Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 8 “Death Warrant” (B+)

If echoes of this lawsuit against Brenda were bleeding into her other cases in the past few weeks, this episode brings it all full circle as they collide in more ways than one. Speaking to the case of Ray Diamond and his potentially snitchy ways, it’s definitely a bad sign when your staff witness gets their throat slit immediately after meeting with the police in jail. It was rather satisfying to be able to not have to cut through any red tape and to have the videotape of the deadly girlfriend meeting with him become so instantly available. Fritz and Brenda coming with D.A. Hobbs to protect the witness was cool, and things always get exciting when one of the show’s central characters in nearly assassinated. This episode also gave Raydor an unusual change to shine, as she ended up tailing Maria Flores for Brenda, mainly because she was concerned about police brutality, and then she showed off her shooting skills with an extraordinarily impressive shotgun usage. It became clear that Brenda’s alleged actions involving Turrell Baylor are well known to others, as the lawyer said that Brenda is no different than him even though didn’t actually pull the trigger. Having Gavin at the station proved to be quite entertaining and enlightening. His interviews were amusing, and then things got more serious as he threatened whoever it was that was leaking information to the other side. Who would have thought that Mark Pellegrino, so good but stoic in shows like “Lost” and “Dexter,” was capable of playing a seedy, flamboyant character so well?

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 8, Episode 6 “The Big Bang” (B+)

It seems right now that all five of the major characters on this show are desperately trying to prove to those around them that they are someone other than who they’re perceived to be. Vince is obsessed with getting the stuffy British journalist to believe that he’s capable of something more than seducing women. Eric wants Melinda to know that he’s prepared to be professional, and wants to ensure that he hasn’t lost Sloane for good with his latest misdeed. Drama is struggling not to make the biggest mistake of his career, but continues to let himself be pushed around by Dice. Turtle is trying to be taken seriously, but his hometown friends just want to see celebrities and be treated like royalty. Ari wants his wife to know that he’s changed, and he actually does a surprisingly good job of keeping his cool, storming out of his wife’s house without getting into a fight. The effectiveness of all this depends on the person. Vince is now doubting himself, while Eric received a disturbing visit from Johnny Galecki that causes him more concern than he needed. Drama, it appears, got what he and Dice wanted all along, though there’s still the chance that it could all fall apart. For all the following around he does, Turtle has never been so vain about being in the company of celebrities, which I find quite interesting. Most valuable of all, we finally know Mrs. Ari’s first name, dropped so casually by Bobby: Melissa!

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock (Respawn)
Two-time Emmy winner Baldwin is back with his fifth nomination for the season finale of the NBC comedy, in which he pretends that Kenneth is his wife Avery. It’s not a great submission, but Baldwin, who picked up his fifth consecutive SAG award earlier this year, is always a threat and can never be counted out entirely.

Steve Carell as Michael Scott, The Office (Goodbye Michael)
If ever there was someone overdue to win an Emmy, it would be Carell. He came close on multiple occasions but always lost out to someone else, but this year he’s far ahead of the competition. Leaving a show on a good note should earn him goodwill, and there’s plenty of drama and comedy in his final one-hour installment. I would be extremely surprised if someone managed to steal this well-deserved trophy from him.

Louis C.K. as Louie, Louie (Bully)
This surprise nominee is a bit of an odd choice, but so was Ricky Gervais for “Extras” a few years back. This is by far the most profane and least conventional choice of the pack, which could garner some votes, but if a stand-up comic who incorporated his act into the show like Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t win, Louie won’t either. Failing to confront a young bully doesn’t exactly portray him in the most favorable light.

Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter, The Big Bang Theory (The Benefactor Factor)
Galecki joins costar and last year’s winner Jim Parsons in this category as his show finally earns a Best Comedy Series nod. It will be near impossible for Galecki to upstage Parsons, but his episode, which finds him considering seducing an older potential funder played by Jessica Walter, is a fun choice and should earn a decent number of laughs.

Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc, Episodes (Episode 107)
LeBlanc returns to this category after three nominations for “Friends” last decade. This is an altogether different performance, mocking himself in a far more reserved and composed way. The season finale is a good episode for loyal watchers of the show, but I’m not sure how well it will play with first-time viewers. Unless voters are still nostalgic about “Friends,” he won’t win this year.

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory (The Agreement Dissection)
Last year’s winner is back with a superb episode and much more support for his show. He got drunk in last year’s submitted episode, and in this season’s installment, he has to contend with roommates figuring out ways to undermine him. It’s a strong half-hour, and he could well repeat given how this category has gone in recent years. He’s a strong bet, second only to Carell.

Who should win (based on entire season): Carell
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Carell
Who will win: While it could be past winners Parsons or Baldwin, I think it’s fine Carell’s turn.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 7 “Problem Dog” (B+)

You know this has to be an intense episode when Walt destroying his son’s new car is the most forgettable part. It’s so entertaining to see Saul get so worked up about Walt not caring about what he’s doing, and also expressing his fear of Mike and Gus. Walt’s continued efforts to kill Gus really aren’t going to solve anything, especially if Mike knows all the hit men in the area, as Saul claims. Skyler’s reaction to Walt’s $7.5 million annual paycheck is understandably one of shock, and Walt’s response is rather cruel: “It’s a simple division of labor: I bring in the money, you launder the money.” Jesse’s recent successful run is causing him so much stress that he can’t stay sane, going back to meetings only to rip apart the other people there after making a metaphorical confession about a dog he put down that wasn’t sick. For a change, Hank’s scenes were the most interesting and engaging. Bringing Walter Jr. to Los Pollos Hermanos presented an unexpected interaction, as Gus offered him a part-time job, which is sure to make Walt’s blood boil if it comes to fruition. Having Gus so casually come out to greet them and to refill Hank’s soda presented such a close brush with everything falling apart, and that final scene with Hank revealing how he pieced it all together felt like way too much of a tease when his story was quickly dismissed. Hank isn’t going down easy, however, as, for once, he has some proof that’s really going to stick and make next week’s episode absolutely unmissable.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8, Episode 8 “Car Periscope” (B+)

This episode was fun for a whole bunch of reasons, though its setting in NYC is definitely one of the main things that makes it hilarious. Of course Larry would take issue with “upstreaming” and losing cabs to more determined, aggressive people on the street. Shooting scenes at the parks and at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema is great for those of us on the east coast since this show usually features many recognizable locations on the west coast. This potential invention investment is highly dorky and dated, and there’s something about watching Jeff peer into the lens of that automobile periscope that made me feel like I was watching David’s previous show “Seinfeld” in the 1990s. Larry’s inability to rust someone with a beautiful wife, and, more importantly, the converse of that, stems from him being a horrible human being. Fortunately, he did get his due when Aida Turturro’s Gabby came at him when he wouldn’t hand over his popcorn to her while he went to the bathroom. The “Fugitive” parody was absolutely brilliant, and I love how Larry pursued him only to have Judge Horn identify him, the man with a broken arm, as the culprit. He didn’t have all that much to do, but I was pleased to see Cheyenne Jackson as Larry’s trainer who promptly abandoned him for his own referral, Wanda Sykes, only to drop her for Larry after he rigged the decision process by having the racist Judge choose which of them would get to keep him.

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Kathy Bates as Harriet Korn, Harry’s Law (Innocent Man)
This nomination greatly worries me because of the success that David E. Kelley’s previous shows have had with Emmy voters. The show is far-fetched and Bates’ performance is hardly her best work, but submitting an episode where she defends an accused murderer serving a life sentence that doesn’t even give her much to do is just the kind of trick that worked well for James Spader several times.

Connie Britton as Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights (Always)
This is Britton’s second nomination, for the final season of the football drama. Like costar Kyle Chandler, she submitted the series finale, which offers a good showcase of her taking a stand and telling her husband what’s important to her. It’s a strong episode but not one that’s going to win her the award unless voters really, really want to reward the show, which I don’t think is the case given her competition here.

Mireille Enos as Detective Sarah Linden, The Killing (Missing)
While I didn’t particularly love Enos’ performance, I can understand why it’s an intriguing portrayal, and the show seems to be decently popular with voters. Enos made an interesting choice with her episode submission, choosing an hour that stands almost entirely alone from the rest of the show, in which she searches for her missing son, which was probably smart and could even propel her to a surprise victory.

Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson, Law & Order: SVU (Rescue)
Hargitay continues to hang on to her spot in this category with her eighth nomination. She won this trophy five years ago and hasn’t mustered up an equivalent episode since then, and definitely won’t be taking home an award this year. Her episode finds her participating in a case she’s been banned from investigating as she has custody of a suspect’s son. It’s good bait, but she’s not really in this race.

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Flockhart, The Good Wife (In Sickness)
This year’s frontrunner was also last year’s frontrunner, and though she didn’t win that race, the second season of her show was even stronger than the first, and the victor isn’t in the running now. This is a magnificent submission, after Alicia finds out about Peter and Kalinda, so she’s in good shape to take home this trophy.

Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, Mad Men (The Suitcase)
This is Moss’ third consecutive nomination, though she switched down to the supporting race last year before returning here this year. The show is still going strong and she’s wisely submitted the best showcase of her work, where she goes head-to-head with Jon Hamm and occasionally comes out ahead. She’s Margulies’ most threatening competition.

Who should win (based on entire season): Moss
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Moss
Who will win: It’s going to be an insanely tight race between Moss and Margulies, and given that Margulies couldn’t win last year for the freshman season of her show, I’m tempted to give Moss the edge based on her episode submission.

Next up: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Monday, August 29, 2011

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 4, Episode 10 “Burning Down the House” (B+)

It’s hard to believe how many different kinds of magic and supernatural occurrences there are on this show, and how impressively it’s all kept in check. I absolutely love it when Sookie’s powers come out, and it’s great that she’s the one to break the spell cast over Eric and truly shock Antonia. It’s so interesting to see the dynamic between Marnie and Antonia, to learn that it’s really Marnie who is determined to exact revenge against vampires and Antonia who is more concerned with the unnecessary suffering of humans. Jesus continues to astound with his bravery and surprising abilities, walking through that wall and coming out the other end just fine. Holly and Tara did a great job coming up with a counter spell, but Antonia’s fury and that disappearing act is now going to involve more than just the trapped witches, as Lafayette and Sookie were captured too. It’s now up to Jason to stop the very angry team of Eric, Pam, Jessica, and Bill that is rolling up to Moon Goddess guns blazing. I’m enjoying the bonding of some other people on the show, like Terry and Andy and also Sam and Alcide. I did not expect to be moved by Tommy’s death, so I guess the character was good for something in the end. Debbie bonding with Marcus and presumably sleeping with him is definitely going to have adverse effects, though Marcus is doing that before he even knows about Alcide’s conflicted loyalties. Only two more episodes left this season, so we’re in for one hell of a ride the next two weeks.

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Shelf Life” (B+)

This episode was just layered with relevance for our second tier main character. It's clear just how dangerous Mike's situation is from the speedy way in which Mike is singled out at the Harvard mixer by the members of the class of 2011 that don't recognize him. Jenny dropping Harvey's name to get Mike admitted to the reunion was especially impressive. I like that we're getting a chance to see more of Mike's relationship, and of course any late night romance on a show like this has to be interrupted by a phone call. That does of course lead to Jenny running into Rachel the following morning and making her jealous, leading to a rather surprising smooch between Rachel and Mike and a completely unnecessary and cruel act on Louis' part. Mike's humanity ultimately proves helpful, as it usually does, and it's Harvey who makes a conscious decision to go against Jessica and act on it. I was pleased to see John Billingsley of "The Nine" and "Enterprise" as Stan, a typically sad sack for the character actor to play. It's rather intense to see Jessica step in and tell her friend that she's furious that she's stolen from her and that she's perfectly ready to send her to jail. Harvey citing the fact that the shelf company isn't covered under attorney-client privilege was particularly satisfying, as was his swift solution to the problem of the extortionist security guard. Hopefully Mike will be able to hold it together and won't ruin this whole thing for himself.

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire (Return to Normalcy)
The only contender from a freshman series is coming into this race strong, having won both the Golden Globe and the SAG award earlier this year. That precedent doesn’t mean much, however, since the last winner of either award to take home an Emmy in this category was Kiefer Sutherland five years ago. His submitted episode, however, is quite strong, the season finale in which he breaks down and then rallies to go out on a triumphant note.

Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights (Always)
Chandler earns his second nomination for the final season of the football drama. Overdue love for the show netted him the nod last year, and that could similarly win him the award this year if not for the competition in the category. In his episode, the series finale, he gets to freak out about his daughter getting proposed to and make an important life-changing decision. He’s a dark horse if ever there was one, but him winning is very unlikely.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, Dexter (Teenage Wasteland)
Hall came close to winning last year after picking up both the Golden Globe and the SAG award, and I fear that his chances may be all but gone now after a fifth season that many thought was weaker than the fourth. This year’s submission is one of the season’s best installments, as Dexter balances family and his new friend, and it’s as strong an hour as he’s ever submitted, though it still may not be enough to defeat Hamm or Buscemi.

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Mad Men (The Suitcase)
Hamm has been bested since the start of his show by the star of another AMC show, and now that he’s not eligible, Hamm has the best show to take home this award. He also has the best episode of the bunch, which has him displaying a full range of emotion and vulnerability opposite costar Elisabeth Moss. If not for Buscemi, he’d have this award in the bag.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, House (After Hours)
If not for Kyra Sedgwick’s surprise win last year, I’d say that Laurie’s time had long passed and he doesn’t have any chance of winning. Though he has two Golden Globes and two SAG awards, he’s lost on all of his five previous Emmy tries. Trying to give himself surgery on his leg in a bathtub sounds like great bait, but the episode doesn’t feature him as prominently as it should, so I’d say he’s out this year.

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, Justified (Reckoning)
Olyphant joins this race for his show’s stellar second year, along with two of his other cast members. The show certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and FX programs have rarely been rewarded by Emmy voters. Still, Olyphant was smart to submit the episode in which he investigates the murder of his aunt, which is a powerhouse installment featuring a great performance.

Who should win (based on entire season): Hamm
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Hamm
Who will win: I would say that the race is down to Hamm and Buscemi, and while Buscemi has the “now” factor going for him, I think Hamm will finally take it this year.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 1, Episode 11 “Doubt” (B)

I’m still enjoying this show, but I do have to admit that this episode wasn’t really terribly productive. The main reason that Ryan’s interactions with Wilfred are so funny is that he’s the only one who can see and hear Wilfred. Last week, it was revealed that Ryan’s mother talks to her dog in exactly the same way, but this is different. For one thing, Bruce isn’t an altogether interesting character, and he’s plenty peculiar, which isn’t exactly necessary on a show already filled with weird characters. Wilfred does a good enough job on his own messing with Ryan’s head, and having another person there to play mind games with Ryan seems excessive. The gun-with-blanks scene was considerably over-the-top, and things definitely fell apart in the already stretched-thin logic department at that point. Bruce did raise a few good points about the ways in which Wilfred manipulates Ryan, like his intrusion on his dating life and his poking a hole in his condom. I was pleased to see Katy Mixon from “Eastbound & Down” as Angelique, Wilfred’s choice to be Ryan’s date, even if, like many of the other guest stars on this show, she didn’t have a terribly large or distracting part. I would also have loved to see more of Kristen at yoga since she was always one of the zanier personalities on this show. I’m a sucker for Wilfred preying on gullible Ryan, and therefore his repeated stories about how he met Bruce via different Matt Damon roles was rather hilarious.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 10 “Army of One” (B+)

It’s hard not to be impressed by Michael. In addition to multitasking and helping Jesse out with his job while monitoring Agent Pearce’s investigation, he manages to singlehandedly save the day, as well as the lives of all of the hostages. Jesse having Madeleine take surveillance photos for him also ends up working out quite well, putting her in the room so that she can help Michael maintain his cover and figure out a way to take down all the bad guys without them knowing it. After having Patrick Bachau on this show as Lucien last week, we get his costar from “The Pretender,” Michael T. Weiss as this week’s big bad guy, who is most definitely more involved with guns than Blackberrys. Michael’s plan was tactful and highly effective, suggesting a roll call so that he can create a fake employee to keep the hostage takers on their toes so that they think they have an enemy in their midst. Jesse clearing the runways by posing as a CIA agent gave him yet another opportunity to yell at people for doing their jobs ineffectively, and helped create helpful panic among the hostage takers. Of course, Michael would describe the tie of choice for igniting a gas tank, and I enjoyed Madeleine voicing her concerns about how putting blood on his shirt can’t be very sanitary. Faking a fatal injury and volunteering for a suicide mission proved to be a great resolution for this particular situation, and hats off to a Michael for another successful execution of a largely improvised mission.

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 4, Episode 7 “I’m Worried About My Dog” (B+)

Things are certainly getting intense as we have some unexpected developments and surprising character interactions. Howard’s dream with his sons meeting a doomed Chris paved the way for some extensive contemplation on Howard’s part, but it’s all too clear from his visit to Afghanistan that he’s no longer interested in protecting his former employee. The reveal that Jerry’s prisoner is the young boy from the flash-forwards doesn’t necessarily tell us much, especially because Chris may not in fact be the one all bloody and dead who’s found by Ellen just one month from the current time. Howard’s interrogation of Chris was a fearsome scene, since Howard so rarely lets his emotions get the best of him and does the dirty work himself. The quick introduction and murder of Bill’s CIA contact was rather frightening, especially since it wasn’t even Jerry who was directly responsible for getting him killed. Patty settling her other case to get the French government to give up important information related to Howard and High Star was a big surprise, but what a strategic move on her part! The most shocking moment of the episode was when Ellen called Patty just so that she could talk directly to Jerry. While their plan to turn him is hopeless, he did manage to panic pretty quickly and tell his CIA buddy to cut Howard loose should send things in a rather interesting direction. Michael’s proving to be rather persistent in his efforts to undermine Patty and get to know his daughter, and I’m very worried that it’s going to get her terribly distracted from what’s truly important here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me

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

Things are definitely getting turned on their heads in more ways than one in this episode. Lou walks into the firehouse at the start and thinks he must be in the wrong house since there are so many changes afoot thanks to Franco’s efforts as acting lieutenant. This show wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if everyone behaved as they should, so it’s a strange change of pace to see most of the firefighters, save for Tommy and Lou, of course, on their game for once. Seeing all that taken away in the blink of an eye when Franco made the wrong call on the job was quite powerful. This episode was all about Tommy’s post-mortem thoughts, and I’ll admit that I was close to tearing up while both Lou and Sheila read their letters. Lou’s usage of the vodka, or rather the lighter fluid to get the eternal flame effect, set on fire was extraordinarily effective with Sheila, and I loved how it really went up in flames, pun intended, when he tried it again with Janet. Her strong desire for Tommy to quit has unfortunately come so much closer to reality, as, thanks to Lou’s pratfall, everyone now thinks that he’s planning to retire. While Tommy is sure not to give up without a fight, the attention will now be turned to Colleen’s wedding. I’m hopeful that Tommy is going to get his act together and be able to walk his daughter down the aisle, but something tells me that it would be far too happy an ending for this show.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 9 “Me First” (B+)

I’m constantly impressed by how this usage its Hamptons setting to incorporate interesting patients into its episodes. Famous actor parents filming out of the country make for an intriguing situation of a kid whose whole world revolves around pretending to be a superhero and his very energetic, committed babysitter. Madeline Zima of “Californication” was a great choice to play Toby, and I liked how the rather precocious Simon jumped into the pool to save her when she passed out after he pushed her into it. Seeing Jill and Hank have fun playing with Simon to make sure that he wasn’t left alone with Toby was amusing, and I’m still curious to see what happens with their relationship. In terms of other romances, I was also entertained to see Divya quite flummoxed by her date that involved helmet hair and a staged opportunity for mouth-to-mouth. It’s decently touching that they ultimately decide that they both need platonic practice, and I’m hopeful that it will prove fun to watch. Paige’s big reveal turned out to be her mother’s rather than her own, and the big blowout that resulted from Evan angrily confronting her was extremely worrisome. Fortunately, they had a quick and romantic makeup, though Hank got Evan furious enough to smash the windshield of his car. The General, however, wins that contest, snapping Evan’s golf club in two when he was angry and then banning Hank from his property, which is sure to drive a major wedge between the two brothers.

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 2, Episode 9 “A Little Death” (B+)

There’s nothing like attending your own funeral. It was an odd little bit of black comedy that came into play here to have Cathy attending a funeral ostensibly for her since neither Sean nor Rebecca bothered to clarify that the deceased Cathy Jameson was their unborn baby and not her. It was nice, however, for her to get to reconnect with all of her friends while she was still alive. Getting a chance to threaten to haunt Rugby Slut if she ever went near Paul was also rather refreshing. On a more dramatic note, I like that Paul was inspired to buy the best burial plot the funeral home has so that he can go big and do right by Cathy for when the time comes and he does have to go visit her grave at the cemetery. It was also good that Cathy thanked Baby Cathy for giving Sean a chance to be really happy (and now bearing a tattoo in a place that shouldn’t usually be seen) and bringing out the maternal side of Rebecca. Rebecca did manage to get the funeral right, even if it was considerably over-the-top. Sean seems to have gotten quite attached to the idea of being a father, so I wonder if that’s where his arc will take him. Parker Posey as adult cancer kid Poppy is more than a little peculiar, and I have no idea where that plotline is head. I’m hopeful that Andrea isn’t heartbroken after losing her virginity to Mick and then eventually finding out about his illegal ways.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 1, Episode 7 “Catch and Release” (B+)

Could this show ask for a better guest star than Summer Glau? I don’t think so. I’m happy to report that, after the horrific disappointment that was “The Cape,” Glau is perfectly at home here as a predictably brilliant but socially incompatible nerd who also happens to have some superpowers that allow her to create the coolest and most useful inventions ever. Throwing out those bugs at the guys pursuing her was only the firs of her superb moves, and there’s no beating that makeshift stun device that she built in under ten minutes using materials that just happened to be around the office. The fact that Nina was her friend made her presence quite interesting, though having a three-year-old daughter with the ability to do complex equations definitely qualifies as making her memorable enough. I love how everyone gets into the van that Dr. Rosen is driving, and seeing how each member of the team tracks people and helps out with the missions never seems to get old. My favorite part of the episode was Gary’s $812.90 cab ride that didn’t involve streets starting with certain letters or numbers. It’s a shame that Gary’s mother doesn’t support his work, but good for Gary for standing up for himself and sticking to his secret agent work. I’m most impressed with Dr. Rosen for acquiring Skylar’s Cerebro device and then triumphantly and highly symbolically smashing it so that he can prove that he actually does care about the well-being and free living of the Alphas.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 7, Episode 9 “Cats! Cats! Cats!” (B+)

Nancy officially makes the worst informant ever, mostly because she can’t keep anything to herself. Telling Foster that they’re going to indict him negates the help she’s been giving to the SCC. Clearly she has quite the pull over people, since Foster still invites her to come away with him on his plan C to a mysterious island starting with a B. That whole informant business shouldn’t be much of a problem anymore now that Doug came in and eviscerated the agents about their retirement funds, going so far as to compel one of the agents to purchase pot from Nancy on the spot for the price of the lost recording device. I enjoyed seeing Andy figure out a way to get Zoya very angry by claiming that he wants to come to Vermont, and it’s good that Nancy was able to take serious steps to get Zoya out of their lives for the time being. Shane using the police computer to dig up info on the competition was ballsy but ultimate proved to be rather stupid since he got himself caught by his extremely disappointed internship supervisor. The dumbest Botwin family member, of course, is Silas, who tries to woo Emma and introduce her to his business without realizing that she was playing him the whole time and that she’s actually the head of the rival operation. The sight of all those bikes on the ceiling is just bad news, and I have a feeling things aren’t going to get any easier or better for the Botwin clan anytime soon.

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 7 “A Family Affair” (B+)

If not for the credit at the start of the episode, I might not have recognized Roxann Dawson from her half-Klingon days as B’Elanna Torres on “Star Trek: Voyager” as Captain Ortega. Dawson has been behind the scenes on this and many other shows in the past decade, directing four episodes, including the religion-centric episode from two weeks ago. On camera, Dawson does just fine, adding a tragic personal touch to a murder investigation and humanizing Sedona in a way that made the case all the more memorable, mainly because we barely got a chance to see her actual murderer before he was killed. Flat-out lying to a suspect to get him to confess doesn’t seem like a terribly smart idea for Brenda and Sanchez in the midst of this whole investigation, but I guess he did still order someone’s murder, so it’s not as if he’ll garner much sympathy and launch another lawsuit against the department. Having Fritz there to make the threat of the FBI coming in if the suspect didn’t cooperate with Major Crimes was cool, and I’m glad to see them cooperating rather smoothly. Captain Raydor stepping into the investigation to get Sanchez to cooperate seemed to signal a desperation of sorts on her part, but that final scene revealed that she’s actually on Brenda’s side and they both have a far larger problem on their hands. I can’t imagine that someone on Brenda’s squad has actually turned against her, and if I had to guess, I’d peg Commander Taylor or an accidentally-overheard Flynn or Provenza.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 8, Episode 5 “Motherf*cker” (B+)

This half hour feels a bit more on point as almost all of our characters (sorry, Turtle) achieve developments in their respective storylines. Alice Eve seems rather unfriendly as the reporter from Vanity Fair, and she definitely represents a challenge to Vince since she’s not ready to jump his bones and instead is going to put up a bit of a fight. Seeing him open up about his past is a rare thing, and it added some often unseen drama to the show. Drama trying to get Dice back and even considering giving him some of his salary was interesting, and I’m hopeful that his ultimate decision to walk won’t result in the end of his career reboot. E’s meeting with his ex’s ex-mother-in-law proved rather entertaining, and Melinda Clarke is among the better actors that play themselves on this show. Them bonding over Terence and Sloane was fun, and the reveal that she orchestrated the whole thing to get back at Terence was both hilarious and deeply troubling. Dana meeting Ari’s kids and having them ask if she’s the Dana that their mom hates was quite a surprise, as was Ari’s subsequent full-fledged apology to his wife. Unfortunately, she seems set on a divorce, but, wonderfully both for Ari and for us viewers, Dana is apparently willing to give Ari a try and be there for him. That’s particularly exciting to me since I think they make a great couple, and I’d love to see what more they do together.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 6 “Cornered” (B+)

Well, this was one intense episode, once again filled with lots of one-on-one conversation that didn’t move very fast. Skyler seems to be piecing everything together, and her trip to the Four Corners monument was rather powerful. Her closing line to Walt stung: “Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.” Seeing Walter bond with his son was nice, even if it’s going to be short-lived because he’s going to have to take back that car. Walt’s going a little stir-crazy with Jesse gone all the time, and he seems to have gotten his innocent little helpers sent back to Honduras because he didn’t want to clean up his mess by himself. He did do a rather impressive job of reasoning out Jesse’s staged heroics, but fortunately Jesse seems to have gone and proven himself useful after all. Digging a hole in the front yard and using his knowledge of methheads was impressive, and I liked seeing Mike watch him do that. Their interactions have been highly amusing, especially in this installment when Mike tells him that he doesn’t care for unpredictable, and he brought sandwiches. It’s rare these days to hear Gus say anything, so Jesse lucked out with his response of “I like to think I see things in people.” The most memorable and haunting line in this episode comes from Walt, and it’s what really sets Skyler off: “I am not in danger, I am the danger.” That over-confidence isn’t going to serve him well.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8, Episode 7 “The Bi-Sexual” (B+)

Larry has had his fair share of run-ins with Rosie O’Donnell, and I would say that this is by far the funniest. From the title, it was obvious that Jane was interested in both men and women, but watching Larry and Rosie figure out that fact was still absolutely terrific. What’s so brilliant about this show is that we see almost everything from Larry’s perspective, and anything involving Rosie and her supposed romance with Jane is only revealed when she confronts Larry about it. The return of Leon wasn’t necessarily expected or called for, but having him back does mean that he can dish out wholeheartedly stupid advice to Larry which our protagonist will more than happily gobble up. His “bats and balls” metaphor was a bit more than disturbing. “Juicing” proved to be an excellent idea with a truly poor finish, and the fact that it was revealed thanks to Larry’s showy bow was hilarious. Not securing the takeout soup is definitely a lamentable offense, and I love that Larry can’t accept his half-hearted bow. Not wanting to have lunch with a fellow Angelino in New York since they never see each other in LA and aren’t actually friends is a very typically Larry thing to do, and having Duckstein choke in the park because he was eating alone was a great twist, resulting in Larry actually having lunch with him in the hospital and the start of their rather unfortunate (for Larry, at least) and seemingly unavoidable friendship.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 4, Episode 9 “Let’s Get Out of Here” (B+)

This show continues to be incredibly enthralling as Antonia singles herself out as one of the few with a truthful vendetta against vampires willing to do them unconditional harm and have innocent people die in her quest to reveal their true nature to the world. When everything is put together on this show, it all ends up being pretty damn cool, for a bunch of reasons. Sookie’s telepathy, for one thing, is insanely useful, as she deduces that Debbie is actually trying to help her and then reads Tara’s mind to figure out what’s really going on and escape with her life. Jesus is awesome, telling Terry he’s a nurse so he didn’t understand his violent action plan and then resolving the entire baby-in-backyard situation by just having some faith. Lafayette’s return was marked with a very characteristic “You got it, bitch.” Sookie’s dream about being in love with both Bill and Eric was fun, but that will have to wait until everyone is safe and sound, which may take a while now that Marnie has orchestrated something infinitely worse than the Russell Edgington incident. I enjoyed Alcide’s skepticism about who might be listening to a werewolf and a vampire praying, and I like how Alcide’s being incorporated into the storyline as Marcus’ new right-hand man. The reveal that Tommy went in Sam’s place to see Marcus while the real Sam was camping was well-done, and I wonder if that will make things better or worse. Hoyt seems entirely done with Jessica, and so it’s good that Jessica invited Jason into her house and they ended up having some pretty crazy sex in the truck.

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 1, Episode 9 “Undefeated” (B+)

It was only a matter of time before Harvey met his match, and then managed to pull off a major victory against him. It’s impressive just how poker-faced and calm Harvey was able to remain after Travis walked right into his office and essentially dared him to take him on without Harvey having the first clue who he was. Eric Close did a great job playing off of Gabriel Macht, and it was fun to see them try to one-up each other in increasingly showy manners. It’s interesting to see how, for all his cockiness, Harvey’s perception of ethics still differs from Travis’, and that leads them to intriguing intersections in this episode. Travis talking loudly at Harvey to offer his clients a settlement was quite a trick, but I have to hand it to Harvey for threatening to reveal Travis’ illegal activities but not actually going through with it. Most surprisingly, of course, Harvey actually put up his own money to ensure that he could get his clients a fair settlement, which does show a bit of emotion on his part, as Mike correctly assessed. While it may have seemed somewhat far-fetched for Benjamin not to have realized that Louis wasn’t actually Louis, it is a pretty giant firm, and Mike didn’t even know there was an IT department. The ultimate takeaway is that Mike acted selflessly and has almost certainly gotten back in good graces with Rachel after singlehandedly helping to save her job and even give her a chance to chew out Louis for being such a jerk.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 1, Episodes 9 & 10 “Compassion” & “Isolation” (B+)

We get a special treat this week with two episodes of this wacky show, and while neither represents quite the best this show has to offer, they’re still both entertaining and worthwhile installments. Mary Steenburgen is a fun choice to play Ryan’s mother, and it’s interesting to see Ryan be the one ashamed of a member of his family when Kristen has done such a good job so far o playing that part. I enjoyed Wilfred’s insistence on Ryan owing his mother a lot for giving birth to him and getting attached to Catherine, barely giving Jenna the time of day. Helping Catherine find Ryan’s suicide note was a bit cruel, but ultimately it worked out for the best, plus we found out the most important thing of all: Catherine talks to a dog too! I was highly amused by Wilfred’s lack of comprehension about why “son of a bitch” was an insult, and his follow-up comment, “Your tone says insult, but what I’m hearing is a tempting offer.” In the second installment, we have another case of Ryan being full-on framed by Wilfred for having broken into all of his neighbors’ cars. Wilfred did manage to save the day by first framing Andy, the kid he hated, and then Peter Stormare’s rather hilarious homeless man. Wilfred and Ryan peeing on his grave was a fitting tribute to his short life on the show, and it’s sweet that Wilfred called Ryan the most important member of his pack. Ryan’s mangling of the neighborhood nicknames and Wilfred’s corrections ranked among the funniest moments of the episode.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 9 “Eye For An Eye” (B+)

This show continues its recent run of extraordinarily cleverness with this latest episode that allows Michael to have a lot of fun playing a complete psychopath and stalker for James. It was also great to see, for the second episode in a row, Jesse bossing around security forces and telling them that he’s infinitely better at this job than they are. This episode boasted three notable guest stars: Patrick Bachau from “The Pretender” as Lucien the late bomb maker, Darby Stanchfield from “Jericho” as Sadie, and James Frain from “24” and “True Blood” as James. Frain in particular was a fantastic choice to play the rather despicable James, and he made it refreshing to see him get taken down by everyone later. I liked that James’ former partner Dan wasn’t used all that much, so that our dependable team could take center stage to pull off another con. Michael was impressive in his ability to act fast and improvise by strapping a bomb to the security guy and getting gleeful about being on TV. His efforts to make James afraid to be alone were wildly successful, and I always love it when Michael blows up cars just for effect. The delay of the convoy was also well-executed, and having both Dan and Sadie show up to break the news to James felt good. The episode didn’t peter out and included action in its final moments, and I’m eager to see what happens next now that Lucien has been taken out and Michael’s on to another piece of the puzzle.

AFT Awards: Best Comedy Series

This is the twenty-second and final category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. Nominees are listed in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Californication, Chuck, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Emmy nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock

Semi-finalists: Better With You, Burn Notice, Californication, Entourage, Glee, The Office, Psych, Royal Pains, 30 Rock, Weeds

Finalists: Episodes was a fresh, funny, often infuriating parody of show business and the Americanization of British originality. Chuck prepared for wedding bells and went through plenty of family drama with positive energy and enthusiasm. Bored to Death made the most of a small cast and truly unique and strange cases. Eastbound and Down had a weird, nutty second season, but it was still inspired and highly watchable. White Collar was smooth and funny while executing some truly nifty cons and capers.

The nominees:

Modern Family avoided any sort of sophomore slump with winning storylines and further exploration of its wonderful characters. Shameless brought together a spectacularly dysfunctional family with wild and incredible adventures. Hung allowed friction to build up between its business partners but remained just as fascinating and honest. The Big C brought a positive outlook to a terminal sentence, and once it found its rhythm, it became unmissable.

The winner:

Parks and Recreation was hands-down the most hilarious comedy on television, expanding its cast to include new players and staying true to its already existing characters with a seriously awesome third season.

Next up: That’s a wrap! Detailed Emmy winner predictions by category begin next week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 4, Episode 6 “Add That Little Hopper To Your Stew” (B+)

I noted last week just how frustrating it was to see Ellen and Patty constantly get derailed as Jerry manages to single-handedly undermine them at every turn. This episode involves a few important developments, the most significant of which is the identification of Jerry, or his face at least, by Ellen and Patty, thanks to that crossword-addicted, conscience-bearing guard. I’m impressed that Ellen set a trap for Jerry by purposely using the cell phone she knew was being tapped, and she’s also being resourceful about trying to find Chris by tasking the reporter to locate him if he wants complete access to her story. Talking about David and Ellen’s personal life is an unexpected direction for the story, which usually steers clear of that, and we also have the return of Michael, whose initial meeting with Patty feels much like a hostile business transaction. Now that Katherine is officially fine, Patty is going to have to deal with Michael’s lawsuit for custody, which he likely won’t win. Jerry’s idea to get Nasim deported on immigration violations is, unfortunately, smart, and we finally get to see Jerry sit down and actually threaten someone directly, promising to kill his entire family if he ever identifies him to anyone. Howard, it seems, isn’t above directly threatening people either, furious about Ed backing out of the deal because of the lawsuit and then freely admitting to having gotten his grandson transferred to Afghanistan. While he seemed far more innocent before, it’s clear now that Howard is a villain worthy of show, determined to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

What I’m Watching: Rescue Me

Rescue Me: Season 7, Episode 6 “344” (B+)

Chief Feinberg gets a rare opportunity to shine with a long, rambling speech about those people he’ll never forget, and that sets the tone for an episode filled with plenty of big speeches, some from living characters and others from those who have never once been alive in the timeline of the show. Tommy discovering Jimmy’s letter, read in his own voice, was particularly affecting, especially since we haven’t seen him in a while, and Sheila interrupting him and expressing her fury over Tommy invading her privacy was a whopper of a scene. I like that Sheila is giving Colleen a wedding since she has now accepted that she won’t be able to give Damien one, and it’s amusing that Colleen’s concern is that it feels so un-Gavin, so polished and classy. Tommy’s letter to Lou was a bit sillier since Tommy knew he would read it immediately, and things just exploded after that. Franco’s clearly going to have a hard time filling Lou’s shoes (insert donut-related joke about Lou’s weight here, as the characters certainly would), and I’m eager to see how that plays out. Lou’s fake report card from his cooking classes was quite hilarious. Sean telling everyone about his girlfriend earned him predictable mockery, but he seems to have found a great solution by donning a gas mask after they have sex. The final scene with Tommy about to have a drink at the World Trade Center site was intense, with him flashing back to September 11th and Jimmy before giving a homeless man the whole bottle of vodka and driving off. We’re getting close to the end here, and I’m very intrigued to see how all the chips are going to fall.

AFT Awards: Best Drama Series

This is the twenty-first category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. Nominees are listed in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Breaking Bad, Dexter, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood

Emmy nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Mad Men

Semi-finalists: The Chicago Code, The Closer, Covert Affairs, Hawaii Five-0, Human Target, In Treatment, No Ordinary Family, Parenthood, True Blood, Undercovers

Finalists: Sons of Anarchy deftly handled an international storyline and stayed on task while remaining extraordinarily compelling. Treme graduated to a second year with even more intriguing and complicated characters and storylines. The Walking Dead presented a wondrously fresh and chilling take on a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by zombies. Game of Thrones took some time to develop, but got really, really good by season’s end with its ever-revolving legions of royalty. Lights Out lived far too short a life as it told a fascinating one-season arc with honest, vulnerable characters.

The nominees:

Justified entered into its second season with fascinating new villains and a magnetic storyline. The Good Wife created mesmerizing scenarios and characters in its superior and strong second season. Dexter followed a fantastic fourth year with a deeply introspective and meaningful fifth year. Boardwalk Empire launched slowly out of the gate but proved to be exceptionally well-done and entirely intriguing.

The winner:

Mad Men refocused its fourth year with a new business and an equally enthralling cast of characters and series of events.

Next up: Best Comedy Series

Saturday, August 20, 2011

AFT Awards: The “Threshold” Award for Best Cancelled Series

This is the twentieth category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards to be announced. This category is a special one, last given out four years ago, honoring those shows which died this past season. "Threshold", for those who do not know, was a fantastic science fiction drama that premiered in 2005 on CBS and was axed after only nine episodes (the DVD release contains four additional unaired episodes). Led by the great Carla Gugino and featuring a fun cast, the show began with an electrifying pilot surrounding an interesting type of alien invasion strategy. Unfortunately, the show premiered around the same time as two similar sci-fi series, the dreadful "Surface" and the impressive "Invasion". Both those shows outlived "Threshold" but ultimately did not make the cut for a renewal order. "Threshold" was the victim of a bad timeslot, and just to make it worse, CBS decided to renew a staggering six series from the 2005-2006 season. This category was suggested by a friend several years to be titled the "Firefly" award, but I hadn’t yet seen that show, which has a large enough fan base, thus, I would like to continue to honor the memory of "Threshold" with this award. In 2007, this category was only for shows that failed to live past, or even up to, their initial episode orders, but I’ve decided to include two sophomore shows this year.

The “Threshold” Award for Best Cancelled Series

Better With You (ABC)
This comedy was never superb, but it definitely had potential and deserved a chance over “Happy Endings” to join the ranks of ABC’s successful Wednesday night block. The cast was pretty great, featuring superb supporting performances from the likes of Josh Cooke and Kurt Fuller and a fine leading role for JoAnna Garcia. Given some time, it could have become truly endearing.

The Chicago Code (FOX)
This above-average cop drama featured strong characters and an enormously compelling season-long arc involving the corrupt Alderman Gibbons, played by Delroy Lindo. Jennifer Beals and Jason Clarke made a great team, and this show definitely deserved to stick around and stand out from the many less-than-thrilling procedurals that FOX continues to run.

Human Target (FOX)
This awesome action series was fortunate enough to get twenty-five episodes over the last two seasons, but I could have gone for dozens more installments. Adding in two ladies to the male-centric cast was fun, and there were so many more crazy scenarios which Christopher Chance could have handled with extraordinary aplomb.

Lights Out (FX)
Most cable shows have an easy shot at second season, but this stirring drama about an ailing fighter poised for a comeback didn’t make the cut with FX. Thirteen episodes was enough time to tell one truly intriguing and well-executed story, and while it concluded decently, it could definitely have done better with a few more years.

Undercovers (NBC)
I couldn’t understand why this show from J.J. Abrams failed so miserably and quickly. I enjoyed it quite a bit until its cancellation was announced, and even then I thought it had potential that wasn’t being entirely used. No-name stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe had good chemistry, and this show was decently exciting when it wanted to be and certainly didn’t deserve such a quick death.

This show managed twenty-two episodes and had a rather rocky run after an iffy start and a slow-moving first half of its second season. Somewhere in there, however, there was an exciting action show just waiting to be born. A depressing finale didn’t do justice wrapping it up, and it had considerably more ground to cover.

And the winner is…
Human Target

Next up: Best Drama Series

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 8 “Run, Hank, Run” (B+)

I’m absolutely delighted to see Autumn Reeser take on a guest spot that allows her to play a somewhat different role than the one she’s been consistently playing on other shows prior to this (something she happens to be quite good at, of course). I actually didn’t even recognize her at first, and was pleased to see her playing a marathon champion and young mother. Watching her jog right past Hank was amusing, and I enjoyed their relationship very much. Divya’s side career is getting extremely close to getting in the way of her full-time job, and having Hank ask her to send herself flowers was just the first step. I imagine that Hank and Evan will both feel quite betrayed by Divya’s duplicity, whereas they would both have been incredibly understanding had she been honest and forthright with them from the start. Now Hank and more specifically Evan have another person’s secrets to deal with, as Evan has discovered that Paige is telling her parents that she’s with him while she’s most clearly not. Evan putting the wrong painting in the art show was rather hilarious, and it was fun to see Wilder Valderrama, who presumably is occupying Paige’s time at the moment. There’s an interesting amount of focus on Boris lately, with the revelation that someone was trying to abduct his son since he would be an heir and that he might have inherited a separate genetic disease due to all of the poisoning that had gone on in that family. I’m not sure where it will all go, but it’s helpful to have a dramatic storyline going on in the background.

AFT Awards: Best Main Title Theme Music

This is the nineteenth category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. This is a special category designed to honor those select shows that still include opening credits with theme music. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Main Title Theme Music

Emmy nominees: Any Human Heart, The Borgias, Camelot, Episodes, The Kennedys, Mildred Pierce

Honorable mentions: Boardwalk Empire, The Borgias, Haven, Mildred Pierce, Rizzoli & Isles

The nominees:

Rubicon (view and listen here)

The winner:

Next up: Best Cancelled Series

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Last Thanksgiving” (B+)

It seemed like everything was going so well here at the start of the turkey-less Thanksgiving meal, and it’s a shame that it all fell apart with Lee’s departure. It’s nice to bring together such a diverse crowd, and one of my favorite things about shows with ensembles is when characters that have previously not spoken to one another get a chance to interact. I liked Andrea’s logic for getting along with Lee, that she’s fat and he’s gay. Sean explaining the history of Thanksgiving to Mick was rather hilarious as well, not to mention Sean’s intention to kill a living turkey for Thanksgiving to lend significance to the bird’s sacrifice. I’m less than pleased to learn that nice guy Mick is running an illegal side business, and even more disappointed that Paul has asked to be cut into it. At least Mick has exchanged expressions of love with Andrea, which nearly got ruined by Andrea’s perception of guys being based on Adam’s behavior. Rebecca almost proposing to Sean and Sean jumping in to propose to her was very sweet, and she raised a good point when she said that he’s crazy but always fiercely honest. Paul asking for sex from Cathy, citing Lee as a reason for his excitement, was fun, and it’s too bad things had to end on a more serious note. Mortality is something that’s not often discussed flat-out on this show, and to hear Lee resent Cathy’s outlook on his chances was definitely a downer, and I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to repair their relationship.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 1, Episode 6 “Bill and Gary’s Excellent Adventure” (B+)

This episode provides a considerable amount of back story information for a few of the characters whose personal lives we haven’t been exposed to, namely Bill and Nina. It also involves a whole lot of Gary being featured in hilarious situations, which is definitely one of the best, if not the best, reasons to watch this show. Gary not wanting to run after he just ate and flashing his badge resulted in him getting arrested for the first of two times in one day, and I enjoyed seeing him be referred to as Agent Bell, data analyst or just computer genius. Bill motivating Gary to find the phone by promising him that he’d let him drive was fun, and I liked that parting shot of Bill teaching him to drive right before Gary floors it as the screen fades to black. Cameron bonding with Nina over their secrets was a rare treat, though Rachel put a quick end to that when she walked in on them. The revelation that Nina accidentally pushed her ex-boyfriend to kill himself was interesting, and I’m glad that Cameron helped encouraged her to stop pushing the cop and find out what he was investigating. It’s good that Bill decided not to go back to the FBI even after he got an offer from the girl’s father to help him out, since this team functions so well because of all its members. This episode’s coolest moments were definitely Bill bursting through the wall and Cameron doing parkour to avoid Sarah’s bullets.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 7, Episode 8 “Synthetics” (B+)

What an episode for Nancy. There’s no one she won’t turn on at the drop of a hat in order to help herself out, moving in the middle of the night from Zoya’s bed to her brother’s and ending up with two massively obvious hickeys from different mouths. Nancy’s parting lecture from the halfway house is the least of her worries as she nearly loses her informant status and then ends up having her entire business discussed while she’s wearing the wire, as Zoya, Dmitry, and Foster all decide to stop by at the same time. I liked Zoya’s advice to Foster, or Chuck, as he told them to call her, “You might want to go away, because I don’t like you and I have a bad habit of losing things I don’t like.” It’s no surprise that Shane’s new mentor would ask if Nancy was a serial killer due to the fates of her previous husbands. Silas’ arrogance continues to grow, and I have a sinking feeling he’s going to get himself into serious trouble with Devon by sleeping with Emma, played by the enticing Michelle Tratchtenberg. Andy’s the only one whose business seems to be going well, as he gets photographed for the style section and manages to come up with such pearls of wisdom as “ruling cleanly and kindly over all of Sillyopolis” as a marketing slogan for the Copenhagen Wheel. Who would have thought that Andy would have been the most put-together of the entire Botwin clan?

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This is the eighteenth category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in the order I've ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Californication, Glee, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Party Down

Semi-finalists: Better With You, Burn Notice, Californication, Eastbound & Down, Entourage, Glee, Psych, Royal Pains, 30 Rock, Weeds, White Collar

Finalists: Hung utilized its tight-knit cast to extraordinary effect as they faced business and personal issues. Chuck kept things light as wedding bells loomed and their livelihoods were increasingly threatened. Episodes emphasized exaggeration and found the perfect players to make it entirely funny. White Collar made art crimes infinitely entertaining with its wise-cracking crew. Bored to Death made the most of uninteresting situations with a truly inspired trio and their various acquaintances.

The nominees:

Modern Family managed to become even more endearing in its second season with an entirely strong group of kids and adults making the jokes and the situations work. Shameless created a family unit as dysfunctional as ever, but the ensemble was fully functional and then some. The Big C crafted characters all at odds with one another using a cast that worked marvelously together. The Office may not have always been as strong as in years past, but the ensemble was still superb.

The winner:

Parks and Recreation made wacky plotlines work with a truly committed and dependable cast portraying extraordinarily awesome characters.

Next up: Best Main Title Theme Music

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 6 “Home Improvement” (B+)

Now that her squad is no longer involved, Brenda still has her share of legal woes as she has the chance to meet her extraordinarily expensive and rather obnoxious attorney. Mark Pellegrino, best known as Jacob from “Lost,” is a fun choice to play flamboyant lawyer Gavin Q. Baker, and I have no doubt that he’s going to make Brenda’s life miserable for the next few episodes. Deciding to cook at home and canceling the paper, landline, and cable television are definitely rash moves, and it’s good that Fritz opts to pay for the lawyer and ensure that he doesn’t tell Brenda that he’s the one paying for it. Giving Pope credit definitely stings, and I hope that won’t make him resent Brenda. This episode’s case was rather enthralling, presenting an almost incalculable number of suspects as the murder victim turned out to be a convicted sex offender. I enjoyed having Brenda and Fritz, however unwillingly, pose as doctors to look at the backyard and interior of the house, circumnavigating the letter of the law in order to garner the proof she needs to arrest the right people. The really dumb husband figuring out what he should have said after the fact was amusing, as was the sight of the young child being entertained by Sanchez and a lunch-eating Pope. In terms of guest stars, I was pleased to recognize Robyn Cohen from “Gravity” as the initial mother who instructed her daughter on how to react if she saw the rapist. The sight of that detained garden gnome at the end of the episode was a rather hilarious note on which to end.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I’m Watching: Entourage

Entourage: Season 8, Episode 4 “Whiz Kid” (B+)

This episode was decently entertaining, but it still does feel like not all that much is accomplished in the span of half an hour. There’s not even a mention of Drama’s TV show woes after Clay was replaced last week, so I guess that’s just being put on hold for the moment. Drama has his hands full at the start of this episode, encouraging Vince to lawyer up before going to the police station and then suggesting many horrifying ways which Vince might be able to clean out his system before the drug test. He does seem to be doing better, but smoking just to prove that he’s not an addict was a stupid move, and fortunately Billy’s fake penis worked and he isn’t headed straight back to jail. It’s nice that Eric always thinks everything is going to work out, and I’m glad that it was all fine even though he didn’t win that argument. The return of Shauna, brief as it was, was extremely amusing. Ari and Dana’s budding relationship is highly entertaining, as they bet which of the two of them had gotten more e-mails and voicemails. Both Ari and Mrs. Ari were rather furious at therapy, and Ari seems so desperate to show off that he too has found someone that he’s stupid enough to take Dana out to dinner on a date to Bobby Flay’s restaurant. That’s a relationship that actually could have worked, and it’s a shame that he’s sabotaged both of his potential relationships.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 8 “Hermanos” (B+)

This episode started out in a fashion completely unlike many of the signature season three episodes, fast and uncontrolled with Walt panicking and driving like a maniac. We got to plenty of the familiar stuff soon after as Mike made his various stops with a bored and agonized Jesse tagging along. The stylized, scored, sped-up montage of his frustration was extremely well done, and I like how it all played out, with Gus and Mike staging the scene so that Jesse would feel like a hero and have a renewed sense of purpose in life. As long as Jesse doesn’t find out that it was rigged, he’s going to be doing better for a while. Walt being present when Skyler heard his message could have turned out really badly, but instead it gave them a wholly unexpected pathway to sexual intimacy, which they definitely haven’t had in a long time. Noticing the differences in the sheets and having Walter Jr. walk into the house while they were in the bedroom together were positive, almost serene developments, and Walt was doing fine until Skyler so casually suggested he move back into the house merely for appearance’s sake. Hank praising Gale’s intelligence seemed to wound Walt’s pride, and now he’s gone and acted callously, encouraging Hank to throw himself back into the case and discover a connection to Los Pollos Hermanos. In exciting news, this show has been renewed for a fifth and final sixteen-episode season, meaning that we’re hurtling towards the end now, which is perfect since this show was always about characters and arcs and deserves to go out with a glorious bang.

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the seventeenth category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in the order I've ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Mad Men, Parenthood, Sons of Anarchy, Treme, True Blood

Semi-finalists: The Chicago Code, Covert Affairs, Dexter, The Glades, Human Target, In Treatment, Rescue Me, Rizzoli & Isles, True Blood, Undercovers

Finalists: Parenthood saw its family unit experience considerable trials and tribulations, and the fine cast continually kept the stories grounded. Sons of Anarchy stretched its ranks thin and demanded even more of the best from its increasingly crowded ensemble. The Closer conducted a search for a new chief, and each of the players helped make that process all the more entertaining. Game of Thrones was stocked full of supporting players, all of whom made an impact, no matter has small their role. Lights Out brought together a disjointed home and work family that felt entirely authentic.

The nominees:

The Good Wife utilized every one of its cast members to their utmost potential to milk the most stirring and sensational storylines possible. Treme founds its characters exploring new possibilities while still well representing their roots. Boardwalk Empire brought the 1920s to life with a cast of colorful – and corrupt – characters. Justified amplified its cast with one hell of a wicked family and absolutely astonishing performances all around.

The winner:

Mad Men blazed into a new era with a new company and new challenges, kept company by the same superb actors and actresses.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8, Episode 6 “The Hero” (B+)

It’s fun to have Larry in New York, and he doesn’t even wait until he lands on the East Coast to make problems for himself and for those around him. Being told that he couldn’t use the coach bathroom on the plane was reminiscent of when he got into a fight with the guy in the wheelchair when he told him that he couldn’t use the normal stall. It’s just like Larry to do that kind of thing, and also to take credit for being a hero after tripping over his overlong shoelaces. Predictably, Larry ruins his reputation by blabbing everything to Jeff, who in turn tells Susie, who in turn tells everyone else because of her extreme hatred for Larry and his rude ways. Taking his own food at the restaurant and brining bread to a dinner party instead of wine to stand out were among the egregious examples. Ricky Gervais made sense as a guest star on this show, and he lived up to his reputation for being a jerk, choosing a $300 bottle of wine after Larry sent one over to him and then charging $200 for the ticket he left for Larry at the box office. Getting into a fight with Susie because she took the end seat was no surprise, and, very often, Larry’s not actually completely in the wrong, he just doesn’t know when to let things go and ruins any chance of winning an argument with his idiotic behavior. It was a rare sight to see him triumphant when he saw Ricky and Donna being mugged and elected to subdue their attacker with his stale baguette, and it was only fitting that he got his overlong shoelaces stuck in the subway doors as a way to close out the episode.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 4, Episode 8 “Spellbound” (B+)

It seemed almost as if the world was ending last week, and while things don’t seem as dire throughout the course of the episode, they’ve definitely gotten very bad by its end. The connections between the many threads are becoming increasingly clearer, as the pack is ordered to stay out of the witch-vampire conflict, and Marcus is revealed to be Luna’s ex, which suddenly makes Sam relevant again. I’m not sure exactly what Tommy’s up to and just when he was impersonating Maxine, but he’s definitely not doing well for himself. I love how Bill swooped in to do PR on vampire suicides, glamoring the reporter into featuring the coverage. This wasn’t a good episode for Jessica, who imagined telling Hoyt off and bashing his head in but instead found herself disinvited from two different homes as both Hoyt and Jason shunned her. The woman singing to Arlene’s baby is just creepy, and possessing Lafayette takes things to a whole new disturbing level. Sookie and Eric are having quite the love affair, and I love that they’re not too distracted to decide to pledge their allegiance to Bill. I think it’s absolutely terrific that Bill is serious about not using violence, especially when it comes to Pam and her vendetta against Tara, but Antonia’s not going to have any of that. Leaving Sookie shot and cared for by Alcide, Eric under Antonia’s spell, and Bill being attacked by silver definitely sets next week up for some very intense and messy confrontations.

Round Two: Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits: Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4 “The Benefit of the Unspoken Dynamic” & “The Benefit of Forgetting” (C)

I had suggested in my pilot review last week that I wouldn’t be watching any more of this show, but there’s something about a certain night of the week being devoid of any other shows that makes a busy week still feel empty, and therefore a reason to watch an hour of a so-so comedy presents itself. Also, I know that technically episodes three and four don’t count as “round two,” though when they’re aired together and meant to be digested together, I think it’s fine. Unfortunately, neither of these installments inspires much confidence in the future of this show. Two characters, Fitz and Riley, are almost completely wasted, with little function or purpose. Fitz playing the All-Knowing Black Man is nothing original, and devoting an entire episode to him being oblivious about his lesbian mom turning straight is a waste of time. This show insists on going big when it totally doesn’t have to, and it’s endlessly frustrating. Riley is a character totally devoid of personality, and knowing drug dealers and trying to date a guy who likes to milk himself doesn’t give her any depth. Ben running into a girl with a convenient amnesiac condition decreases the credibility even more. The purpose of a sitcom is that the characters go through trials and tribulations of everyday life, not absurdly constructed scenarios that are trying way too hard to be sensational and crazy. I wish that this show was more exciting, but it just doesn’t possess much originality or appeal.

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

This is the sixteenth category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Writing for a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Californication (The Apartment), Chuck (Chuck Versus the Beard), Glee (Showmance), Modern Family (Pilot), The Office (Niagara)

Emmy nominees: Episodes (Episode 107) , Louie (Poker/Divorce), Modern Family (Caught in the Act), The Office (Goodbye Michael), 30 Rock (Reaganing)

Honorable mentions: Episodes (Pilot), Hung (Sing It Again Ray or Home Plate), Modern Family (The Kiss), Modern Family (Halloween), Modern Family (Slow Down Your Neighbors), Modern Family (Caught in the Act), Parks and Recreation (The Fight), Shameless (It's Time to Kill the Turtle), 30 Rock (Brooklyn Without Limits)

The nominees:

The Big C (Happy Birthday Cancer)
The Office (Goodbye Michael)
Parks and Recreation (Fancy Party)
30 Rock (Double-Edged Sword)

On “The Big C,” Cathy celebrated a positive milestone with friends, while Michael departed “The Office” with grace. “Parks and Recreation” celebrated a surprisingly powerful union, while “30 Rock” showcased a rather hilarious split.

The winner:

Parks and Recreation (Flu Season) made getting sick as hilarious as possible for its already wacky characters.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 1, Episode 8 “Identity Crisis” (B+)

Now this is one very involved episode for all of our lawyers, as they’re on the prowl for a major victory in a case for a dear friend of Jessica’s and Harvey’s managing his own side case which may have serious implications for Mike. Louis took center stage in this episode as he managed to consistently mess up, being so abrasive with Perkins that he dies on his way out of the office, then berating his wife, and then falling prey to a scheme hatched by the opposition that nearly gets him in serious trouble. It’s good that Harvey was mature enough to ultimately go to Louis to ask him for help with the financials, and they were a fun team for the few minutes that they were actually getting along. Ending on a bad note makes sense since having them be friends wouldn’t be nearly as fun for this show. There were plenty of notable guest stars in this episode, including Tim Russ from “Star Trek Voyager” and Bruce Altman, currently recurring on “Damages,” as the opposition of the case being driven by Paula Newsome, from “Women’s Murder Club.” James Morrison, a.k.a. Bill Buchanan from “24,” drops in as Jerome, and I liked how that plotline progressed, with Lola quickly discovering how Mike didn’t actually go to Harvard and then hacking in and creating a diploma for him so that his story would be considerably more airtight. This episode marks another confirmation of what I’ve been noticing this entire week on USA. Apparently the word “shit” can now be uttered, since Peter definitely said it on “White Collar” and Harvey dropped it at least three times in this hour. In other news, “Suits” has officially been renewed for a second season, which is terrific!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 1, Episode 8 “Anger” (B+)

While the opening quote is always rather relevant, I’d prefer to use a different quote, from the wacky brain of Wilfred, instead to summarize this episode: “Anger is like herpes – you’re not meant to keep it to yourself.” Wilfred’s assertion that no one hates him because he’s Wilfred, he’s adorable, was amusing, and I loved Wilfred’s efforts to suck up to Kristen throughout the episode, starting with his presentation of a dead rat to her. It’s entertaining to see Kristen’s relationship with Leo and to see his limited attempts to use sarcasm to deflect her cruelty. Ryan’s nightmares about killing Sneakers coincided well with Wilfred wanting to come to Kristen’s house over and over again, and Wilfred had a blast by pretending to be Sneakers and blaming Kristen for his death. I was thrilled that Kristen did in fact kill Sneakers and confessed upon Ryan finally working up the courage to be more than just uppity with her and actually yell at her. It’s fitting for her manipulative character that she immediately moved on to offering to cancel his debt if he forgave her. I liked that she didn’t actually hate Wilfred but he still hated her. In truth, he can be a manipulative jerk, but Ryan was still able to recall positive memories with Sneakers thanks to him. Though we barely saw him, I’m always happy to recognize Nestor Carbonell, best known for playing Richard on “Lost,” as Kristen’s rather pretentious boss in whose honor the party was being thrown.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 8 “Hard Out” (B+)

Putting Michael’s alleged complicity in the murder of Max on hold is perfectly fine by me if it produces terrific episodes like this. I’m becoming a huge fan of Lauren Stamile’s Agent Pearce, and having her go on a mission with Michael is almost as exciting as the two of them bringing Jesse along for the ride in the Caribbean. Their plan b proved to be absolutely fantastic, as they decided to pose as mercenaries hired to find Cahill so that they wouldn’t get themselves killed by Vanderwaal and his men. I loved that it turned into them ordering his men around, and Michael managed to be rather gutsy and witness a man’s execution and come out strong. Getting the men to surrender their weapons right before being arrested by the CIA was almost as satisfying as Agent Pearce punching him in the face. Jesse and Pearce were a whole lot of fun together, and I liked Pearce’s post-mission reaction: “your brand of espionage is hell on the nerves.” I’m always thrilled to see Henri Lubatti finding himself another role, and he was decently amusing here in an ultimately small part as Steve Cahill. Fiona had her own things to do in this hour as Armand gave her a fresh perspective on just how much she does for Michael without getting much in return. I enjoyed her initial comment to Madeleine, which rings particularly true, about Michael’s relationship skills: “He still doesn’t know that couples do things besides fight multinational conspiracies.”

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

This is the fifteenth category of the 5th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television this past season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Directing for a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Chuck (Chuck Versus the Beard), Glee (Showmance), Modern Family (Pilot), The Office (Niagara), Parks and Recreation (The Practice Date)

Emmy nominees
: How I Met Your Mother (Subway Wars), Modern Family (Halloween), Modern Family (Slow Down Your Neighbors), Modern Family (See You Next Fall), 30 Rock (Live Show)

Honorable mentions: The Big C (Happy Birthday Cancer), Episodes (Pilot), Glee (Duets), Glee (Silly Love Songs), Hung (Sing It Again Ray or Home Plate), Hung (The Middle East is Complicated), Modern Family (The Kiss), Modern Family (Halloween), Modern Family (Slow Down Your Neighbors), Modern Family (Caught in the Act), The Office (Search Committee), Parks and Recreation (Flu Season), Parks and Recreation (Fancy Party), Shameless (Pilot), 30 Rock (Double-Edged Sword)

The nominees:

The Office (Garage Sale)
The Office (Goodbye Michael)
Parks and Recreation (Harvest Festival)
Shameless (It’s Time to Kill the Turtle)

Michael bid the office adieu with two marvelously moving episodes in which he proposed and ultimately left Scranton. All of Leslie’s hard work came to fruition in a wonderfully crafted installment of “Parks and Recreation,” while “Shameless” gave Frank the chance to try being sober and see how his family members reacted.

The winner:

Parks and Recreation (The Fight) fleshed out all its characters in a magnificently-choreographed, snake-juice-fueled hilarious half hour.

Next up: Best Writing for a Comedy Series