who got her big start on the original “Law and Order,” would have a major role here. The show is about as engaging as CBS’ freshman offering “Code Black,” and I don’t have any interest in watching either.

How will it work as a series? There are some obvious adjustments for everyone to make with the new arrivals and the dynamic of the hospital, but it seems to be just like any other medical show, full of soapy romances, high-stakes emergencies, and all that drama. Episode one already featured a cast member from “Chicago Fire,” and I think the show’s greater universe will occupy a lot of its attention, as will its host city, which lent Rahm Emanuel for the opening scene.
How long will it last? Like Wolf’s first franchise, it looks like this one will have three very successful series running at the same time. The ratings for the pilot were very strong, and NBC is eager to embrace its successes, so I expect this to be commissioned along with its two partner series for another season very soon.

Pilot grade: C

Monday, November 23, 2015

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 7 “Abra Cadaver” (B+)

A magician getting murdered was a great way to get Liv into the spirit of things, and to see the very contradictory ways in which Ravi and Clive reacted to the institution of magic. I like that Liv got into the tricks, as is always the case when she eats brains, and that she ended up doing a masterful reveal, complete with mustache-ripping and a spectacular finish, when she pieced together the elements of the case and discovered who the true culprit was. I knew I recognized Houdina, the sarcastic magician with nothing positive to say about her deceased colleague or the art of magic in general, but I couldn’t immediately peg her as Fiona Gubelmann from “Wilfred” since he was so uncharacteristically negative. Blaine stopping by to enlist Liv’s help in investigating the murder of zombies in the area created an interesting partnership, and I’m very worried about their ever-approaching discovery that Major is the one killing them. Him walking out when he saw Liv engaged in reading the Ouija board was not a good sign, since it doesn’t exactly speak to his promise to always be there for her. Peyton is definitely paranoid, and she has good reason to be after the threatening visit she received last week and the fact that her only ally is the psychotic Blaine. Ravi kissing her after he ended things with Steph because she was too gung-ho about his cultural heritage was a minor mistake, and I think they can still be friends. She’s definitely headed for trouble pretty soon though, and I think he’ll be the first to try to help get her out of it.

What I’m Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 3, Episode 8 “Many Heads, One Tale” (B)

This was a busy episode, putting all of the characters to work and having them discover a few things that led to one big, unsettling reveal. Powers Boothe’s Gideon Malick is at the center of it all, starting the episode out by trying to have Ward killed and then promoting his new lieutenant to help him find this apparent inhuman who represents Hydra and bring him back from the portal like S.H.I.E.L.D. did with Simmons. Coulson selling his team on the fact that Rosalind trusts him and that he’d like to feel the same way seemed genuine, but he was pretty harsh when he cornered her and told her that he didn’t believe anything she was saying. It’s good to know that she can actually be trusted, and that she had no idea what nefarious things Gideon was doing with the inhumans that she had captured and claimed to be trying to cure. Gideon and Ward using Andrew/Lash to help them get what they want is going to make May very mad, and at the moment all she’s doing is mentoring Lincoln, who has suddenly become a top-level agent and not just an inhuman on the run. Hunter posing as a hacker with Daisy feeding him lines was a real treat, and I enjoyed his escape plan, though it wasn’t as neat as Bobbi’s new baton trick. Fitz kissing Simmons was a great moment, and I’m glad that they’re finally going to have something to talk about that may well be awkward but was also quite wonderful, and a hell of a long time in the making.

What I’m Watching: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 7 “Buckingham Malice” (B+)

This was a very fun episode, one that best exemplified the way in which Dean says absolutely nothing with his big speeches. Realizing that he gets special treatment shocked Dean but came as no surprise to anyone else, and I like that it made him push for completely absurd things, like getting a ticket thrown out even though he demanded it be written and going back into a jail cell to spend his due time even though Stewart had successfully talked him out of staying behind bars. Nathan Fieldler from “Nathan for You,” a show I can’t stand, was an interesting guest star to play the cop, and I was also pleased to see Jonny Coyne from the fantastic short-lived “Alcatraz” as Farouk, whose assurances about car repair timing were far from reliable. It turned out that using Dean proved very helpful to get the car fixed, giving Stewart the transportation he very much needed for his sex vacation with Debbie, who also deserved it in a big way. I love that Debbie got her very first plotline just about her, with the hilarious and unfortunate situation of her ending up in the position of getting her assistant coffee, unable to delegate any of the work that she should have been doing. It was gratifying to see her moment of triumph in which she mocked her assistant’s obnoxious tone of voice and got to tell her that she was being fired. As usual, the Sanderson family interactions on the couch provided some good life lessons, like the concept of getting up after saying something to make it seem like a good point.

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 7 “Sexy Guardian Angel” (B+)

I liked this episode mostly because it used all of its characters very well, and also opened up a bigger storyline without feeling the need to close and contain it within just one episode. Gerald has never been the smoothest dater, and of course he would go into a one-night stand and come out of it right away in a relationship. Jimmy’s distraction tactic, which involved Noureen Dewulf’s Priya (I recognized her from “West Bank Story”), led to him meddling after he found out that Frankie had a bad reputation for sleeping around. What I loved most was that Sara got on board with Jimmy’s plan to expose Frankie father after she bossed Gerald around, which of course resulted in her and Gerald both getting offended at their accusations. I like Lyndsy Fonseca from “Nikita,” and it seems like she’ll be sticking around for a bit, especially since Jimmy is footing the bill for everything Gerald is treating her to. Vanessa coming in with some truly awful pitches was only the start of a fabulous new relationship between her and Annelise, the highlights of which were Vanessa thinking she was the mentor rather than the mentee and the two of them taking off their blazers to start physically fighting. Vanessa actually helping Annelise, who is really not a good singer, was a nice ending. This was the best way that Annelise has been featured yet, and it’s also great to see Vanessa with her big preposterous dreams and attitude that shows that she doesn’t care if other people don’t believe in her. Even Ravi was less annoying than usual, appearing for only a few well-placed moments.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 6 “Gorilla Warfare” (B)

I’m not too fond of Grodd as a villain for this show, and therefore this episode could only be so enticing. Fortunately, the other elements of the episode worked very well, and it’s all in the service of the show’s greater mythology. Caitlin being kind to Grodd helped ensure her survival, and our new friend Harry offering to don the Reverse-Flash’s costume to make his son feel loyal to him was a solid plan. It didn’t work too well, mainly because Wells asked for Grodd to do something rather than aggressively telling him, but they were ultimately able to get him through the portal to what I’ve seen referenced as Gorilla City, an Earth-Two place that apparently has quite a lot of enhanced apes. Barry’s father returning to help him get back on his feet, literally, was helpful, but seeing what he thought was the other Wells also gave him an important push to gain back his speed. Joe contradicting Barry’s lie about liking canned soup could have soured his budding romance, but it seems that it actually served to enhance their connection, leading to a formidable reunion and promising developments for their future. Cisco’s date went excellently, too, despite an initial disquieting vision that, when expanded upon the second time they kissed, showed Cisco a much more reassuring and awesome truth: his new girlfriend Kendra is going to become a superhero, Hawkgirl. To the famed metahuman namer, dating a metahuman he finds attractive and cool is just about the best thing in the universe.

What I’m Watching: The Muppets

The Muppets: Season 1, Episode 8 “Too Hot to Handler” (B+)

This episode deviated from the ones before it because it barely featured Miss Piggy, save for the opening segment which introduced the main guest star, Chelsea Handler. There was still plenty of relationship drama without the infamously egotistical pig. Scooter falling head over heels for Chelsea and then realizing that she was looking for a good-natured sweetheart of a guy just like him was fun, and I like that the reason it didn’t work out was that she was moving much too fast for him, constantly trying to kiss him and push the relationship forward. This was a fun PG-rated opportunity for Chelsea to send up her raunchy persona. Another human girlfriend, Becky, threatened to pose some major problems when Fozzie told Kermit that he was going to ask her to move in with him. Kermit trying to get to prod Becky for information backfired as he discovered Denise’s horrendously low credit score, and he did even worse when he tried to test Becky’s trivia knowledge in the hallway after catching her apparently cheating on her phone. Confronting her with the accusation went poorly, but fortunately Fozzie realized on his own that twelve weeks isn’t nearly enough time to make such a big decision. Getting the tassels of his hat caught in a fan immediately after demonstrated just how right Kermit was to look out for his best friend. The multiple references to Kermit venting to other people when they thought he was just talking to the camera were amusing and an amusing nod to the show’s mockumentary format.

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 2, Episode 6 “Rhinoceros” (B+)

There’s a lot going on right now, and almost all of it involves murders and other people narrowly escaping certain death. All the major characters made it out alive, but it was very close for a handful of them. Mike showing up to riddle the Gerhardt home with bullets while only Simone and Floyd were inside shows that they’re done talking, and that they’re ready to go after the members of the family much more willing to negotiate and even the one sleeping with the enemy. Peggy was one of the most fascinating characters of the episode, so hopelessly in denial about her situation, which prompted a hilariously accurate reading of her from Hank. She did very well managing to get the upper hand and shock Dodd, who nearly beat his own adult brother with a belt just to make a point. I’m worried about what Peggy might do and say with Dodd, and she may get herself into more trouble. Ed was relatively stonefaced, and running from Lou and Hank with Ohanzee following him isn’t going to lead him anywhere good. Both Lou and Hank handled themselves extremely well under pressure, and it’s a good thing considering the threat posed to both of them by the vicious Gerhardt brothers. The MVP of the episode was undoubtedly a superb Nick Offerman as Carl Weathers, who showed up drunk spewing a speech and managed to save the day and a whole station full of sheriffs with a very blunt and compelling appeal to an angry concerned father.

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 9 “Authentic Flirt” (B-)

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Kurt and Jane went on a mission together and pretended to be a couple. They really went in without knowing much, dressed to the nines and utterly unprepared for the craziness of the man they were about to meet. Rich Dotcom was quite the character, expressing no qualms about soliciting the two members of a couple he believed to be assassins and then eagerly ordering their execution as soon as he realized that they couldn’t be trusted. Kurt and Jane nearly lost a two-on-one fight with the other buyer, and even though it didn’t work so well, they did manage to sell the lie that he was a spy long enough to buy them some time. It was a convenient episode for a past girlfriend of Kurt’s to show up, and what a treat that it was in the form of Trieste Kelly Dunn, formerly of “Banshee,” though I wish that she’d been given a much bigger part. As more of her connection to Carter is revealed, Bethany is looking more and more like one of the good guys. Guerrero being stabbed definitely covers the tracks of those behind Daylight, but it’s not the much simpler solution of creating paperwork to back up their story. The most devastating development was that, after watching David tail a woman so that he could impress Patterson and win her back, he got killed. I liked him a whole lot, and I’m sure Patterson is going to be very upset and have a hard time recovering from the news.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 6 “Chapter Twenty-Eight” (B+)

This episode covered a lot of time, jumping ahead one month repeatedly throughout the course of the hour, and measuring milestones was a clever way of helping the time pass so quickly. Jane’s new writing class took a toll on her ability to multitask, as she initially spent too little time focused on her writing but also neglected Mateo’s position, resulting in him having to wear a corrective helmet, which didn’t help with nursing and pumping. It was good to see her slowly come to terms with her situation and ease into both worlds, and through it all, Rafael was always doing the right thing, which was great (#teamrafael). Rafael’s charm seems to have worked, and now Jane is ready to go on a date with him. Unfortunately, it does appear that Jane’s new best friend from her class is writing a biting exposé called “The Curse of the Solanos,” which is sure to cause trouble for the multimillionaire. I enjoyed Jane picturing different versions of young Mateo, including Oliver Twist Mateo and a charitable Mateo who really had to pee. Michael working with Nadine to bring down Sin Rostro is interesting, and I’m sure we’ll get filled in on all that in due time. Magda getting out of prison presented more problems than solutions, at first expelling Milos away but then blowing off her eye and hand, and ultimately leading to Ivan’s murder because of some secret Madga was keeping from Petra. My favorite part of the episode was Rogelio’s pitch for “Los Hombres Locos,” a version of “Mad Men” hilariously dubbed a “fasterpiece,” with him playing the part of Don Juan Draper. That it ended up being a roaring success, albeit dubbed a comedy, was great and almost as funny as the fact that it all fell apart due to the small problem of copyright infringement.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What I’m Watching: Minority Report

Minority Report: Season 1, Episode 8 “The American Dream” (B)

This episode was a more involved hour for Will, who often stands on the sidelines and shows up to make a snide mark to Lara or to cast suspicion on Dash’s credentials. In this case, he was fully committed to a case that meant a lot to him, and he was far more perceptive than anyone else gave him credit for. It’s interesting to see how this show approaches the concept of precrime and other legal advancements which set people up for a lifetime of hopelessness based on something that either was supposed to happen or was simply number-based. Identifying Will as a “14” who came back up from a damning sentence of diminished rights and who thought that the precrime police were there to arrest him for the future murder of his abusive stepfather helped to humanize him quite a bit. It didn’t take him long to figure out who Dash was and to confirm his suspicions when Dash knew exactly how many robbers there were and even told him to move to avoid a bullet at just the right moment. Meeting Arthur and painting him as the source of all the intelligence that Lara and Dash had gathered was an intriguing interaction, and it certainly seems like Arthur isn’t going to let some pesky detective ruin his livelihood. Let’s hope that it’s not too late for him to stop whatever aggressive action he’s planning that could tip Will over the edge and lead to this inevitable vision of precrime being reinstituted that Agatha has seen over and over becoming a reality.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 4 “Livewire” (B)

Apparently, this episode, originally slated to air next week, was swapped in to replace an hour that has much more to do with some instance of terrorism that CBS felt would be too reminiscent of the horrendous events in France last week. What that results in is a sappy, sentimental installment weakened slightly by the emphasis on how Kara’s foster mother cartoonishly chastises her older daughter for not being good enough and taking good enough care of her sister while effervescently praising her adoptive daughter for everything she does. It took a while for that to lead to Alex’s confession about working for the DEO, and in turn for their mother to tell them that their father worked with the DEO prior to his death, and that Hank Henshaw is a hell of a lot older and more conniving than he looks. I wouldn’t trust Kara to be subtle for too long, and her “yes, sir” attitude is going to tip him off to the fact that something is afoot. It’s a shame that Kara can’t notice Winn, and that she’s instead hung up on a guy who, despite being romantically attached to another woman, hasn’t toned down the flirtation just yet. Kara did have a good opportunity to bond with another strong woman in her life, one who nearly sacrificed herself to ensure that one monster she created didn’t wreak too much destruction on the world. A vicious radio host turning into a lightning-fueled villain was a very on-the-money featured plot.