Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #7

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#7: Game of Thrones

HBO’s fantasy drama was dense at the start and took some time to develop, but once it got there, it was easily one of the most fascinating shows on television. Emmy winner Peter Dinklage is just one standout of a terrific cast, and this universe is one that’s full of treachery and violence, and immensely watchable as the latest great series produced by HBO.

Best Episode: “Fire and Blood
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #8

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#8: Wilfred

It’s hard to find a show more offbeat than the only FX comedy I’ve ever liked, which stars Elijah Wood in the delightfully hilarious role of poor Ryan, an underachiever who sees his neighbor’s dog as a foul-mouthed Australian man in a dog suit. The show is highly funny and entirely peculiar, and Jason Gann is terrific as Wilfred. I’m intrigued to see more of this quirky series when it returns sometime next year.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #9

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#9: Suits

USA’s latest offering was an innovative and peculiar choice, quickly establishing itself as a quirky law drama that’s much more of a comedy, with Gabriel Macht oozing haughtiness as super-lawyer Harvey Specter and Patrick J. Adams bumbling his way around with marvelous success as fake lawyer Mike Ross. The two make for a powerful combination, and the wacky ensemble helped make this one of the most entertaining new shows of the year.

Best Episode: “Dirty Little Secrets
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #10

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#10: Lights Out

This slow-starting show turned out to be one of FX’s most powerful offerings, trading in excessive violence and nudity for a difficult look at an aging boxer nowhere near his prime. Holt McCallany was an unconventional lead who was immensely believable in the role of Patrick “Lights” Leary, and he was supported by a strong ensemble. This show left off on an emotional note, and it’s a pity that FX didn’t give it a second season.

Best Episode: “Head Games
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #11

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#11: The Chicago Code

The best new network television show of the year was on FOX, starring Jennifer Beals as a tough-as-nails police superintendent and Jason Clarke as her temperamental former partner. Delroy Lindo’s corrupt Alderman was a great villain, but the show was so much more complex than that, presenting a vision of law enforcement in the Windy City just gritty enough for network television, and the show should certainly have seen more than one season.

Best Episode: “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Closer (Mid-Season Finale)

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 15 “Silent Partner” (B+)

I hadn’t imagined this whole case ending like this, so subtly but so horribly for do-gooder Brenda Leigh Johnson. Peter Goldman’s presence throughout this episode helped to create an extremely intriguing plotline and also to rile up the tempers of just about everyone with whom he came into contact. Brenda has always been clever about how she goes about closing cases, but never has she put herself in such express danger as she was in this hour, patted down and essentially held at gunpoint as she did her best to get her suspect to confess to his crimes. Bringing Fritz along as FBI backup right outside the door was smart, and it seems that decision helped get the lawsuit against her dropped. The conclusion of the case is extremely fitting for this show, awful but not necessarily tragic, eternally labeling Brenda as an undiscerning cop by naming the new regulation that requires protection for suspects the Johnson rule. Telling Captain Raydor that she’s going to have to get Goldman protection because it’s the Johnson rule rather than just the right thing to do was an even more miserable blow. I’m sure she’s not going to take it lying down, and she still has six episodes left this coming summer to figure out what she’s going to do with her life. That and discovering who the leak is, since that’s another mystery that has yet to be solved. I’m still very much enamored with this show, and look forward to its return next summer.

Season grade so far: B+
Season MVP: Kyra Sedgwick

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #12

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#12: Alphas

Syfy’s newest show is a procedural, technically speaking, but it’s one done the right now, enhanced by the powers possessed by its team members. David Strathairn is a great moral anchor, and the standout is Ryan Cartwright as high-functioning braniac Gary. This show is full of action and humor, making it a terrific science fiction series worthy of a healthy life.

Best Episode: “Pilot”
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 5, Episode 7 “Chuck Versus the Santa Suit” (B+)

I plan to remain a staunch defender of this show until its dying day, which sadly is exactly one month from today, especially if it continues to deliver enthralling episodes like this. Shaw is officially the man who won’t die, causing plenty of mayhem for the Bartowski family and their friends in seasons past and now escaped from prison to wreak more havoc on Chuck and Sarah’s lives. His plan to download the whole CIA computer database into his brain to become the Intersect 3.0 and be reinstated as a spy was cool, and it leaves me with one very pertinent thought, which is that I hope the real CIA has a much more secure network of backups and such things protecting its data from a similar type of hacking. Shaw really seems to have it out for Sarah, but fortunately some clever teamwork from Chuck, Morgan, and Casey helped to save the day. I enjoyed Casey’s usage of the electronic bear to free himself, and the flash of the Christmas movies when Shaw lost the Intersect were amusing. At the CIA Christmas party, I was pleased to see a Stan Lee cameo, and it’s nice to see General Beckman let her guard down for once. Morgan is getting closer and closer to getting Alex back as she continues to be a part of the family, and even Casey found the right words to tell her how he feels about her. Unfortunately, Shaw doesn’t seem to be done creating problems for Chuck and Sarah, dropping a big, sensible bombshell: Sarah’s pregnant! Fortunately, this is the one show taking off absolutely no time for the holidays, running new installments each week straight up to a two-hour finale on January 27th.

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #13

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#13: 2 Broke Girls

This CBS comedy succeeds thanks to the inspired pairing of Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as broke waitress roommates in Brooklyn. Dennings has a retort ready at every possible moment, and Behrs is bubbly and entertaining in her own way. It may not be wildly sophisticated, but it’s still plenty enjoyable and full of laughs each week.

Best Episode: “Pilot”
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #14

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#14: New Girl

As time goes on, this show may move up in these ranks, given how consistent it’s been since it found its tone in episode five. Zooey Deschanel is delightful as the bright-eyed Jess, and her roommates are turning out to be pretty great too, each with his own baggage and tics that makes this show more than just about its title character, and one of the most entertaining and preservable new comedies.

Best Episode: “Bad in Bed
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #15

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#15: Suburgatory

ABC’s new addition to its Wednesday night comedy block started out looking less than promising, but by episode three, it had found its funk. Jane Levy is wonderful as the eternally sarcastic Tessa, and it turns out that Jeremy Sisto is actually pretty funny. While the show is still searching to find a way to make Alan Tudyk relevant, Cheryl Hines is fabulous, and this show can be quite hilarious.

Best Episode: “Thanksgiving
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #16

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#16: How To Be a Gentleman

This show was one of the first of the fall season to die, and I can’t understand the hate it created since I found it to be quite funny. Kevin Dillon found himself a solid post-“Entourage” role, and it was a smart usage of both Mary Lynn Rajskub and Rhys Darby in the supporting cast. This show certainly deserved a longer life than this, even if it was somewhat generic.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #17

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#17: Love Bites

This show never stood a chance. After being long-delayed, it premiered in June and starred a pregnant actress who had to be relegated to doing so very little. Becki Newton shone whenever she appeared, and this anthology series had some high points with specific guest stars like Krysten Ritter, Michelle Tratchtenberg, Matt Long, and Rebecca Creskoff. Some things worked and others really didn’t, but this show was sweet and enjoyable, and too short-lived.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #18

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#18: The Killing

I never loved this show as much as others do, finding the finale frustrating but hardly the most objectionable part of this show. I did like the tone and wanted to see it get better, and it did towards the end of the season. I think a second year will give it a chance to redefine itself and become top-notch AMC programming.

Best Episode: “I’ll Let You Know When I Get There
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #19

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#19: Falling Skies

Much like #20, this show started off strong and then got lost along the way, unable to keep a proper focus on the invading aliens and instead harping on the human drama. The show went out on a sour, disappointing note, but unlike #20, it will definitely be returning for a second season and have a chance to redeem itself. There’s plenty of potential here, and I’d love to see some more alien action.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 20 New Shows of 2011: #20

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2011 closes out and 2012 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#20: Terra Nova

This sci-fi spectacular started out with a superb and action-packed two-hour pilot, before petering off into boring territory with a focus on inane characters and dialogue, and a sparing interest in dinosaurs. This show could have been so great, and almost everything after the pilot was a letdown.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 14 “Road Block” (B+)

This episode was presented in a rather unconventional manner, putting Flynn at the center of the action as the crime was committed and then showing us who did it, how she got away, and how Brenda and the rest of Major Crimes planned to pin it on her. Elizabeth Perkins was a great drunk police commissioner’s wife, promptly ditching her car and cell phone and pretending that they got stolen. Brenda’s quick deduction that she was a liar didn’t have Will as worried as perhaps as he should have been, but given the way things played out, it wasn’t much of a problem. Maggie Wheeler, best remembered as Janice from “Friends,” appeared as her friend, and the dependable Mark Moses made for an initially manipulative and ultimately noble police commissioner, and Brenda’s manipulation of her daughter with Sanchez’s pieces of evidence was rather aggressive. Trying to get her convicted of murder by proving that she had a previous DUI and was drunk was quite an effort, and Fritz was right to point out that it could have been him before he met Brenda. Bringing Fritz’s alcoholism up in the middle of an interview was an unusual personal moment for Brenda, and it was obvious that it was hard on him, but it did prove to be highly effective in getting Gail’s daughter to realize that her mother had a problem. In an otherwise very strong episode, the question, for the third hour in a row, is where is Captain Raydor?

What I’m Watching: Terra Nova (Season Finale)

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episodes 12 & 13 “Occupation/Resistance” (C+)

It’s no surprise that this two-hour finale wasn’t terribly satisfying. After what I still contend was an awesome pilot, this show has spiraled downwards in terms of being interesting, coherent, and well-written. This show ended up being much more about the sci-fi link between the past and the future, which should be exciting but just isn’t. Having cartoonish villains is part of the problem, and Jim’s dinosaur, however cool it should have been, didn’t help with that as it promptly picked off some of the more ridiculous members of Lucas’ employment group. A complaint about “bugs the size of dogs and plants that eat children” was particularly irksome, and Elisabeth’s trickery involving a poison was obvious and dumb. Cara making it through the portal and dying because of her proximity to the suicide bomber is a huge letdown, though hopefully it will allow Josh to focus on Skye, who has been nothing but loyal to him. There was plenty of blabbering about loyalty to parents and children in this double episode, and what I take away most is that gunshots and stab wounds don’t mean much in prehistoric times because you can still move around with considerable ease. Jim pretending to be incapacitated following the explosion wasn’t terribly impressive, and the only real bit of drama we got, aside from the destruction of the portal, was the death of a character. That was a relatively unprecedented, finite event, and Wash did get a chance to display some personality before being killed by Lucas. Now, if it continues, maybe the show can focus on living with dinosaurs and some more engaging drama, which the plentiful amounts of Sixer loyalists living in the Badlands on ships from the 1800s could create. The fate of this show may not be known for a few weeks, and sad as it makes me, I’m not sure I would opt to pick it up. It needs a major overhaul, and I’m not talking about special effects.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Though I’m tempted to choose Dean Geyer as lunar accountant Mark Reynolds, it’s no contest, since the only decently impressive player is Allison Miller as Skye

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 1, Episode 7 “Revelations” (B+)

There’s hardly anything more fitting immediately before or after a television character’s death than to flash back to a formative point in his or her life. Opening with a young Elam’s reading of a book for his master’s friends provides some great background into one of the show’s most intriguing and least-explored characters just as he’s about to be hanged after being caught with a white prostitute. In typical dramatic fashion, Cullen swept in at the last minute and rescued Elam, bringing them out to the wilderness for some serious bonding over a campfire, discussing slavery and other themes. The Swede seems to be loyal to no one, certainly not Cullen, commissioning his death at the hands of a mob for at least the second time in only a handful of episodes. Elam did great with his training, getting cornered and realizing his pursuer was empty before shooting him through the mouth. “My name is Elam Ferguson, you be sure to tell the devil that when he asks who killed you” is certainly one of the more memorable lines uttered thus far on this show. Elam and Cullen reading the 23rd Psalm over many dead bodies was a melancholy and appropriately somber way to close out the episode. Durant is back on top after tricking Senator Crane into investing in the wrong railroad, playing the victim when he had to reveal where he was connecting the railroad, only to manage to erase his blackmail and make a considerable profit in the process. And that wasn’t even his boldest act, which would be essentially proposing to Lily.

What I’m Watching: Homeland (Season Finale)

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 12 “Marine One” (A-)

There was no way things were going to end well on this show, and this finale was definitely a doozy. There’s no getting around the fact that, no matter what how things turned out in terms of the bomb actually going off, Brody pulled the trigger twice, prepared to end his life and those of the people all around him, and it was only chance that it didn’t go off. In her frenzied state, Carrie was still able to piece it all together, though she didn’t exactly handle it subtly, going straight to Brody’s house to tell his daughter to talk him down. Jessica got her chance to get angry at Carrie, and even that didn’t stop things, but Brody’s visit with her at the police station sobered her up quickly. The fact that she had the flash of Brody saying Isa right before beginning shock therapy was so frustrating in that she was so close and now she’s going to be so far away from figuring everything out. Saul should be kicking himself for not believing her, and Brody has now established a more direct pipeline to Abu Nasir, killing Walker at his command and explaining his plan to embed himself deeper in the government and carry out something even more severe. This has been a spectacular season, and I can’t even imagine what’s in store for next year. I’m going to be compiling my list of the best new shows of 2011 next week, and I can’t imagine that anything could come close to this, a fantastic thriller that never lets up.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Claire Danes

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What I’m Watching: Dexter (Season Finale)

Dexter: Season 6, Episode 12 “This Is the Way the World Ends” (B+)

There’s a certain format that’s come to be expected from season finales of this show, with occasional twists thrown in, but the same general conclusion that usually mainly involves a resolution to the havoc created in previous episodes. This fit that bill except it proved considerably more disconcerting as Dexter finds himself in the middle of the ocean prepared to drown at the start of the episode. His rescue was rather quick but involved even more unexpected violence, which went pretty much undiscussed as those in the boat were grateful for having their lives saved. Coming into the house where Travis had painted his face on the beast threw him for a loop, but he managed to resolve that speedily and efficiently as well. Travis heading to Dexter’s home to set up camp was rather frightening, and we only found out moments before Dexter did that he planned on sacrificing Harrison as the final stage of the path to revelation. Travis being present means that Dexter hasn’t necessarily seen the Ice Truck Killer’s hand sent to him by Louis, and that’s something that could well play into next season as Louis potentially moves into the role of a contractor following his intern stint. The big news is that, after so many years, Deb finally stumbles upon Dexter as he’s in the middle of murdering someone. It’s unclear whether he’ll confess to his many misdeeds or if he’ll lead her to believe that it’s an isolated incident. It’s sure to trump the love plotline that’s been brewing, and definitely going to make for a fascinating season seven. I don’t know why this season has been lambasted so much; I think it’s been one of the strongest yet.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Colin Hanks as Travis / Edward James Olson as James Gellar

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 5, Episode 6 “Chuck Versus the Curse” (B+)

This show seems to really be entering fatalistic mode, putting all of its characters permanently on the run under extremely tentative circumstances as if its universe is aware that it’s ending. The setup of this episode, with the rarely-featured, especially lately, Awesome and Ellie going out to dinner and deciding to pretend to be spies, was slightly forced, but it ended up being quite entertaining, as both thought the other was responsible for their wild adventures and promptly panicked upon realizing that neither had orchestrated it. Rebecca Romjin made for a good villain as the torture-loving Robin Cunnings, and with Sarah and Casey’s help, Chuck seems to be dismantling his enemies one at a time. Beckman’s help has been quite useful, and there are few things I love more than some well-communicated Morse code. Her bonding with Casey over their dark hours, otherwise known as the Clinton years, was quite amusing. Morgan’s search for Chuck’s P.A.N.T.S box was great because it gave him a chance to reconnect with Alex, who may just forgive him and fall back in love with him now that she’s seen their photograph front and center in his P.A.N.T.S. box. Sarah’s fervent desire not to let Chuck get bogged down by the notion of a Bartowski curse is sweet, and they should be able to accomplish anything together, though the outbreak of the Omen virus is definitely going to be an obstacle they’re going to have to deal with in the very near future.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice (Season Finale)

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 18 “Fail Safe” (B+)

It’s a lot of fun to see Michael working as part of a legitimate CIA team. Max was a good partner while he lasted, and the two were extremely effective together. Putting him in the field with Pearce and a team of three agents was even more enticing, affording him the opportunity to work with a different crew. I was glad to see Dean Cain and Kristanna Loken on duty as part of his team, but, as had to be the case, one of them was actually a plant sent in by Anson to sabotage the operation and get the team’s credibility obliterated. Fiona taking potshots at Anson in the opening moments of the episode had me thinking that he was actually going to bite the bullet, given how the careers of most of Michael’s enemies on this show have ultimately ended, but Michael can never let go of a good fight. There was no easy way for all of this to proceed, and I was worried that it was going to end in some sort of cyclical fashion that just made the whole mess even bigger. Instead, we got an enormous twist, which was Fiona’s resilient defiance of Michael and Sam’s wishes, which resulted in her turning herself in for her alleged crimes. That’s definitely going to change things as this show enters its sixth and theoretically final season, with Michael out for blood as he struggles to figure out a way to save one of the people in his life who is most important to him. That’s certainly going to be different, and I’m eager to see how it plays out.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jeffrey Donovan as Michael

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 10 “Number Crunch” (B+)

I was thinking to myself midway through this episode that this could well be the end of the show, if Reese was somehow captured by his old friend Snow and this whole business was shut down. That’s hardly the case, since this episode was the highest-watched installment since the premiere and it’s only halfway through the twenty-two episode season commissioned several months ago. It’s definitely a character-of-the-week-oriented show, and therefore having it turned into a ten-episode miniseries wouldn’t necessarily make sense, but I do feel as if we’ve reached a turning point. This episode was a fitting hour with which to head off into hiatus, featuring multiple numbers, some of whom Reese did not reach in time to save. Mike Kelly’s Snow is definitely the show’s new villain, and I’m glad that Carter decided that she wanted to help him out after seeing Finch come to rescue him rather than continue to work towards turning him in. Things haven’t been easy for her, being under investigation for allegedly working for Reese, and she’s handled as best as she could. Hopefully her act of assistance will lead to a more productive working relationship, potentially with Fusco overtly helping out as well. Finch wasn’t superb at recon, but imagine how could this team could be if they actually worked together! I’m not sure that’s where this show is headed, but it would be fun to expand the ensemble so that it didn’t just feel so solitary sometimes with only Finch and Reese operating each case.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What I’m Watching: Psych (Mid-Season Finale)

Psych: Season 6, Episode 9 “Neil Simon’s Lover’s Retreat” (B+)

Now here’s an episode that I can really get behind, just in time for the show to go off the air for two months. Shawn taking Juliet to a spa was a chance for them to actually relax, but of course that could never be the case, as evidenced by the opening moments of the episode, which featured guest stars Jason Priestley and Jennifer Finnigan playing dead to rob Tony Hale of his car and possessions. Before their departure, I enjoyed Shawn having Gus read his thoughts and come up with nothing but “Waffles,” and then of course having Shawn pay for everything with Gus’ credit card, which obviously got stolen by the lovebird conners. The truth is, Shawn and Juliet did like spending time with them, epitomized by Shawn’s exclamation of “You guys are horrible people, but so cool!” The ensuing discussion about Juliet’s expectations and adulthood was notable because it seemed like Shawn might be thinking about proposing, which Juliet isn’t necessarily ready for, and I think this show needs to spend more alone time with its couple like in this hour, featuring scenes like the one on the balloon where they were childish together and then started kissing. Back in Santa Barbara, having Gus, Lassiter and Henry hang out and try to get women was a fantastic setup that led to a hilarious and frightening pursuit of Henry by the excitable Chelsea. Giving everyone – minus the notably absent Chief – something to do is always appreciated. This show returns to the airwaves on February 29th.

Season grade so far: B
Season MVP: James Roday as Gus

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 1, Episode 9 “The 23rd” (B+)

I’d argue that this may well be the best installment this show has produced yet. Bringing everyone to a party at Schmidt’s office was a great setup that allowed each of them to shine in their own ways, turning normal human interaction into extraordinary awkwardness. Jess’ search for a Christmas gift for Paul was amusing mainly due to her suggested idea of a gift certificate for piping hot sex. Nick having missed his flight four years in a row made it likely that he was going to miss it again, and I enjoyed some of the shenanigans leading up to that. Accidentally telling Paul that Jess didn’t love him was one thing, but fumbling around for words and then getting locked outside with the unhappy couple was considerably funnier. Jess furious at Nick proved to be entertaining as well. I’m glad Winston made a new friend and found himself a high-paying job as well, from Schmidt’s colleague Gina, played by Michaela Watkins, who recurred on this season of “Enlightened” as well. Schmidt standing up to Gillian Vigman’s Kim about her tyrannical attitude about Sexy Santa was fun, and I’m most excited about the relationship between Schmidt and Cece, which is intriguing and highly enjoyable to watch. After actually wearing all of the presents given to them by Jess, the guys managed to do a great job of giving her a perfect gift, taking her to Candy Cane Lane and then shouting at all of the sleeping neighbors in the middle of the night to turn on their lights.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 3, Episode 9 “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” (B-)

This episode was fun in a lot of ways, mainly for some of the song choices, but it was also rather peculiar. The main thing that was strange was the black-and-white movie directed by Artie and basely loosely on the concept of the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” widely known to be one of the most horrendous things ever produced (though admittedly I’ve never seen it). It was fun to see Blaine and Kurt singing “Let It Snow” and fitting in quite well to their homey surroundings, though at the same time, it was flat-out strange. Mercedes and Rachel stuck out a bit more, though their rendition of “My Favorite Things” was pleasant, and Finn and Puck were amusing dressed up as Luke and Han, with no copyright infringement intended. Ultimately, this show likes to spotlight its special guest stars, which is why Rory and Sam get much more screen time than others, deciding that sad things are okay to help remember Christmas and that they should celebrate the holidays together. Rachel’s list of suggested gifts to Finn was a bit too unbearable, and getting her a pig wasn’t smart. Getting her a star named after himself because there’s already a star named Rachel Berry was overwhelmingly sappy but just the kind of thing Finn might do. Sue’s desire to have the kids volunteer with her makes some sense given her sister’s absence, but her character is so rarely featured on this show that to have her be mainly nice for an hour seems like a waste. Blaine’s excitement at being called a young Burt Reynolds, however, was priceless.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: Enlightened (Season Finale)

Enlightened: Season 1, Episode 10 “Burn It Down” (B+)

I’m not sure what kind of closure this episode could really have provided without compromising its very essence. To have Amy achieve what she wants would be too easy, and wouldn’t allow her to be fulfilled amid all the frustration that plagues her daily life. Leaving her working late to expose the higher-ups at her company alone in a basement, hallucinating about burning the place down, is actually quite fitting. Damon’s willingness to allow her to present her ideas was surprising, but, sadly, his behavior after she walked out of the room wasn’t. Now that Tyler has given her his password (not that the logic of that makes much sense), Amy has a renewed sense of purpose, exemplified by her show of enthusiasm for her job when the newly extra-careful Dougie called her into his office to ask her if she even wanted to be there. Sending Levi off to greener pastures may help him come back a better man, and I like that both of them said “I love you” to each other before he got on his flight. It’s totally unclear where next season would go, and the show has yet to be renewed, actually. I think HBO will want to stick by it, especially after the exciting show of support it got from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association yesterday when it received nominations for Laura Dern and for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. I’m glad some are embracing this show, and I’d be happy to come back for some more at some point in 2012 or 2013.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Laura Dern

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 13 “Relative Matters” (B+)

Another holiday-themed episode without even a mention of Captain Raydor gives Brenda an additional reason to potentially leave Major Crimes sometime in the near future. The announcement of Clay’s cancer was built up from the start after the weird behavior of both Clay and Willie Rae at the dinner table, and it wouldn’t be this show without a bit of comic relief, pointed out by Will when he mentioned to Brenda that they seemed to be taking it better than she thought. Flynn reaching out to her because his sister had thyroid cancer was uncharacteristically sweet, and it’s nice to see friends show their true colors when they’re most needed. Planning the trip down to Atlanta in the second week of January was part of a rather somber conversation, and I could definitely see Brenda moving back home to be with her parents soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying seeing Brenda and Fritz working together and trying to be clever without tipping them off about his FBI affiliation or blowing his case. Writing and then circling and underlining “Stop” on his notepad was especially entertaining, and I’m glad to see him given something concrete to do. I was pleased to see D.B. Sweeney as the rather harried FBI agent who had the misfortune of filming both an assault and a murder, making him the subject of much mockery and sarcasm from the entirety of the Major Crimes squad. The phone call from Provenza to Fritz at the beginning of the episode was also a lot of fun, and a very amusing introduction.

What I’m Watching: Terra Nova

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 10 “Within” (C)

I really hope that next week’s two-hour season, and probably series, finale, is much better than this. The dialogue in this hour is absolutely atrocious, and I can’t believe that this show can have such strong technical qualities, especially in its pilot, and have such unfortunate plotlines. It upsets me greatly that Lucas felt the need to keep calling Skye by her mother’s pet name for her, Bucket, and that’s the least of this show’s problems. I’ve mentioned that this show has absolutely no stakes, and that’s so true in this hour. Not only does the murderous traitor that has been exiled get to return to Terra Nova penalty-free, but Skye’s mother is rescued and apparently able to be treated by the folks at Terra Nova after all, making Skye’s traitorous acts entirely irrelevant. Maddy’s need to do homework is irritating, and I can’t understand why she needed to have a subplot in this episode, if only to bring Boylan back for some comic relief, giving her the generator core just so that Jim would look upon her favorably. The notable, and only real, development of this episode is the transformation of the portal into a two-way device. I’ll admit that Lucas shooting through the portal and having the blast amplified was cool, but I have to hope that whatever comes through the portal is a Hail Mary of sorts for the show, since it really needs to step it up in its finale if it wants to saved for renewal or even just remembered fondly.

Pilot Review: Luck

Luck (HBO)
Premiered December 11 at 10pm

Some shows just take some time to get into, and I know better than to give up on an HBO series just because the pilot isn’t entirely thrilling. This show is set to launch officially at the end of January, and perhaps it’s best to wait to pass judgment until then on the fate of this series and whether it’s worthy of classification in the HBO canon. The pilot itself weaves a web of characters connected mainly by their criminal activities and their ties to the horse racing at the center of the show. The most memorable, by his very nature, is Dustin Hoffman’s Ace Bernstein, fresh out of jail and insistent upon using a tape recorder to keep his memory straight, and not, as one associate mistakenly suggests, to inform on his clients and partners. This is a role written for someone like Hoffman, and I’m sure he’ll be great in it, but it feels awfully familiar. I do like the idea of Dennis Farina as his loyal assistant, mostly because I don’t trust any character Farina plays, which means that there will likely be more depth to him in the future. In the cast, I recognized Kevin Dunn from “Samantha Who,” Ian Hart from “Dirt,” Jason Gedrick from “Boomtown,” and Richard Kind from “A Serious Man," so there’s plenty of talent embedded within that could shine, not to mention newly minted SAG nominee Nick Nolte. A strong cast won’t do much if the show doesn’t draw in viewers with intriguing storylines, so I’ll see whether episode two fares any better, since this well-photographed first hour wasn’t terribly enticing.

How will it work as a series? There’s a whole world of crime to be populated here with some suspicious characters, and then there are the new semi-millionaires. If the show can tie them together in an intricate, complex, and compelling way, this show could be interesting; otherwise, it could be scattered and less coherent.
How long will it last? Launching this show behind the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” was smart, and now the question is whether it can attract viewers on its own when it returns in January. HBO shows always have a leg up on the competition, and if audiences want to watch Dustin Hoffman, I think that this show will make it to a second season.

Pilot grade: B-

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 1, Episode 6 “Pride, Pomp, and Circumstance” (B+)

Tensions are mounting on all fronts as Durant tries to intimidate the Indians into accepting the dominance of the United States government and realizes he’s hardly invincible. Reverend Cole seems to be the sole advocate for the safety and livelihood of the Indians, but fortunately, he’s a persuasive man, and has managed to enlist Cullen for his cause, ordering his employees not to harm them. After their brawl, Cullen and Elam actually seem to be on good terms, as Elam accepts Cullen’s request to relay the Reverend’s sentiments to his people, so that no one will go after the Indians. Unfortunately, that does mean that the people will be looking for a scapegoat, and Elam seems to be just that person after being caught with a white prostitute. I’m more than a little worried for his fate, though I imagine he’ll cheat death in much the same way that Cullen did recently. The Swede is proving to be a slippery, manipulative fellow, stepping in to back Cullen up when the timing was opportune but revealing himself to be a snitch, informing on Durant’s self-interests. Durant has many forces rallying against him, and the missing $147,000 isn’t doing him any favors. In a twist of fate, however, Lily has decided that she’ll finally hand over her husband’s maps to him, which means that he’ll be able to continue his operation and salvage what’s left of his finances to build this new and revolutionary railroad clear across the United States of America.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 11 “The Vest” (A-)

This episode was deceptively slow moving in the way that it seemed not to be in a rush to get anywhere, yet that’s anything but the case in terms of how monumental the developments within are. Saul seemed truly unsettled by the sight of Carrie so frantic and concerned about getting a green pen, and it says something about his relationship with Carrie that he was able to piece together her scrambled notes into a coherent timeline. Carrie is quite brilliant when she’s in the midst of madness, but unfortunately, she chose to trust exactly the wrong person. Brody’s move was smart and strategic, essentially discrediting Carrie by confessing to their affair precisely because she was so close to discovering the truth. Estes is not going to be pleased, and Carrie is going to have a hard time talking her way out of this one, especially since he’s now seen her in her bipolar state. Brody’s family trip to Gettysburg was so peaceful, and he seemed to display such a passion for American history that it was shocking to see him pick up a suicide vest while his wife and children ordered him a burger. He handled a crowd well in relation to his campaign also, so it’s worrisome to think what his mission might be. Dana seems to be suspicious of him, and hopefully he won’t bring himself to harm his own family members if she continues to do some digging. With the Vice President pissed and locked down underground, the upcoming finale is sure to be an intense game changer.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical

My predictions: 2/5
What’s missing? The Big Bang Theory, The Big C, Glee, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, 2 Broke Girls, Wilfred, Community, Parks & Recreation, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office

There are only two things that would have pleased me more than this list, which would be the inclusion of “Parks & Recreation” and the omission of the fading Glee. Otherwise, voters have done a great job of cleaning house, removing the all-but-guaranteed “30 Rock” from its perch after a healthy run here. The only other returning series, Modern Family, is well-deserving of its inclusion here, and I’m so happy about all three shows that fill the rest of the category. New Girl is one of the strongest network sitcoms in a while, and it’s getting better with each episode. HBO’s Enlightened is a serene delight, and I’m thrilled that it’s being recognized along with its star. Lastly, the brilliant wit of Episodes is masterful, and I’m glad that voters have chosen to recognize its smart and biting humor.

What could win? It could be “New Girl,” but I think “Modern Family” will take it for the first time, dethroning two-time champ "Glee."

Golden Globe Nominees: Best TV Series – Drama

My predictions: 2/5
What’s missing? Dexter, The Good Wife, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Justified, Shameless

Out with the old, in with the new! The lone returning nominee is sophomore series and last year’s winner Boardwalk Empire, joined by four freshman series. That means the departure of the aging (but still-great) “Dexter,” the still-hot “The Good Wife,” and “The Walking Dead.” I’m most thrilled about one of my “no guts, no glory” predictions coming true, which is the inclusion of Starz’s intense new series Boss here. It’s also joined by HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones and FX’s creepy American Horror Story. If nothing else, a brave, broad, inclusive, and forward-thinking list.

What could win? Given that “Nip/Tuck” won this thing back in the day, I’m hedging my bets on “American Horror Story.”

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Television Series

My predictions: 2/5
Who’s missing? Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Jane Lynch (Glee), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Margo Martindale (Justified), Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)

Gone is last year’s winner, Jane Lynch, and it seems that the Globes like their “Modern Family” actors, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara, and don’t much care for Emmy winners Ty Burrell or Julie Bowen. They also really like Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), who earns a somewhat rare repeat TV nod in this category. Jessica Lange (American Horror Story) is having a good week, representing her show both here and with SAG. From the miniseries ranks, we have Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce) and Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey).

Who will win? I think Lange will take it, but it could easily be Smith or Wood too.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Television Series

My predictions: 2/5
Who’s missing? Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Scott Caan (Hawaii Five-0), Chris Noth (The Good Wife), Chris Colfer (Glee), Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation)

Gone are three of last year’s series nominees, leaving only Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family). Damian Lewis got into the lead category, which makes room for Emmy winner Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones). The other three nominees all come from HBO miniseries or TV movies: Paul Giamatti (Too Big to Fail), Tim Robbins (Cinema Verite), and Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce). I’ve only seen Pearce’s “Pierce” performance, and I hope to have the chance to watch the TV films before awards night. Not much more to say – this is among the least interesting of the Globe categories this year.

Who could win? Probably Stonestreet?

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actress in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical

My predictions: 4/5
Who’s missing? Toni Collette (The United States of Tara), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Lea Michele (Glee), Christina Applegate (Up All Night), Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope)

This category was probably my most accurate, and I was delighted by the mistake I made. Edie Falco was swapped out for the incredibly deserving funny lady Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation), who sadly represents her show’s only mention. She’s joined by two delightful newbies, both of whom have their shows nominated in the top race, Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) and Laura Dern (Enlightened). Laura Linney (The Big C) returns with a nomination without her show represented elsewhere, and Tina Fey (30 Rock) also finds herself without a corresponding series nomination for the first time since its freshman year.

Who could win? A tight race between the new nominees, but my money’s on Deschanel.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actor in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical

My predictions: 3/5
Who’s missing? Steve Carell (The Office), Matthew Morrison (Glee), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Will Arnett (Up All Night), Elijah Wood (Wilfred), Louis C.K. (Louie), Joel McHale (Community), Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Talk about shaking things up! Last year’s winner Jim Parsons is off the list, but he’s replaced by costar Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), who earned his first-ever Emmy nod this past year. Steve Carell is out the door, doubly ignored in the film categories with Ryan Gosling scoring a nomination without him for “Crazy Stupid Love.” Two stars of underrated shows I like manage to hang in there, with Thomas Jane (Hung) receiving his third consecutive mention and David Duchovny (Californication) rebounding from a hiatus to receive a fourth nod. Joining them is Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), whose show also scored in the top race, and Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), whose show didn’t! What an exciting list!

Who could win? Not sure – maybe LeBlanc?

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actress in a TV Series – Drama

My predictions: 2/5
Who’s missing? Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law), Maria Bello (Prime Suspect), Connie Britton (American Horror Story), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Lauren Graham (Parenthood), Glenn Close (Damages)

Out with the old, in with the new, and how!! Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) is the only nominee sticking around from last year, and she’s joined by some pretty interesting people. Claire Danes (Homeland) was the only one I predicted, and I’m very glad that her show performed extremely well. Next up, somewhat more predictably, was Mireille Enos (The Killing), an Emmy nominee who managed to be remembered. After that, things get crazier, as Callie Thorne (Necessary Roughness) takes the newly established USA slot from Piper Perabo to get a shocking mention. Even more surprising, ABC’s “Revenge” scores a nod, but not for Emily Van Camp – for Madeleine Stowe instead. Who could have possibly predicted that?

Who could win? I’ll still bet on Danes.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Actor in a TV Series – Drama

My predictions: 2/5
Who’s missing? Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Laurie (House), Sean Bean (Game of Thrones), William H. Macy (Shameless), Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

Here we get a major surprise – not only the snub of Hugh Laurie, but also of Michael C. Hall, whose show was also left off the Best Drama Series list. I personally think it’s still terrific, so it’s a shame to see it ignored. That does pave the way for some fantastic inclusions however, starting with Kelsey Grammer (Boss), whose show, as I predicted in my no guts, no glory picks, also made it into the top race, and Damian Lewis (Homeland), who I had pegged to be listed as a supporting actor. Jeremy Irons (The Borgias) makes a showing despite his show being ignored at the Emmys, and he joins Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).

Who could win? I think it’s going to be Grammer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Final Golden Globe Predictions

The SAG Awards announcement this morning has considerably less effect on my Golden Globe predictions for television than it does for movies, especially since Globe voters often have distinctly different tastes. I’m mostly not changing my predictions, which means that the hyperlinked category headings will prove informative for my logic behind each race. The miniseries and TV movie categories are complete guesswork, which also means that the supporting categories, as always, are a crapshoot. They make me particularly nervous because there are so many contenders, and last year Chris Noth and Scott Caan came from nowhere, so we’ll see what happens there. Reactions by category tomorrow morning, followed by episode reviews from this past Sunday’s slate. Leave your predictions in the comments and come back tomorrow for reactions!

No guts, no glory:
“Once Upon a Time” for Best Drama Series
“Boss” for Best Drama Series
Connie Britton nominated twice for Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama

Best Television Series - Drama
Boardwalk Empire
The Good Wife
The Walking Dead

Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
New Girl
30 Rock

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Cinema Verite
Downtown Abbey
The Kennedys
Mildred Pierce
Too Big to Fail

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Kelsey Grammer (Boss)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Timothy Olyphant (Justified)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Connie Britton (American Horror Story)
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Laura Dern (Enlightened)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Laura Linney (The Big C)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jim Broadbent (Any Human Heart)
Idris Elba (Page Eight)
Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood)
Greg Kinnear (The Kennedys)
Bill Nighy (Page Eight)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hayley Atwell (Any Human Heart)
Diane Lane (Cinema Verite)
Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey)
Rachel Weisz (Page Eight)
Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Damian Lewis (Homeland)
Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 3, Episode 11 “What Went Wrong” (B+)

I’m truly impressed by this show’s ability to multitask, making Alicia’s life especially interesting for multiple reasons and embellishing some of its supporting characters as well. I liked Kurt Fuller’s judge, who seemed convinced that the defense should have won but needed something concrete in order to invalidate the winning verdict. Getting a mistrial declared because he accepted the button blogger’s Facebook friend request was an intriguing resolution, and I have to commend him for handling Wendy’s aggressive visit well, refusing to admit any guilt and even accusing her of attempted bribery. Finding out that Wendy is planning to go after Peter is quite appalling, even to Will, but it’s true that he’s a rather corrupt politician who, kind as he is, still isn’t above using old tricks. His initial meeting with Alicia and the headmistress showed that they’re actually a productive team, and then when he got an answer he didn’t like, he jumped right to telling her that he’s the state attorney and she doesn’t say no to him. Kalinda’s involvement in the case got to a whole new level thanks to her ever-growing rivalry with Dana and Cary, to the point where she got arrested for harassment of the jurors. Alicia did a marvelous job telling Cary that she wasn’t going to stand for his transferring her around, and I’m glad that Kalinda’s involvement in saving Grace will hopefully get them back to a positive place in their relationship. I’m intrigued to see whether Alicia stays on the partner track Diane has recommended for her, and definitely eager to see their relationship blossom.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 6, Episode 11 “Talk to the Hand” (B+)

When Dexter goes after the season’s number one villain in the penultimate hour, it’s almost guaranteed that he won’t succeed. Fortunately, Travis didn’t manage to kill or even really maim him, and instead all that’s happened is that Travis is much more pissed off and determined to carry out his plan of visualizing Wormwood. Dexter’s almost happenstance recognition of Beth just as she’s opposed to realize a toxin that would surely kill Deb and many others in the police station. What happened to Beth wasn’t pretty, and Dexter definitely saved the day by pushing her into the interrogation room, and he paid the price by getting affected by the toxin and having some very inconvenient nosebleeds. I’m really not sure what’s meant to become of Deb’s newfound feelings for her brother, and I certainly hope that doesn’t derail the legitimacy of this show. Matthews was not pleased to find out – or so he thought – that Deb had betrayed his confidence, and Laguerta proves herself once again to be one of the most despicable, scheming characters on this show, on par with the serial killers. Louis mailing the Ice Truck Killer hand to Dexter is puzzling, and I’m curious whether Louis has put together the fact that Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher or merely the fact that Dexter was the Ice Truck Killer’s brother. I’m glad Batista made it out of this alive, and hopefully his near-death experience will help whip Quinn back into shape since he’s still spiraling off the deep end.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire (Season Finale)

Boardwalk Empire: Season 2, Episode 12 “To the Lost” (A-)

It wouldn’t be an HBO season finale without a whole lot of shaking things up before plateauing off with a rather calm resolution that seals things up neatly for the time being. Jimmy delivering the Ku Klux Klan shooters to Chalky was the first step in reconciling unpaid debts, and then, of course, he had to try to make peace with Nucky. His brush-off comment to Owen – “It’s okay, I used to do your job” – wasn’t a great way of starting off, and his apologies, which sounded decently sincere, fell on deaf ears, given Nucky’s unforgiving nature. I was surprised that Nucky bartered the deal with Manny and decided to off Jimmy, telling him that he would pull the trigger himself. Jimmy’s last words, about what it’s like to kill someone for the first time, are sure to haunt Nucky, who has spun the story that Jimmy is reenlisting and has already left. His definitive declaration that he wasn’t seeking forgiveness is an interesting counterpoint to his conversations with Margaret, in which he first said that he needed her to marry him before correcting himself to say that he wanted her to marry him. Admitting his fear to her was an unusual lowering of his guard, and now they’re bound together in an inescapable way that may permit Margaret to see the cruelty Esther discussed that she had been able to avoid previously. Going after Eli and sending Halloran to jail was a clever way of getting a mistrial declared and absolving Nucky of all blame. Esther did her best, but that’s going to be it. Her opening arguments before the mirror juxtaposed with Margaret’s confession and music worked extremely well, and I also enjoyed Eli’s inability to comprehend Nucky’s Shakespeare reference. Nelson’s new life may or may not play a part in next season, and I wonder what they’ll do with the character. Either way, this year has been terrific, and I look forward to season three, which was announced in October.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Michael Pitt as Jimmy

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/5
What’s missing: Hot in Cleveland, Parks & Recreation, New Girl, Episodes

This category was hardly that exciting. The big battle for the slot occupied last year by “Hot in Cleveland” was between “Parks & Recreation” and The Big Bang Theory, and the latter won. As a diehard fan of the former and a lukewarm supporter of the latter, I’m obviously disappointed. Glee is hanging on by a thread with its nomination here, and the same goes for The Office, which has Steve Carell in its ranks for the last time. 30 Rock is back too, as is last year’s winner Modern Family, which is likely to take the crown again this year.

What could win? “Modern Family”

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5
What’s missing: The Closer, American Horror Story, Homeland, Justified, Shameless, Boss, Friday Night Lights

So much for the new shows I had predicted to make the cut. “Homeland,” “Justified,” and “Shameless” were ignored in all categories, which is a shame. Game of Thrones did score here, despite no individual acting nominations. The most exciting nomination is that of Breaking Bad, finally noticed in its fourth year on the air. I’m less thrilled about the continued inclusion of Dexter, though some of its guest players like Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos are great. It shouldn’t have made it in over “The Closer” though, which continues to delight with its whimsical cast. Boardwalk Empire and The Good Wife remain here as well, deservedly maintaining their slots.

What could win? Returning champion “Boardwalk Empire” could triumph again, and while I’d hope for “Breaking Bad,” I think it will probably be “The Good Wife,” which is a fine choice too.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/5
Who’s missing: Jane Lynch (Glee), Laura Linney (The Big C), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Martha Plimpton (Raising Hope), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Laura Dern (Enlightened)

Goodbye, “Glee.” The show still got a mention for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series, but that’s it, as another show moves to take over, with Emmy winner Julie Bowen (Modern Family) joining costar Sofia Vergara (Modern Family). Though her show is no longer nominated for its ensemble, last year’s winner Betty White (Hot in Cleveland) sticks around, though I doubt she’ll win again. I’m glad I didn’t bet against Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), who has now collected her tenth individual SAG nod. Rounding out the list, we have category staple Tina Fey (30 Rock). Still no Amy Poehler, which is sad, and surprisingly but rightfully, no Melissa McCarthy, despite her film nomination for “Bridesmaids.”

Who could win? I think it’ll be Bowen.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/5
Who’s missing: Chris Colfer (Glee), Ed O'Neill (Modern Family), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Louis C.K. (Louie), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)

First of all, I have to say that I’m extremely disappointed in the inclusion of Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men). Charlie Sheen was nominated in 2005 and 2010, which is far more inexcusable, but to reward Cryer for the first time, in the show’s ninth year, just for still being the only decent part about it feels unnecessary. That’s doubly true when someone like Ed O’Neill has to be swapped out to make room for his cast member Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), who joins Ty Burrell (Modern Family). Category regulars Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) and, for the last time, Steve Carell (The Office), are also here. Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki both get snubbed again despite the breakthrough of their show into the Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series category.

Who could win? It’s not smart to bet against five-time consecutive winner Baldwin, but I think the fact that his show was off the air for half the year may finally lead to him losing. While a “Modern Family” actor could take it, I think this may be Carell’s time, unless that same factor works against him.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5
Who’s missing: Claire Danes (Homeland), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), Mireille Enos (The Killing), Margo Martindale (Justified), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Connie Britton (American Horror Story), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

Boy did I bet on the wrong horses. This is not a good day for Connie Britton, who was snubbed for both of her shows which received mentions for Kyle Chandler in the male actor category and Jessica Lange (American Horror Story) here for her seriously creepy work on the new FX horror show. Kathy Bates (Harry's Law) also managed to pop up in here, which shouldn’t have surprised me given SAG’s category-switching love for “Boston Legal” back in the day. This was a great day for
Glenn Close (Damages), who got nominated here again and stays in the race for the Best Actress Oscar thanks to her mention for “Albert Nobbs.” SAG voters did not follow Emmy cues and snub Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), despite the omission of that show’s cast, and also included reigning champion Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife).

Who could win? Probably Margulies again.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/5
Who’s missing: Hugh Laurie (House), Kelsey Grammer (Boss), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), William H. Macy (Shameless), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

This category delivered an enormous surprise that was actually two surprises wrapped into one! Not only did “Suits” get a nomination in this category, but it wasn’t for Gabriel Macht, but instead for Patrick J. Adams. Congratulations to him – that was wholly unexpected. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) also managed to follow up his Emmy win with a mention here, knocking Hugh Laurie out of the race for the first time since 2005. They are joined by the expected trio of Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), and Michael C. Hall (Dexter).

Who could win? I think it’s Chandler’s to lose, but Buscemi or Cranston could win too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Final SAG Predictions

Not much to say about the television side of the SAG Awards other than that I hope they think outside the box and honor some interesting nominees. I’m not making “no guts, no glory” predictions for TV since it’s not likely to be all that exciting, but I will be providing coverage by category tomorrow morning, and stick around on Thursday for the Golden Globes nomination announcement.

Best Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Kelsey Grammer (Boss)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Hugh Laurie (House)

Best Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Margo Martindale (Justified)
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Chris Colfer (Glee)
Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)

Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)

Best Male Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie
Idris Elba (Luther)
Laurence Fishburne (Thurgood)
Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce)
Barry Pepper (The Kennedys)
Tom Wilkinson (The Kennedys)

Best Female Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie
Gillian Anderson (Moby Dick)
Elizabeth McGovern (Downtown Abbey)
Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)
Evan Rachel Wood (Mildred Pierce)

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
The Good Wife

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock

What I’m Watching: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (C+)

Now we’re finally getting some serious links between the real world and the fairy tale world, and they sure are fantastical. Graham’s decision to kiss Emma prompted what can only be described as a “Lost” series finale-style vision, in which he suddenly recalls flashes of his former life. The only problem with this is that he’s kissing his prey’s daughter rather than Snow White herself, but I suppose that can be explained away by the family relation factor. Now, there’s finally someone else who goes to Henry for explanation about what his alter ago is, but unfortunately that same character is presumably dead by episode’s end, thanks to a literal crushing of his heart by Regina. The fairy tale realizations are getting to be considerably cornier, though it’s interesting to learn, if we didn’t already know it, that Snow White’s father was married to the Evil Queen, who killed her husband and then sought to have Snow herself killed by the Huntsman, soon to appear in a film of his own and to be played by Chris Hemsworth opposite Kristen Stewart’s Snow White. There’s not much else going on in this hour, but I suppose it was about time that someone felt Regina’s wrath in a way that proved deadly rather than just her scolding Henry, who barely appeared in this episode. The show is now on hiatus for about a month, and I’m hopeful that it will return with more of a sense of immediate purpose and the revelation of some new links between the fantasy world and the real world.

What I’m Watching: Boss (Season Finale)

Boss: Season 1, Episode 8 “Choose” (B+)

After such a gut-wrenching and intense season, it was hard to imagine that this finale could top all of it. What we got was a somewhat splintered but altogether powerful conclusion to many of this season’s arcs which sends us into season two with a whole new sense of purpose and even darker tone. Tom going around telling people that he’s not going anywhere feels good in that he’s back in top form, though it’s clear that there isn’t one person whose strings he isn’t attempting to pull. It was most devastating to see Ezra come clean with Tom about the fact that he was the one that leaked the incriminating documents, because he realized that Tom was no longer in it for the betterment of the city, just for his own aggrandizement. Ezra was the one person that Tom truly trusted, and therefore it’s fitting that, after much discussion from Ezra, he was dealt the ultimate punishment: death. Ben’s victory over Cullen, who gave a very noble concession speech, was hardly unexpected but somber nonetheless, as he reserved his biggest thanks not for Kitty but for Tom, declaring his eternal loyalty to the master manipulator. Getting slugged in the face by Ross didn’t even make him flinch, but he’s going to have an uphill battle ahead of him with the introduction of the determined other candidate. Darius tailing Tom didn’t come to anything, and visiting Emma in prison was tragic but didn’t have too much of an impact on her evil father. Dr. Reyes calling newly promoted editor Sam Miller is sure to have negative consequences, and I hope she doesn’t suffer the same fate as Meredith’s father’s nurse. Meredith’s dependency on Tom seems to have returned, though he won’t be able to console her since he’s busy having a seizure, something that’s sure to cause him some grief as we enter season two sometime next year.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kelsey Grammer and Kathleen Robertson as Kitty

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 5, Episode 5 “Chuck Versus the Hack Off” (B+)

Who knew Chuck was such an awesome hacker? I loved the way this episode incorporated terrific, exciting music and plenty of highly relevant, hilarious references to Chuck’s behavior while in the zone. Guzzling white wine was one thing, but hearing that the movie “Swordfish” was based on Chuck was an entirely more terrific revelation. There’s nothing more impressive than when the team comes together to help out one of their own, and the operation to rescue Casey was no exception. Gertrude’s involvement in the mission made it even more fun, as she posed as a guard and then had some significant heart-to-heart conversations with Sarah about what it’s like to be a part of the spy life. When Chuck was thinking about turning Carmichael Industries into a computer company, I couldn’t believe that neither he nor Sarah thought of public relations as an appropriate position for her. Lester’s stint in jail and the power he got from getting everyone free cable was great, and Danny Pudi’s speedy guest spot was pretty funny as well. Guest team members seem to produce deadlier results, as Gertrude decides that she’s not willing to hand over the virus to Decker and instead plants a bomb in his hands, something which is sure to cause future problems for Chuck and the gang. It may have solved the issue of Casey being incarcerated, but with Decker out of the way, the good guys may be after Chuck without any hope of a true defense, which is sure to prompt plenty of missions and shenanigans.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 17 “Acceptable Loss” (B+)

I didn’t realize until this episode had ended that it couldn’t possibly be the season finale, and that we still have one installment left to go before the show leaves the air for a few months. Michael’s defiant refusal to cancel the transfer request that would surely mean Vaughn’s death was intense, but if it was going to be the cliffhanger on which the show left off, the cycle of there always being a bigger fish would become too much to bear. Instead, it’s an effective segue into the finale, where I’m hoping Michael’s plans don’t blow up in his face or in Pearce’s. This episode’s more moving moments didn’t actually relate directly to Michael, as Jesse helped out a work friend played by the dependable Gregg Henry, taking a break from his recurring role on “Hung” to go out with dignity as he manages to right many of the wrongs in his life by taking down a deplorable person. It was unusual to see both Michael and Jesse so disturbed by the nature of the case, as Ian’s willingness to commit suicide because of his impending cancer-related death caught them both off guard. Sam and Fiona torching Jesse’s car to send up an ultra-obvious smoke signal was the kind of comic extremity that makes this show so fun and exciting, and a great bit of acceptable comic relief in an otherwise especially serious hour. Next week’s finale is sure to be monumental, and I can bet that Michael is going to discovering something about which he won’t be pleased.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 9 “Get Carter” (B)

Involving one of the show’s primary characters who works in a different sphere than its two main protagonists so directly in the central case is an interesting ploy so early on in the show’s run, and it’s one that works moderately well. Yet what it can’t help but expose is one of this show’s central flaws, that the police precinct business always seems hopelessly one-note and mundane. It’s intriguing to learn that Carter was once an army interrogator, though her experience appears to have been awfully squeaky-clean up until the point that she realized how things actually went down and abruptly decided that it wasn’t the career for her. It’s decently impressive to see Reese manage to protect her without ever getting too close, though saving her life by shooting her assailant and then standing in the shadows so that she wouldn’t see his face was considerably closer than they’ve ever come before. If nothing else, I’m pleased that this episode has inspired Reese to go after the criminal that deceived and eluded him, Elias, and put him out of business for good. Leaving Carter flowers and a note essentially promising that she’d be taken out was not a nice move, and as the show’s opening monologue promises, if someone’s number comes up, they’ll find them. Reese is coming for Elias, and though he’s one hell of a target, Reese is sure to be able to take him down, which should make for a fine sendoff before the show goes off the air for a few weeks.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 8, Episode 10 “Christmas Wishes” (B+)

Check off this episode under the list of the stronger installments this season has offered, even if it’s hardly the funniest Christmas installment produced by this show. Andy’s notion of giving everyone a Christmas wish was a good idea, though of course it presented some problems. I enjoyed Stanley’s tirade against weird holiday parties and Black Santas, and thought that Dwight’s gift of an acre of land on the moon was just perfect for him. Andy bringing his girlfriend Jessica was clearly going to reignite the awkwardness between him and Erin, but it turned out to be even more entertaining than expected. Erin telling Andy that her Christmas wish was that Jessica was dead was harsh, and her follow-up comment, that he was either a murderer or a liar, was quite funny. Her subsequent bonding with Robert was somewhat unexpected, and it was good to see two kindred spirits coming together in what Andy seemed to think was a platonic way. Cathy’s request to leave Dwight and Jim’s clump due to too much pranking resulted in some of the most inspired efforts on behalf of the two pranksters in a long time, highlighted by Dwight’s accidental reveal of his porcupine’s name and the reaction to Jim showing the defaced picture of his daughter. Val had an unusual showcase in this episode, showing up embarrassingly dressed up to the holiday party, and I love that Darryl put on a tux so that she wouldn’t feel singled out. I hope they work out, since it’s been an entertaining road so far.

What I’m Watching: Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Season 4, Episode 10 “Citizen Knope” (A-)

Leslie Knope is not the kind of person that takes a suspension, even if its cause was just, sitting down. Her efforts to first steal her files so that she could do work at home and then to organize the PCP were amusing and totally in character, and I loved the subtler parts of it, such as the fact that she and her followers were wearing PCP T-shirts. Her meeting with Chris was funny, composed both of angry threats and the giving of a perfect gift from her to him. Seeing Jerry and Donna run a meeting showed just how ineffective things are without her there, though, truth be told, most of what occurred while she was out was her department trying to figure out a great gift to give her. Ron’s idea of building a miniature office was superb, and, admittedly, Ann’s twist on that to turn it into a gingerbread miniature office was even better, despite the emotional deflation that it inspired in Ron. The whole process of assembling it was very entertaining, and I like that they all rallied together to relaunch her campaign as the ultimate present. Ben’s job search thus far is somewhat depressing, but I like how the show is handling, and bringing back the horrifically boring QuickBooks guy was great. The final scene was especially hilarious, featuring Jean Ralphio admitting that he made up his entire resume and promptly getting fired in the middle of his first day tour of his new office.

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 6, Episode 8 “The Tao of Gus” (C+)

I’m not sure what exactly it is that’s gone wrong with this show, but it’s hardly as appealing or funny as it used to be. An episode about a cult is only going to have so much potential, but this isn’t the first time this season that an adventurous installment has proven disappointing. I liked French Stewart better in his guest spot as a nudist on an episode of “Monk,” and it’s interesting to see how he’s being typecast in these peculiar kinds of roles lately. Gus’ continued fascination with, or more accurately, drooling over, random girls is getting to be a bit much, and here he nearly got himself shipped off to India thanks to the reciprocation of his feelings by the murder witness. Shawn being the subject of Dot’s sexual dream was mildly amusing, and I did like how Gus pointed out that he tends to think all fruits are tiny apples. Mainly, however, this installment was a letdown because a drive-by shooting that occurred at Juliet’s home that nearly killed her should have been a prominent part of the hour. I remember when both she and Rachel Leigh Cook were abducted by Yin and Yang, and that was a surprisingly moving, dramatic storyline. Instead, it’s brushed off and almost entirely ignored, once again emphasizing the fact that Shawn and Juliet might as well not be dating. It’s a real shame, since we waited so long for them to actually get together and now it turns out that their relationship wasn’t really worth the wait.

SAG Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This year, the Screen Actors Guild announces its picks one day before Golden Globe nominations are revealed, which means less for TV than it does for movies. The most distinctive aspect of the SAG TV prizes is that lead and supporting thespians are grouped into one category. Here are my best guesses for this category, which will be announced on Wednesday, December 14th.

Last year’s nominees:
Hot in Cleveland
Modern Family
The Office
30 Rock

I assume, as many will, that the love for Hot in Cleveland will subside and fade away in its second year. Two shows that should have made this list several years ago - The Big Bang Theory and Parks & Recreation are still fighting desperately for a spot, improving with age, and they’re still the most likely to join the list for the first time. New Girl has a decent shot, and Episodes would be a fun choice. Otherwise, it’s likely the list will stay mostly the same.

Current predictions:
Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock