Tuesday, September 19, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the twelfth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. 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 Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Sasha Alexander, Eliza Coupe, Claire Danes, Regina Hall, Callie Thorne

Emmy nominees: Becky Ann Baker, Angela Bassett, Carrie Fisher, Melissa McCarthy, Wanda Sykes, Kristen Wiig

Semi-finalists: Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black), Amanda Stephen (Orange is the New Black), Amy Landecker (People of Earth), Anna Camp (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Becky Ann Baker (Girls), Condola Rashad (Master of None), Gabrielle Ruiz (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Katie Aselton (Casual), Leisha Hailey (Silicon Valley), Lesley Nicol (The Catch), Lindsey Kraft (Grace and Frankie), Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), Maggie Lawson (The Great Indoors), Marceline Hugot (The Detour), Maya Rudolph (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet), Olivia Colman (Fleabag), Samara Wiley (You're the Worst), Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Tiya Sircar (Master of None)

Finalists: June Squibb (Shameless) was endearing and entertaining as an aging woman without too much memory recall or much in the way of social skills. Collette Wolfe (You're the Worst) was a shining star on her show, never meant to stay long due to her kindness and genuine excitement. Tiya Sircar (The Good Place) did a marvelous job representing what it means to be good, sticking out among a group of terrible people. Katie Finneran (Brockmire) went head-to-head with Hank Azaria for command of their scenes and left quite an impression with her formidable appearances. Blair Brown (Orange is the New Black) brought some celebrity Southern charm to a place where it definitely didn’t belong.

The nominees:

Britt Robertson (Casual) presented herself initially as a professional colleague and then became something altogether more unforgettable very quickly. Rebecca Naomi Jones (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll) jived well with Gigi right away and helped to liven up the energy of her show in an unexpected way. Portia de Rossi (Santa Clarita Diet) used her signature style of speaking to tremendous effect in a memorable, matter-of-fact role. Jane Adams (Atlanta) was hard to forget as an agent who definitely didn’t remember the person she was talking to correctly.

The winner:

Laura Benanti (The Detour) was relentless and excessively exuberant in all the right ways, taking her role as a member of the mail police so incredibly seriously. “Mail, mail, we will not fail” is still stuck in my head.

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the eleventh category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. 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 Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Peter Gallagher, Jake Lacy, Dermot Mulroney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Steven Weber

Emmy nominees: Riz Ahmed, Dave Chappelle, Tom Hanks, Hugh Laurie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Matthew Rhys

Semi-finalists: Andrew Leeds (The Great Indoors), Billy Magnussen (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Bobby Cannavale (Master of None), Brett Dier (Jane the Virgin), Brett Gelman (Making History), Chris Williams (Silicon Valley), Erik King (The Detour), Fred Melamed (Casual), Graham Rogers (Silicon Valley), Haley Joel Osment (Silicon Valley), James Cromwell (The Detour), Jason Dohring (iZombie), Julian McMahon (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), Matt Oberg (Veep), Michael Torpey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Michal Hogan (You, Me, Her), Ricardo Chavira (Santa Clarita Diet), Scott Adsit (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Thomas Lennon (Santa Clarita Diet)

Finalists: Adam Scott (The Good Place) definitely had a great time playing the embodiment of hellish obnoxiousness. Brad William Henke (Orange is the New Black) committed strongly to being a vigilant enforcer with no sympathy for anyone who got in his way. Mamoudou Athie (The Detour) was the quieter of two investigating agents, always at the ready to take the next leap. Riz Ahmed (Girls) was at ease and very peaceful in his affable portrayal of a surfing instructor. Josh Charles (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) got to be as immature and revolting as he could be, taking his place in his absurdist universe.

The nominees:

Peter Gallagher (Grace and Frankie) was suave and charming in the most aggressive way, making him a fantastic fit for Grace. Jemaine Clement (Divorce) was very hilariously not French, a somewhat dim-witted player in a game he didn’t know all that much about. Allan McLeod (You're the Worst) and Todd Robert Anderson (You're the Worst) have spent most of their time on their show in the background and had a great chance to shine when the hapless husbands were featured.

The winner:

Tim Robinson (Making History) was a superb Al Capone, a mobster who was very into his jokes and being included in plans, probably the most definitive aspect of how his short-lived show worked well.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Monday, September 18, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

This is the tenth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. 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 Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Lauren Ambrose, Kerry Bishe, Judy Greer, Merritt Wever, Alicia Witt

Emmy nominees: Alexis Bledel, Laverne Cox, Ann Dowd, Shannon Purser, Cicely Tyson, Alison Wright

Semi-finalists: Lisa Bonet (Ray Donovan), Sarah Baker (Goliath)

Finalists: Judy Greer (Masters of Sex) left an impression as a previously scorned wife who found just the right way to gloat about the ultimate state of her marriage. Jacqueline Byers (Timeless) infused Bonnie Parker with a sense of authenticity and youthful passion. Christina Brucato (Legends of Tomorrow) made a great case for existence, not to blame for the circumstances of her creation. Anne Dudek (The Flash) was a wonderful fit for her show’s universe, a woman of such consequence without any notion that she would ever be recognized. Calista Flockhart (Supergirl) made a magnificent return to her show that was better than her entire first season gig, swooping in to save the day at exactly the right moment.

The nominees:

Jennifer Esposito (The Affair) wasn’t seen nearly enough, but in every one of her scenes she was loyal, passionate, and relentless. Caitlin FitzGerald (Rectify) felt like she was created just for Daniel, ready to see the world through an entirely different lens without the traditional confines of society keeping her down. Catalina Sandino Moreno (The Affair) moved into a new role and wasn’t about to give it up when it looked like her dominance might be threatened. Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) was back for one final time playing a different character, seamlessly moving with the tone and pace of her memorable episode.

The winner:

Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid's Tale) wasn’t the title character of her show, but her rebellious spirit was emblematic of any semblance of resistance in her dark world, shown both in unbridled joy and in utter devastation.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

This is the ninth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. 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 Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Josh Charles, John Carroll Lynch, Ian McShane, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce

Emmy nominees: Hank Azaria, Gerald McRaney, Brian Tyree Henry, Ben Mendelsohn, Denis O’Hare, BD Wong

Semi-finalists: Brett Cullen (Narcos), Bruno Bichir (Narcos), Eric Lange (Narcos), Gregg Henry (Supergirl), Hank Azaria (Ray Donovan), Jeff Kober (Timeless), Lonnie Chavis (Supergirl), Michael Gaston (The Leftovers), Stacy Keach (Ray Donovan), Ted Levine (Ray Donovan)

Finalists: Sam Strike (Timeless) and Colman Domingo (Timeless) made two historical figures on opposite sides of the law - Clyde Barrow and Bass Reeves - memorable and endearing. Dylan Walsh (Longmire) struck a villainous chord as an enemy without any fear of the stoic sheriff. Rich Sommer (Masters of Sex) wore his discomfort with the public nature of his condition on his face, making one patient very relatable. Danny Strong (Billions) showed what it looks like to celebrate excessively and prematurely and then be completely crushed by defeat only seconds later.

The nominees:

Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) made a welcome return as a far purer version of the man he once was, an eager hero without an ounce of evil in him. Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Sneaky Pete) was a formidable element of the law who wasn’t about to messed with, and a fierce match for the title character. Sean Maguire (Timeless) made Ian Fleming into a real-life James Bond. Hamish Linklater (Legion) was a mysterious figure throughout his appearances with an intense determination to understand the incomprehensible.

The winner:

James Callis (12 Monkeys) was born to play the man who may have witnessed it all but was also quite bored with the mundane and repetitive nature of time travel, something that only the charismatic Callis could convey.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy Awards: The Morning After

It’s come and gone – the big night that represents the best of TV as honored by the members of its academy. I had a blast making some themed food with my wife, my parents, and some friends, which helped add to the general celebratory feel of the night. Enjoy a few pictures below!

I remember previous Emmy ceremonies where the awards were split up into different sections based on genres, which to me makes at least some sense since there’s no real logic to the way things go. That said, there are some stretches with just reality shows that don’t appeal at all, and so maybe mixing it up is the smarter move. The only thing you can count on is that supporting actor will be the first category to be announced. There weren’t a lot of montages, which was a shame, but overall the ceremony was pretty entertaining, starting with a jovial number featuring host Stephen Colbert and nominees Anthony Anderson and Allison Janney.

In a way, this wasn’t a very exciting show since there were few surprises. I made the wrong call on Best Drama Series, betting that “Stranger Things,” which went unrewarded in this primetime ceremony, would eclipse “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which picked up a very impressive five trophies. I hedged my bets on Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow while my second-place picks, which most people went with, Donald Glover and Ron Cephas Jones, ended up winning. “Veep” scored its third straight win for Best Comedy Series, and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus picked up her sixth consecutive award. And no one was surprised to see Kate McKinnon pick up a second award, joined by costar Alec Baldwin for his skewering of Donald Trump. I got 100% on my limited series and TV movie predictions, but that’s because only three programs – “Big Little Lies,” “The Night Of,” and “Black Mirror: San Junipero” – won anything. I watched the first two shows and really need to check out the last one. Overall, I got 21/27, also missing Best Reality-Competition Program, which ranks least on the list of anything on this show that interests me.

And then we have the one win that counts as a substantial surprise. Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series was an extremely competitive category, with Thandie Newton, Chrissy Metz, and Millie Bobby Brown all contending for a win for three very hot new shows. Yet when the category was announced, it was actress Ann Dowd who scored the win. I was really rooting for Newton since I thought her performance was exceptional, but Dowd is a fantastic actress who was really terrific – and terrifying – in her show. She was superb in “The Leftovers” in its first season (my runner-up for the AFT Award) and should have been Oscar-nominated for her performance in the film “Compliance” a few years ago (she won the AFT Award), so it’s great to see her rewarded, especially considering the humble nature of her speech.

I’m sad that “Westworld,” which was one of the best new shows of the season, second only to “The Handmaid’s Tale” in terms of those series heaped with Emmy love this year, earned the most nominations but not a single major award. There wasn’t anyone aside from Newton I was really rooting for this year who had any shot at winning, and I do think that, of the choices, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was the best one. Though I would have preferred “Silicon Valley” to be honored for Best Comedy Series, I’m fine with a win for “Veep” since this was a good season and I don’t think it’s reached a point where it’s way beyond any initial concept of quality, especially with the announcement of one more season to wrap it up.

As for the show itself, I think what most people are talking about is the entirely unexpected appearance of Sean Spicer. You certainly can’t say that it wasn’t completely shocking, and the look on Anna Chlumsky’s face said it all. It’s true that bringing him in there after his appalling term in Trump’s administration simply because he’s no longer a part of it feels odd, and, unlike past subjects of mockery like Sarah Palin and Bernie Sanders, the members of his White House attack those involved with the variety series rather than join in on the fun. It was undeniably entertainment, and I’m not sure how I feel beyond that. The in memoriam montage with the picture frames was effective, and sad, and I’d say overall this show ran pretty well and featured some fun presenters, including Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda together, the cast of “Big Little Lies,” and last year’s winner Tatiana Maslany.

What’s next? The AFT Awards continue and should wrap up within the next week and a half, representing my choices for the best in TV from the 2016-2017 season. And check out reviews aplenty coming soon for all the new pilots from the 2017-2018 season as well as a number of returning shows. Over at Movies with Abe, I’ll be covering the New York Film Festival soon and then moving on to Oscar season. Stick around – it’s a great time!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Emmy Winner Predictions

Okay, so the Emmys are tonight. I didn’t do all that well in my predictions for the categories that have been announced thus far, getting just 1/4 in the guest acting races. As expected, Alexis Bledel triumphed for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while Gerald McRaney won for “This Is Us.” And both Dave Chappelle, who I had in second place, and Melissa McCarthy, who I should have predicted, took home comedy honors for “Saturday Night Live,” indicating strong support for the late-night sketch series. These categories don’t usually honor the fan favorite or the best performance, and I think overall that worked out better this year.

This is a big year for the Emmys, with five new shows contending for Best Drama Series and last year’s winner out of the running, and a hip new comedy threatening to take down the two-time champ for Best Comedy Series. Having just caught up on two of the most buzzed-about series, “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” I can say that, while I think that “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Westworld” are two of the top five dramas of the year, I’d be okay with “Stranger Things” winning because I understand the appeal. I would, not however, be pleased if “This Is Us” takes it since I don’t feel it’s anywhere near the caliber of the other nominees. It also saddens me that “Westworld” apparently has no shot even though it’s the most-nominated series and also one of the best. The real question is whether Ron Cephas Jones can beat John Lithgow and if Thandie Newton can beat Chrissy Metz and Millie Bobby Brown. I’m saying yes on both with the expectation that I might be wrong. I’m not pulling especially for any of the nominees aside from Newton since I think she’s so deserving, and I’d also prefer Elisabeth Moss over Claire Foy. On the comedy side of things, I am strongly of the belief that “Atlanta” won’t win the top two prizes. I’m sticking with Jeffrey Tambor for Best Actor even though I have a sneaking suspicion that Anthony Anderson will upset due to his episode submission. I think that Baldwin and McKinnon are solidly ahead of their competition, and the directing and writing prizes seem somewhat sewn up as well.

I didn’t offer official predictions in the limited series and TV movie categories, but since I did watch “Big Little Lies,” “Fargo,” and “The Night Of,” as well as the pilot episodes of “Feud: Bette and Joan” and “Genius,” I have more knowledge in those races than I’ve had in years. It would be nice to see Riz Ahmed rewarded for his performance in “The Night Of,” though I’m actually pulling for Bill Camp, who I noted as the MVP of the show, to win in the supporting actor race, where Alexander Skarsgard, also a solid performer, is expected to prevail for “Big Little Lies.” If I had to choose between Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, I’d pick Witherspoon, and between Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, I’d pick Woodley, though most prognosticators are going with the opposite. I didn’t love any of the three miniseries seasons mentioned above, and I can’t believe that Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn’t nominated for her work on “Fargo.” I’ll be paying attention to these categories more than I do usually, but I’m still in this for the drama and comedy series.

As always, I’m excited for the show, and will post some brief reactions either immediately afterwards or the next morning. Enjoy the show, and leave your thoughts in the comments! For detailed predictions in all applicable categories, click on the hyperlinked category name.

No guts, no glory:
Ann Dowd wins for “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Stranger Things

Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)

Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers (Stranger Things)

Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale)


Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

B.A.N. (Atlanta)

Thanksgiving (Master of None)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Defenders

The Defenders: Season 1, Episode 5 “Take Shelter” (B+)

If there’s one thing you can’t argue with this show about, it’s that it has a solid cast. I’m not a fan of anything related to Danny Rand and his particular superhero show, but Colleen is far from the most idiotic of the characters in his world. After they realized that the lives of their loved ones were in danger, it was great to see Matt go warn Karen, Luke find Misty, and Jessica grab Trish to ensure that they would all be safe. Claire, the one who connects them all, seems to me to be the most likely to fend for herself, though we’ve seen all of those people stand their ground when confronted by much stronger and more superpowered enemies. Luke’s captivity didn’t last long, and he even returned with a hostage of his own, who proved to be difficult before stupidly trying to harm the Iron Fist, resulting in Stick cutting off his head, which was a bit brutal. Matt does seem to be getting through to Elektra, which is a good thing, though Alexandra and her buddies, including Bakuto, are only renewing and doubling-down on their efforts for world domination as they realize that the Black Sky may indeed be a defective weapon. Matt’s back in the Daredevil costume, and I like that Jessica told him the scarf looked better. With just three episodes left, I now do feel like I’m getting into this show, though I’m not as pumped about the action as I am about all the different character interactions, particularly between Matt and Jessica.

What I’m Watching: Atypical

Atypical: Season 1, Episode 6 “The D-Train to Bone Town” (B+)

I can’t picture Sam at a dance, but it certainly looks like he might be going. His initial reaction was exactly what I would have expected, which was to point out all the terrible things that would be around him at such an event. There are times where Paige doesn’t seem to get Sam at all, but I think she also wants to push him to be comfortable in certain situations where she knows he wouldn’t normally be, and therefore it was very sweet to see her suggest a silent disco so that he could come too (I was thinking the same thing as soon as he mentioned wearing headphones!). The notion that girls’ hair would be all messed up after being done was hardly a convincing argument, and I for one am never a fan of the excuse that so many other people have to be inconvenienced just to accommodate one person. Elsa did get quite a harsh reaction about her apparent selfishness due to Casey’s impending departure for another school and Sam being the subject of the dance, and I think she just needs to try being a bit more discreet about, say, wandering around the area where her new boyfriend lives. Casey getting iced out and having her clothes stolen was an unfortunate development, and it’s a good thing that her one friendship was quickly renewed. I enjoyed how Sam processed the information about having to visit all the bases first, and that Zahid knew him well enough to remind him that he knew all about otters as a reference point. Taking him to a strip club wasn’t a great sensory experience, but meeting a friendly stripper outside did prove to be helpful. Julia was angry enough about her ex leaving, and the news that she’s pregnant is something that I can’t imagine is going to sit well.

What I’m Watching: Better Things (Season Premiere)

Better Things: Season 2, Episode 1 “September” (B+)

This show is back just in time for star Pamela Adlon to contend for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series this weekend at the Emmys. It’s very unlikely that she’ll win, but I think that this premiere is even more evidence that she’s a great actress fully deserving of having her own show. I wasn’t sure if I had missed something since everything was pretty chaotic at the start of this episode, but it was all revealed in due time. Max, referred to by Sam to Frankie as “the shitty one,” dating a thirty-five-year-old man who used to be involved with Lucy Davis’ Macy before meeting and literally falling for Max at her play was not a good situation for anyone to be in, and Sam fending off his younger brother was quite awkward. It was good for Sam to get the victory of Max confiding in her that she couldn’t stand going to parties with forty-year-olds, which in itself is a rather immature statement, and that she got to be the one to tell Arturo to get the hell out. As if Max wasn’t being inappropriate enough with this relationship, it turns out that Duke, the innocent one, has moved into shockingly vulgar territory, making an unfortunate Monopoly-related suggestion during what could have been an innocent game of truth or dare with her friends. When shouting “penis” at the top of your lungs in a house full of people isn’t the worst thing a group of young girls can do, you know that things have gotten bad.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pilot Review: Riviera

Riviera (SundanceNow)
Premiered September 14

Pilots are meant to be expository, and especially when a show is released in a format where it’s meant to be binged, not much of the show’s continuing plot needs to be addressed since viewers are likely to find out within hours or days anyway. I’m not a fan of such setups, and I’ve also seen a fair number of pilots that completely fizzle after their debuts, from disappointments like “Terra Nova” to disasters like “The Event.” This show isn’t nearly as bad as the latter, of course, but it’s pretty deathly boring. The world of art curation isn’t one that’s meant to be captured in a television thriller format, though dropping twenty million dollars like it’s nothing does suggest that those with means might be using those funds for more nefarious purposes. Julia Stiles in an actress who achieved early success in films like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Save the Last Dance,” earned a deserved Emmy nomination for her recurring role on “Dexter,” and has actual been starring on a web series called “Blue” for the past few years. It’s her experience in the Jason Bourne movies that makes her seem like the best fit for this role, yet she doesn’t manage to be engaging as a lead at all. She’s not sympathetic or particularly dynamic, and her performance pales in comparison to Lena Olin’s opportunistic ex-wife. I knew Constantine looked familiar, but I had no idea that he was played by Anthony LaPaglia since he looks very different from when he was big on TV for “Without a Trace.” This pilot was dense and uninvolving, and I have no desire whatsoever to screen the next nine episodes.

How will it work as a series? Stiles’ Georgina has gone from a clueless widow to someone who’s all about toting a gun and trying to take charge of her situation in order to make sense of it. That’s a character transformation I didn’t quite buy, much like a lot of things about this show. Maybe there are some interesting revelations to be uncovered, but I doubt it.
How long will it last? Reviews were mixed back when the show premiered in England on Sky Atlantic in June, though the ratings were pretty great. Stateside, the reviews aren’t great, and ratings aren’t as relevant since the entire season was released on SundanceNOW this past Thursday. I think that this will be all of this show that we’ll see.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 4, Episode 3 “Odysseus” (B+)

Jimmy’s no longer at the retirement trailer park, but some of his niceness seems to have stuck around, with him actually able to apologize, even if it’s not always for the right things. Walking in to find Edgar and Lindsay having sex in his bed produced a reaction in him, and I’m not sure that he even heard Edgar putting on the British accent and pretending to be him. He did seem to be sincere in his apology to Edgar, and I guess the two of them are fine now since Edgar isn’t really capable of standing up to the manboy he considers his best friend. Gretchen had quite the day, trying to get out of sticking around to meet Ty’s friends and then earning herself a ride home from Boone, played by Colin Ferguson, who I recognized from ads for a show I’ve never seen, “Eureka.” They’re quite an interesting pair, and given the headlines I’ve seen when I searched Ferguson’s name and this show on Google, I suspect Boone will be sticking around a bit more. Gretchen freaked out when she saw Jimmy and made Boone keep driving, and then she returned to give him another shot which he almost didn’t mess up. His apology, once again, was decent, but then he had to add a caveat about her saying the word “family.” It was painful to watch him excitedly accept her fake apology for that, and not moving her arms when he tossed the book to her was a pretty effective way of showing him that she was tuning him out. Whatever comes after this is going to be messy, but what else can we expect on this show?

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Unabomber (Season Finale)

Manhunt: Unabomber: Season 1, Episode 8 “USA vs. Theodore J. Kaczynski” (B+)

I guess this is a season finale though we all know that there won’t be a second season and that this is really more of a miniseries. I actually found myself wishing that there was more time spent on the trial since it was pretty fascinating, yet I guess the idea is that we’ve seen all of the evidence presented in its original form, as in when it happened over the course of the last seven episodes. What’s most intriguing about this show aside from its subject matter is the way in which its characters play such a minor role on some occasions, with Fitz figuring in somewhat to this episode but otherwise all of the legal and investigative figures we’ve come to know over the course of the season just showing up for mostly non-speaking roles. Fitz didn’t get all the credit for bringing him down, and no one needed that, since David had to make the difficult statement that what happened was right, even though both he and his mother do still care for Ted. And then there’s Ted, who was very involved in his own legal defense and was hellbent on not claiming insanity, something his lawyers were set on doing despite his objections. It was interesting how this episode really painted Ted in a sympathetic light, the lone person confident in what he was saying yet deemed crazy by all around him. At the very least, this was an extremely involving show featuring a powerhouse performance by Paul Bettany, who I very much hope wins some awards next year. I now feel like I want to learn more about this case, particularly by visiting the exhibit at the Newseum that previously was of no interest to me. The forensic linguistics part really is very cool, and this was a solid show.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Paul Bettany as Ted

What I’m Watching: People of Earth

People of Earth: Season 2, Episode 8 “Alien Experiencer Expo” (B+)

I had seen a preview for this episode and wasn’t sure how having an alien expo on a show that confirms the existence of aliens almost more than any other comedy I’ve seen would play, but I’m happy to report that, as usual for this show, it was a resounding success. I think the main reason for that is that all of the characters, save for Alex of course, went in with the attitude that this was research and a great learning opportunity. Author Leonard Bechdal, who Gina was a big fan of, was a fraud only because he stole his wife’s story, not because he wasn’t actually abducted by aliens. And my absolute favorite reaction came from Don, who went around to each of the booths to discuss the accuracy and ethical nature of each of the exhibits. Jeff didn’t seem very excited by Don’s gift for him, even though the White really did mean well by it. Slipping Alex an envelope with the phone number for her family was a sweet move on Don’s part, but I can only imagine that it’s going to lead to some questions when her mother theoretically confirms her very lucid abduction by aliens many years earlier. Chelsea’s pregnancy was confirmed very quickly despite Margaret’s efforts to make it seem like far from a done deal, and let’s hope that it is indeed Father Doug’s and not some alien artificially inseminated by our friends on the ship. Ozzie still hasn’t been brought back yet, and I wonder whether that’s something being saved for the season finale of this awesome show that fortunately has just been renewed for season three!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What I’m Watching: Insecure (Season Finale)

Insecure: Season 2, Episode 8 “Hella Perspective” (B+)

The opening and general structure of this episode made it feel more artsy than it usually does, but in a very good way, with Issa noticing that her neighborhood is being gentrified at an alarming rate. I think it speaks to the potential of this series to rise well above being just a comedy, though it has already inspired plenty of goodwill in my mind, with this second season serving as an improvement on the still perfectly great first year. I didn’t know where the “thirty days with” intro was headed, and I like that it all started from the run where Lawrence, Molly, and Issa were all present with their lives continuing from there. Issa and Lawrence’s relationship was fully on display in this episode, with the latter realizing that he missed the former when he kept seeing her, while she was obviously pining for him since she isn’t even close to over him after she screwed things up by sleeping with Daniel. Waiting around for her rather than just taking the couch was a sign that he was willing to consider something, and he looked like he was getting choked up when Issa was honest about how it was the worst thing she ever did. I didn’t think that him getting down on one knee and proposing, following by a flash-forward to them having a kid together, felt right, and of course it was just Issa’s imagination running wild again. She’ll have to settle for a friend request from him and a somewhat surprising decision to come stay with Daniel, who she seemed like she was never going to talk to just a few episodes ago. Issa’s career took a big hit when Joanne reacted poorly to her owning up to what Joanne unfortunately called “segregated sessions,” and at least Frieda has developed as a character, making her promotion over Issa an understandable if lamentable development. Molly’s hard work getting other offers didn’t pay off at all, with a measly rising star award as her reward rather than a track towards partnership. She’s also dressing in lingerie and answering the door to Dro, indicating that their relationship has turned more into an affair than an acceptable open-marriage situation. This has been a very solid year, and I look forward to revisiting all three of these characters and their extended worlds next season.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Issa Rae

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 5, Episode 3 “Episode 503” (B+)

This episode made me very happy, at least early on before it was clear where things were headed. We got to know Merc and Carol at such different points in their life when they were both in power and high up at the studio, both responsible for tearing apart some of Beverly and Sean’s dreams. They’ve both fallen so much now that it’s easy to see why they might recall only the best of times. After Carol finding ventured outside of the house to buy a donut and was horrified to run into Helen and Elliot, it was sweet to see Merc show up at her door with all the food he knows that she loved because he heard how lonely she was on the phone and just wanted to be with her. Now, it could have been a happy ending, but that’s not what this show is known for, and thus we have Morning, one of the best characters on this show, back and apparently in a serious relationship with Merc, an important fact he conveniently forget to mention to Carol when he said he wanted to give their relationship another much more legitimate shot. It was fun to see Sean as the one who exploded at Tim since he often lets Beverly fight his battles, and he delivered a terrific takedown of the idiotic writer after they found out about his duplicitous casting move. I laughed for a minute or two after Matt went through all the different show ideas that he had been pitched and was disappointed to realize that playing a ghost was the only remaining option. His speech to his sons after they saw the video was pretty funny and far from on-point, which produced some hilarious visual reactions from his angry ex-wife.