Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I’m Watching: Outcasts

Outcasts: Season 1, Episode 7 (A-)

I’m dumbfounded by how good this show is, and it’s so upsetting that there’s only one episode to go. This episode had a really detached, dreamlike feel, which helped it work even more incredibly than usual. Tate waking up to find another Tate in his quarters was fascinating, and the way this show just simply acknowledges the existence of something unexplained and moves on is astounding. Tate going into the mountains by himself to ask Rudi for help is another reason this show is so awesome, because how often does the president just trudge off to a desert where he knows every person there hates him without telling anyone in order to help his people? I love how Cass finally asked Fleur out and she invited him over, and it’s a shame that he got spooked by that very “Desperate Housewives”-like note telling him that someone knows his true identity. His experience with Carla was just the kind of horror story that you have to hope never happens, and it was sad to see Fleur look so betrayed by Cass’ deception. His discovery about the husband’s handwriting was astute, and I’m glad he was able to save her. He’s going to feel mighty betrayed by Fleur going home with Jack, though it appears that Fleur has an even bigger role to play in all of this. Berger’s efforts to take charge while Tate is away, complete with a video of the hanging AC, are more intensive than ever, and I presume that the invasion is going to get underway in the series finale next week. I can’t wait.

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 1, Episode 6 “Tricks of the Trade” (B+)

For a lawyer with a strong reputation for success, Harvey seems to go after his clients in a rather manipulative way almost as often as he tries cases for them. In this case, it wasn’t his idea and he needed plenty of motivation from do-gooder Mike, who messed up initially be letting Gabby get away while he went to go get her a class of water. I enjoyed Mike’s tough-guy act when he posed as an agent of the Department of Justice, adding in some basketball advice for Bradley, and I was amused by his subsequent promise to Harvey not to impersonate a federal agent again. Mike’s superb memory served him extraordinarily well in the bar, and besides getting a bit drunk and making a fool of himself at Harvey’s apartment, he did a good job. I liked that Mike tried to help Rachel study for the LSATs and then she ended up almost hiring him to take the test for her. He was a good guy to steer her away from doing that, but she managed to put two and two together and now he has the dual problem of her not liking him because of his lying and her knowing about his past. I liked how Harvey played Jessica getting Louis King Lear tickets and forcing her to go with him, and she exercised the perfect revenge on him later by giving him tickets and making him go with Louis. It’s good to make sure someone so cocky gets grounded every once in a while.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 1, Episode 6 “Conscience” (B+)

It’s weird to think of Wilfred and Ryan being in league together, both trying to achieve the same goal, but that’s part of what makes this episode so fun. It’s a big surprise to see Drew able to control Wilfred, and Ryan’s fascination with that fact, and his subsequent hitting of Wilfred later in the episode, is stirring to see since Wilfred really does control Wilfred’s life, as he points out when he asks Ryan why he does everything he says just like Wilfred does with Drew. I enjoyed Wilfred’s ability to predict Drew’s behavior and signature lines, and it was a blast to see Ryan egg Drew on to play with table tennis with him and draw out his competitive side. Of course, it’s the heart that Ryan has, and the conscience, that makes this show endearing, and therefore he feels entirely compelled to right the wrong that he has done in breaking up Drew and Jenna. Wilfred’s efforts to poison Ryan with chocolate and raisins were rather hilarious, as were his uber-serious phone calls to intimidate his easily fooled neighbor. Ryan’s gullibility, coupled with Wilfred’s aggressive desire to deceive, is what makes this show so immensely watchable on a weekly basis, and Wilfred’s behavior never gets old, thanks mostly to Ryan’s appalled, heartbroken reaction every single time. Other great moments from the episode were Wilfred’s promise to Ryan that his death would be his holiday, and Wilfred’s response to finding the easy bake oven that clearly belonged to Ryan and not to his sister.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 6 “Enemy of My Enemy” (B+)

I’m continually impressed by how Michael and his team keep setting up situations to frame other people and draw out the criminal activities going on so that either they or the CIA can snatch them up and resolve the situation. Having Sam get Carmelo to go after the Serbians while Jesse convinces the Serbians that the need to go after Carmelo was very smart, and entirely well-executed, with some superb improvisation from Sam. Todd Stashwick was back as Carmelo, and he’s a great choice to play the temperamental drug kingpin. It’s nice that, especially after all the grief Fiona gave him for endangering Sam’s life, that Michael went in as himself and put himself in jeopardy to save Sam, albeit with some help from a trigger-happy Fiona and Jesse. I liked Jesse’s comment about not being able to watch nature documentaries where a snake eats another snake, a genre which Fiona apparently loves. Sam saying that there was lots of yogurt in the Serb’s apartment was brilliant, and I like how that humor gets inserted into even the most serious situations. The incorporation of CIA agents Manaro and Bailey was a fun reference to the Sam-centric TV movie. It was fun to see Madeleine and Fiona putting on an act for the clerk in order to get access to the database of driver’s licenses. It’s interesting to learn that driver’s licenses are far more accurate at recognizing faces than facial recognition software, which may or may not be true. Now that he knows who his impersonator is, hopefully he won’t get himself into an even bigger world of hurt.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 4, Episode 3 “I’d Prefer My Old Office” (B+)

We have a number of interesting developments in this episode, and they actually serve to move the storyline along rather quickly in some cases. Howard managed to find out a remarkable amount of information about the case very fast, learning that Ellen was the one bringing the case against him and planned to solicit testimony from Chris. Him going to talk to Ellen was a bit of a surprise, but not as much as Ellen sending Ellen in her place. I was impressed with Ellen because of that, and even more so with her successful trickery of opposing counsel into revealing that they can in fact easily get in touch with Chris. It didn’t take long for Chris to figure out that the intel they got was bogus, but AC was even quicker to reveal his hand and force Chris to provide false testimony to Ellen to ruin her case. What was commendable about Chris’ secret message to Ellen is that it was subtle enough that she hasn’t even been able to figure it out yet. Now Ellen has officially asked for Patty’s help in the case, so that should help intensify things in the coming weeks. It was somewhat peculiar to have Michael play such a prominent role in the flashbacks amid all this Afghanistan and High Star business, but his limo appearance at the end indicates that maybe he’ll play a bigger role in this season than he ever has before, one which will hopefully enhance rather than distract from the other storylines, like a foreign Muslin with a target marked on a map for Hewes & Associates.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me

Rescue Me: Season 7, Episode 3 “Press” (B+)

Without the zaniness of Tommy’s “two wives” to bring the crazy in this episode, there’s still plenty of chaos in Tommy’s life and in the lives of his fellow firefighters. Kelly seems to have developed a dependency on Tommy not unlike the same kind of attachment that many other women have to him, though she’s decidedly different than many of them, mostly due to her unconventional outlook on life. Their conversations are among the most powerful moments in this episode, and there aren’t many people that can make Tommy speechless. Mike’s talent for wedding-related things comes as a bit of a surprise, but it’s a good way to incorporate a character that aren’t had all that much to do for a while now back into the storyline. Feinberg’s condition seems to be deteriorating, and I imagine that will play prominently into the remaining six episodes of this show. Lou’s not doing too well either, and no one seems to have a problem saying it. There’s no doubt that Tommy’s plan was the most effective, asking him to be a godfather to his unborn child to make sure he has a reason to stick around. What really hit home in this episode was seeing Tommy’s face when the interviewer was saying that Jimmy became a hero on September 11th. If this show has done one thing right, it’s getting its audience to understand just how these firefighters, especially Tommy, feel about the weight given to that day and how people abuse it. That final line, “There are no happy endings,” was haunting.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 5 “A Man Called Grandpa” (B+)

This episode opened on a more frantic note than usual as Jill was pulled out of her car crash and brought to the hospital while the boys frantically searched for Shaw. Of course, both were quickly recovered and stabilized, and, despite a few concerns throughout the episode, were both given a clean bill of health by episode’s end, as well as a new direction for their lives. It was rather touching that Eddie put in the effort to bring Shaw’s daughter to his bedside. It’s intriguing to discover the reason for Eddie not having spoken to his father after so many years, and I’m glad that Evan was the one that was able to help them reconcile. Evan and Teddy seem to have a lot in common, and I liked the fact that they bonded over a shared knowledge of Irvin Kershner. Jill’s frustration with her family and with the tube showed a more aggressive, impatient side of Jill not usually seen, and I’m glad that she’s okay but will still need to stay with someone who can keep an eye on her, thus presenting the perfect opportunity for her to stay at the HankMed residence and not go gallivanting off anytime soon. I’m intrigued that Boris is looking into who hit Jill, and the arrival of all of those cars at the mansion was rather ominous. In more exciting news, I’m thrilled that Hank has encouraged Evan to propose to Paige, and I only hope she says yes without any hesitation.

What I’m Watching: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash: Season 1, Episode 9 “Bachelor Party” (C)

I’m giving this episode a slightly hirer grade than the past few installments because it’s just as entertaining and decidedly a bit more logical. That’s presuming that a man would come to his fiancée’s ex-boyfriend to be his lawyer after getting caught with a prostitute and that a teacher might unknowingly sleep with a high school student, but allowing such liberties has always been necessary for this show. James Van Der Beek was fun as Janie’s fiancée, and I liked that he was a nice guy who took a liking to Peter. I was amused by Peter’s discovery that they hadn’t had sex in the last six months, and even more impressed by how he used it in her defense. Peter asking Janie questions because he’s never before had her under oath was great, and I’m glad to see that they’re at least partially back on good terms even if she’s probably still getting married. I enjoyed Jared’s connection to the teacher because he was a troublemaking alum of the school, and I was pleased to see John de Lancie, recently seen on “Breaking Bad,” as the headmaster of the school. Realizing that the student plagiarized a Skinemax episode and manipulating the committee into believing that the other person in the room with whom the student had had sex was on the committee rather than bartender were both clever tactics that only this show would use. Karp’s profile was an okay subplot, and I’m much more intrigued by what’s going to become of this story about finding an old colleague of Infeld’s in the mountains.

Expect plenty of ridiculousness in the future, by the way, since this show has officially been renewed for a second season!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 8 “Welcome to the Occupation” (B+)

There’s nothing quite as exciting as sending agents who usually don’t do field work out into the world to show what they’ve got even if they haven’t been active in years. Joan coming along with Annie to deal with this hostage crisis was a fun move since Kari Matchett hasn’t actually had all that much to do during her season and a half on this show. Having Arthur spend some time in the control room breathing down Auggie’s neck was a nice bonus since it was interesting to see him playing a more active role than usual as well. Putting Ben into the equation was a nice twist, and it’s intriguing to see how he and Annie react after the way things have dissipated twice in the past now. Ultimately, however, the two of them work together extremely well and they managed to save the day. Annie in particular was impressive, antagonizing Pablo into getting them put with the hostages. Yancey Arias did a great job as Pablo, seething anger and attempted ecoterrorism as he kept a controlled lid on the situation. While Annie was out of the country, we still got to see quite a lot of Dr. Weiss as he continues to audition for World’s Best Boyfriend and even elicits a curious marriage question from Danielle. It seems all but guaranteed that he’s not a spy, so I wonder whether Annie will be able to balance her covert life and a relationship with a man who seems like the genuine real thing.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 3, Episode 8 “As You Were” (B+)

This episode isn’t as fun as last week’s, but it’s still decently enjoyable thanks to a smart cast and some fun plotting. Jones isn’t the most intriguing of characters, but it’s always fun to delve into the back story of any supporting player, even if Diana proved to be considerably more interesting. What I found most memorable from this episode and from the spotlight on Jones was their conversation about what having it all means, with Jones telling Neal that he’s already living the dream and Neal responding that Jones’ life isn’t so different. I forgot to mention last week that the opening credits have officially switched back to the typical season one and two suite after fans spoke up online, though I found the newer, sleeker credits quite cool. It’s sad to see Sara leave so soon after discovering Neal’s duplicity, though Neal didn’t offer much of a defense for himself by saying, “Come on, Sara, you’ve always known who I am.” Neal asking Mozzie to promise not to speak at his funeral was amusing, and I also liked the shot of Neal with the bow and arrow’s green target pointed at his chest. It’s rare that he looks that scared and unable to control the situation around him. What was most stirring about this episode was Peter calling Neal to offer him relationship help while Neal was inside his house breaking into his safe. Let’s hope Peter doesn’t find out, because the ice is getting very, very thin.

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 2, Episode 5 “Cats and Dogs” (B+)

There really isn’t a character like Cathy anywhere else on television. The fact that we don’t even get to see Cathy fighting like her life depends on it for a good value for her pawned items is a sign that this show knows its characters well, and only shows what’s necessary of them. Lee and Cathy getting mugged immediately after exiting the pawn shop was a peculiar sight for sure, as they scared off their mugger by laughing at his ironic choice of victims. Another strong moment for the two dying patients as individuals rather than a duo was Cathy’s jerky reaction to what she thought was an advance from Lee, only to be flabbergasted to discover that he is gay. Paul’s job search is rather depressing, but I’m pleased that he took a retail job so that he could provide Cathy with the necessary health insurance benefits. The scene stealer this week was most certainly Sean, whose post-crazy life is pretty much just as exciting as his former life was. Adam wins the stupidity award for deciding to spend his pizza money on a hooker who turned out to be a dominatrix. I like that he went to Sean for help, who managed to barter with alternative currency and resolve the situation. Sean’s hand-crafted baby holder was inspired genius, and I like that he tried to test it out by asking mothers if he could borrow their babies. That was definitely not the opportune time to get recognized by another homeless guy.

Take Three: Alphas

Alphas: Season 1, Episode 3 “Anger Management” (B+)

This show is really excelling at realizing and visualizing its guest characters’ selected superpowers. In this case, it has less to do with the person and more to do with his abilities. That opening scene on the subway was very well done, and it didn’t stop there. It’s fascinating to see what happens when one Alpha affects another with his or her powers, and that’s entirely true here. Dr. Rosen, always the astute observer, yells out to warn Don not to touch him, but of course he does and the pheromones get released dramatically in the air as everyone starts to get violent. It was an excellently-executed scene with great music, and hot-tempered Don was the casualty, killed in the midst of the riot. I found it extraordinarily interesting that Bill, the one who was most susceptible to influence in the pilot, was the only one not affected by the pheromones. Nina realizing what it’s like to be forced to do something against her will was an intriguing meditation, and I’m still most impressed by the visualization of Hicks’ abilities, stopping someone by stepping on his shoelace or using people’s shoulders to help scale the wall, rescue the girl, and do his best imitation of parkour. What proved most moving for me was the final conversation among the team members about Don and death, followed by Gary’s complaint that no one helped to solve his problem. It’s nice that the most certifiable outside in the group, Hicks, was the one to step in and help Gary get rid of the humming.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 7, Episode 5 “Fingers Only Meat Banquet” (B+)

Travel is always exciting for a show like this that has only recently put down new roots in New York after spending quite a while on the road. What it permits in this episode is for Silas and Nancy to have an interesting new experience while trying to get in touch with Jill, for Doug to discover new things about the company with Nancy not there to keep his mind off actual work, Shane to accomplish something at home without distractions, and Andy to, as usual, have his own completely unconnected plotline. Nancy picking Silas over Shane as her character witness about her motherly qualities, but it seems like she made the right choice, as her elder son went to bat for her even though her hearing got postponed. Nancy’s conversation with the judge was rather enlightening as well, and it seems the weak link here is Martin Short’s attorney, who doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much of anything aside from making uncomfortable jokes about putting Nancy in the trunk of his car. Nancy’s visit to Jill’s house was entertaining, and Jill being only on speaker actually worked pretty well. I was very amused that Doug thought that Nancy was kidding about having two days off, and I liked his story about his condition that makes him see words and numbers in color. Hopefully noticing those errors in the earnings report won’t get him canned or arrested. Andy’s storyline with the couple seems to now be over, and I’m intrigued about where Shane’s applied criminal justice career will take him.

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 3 “To Serve with Love” (B+)

This episode was a blast, for the same reason that this show is one of the only procedurals I watch: an exceptional use of an exceptional cast. It’s no surprise that Provenza and Flynn, who have already had inappropriate roles in at least one previous case, would take on a side project of questionable legality, enlisting poor Buzz to help them in the more technical areas where they lack ability. Fritz showing up right after Provenza told them not to tell Brenda was great, and I liked how Brenda continued to utilize her two most troublesome cops in an extralegal capacity for the remainder of the episode. Adam Arkin was entertaining as the unserious, obnoxious Hershbaum, and his family members were pretty hilarious. His fourth wife was the same age as his daughter, and the daughter seemed a bit too eager to get her hands on his death certificate. It seems neither was responsible for his non-demise, and that dishonor goes to Andy Milder’s hapless, temperamental lawyer. I loved his defense that he shouldn’t be charged because his intent was to murder someone else rather than the guy he actually killed. I was amused by both Fritz and Will being okay with Taylor being the one to lie to the public in a briefing. The ending of the episode was perfect, as Provenza and Flynn determined that they couldn’t collect the reward but Buzz could, only to have them serve up a fitting revenge: a $200 cut to both Provenza and Flynn.

What I’m Watching: Entourage (Season Premiere)

Entourage: Season 8, Episode 1 “Home Sweet Home” (B-)

The gang’s all back as this show returns for its final year. Looking back on my grades from last season, it was actually decently solid, with a bit of a drop-off towards the end of the season as Vince’s behavior spiraled out of control. I’ve often said, as have others, that this show would do well not to revolve around Vince quite as much as it does since he often drags the show down, particularly when he’s showboating to prove his sobriety as all of his buddies do their very best to ensure that he doesn’t fall off the wagon. Drama deserves commendation for his intensive efforts to rid the house of all possible illicit substances, and it’s no surprise that Turtle can’t keep himself from smoking pot for even a few hours. Ari’s latest state is just as rage-fueled as ever, and I liked his interactions with his son and Lloyd at work. Discovering that Mrs. Ari was dating someone else, of course, really threw him for a loop, and I imagine he’s going to be very intent on getting revenge in the coming episodes. I’m saddened that E’s engagement with Sloane has been broken off and that they seem to be going through the aftermath rather poorly, with E spiraling downward just as Vince did at the end of last season. If nothing else, this should be a good last hurrah so long as Vince doesn’t direct a truly awful TV movie about himself as a Chilean miner or something like that.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 2 “Thirty-Eight Snub” (B)

While this show continues to be one of the most intense and harrowing on television, there’s no denying that this episode proceeds at an almost unmoving pace without accomplishing all that much of anything. It still serves a decent purpose; it just can’t hope to compare to some of last season’s more mesmerizing episodes. Walt buying a gun before the opening credits means that he’s getting serious, and you know that’s true when even the guy selling the gun seems hesitant about it. The rest of the episode took Walt down a peg, as Gus, whom he had been told he would never be seeing again, called him as he was about to barge into his home to settle things, and then Mike kicked the hell out of him after having a friendly drink while Walt talked for far too long. Jesse’s insane party was well-photographed to indicate just how lost in all the craziness he had become, so desperate to numb himself after committing a murder. It’s good to see Skyler taking things into her own hands, skewering the car wash owner by explaining each detail of her estimate, only to have her husband’s attitude thrown back in her face. Hank’s physical condition may be getting slightly better, but his disdain for Marie is growing ever exponentially. His obsession with minerals, not rocks, and his cruel reply to Marie that there are other bedrooms in the house represent a continued distancing from this show’s most obnoxious wife, who is now at her most sympathetic just trying to cheer on her ailing husband.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8, Episode 3 “Palestinian Chicken” (B-)

And here’s where this show takes a gigantic leap and doesn’t quite pull it off entirely well. Larry may seek to be a social assassin, as Jeff calls him, but it’s better when the show doesn’t try desperately to offend as much as its lead character. The notion of a Palestinian chicken restaurant being delicious and also serving as the perfect place for Jews to have affairs is rather hilarious, but this episode takes it considerably further by simultaneously having Funkhouse suddenly become an observant Jew. That scene where Larry wrestles Funkhouser’s yarmulke from his head is almost too awful, and the same goes for anything involving Larry’s new Palestinian girlfriend. I was just waiting for Funkhouser not to be able to play on the Sabbath after the announcement of his newfound religiousness, and I’ll just say that I found the show’s ski lift episode far more profound and intellectual than this particular half-hour. Larry being pulled in two different directions at the protest was almost too staged. It’s about time that people started asking Larry to tell people what their partners found annoying about them. I enjoyed seeing a more grown-up Sami remind Larry of her mother with her rather aggressive and angry tactics, and it was fun to see Maggie Wheeler, best known as Janice from “Friends,” as the LOL-prone Ilene. My favorite line from the episode was Jeff’s rather matter-of-fact suggestion that “In most countries, you could get someone killed for $573.” That’s interesting; I had no idea.

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies

Falling Skies: Season 1, Episode 7 “Sanctuary, Part 2” (B-)

Here’s an important question: what is this supposedly monumental episode that nearly changes the game entirely missing? The answer: aliens! Without even one skitter or other alien in sight, it’s all about the human interactions in this episode, which just can’t hope to be as exciting. Mike so easily finding out what Clayton was up to managed to greatly accelerate events, prompting an attempted escape by most of the children and them eventually being cornered by Clayton. Pope’s escape was hardly a surprise, and I like that he came back to defend the kids not because he cared about them but because he so reviles anyone who would think about teaming up with the aliens. Tom encountering him and demanding that he put down his weapon was a sign that there’s too much human-on-human violence, and things really need to be sorted out so that the humans can take on their enemy invaders with a united front. Tom giving up to save the kids’ lives seemed like a poor idea, but Weaver was just around the corner to save the day. I’m glad that Tom shot Clayton without any hesitation, since excessive kindness and compassion in this war won’t do anyone any good. The episode’s big casualty is Mike, who serves more as an emblem of heroism and somehow deserves a big, fancy funeral complete with a history lesson from Tom while most of the soldiers likely die in the midst of battle and don’t get that kind of heavily organized and quite public sendoff.

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 4, Episode 5 “Me and the Devil” (B+)

There’s a lot to recover from as this episode starts, and even more bad things that happen which will lead to complications in future installments. From least to most interesting, Tommy gets mad and kills both of his parents, eliciting Sam’s help and turning into an alligator to scare the hell out of Andy. I just don’t see where either of them is headed and what continued relevance the brothers Merlotte have. Terry’s idea to go to church proved decently entertaining as Reverend Daniels and his new wife Lettie Mae showed up to sing the devil out of the baby. There’s something incredibly spooky about that plotline that just gives me chills. Jessica appearing in Jason’s dream could have been expected but still caught me by surprise, and I like how Hoyt ended up there too due to Jason’s sex-centered guilty conscience. I’m not sure what will come of Jesus and Lafayette’s trip to Mexico or Alcide’s rather unfriendly encounter with his new neighbors. I was amused by Portia’s defense of incest to Bill, but it seems that glamoring her did the trick since the vampire king has much more important things to deal with at the moment. I recognized Peter Macdissi from “Six Feet Under” as one of the vampires feeding off the witches in Marnie’s flashback, and seeing him appear moments later in the present day as a Louisiana sheriff signals some bad things coming for these vampires. Sookie talking about “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Charmed” to Marnie caught me off guard, but there’s nothing quite as terrifying as the spirit of Gran warning Sookie to get away from that witch. I loved the music when Sookie called out to Eric not to go and then started kissing him, and Bill is going to be in for one awful surprise as soon as he uses Pam’s information and discovers the latest happenings with his former girlfriend.

What I’m Watching: Outcasts

Outcasts: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

I'm so drawn in by the way this show handles its spookier and more supernatural elements. The notion of there being two Josies was absolutely awesome, but what really intrigued me was the way that Tate insisted to Cass that what he and everyone else saw was just a hallucination. Knowing that there are only two more episodes left in this show's run is saddening and maddening considering the wealth of ground that could have been covered had the show lived a long and healthy life. The AC attack on Forthaven was a new, unprecedented step, and Cass' ability to warn the rest of the crew proved quite timely and impressive. Replicating a human being seems like too talented a task for the ACs, and I'm so curious if we'll ever know who was responsible for it, and for what purpose or endgame. I sort of like the idea that it might have something to do with the planet of Carpathia rather than the people on it actually trying to mess with science. Julius' manipulative behavior has grown exponentially as it's revealed that he actually tasked Jack with ordering the assassination of Rudi. It's also intriguing that he's coordinating this impending invasion and seems to think that Stella would be on his side since she's definitely loyal as can be to Tate. I like seeing the relationship between Fleur and Cass continue to stall and not really develop, as Cass asks her for a drink and Fleur strongly denies that it would be anything more than that.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 1, Episode 5 “Bail Out” (B+)

In this episode, we have some certification that this series is able to perform commendably under circumstances that might otherwise drag down a weaker show. The return of Trevor so close to the time of the show’s initial premiere could have been a negative move, yet here he manages to enhance the other characters and help bring them together in a more positive way. Harvey knowing about Mike’s reignited relationship with Trevor seemed like Big Brother watching over the newbie in a harsh and judgmental way at first, but it eventually became clear that Harvey was really just looking out for him. Showing up as Trevor’s lawyer and talking the bad guys down was a superb step, and, cocky as it is, it’s magnificent to see Harvey work. I knew that more would be made of the car accident as soon as I saw that Jose Zuniga, recently seen on “The Event,” was playing the cab driver. Calling Mike to the stand as a surprising move, but ultimately it’s just another chance to see Harvey mop the floor with someone. Mike really needs to figure out how to silence his cell phone and practice a bit of courtroom and lawyer decorum. Harvey mocking Louis wasn’t a surprise at all, but it was almost touching to hear Harvey tell Louis that the reason he was making fun of him was because he thinks that Louis is above average for managing to close a class action case with that kind of settlement.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 1, Episode 5 “Respect” (B+)

This episode was a bit of a leap (pun intended) for this show, but I think that’s a positive thing since it was very well-executed. Wilfred winning points by getting into bed with a patient who’s about to die was an unexpected turn of events, and it’s something that turned dark rather quickly. Wilfred’s craving for pizza and Ryan’s refusal to give him cheese was rather entertaining and also led to the dark path that involved Wilfred apparently suffocating a patient with a pillow and then pushing the nurse off the roof. Ryan being upset about being perceived as a hero while he’s not is a good exploration of his character, and that confrontation on the roof played almost like a horror movie. I like how it did turn comic later with Wilfred continually tricking Ryan into thinking he killed someone without explicitly denying it. Ryan’s gullibility, mostly courtesy of Elijah Wood’s wide eyes, really sells it. It was fun to see more of Jenna in this episode, revealing herself not to be as deep as perhaps Ryan might have thought, telling him frankly that some people will like him and some people will hate him before insisting on doing an expose about the suicidal thieving nurse rather than profiling the benefits of the hospice facility. Though they didn’t have all that much to do, I was pleased to see Charles Esten as Nick and Rashida Jones as the nurse. Wilfred’s description of a walk was also rather tempting: “By definition means by destination – even a cat knows that.”

What I’m Watching: Love Bites (Last Episode)

Love Bites: Season 1, Episode 8 “Modern Plagues” (B-)

It’s sad to me that this is likely the last episode of this show that will ever see the light of day. It’s a series that was never great and was only occasionally good, but the premise was nifty and it technically had three new chances to prove and reinvent itself each week. It delivered decently in its first third here, bringing back together Bret Harrison and Michelle Tratchtenberg for another round as they encountered the very modern plague of bed bugs and put their newly domicile-oriented relationship to the test. I loved seeing another NBC regular, Adam Baldwin of “Chuck,” drop by for a momentary appearance as the no-nonsense hotel employee. The second installment with Judd accidentally causing some friction in his friends’ relationship wasn’t all that interesting, notable only for its exploration of a same-sex couple rather than a heterosexual one, which has been the only route previously for this show since episode two (and that time was much better). I was thinking before the third installment that it’s sad that Becki Newton’s sole role on this entire series was to crack one-liners about how she was pregnant, and I was therefore a bit more relieved to see her reappear in the lackluster third act as she reconnected with Matt Long’s Matt, only to have the two singles pass each other without knowing it at the end of the episode. It’s a fitting ending for this show that might have developed more and improved over time. I’m hoping we’ll get to see the unaired ninth episode, but I imagine that’s doubtful.

Series grade: B-
Series MVP: Becki Newton

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 5 “Square One” (B+)

It seemed at the start of this episode that Michael had managed to save himself the trouble of being a wanted, lawless commodity once again, but all evidence by episode’s end points to the fact that his long journey back to normalcy is far from over. I was sad to see Max go, and therefore it was good to see Lauren Stamile, who I remember as a regular on the WB’s short-lived “Off Centre” back in 2001, as Agent Pearce, who quickly makes an impression by comparing her spirit to that of her dog. I was also pleased to see Matt Lauria getting a part so soon after the demise of FOX’s “The Chicago Code,” as this week’s client, Ethan, who insisted on being involved in every step of the case. He ended up doing quite well, and it was fun to see Sam talk about how he was running beginner $6000 a week scams and then have him control himself just enough to not ruin everything Michael had been setting up for the entire episode. Michael’s pep talk on how to help Ramsey set fire to his entire life was rather inspirational as well. I liked his quote: “For a spy, revenge is a dish rarely served at all.” Fiona and Jesse posing as dirty cops to confiscate the surveillance tapes was amusing, and I like how the task of watching them all was handed off to Madeleine. The discovery that someone posed as Michael on the tapes and even captured his signature walk is immensely troubling, and I’m so curious to see what happens next.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 4, Episode 2 “I’ve Done Way Too Much For This Girl” (B+)

Things are getting typically dark on this show as some major developments occur in this season’s strong second episode. The most surprising act is Ellen’s purposeful duplicity, hiring one of her classmates to come scare her while she’s sitting with Patty to encourage Patty to offer her assistance to Ellen in trying the case against High Star. That’s a level to which Ellen had not previously descended, but it’s clear that her commitment to this case has also strengthened her resolve. It was refreshing also to see her take a stand and chew out her boss rather directly and sternly for not taking the case. If only she had gotten her point across sooner, before Howard paid an unexpected visit to Sanchez’s apartment and Boorman orchestrated an entire fabricated plot against him to convince him to reenlist and head back to Afghanistan. Finding out that AC is fully in league with Howard is unsettling, and it would seem that putting Sanchez out of his misery would be easier and more fitting than stringing him along a fake hunt for revenge in Afghanistan. I was amused by many of Patty’s scenes in this episode, most notably those with her therapist, played by Fisher Stevens, well known for producing “The Cove” and for guest starring as Phoebe’s obnoxious boyfriend Roger on “Friends.” Her version of the story of how her doorman Perry’s nose got broken was also rather hilarious, as was his rather unexcited visit to Patty’s apartment to make a delivery.

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me

Rescue Me: Season 7, Episode 2 “Menses” (B+)

If there’s one thing Tommy Gavin is not prepared to go up against, it’s four female family members all on the same cycle with a feeling that they’ve been wronged by him. Telling Colleen to put her weight in perspective compared with her pregnant mother was an enormous mistake, and it didn’t take long for him to make all four women cry with that remark. I’m happy to see Maura Tierney return as Kelly, though I’m worried that her presence is going to cause trouble for a newly domicile-oriented Tommy. The television tribute to Jimmy is going to make for an intriguing season arc, and I liked Kelly’s ideas about her legacy as well. Everyone posing as Lou to help him pass the physical was a caper that only this show could get away with, and Sean’s uncontrollable urination and Mike’s horrific psychiatric evaluation were among the most amusing parts. Needles hearing Franco and Lou in the bathroom and getting the wrong idea was something that on another show could be interpreted as too much, but on this show works just fine since no bigger deal should be made of it. Feinberg’s declining mental state hasn’t been explored all that much, but it’s likely that will be a background theme in this season. I was very impressed with Black Shawn asking permission from Tommy to marry Colleen and then deciding to say yes explicitly because he said no. Planning and executing that wedding is going to be one wild rollercoaster of a ride.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 4 “The Shaw/Hank Redemption” (B+)

There’s nothing like a good field trip to shake things up, especially since recurring characters are required to step up to the plate and have major life events occur while their doctors are out of town. Marisa going into labor while Hank is in Florida, requiring Divya to pretty much handle the delivery by herself, with a supportive Jill providing some encouragement, helps to create a tenser situation than expected as Boris exerts his money-inspired control freak attitude as the baby starts coming. Fortunately, everything went well despite a few frightening complications, and now Boris and Marisa will likely be back in the supporting spotlight as they enter the latest chapter in their lives. Down in Florida, Hank and Evan quickly discover that Eddie isn’t serving out his jail time as he should be and has instead administered yet another con. I would have liked to see more of Emily Bergl, late of “Desperate Housewives,” as his oddball lawyer Nola, though I’ll settle for strong guest performances from Jonathan Tucker as Shaw (providing the episode’s clever title) and Ed Asner as Teddy Roth, revealed to be not only Eddie’s sponsor but his father. I’m curious to see if Teddy will play a further role in the Lawson family dynamic, as he certainly provides a calming, authoritative presence similar to that exuded by Hank. I’m also interested to see what becomes of Eddie now that his scheme has been revealed and he may have to face the prospect of going back to prison.

What I’m Watching: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Bangover” (C-)

This episode truly takes things to the extreme as Franklin and Bash are held in contempt for inexplicably fighting with lightsabers in court but put under house arrest so that they can’t turn their incarceration into a business opportunity. The convenient presence of Carmen’s convict friend and lover Dante and Karp’s marijuana-smuggling-prone cousin Lily make for one overstuffed episode of ridiculousness. Among the episode’s wilder and sillier moments were Franklin sticking his foot out the window so that the ankle monitor’s signal would register and the police could come save them and Pindar arguing that Carmen simply couldn’t keep her hands off Dante because of the sexual connection between them. Pindar testifying was rather amusing, especially when he lost all his confidence when he realized the pot muffins he had eaten were actually just muffins. Dante turning himself in was rather absurdly and improbably sweet, and hopefully Carmen can do something more productive and sensible with her time now. It’s no surprise that Bash quickly bedded Lily, though having her tell the judge that she planned to stay with him instead of Karp seemed like a rather quick step. It’s good to see the relatively unlikeable Karp win one every once in a while, without even having to call Infeld to step in. It seems like there’s no keeping the truth from him, however, since he appears to be all-knowing and also happens to have pissed off a good number of people in the legal world, lawyers and judges alike.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pilot Review: Web Therapy

Web Therapy (Showtime)
Premiered July 19 at 11pm

I remember the first time I saw “Con Air,” I felt like it could have been good, if not for Nicolas Cage’s horrendous accent. To think that one way’s of speaking could effectively ruin an entire film is quite staggering, but if every time a protagonist speaks, it’s painful on the ears, that can really detract from a viewer’s enjoyment. That’s my number one complaint about “Web Therapy,” in which Lisa Kudrow puts on a purposely ear-piercing voice to utter all of her lines, which account for probably seventy percent of the entire episode’s dialogue. While I love Kudrow on “Friends,” which I’ve been watching excessively in daily repeats on TBS for the past week or so, but I feel like she tends to exaggerate her voice and her zaniness in any other projects to be funnier. I felt the same way about the short-lived but critically-appreciated “The Comeback,” which I couldn’t stand for similar reasons. Kudrow is playing a similar character here, someone completely not self-aware and almost desperate to insert herself into situations and conversations where she is not wanted. This show is adapted and edited from Kudrow’s popular 2008 web series, and I think that a full half-hour runtime is a bit too much, since, like Kudrow’s Fiona espouses, sometimes three minutes really is better and more effective than a full session. I was unimpressed with the material given to both Victor Garber and Tim Bagley (Harold Krenshaw from “Monk”), and to waste both of those actors is an equally lamentable and commendable (in a negative sense) thing. This show is an interesting idea, but from this start, it’s flunking pretty badly. It’s not funny, it’s excessively awkward to no effect, and it’s very much not appealing.

How will it work as a series? Despite this off-putting start, I’m somewhat intrigued by the flurry of guest stars who will appear in the future on this show, and I’m a little bit curious what will become of her current patients. That said, I assume future episodes will be just as uncomfortable and counterproductive as this one.
How long will it last? The web series ran for 48 short episodes, and the season order from Showtime is for ten episodes. I imagine that this show should catch on in popularity just like it did on the web, and while a second televised season may not be in the cards, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was.

Pilot grade: D-

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pilot Review: Awkward

Awkward (MTV)
Premiered Jul 19 at 11pm

In the past, I’ve hesitated to review programs broadcast by MTV, especially since those I have watched, such as “Skins” and “Teen Wolf,” have proved to be less than appealing. I was unimpressed by the commercial advertisements I had seen for “Awkward” while watching TV aboard a couple of JetBlue flights recently, and it’s only out of slight curiosity and a desire to cover everything that I actually sat down to watch the pilot. It’s rather generic and immature at most times, with starkly defined characters straight out of the “Mean Girls” archetype, which actually dates back much earlier than the popular 2004 movie. Positively, Ashley Rickards is an able lead who manages to infuse some humor into a familiar situation and appropriately convey disinterested teen angst. The show managed to surprise me a bit by the end of its initial installment with a more generally optimistic and heartwarming outlook on the situation, but that still doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good show. It’s rather deadpan in most of its humor but also highly prone to exaggeration for comedic effect. The character of guidance counselor Valerie Marks, played by Desi Lydic, for instance, is more than a bit over-the-top, and while she’s occasionally funny, it’s in more of a general sense than her actually having any laugh-out-loud lines. I don’t see much potential in this show, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be as awful as it could be. It almost doesn’t mean I’m going to be watching.

How will it work as a series? The arm-raised cast gimmick can’t last long, but now that Jenna has been noticed, she’ll have an interesting rollercoaster of a time climbing the social ladder and getting knocked down again and again. It may not be new territory, but having two potential love interests shouldn’t hurt this show made very particularly for its audience.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot were strong, and I imagine that it will catch on quick. “Skins” didn’t last long because of its controversial content, and I imagine that this one will follow in the footsteps on “Teen Wolf,” earning a renewal sometime fairly soon as it increases in popularity.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 7 “Half a World Away” (B+)

It’s always fun to see a back story for a supporting character on any series, especially a show on USA. Auggie has always the best character this show has to offer, and it makes sense that we should get to see a pit of his past in this hour. I liked that it wasn’t entirely a flashback and instead focused much more on his present search for the man who blinded him after hearing and recognizing his voice on his jazz recording. I was very happy to see Rebecca Mader, whose post-“Lost” career included a rather unfortunate stint on “No Ordinary Family,” as the flight attendant who so eagerly helped Auggie as he requested her assistance in tracking down that man. I was relieved that Mader’s Franka didn’t turn out to be a spy because random encounters like this one so often end up being staged meetings for enemy agents to make contact with a mark and earn their trust. Auggie has proven himself to be more than capable of bedding pretty much any woman he wants, so it does make sense that Franka would have been attracted to him since he manages to advertise his blindness so charmingly. It was fun to have the tables turned and see Annie helping Auggie for once rather than the other way around, and also interesting to see how Annie handled not knowing quite enough information and deciding when to bring it to Joan. Most satisfyingly, Auggie permanently resolved his crisis and got to take that triumphant walk off the plane.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 3, Episode 7 “Taking Account” (B+)

This show really manages to succeed when it features capers that directly involve enforcers of the law. Neal guessing Sara’s random password, which he may just have seen, was neat, and I enjoyed the way the rest of the episode was set up with Sara not having any money and the hunt for the mysterious hacker that emptied all the accounts. Neal and Sara having to come up with suggestions for ways to spend $125 million was fun, and that was quite the line from Sara: “I never thought I’d be worn out from shopping.” This episode contained one of the coolest diversion creations I’ve ever seen, with Neal calling the teller and telling her that he’s a very important person so that when he called back and spoke to someone else, she’d tell the other guy to help Mr. Astor with whatever he needed. I was pleased to see Lena Headey from “Game of Thrones” in a great part as the hacker who quite immediately slept with Mozzie and then revealed their affair when Mozzie had some trouble finding his glasses and his socks the next morning when called by the FBI. Sally’s hack to put an FBI alert on all the screens and cell phones was quite impressive and effective. It seems like common sense not to insert a flash drive into a federal networked computer, but maybe that’s just me. I enjoyed Sara and June’s very enlightening conversation, and it’s so interesting to see Sara contemplating living large and Neal almost telling her all about the stash. It looks like Sara found out anyway, and she’s pretty devastated, which should certainly have repercussions in the coming episodes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 2, Episode 4 “Boo!” (B+)

There’s nothing like a Halloween episode in the middle of July to seem a bit jarring yet still work just fine. This show is covering all four seasons while airing only during the summer, so it makes sense that Halloween would roll around at a different time than the end of October. There aren’t too many positive developments for our protagonists in this episode, as Cathy’s path to treatment turns out to be more troubled and delayed than anticipated. Paul getting fired comes as a huge surprise, especially since we haven’t seen anything of him in his job so we’ve had no idea prior to this that he hasn’t been performing as expected. His exit is certainly memorable, mostly due to his enraged criticism of being fired by someone in costume. Fortunately, his health insurance seems like it should still kick in for a while, enabling Cathy to receive the treatment she desperately needs. I’m glad to see her get some closure by accepting the offer of a headphone earbud from the overly casual and rather bouncy Lee. Andrea is the sunny one in this episode while everyone else isn’t, which is a considerable change of pace from her usual pouty self. Who knew that Halloween puts her in just the right mood? Adam is managing to alienate just about everyone in his life, to the point where I don’t care much about him anymore. I was entertained by the fact that a newly sane Sean had to deal with what he thought might be Marlene’s ghost, and it’s no surprise that it turns out that it’s just a bird in the attic.

Round Two: Alphas

Alphas: Season 1, Episode 2 “Cause & Effect” (B)

I’m not sure this episode grabbed my attention the same way the first installment did, and it’s definitely not quite as enthralling. That said, there’s still plenty of cleverness and smart construction in it, even if it’s not as strong as last week’s series premiere. If nothing else, it’s an intense character study, with Dr. Rosen having tremendous insight into the various Alphas, something which no one else, especially not the agents, seems to have. Agents Sullivan and Clay are hard-headed and stubborn the way that federal agents on shows like this always are, though Clay is definitely bolder than most, planting himself as a target in order to draw out Marcus. Will McCormack turned in a fine performance as Marcus Ayers, and the cause and effect sequences created by his abilities were pretty cool. His conversations with Dr. Rosen were just as intriguing, noting that he missed Dr. Rosen’s belief that trajectories can be altered even once the dominoes fall and that he had one move left, to take over the chess board. Ultimately, it’s Dr. Rosen espousing the attitude of “us and them” instead of “us vs. them,” an optimistic view that will surely never come to be broadly accepted. In terms of the other Alphas, their interactions continue to be entertaining. Rachel listening with her abilities and proving to Gary that there was no hum was amusing, and her delivery of “I’m scanning, let me concentrate” is appropriately dorky for the science fiction nerd in all of us.

What I’m Watching: Rizzoli & Isles

Rizzoli & Isles: Season 2, Episode 2 “Living Proof” (B)

Perhaps I was a bit too enthusiastic about this show’s return last week, but I think that’s because the premiere was a much stronger episode than this show usually offers. The spa trip at the start of this episode was amusing, and it turned out to be quite convenient that Maura was there to be able to save the baby while the mother unfortunately didn’t make it. With the father at sea and the mother not actually the biological mother, things got plenty complicated as the adoptive parents showed up in addition to the biological parents. The addition of another nurse and a con man that plays doctor and adoption lawyer made things even messier, but I suppose there’s a greater value to these storylines for the way that they impact our main characters and help to draw out some of their less prominently-displayed traits and interests. Maura’s maternal nature is one instance of that, as is some form of relief for Angela, who had way too much time on her hands. Angela’s yard sale at Jane’s house proved quite entertaining, and I most enjoyed the fighting over the action figure from Maura, Barry, and Frankie. Frankie shadowing Vince is an interesting way of incorporating an otherwise tangential character more directly into the regular plot. I enjoyed seeing the differences in the way the detectives work, with Barry accusing Vince of old-school probably cause tactics while Jane just strolls right in without even bothering to make up any kind of reason.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 7, Episode 4 “A Hole in Her Nigab” (B+)

Things are getting back on track as Nancy manages to get more free time from the halfway house and get herself a fully legitimate job with her good friend Doug while kick-starting her new weed business. Two new powerhouse guest stars officially join the recurring cast in this episode, both playing high-powered men almost instantly fascinated by Nancy. Martin Short’s pro bono lawyer with a “trapper of broken dreams” is definitely the shadier, wackier of the two, and his skills thus far haven’t been all that impressive as Jill continues to poison Stevie against his mother. Aidan Quinn’s CEO is exactly Nancy’s type, and I’m sure that something will occur between them sooner than later. Silas is being a huge jerk to his business partner mother, and the two would make a good team if they just spoke to each other. Silas giving the entire supply away for free resulted in 42 new clients, though I’d argue that Nancy throwing fliers out the window labeled “Known Drug Dealer” to cut out her competition is mighty creative. I liked Silas’ method of identifying a drug dealer, calling out “Freeze, DEA!” Some craziness in Afghanistan seems to have derailed their plans, so we’ll see what happens with that. Shane buying new furniture for their apartment and recreating Nancy’s Agrestic bedroom is a nostalgic throwback to the past. Andy’s relationship with the nutty artist and her husband seemed strange at first but now appears to be rather surprisingly sweet and fairly hilarious, as evidenced by their equal participation in bed while the husband gets some good reading in.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 2 “Repeat Offender” (B+)

Last week’s surprise ending turns out to be a major development that pretty much negates almost everything that happened last season in terms of the search for a new chief. Everything is back to normal for now, with everyone treading very carefully as nothing is certain. Raydor is still interviewing members of PHD as part of her audit, and Pope is reluctant to close down her investigation so as not to jeopardize his own newly re-cemented status. Taylor is quite upset about losing the promotion that he was revealed to be expecting in the premiere, and his venting to Provenza was quite amusing. Buzz also seems to be considerably more dressed up than he usually is, easily mistaken for a detective at a crime scene, potentially in order to secure his own job as eyes are on everyone. Pope being worried that he got fat after seeing himself in his uniform on TV was entertaining as well, as was Brenda’s rather harsh reiteration of it to him. After spending a week in Los Angeles for the first time, I was excited to hear that Flynn took Sepulveda instead of the freeway in order to make good time since I now understand the geography of the area a tiny, tiny bit. I was glad to see James D’Arcy from “Virtuality” and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” get some work here as the professor who unknowingly admitted to lying to the police while being recorded in the police station – such a rookie mistake.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad (Season Premiere)

Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 1 “Box Cutter” (B+)

If ever there was a season finale to be recovered from, it was “Full Measure,” the whopper of a season ender that saw Walt and Jesse taking desperate steps to keep themselves alive by deciding to execute Gale. It’s most certainly a recovery episode, as things slowly inch back towards whatever normal could was on this show. Gale gets one last awkward honest encounter in the flashback before the opening titles, after which we discover that Gale has in fact been shot and killed, which has sufficiently angered Victor. The revelation that Victor can cook was a surprise, but Walt managed to really rip his skills apart, staunchly defending Jesse the entire time. Gus was not happy at all, and I presumed the entire time that Gus was going to end up killing Victor instead of Walt and Jesse. Nonetheless, the sight of Gus coldly slitting Victor’s throat with an X-Acto knife was quite chilling and horrifying. Gus was silent the whole time, and his sole line of “Well, get back to work” was equally scary. Hank is not looking good, and Marie’s definitely not helping the situation with her cheeriness and nosiness. Skyler seems considerably calmer than she has been in the past, but Walt still isn’t going to be opening up to her any time soon about the latest developments in his life. That last shot of Gale's lab notes is haunting, and I have a feeling this is going to be one long, devastating season much like the two before it.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8, Episode 2 “The Safe House” (B)

This show has a tendency to let itself get more than a little carried away sometimes, and that most often occurs when Larry crudely inserts himself into a truly awful situation. I suppose I’d give Larry some credit for knowing what a battered women’s shelter was and not being as insensitive to the populace as he could have been, but of course he’d just have to pick on the more butch-looking member among them. Having Leon be confused for an abusive boyfriend crosses a line that this show somehow miraculously doesn’t cross on an entirely regular basis, and while it’s not as awful as it could be, it’s still a stretch. I did like the opening scene with Larry trying to get to the ice cream, and I love how the same thing happens again with Richard Lewis later in the episode, reminiscent of “Vehicular Fellatio,” where Jeff shows up at Larry’s door to tell him that he has to say that they were in a car accident together, and other installments. In some way or another, Larry’s friends always seem to be connected to his mishaps. I wasn’t as thrilled with the plot of Richard’s girlfriend and Larry’s close observation of her breasts, but it was worth it to see that image of the two of them in the bed with Richard holding up his casts in frustration. The principle of Larry having to stay and watch someone’s computer is perfect fodder for this show, and I’m surprised it wasn’t featured sooner.

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies

Falling Skies: Season 1, Episode 6 “Sanctuary, Part 1” (B+)

In search of more action, there’s nothing like a surprise alien attack right after the arrival of an old friend to get things going. Clayton infuses a bit of much-needed hope and optimism into the show as he signals the presence of a greater group out there that might help in saving the planet. Ironically enough, he’s actually the main reason that they appear to be doomed, as evidenced by the shocking revelation at episode’s end that he is somehow in cahoots with the aliens and has captured Pope of all people to give him intelligence on where the members of the 2nd Massachusetts were holed up. Not everything was hunky-dory back on the ranch before that bit of bad news, as Anne is the victim of a rather frightening mugging at the start of the episode when fearful people take matters into their own hands and steal antibiotics as they make a run for it on their own. We get our first chance to see a walking, talking Ben, whose behavior bothers his brother Hal enough for him to bring it to the attention of an already frazzled Anne. The invocation of the term “razorback” reminds me very much of the “toaster” slang for Cylons on “Battlestar Galactica,” and it’s interesting to see how that’s proving divisive. The episode’s strongest moment by far was the popping of a globe by a skitter, which was both awesome and rather representative of just what the aliens are doing to the inhabitants of the planet Earth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 4, Episode 4 “I’m Alive and I’m on Fire” (B)

This episode represents a turning point for a number of our characters because it shows them slipping even more into new, darker patterns of behavior and cementing their statuses with regard to the other people in their lives. Eric, drunk off fairy blood, proves most amusing, but it’s also interesting to see him sweetly and longingly ask Sookie for a kiss and clearly show that he cares about her. Most intriguingly, Sookie tells Bill that he has no reason not to trust her while deliberately lying to him for the first time since she seems to now have a greater loyalty to Eric than she does to her former almost-fiancée. Bill himself is getting chewed out by the AVL for sending Eric after the witches in the first place, but that’s not the most horrifying revelation he has all episode. Discovering that your girlfriend is actually your great-great-great-granddaughter (or something to that effect) can’t be pleasant, especially when it comes to your attention thanks to the girl’s grandmother, who is also your descendant. Tommy having an unpleasant reunion with Joe Lee was among the episode’s most disturbing moments, as was Arlene’s baby writing “Baby not yours” on the wall, which terrified both of his parents rather than just his frantic mother. The most off-putting moment is, as has been the case recently, the witch’s circle, which results in a possessed Marnie, aided by Jesus, Tara, and Lafayette, showing Pam her true self, which is most definitely not a pretty sight.

What I’m Watching: Outcasts

Outcasts: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

On a weaker show, having a new mysterious outsider pop up in each episode might seem repetitive and uncreative, but it’s leading to some truly fascinating stuff here on Carpathia. Patrick Baxter is in some ways much like the captain from the pilot, someone who has clearly been through a long journey and has a great deal of wisdom and composure to show for it. Pac has, however, lost some touch with how to communicate with people, and therefore his bar brawl and the mysterious tour on which he leads Fleur and Cass on are not in keeping with social norms. I’m very intrigued by this planet, and it seems to have its own story aside from anything related to our characters. Cass holding Fleur while they slept and her waking with a furious start was amusing, and the two really do make a great team. The pair I was most pleasantly surprised by in this episode was Stella and Jack, forming an unexpected bond after both proving to be quite skilled and not so different as they might have initially though. I’m very glad that Tate told Stella about his hallucinations, and it’s a good thing that she, at least in part, believes him. Tate’s interactions with Julius are just as terrific, as Tate explicitly tells Julius that he knows he’s trying to oust him from power and Julius doesn’t even bother trying to deny it. Additionally, I’m pleased to see Lily developing into her own after simply being a plot point related to Stella previously.

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 1, Episode 4 “Dirty Little Secrets” (B+)

I’m very impressed with this episode, which deftly handled two equally interesting storylines and managed to incorporate surprising twists and invigorating resolutions to both of the cases. Having Louis pull Mike in one direction while Harvey pulls him in another hasn’t gotten old, and it allows Mike to show off his skills after making a slight mistake early on in both cases. Bringing Jessica into the mix with the drug case was fun since she rarely plays much of a part, and having Harvey on a tight leash is amusing as well. The revelation that Quentin had ALS came as a big shock, and fortunately led to a sentimental finish with his successful winning over of the clients. Mike’s pro bono case turned out just like all pro bono cases usually do – far more complicated than they initially seem. His methods were especially clever, and I’m glad that he found a temporary partner-in-crime to help him with his necessary research. Deducing that the carpet was the same and was purposefully covered with bed bugs was quite a feat, and it’s good to see a real “David and Goliath” story, as Harvey calls it. It’s refreshing to see Harvey come in just when Mike is about to make a big reveal and not take all the credit, but rather just bask in the glory and in helping his protégé take down a rather obnoxious and haughty foe. I just hope Mike doesn’t get distracted by a different girl than the one who was taking his attention away in last week’s episode.

What I'm Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 1, Episode 4 "Acceptance" (B+)

This episode contains the most human contact we've seen yet for both of our main characters. The return of Kristen is certainly welcome, just as mad and vicious as she was in the pilot, spewing hatred and loathing for her brother. Ryan's efforts at making jokes didn't go over too well, as she claimed that laughing hurt too. It's good to see them bonding, but unfortunately it looks like that won't last too long with his latest antics involving saving his good friend Wilfred from certain doom and running out in the middle of his haircut adorned with a makeshift cape from the barber. Ed Helms is the show's first major guest star, playing the part of the peanut butter-obsessed Darryl. I half-expected Wilfred to be pulling Ryan's leg and making the whole thing up, but Darryl's fanatical, frightened reaction to Ryan pointing the squirt gun at him indicates that maybe it all was true. It's clear that Wilfred does depend on Ryan for some things, and Ryan did manage to train him to sit down by clicking and giving him a treat and keep him occupied by spraying him with the water gun. Wilfred's desire to save the bear is indicative of his occasional helplessness, and it proved quite hilarious as well. It's amusing that Wilfred picked up that guitar and decided to play a band, and that the bear was giving an important part in the band. Wilfred's comment about not being racist was quite funny, defending himself on the grounds that he can't see color.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What I’m Watching: Love Bites

Love Bites: Season 1, Episode 7 “Boys To Men” (B)

The first two segments of this episode were terrific, and the only reason the episode grade isn’t top notch is that the third vignette wasn’t nearly as strong. I’m always thrilled to see the wonderful Rebecca Creskoff in any role, and it’s great that she has yet another superb part that uses her seductive nature and carefree bossiness extraordinarily well. She definitely mops the floor with Skylar Astin’s nerdy kid Ben, and their interactions were absolutely hilarious. The second segment was very sweet, with spot-on performances from Aimee Garcia and Ian Reed Kesler as participants in a would-be one-night stand who are thrown together under unexpected circumstances. I liked seeing them bicker in the car and then work out their problems to discover that they had something in common, particularly a love of tall things wearing tall things. It seemed that there was an unusually immense effort to connect the three plotlines, specifically by having Judd and Colleen pop up in each one, as well as having Dale show up before his featured segment. I didn’t find Dale’s almost-romance with the French receptionist terribly compelling, and the most notable part of the third vignette was when I got visibly excited as I realized that it was Annie who was giving birth. I’m hopeful that she’ll now be featured more prominently as a newly non-pregnant young woman in the one or two remaining installments since she really has been criminally underused up until now and her character deserves much, much better.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 4 “No Good Deed” (B+)

This is a prime example of how this new format works extraordinarily well, with Michael taking time for side mission without it distracting from his CIA job, only to find that Max has been shot in his absence. I did enjoy the banter between Max and Michael, with our favorite protagonist being told that he’s a nut for being obsessed with the people who burned him and Max making up a fake gas to scare the maintenance man, and I’ll miss the recently deceased Max, especially since he was only around for a short time. Michael realizing he was being framed as blanks were shot at him was a stark wake-up call to the fact that the honeymoon is over, and now Michael is back to being on the run, as evidenced by the return of his token sunglasses at the end of the episode. He and his team still do great work though, stepping in to help Barry’s brother as he nearly ruins the lives of hundreds of teachers. The big guy throwing Sam and Jesse through a wall, only to be shot in crotch by Fiona, was rather more violent than this show usually gets, and it’s not often that Michael himself gets tranquilized and put directly in harm’s way. I liked Sam’s cool idea of creating a simple reason why an alarm might be tripped so that people wouldn’t bother to check for the real crime, and Jesse’s reassembly of the shredded documents was rather impressive to boot. Eve turned out to be quite a pain, and it was gratifying to see her get played. Fiona being bossy and telling Madeleine how to tail someone was decently amusing as well.

What I’m Watching: Damages (Season Premiere)

Damages: Season 4, Episode 1 “There’s Only One Way to Try a Case” (B+)

There’s something about a year-plus gap and a network switch that increases my excitement about this show exponentially. I feel strongly that each successive season of this show has been considerably better than the previous one, and if this premiere is any indication, I have a feeling this is going to be the strongest season yet. I like the idea of a complete cast change-up each season, with only Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, whom I’ve grown considerably fonder of this summer, sticking around as excellent actors are added to the ensemble. John Goodman is superb as Howard T. Erickson, revealed via television footage rather than a direct conversation, clearly angry, vicious, and desperate, but smart and controlled enough not to be willing to harm his own men. Dylan Baker’s Jerry Boorman, on the other hand, seems more than ready to do what needs to be done, killing the therapist simply because Chris told him the truth. I’m thrilled to see Chris Messina playing a darker role than usual as Chris Sanchez, almost unrecognizable in the promotional photos, upset and disturbed by the illegal final mission which led to the death of his fellow men. Also popping up in the pilot are Julie White as Congresswoman Donna Chase, interrogating Howard on the stand and then trying out guns with him, and Tom Noonan, back in a new role as a private investigator hired by unavailable mother Patty to track down her absentee son. Not much has changed aside from the major case, with Patty still trying to replace Ellen and the two still working together on the side without being directly involved. The flash-forward at the beginning of the episode is only three months ahead, and I’d presume that it’s Chris under that hood. The final moments of the episode reveal a familiar sight: Ellen showing up devastated to a pool of blood. This season is definitely going to be good, and now that the show’s on DirecTV, there’s a possibility for the occasional swearing, and it makes sense that its first invocation would be Patty getting cursed out for doing something slimy.

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me (Season Premiere)

Rescue Me: Season 7, Episode 1 “Mutha” (B+)

Well, there’s nothing like this show. The kind of things that happen here and the dialogue that is uttered is completely unique to the brain of Denis Leary, Peter Tolan, and the other creative people involved in this show. It wouldn’t be right if Tommy wasn’t doing something crazy like jumping on a car hood within the first few minutes. After an understandable and smart five-month jump, it’s shocking but fun to see Sheila and Janet getting along like old friends, laughing at Tommy’s girly legs and sharing sexual secrets with each other. Janet can really make her points well, telling Sheila that she doesn’t want to have sex with a walking hard-on with a fire helmet, which prompts Tommy to share a bit too much information about his refill of hand lotion. Black Shawn wanting to marry Colleen and going to Franco for advice was hilarious, and he nearly screwed himself up by seeming too startled by her affirmative response. Teddy and Mickey owning the bar and hosting an AA group there seems just as far-fetched as cyclical as anything on this show, and it stands to reason that Colleen is actually drinking all the drinks behind closed doors. Tommy taking a drink wasn’t a surprise either, and I got a chill from seeing his father pop up, followed by Johnny and Jimmy. In an unexpected positive development, Tommy managed to defiantly spit it out as Colleen lay on the floor in front of him and grab the shotgun to get everyone out of the bar and tell them the party’s over, which is sure to have implications throughout the coming episodes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Take Three: Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness: Season 1, Episode 3 “Spinning Out” (C+)

This show is cementing itself as a portrait of a rather out-of-control family that feuds uncontrollably and rather publicly for the entirety of the episode and then somehow decides that they’re all going to get along just before the episode ends. I’m not sure that progression is truly merited, and then definitely makes this show less convincing. The visit from the court-appointed observer to determine Dani’s fitness as a parent couldn’t have been any more poorly-timed, and her subsequent stops were certainly just as ill-advised. Her kids are rather horrific, however, so Dani can’t exactly be blamed too much for the state of things at home. T.K. is continuing to spiral out of control, so easily provoked by the most infantile of tricks. It’s a good thing that Dani’s clientele isn’t limited solely to the football players since that might quickly become boring, and dealing with different kinds of sports stars, at the behest of the team’s owner, makes sense as a regular routine for her. It does seem that her string are being pulled rather repeatedly by Nico, though it’s good to see some sort of relationship developing between them as he slowly lets little pieces of information trickle down to her. Her non-romance with Donnally continues to be a distraction that probably won’t turn into anything, and I imagine they’ll simply work together without letting their one-night stand get in the way. This show definitely needs some short of adrenaline since it hasn’t quite reached its potential yet.

What I'm Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 3 “Rash Talk” (B+)

This episode was chock full of guest stars even as our main characters had plenty of major developments of their own. Shiri Appleby, late of “Life Unexpected,” and Jennifer Ferrin, recently seen as the unexcitable Dana of “The Cape” played the two ailing maids, and I enjoyed seeing Joanna Gleason and David Rasche from “In the Loop” as the couple with a problem with their neighbor. Eddie being eligible for parole without his sons having known was a good starting point for the episode, and I like how Paige managed to motivate Evan by telling him to open pieces of mail. Evan did manage to get her pretty riled up by answering her phone, and she doesn’t seem keen on sharing whatever’s going on with her with Hank either. I’m enjoying the relationship between Jill and Hank, and I like how Divya realized Jill was actually in the house and called her name out rather than telephoning her. Jill isn’t exactly subtle, and it’s fun that she and Hank are trying things out again. Divya cooking Indian food for Evan and Hank proved hilarious, mostly because of how Hank insisted that Evan pretend to like it and then couldn’t stand it himself. Divya staying with the Lawsons might seem like the kind of thing that could detract from or drag out the other plotlines, but for the moment, it’s providing just enough entertainment and working out fine. Divya and Evan’s interactions were always the best part of this show, so I’m glad to have as many of those as possible.

What I’m Watching: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash: Season 1, Episode 7 “Franklin vs. Bash” (C-)

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later, and if this show lasts a while, it’s bound to happen again at least a few times. Pitting Franklin and Bash against each other is exactly the kind of device that would serve this show well, especially as Infeld encourages its occurrence. That said, it leads to some entirely ridiculous courtroom conduct, but that’s nothing unusual for this show. Objections like “betrayal” and “stealing my moves” would only fly on a show like this, and the rather randomly timed decision to recombine efforts and defend their clients together feels forced. The entire nature of the case is a stretch, but that’s just something to get used to here. Infeld is seeming increasingly like a puppeteer, pulling the strings on all of his lawyers to manipulate them as he sees fit. I will say that Franklin and Bash definitely make a better pair than the alternative, which is an umemotive Hannah and an unsmiling Karp. It would be nice to involve Pindar and Carmen in a more direct and consistent way since they often seem to enhance the situations and cases involving Hannah and Karp. The Franklin vs. Bash case was much more interesting and involving than the thirteen-year-old adventurer putting equal effort into winning his case and trying to hit on Hannah. That’s one storyline that didn’t work all that well, especially because the father’s attachment to his son was rather obvious and easy to pick up on from the start.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Outsiders” (B+)

I’m pleased to see how this episode manages to incorporate some of the elements which didn’t quite work as well in the past and utilize them properly and effective. Reva still being involved is somewhat of a surprise, but having her in this capacity makes a lot more sense and works much better. Though she’s still rather queasy and definitely someone who plays by the rules, it’s fun to see her consistently overwhelmed and somewhat awed by the way Annie does what she does. Getting drunk with her captors and leading them in song was a smart and impressive move, and it’s nice to see Annie really prove her worth every once in a while. I’m grateful that Jai finally had something relevant to do, just as he was almost out the door at an interview about which Joan was most definitely aware. He may not seem like the most effective leader, but that’s mostly due to the unfortunate lack of functionality with the helicopter. I was pleased to see Peter Stormare in a fun guest spot as Annie’s sparring partner for the episode. Danielle managed to nearly cause some problems this episode by finding Annie’s passport and making a big fuss about reporting it. Fortunately, Auggie was able to call Andrew in to step in to help, who proved quite productive and entertaining. I enjoyed Auggie’s excitement at his ability to predict that Annie and Reva had escaped, and it’s great to see that he’s managed to ease back into his role quite smoothly.