Sunday, October 26, 2014

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 5 “Prophets” (B+)

This episode was full of action as those supporting Samaritan reappeared, and it’s really cool to watch the show in its new dynamic. I’m particularly fascinated by Root, who manages to have a new identity every day in order to stay off the radar, and who bonded with Finch in a rare moment of sweetness as they were both putting their technical skills to good use together. The flashbacks to 2001 when Finch was destroying AI after AI because they all became self-aware and threatened to do harm to Finch were very potent and relevant, especially with Samaritan doing exactly what Finch was afraid of his machine doing. Deciphering Samaritan’s plan over the course of the episode wasn’t easy, and Jason Ritter’s whiz kid numbers guy managed to get himself nearly killed a few times. The team’s plan to get the newly elected governor to resign didn’t last long due to her untimely death, and now it appears that her second-in-command Nick Dawson is around and ready to do Greer’s bidding. Martine continues to be a formidable foe and fitting nemesis for Root. I couldn’t figure out where I knew Reese’s new police therapist from, and it turns out that Wrenn Schmidt played Julia on “Boardwalk Empire.” She does seem to be getting him to open up a bit, which is a major feat even if he’s not being entirely truthful about who he is. The mention of Carter struck me since this show has transformed itself so much since she left, an impressive accomplishment considering how integral to the show she used to be.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Round Two: Marry Me

Marry Me: Season 1, Episode 2 “Move Me” (C)

I’d really like to like this show, but I just don’t see that happening. Moving on from botched proposals to the next phase of engagement could have presented opportunities but the show didn’t exactly seize them, instead choosing to be focused on its characters’ inherent ability not to be romantic. I prefer leads who do in fact have some emotional chemistry, and that’s one of the reason that I stopped watching the already-cancelled “Manhattan Love Story” and why I continue to watch “A to Z” even though I’m not thrilled with it. What I do like about this show is a few members of its supporting cast, namely Dan Bucatinsky and Tim Meadows as Annie’s dads, and I’ll admit to laughing a few times during their scenes with Annie. I want to be excited about seeing Sarah Wright, who I liked in the first season of “The Loop” a while back on FOX, as Dennah, but relegating her to being vain and getting terrible botox isn’t exactly a productive use of a character like hers. I don’t feel that way about anyone on the show, particularly Gil, and I think that there is not a solid enough foundation here to build an entire series given that the leads can’t be depended upon to be endearing. Their moving hijinks were far from enthralling, mainly because they didn’t exactly have much time to materialize since Annie bolted as soon as Jake started behaving in a very oblivious manner, completely unaware of the fact that he was now living with someone else.

Friday, October 24, 2014

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 5 “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” (B)

A lot happened in this episode, changing the landscape of things in a major way and confirming some rumored untruths that now can’t be taken back. Skye’s father went from being a virtually unseen phantom to something much more tangible as he lost his temper and demonstrated what he could do, which led to Skye seeing the results and calling him a monster. What that created was something unexpected and intense, which is an alliance between him and Hydra with the express goal of taking down Coulson. That can’t be good, and let’s hope that Skye can appeal to her father’s humanity, even if neither of them is particularly human at all. Simmons’ cover got blown pretty easily when she rather publicly passed a covert message on to S.H.I.E.L.D, and that photo Raina took of her did some pretty terrific damage. Her rescue was made somewhat implausible by the fact that we saw Bobbi intimidate Simmons when she was herself rather than coming clean so that they could more easily extract her. The addition of Adrianne Palicki, onetime “Friday Night Lights” star and the would-be Wonder Woman, is definitely welcome, and I think she’ll add plenty to the show, especially considering the bombshell that she’s Lance’s ex-wife. Fitz reuniting with Simmons just as he finally came to terms with the fact that he was hallucinating her was sweet, and let’s hope that he return is something positive for his recovery rather than a troublesome step in the wrong direction.

Take Three: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 3 “Things You Can’t Outrun” (B+)

This show is just running along, continuing to function on its main character’s enthusiasm for the good work he is doing and the consistency of each episodic guest star. I’m very happy to note that this show feels like it’s already well-established, with the dynamics of its supporting players, both of the scientific and law enforcement nature, fully developed. It’s the kind of rhythm that often takes much longer to establish, and this show managed to do it in just a few episodes. The gaseous villain in this episode was pretty cool, and though the people he was hunting – mainly Joe – didn’t come as a surprise, the revelation that he was about to be executed when he was infused with this new ability was considerably more unexpected. This episode included a fair amount of flashback time, filling in some important blanks about the night that Barry became the Flash. I like the casting of Robbie Amell, brother of “Arrow” star Stephen and star of last year’s CW effort “The Tomorrow People,” as Ronnie, Caitlin’s fiancĂ© who died extremely heroically by sacrificing his life to save many others. Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco seem to all have come to a good place now that they’re using the particle accelerator as a makeshift prison, and it’s just a matter of someone figuring out what evil Dr. Wells is really up to. It was good to see Joe go see Barry’s father in prison, and let’s hope that he doesn’t somehow end up dead before Barry and Joe can figure out a way to set him free.

Round Two: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter Two” (B+)

This was a perfectly entertaining episode, but I’m not sure that this is a show that I need to be watching every week. It turns out that it’s a surefire hit, already commissioned for a full season by its network. It is definitely committed to its stylized telenovela nature, even giving its bemused narrator the opportunity to crack jokes, like the fact that he didn’t care so much that Michael wasn’t a virgin. This episode turned everything on its head by adding in some new plotlines that, as tends to be the case, only select people know about, meaning that deception is in the air and no one knows the full truth. Jane googling Rafael was an unfortunate idea, but it seems that he truly has changed, though he of course should be raising the baby with Jane and not with Petra. Michael just happened to be surveying Petra, who it now appears may have pushed her lover to his death so that she could appease Michael and also rid herself of a problematic obstacle to getting to raise the baby with Rafael, something she may now actually want. Luisa is permitted her own plotline, and her romantic past isn’t going anywhere anytime soon either. Alba found out about Rogelio being Xiomara Jane’s father in just about the most fantastic way possible, and I’m sure that her daughter is going to have plenty of explaining to do after Alba hit the floor hard due to the shock of seeing a TV idol in bed with her daughter.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Round Two: The Affair


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

This show was definitely appealing in its second hour, maintaining its format of showing half the episode from Noah’s perspective and the other from Alison’s and also continuing to position its events relative to someone’s murder in the present day resulting in the interrogation of both parties. What’s interesting is just how different their recollected experiences are, particularly in Noah saying that he spent $12 at her stand and Alison remembering him buying one of everything for a grand total of $40. Noah describing Alison as disaster was intriguing, and his inability to remember his wife’s birth year was also noteworthy. I’m ready to see where this relationship goes, and happy to see that Helen and Cole are still substantial characters, not relegated to just the role of discarded spouse. Helen fixing Alison’s outfit was a particularly impactful moment, and Noah wasn’t shy about his distaste for his father-in-law after he spoke negatively about Alison. Even the kids get to play a big part in the overarching saga of this forbidden romance, which makes things all the more engaging. Martin jumped at the chance to work on the ranch, and this show has woven quite an interconnected web by making Cole his new mentor. Whitney was not shy about saying hello to the boys, and we got to see that Cole didn’t go for the flirtation, which makes his and Helen’s inevitable discovery of Noah and Alison’s affair all the more likely to truly sting and do lasting damage to both marriage.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire (Penultimate Episode)

Boardwalk Empire: Season 5, Episode 7 “Friendless Child” (B)

It’s hard to believe this show only has one episode left, though it certainly feels like it’s ready to sign off. Its style has become much more theatrical and dramatic, and it’s clear that loose ends are being tied up in a way that doesn’t necessarily feel linear. The opening radio broadcast-narrated montage emphasized the grand nature of the mob, and the big hostage exchange scene only further embellished that idea. It didn’t take much for Nucky to hand over the keys to his empire, but that’s what always made him this show’s protagonist. He’s not a bad guy, and he really is loyal to those he cares about. It’s good to at least see him standing side-by-side with Eli at the end of it, with his second closest ally, Mickey, outliving expectations by surviving almost the entire series before being shot. With no sign of Al, this episode featured another famous up-and-coming mobster – Bugsy Siegel – who’s still playing second fiddle but is surely on his way up, just as soon as he evades his captors and gets back to his wife to celebrate Lag Ba’omer. The only question now is whether Nucky can successfully withdraw himself from his business or if he won’t be able to get out clean. The flashbacks also brought up another outstanding storyline, which is Gillian’s fate, as she was humanized after seasons of murderous incestuous misery as yet another lost soul that Nucky saw fit to pluck from obscurity and help turn into something respectable. Let’s hope for a memorable and fitting finale next week.

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 4 “Iron in the Fire” (B+)

There’s no CIA agent quite like Carrie Mathison. This episode demonstrates that she believes that literally sleeping with the enemy is always the best course for getting the job done. It was shocking enough when she seduced Brody back in season one and then when she willingly went back to him knowing full well what he was after that, but this was something wholly different. Maybe it’s because Aayan looks so young and doesn’t seem like a fitting match for Carrie, but I think it’s more because there was nothing about that situation that called for Carrie to put the moves on him. That’s what makes this show a blast to watch, since Carrie is so unpredictable and it’s impossible to know what she’ll do next even and especially if things seem like they’re headed in the right direction without her throwing a major curveball. We already got two big bombshells in the episode before this, both of which have enormous implications. The first is that Aayan’s uncle didn’t die in the drone strike, and that it was all a set up to make the Americans look bad for killing innocent civilians. The second is that the leak isn’t hard to find – it’s the Ambassador’s husband. Mark Moses is great at playing long-suffering husbands living in the shadow of their wives, and therefore he’s the perfect fit to portray a man in way over his head as he’s now in debt to a group that is surely going to have him transmit more damaging information than ever before that will lead directly to the deaths of Americans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 2 “Strangers” (B+)

This episode was a more balanced hour that mixed uneasiness, hopelessness, and sheer dread without binging on the gore too much. And that’s an hour that ends with someone watching himself being eaten! Part of why it works in this case is that the cannibals are reminiscent of the Governor in the way that they matter-of-factly justify their behavior, and that should make them interesting – and terrifying – enemies for our friends for the duration of the season. Sure, they did capture the wandering people who came in search of sanctuary, but they also burned down their home, which is cause for vengeance and apparently produces quite an appetite. It’s a shame that Bob is their first victim, but at least he’s a somewhat tangential character. This episode had a very weary feel to it, as everyone seemed relieved after much walking in the woods to find a literal sanctuary in the form of a church. There is something decidedly iffy about their new preacher friend, but he’s most fascinating for his unadulterated perspective on the world, trusting in his faith to protect him and renouncing violence even in the face of certain death. Both Carol and Tara have managed to ease themselves back into the group, which is good, since they’re all going to need to present as unified a front as possible to fight off whatever awaits them in the church and the impending threat of the cannibals. And, who knows, maybe Daryl will even manage to find Beth in the middle of everything.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 5 “Shiny Objects” (B-)

This episode achieved the remarkable feat of featuring multiple plotlines, and that’s about all that elevated it above the quality of recent episodes. All of a sudden, Alicia and Finn are best friends again, and the fact that Alicia doesn’t want to betray the kindness of her friend by having him not introduce her ended up revitalizing Alicia’s campaign and forcing Peter’s hand as Alicia let him have it for not standing by her after she stood by him so many times. As expected, the photo op resulted in side-by-side comparisons with Alicia standing next to her husband when he gave his big speech, something that should work out favorably for her in the end. This Trojan Ware thing didn’t end up being too problematic for Florrick Agos thanks to the hard work of Kalinda in fighting it, and instead it seems to have presented quite the opportunity for Diane, who got a friendly reminder from a very bitter David Lee that she still holds the lease for the offices presently inhabited by Lockhart Gardner. Seizing the space for her new firm seems like an endless lawsuit waiting to happen, but I’m sure that wouldn’t surprise for this show. Kalinda toying with another law enforcement ex-girlfriend to get information was nothing new, and it just demonstrates how little she values emotion, as she was talking to Cary about coming over later while in bed with Lana. Elsbeth’s return was hardly worth it, as Alicia managed to easily distract her and it all didn’t matter anyway since Kyle MacLachlan’s Josh Perotti showed up to disrupt the whole thing.

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 1, Episode 5 “Wedge” (B+)

This was a fun episode because it gave us some serious bonding time for the siblings as Ali executed a desperate search for the missing Ed. That Sarah and Josh only wanted to drink Bloody Marys while Ali was maligning the state of the world was entertaining and helped to flesh out just who these people are. Josh had a successful romantic episode by sleeping with a real estate agent who could help sell his father’s house, while Sarah is in better shape with Tammy, who is now more focused on her and only somewhat pulled back by her former life with Barb. I liked Josh and Tammy’s interaction, which was entirely hostile and rude from both sides, since putting together two characters who rarely share the screen is one of my favorite things on TV. Maura’s experience in this episode was almost more difficult than being viciously ostracized in a bathroom since Gary couldn’t help from laughing looking at her, but she handled herself with dignity and grace, which is a positive thing considering the way that Josh and Shelly took the news of Mort’s current public state. Ed walking in with a caricature at the end of the episode was a great finale, and I do hope that him being back means that we’ll stick get to see more of Rabbi Raquel. I’m thrilled with the casting of Kathryn Hahn, who starred in series creator Jill Soloway’s feature film debut “Afternoon Delight,” as Rabbi Raquel, and since she didn’t have much to do in this episode, I’m eager to see her featured in subsequent installments.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

AFT Awards: Best Comedy Series

This is the twentieth and final category of the 8th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2013-2014 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Comedy Series


Last year’s nominees: Episodes, New Girl, Parks and Recreation, Shameless, Veep

Emmy nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Louie, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep

Semi-finalists: House of Lies, Modern Family, New Girl

Finalists: Family Tree had the stylings of a British comedy but a tone and premise all its own. Eastbound and Down signed off with its second final season, staying true to the incomparable Kenny Powers and his unique legacy. Wilfred got weirder and more depressing as its events became even more muddled in uncertainty. Silicon Valley took a bit of time to get comfortable but ended up being one of the most current and promising comedies. Welcome to the Family got a paltry three episodes but made the most of them – I just wish we’d seen more of this NBC comedy.

The nominees:

Veep tackled a new storyline – a campaign – and handled it with true hilarity the whole way. Episodes introduced a new element into its already frantic world to tremendous satirical effect. Orange is the New Black catapulted Netflix to comedy relevance with this occasionally hilarious, occasionally devastating hourlong dramedy. Hello Ladies was a perfectly British comedy that should have lasted more than just one short season.

The winner:

Parks and Recreation didn’t fade at all in its very funny sixth season, which expanded its universe and gave its characters even more fun and ridiculous things to do.

Next up: That’s a wrap! The Oscar race is getting started, so stick around here for pilot reviews and head over to MoviesWithAbe.com for everything on movies!

AFT Awards: Best Drama Series

This is the nineteenth category of the 8th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2013-2014 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Drama Series


Last year’s nominees: Banshee, Boardwalk Empire, Boss, Homeland, The Newsroom

Emmy nominees: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, True Detective

Semi-finalists: Burn Notice, Dexter, Downton Abbey, Elementary, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Hell on Wheels, House of Cards, The Killing, Longmire, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, The Newsroom, The Red Road , True Blood, The Walking Dead

Finalists: Orphan Black and Banshee both followed up astounding freshman debuts with equally compelling second seasons, charting new territory but sticking true to the concepts that made them fascinating in the first place. The Bridge took a difficult concept and made it work on many fronts with a stellar cast and strong storytelling. Shameless made the switch from comedy to drama (though Emmy voters would have you think the opposite) seamlessly. Parenthood stayed true to its characters as they all overcame great trials and tribulations.

The nominees:

Justified brought in new blood for a fabulously-written and executed new chapter of Kentucky crime. Breaking Bad went out memorably and unapologetically with six unforgettable hours. Ray Donovan was a magnetic ensemble story with an irresistible and unmatchable lead character. Person of Interest truly found its footing in its fantastic third season, rising well above the ranks of the procedural it could have been.

The winner:

Sons of Anarchy was heartbreaking in its penultimate season as its violence took an irreversible turn and demonstrated the permanence of actions and decisions.

Next up: Best Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This is the eighteenth category of the 8th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2013-2014 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series


Last year’s nominees: Episodes, New Girl, Parks and Recreation, Shameless, Veep

Semi-finalists: Family Tree, House of Lies

Finalists: Silicon Valley brought together a few oddballs for an uncomfortable but fun team. Welcome to the Family didn’t have much time to prove itself, but its cast showed plenty of comedic promise. Eastbound and Down reunited its most prominent players for one last glorious inning. Hello Ladies emphasized awkwardness and used its performers to the best of their abilities to aid with that. Modern Family isn’t as good as it used to be, but its actors are still pretty decent. The nominees:

Parks and Recreation lost two of its regular players but none of its momentum thanks to the fine work of the rest of its cast and a few notable new additions. Orange is the New Black was literally a madhouse, carefully balancing many outrageous and pitch-perfect performances. Episodes brought in a new boss who only contributed to the zany nature of the reliable returning players. New Girl didn’t have an even season but its cast was still firing on all cylinders.

The winner:

Veep was fantastic all around, letting all its characters come fully out of their shells in the midst of a memorable campaign.

Next up: Best Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the seventeenth category of the 8th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2013-2014 seasons. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series


Last year’s nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Boss, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, The Newsroom

Semi-finalists: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Bridge, Burn Notice, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Hell on Wheels, The Killing, Longmire, Masters of Sex, The Newsroom, The Walking Dead

Finalists: Banshee amped up its performances and matched its gritty drama with strong turns all around. Shameless took a more dramatic turn and still got the best from its wild cadre of actors. Sons of Anarchy battled its toughest year yet with a firmly committed ensemble. Parenthood gave its characters obstacle after obstacle, and its cast responded strongly. Mad Men stepped into its swan song with its eclectic cast ready to face the future.

The nominees:

Breaking Bad went out with a bang thanks in large part to its superb stars. Ray Donovan was had everything to do with being connected, and the many parts of its large cast definitely were. Person of Interest rallied for its best season yet, employing its diverse talent to perfection. House of Cards added to its repertoire of morally questionable politicians and their associates with a fine commitment to quality.

The winner:

Justified introduced a new mischievous family and brought with it a fantastic new slate of actors and still solid performances from the rest of the cast.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series