Friday, September 21, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the seventh category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series



Last year’s nominees: Steven Boyer, Josh Brener, Manny Jacinto, Sam Richardson, Timothy Simons

Emmy nominees: Louie Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Tituss Burgess, Brian Tyree Henry, Tony Shalhoub, Kenan Thompson, Henry Winkler

Finalists: Ken Hall (People of Earth), Bjorn Gustafsson (People of Earth), Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Sean Hayes (Will and Grace), Christopher Paul Richards (Me, Myself, and I)

The nominees:
Samuel Anderson (Loaded)
Manny Jacinto (The Good Place)
William Jackson Harper (The Good Place)
Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet)


The winner:

Anthony Carrigan (Barry) was the sweetest possible henchman, always concerned with politeness and caring about other people’s feelings in his work, providing a fantastic companion for the similarly kindhearted title character.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

This is the sixth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series



Last year’s nominees: Nina Arianda, Carly Chaikin, Grace Gummer, Thandie Newton, Aubrey Plaza

Emmy nominees: Alexis Bledel, Millie Bobby Brown, Ann Dowd, Lena Headey, Vanessa Kirby, Thandie Newton, Yvonne Strahovski

Finalists: Jane Adams (Sneaky Pete), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things), Aubrey Plaza (Legion)

The nominees:

Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Ann Dowd (Good Behavior)
Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid's Tale)
Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us)

The winner:

Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) transformed a character who had been an unapologetic villain into someone far more complex and full of contradictions that made her question her life choices.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This is the fifth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series



Last year’s nominees: Joel Kinnaman, Gaten Matarazzo, Michael McKean, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jeffrey Wright

Emmy nominees: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Joseph Fiennes, David Harbour, Mandy Patinkin, Matt Smith

Finalists: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Terry Kinney (Good Behavior)

The nominees:

Bobby Cannavale (Mr. Robot)
Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things)
Christian Slater (Mr. Robot)
Bill Irwin (Legion)

The winner:

Matias Varela (Narcos) was a consistent, magnetic part of a show filled with fascinating characters, defined by his dedication to his work despite its often questionable ethics.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul


Better Call Saul: Season 4, Episode 7 “Something Stupid” (B+)

This show was renewed for a fifth season back in August, and even if that’s not the last of it, we’re getting closer to seeing Jimmy as Saul Goodman, presumably a future that doesn’t include Kim. As a result, it’s just a matter of time before whatever creates a true impasse in their relationship happens, since it’s hard to imagine Kim sticking around while Jimmy becomes an expressly crooked lawyer who doesn’t mind marketing himself as such. Kim seemed very angry to learn that Jimmy had been selling drop phones on the street when he came to her to ask for help keeping Huell out of jail, but her aim is always to do things sort of the right way in order to protect Jimmy from himself. Jimmy charmed everyone at his work function but, as usual, pushed the boundaries too much and ended up selling something completely over-the-top and unrealistic when initially he appeared to be offering legitimate recommendations that could have been put into action. Mike is dealing with delays and insubordination on his end, and I’m not sure exactly where that’s going to head and why it’s relevant. Hector getting quizzed on pictures to show what he knows and can recognize was obviously a miserable process for him, and Gus monitoring his progress so carefully shows just what a calculating kingpin he really is, pretending to care about him so that he can keep him under close watch and make sure he has no hope of returning to who he was.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage (Season Premiere)

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 1 “Soul Brother #1” (B+)

I know I’m more than three months behind in getting to this show, but what a premiere! I appreciated the first season even though I didn’t find it to be nearly as good as the Marvel Netflix series that first introduced this character, “Jessica Jones.” I’m pleased to report that this episode represented a very strong start for this cycle, one that firmly established Luke Cage as a particular type of hero. His name is well-known, as are his abilities. He’s seen as the protector of, if not the embodiment of, Harlem, and he’s determined to clean up the streets. Drugs being bagged and sold with his name stamped on them represent just the latest attempt to tarnish his reputation, and if his biggest problem if having the police admonish him for working apart from them rather than with them, he’s doing pretty well. I like that he decided to embrace the omnipresent publicity and challenge anyone who wants to mess with him to come at him, but I worry that he’s not prepared for his newest foe, who is a bit subtler than but just as dangerous as Diamondback. I like that Claire asked him “What’s my name?” while they were in bed together, mocking his new reputation. The casting of the late Emmy winner Reg E. Cathey from “House of Cards” as his father, an unsupportive preacher, is great, and transforming Shades and Mariah into the main villains following Cottonmouth’s death makes a lot of sense too. Even Misty is still holding it together after having to adjust to her life-changing injury. I’m eager to see where this show full of great music and great style goes in its second season, which I’ll be making my way through over the next few months.

Pilot Review: Kidding


Kidding: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pusillanimous” (B)

In its second installment, this show demonstrates again just how weird it is while managing to remain extremely intriguing, pretty much the same as the pilot. The opening scene with his car getting stolen right off the street and taking apart only to be put right back together and returned as soon as they realized who it belonged to wasn’t mentioned at all after that, but I guess is supposed to show the contradictory nature of the world, much like how Jeff insists on using a good word instead of a bad word while no one in his life does that. Coming to see a kid in the hospital with his new haircut was a sweet moment, and that hair decision was swiftly made irrelevant by the wig that masked it. He isn’t giving up on what he wants to do, though Sebastian is ready to fight him at every turn. The flash to just how strong Jill’s sex life was shocked me a bit since it came out of nowhere, but that’s what a lot of this show is, just like Deirdre trying to deal with confronting her suspicions that her husband is gay. I’m very happy that Justin Kirik, the amazing “Weeds” veteran, has joined the cast as Peter, who thinks that Jeff is being nice to him when he nicknamed him Big P. I think I’m happy to officially pick this show up as one of my weekly series at this point, especially since it’s only eight episodes long.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 3, Episode 6 “Ready-like” (B+)

I totally forgot to mention that Issa ran into Lawrence at the end of the last episode, and I couldn’t be happier about that since I’ve always found him to be much more interesting as a character than Daniel. This show’s use of montages is always excellent, and seeing what Lawrence has been up to as he hesitated to answer that question from Issa was both informative and entertaining. Calling the girl he didn’t sleep with to say that he had chlamydia was a low point, but then he had a really nice interaction with Issa at the baby shower from hell, with both of them agreeing that they were proud of the other for where they’ve gotten to in life. Molly did not have a similar experience with Dro, who she wouldn’t even let break the news to her that he’s expecting a baby with the wife who posed a definite problem for Molly when he was trying to push for a relationship between the two of them. For however positive Issa’s conversation with Lawrence may have been, Nathan is proving to be a puzzling – and very frustrating – figure, who had time to clear up the investigation Lyft had opened but couldn’t be bothered to return her text message. The lowest point of this episode was experienced by Kelly, who lost it after Tiffany’s prep crew refused to put out her cupcakes. The two of them really are fringe characters, but they’re very believable and layered even despite their minimal appearances. My favorite line was Molly suggesting that she should be able to be “Orthodox black.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What I’m Watching: Shameless


Shameless: Season 9, Episode 2 “Mo White for President” (B+)

This show has tackled gentrification and racism before, and I’m surprised it took this long to officially get to politics. Frank was a perfect candidate to be paid to take signs down for one politician and then put them right back up for the other, though of course he was chastised for taking the job away from perfectly qualified Hispanic people in the process. Organizing everyone at the Alibi to recruit a retired politician, played by Dan Lauria, to run to represent the white men of Chicago was an entertaining start to what’s sure to be an absurd but very watchable storyline. Fiona employed newly school-less assistant Liam to tremendous effect to score herself a major win, even if it means that the confidence in Ford’s reliability is shaken. Kev and Veronica having their two daughters pretend to be one person is going to be fun, though I can’t imagine it’s going to last long. Debs made a surprising new friend who will show her how to get by in one way that she didn’t previously expect, and I’m curious to see what it will do to her newly-ignited activist spirit. Lip may not be able to take charge of the kid he’s trying to mentor, but he can probably do some good with his first official sponsee. Ian really was doing fine on the inside, performing mass gay marriages, and even if his behavior was a bit fervent, he’s now going to be difficult to control as he feels the walls closing in on him following the exponential growth of his movement while he was inside. Naturally, Carl would be a fitting choice to help put dogs down, but his newfound compassion is going to drive everyone crazy and likely isn’t going to help with his military aspirations.

What I’m Watching: Lost in Space (Season Finale)

Lost in Space: Season 1, Episode 10 “Danger, Will Robinson” (B+)

It took me much longer than usual to get through this show, and that’s solely because of other commitments. This reboot has been really terrific, and this finale was appropriately satisfying. It was an expected relief to find out that John and Don did survive but were trapped up in space, and the setup of this episode worked well as Maureen tried to figure out a way to save them while Dr. Smith expressed just how little she cared about their survival. Locking her in the room with the robot was smart, but this show’s number one human villain knows how to figure her way out of a situation even if it’s with something besides brute force. Launching the tether again was a calculated move to ensure her own livelihood, and, for the moment, it seems to have worked. The presence of another robot helped our robot return to his protective state for Will, which made for an intense and cool moment. That he was able to recognize Will as a friend was a win, but it’s also a reminder that the robots are a threat, one that they may now face after being reunited but not with the Resolute. I was trying to figure out how this show would keep going if they made it to the space station, and stranding them somewhere far away from this hostile planet is a great way to start off season two, in which they’re actually lost in space and not on land. I’m pumped for it to return, and plan to watch it far more consistently next time!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Molly Parker as June

Pilot Grade: Forever

Forever (Amazon)
Premiered September 14

I didn’t know anything about this show, and after watching it for nearly five minutes without any dialogue, I thought that it might be a whole series crafted in the mold of the opening scene of “Up.” It turns out that wasn’t the case, but it still proved to be a startlingly effective way to introduce the monotony and low-key nature of this couple and their marriage. Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph are both talented multiple Emmy nominees with a background on “Saturday Night Live,” and though Armisen is inarguably odder than Rudolph, they both know how to play weird well. That’s the nature of this show, which finds them proceeding along in their marriage and preparing for another expected trip to the same place they go every year. Rudolph’s June suggesting that they try skiing instead was a curveball that Armisen’s Oscar eagerly accepted, though of course June was the one who ended up being more miserable when she got sent to a time-out for pushing a kid who was rude to her. Ending the episode with Oscar presumably skiing into a tree demonstrates what’s in store for these two, which is uncertainty, misery, and maybe a happy ending somewhere far past all the obstacles in their way. Armisen and Rudolph are both great, and I’m glad to see them given this platform on Amazon. Finding out that this show comes from Alan Yang, co-creator of “Master of None,” and Matt Hubbard, a writer for “30 Rock,” helps to explain its melded strangeness, which works well to its advantage.

How will it work as a series? That’s hard to know. This first half-hour was fun and involving, but it’s hard to get a sense of what comes next. These two are so calm that it might be boring to watch them and then jarring to see one or both of them explode, but I have faith that Armisen and Rudolph are well-equipped to go exactly where they need to go as guided by the experienced Yang and Hubbard.
How long will it last? Amazon’s ratings data isn’t going to be released anytime soon, but this show is starting off with positive reviews and likely preparing itself for a future that will last exactly as long as its creators want. All eight episodes are already available, and I suspect this show might end up with a second season but then that will probably be it, exclusively for creative storytelling reasons.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: The First

The First (Hulu)
Premiered September 14

Space has always offered infinite potential in the world of film and television because, for as much as the countries of the world have sent people into space, the average viewer won’t ever get to experience the majesty of traveling up into the stars and to other planets. A number of television series, including “Defying Gravity” and “Virtuality,” have followed astronauts on long-haul missions to the far reaches of what’s known, while films such as “Gravity,” “Interstellar,” and “The Martian” have taken movie audiences to incredible and unimaginable places. Director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “La La Land” is “First Man,” the story of Neil Armstrong and man’s first step on the moon, set to be released in just a few weeks. And then there’s this show, which marks Sean Penn’s first regular television role and “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon’s first project since launching the very first Netflix drama series. Its title evidently refers to the first to visit Mars, but that doesn’t happen in this pilot, and it’s not likely to happen in successive episodes given the way things went here. In fact, it’s not at all clear what this show is meant to focus on, since Penn’s Tom evidently wasn’t ultimately going on the mission and now is just racking himself with guilt because he could do nothing but watch his fellow astronauts die. Penn seems moody and unemotive, and I was caught off guard by Natasha McElhone’s British accent, since I always heard a hint of some foreign dialect watching her in “Californication” and “The Truman Show” but never knew where she came from. She’s far less inviting and dynamic than usual, and there’s no positive anchor for this show. Hulu obviously pumped a lot of promotional effort into this production, but I can’t see what the point was after this mildly intriguing but utterly unsatisfying introductory hour.

How will it work as a series? I would assume that we’ll see flashbacks to whatever happened to make Tom not be on the shuttle when it took off and exploded, and that maybe he’ll end up as the leader of the next mission that will likely get off the ground, figuratively, far more quickly than it should in the wake of this disaster. It might be interesting, but this pilot gives absolutely no context for where the show is headed next.
How long will it last? Hulu is doing great with a lot of its programs recently, and so it’s going to need to hold what I’m sure is a very expensive production to high standards. Last I checked, reviews were mixed, but now it appears that they’re just on the edge of good. I’m not sure that this is going to be the resounding, powerful success Hulu and British co-producer Channel 4 hoped it would be, so at the moment I’d predict that it won’t get a second season.

Pilot grade: C

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the fourth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series


Last year’s nominees: Kristen Bell, Ellie Kemper, Leighton Meester, Issa Rae, Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Emmy nominees: Pamela Adlon, Rachel Brosnahan, Allison Janney, Issa Rae, Tracie Ellis Ross, Lily Tomlin

Finalists: Andrea Savage (I'm Sorry), Rose McIver (iZombie), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet), Natalie Zea (The Detour), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

The nominees:
Jessica Barden (The End of the F***ing World)
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Alia Shawkat (Search Party)
Issa Rae (Insecure)

The winner:

Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) was singularly full of fast-talking energy and spirit, encapsulating her entire show with her social graces and wit.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the third category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series


Last year’s nominees: Aziz Ansari, Thomas Haden Church, Walton Goggins, John Lithgow, Danny McBride

Emmy nominees: Anthony Anderson, Ted Danson, Larry David, Donald Glover, Bill Hader, William H. Macy

Finalists: Thomas Haden Church (Divorce), Jim Howick (Loaded), Jack Dylan Grazer (Me, Myself, and I), Danny McBride (Vice Principals), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)

The nominees:
Alex Lawther (The End of the F***ing World)
Keir Gilchrist (Atypical)
Bill Hader (Barry)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

The winner:

Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet) made every moment that he appeared on screen a hilarious, awkward delight, infusing an amazing nervous energy into his character.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

This is the second category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series


Last year’s nominees: Michelle Dockery, Rachel Keller, Elisabeth Moss, Evan Rachel Wood, Robin Wright

Emmy nominees: Claire Foy, Tatiana Maslany, Sandra Oh, Elisabeth Moss, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood

Finalists: Mandy Moore (This Is Us), Molly Parker (Lost in Space), Michelle Dockery (Good Behavior), Claire Foy (The Crown)

The nominees:
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Jodie Comer (Killing Eve)
Christina Hendricks (Good Girls)

The winner:

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) became even more determined to continue creating her own existence in a horrific world with no room for individuality and rebellion.

Next up: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

This is the first category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series


Last year’s nominees: Rami Malek, Giovanni Ribisi, Dan Stevens, Billy Bob Thornton, Finn Wolfhard

Emmy nominees: Jason Bateman, Sterling K. Brown, Ed Harris, Matthew Rhys, Milo Ventimiglia, Jeffrey Wright

Finalists: Dan Stevens (Legion), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)

The nominees:
Paul Bettany (Manhunt: Unabomber)
Taylor Kitsch (Waco)
Rami Malek (Mr. Robot)
Giovanni Ribisi (Sneaky Pete)

The winner:

J.K. Simmons (Counterpart) delivered an incredible dual performance, portraying two characters whose identical looks made his ability to separate them into different people all the more mesmerizing.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series