Sunday, May 3, 2015

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 21 “Integrity” (C)

I don’t mind this show’s mockumentary format, but I don’t like it when the characters specifically tell stories that explain the details of how they were doing something in the service of some goal without just showing it as a way of portraying it. I’m not talking about Alex reading off her introduction to the winner of the unfortunately-named award that ended up going to Luke since that is usually how this show wraps up its episodes, on a slightly sentimental note. Claire vowing that she couldn’t let things go and that she had to do something to make Luke feel good about himself, on the other hand, was far less charming and quite irritating. Obviously Luke doesn’t care about being considered stupid, and that he was trying to do something nice for Manny seemed like a surprise since he’s never been known to consider his cousin’s feelings. Phil and Jay trying so hard to subvert what they thought their wives were forcing them to do was unfortunate, but their scrambling to right their missteps wasn’t nearly as entertaining as it should have. It’s a good thing Cameron and Mitchell got on the same page about having another baby quickly and then stayed in sync as they went back to not being so sure when Joe destroyed their house – a humorous and fitting picture of parenting at its most hilariously tragic – only to realize that Lily most of all could use a new sibling. Haley getting serious and telling Gloria that she realizes her future is not bright was a decent moment, and I enjoyed Gloria’s reference of what a Colombian hothead really is. I do wish that the talented Michael Urie had a better role than as Haley’s monster boss.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 21 “Asylum” (B+)

This was a pretty packed episode, and it makes much more sense given the fact that the season finale airs next week. This finale got back to the large cadre of recurring characters we’ve known for a long time, including Greer, Martine, Dominic, Elias, Harper, and Control. We also got a shot of Shaw in the side view mirror of a car, and though I’m pretty sure that she’s left the show, I’m so hoping that she’ll show up in the season finale (or be kept alive so that she can come back full-time once she gives birth). Root being threatened with a lobotomy and forcing the machine to give itself up for her freedom was inarguably intense, and her casual snapping of Martine’s neck came as a surprise. I’m not sure how exactly Control fits in to all this since the mole she interrogated and executed was working for Samaritan and she’s sort of trying to stop it, whether or not she’s really on the same side as Root, Finch, and everyone else. Reese and poor Fusco always manage to go visit either Elias or Dominic at just the moment that the two volatile crime bosses come together. Obviously, we’re rooting for Elias since he actually likes Reese and isn’t constantly trying to kill him, but it’s definitely clear that Elias is a superior boss since Dominic executed his loyal number two simply because he heard from one source that he was a traitor. I’m eager for the season finale and to see what new direction this show heads in once Samaritan makes its next giant worrisome move.

What I’m Watching: Weird Loners

Weird Loners: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Weirdfather” (C-)

I wasn’t a fan of this episode, and I’m continuing to doubt the enduring quality of this show in general. The news that Stosh has a son was delivered quite casually, as most shocking things that he says are, and it proved to be a wholly disappointing experience. I’m not sure which was more exaggerated – the long, silent awkwardness or the thickness of his son’s accent. That they bonded only over watching “The Godfather,” a thoroughly inappropriate film for such a young kid, was understandable, but I wasn’t fond at all of the reenactment of the scene by the garbage cans that occurred after Stosh opted to abandon his son and pretend that he had gone for a job interview. This show toes the line between being very literal and going way overboard in terms of its comedy, and I prefer the former immensely. Zara and Stosh calling with video and deceptive backgrounds fall somewhere in between, and I don’t mind that as much. Zara freaking out when Caryn started to value their friend time too much made some sense, though it was exactly the opposite of what Caryn needed to affirm her self-esteem. Becki going nuts and writing Taco Tuesday on every Tuesday of the entire calendar is more about her being very intense about how she acts and plans, and I think that she’s probably the most consistent character on this show. I’m less impressed with Eric, who continues to be wholly unserious, childish, and over-the-top with few redeeming qualities.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 1, Episode 7 “Maternity Liv” (B+)

I like just how quickly personality traits manifest themselves in the zombies on this show after someone’s brains are eaten. It took just seconds for Liv to start acting like a mother, concerned that Ravi hadn’t eaten and obsessed with taking care of the baby that the owner of her brains had delivered posthumously. Siding with her mother about her brother taking charge of his life and later rocking a rate were my favorite effects of this particular serving of brains. Lowell not being attracted to Liv because he ate gay brains was also clever, and it’s great to see the two of them bonding even when they’re not able to be romantic with each other. Saying “awesomesauce” in response to her kiss was inarguably the best part of that whole plotline, and that may explain why he and Ravi were getting along so well on this particular visit. The biggest zombie moment was the confirmation that Suzuki is indeed a zombie, which allowed him to take a bullet and then amp up to take out every opponent left standing in the house. Major bringing in a reporter to make sure that something gets done about the Candyman was a regrettable mistake, since now he has alienated the entire police force and gotten Clive in trouble. Breaking into Julian’s car was an ill-advised idea from the start, and all it did was get him more intrigued by the human brain he found in the cooler and make him seem even crazier to all those around him.

Friday, May 1, 2015

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 19 “The Dirty Half Dozen” (B)

It is undeniably fun to see the team back together again, especially with the new twist of everyone hating Ward and one of them actively trying to kill them. Ward’s apology to the team seemed sincere, sprinkled with passive-aggressive threats from them during it, and I could have seen him sticking around to rejoin them again on a full-time basis. Instead, he opted to disappear to preserve his own well-being, and left Agent 33 to be accepted back into the fold, something about which she will not be excited. Reina having a vision of Skye saving the day was useful, and it looks like S.H.I.E.L.D, finally unified thanks to Gonzales leaving group decisions to a vote, has struck a decisive blow to Hydra. Escaping in what looked like debris was clever, and Simmons holding her disintegrating bomb to use it against Ward came in very handy to take out Dr. Bakshi, whose compliance wasn’t serving anyone well at that point. I had forgotten this show’s enduring loyalty to the film franchise that created its main character, and therefore ending the episode with an appearance by Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and an important reminder to go see the new Avengers movie was fitting. I guess that means I need to make time for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” one night next week before I watch next week’s episode. I hope that this show can still sustain itself and not feel like it needs to be considered TV leftovers of a far more exciting film series.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 4, Episode 21 “Panty Gate” (B)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this episode. We haven’t seen much of May to understand just how much Coach cares about her, but it’s clear that he has come pretty far in a short time. I didn’t realize that I recognized actress Meaghan Rath from her role as deputy Aimee in the most recent season of “Banshee,” quite a different part from this one. May showing up and constantly eating crackers while crying to Jess and Cece was entertaining, and showing up at the bar while multiple women were all over Coach did not seem like a promising development. Fortunately, they got to a great place, and it looks like Coach may be moving to New York. I’d rather he left the show altogether when he relocated since I think it was working fine before he returned, and it would be better than trying to drag out another long distance relationship. Fawn providing Schmidt with a script from him to read that pinned full blame on him for making Fawn not wear underwear was hardly kind, but Schmidt didn’t seem to mind that too much. It was her casual suggestion that they get married and live a sufficient life together that caught him off guard, and it’s as if he just snapped right out of it at that very moment, realizing that this wasn’t the relationship for him. I won’t be sad to see her go since I think that Schmidt is better as a functional, intelligent human being. If only Cece hadn’t decided that this was the perfect time to go climb a mountain.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 20 “The Trap” (B+)

Things have changed in an irreversible way, and it’s going to be interesting to see where things go from here. This episode put a lot of importance on last names, and told us more than a few things that will be extremely useful to know going forward. Discovering that the byline about the Flash being killed was by Iris West-Allen is quite informative, especially since Eddie, who’s rather clueless, was ready to propose to her in this episode. Joe coldly refusing Eddie’s request for his permission to marry his daughter seemed out of character, but it’s nice to know that he’s rooting for Barry. It seems that Eddie has a larger role to play in things then we might have expected, as a gleeful application of his last name to Iris’ name was later connected by Joe to Eobard, who is apparently a descendant of Eddie’s. That’s something I didn’t expect, and I don’t know nearly enough about the mythology of this universe to know anymore, and I’d rather not research it so that I can be genuinely surprised. Sending in the captured shapeshifter to play him and walk through the force field was an impressive move, and now Wells, which I think I’ll continue to call him because he still wears his face, is now in the wind and gunning for Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin despite his affection for them. I’m sure that the final few episodes of this season will be plenty exciting and build up to an immense and transformative finale.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 20 “Chapter Twenty” (B)

This episode was fine and fun, but I’m not quite as excited about where the plot is headed at the moment. I’m sure I’ll be fine with it once the season ends and it starts again in the fall, but Rafael choosing the hotel over Jane so that he can be successful just doesn’t really track too much with everything we know about him. Jane suing for sole custody is also a surprise, and it seems to have do mostly with Rafael’s refusal to honor her request that Petra be removed from the hotel, something which isn’t so reasonable given the fact that she and Rafael are business partners. Luisa’s return definitely threw that all into whack, as she got her new girlfriend Juicy Jordan a plum wrestling gig and began to wreak havoc everywhere. This episode did do a terrific job of incorporating both its percentiles and its wrestling visualizations. Measuring Jane’s anger level and Petra’s interest level in percentiles was great, and I like that this show uses some device like that, albeit a different one each time, almost every episode. Mommy Long Legs sparring with De La Vengeance was probably my favorite pairing of the imagined wrestling matches, though Jane’s Pregnant Punisher was a close runner-up. It’s good to see Rogelio back on top, especially because he ascended there in such dramatic fashion. Dina showing up with cupcakes and reminding Rogelio that he was the one who has been tweeting about the show’s declining ratings since his departure was particularly amusing sweet revenge.

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 4, Episode 3 “Data” (B+)

This show has always been very adept at addressing current issues that are considerably more serious in real life with a humorous, skewering slant. The juxtaposition of Selina having to deal with the personal details of the girl with AIDS being leaked and her casual request to the press to go easy on her daughter was pretty startling, and, as with most things that catch Selina by surprise, she was not at all pleased to learn about it. Catherine complaining about being bullied by her mother not to speak out about being bullied was particularly hilarious. The hunt for a scapegoat was a rough one but Ben seemed completely ready to take the fall and step down. That would have been a shame since he’s one of the strongest characters, most memorable in this scene for his seriously-uttered remark that Dan was having an erotic dream and that he and Kent were about to turn into women and start making out. Dan, on the other hand, is better when he’s seen scrambling, trying to make sense of everything he’s learning from his three iPads. I’m sure he won’t be gone for long, and I’m eager to see what he does next. I like the relationship between Jonah and Richard, one that is defined mainly by neither having any real clue what the other actually means when he says anything. We don’t see much of Sue anymore, and her brief report with her brother-in-law’s update about his organization pulling out was well worth the short screen time and chance to hear her deadpan delivery.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 2, Episode 3 “Bad Money” (B+)

This show is quite a rollercoaster, taking its characters from top of the heap to bottom of the barrel and then bolstering them up again just in the course of three episodes so far this season. Casting Chris Diamantopoulos as the new investor in Pied Piper is pure genius, and Russ Hanneman might as well be a slightly more egocentric version of Caster Soto, the character he played on “Episodes” in season three. He truly is a maniac, raving about how he put radio on the internet and then arriving at Erlich’s home ready to derail the whole process with distractions galore before spending $30,000 on meaningless billboards and taking it out of their cuts. The notion of Dinesh and Gilfoyle having twelve and eleven-person teams is mind-boggling, and even three underlings per person would be quite the change. It’s going to be hard for Pied Piper and its inventors to survive now that Russ has revealed himself to be insane, and I’m eager and nervous to see how that plays out. Gavin comparing billionaires to Jews in the Holocaust was fully preposterous, and his complete lack of self-awareness is what makes him such a formidable and frightening character. His plan to build up Big Head and make him seem like an inarguable genius is fantastic, and watching him walk around cluelessly while his intellect was described was extremely entertaining. Something tells me that he’ll be a terrible patsy, but it’s sure to cause plenty of headaches for Richard and his friends nonetheless.

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 7, Episode 11 “Time and Life” (B+)

This is damn good television, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll admit I’m at a loss about who owns Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce these days and how it all led to what happened in this episode. It feels like so long ago that Bert Cooper sat Harry down and told him that he could come with them to their new firm or they could lock him in a closet all weekend, and I’m not entirely sure what’s happened since then. It’s strange to think of this group as independent since they’ve seemed like a true era-defining corporation, and now the five New York partners are going to go from being top dogs to average workers in a position that might be desirable to anyone else without their prior experience. Don pitching a Los Angeles office and getting shut down immediately was disheartening, especially since he can usually smooth-talk his way out of anything, and the reaction of the entire office when they broke the news was messy. As this all played out, we’re continuing to get useful snippets of different characters’ home lives, with Pete heading out to punch someone who didn’t admit his daughter to school and Peggy worrying that kids don’t like her. It’s nice to know that Joan’s new beau was ready to get on a plane at a moment’s notice when he found out that she needed him, and it’s a relief that at least one of these mad men (and women) has a decent shot at a happy ending.

Pilot Review: Happyish

Happyish (SHO)
Premiered April 26 at 9:30pm

I’m usually a fan of Showtime comedies, knowing full well that they’re sometimes not all that funny, opting for a darker take on comedy instead. This show definitely goes in that direction, casting Steve Coogan in a role that was originally supposed to be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. There’s no denying that Coogan’s Thom Payne is extremely angry, and he’s ready to curse out Thomas Jefferson, America, and everything else that gets in his way to make it known that he doesn’t want to settle for his miserable existence. I’m curious to see what Hoffman would have been like in the role since it’s not as easy to warm up to Coogan, or rather that Hoffman might have been so fantastically despicable in a way that Coogan’s hyper British demeanor can’t quite allow him to be. I’d also love to see Kathryn Hahn given a meatier role, though I did enjoy her quickness to tell another parent off when she tried to give her parenting advice. Bradley Whitford seems like the most solid and well-cast member of the ensemble, a bitter supervisor who doesn’t feel entitled to the same kind of outburst as Thom despite his similar feelings. This show feels a lot like the workplace version of “Togetherness,” a quiet show about people just waiting to explode. This first episode wasn’t an enticing or intriguing as I might have hoped, but Showtime usually proves dependable, and I’m more than willing to give this show at least a few more tries before I abandon it altogether.

How will it work as a series? This show has an intellectual undercurrent that should serve it very well, intent on underlining the fact that these characters’ states of being are rooted in history and circumstance. I think this could well be a strong show that may ultimately have nothing to do with its premise.
How long will it last? It’s all a question of whether Showtime wants to invest in it. The reviews haven’t been great, with many doubting the enduring positivity of this show and its general quality. This won’t be a ratings smash, surely, but I think that Showtime will still opt to give it another shot and see where it goes in a second season.

Pilot grade: B-

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 20 “The Deconstruction” (C)

So, in the end, Alicia resigned even though she did nothing wrong, and it’s as if her entire political plotline was a waste of time. She’s back to legal antics, trying to renegotiate her partnership at the firm she started with two partners who weren’t even part of the initial break and basing everything she did on false information that made her think that Diane was out to get her. I don’t really see the point anymore, since all the infighting is taking away from their able to actually take clients and try cases. And they even decided that it wasn’t worth reinvesting in Alicia because Reese decided that she was a corrupt Chicago politician and he’d be taking his business elsewhere if she was rehired. What a mess. I did enjoy the reunion of two “The Big C” stars, Oliver Platt as Reese and Phyllis Somerville as the woman facing a mandatory minimum sentence for a crime of which she was evidently not guilty. As with Cary’s trial, pretrial services officer Joy wasn’t much help. And then there’s Kalinda, who rather selfishly pinned the blame for turning on Bishop on a patsy and then blew town so that he would presumably killed and Cary would be left to pick up the pieces. Kalinda’s exit has been so drawn out and feels so sudden at the same time, and it’s a shame given that she used to be one of the show’s best and most consistently interesting characters. Josh Charles’ time spent on the show when he knew he was leaving was among his best; why wasn’t Archie Panjabi’s like that?

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 3 “High Sparrow” (B+)

How times have changed, with Margaery no longer afraid of the woman who swore to kill her if she ever called her sister again and now content to mock her new husband’s sexual eagerness to her handmaidens and even tease him in front of his mother. It’s interesting how this wedding happened entirely unceremoniously, signifying Tommen’s insignificance, but honestly he is a good match for Margaery since he is kind to her and treats her well, and she’ll now be able to exercise whatever influence she needs as long as she plays her cards well. Cersei is truly set on still having an active role and influence, seeking out Jonathan Pryce’s intriguing High Sparrow and sending word to Petyr with unmistakable instructions. It was about time Tyrion had some human interaction with someone other than Pycell, but unfortunately it didn’t take him long to get kidnapped by Jorah, who hopefully is taking him exactly where he’s supposed to go in an effort to appeal to Daenerys’ forgiving tendencies. Jon quite unexpectedly did not go that route, preparing a dissenter’s execution to intimidate him and the people and then slicing off his head even after he pleaded for mercy. The best quote of the hour came from Stannis, who decreed that anyone who recommended keeping your enemies close didn’t have many enemies. The idea of Ramsay and Sansa as a couple is strange, though maybe it will make him less of a monster and her more able to assert himself.

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 3, Episode 2 “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis” (B)

After last week’s big opener, this episode didn’t deliver on most of what we found out then, driving the plot forward only a little bit to demonstrate just what these male clones are capable of. Rudy emotionlessly shooting Seth when he saw that he was glitching is extremely important because it contradicts the care and compassion that Sarah and the other female clones have expressed for Cosima’s health, Helena’s freedom, and other clone clauses. There’s no debating that Cal is a good guy, and though an expensive apartment in the city was a nice thought, taking Kira far away from all this is probably the best plan. It’s hard to figure out where Paul truly stands at this point, coming over to see Rudy and Seth as a business transaction and then breaking into Cal’s place to threaten him. These experiments in which the clones are asked to weigh a conclusion based on two facts are intriguing, and nothing beats Helena asking where the mangoes are for more clarity on the subject. She doesn’t seem to believe that Sarah and the others have abandoned her, but she is being spoken to by a scorpion, so things aren’t all great there. I eagerly look forward to Allison becoming the number one drug-dealing soccer mom since Nancy Botwin, and I love that it’s how she plans to win her class trustee election. Let’s just hope Donnie doesn’t screw it all up by trying too hard to play it cool and seem hip.