Saturday, January 20, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The competition: Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm, GLOW, Orange is the New Black, Veep

For your information: “Orange is the New Black” has won this award the past three years. “Veep” is on its fifth consecutive nomination, and “Black-ish” is on its second. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was nominated previously in 2005 and 2009. Freshman series “GLOW,” which is actually the only show with two performers rather than one nominated, rounds out the list. Four years ago and beforehand, “Modern Family,” “Glee,” and “The Office” won this award.

Who should win? I don’t watch “Black-ish” and didn’t see more than the pilot of “GLOW.” I don’t think that the ensemble on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” should really be here, and I’m not quite as gung-ho about “Veep” as everyone else but wouldn’t have a problem with it finally winning. SAG seems to be the only awards body still paying attention to “Orange is the New Black,” which honestly deserves this award just as much this year as it did the last three.

Who will win? I do think that a change is coming, and Veep seems likely to dethrone “Orange is the New Black” this year.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

The competition: The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, This Is Us

For your information: This is the sixth nomination for “Game of Thrones” and the second for both “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” which won last year. Sophomore series “This Is Us” and freshman series “The Handmaid’s Tale” are new to the race. Only “Stranger Things” has two performers nominated; the rest all have one. Multiple wins for one show are common in this category: “Downton Abbey” won three times, “Boardwalk Empire” won twice, and “Mad Men” won twice in recent years.

Who should win? I like “The Handmaid’s Tale” is strongest but I’d be fine with “Stranger Things” or “Game of Thrones” too.

Who will win? I think that we’ll see a repeat of Stranger Things though it could be “This Is Us” or “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Uzo Aduba’s excitable inmate (Orange is the New Black), Alison Brie’s wrestler actress (GLOW), Jane Fonda’s retired executive (Grace and Frankie), Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ bitter politician (Veep), and Lily Tomlin’s eccentric artist (Grace and Frankie).

For your information: This is Aduba’s fourth consecutive nomination, and she won in 2014 and 2015. This is the second consecutive nomination for both Fonda and Tomlin, who was previously nominated for “The West Wing.” This is the fifth consecutive nomination for Louis-Dreyfus, who also received five nominations for “Seinfeld” and two for “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” She won twice for “Seinfeld” and twice for “Veep,” in 2013 and 2016. This is Brie’s first nomination. Aduba, Brie, and Louis-Dreyfus are all also nominated as part of their ensembles.

Who should win? Aduba is far from the best performer on her show these days. I like Brie but don’t watch her show. Fonda and Tomlin are both fun, as is Louis-Dreyfus, so I don’t really have a favorite from this list.

Who will win? I think that Louis-Dreyfus will take it again.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Anthony Anderson’s proud patriarch (Black-ish), Aziz Ansari’s smooth talker (Master of None), Larry David’s major complainer (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Sean Hayes’ excitable neighbor (Will and Grace), William H. Macy’s depraved patriarch (Shameless), and Marc Maron’s wrestling producer (GLOW).

For your information: Anderson and Macy are the only nominees back from last year. Anderson is on his second bid. Macy, now on his fourth consecutive nomination, won in 2014 and 2016, in addition to a win for “Door to Door” and a few other TV and film bids. This is the first nomination for both Ansari and Maron. Hayes was nominated five time in a row starting in 2000, winning three times, and he also contended for TV movie “Martin and Lewis.” David was nominated in 2005 and 2009 for this role. Anderson, David, and Maron all contend as part of their ensembles. Ansari won the Golden Globe, but he was only up against two of the men in this category.

Who should win? I don’t regularly watch Anderson’s show and didn’t stay with Maron’s past the first episode. I like Hayes a lot, though Ansari would probably get my vote.

Who will win? I think three-time winner Hayes gets a fourth trophy, though the fact that he’s the only one here from his show makes me less confident. It could easily be Macy again too.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Millie Bobby Brown’s super-powered friend (Stranger Things), Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth (The Crown), Laura Linney’s loyal wife (Ozark), Elisabeth Moss’ trapped mother (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Robin Wright’s cutthroat politician (House of Cards).

For your information: Brown was nominated last year, as was Foy, who won. This is the fourth consecutive nomination for Wright, and she also has two previous film nominations. Moss was nominated twice for “Mad Men” and once for “Top of the Lake.” Linney has two film nominations and won in 2008 for the miniseries “John Adams.” Brown, Foy, and Moss are all nominated as part of their ensembles (Brown’s won last year).

Who should win? I didn’t get past episode one of Linney’s show. I think Moss deserves it most but Brown would be fine too, as would either of the other two even if they wouldn’t get my top vote.

Who will win? While Moss is a likely favorite, I think the more traditionally-minded SAG voters will seek to reward Wright for the first time and for persevering in spite of her costar and past SAG winner Kevin Spacey.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Jason Bateman’s protective patriarch (Ozark), Sterling K. Brown’s loyal father and brother (This Is Us), Peter Dinklage’s talkative advisor (Game of Thrones), David Harbour’s determined sheriff (Stranger Things), and Bob Odenkirk’s inventive lawyer (Better Call Saul).

For your information: Bateman was previously nominated in 2004 and 2013 for his role on “Arrested Development.” Brown was nominated last year for his role in “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.” This is Dinklage’s fifth consecutive nomination, and he was also previously nominated for the film “The Station Agent.” This is Odenkirk’s second nomination, though he wasn’t nominated last year, and he previously won as part of the “Breaking Bad” ensemble. Brown, Dinklage, and Harbour all contend as part of their ensembles this year (Harbour’s won last year), and Dinklage is also nominated as part of the film ensemble of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Last year’s winner was John Lithgow, who wasn’t eligible this year.

Who should win? I didn’t get past episode one of Bateman’s show. I’m a big fan of Dinklage’s though I’d be fine with any of the others too.

Who will win? I think Brown is far enough ahead of the pack to win this easily.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3, Episode 9 “Nathaniel Gets the Message!” (B)

The previous episode ended with Rebecca showing up at Nathaniel’s door to tell him something important, and though he didn’t seem ready to accept it, she was taking the questionable guidance of her doctor to break up with him so that she could try to be less obsessive. He should know that she invests herself fully in anything she possibly can, and there are plenty of other relationships for her to encounter and do her best to disrupt with her full attention. Working for Valencia was actually a smart idea since, when she’s focused, she’s great at work like that, but it also meant that she could finish it quickly and then go ahead and intervene in something she should never have been involved in in the first place. I wasn’t too fond of the plot that played itself out since neither of the characters were all that interesting, and the fact that he knew all along about her affair but didn’t care since he loved her anyway – for inexplicable reasons since she paid him zero attention – wasn’t terribly inspiring. Ditto for the poker game, which found Darryl winning at first and then losing his precious egg money, and the only (hopefully) positive thing to come out of it was that Rebecca is going to donate an egg, which is considerably less involved than the surrogacy I thought she would offer. What I liked most about this episode was White Josh and Nathaniel bonding over being so good-looking and being dumped, and their gay bar song and dance was superb, especially since it featured surprised guest and volunteer paid fireman Josh.

Pilot Reviews: Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (Amazon)
Premiered January 12

There have been a lot of anthology series premiering lately, and I knew this was one I was particularly looking forward to. There’s a reason that the writer’s name is in the title, and that’s because Philip K. Dick was a master of dystopian science fiction. His works have been adapted into movies like “Minority Report,” “Impostor,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Total Recall,” and “Blade Runner.” The notion of taking his short stories and putting them on screen in a shortened format – an hour apiece – is brilliant. That does make judging its quality and execution difficult since each episode is so different, and we’ll never again see the characters featured in what technically constitutes the pilot but really doesn’t represent the series. Fortunately, this somewhat dense and very British – which makes sense given that this is a Channel 4 production that aired in the UK originally back in October – start is a positive and intriguing one. I started with the hour that launched the UK run – “The Hood Maker” – even though that’s technically classified as episode five by Amazon. It was good to see recognizable faces like Richard Madden from “Game of Thrones” and Holliday Grainger from “Cinderella,” and the plot was definitely involving, with a pretty memorable ending. I’m not sure how well each episode will come off, but I do think that this is a cool idea and one that’s worthy of viewing on a regular basis so long as it continues to demonstrate its commitment to realizing Dick’s writing in a visually astounding and thought-provoking way.

How will it work as a series? I’m not sure how important the order is meant to be since Channel 4 and Amazon have released the series totally differently, but I think it’s about whether they all connect in some way and do a good job of representing Dick’s dark visions and utilizing good talent all around to do so, which I think will be the case.
How long will it last? The show seems to have been relatively well-received, earning decent if not spectacular reviews in the United States. Releasing it on Amazon seems like a superb plan since it doesn’t need to binge-watched in the same way and might be easy for viewers to tune into at any point. I don’t know how much more material there is out there, but I could see this coming back if Amazon wanted it to.

Pilot grade: B+

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Round Two: The End of the F***ing World

The End of the F***ing World: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

Episode two of this new Netflix series didn’t disappoint at all, and I’m glad to see that this show has maintained its signature weirdness. That means that along with teenage rebellion and murderous impulses, there are also going to be some odd, disturbing moments, like James not doing anything to stop the man who gave them a ride from touching his penis while they were in the bathroom. Alyssa seemed most concerned with the fact that James should be honest with her about whether or not he was gay, and she was more than ready to threaten to tell the guy’s family if he didn’t leave right away. He was awfully chatty, and neither of his hitchhiker passengers had much interest in talking to him. I’ glad we get to hear Alyssa’s voice too, like “Sometimes I look at him and think you are a bit dead,” as she talks about how they’d be American if this were a film and loves making trouble wherever they go. James humorously admitted that he ironically wasn’t in his element at laser tag, and he wasn’t too prepared for some sex in the car which resulted in a relatively low-key crash into the tree. After Alyssa tried to call her dad and they had a lackluster evening watching porn, she asked him to cuddle her and he looked at the camera nervously as if to suggest that he’s starting to care about her. We saw that his father did call the police to report the car stolen – I’m eager to see what comes next!

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 5 “Marionettes” (B+)

It’s hard to keep track of some of the very supporting players since they often don’t appear on this show for episodes at a time, but I know that Martin, played by Harry Hadden-Paton, who previously appeared on “Downton Abbey,” is one of the more underrated characters. In this episode, he was the one person who rightly anticipated that there was going to be blowback to the speech that Elizabeth gave at the Jaguar factory which made her seem hopelessly and irreconcilably elite, unable to relate to the peasants upon whom she looked down and claimed to understand. Starting with the slap that Lord Altrincham somewhat deservedly got is the latest instance of non-narrative storytelling that this show has been employing, opening with an intriguing scene that is then explained by the filling in of details. What was most interesting about this relatively involving hour, which fortunately featured Elizabeth much more than the rest of the season has so far, was when Lord Altrincham showed up for his meeting and got to be face-to-face with Elizabeth, who listened to his suggestions and roundly rejected each one as he outlined them. She definitely didn’t love the idea of bending to his criticisms, but he made a good argument that he was simply saying what he had been asked to when he had been called to task for airing his observations and objections publicly. Seeing Elizabeth squirm on television was a fitting way to end this chapter, which paid tribute to the real Lord Altrincham, John Grigg, whose influence on royal policy extended far beyond what was portrayed in this episode.

Monday, January 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 8 “Cowboy Bill” (B+)

This show really manages to invest in its characters, and this hour was mainly about Ferg, who, after being forced to take time off, couldn’t find his girlfriend and then became convinced that her ex was a bank robber he’d been hearing a lot about on the news. I kept thinking of the fantastic and underappreciated Best Picture nominee from last year, “Hell or High Water, every time a robbery was mentioned, and the final scene in which Walt just walked right in and talked Bob down so he could take the gun out of his hand didn’t disappoint. It does seem that Meg was angry enough never to forgive Archie, as it’s always strange to hear him called, for prying into her life and for accusing her of things in the process. After Walt worked with Nighthorse and got to surprise Shane with a meeting, that plotline was put on hold, theoretically to be dealt with in the final two episodes of this show. As soon as the FBI agent showed up and he was played by Raphael Sbarge, who I first remember encountering as a villain on “Prison Break,” I knew that things hadn’t been resolved so easily. Zach helped Cady to realize that she couldn’t even trust the people she thought didn’t hate her, and that she’s going to have to consider whether she’ll truly be able to keep working where she is in light of recent events that have made her a pariah in the community.

What I’m Watching: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 8 “Cold Steel” (B+)

Now this was an intense episode that really got things going and showed that this show isn’t interested in wasting any time. Previously, we thought Billy was just someone who was on the wrong side but not necessarily a bad guy. Seeing him at the start of this episode tormenting his bedridden mother and keeping her immobile because she gave him up was a window into this extent of his cruelty, and watching him get some satisfaction from killing Sam and then help Dinah wash his blood off of her suggests that he’s completely evil and merely capable of simulating empathy and kindness. Frank didn’t want David to call Dinah because he wasn’t sure if they could trust her, but honestly she needs to realize that looking for bugs in her office isn’t going to do anything if she’s sleeping with the enemy and confiding in him. It was good to see Frank and David bond and really enjoy some good times together, but things took a much more serious turn when David started thinking about how he wasn’t able to be with his family. Sarah kissing Frank was hardly surprising but David didn’t take it well, and the fact that she then called him with a legitimate problem even when it was awkward showed how much their connection has meant to her. Trying to scare Zach into submission didn’t quite work, but it did reveal how he felt, leading to some sweet football-tossing that fortunately didn’t result in David revealing himself to be alive in that moment, something that can’t be too far off now.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 3, Episode 10 “Emergency Interview Driving Lunch” (C+)

This show has been getting more creative with its format recently, and this episode was all about imagined scenarios that could have played out as Matt and Colleen took the next step in their quest to have a baby. Unfortunately, only the first and third of these segments really worked at all. While Heather lying on the floor and refusing to call anyone but Matt for help was over-the-top, that’s how she sometimes is, and the two of them can be funny together. When he hit the truck because he was busy arguing with the telemarketer who refused to take him off the list until he had listened to the entire sales pitch – something that I can’t see being true in real life as someone whose in-laws regularly receive numerous unwanted calls daily to which they request to be taken off the list – that vignette became fun when a blind Tim had Samantha driving to his rescue to be able to bring what she thought was a blood sample to the clinic. At least the two of them got ice cream in the end. Greg having Matt come over to control his drugged-out parents while he had a Skype interview went quickly awry, and Matt did a truly terrible job of keeping them out of the room where he was speaking, which tanked the whole thing and led to Greg revealing that he wasn’t wearing pants. The fourth segment really killed it for me since I can’t stand Dougie as a character, and nothing about that bit, even Jen’s odd excitement, could salvage it. Thankfully, someone else being in the room at the clinic was the worst of his true worries in the way things actually happened.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 9, Episode 9 “There’s Something About Larry” (B-)

This episode was entertaining if hardly as clever as some of the installments that came before it. It’s venturing back into formulaic territory, with broad plotlines that aren’t all that inventive assisted occasionally by some solid slapstick. This felt like a real episode of the old show, reintroducing two characters who I know used to appear but can’t remember the extent or relevance of their involvement. Tim Bagley, who plays Larry, is well-known for his appearances on “Monk,” and he’s an undeniably talented comedian who got to benefit from this show’s love of double entendre, which was put to tremendous use here when Will didn’t realize that he was in love with him and everything he was saying was so incredibly and inappropriately sexual given the extremely platonic nature of what he was intending to discuss. I liked seeing Molly Shannon as the certifiably crazy Val, who wanted to spend more time with Karen and therefore thought she needed to get hit by Jack during his very first run as a Lyft driver. Shannon and Sean Hayes did a tremendous job matching each other’s physical antics, and it’s good to see Shannon in a role like this that allows her to be so fully animated. I like that she mentioned after her questionable moaning that her pain and pleasure centers overlap to the point that she’s in a medical journal. I imagine we might see her again since this show does love bringing back old friends, but Karen and Jack seem to have no plans to encounter her again anytime soon.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 9, Episode 8 “Friends and Lover” (B-)

I accidentally missed this episode and watched the following installment first, so I’m posting it immediately before my review of episode nine. If that episode is formulaic and obsessed with double entendre, this one is drowning in that. I’m a big fan of Nick Offerman from his role as Ron on “Parks and Recreation,” and I recently saw him perform live at the Beacon Theatre. There’s no denying that he was the perfect person to play renowned celebrity chef Jackson Boudreaux, and this episode was pretty much just an excuse to have him say things about bread that sounded infinitely more sexual. I cracked a smile a few times, but most of this humor was predictable and relatively easy. Will and Grace feeling awkward once they realized that he was sleeping with both of them and, worse still, wanted to have a threesome, was entertaining, and I wonder if he’ll become a recurring player who can cause them further attraction and aggravation in the future. I was curious about whether he’d share any scenes with his real-life wife Megan Mullally, and that was relegated to a reference in the final scene in which Karen laughed him off as not her type. The “trucks for tykes” song being stuck in Jack and Karen’s head was a stretch to occupy two characters fully for the duration of the episode, but that’s what happens sometimes in a season of television – an installment or two has to be padded with some less than stellar material.