Saturday, December 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 8 “O Sister, Where Art Thou?” (B+)

This was a great episode, and I’m starting to really appreciate the rhythm of this show, which I’m glad I opted to continue watching. When Darlene introduced Becky to Dan, she came in hot, and all three of them were hurling around insults that were both entertaining and relatively accurate. Becky being home when Harris got brought back by the cop enabled her to give her niece a bit of guidance that wasn’t altogether parental, and of course Darlene wouldn’t react well to the news that Becky hadn’t told her about this event. Trashing Becky’s life choices in the process came off as very cruel, and I enjoyed their make-up scene by the pool table where they were honest with each other. Becky got in the best licks by analyzing just how terrible Darlene was at pool. Dan not being grumpy for once worked well, though he wasn’t at all picking up on the signals that his friend Louise, played by Katey Sagal of “Sons of Anarchy” and “Married with Children” fame, was sending. Her response to his confrontation of what their relationship was turned out to be very blunt and funny. Jackie commits wholeheartedly to whatever she does, and pretending to be a frontierswoman to help Peter write his latest paper was a difficult endeavor, one that prompted a hilarious takedown of just how one-sided the entire thing was and how much it was driving her crazy. Their relationship may not be over just yet, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to last too much longer.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 9 “Elseworlds, Part 3” (B+)

The conclusion to this crossover was energizing and engaging, and cleverly included a handful of people from this show since they exist on another Earth and therefore aren’t subject to the narrative-rewriting of one Dr. Deegan, who had made himself Superman so that he could be both the hero and the villain. Oliver was smart to realize that they needed to be bad in order to accomplish good, something that Barry didn’t like much but which definitely worked when they distracted Deegan with the threat of not preventing casualties and then pitching a plan of destruction to smooth operator and kingpin Cisco. I understand now why we were introduced to Lois and saw Superman in the first part of this saga, with them playing a major part in taking down Deegan and then moving off-world so that Kara can once again take up the mantle of Supergirl after doing a spectacular job of convincing a far less happy Alex that she could be a good and influential person. The Monitor wasn’t even so bad, demonstrating omnipotence but also a vision, one that didn’t necessarily require destruction. I enjoyed seeing Gary as a fanboy bartender and Jimmy as Cisco’s enforcer henchman, and I’m always all about alternate realities. I was particularly excited by the end of the episode, which found Batwoman calling Oliver to tell him that Deegan has befriended Psycho Pirate, which gives them a lot to fear and us viewers plenty to look forward to with the advertised Crisis on Infinite Earths, coming Fall 2019! While this wasn’t as awesome as the last crossover, I’m still pumped for another one.

Friday, December 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 8 “Legends of To-Meow-Meow” (C+)

Was this episode stupid? Absolutely. Was it entertaining? Yes. As this show decided to opt out of the “annual crossover” that Ray and Nate referenced, noting that it would be a “hard pass,” we got this installment of twisted history, as Constantine removing himself from the timeline meant that there were some serious and problematic developments to the way the legends operated. Charlie returning time after time to see the plaques of those who had perished was a helpful anchor for the many missions that she and Constantine had to run with Zari as a cat protesting that Constantine needed to do what he ultimately decided to in setting things back to normal. The alternate versions of the legends that we saw were a bit exaggerated, especially since it’s hard to believe that the likes of Ray, Nate, and Ava could ever become evil and homicidal even if Sara and Mick have had darker pasts. The Puppets of Tomorrow were definitely my least favorite iteration, while the Custodians of the Chronology and the Sirens of Space-Time were considerably more worthwhile if decidedly silly. Charlie’s shape-shifting came in very handy, and I like that she was able to convince Gary that he was himself from the future. Things should be back to normal now, but we finally saw the face of the person who Hank has been calling to update on his nefarious plans, who looks just like Dez but is definitely actually Neron, suggesting that the demon has very specific plans for how he’s going to carry out whatever he has in store for humanity and the universe.

What I’m Watching: Arrow

Arrow: Season 7, Episode 9 “Elseworlds, Part 2” (B+)

This hour was an improvement on the first part of the Elseworlds crossover, and I don’t mind checking in with this show, which I don’t watch, for an installment that worked pretty well. The intro bit with Barry as Oliver in previous scenes was a clever start, and this was a lot more about them having fun being each other rather than the serious stuff about how Barry might turn into Oliver for good even when their body-switch is reversed. In terms of darkness, Gotham City seems like a pretty miserable place to be, much grimmer than anything else in this DC television universe. I saw Ruby Rose’s name in the credits and immediately recognized her thanks to a not entirely convincing American accent, and it’s interesting to see the introduction of the Batwoman character for a potential future series launch when one isn’t yet in the works. I’m curious to see if she’ll be back again on one of these shows, though the premise isn’t nearly as appealing, far closer to that of “Arrow” than the three series I still watch. I’m not overly fond of villains like the Monitor who seem to have powers that can defeat anyone else’s, but at least another Barry Allen who looks and sounds a whole lot like Jay Garrick was able to get through and issue a warning, as well as an apparent indication that he and Diggle might be married on his Earth. Dr. Deegan’s acknowledgement of his body switch led to an even more mystifying one, turning Barry and Oliver into bandanna-clad bandits who it appears are going to have to face off against a darker version of Superman who’s not likely to buy into their story about some alternate reality in the third and final installment.

What I’m Watching: Counterpart (Season Premiere)

Counterpart: Season 2, Episode 1 “Inside Out” (B+)

I’m so thrilled that this show is back, premiering at a time that most others are going on hiatus. I’ve been predicting it to be honored the way it should from the Emmys and then the Golden Globes only to see it repeatedly ignored, and I’m at least happy that it’s back for more content. This premiere didn’t disappoint, introducing a brand-new character brought in specifically to serve as an outside source to investigate and draw out the mole. I didn’t recognize actress Betty Gabriel from her creepy role in “Get Out,” but she seems like a perfect fit to play Naya, the Muslim agent who we saw watching the video that explained the existence of the other world. We’ll have to wait until next week to see our Howard, but theirs played a relatively minor role in this hour, meeting clandestinely with Peter to make sure all bases are covered and coaching Emily back to some form of normalcy as her meets seems to have been deeply affected. Clare is taking on increased prominence, working with Peter to ensure their mutual survival but getting him angry when she tried to seduce him to pretend that they could be something like what they once were. I was surprised that Howard didn’t explode at her for coming over to talk to Emily, but he’s playing the part and making sure that he doesn’t get detected by anyone, even more so because he knows that his home is being watched. This show really is something special, and I’m very ready to experience this season.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 7 “The 1-3-2” (B+)

We’ve seen Ray backed into a corner before, but never have things felt so out of his control, even when he was drinking regularly as much as he did at the end of this hour. The important lesson is that punching Feratti was a big mistake since he runs everything, and what may have seemed like a simple physical act was actually a hugely detrimental one. The police knowing exactly what he’s been up to is disconcerting, and they have clear instructions for what he needs to do next, something that’s going to put him at odds with the employer who so graciously welcomed him to New York and set him up with everything he needed. Getting Justine to go on a talk show and tell the truth about what happened in the park was a devastating blow to Anita’s campaign, and Lena seemed to take the manipulation of Justine personally in a way that probably still won’t make Ray’s most dependable ally question her loyalty. Mac being ordered to get Ray to name Sam probably won’t go well, and there might not be a way out of this for him that doesn’t end with him or someone he loves getting very hurt. Bridget was right to question just how much distance it would take for her to be far enough away from him, yet it was Mickey who showed up to scare Smitty before he bumped into a cop at Penn Station and is now probably going to get caught as he tries to outrun them. This was a particularly poignant episode for Bunchy as he got the chance to confront the religion that had failed him after he and his brothers got to beat up some guys like the good old days in a Boston bar.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 9 “Elseworlds, Part 1” (B)

I was pumped for this crossover without knowing much about it other than the fact that Oliver was going to be dressed up as the Flash and Barry as the Green Arrow. It started out in a very comedic way, with the two of them being the only ones who were able to remember that they weren’t who they were supposed to be and no one else believing them. I stopped watching “Arrow” years ago, tuning in only for these events, and therefore I don’t remember much about his dark side, which apparently worries Iris very much since she doesn’t want Barry to become like him. I prefer the wonder of it all, as they get excited about being able to use their abilities, and Barry had a lot of fun shooting Oliver in the back with arrows. I was surprised by the inclusion of Superman since we rarely see him on “Supergirl,” and this was the first time we ever saw Lois Lane. I appreciated the callback to “Smallville” with the use of the opening theme from the popular WB/CW series that predates these modern-day DC successes. Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark sure is smiley, and I’d be fine with having him around more, either on that show or in this epic battle against the book being wielded by the professor played by Jeremy Davies, Emmy winner for “Justified.” It looks like Gotham City is next for part two, and maybe we’ll see more of Oliver’s crew there before hour three might take us back to Earth-38 and Supergirl’s territory.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 10 “Coney Island Cyclone” (B-)

As this show goes on, it continues to showcase its well-meaning protagonist going to extraordinarily lengths to butt into other people’s lives when they really don’t want him pushing. Asking his father about a member of his church felt particularly intrusive, and you could tell that the only reason Arthur shared details with his son was because he wants to build their relationship back up. Miles really is a do-gooder, offering to pay for the perfume that some girl, who turned out to be Aaron’s daughter, had tried to shoplift without realizing that it was going to cost him $125 plus tax. I guess that Team God Account doesn’t actually spend all that much on their endeavors since it usually involves running around New York City and looking for people, but you have to assume that they’re all out-of-pocket expenses given that Cara’s a reporter and Miles runs his own podcast. Cara breaking up with Eli because she didn’t feel the right way about him is a positive step on the path towards the eventual relationship between her and Miles, but he’s still head over heels for someone else, which is a problem. I didn’t recognize Parminder Nagra from “Alcatraz” and “ER” as Pria, the new contact who used to know this man that might have created the God account, somehow waiting for Miles to come along and be its proper vessel. We’ll see if they get closer to him as this show still has one episode left in 2018 before a very short hiatus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/5, missing “Atlanta” and “The Kominsky Method
Who’s missing? Black-ish, Orange is the New Black, The Good Place

Now, this is interesting. We have just one returning nominee, and that’s GLOW, currently in its sophomore season and recognized individually for star Alison Brie. I haven’t watched it yet but I enjoyed season one enough that I think I will plan to in the next few months. The two shows that SAG ignored in their first seasons, Atlanta and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, are both here, though the former just earned a bid here, which I’m fine with, and the latter got three individual nominations to go along with it. The other two are freshman series, which isn’t common for SAG, and both have two men nominated. Barry was expected given its strong reception at the Emmys, but the much newer The Kominsky Method, which was a popular player at the Globes, is a bigger surprise. I have some catching up to do on Amazon and Netflix. I’m sad that “The Good Place” didn’t make the cut but not entirely surprised. “Parks and Recreation” never ever merited a single mention here. Not a bad list though – definitely representative of some of the best of what’s on TV today.

Who will win? I think this will be The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but it’s a competitive category and could be any of them.

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/5, missing “Ozark
Who’s missing? Westworld, Pose, Killing Eve, Homecoming, Succession

I only missed one nominee here, and that was Ozark, a show I don’t particularly like but can appreciate for its range of talent. It’s the surprise top drama nominee today, with individual bids for Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and, most excitingly, Julia Garner. No freshmen made the cut here, with that show joining two other already established series, The Americans and Better Call Saul, earning their first nominations. The former made the cut even without either of its stars recognized, and I’m particularly happy for the latter, which has too many times not been honored for its great cast. Despite Golden Globe snubs in the top race, The Handmaid’s Tale and last year’s winner here, This Is Us, are both back.

Who will win? I think that The Handmaid’s Tale gets it, but it could be any of these.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie

My predictions: 3/5, missing Clarkson and Cruz
Who’s missing? Regina King (Seven Seconds), Connie Britton (Dirty John), Emma Thompson (King Lear)

The nominees here aren’t surprising at all, though I wasn’t confident about both Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects) and Penelope Cruz (The Assassination of Gianni Versace) making the jump up from the supporting race to this catch-all one. I’m happy that Emma Stone (Maniac) got in for a miniseries that I’ve found to be moderately worthwhile after missing out at the Golden Globes and with costar Jonah Hill still snubbed here. With King left off, Stone joins Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) as a double nominee in this race and the film supporting actress one. Rounding out the list is Patricia Arquette (Escape at Dannemora), making the cut even without any other support for her limited series.

Who will win? I’ve only sampled these performances, but I think that Adams is far enough out ahead.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie

My predictions: 3/5, missing Hopkins and Pullman
Who’s missing? Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose), Jonah Hill (Maniac), Daniel Bruhl (The Alienist)

I have little investment in this category, especially since the two less expected nominees are from projects I haven’t seen at all: Anthony Hopkins (King Lear) and Bill Pullman (The Sinner), an interesting inclusion given that the season one star of his anthology series, Jessica Biel, wasn’t honored last year by SAG. Hill missed it even while his costar Emma Stone got in. Antonio Banderas (Genius: Picasso) and Hugh Grant (A Very English Scandal) are here on their own, while Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace) is accompanied by one female costar, Penelope Cruz, in the corresponding race.

Who will win? I’ve seen just one episode of Criss’ work and all of Grant’s, but of course I’d love to see the latter rewarded. My guess is Criss.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/5
Who’s missing? Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), Kristen Bell (The Good Place), Debra Messing (Will and Grace), Issa Rae (Insecure)

I’m thrilled to have predicted exactly one category correctly, and this is it! Though they’re not contending for Golden Globes, Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie) and Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie) are back here for the third year in a row, joined by sophomore nominee Alison Brie (GLOW), continuing to go strong after her Emmy snub. They weren’t honored here last year but both won Emmys, and now Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) will be competing against each other in this race. This is a fun list, and though I’m sad that Bell couldn’t be here, I’m all for it. Her show continues to be good, but Aduba was no longer the right representative from it to be its sole nominee.

Who will win? I think Brosnahan will triumph.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/5, missing Arkin and Shalhoub
Who’s missing? William H. Macy (Shameless), Donald Glover (Atlanta), Ted Danson (The Good Place), Sean Hayes (Will and Grace), Marc Maron (GLOW), Jim Carrey (Kidding)

This is a cool category, dismissing its three eligible nominees and replacing them with five fresh faces, only one of whom is from a sophomore show. Not only that, but three are supporting. Macy is gone, and no luck for Danson or his show, which is a shame. Glover also missed out even though his show made the cut in ensemble. Instead, we get two new hits with two faces apiece: Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method) and Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), which I really need to watch past episode two, and Bill Hader (Barry) and Henry Winkler (Barry), both of whom took home Emmys this past year. Rounding out the list is Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who has two cast members nominated in the actress race. All five of these men are nominated as part of their ensemble, which is really very rare. A great list of talents!

Who will win? It’s hard to know out of such a stacked list. My bet is that Shalhoub surprises.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5, missing Garner, Linney, and Oh
Who’s missing? Thandie Newton (Westworld), Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale), Keri Russell (The Americans), Julia Roberts (Homecoming)

I got so excited when I heard Julia Garner (Ozark) announced as a nominee. Even though I’m not a fan of that show, I did think she was excellent in the brief bit of season one I watched (this is for season two), and I’m happy to see a great young actress (she’s only 24) get recognized, joining last year’s nominated costar Laura Linney (Ozark). I guess Garner took the only supporting slot, bumping Newton and Strahovski, which is a shame. Russell also missed out but got in as part of her ensemble. Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) made the cut for a new series, once again without her costar Jodie Comer, which is unfortunate. Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) saw her show pretty well-received again, even if this category could have been populated by 80% of stars from her show. And rounding out the category we have the final bid for Robin Wright (House of Cards), who is aggravating me incredibly along with her show as I reach the midpoint of its last season.

Who will win? Something tells me this will be a farewell party for Wright.