Friday, March 24, 2017

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies: Season 1, Episode 5 “Once Bitten” (B)

There were a lot of flashes happening at the beginning and end of this episode, and a few throughout as well, and they’re not providing all that much information and absolutely no answers. We had our first bit of true danger with Madeline, who was confronted by the man who was ready to run away with her and then was involved in a pretty major car accident that luckily didn’t cause her any damage and didn’t even make anyone close to her wonder why she was in that car in the first place. Celeste reached an important point in her secret solo therapy when she acknowledged that Perry hurts her and started to realize that maybe it wasn’t right or something that she had to stay in, but hugging Perry so tightly when she went to surprise him with the kids at the airport didn’t show any more progress in that area. Jane outright lied to her new friends about her intentions with the father of her son, and it’s a good thing that she decided not to use that gun she brought with her even if she was pretty frenzied on her drive home, erratic enough to get herself pulled over. Ziggy didn’t cause any trouble in this episode, and in fact seemed perfectly content and elated to spend some extra time with his friend Chloe when Madeline picked them up from school, and it was Amabella’s turn to be seen as a child who might have some issues dealing with society by her extremely concerned parents who have little patience left for the way the situation at school is being handled.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 14 “The Other Side” (B-)

We’re getting closer to what’s sure to be an explosive end to the season, but we’re still inching towards it piece by piece with a continually segmented approach. We haven’t visited the Hilltop in a bit, and therefore it’s somewhat stirring to see the intensity of the training that’s going on to ensure that, when everyone finally decides that it’s time to rise up, they know how to fight. The dramatic music to go along with that was pretty effective, and unfortunately the rest of the episode didn’t quite match it. I think we’ve seen Maggie, Sasha, and Rosita plan to trek over to the Saviors’ compound and take their revenge enough times already, and it was remarkably simple for them to get there and have Negan in their crosshairs within moments of arrival. The shot wasn’t taken, of course, and then Eugene didn’t even want to leave with them despite a clear path of escape. It’s hard to tell whether Gregory is going to give the mutineers up or if he’s playing them so that he can allow his people to take them out by seeming like he’s cooperating, but I’m betting on the former, which is bad news for everyone involved. I’m getting very tired of seeing the Saviors show up and tell the good guys how great they have it, and how they should be grateful for the privilege of not having every single thing they have and find immediately pillaged from them by the more powerful.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 9 “Sock Puppets” (C)

I’m not amused by this episode’s title, which references the scheme being put on by Brett O’Keefe’s people. His character makes some sense as a conspiracy theorist, and it is mildly interesting to see that he’s directing his minions to troll the Internet with his ideas and ensure that mass chaos and disruption are created whenever possible. Yet Max having the perfect resume and just being his own antisocial self to get the job without so much as a background check or a reference doesn’t track at all, since, even if Brett didn’t trust those avenues, he’d still need to do something to research his hire before letting him have unfettered access to everything, exposing himself in a big way. We’ve learned from this show that paranoia is worthwhile, and no one is immune from it. Dar should be watching his back as he literally has Quinn in his home demanding answers and Carrie gunning for him with Keane’s full support after she completely flip-flopped and decided to trust Carrie implicitly after writing her off last week. The notion that Saul goes down for all of this even though he’s always been pure of heart and intention is miserable, and I’d be far more impressed if the action was more compelling and involving. This show doesn’t seem to have a point other than to show how broken the homeland security system is, and rare moments of tangential relief, like Carrie getting visitation with Franny – which of course immediately struck me as a trap engineered by Dar – are meant to be the only light in an otherwise very dark world.

Take Three: Making History

Making History: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Boyfriend Experience” (B+)

This show continues to be a lot of fun going into episode three, and it didn’t take long for some of Dan’s lies about all the things from the future that he invented to come back to haunt him. It’s funny that he was surprised that Deborah was listening so closely to him while he was yammering on about everything that existed in the future, and watching her react to the wonder of Dan’s brilliance was very entertaining. She’s not nearly as clueless as she often seems, as her rejection of Chris’ assertion that there are different kinds of smart indicated. It’s totally true that dressing up as someone whose appearance she wasn’t familiar with as a romantic gesture was hopelessly misguided, but at least it managed to impress her enough after he fell into one of her traps and apparently drank his own fake breast milk to survive the hour or two that he spent in there. My favorite line of the episode, highlighted by exceptional delivery, was Dan’s reply of “Yon woods?” Chris fighting for tenure does seem to be a little more intense of a battle in a literal way than you’d expect, but it appears that he’s forever tethered to his good friend Dan, which is all but guaranteed to keep his academic future from being too bright. I like that Dan went back to the past to get some sage advice from his friends, who were supportive of his plan but not appreciative of the fact that he didn’t ask them anything about how their revolution was going.

Pilot Review: Iron Fist

Iron Fist (Netflix)
Premiered March 17

I feel like I need to be watching all of these new Marvel series, partly because I know that I’m going to want to follow “The Defenders” when it premieres and won’t want to miss anything from the mythology. While I was completely enthralled with “Jessica Jones” from the first episode, it took me considerably longer to warm to both “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage.” This show, on the other hand, seems markedly different, and much, much less sophisticated and impressive. This introductory exposition felt like it dragged so much, with the nonchalant and mysteriously alive Danny Rand insisting over and over that he was who he said he was while two people from his past refused to even acknowledge the possibility before eventually turning much more sinister, making their intentions to keep his potential existence quiet clear. The one scene in which Danny did something impressive, flipping himself out of the way when a taxi nearly took him out, also felt somewhat forced and out of place, and I can only hope whatever action awaits going forward will be far more convincing and compelling. I feel like I need to give this show another try just to see if there’s anything of interest to be found, but at this point, I’m not at all optimistic given this extremely lackluster and plodding start. No one in the cast did much to help that, and I’m finding Danny more irritating than anything else, hardly what you want to be saying about your main character from the very beginning.

How will it work as a series? We know that there’s more to Danny than he’s letting on and that he is indeed who he says he is, and so I assume we’re going to learn a lot more about what turned him into who he is today and why everyone seems to want him did. It might be a bit interesting, but I’m not sold.
How long will it last? Premiering this show last was probably smart for Netflix since, seeing the dismal reviews that it has gotten across the board, I assume there’s going to settle for Iron Fist being a character on an ensemble show and not getting another showcase season of his own.

Pilot grade: C

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 8 “How Much Vomit?” (B+)

Of course on this show the killer who they accidentally turned into a zombie instead of taking him out would want to “kill with music” rather than go on a literal killing spree. I enjoyed the fact that Sheila immediately took to Loke and that they bonded because there was no one else they knew who could relate to what they were going through. Sure, things got a little weird when he brought a literal food locker for Sheila to go through, but I like that he kept recording things he said because he thought that they would make great lyrics. Falling for Sheila and determining that he had to murder Joel wasn’t a great development, but they managed to make use of the extra stuff that they bought when they went shopping – even though it wasn’t on the list – to take him out and solve that problem once and for all. Abby and Eric got into shenanigans of their own when they sold Joel’s bike, which was promptly chopped up for parts, and then had to figure out how to best dismember it so that they could kill two birds with one stone and show Sheila and Joel that Abby was ready to be on board with their new lifestyle. The ending scene was comic and disgusting at the same time, with Joel humorously indulging Sheila’s efforts to turn her missing toe into something sexy before her eye decided that it was the right time to drop out of its socket. Oh, what it must be like to film this show.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete (Season Finale)

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Longest Day” (B+)

Well, this concluding hour didn’t disappoint. I’m relieved to know that it was Winslow and not Audrey who got himself shot when the gun went off, though it clearly put her in a state of shock as her walking out in front of the car when Otto and Taylor pulled up indicated. For as goofy and unserious as Taylor has seemed throughout this season, he sprang into action in an impressive way, calmly figuring out what to do to ensure that Audrey and Otto wouldn’t be incriminated in any way by what had happened with Winslow. Lance looked like one hell of a fool trying to turn the tables on Chayton and insist that the land was worth so much because of the uranium, and Julia was not in the mood to humor him even for a moment. She really has been a crucial part of this show, and still ranks as my favorite character. Things played out differently than I expected with the whole Vince situation, with Pete stepping in to play cards and then getting caught cheating with the other guy, implicating all of them in yet another con on Vince. Fortunately, there were so many layers that even with Vince shooting someone he managed to get shot and they all got away safe. Eddie was hurt that he didn’t know what was going on, but Pete was smart not to let him in on everything since he did confess right away to try to save his brother. Saying goodbye to the family wasn’t too definitive, which is good, but it looks he has entirely different troubles, in the form of Desmond Harrington from “Dexter,” waiting for him next season. I look forward to it – this has been a great season!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Marin Ireland as Julia

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Hammer” (B-)

There’s a certain silliness to this show that doesn’t quite feel appropriate for the rather serious and deadly content that does happen on this show, both with the assassination of Margot’s most loyal henchman and Tommy’s precarious predicament. I can’t understand why Margot would think to hire Alice and Val, and I’m just as puzzled by the fact that they didn’t try to ensnare her in a trap so that they could send her back to jail. Somehow, they pulled this off without the FBI catching on or even noticing that anything was up since Justine was too busy mocking Ben and Rhys for thinking that they knew better regarding how to execute a job. They’re both being awfully casual about this informant-undercover work they’re doing, and just as unsubtle with impromptu dinner parties complete with Rhys wearing an apron and preparing a home-cooked meal. I’m not growing too fond of Tommy the more we get to know him, and tracking down Rhys to do something illicit with the money that we’ve just learned is very dangerous is a twist that just serves to complicate matters. Their plan to smoke out the sniper was admittedly pretty cool, and it worked very well even if he did get off a few shots at the decoys. Sophie being mad at Danny for not checking in on her might have been more compelling if the two were more fully-established characters, and instead we just got to see Sophie jump way in to an ill-advised romance with Tommy.

Pilot Review: Snatch

Snatch (Crackle)
Premiered March 16

I have a somewhat foggy memory of watching the film “Snatch” probably a few years after it came out. What I remember is that it was fast-paced, frantic, and near-impossible to understand. I didn’t expect too much from a show that serves as a remake of the film, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a relatively involving pilot that wasn’t all that hard to understand and structured itself pretty well. I enjoyed the introduction of someone as an “upstanding citizen,” immediately followed by a shot of him disposing of a body. The music is also a very commendable part of the show, getting very intense when the match went the other way and then again towards the end when they realized that there were two trucks. Having their big gain be caught on camera and promptly uploaded to the Internet is a very bad thing, and it’s just those kind of antics that are going to define this show. In the cast, aside from Ed Westwick from “Gossip Girl,” Marc Warren from “The Good Wife,” and Dougray Scott from “Mission: Impossible II,” Rupert Grint, best known as Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” movies, is clearly having fun playing against type as Charlie. This is actually a show I might not mind which could be engaging, but I don’t think that I need to get involved with it right now. I can be more than content knowing that it surpassed my expectations and served as more than decent entertainment for the one hour of it that I watched.

How will it work as a series? This world has more than enough craziness and intrigue to populate a season if not a number of seasons, and ending the episode with this big discovery assures that the fallout should be well worth it and capable of maintaining viewers’ interest.
How long will it last? I think this one might be a hit despite the fact that the reviews haven’t been overwhelmingly positive. Ratings data isn’t really published or available by the streaming service, which premiere all ten episodes last week. My bet is that this will be renewed.

Pilot grade: B

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: Underground

Underground: Season 2, Episode 2 “Things Unsaid” (B)

I’m not sure it’s that the quality of this show is changing, but I think I’m becoming less and less drawn to it. There’s no denying the strength and effectiveness of the music, which was used a few times throughout this episode to propel its characters along and amplify their stories. We’re shifting now to a story that’s much more about constantly being on the run and about trying to keep the Underground Railroad functional, with a new slavecatcher with a reputation introduced to make things as difficult as possible. Harriet Tubman is becoming an important figure, and Rosalee is also being framed as a major leader. I was surprised when Rosalee got shot by the woman who vowed to take her and Tubman down since it felt like this show was literally just cleaning out all its characters and introducing a new slate, but not only did she survive, but now we have a familiar face – Cato – returned to make Noah’s suffering considerably more personal and vindictive. While I am curious to see how he got there, the prospect of not knowing doesn’t seem disappointing to me. This show is holding up okay with much of its infrastructure toppled, Elizabeth mourning the death of her husband and no stable place of either safety from the slavecatchers or reliable misery, and I imagine it can continue to tell a decent story for some time to go. I still think that I’m ready to bid this show goodbye and consider what I’ve seen satisfactory.

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 1, Episode 6 “Chapter 6” (B+)

If I’m understanding things correctly – and I think I am – this entire episode took place inside David’s mind. Lenny is the manifestation of the much more powerful, evil mutant that exists within him, and therefore she got to play the doctor sitting down and diagnosing all of her patients with whatever they didn’t want to hear to make them feel inferior and incompetent. It’s a terrifying concept, but it was extraordinarily well-executed, and a superb showcase for Aubrey Plaza, who I thought was perfect back when she was supposed to be just an actually disturbed inmate at the mental institution and not a villain who uses intimidation, seduction, and manipulation to her advantage. Syd seemed to be the most aware that something was wrong, noting the strangeness of David confusing their conditions. Explained as a dream that doesn’t quite seem right, this makes total sense since none of them, including the Eye, who had a few humorous moments interacting with Dr. Lenny, were able to realize that they were in the wrong place and that things didn’t add up. Lenny telling Cary and Kerry that it wasn’t healthy for them to be so inseparable was amusing, particularly with their reaction to that comment. Maybe the man in the mask can help them get out of there, because we saw how difficult it was to wake David up after they all got trapped in his head the first time, and I don’t see how anyone else is going to be able to turn that door into a real existent door that’s consistently there.

Take Three: National Treasure

National Treasure: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I’m relieved to see that Dee’s vehicular incident wasn’t in fact a fatal one, though she’s still going through a lot. It seems that it has actually opened up a dialogue with her father for him to talk about what he may have done and for us to see back into the past for more damning evidence against him. Marie’s visit to the set to find Paul didn’t recommend his character all that much, but there was nothing more memorable in this hour than the death stare that Dee gave her mother when her father came to hug her after her overdose. Evidently, things have changed after so many years when, as an adult, she wants to move back home, but it’s just as obvious that she has always preferred her father, something that surely doesn’t sit well with her mother. Paul describing his father’s abuse of him and how it would paint him in a bad light didn’t do anything to help his case, and the casual nature of his recounting was disturbing. Offering to go to the police to tell them that he remembers something was an empty gesture both because the police were no longer the ones in charge and because all Marie wanted to know was whether he actually remembered doing it or if he was just saying it to be perceived more favorably. I can’t imagine we’ll get too much resolution in the one remaining episode, but this has undoubtedly been one of the more moving and involving shows that I’ve seen recently even with just a few episodes.

Pilot Review: Trial and Error

Trial and Error (NBC)
Premiered March 14 at 10pm

The mockumentary-style sitcom has become increasingly popular in recent years since “The Office” used it and many others followed suit. Such a format can be used in any setting, and we don’t even see it played out in a courtroom. This show is probably most comparable to “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in the absurdity of all of its events and the backwards laws – like “death by bear” – that couldn’t have ever been even remotely legal in less sophisticated times. The insistence that a “Northeasterner” – code for “Jewish” – represent John Lithgow’s Larry was just the tip of the iceberg, with the guards at the courthouse allowing in a firearm that they complimented and confiscating lip balm because they heard the word “balm” serving as among the most ridiculous. The team that Nick D’Agosto’s Josh has assembled is also absurd, with a private investigator who used to be a cop but left his patrol car in reverse and a secretary who can’t recognize faces and passes out whenever she sees anything beautiful. Add to that a client who cares more about his skate wrench than his murdered wife, may have killed his first wife, and always seems to say something incriminating and unhelpful when given the opportunity. This show is pretty wild, but it’s not all that bad. I like D’Agosto here much more than I did on “Heroes” or “Masters of Sex,” and there’s no question that Lithgow is right for this role. I also like Jayma Mays (who used to be on “Heroes” too), and this is a fun part for her. I might be back to check out a third episode of this decent comedy – we’ll see.

How will it work as a series? My first thought was that it’s meant to be a weekly series, and so I’m not sure how that’s going to jive with a murder case that’s eventually going to run its course and will in all likelihood end with the defendant being executed. While it lasts it should be fun though!
How long will it last? I expected the reviews to be a lot worse than they are, with people having mostly positive things to say about the show. Premiering this show immediately following the season finale of “This Is Us” seems like an odd choice because the audience isn’t the same, and hopefully week two moved to the 9pm hour should prove than the debut airing which wasn’t watched by all that many people.

Pilot grade: B

Monday, March 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Birth” (B+)

We’re going back far into the past on this show, spending very little time in the present, with just the episode’s final scene returning us to the trial in motion. I like the brief glimpse of the future that we saw with both interogators realizing that Nate and Robin might both know more about the other’s stories than they’re letting on. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Nate would dress up as a blood-covered doctor with a chainsaw on Halloween while Robin was inside on the couch very pregnant with the twins, and that he got a comment from a concerned parent that he was going to be a terrible father. After contending with two women who couldn’t believe that he was with someone as hot as Robin, he had the quite epic journey to the hospital, highlighted by some other guy at the club being named Nate and trying desperately to injure himself so that the cops would give him a ride to the hospital. There’s a certain sweetness to the moments that he and Robin share that are defined by absurdity yet grounded in a nice connection, one that can set things back on course after a certain unwelcome husband showed up to try to claim fatherhood. I’m not even going to ask about this science regarding one woman having sex with two men during the same twenty-four hour period resulting in two different fathers of twins, but given how this show works, it seems pretty clear that Jareb may not be Nate’s son, a fact that isn’t ultimately going to matter because this family sticks through everything, no matter how crazy, together.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 5 “Stoner Sensai’s Secrets of Love” (B+)

Okay, so now it’s seeming like maybe Jack didn’t sleep with Ruby, and he’s attempting to take the moral high ground camping out on this brother’s couch. It’s interesting that the first thing that happened when Izzy showed up was them ripping off each other’s clothes and having sex, but that’s also been how their one-on-one relationship has been defined. Izzy likes to deal head-on with problems and disagreements without necessarily considering the big picture and how things will be affected going forward. Trying to advocate and apologize on behalf of Emma was good-natured, but Jack was right to note that it wasn’t really coming from her. With Izzy out trying to win Jack back, Emma turned to a strange ally – Lori – who is becoming more and more sympathetic. Carmen had some trouble getting through her own attempt to spice things up in the bedroom with Dave because she couldn’t get the safety of her kids and what Emma was doing socially with Lori out of her mind. Even though she isn’t supportive of Emma’s recent life-love decisions, she still wants to be her go-to friend and doesn’t want to be sidelined of favor of someone she really doesn’t like at all. I like that Ava is trying so hard not to be her mother that she literally analyzes each situation to do the opposite of what her mother would do, including giving someone a hug, which made Lori giving someone else a hug a damaging blow to everything she thought she knew to be true.