Thursday, March 21, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 5 “Paw Patrol” (B+)

There just isn’t another show like this one right now, and it continues to astound me. The world was about to end when the last episode ended, and what better way to combat a freakish eye in the sky than by rewriting history? It’s not common to have a villain who acknowledges their frustration with having not been featured in the past two episodes and moaning about not wanting to deal with flashbacks, but Mr. Nobody wasn’t the villain for most of this hour, mainly because this isn’t how he wanted to see his enemies eviscerated. Interrupting the flashbacks and turning Jane into Dr. Harrison was an incredible introduction to the revised timeline in which she created a cult of her own to bring back the Recreator to defeat the Decreator. It’s a crazy concept I can’t even fully process, one which is further complicated since it led right into Jane meeting the Chief, an event we know must have happened differently in the original timeline. The Chief’s return didn’t feel real, and Mr. Nobody making it so that he would vomit anytime someone mentioned his name was a clever way of keeping distance between. Putting Victor in a terrible position and ripping the Chief out of the room was a harsh return to reality at the end of the episode, and the brief glimpse of the Chief is going to keep them all on edge. Apart from everyone, Rita nearly achieved a breakthrough with Elliot, but her failure to do so triggered her involuntary powers, which is always going to be her main weakness when she feels like she has it all together.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 15 “Bad Blood” (B)

This episode was relatively entertaining, but it was hardly the best example of execution for comic storylines on this show. Marty and Marilyn showing up to share that they don’t fight was never going to end well, and Marilyn refusing to hear anything Grace said when she started the sentence with “Mom” was the least of their issues. Though he’s incredibly intolerant, Marty at least knows what he doesn’t want to confront, acknowledging the “me too” moment that he and Grace had, and not wanting to be held accountable for another area in which he wasn’t being progressive. Rejecting Will’s blood and then still telling Marilyn that he had taken it wasn’t a nice move, and it was good to see Marilyn spring to Will’s defense. She even secretly told Grace that she could call her Mom when no one else was around and if she was reading her mood properly. Will stood up for himself to Marty too, which was affirming, and it was a refreshing treat to see him stand up for something where he was totally right and didn’t have to worry that someone would judge him for it. Jack, on the other hand, was completely subservient to a dominant Karen, who tried to take over both his wedding and his play by injecting her influence because she was paying for everything. This show has always been risqué, but I’m curious how they’re going to incorporate this fountain that everyone seemed so excited about it, which has already been the subject of a few unsubtle double entendres.

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry (Season Finale)

I’m Sorry: Season 2, Episode 10 “New York vs. LA” (B)

It’s weird watching this finale without knowing whether this show is going to continue. It’s on a network which hosts no other series that I watch, and season two was commissioned while the first one was still airing, which makes the notion of a third year for this show completely unknown. Andrea, for one, spent a good deal of this episode renegotiating terms, making jokes about her marriage contract with Mike and his apparent interest, which I think was mostly humorous, in certain activities to which she was not open. Hosting the memorial service for her great-uncle did make Andrea uncomfortable in a more serious way than usual, suddenly contemplating the potential deaths of both her parents, inevitabilities she had always thought of as long-off that seemed much closer now. Both of them were quite casual about it, and Martin’s request for a particular type of bag to be buried in so that he could decompose was quite absurd. I’m glad that no mention of Jennifer’s boyfriend’s enthusiasm for sex leaked at the party, as I feared it would, and instead Andrea, Mike, and viewers were saddled with some unfortunate information they definitely didn’t need about length versus thickness. Mike giving Andrea the ultimate present of revealing that he had bought the tank top just to mess with her was a great way to end the episode, showing her that he understood what she wanted from him when it came to humor and doing bits, which was made funnier by the fact that she was wearing a t-shirt to a fancy restaurant just to make a point about where they were in their relationship. I’d watch more of this show, though I don’t know when we’ll have any information about if it will indeed be back.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Andrea Savage

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 10 “Magical Thinking” (B)

We had all of our friends putting out – or, more accurately, starting – different fires over the course of this episode, which ranks the fourth-to-last this series will produce. The opener with Jimmy in the car with Mariah didn’t bode well, but I won’t say too much about that since it’s still not clear what it means. It is good that Edgar is finally standing up to Jimmy, to a degree of course, telling him that he doesn’t appreciate the way that he treats him and that he’ll need to remove himself from the situation, a hint that went way over Jimmy’s head. It’s helpful that Jimmy wants to be there for Gretchen, but the enthusiastic interest he’s trying to show is not the affection that she needs. After Sam’s bizarre ultimatum and Nock Nock’s creepy light-flickering bathroom speech, she completely froze, and deliberately setting off the fire alarm was a definite equivalent of a cry for help. With just three episodes to go, here’s hoping that Jimmy can be the emotional support she needs, though it’s not looking good if those scenes that start and end each episode are any indication. I like that Lindsay had no idea that she was lazing around with the woman in charge, and you have to give considerable credit to Yvette for making a move on her and getting Lindsay to try to commit to a woman in a way she’s never thought about and one that feels moderately healthier than her past would-be relationships with a number of men.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers

Miracle Workers: Season 1, Episode 5 “3 Days” (B-)

Things on this show are getting a bit too stupid for my tastes, but at least it’s still engaging and mostly entertaining. Starting with the arrival of a number of apparently randomly selected individuals to heaven was an effective way to explain the presence of Rosie, who thought that being the executive assistant to God would actually allow her to do something good. This rival galaxy feels like a totally different place, with its light-emanating folder, but it is true that she likely wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much there as she could where she currently is, even if it’s unbearably irritating. She did a masterful job of making up the content of the death waiver that they tricked God into signing, which isn’t an easy feat if you’re actually reading other words off the page. God not being able to read does make a lot of sense, which would probably explain why much of the world is what it is today, and it provided some good moments for flashback humor, namely him brushing his teeth with foot cream defiantly even after being asked if that’s what he had meant to do. I do prefer the notion of him turning his biggest critics into jelly beans than his more absurd ritual of having them pick out the one root beer jelly bean (an admittedly great flavor) from the barrel that he evidently can’t open. Just two episodes left to go here – can sanity and the planet be preserved and this show remain moderately intelligent in the process?

Monday, March 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 15 “The Waiting Room” (B)

It’s interesting to see that this show can be particularly effective when it stays grounded in the present and doesn’t involve any flashbacks. Those can be one of its strongest assets, but they’re also prone to being quite manipulative. In this case, the Pearson family members were able to invoke memories that stand out for them without us seeing them, as Rebecca picturing Jack on those seats would surely have been powerful but her description of how she remembered them was just as resounding. Also, not seeing Toby and Kate until the very end of the episode was effective since this was the experience of those on the outside, who felt bold enough to demand answers from those between the desk but as tangential family members weren’t actually entitled to an urgent response. Things did get dramatic, leading to a moderately irritating repetition of the same line thanking people for putting up with them, and it’s a rare circumstance in which Madison is the most sympathetic one in the room. Toby’s joke about Kate wanting to see Miguel first did feel a bit mean-spirited, especially coming from one of the outsiders, and Miguel got some aggression directed his way from Beth too when she felt he was speaking for Rebecca, who has a tendency to burrow within these moments and not take care of herself. Zoe acknowledging the contents of Kevin’s bottle doesn’t speak well to his imminent recovery, but it seems like she’s going to try to stick it out with him knowing where things stand at the moment.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 16 “Failure is an Orphan” (B)

It’s definitely not a great idea for Nora to be making recommendations to everyone based on what she knows to have happened from the timeline that she left and likely altered by coming back to the past, and, surprise, surprise, things didn’t go as she expected. The notion of Barry talking to Cicada honestly both about his legacy and about being a father was a good one, but then everything had to be derailed by the fact that there’s another Cicada out there who, just like Nora, appears to have traveled back from the future to wreak havoc in the past. I recognized Sarah Carter right away from her role on a show that I used to like at the beginning but quickly lost interest in, “Falling Skies.” It’s hard to know how or why that happened, especially as Barry was able to get Cicada to trust him, but that’s just going to be one more obstacle to overcome and explain over the course of however many episodes this show has left this season, which is likely between five and seven. Seeing Joe and Cecile work together well was affirming since couples haven’t always done great in a professional setting on this show, and even though they had their hurdles, they came through them to put the human lie detector to the test in the best way possible. I’m not sure what comes next, but I do think that it’s about time that Nora stopped lying to everyone and came clean about what she’s really doing and why she’s working with Eobard Thawne.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: SMILF

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 7 “Smile More If Lying Fails” (B)

This show was actually cancelled before this episode aired, a likely consequence of reports of problematic behavior by star and creator Frankie Shaw on set. As I’ve mentioned throughout this season, I’m not too sad to see the show go, though I now feel like I may as well stick with it through the final three episodes. It doesn’t change my perspective to know that the show won’t be continuing since I feel like most of these episodes are relatively self-contained anyway, if they’re even related to the primary plot of the show. We haven’t seen Eliza in a while, which made the focus on her in this half-hour a bit puzzling, but it did help to show yet another situation in which Bridgette doesn’t understand how she’s behaving. Finding out that she wouldn’t be invited to Rafi and Nelson’s wedding was a huge blow given how excited she was to attend rather than devastated to learn of the impending union, and her question about whether Larry would be invited didn’t help the situation at all. Bridgette’s corn rows did manage to make people uncomfortable, and telling the narrative about how Rafi had proposed to her was particularly painful because she left the fact that she said no long before until the very end. I immediately recognized Gary Anthony Williams, who stars on “I’m Sorry,” as Philip, who was quite enthusiastic but not too interested in talking to Bridgette. The date at the end of the episode was mostly going well, and as if Bridgette texting during the “bad sex” wasn’t rude enough, she had to go and send it to him, making the night a true misfire.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 2 “Slow Down, Children at Play” (B)

I think we can all agree that things on this show would be a lot easier for everyone if Leslie was no longer around. I don’t think that Ruby would have pulled the trigger while Annie almost certainly would have, but, as usual, it’s Beth who was in charge and made the decision that they couldn’t kill him. She’s always been the most resourceful and put-together of the group, and while it’s not clear what Rio means when he says he’s going to train her, at least she’s not being punished but instead brought closer to his vision of the world. Dean definitely went back to work very early, and it’s hard to decide whether he’s more useless there or at home griping about the stolen stop sign. I did forget to mention that Leslie had proposed to Mary Pat, the only character anywhere near as insufferable as him, last week, and now he’s trying to get that commitment cemented in his typical unbearable way. He doesn’t deserve $20,000, but he’s also already demonstrated that he’s not going to keep to the terms he agreed to in exchange for the money. Ruby and Stan going to a priest to discuss her metaphorical affair wasn’t the worst thing, and it’s good to see that the one stable couple on this show is approaching reconciliation. I can’t understand why Annie was at the gender-reveal party for Greg and Nancy, and what a way for Nancy to find out about Greg and Annie after she truly connected with Annie.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 7 “65” (B)

Watching this show, I really do feel as if Blair and Tiff lie somewhere well below the intellect of the average viewer, while Mo and Dawn are considerably more cunning and always thinking something about, especially if it has to do with making money. Blair was wrong in this case about everything that happened with Mo and the car getting stolen – or at least, we were led to believe that – but, towards the end of the episode, he understood exactly what was going on and wasn’t about to let Mo manipulate him anymore. Mo probably thought that coming clean with Blair was the only thing left to do and the honesty would catch him off guard, but Blair is still a good guy and doesn’t want to be messed with, plus he cares about Tiff more than anything. Her abduction probably won’t be too consequential, and it’s very possible that Mo is the one who engineered her kidnapping. Dawn continues to be this show’s most compelling character, ending up sitting one-on-one with Tiff at her bachelorette party and having a true heart-to-heart, which wasn’t necessarily in support of the endgame that she and Mo have been championing all along. While Blair now knows exactly what Mo was trying to do, I think that she wouldn’t even be open to hearing about the duplicity and would instead implicitly trust her new best friend Dawn. We’ll have to see how it all plays out though since this plan seems to be tanking in a big way.

Pilot Review: Now Apocalypse

Now Apocalypse (Starz)
Premiered March 10 at 9pm

If there’s one thing that doesn’t need to be explored yet again on television, it’s the impending end of the world. There are two shows currently dealing with that which both started just a few weeks ago, “Doom Patrol” and “The Umbrella Academy,” and those at least featured superpowered protagonists who are trying their best to stop it. What we have here instead is a perplexing and totally unappealing look at ordinary people who spend more time trying to find dates and have sex than they do anything else. The moment in this pilot that will likely never be erased from my memory found two different couples achieving satisfaction at exactly the same time thanks to the editing, something which I found gratuitous and entirely unnecessary. Sure, the world may be ending soon, but at least Ulysses had a great time with his internet date who turned out to be real after all. There wasn’t anything in this show, which miraculously only runs half an hour rather than a full hour, which makes me want to watch it. What puzzles me most is who exactly the intended audience of this show is, since it’s not really science fiction, it’s not horror, and it has far too much explicit content to be aimed at teenagers, the group that best fits the maturity level expressed throughout this entire first episode. I don’t think there’s much else to say – I’m more than happy to forget as much of this show as I can, as quickly as possible.

How will it work as a series? That final scene indicates that, as long as he’s not crazy, Ulysses’ premonitions do have some validity, and there’s reason for him to fear more than just being catfished by someone he met online. I doubt anyone will believe him, and it’s not as if his best friend and roommate have their lives all that much more together than he does to truly do something about it.
How long will it last? I was surprised to learn that this show has apparently impressed people, earning much more decent reviews than I would have thought. Ratings data isn’t a huge thing that Starz broadcasts, but I’d say that premiering this show right after its ultra-popular “American Gods” debuts its second season definitely gives it a better chance at long life than it otherwise would have had.

Pilot grade: F

Friday, March 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Season Finale)

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 14 “Found” (B+)

It’s been a long road to this point, especially considering the early timing of Emmy Rossum’s announcement, but I’m all for how she exited this show. It was also nice to see Cameron Monaghan again as Ian, since I had read that the last time we saw him was actually his final appearance on the show. Communing with Ian, someone else who has found a way to separate from the Gallagher family, was an important step before she left town as her family was planning a goodbye party, boarding a plane for the very first time to get the hell out of this life. It’s been a formidable nine years on this show for Rossum, and while I know it’s impossible, I’d love to see her finally get the Emmy recognition she deserves. Instead, it will likely be just William H. Macy, whose Frank has had a wild year, now confined to the couch with necessary sponge baths given to him not by his first choice. He does do great work, but how can you watch a show like this and not notice the incredible contributions of the entire cast, including Jeremy Allen White as Lip, Emma Kenney as Debs, Ethan Cutkosky as Carl, and, in this episode especially, Christian Isaiah as Liam? I’m also very happy with how the Kelly plotline progressed, with her responding angrily to Debs and then going after Carl to force him not to throw away his future. I didn’t expect that, and it’s good to see someone who is truly committed to one of the Gallaghers. Things with Tami might be a bit rockier, but they might work out too. The idea of Kev trying to bill himself as a Bat Mitzvah Jesus is indeed appealing. This has been a great season as always, and while I might think that some shows don’t need to be renewed for a tenth season, this one definitely deserves as much as those behind it want to see.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Emmy Rossum as Fiona

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 14 “Stand and Deliver” (B)

It’s interesting to see what this show is doing now by having Brainy start the “American Alien” march as Lockwood tries to use his official government platform to repeal the Alien Amnesty Act. I’m not sure how much of this is based on the comics and how much has been created or tweaked specifically to parallel current politics. Manchester Black and his crew of angry aliens do give some weight to the “good people on both sides” argument, and I guess that’s why Supergirl was able to inspire one person who came with hatred in his heart to switch sides and help an alien up. As she tackled her worst possible assignment to protect Lockwood, Alex came to a better place with Supergirl, which is helpful, and it’s nice to see the crew of alien superheroes leading the march, with Nia embracing her Dreamer identity and trying to stay in costume even when she’s not actively engaged in something heroic. Haley continues to be somewhat puzzling since she increasingly reflects positive ideas even if she’s too obsessed with following orders, and, even though Lockwood appears to be backing down by going through Congress (a humorous notion given our president’s route), there’s going to come a time soon where people will have to definitely choose sides. Unlike at this point last year with the endless Reign saga, this season shows no signs of letting up as its conflicts continue to intensify and add more depth to all the characters and themes involved.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 16 “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (B-)

Miles and Cara were hopelessly matched for their first admitted romantic interaction, but they managed to be less hapless than usual in their meddling, with budding restaurateur Sophia’s plans to open her own establishment foiled not by them but by other forces entirely. I recognized Al Sapienza right away from his days on “The Sopranos,” and I couldn’t have picked a more fitting role for him than as a lasagna-loving Italian restaurant owner. It was admittedly nice to see that he was never too opposed to the idea of her running her own place and instead was just grounded in tradition, and that he was more than happy to support her when she had to overcome some obstacles to getting it off the ground. Simon seemed briefly irritated that Rakesh was usually his computer but got over that very fast, and now it’s as if they’re united together against this infiltrating enemy who we still think is just trying to help people with the God account? I’ll admit I’m lost. Miles and Cara finally kissing and experiencing the spark that allegedly has to happen at the beginning or it never will felt forced, though at least now they’ll be able to be passionate with each other and considerably less awkward. What I don’t buy is that Andrew and the diocese were being so secretive because they were actually preparing to promote Arthur. This show needs to have some consequences for its characters, something that is entirely absent and sorely missing right now.

Pilot Review: After Life

After Life (Netflix)
Premiered March 8

A comedy about a man who loses his wife and then decides that he can say whatever he wants to anyone since nothing matters anymore? Sure, that could work. Cast someone like Jim Carrey in the lead role and you probably have a recipe for success. But this is one case where the person playing the protagonist can be truly problematic. Ricky Gervais as someone who says horrible things to anyone around him isn’t hard to fathom since that’s a character he’s often played, but what is impossible to believe is that he could have been a nice guy before all of it. I’m not sure that there’s too much in the way of sincere originality here, but Gervais casting himself in the project is what made it least convincing for me. This isn’t his first crack at a television show by any stretch, with “The Office,” “Extras,” and “Derek” all coming before this in terms of projects he both starred in and created. He’s a personality that takes some getting used to, and Tony feels like a natural fit for him. Having an idealistic reporter who just wants to write features while he constantly mocks the poor reputation of the newspaper seems like a forced attempt at sentimentality, something that probably won’t work too well. All told, nothing in this first half-hour was all that funny, and I think many who tune in might be disappointed just to see Gervais being mean to people rather than getting the opportunity to experience someone continuing on after their natural time on earth.

How will it work as a series? Like most of Gervais’ past shows, this one is only slated to run six episodes, which means there doesn’t need to be too much filler content. If nothing else, this episode did dive right in, using one introductory video to do all of the exposition and seamlessly filling in the other details as it went on. It’s going to have to decide where it wants to be funny or heartwarming or risk being neither, which is what I’m imagining will happen.
How long will it last? The reviews may not be superb, but Gervais is a bankable commodity. None of his previous shows have lasted more than two short seasons and a holiday special, and so it’s completely reasonable to expect the exact same here. I’m actually predicting that it won’t be renewed, but I think it’s definitely a toss-up.

Pilot grade: C+