Monday, October 31, 2011

Round Two: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Thing You Love Most” (C)

In its second week, this show continues in the trend of its first installment by presenting an intriguing but altogether repetitive and uneven real-life version of a fairy tale. It seems that we’re going to get a glimpse of the fairy tale world in each episode, filling in a bit of a gap, with the important lesson learned here that the Evil Queen was forced to cut out the heart of the one she loved most, which turned out to be her father, whose named happened to be Henry. Rumpelstiltskin gets plenty of makeup, and the effects are fairly impressive. Two notable cable actors were present in her back story, Kristin Bauer (Pam from “True Blood”) as Maleficent and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from “Breaking Bad”) as the Mirror. Bauer was good in her part, but I do wish that Esposito had something better to do than concoct hatchet jobs for the newspaper for Regina. The newspaper headline about Emma’s destruction of a historic sign and her three arrests were a bit ridiculous, as was Emma cutting down Regina’s apple tree, something which seemed far too obvious. Regina’s orchestration of Henry being around to hear Emma call him crazy was almost impossibly evil, and it seems that Mr. Gold is well aware, at least to a degree, of what’s going on with Emma, which won’t bode well for him, I’m sure. There’s something sweet about the three familial generations – Mary, Emma, and Henry – all loving cinnamon, but, like most everything else on this show, it’s a bit too deliberately and prominently featured.

Round Two: Boss

Boss: Season 1, Episode 2 “Reflex” (B+)

It’s hard to argue that this show moves at a thrilling pace, but there’s little denying that its contents are ferociously interesting. Most impressively, it’s not even all about Tom, and the show wisely focuses on its entire ensemble to craft an enormously compelling series with quite a dark side. Even if Sam Miller was the only one who seemed to notice, Tom’s flub during the press conference seems to have really gotten under his skin, and his obsessive concern about it isn’t likely to subside anytime soon. Leaking the footage of Ben and the beating was a master move, and seeing the victim of that beating stand up during his introduction was stunning, impressing even Tom. It’s clear that Ben is just the right apprentice for Tom, displaying disgusting behavior as he grabbed Kitty for a quick moment of passion before jumping into the car with his wife and sons. Kitty sure knows what she’s doing, and that press conference was impressively orchestrated. I like the focus on Cullen’s campaign, since he’s just as cutthroat as Tom but hardly as bright, and that look on his face when the video of his suit being adjusted comes on the news says it all. Sam’s hunt for scoop in the Indian case is proving to be tough, but he seems like just about the most determined reporter that ever lived. If Tom is a harsh, soulless individual, his wife seems even worse, coolly talking about and to her daughter, to the point that Tom’s harsh remark downplaying the doctor’s name almost doesn’t feel undeserved.

Pilot Review: Grimm

Grimm (NBC)
Premiered October 28 at 9pm

This show is premiering right around the same time as “Once Upon a Time,” so comparisons will be inevitable, but I would like to note that they are truly separate shows. While the other boasted a light, fantasy-oriented tone, this show is much darker, and as a result, slightly less engaging. It makes perfect sense that the first episode would center around something familiar like Red Riding Hood, and Tim Bagley from “Monk” did a superb job of playing the wolf postman as a subdued and decently frightening figure. What doesn’t track as well is the format of the show, which finds a decently uninformed Detective Nick Burkhardt operating as an actual police investigator tracking down these mysterious and villainous creatures. While varations of this setup have been used in the past, it’s hard to negotiate the two worlds in which this show lives, one which includes the law and procedure, and the other which involves fantastical and evil beings posing as humans. That’s perhaps supposed to be the intrigue of the show, but it fails to deliver on that premise. Series star David Giuntoli, in his first regular series role, isn’t a compelling lead, and unless Kate Burton is going to stick around to have street fights in the middle of the night, this show is going to be seriously lacking in worthwhile star power. Reggie Lee is stuck in the same role he seems always to be given, just as distracting and unnecessary as that he held on “No Ordinary Family.” Silas Weir Mitchell should be somewhat entertaining as a friendly wolf, providing the show with much of its comic relief. I’m most intrigued by Claire Coffee’s part as the mystery monster keeping a close eye on Nick. As someone not particularly obsessed with fairy tales, I don’t see much here to hold my attention for even another episode.

How will it work as a series? There are many fairy tales to be told, and this show can just go ahead and invent some when it finds itself coming up dry. Nick should learn more and more each episode about this world and its rules, which will also serve to educate the audience as they navigate through what might best be termed a supernatural procedural.
How long will it last? The pilot got off to an extraordinary start, nearly doubling the numbers of lead-in “Chuck” and holding its own against the seventh game of the World Series. If this wasn’t just due to the Halloween timing, this should could be a certifiable hit, something which NBC definitely won’t want to let get away.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 2, Episode 6 “343 Walnut Lane” (B)

For a guy in jail, Percy sure has a lot of cards to play, and he knows how to play them, and other people. Alex’s situation is becoming increasingly precarious as Percy becomes fully aware of her allegiance to Nikita and now holds the fact that she warned Birkhoff of Richard’s true identity over her head. The introduction of Nikita’s birth father was a rather speedy and sudden event, especially since her lack of parentage and anger with being called an orphan had not previously been explored. David Keith, fresh off playing a devilish dad on “Lone Star,” was a strong choice to play Nikita’s supposed father, though she should have thought twice before opening up to him right away and telling him the secret of Michael’s fatherhood. Shooting him in the head following his betrayal and near-murder of Birkhoff did prove satisfying, even if it was to protect Michael rather than for revenge purposes. As has been the case all season, everyone is now on the run, with their main sanctuary now penetrated and destroyed. None of the good guys are any closer to unveiling the truth or taking down Division, and the only one making any progress, sunshine aside, is Percy, who continues to manipulate things from the comfort of his cell. Nikita’s bombshell revelation to Michael is sure to haunt and distract him, and I feel like it will be an episode or two before things get back to normal and the team sets up camp again, ready to focus and get serious.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What I’m Watching: Chuck (Season Premiere)

Chuck: Season 5, Episode 1 “Chuck Versus the Zoom” (B+)

There’s something very bittersweet about this show’s return, since it’s the last time we’ll get to start a new round of episodes of this show. Five years isn’t a bad run for a series, and at least this one will be able to go out with dignity. Clyde Decker’s closing speech helps aid the sentiment that this is truly the last hurrah, proclaiming that they are going to bring Chuck’s saga to an end. For now, however, let’s enjoy the final thirteen episodes while we still can. The big test of this premiere was to see how Morgan worked as the Intersect, something that could have translated into a monumental failure. Instead, the results are actually rather productive, with Morgan coming in strong only at the very last minute, and then occasionally faltering after that, even trying to make flashing something individualized, renaming it zooming. Most importantly, his newfound abilities make Chuck feel like the odd man out, prompting a great realization from Chuck that he is the glue that holds the team together. Trying to keep his plan for the perfect house secret from Sarah was sweet, and I like how the episode opened with their observations before panning back to reveal their predicament. I didn’t even recognize Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker, as Jean Claude. I enjoyed Morgan posing as Michael Carmichael, partially because of the hilarity of that name, and I do think that this privatized spy business could be a blast, though they do have to work on ironing out the kinks, like Casey’s bedside manner.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Fix” (B+)

It’s about time that Reese met someone relatively at his own level. Paige Turco’s Zoey knows how to take care of herself, and it’s only because the circumstances are especially dangerous that she’s in over her head. It’s interesting to see that they actually do work together well, though Zoey doesn’t initially treat Reese terribly well. It did seem at the start that she was a villain, buying a gun off the street even though she already owns one, but the reveal of her identity as a fixer cleared that up. Matt Servitto can be usually trusted to be untrustworthy but generally likeable as a corruptible lawman or government official, and here he did of a variation of that role as a highly manipulative, fully evil crisis management man for a pharmaceutical company. Reese stepping in to save the day when he tried to kill Zoey was an important moment, and the episode also had an unusual dramatic backbone in the personal connection Finch exhibited to the case, since he wasn’t able to save Keller’s last victim. He managed to get a decently just revenge by bankrupting Keller and sending him to jail. The mystery of the fuzzy audio recording, only gradually revealed, helped to propel the episode along. With no sign of Fusco this week, we have Detective Carter investigating a forty-year-old murder with some newly missing evidence, helped by the now-deceased retired cop Sully, played by Dan Hedaya. I’m not sure what the connection is to Reese and Finch, but I’m sure someone’s number is going to come up soon.

What I’m Watching: The Office (Halloween Episode #4)

The Office: Season 8, Episode 5 “Spooked” (C+)

There’s something about this episode that just didn’t work, and I think it’s mainly that none of the multiple threads has much impact, so there was nothing to carry the episode or tie it together. Revisiting Andy and Erin’s relationship is all fine and good, but it’s a little too late for that since they’ve been working together for a while now, even with him as her boss, and for her to suddenly express an issue with working for him seems random at best. His confession that he’s been on thirty-one dates with another woman stings, and a silent hug at the end of the episode isn’t going to cut it for the resolution of their relationship issues. Jim’s concern with Pam expressing a true belief in ghosts makes some sense, but that plotline went absolutely nowhere. I’d imagine that Pam was pushing it mostly to mess with Jim, but it still didn’t have much of a hook or a point. Robert asking everyone about their fears and then saying “What am I up to?” was great, and it would have been perfect if it had stopped there. His story was just creepy, and didn’t produce any laughs aside from Kevin’s failure to pick up on the fact that he was talking about mummies. I much prefer Robert in a more subtle context, like stepping back but not leaving when things become none of his business in Andy’s office and telling Andy that he dressed like a laborer on this day of fantasy. It’s about time Dwight befriended a kid, and tasking him to fire Toby was predictably harsh.

What I’m Watching: Parks & Recreation (Halloween Episode #3)

Parks & Recreation: Season 4, Episode 5 “Meet n Greet” (B+)

It’s impressive that this show has managed to sustain Tom not working for the Parks department for several episodes now, and this installment encapsulates how he’s continuing, or rather failing, to stay afloat. Sponsoring a meet and greet for Leslie’s campaign makes perfect sense, and of course Tom would make it all about him by plastering his face and his company logo everywhere. The thought of a mobile hot tub was pretty ridiculous, and I enjoyed Leslie’s efforts to get him to listen to her by holding his head underwater. It’s sweet that he made her a tribute video that did her spirit justice, something about which she seemed a bit too enthusiastic. The party at Andy and April’s presented a few fun opportunities on a number of different fronts. Chris’ PDA with Millicent in front of Jerry continues to be horrifically awkward but still mildly amusing. April turning Jerry’s Mr. Potato Head smile upside down was one of the episode’s most smile-inducing moments. Andy putting pacifist Ben into a headlock to determine what was wrong enabled them to bond a little, even if nothing will really end up changing. What was most wonderful about this episode was Ann’s success, however unintentional, at bonding with Ron, when she was chosen for her small hands by the gruff handyman. They make an odd pair, but there’s no denying that they’re a great team, with Ron even able to tolerate Ann spouting off gibberish about pipes because it’s a blast while they’re working together to fix things.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What I’m Watching: Psych (Halloween Episode #2)

Psych: Season 6, Episode 3 “This Episode Sucks” (B)

This episode doesn’t suck, and it’s actually considerably better than most of the Halloween offerings this show has presented in the past. As I noted in my review of the episode of “Suburgatory” that aired this same evening, officially kicking off the Halloween TV season, I’m not a fan of comedy series trying for a truly frightful plot around this time of year, and especially on this show it’s iffy because the show either throws logic out the window or tries to embrace too much logic. In this case, things did actually make sense, and the mystery was a notch improved, thanks to Lassiter’s tryst with Kristy Swanson’s Marlowe, which started off less than honestly but ultimately blossomed into a connection so deep that Lassiter was willing to wait out her jail term to be with her. In truth, Shawn’s antics were barely present in this episode, making room for Gus to try to steal the spotlight, asking if he could be the one to state their suspicion that it was a vampire and then talking about Sookie as if he were a character on “True Blood.” His constant costume confusion for Count Chockula was highly amusing. I’d like to see a bit more of Juliet and Shawn’s relationship outside of their cases, since it seems that the only time we see them interact is when Juliet is telling Shawn he’s being childish and annoying during a case. Lassiter got a date, so let’s bring on the romance for this show’s best couple!

Friday, October 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory (Halloween Episode #1)

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 5 “Halloween” (B)

I’ve never been a big fan of comedy series that do Halloween episodes that are meant to be seriously creepy. I remember a “Boy Meets World” installment from years ago that freaked me out a lot. In any case, this episode started out like that with the whole Misty storyline, but fortunately, it all came to a clever and entertaining end. It doesn’t quite seem like Tessa to just put on some random girl’s clothes and wear them to school, but I suppose it does serve her purpose of mocking all of her ignorant classmates. Misty’s return during the exorcism was amusing, and only in these suburbs would it be easier to say she went to “a better place,” presuming that means death, than to a remedial school called “A Better Place.” George’s frustration with not being able to decorate his lawn for a scary Halloween is understandable, but it does seem that much of this show is just going to be George and his daughter trying to change the way things work in the suburbs. Fortunately, Dallas is a huge fan of his, and her efforts to get into the spirit of Halloween were decently commendable, though she really wasn’t so strong with the delivery. The return of her husband, played by the dependably despicable Jay Mohr, should throw for things a loop, especially since Dallas clearly doesn’t love him anymore. George did manage to get her to like Halloween, so something tells me he’s going to win this particular popularity contest without even having to try too hard.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 4, Episode 8 “Family Recipe” (B+)

It may not have been the one we thought given the closing of last week’s episode, but by this week’s end, we’re down one very notable SAMCRO member. Juice’s failed suicide attempt is probably worse than a successful one, given the guilt and paranoia he’s going to live with from now on. Chibs was furious with him when he found the chain, and I’m hopeful that their little secret will stay between them. This is the second time in as many weeks that SAMCRO has been targeted with a volley of bullets, but this time we have another revolting surprise: several heads in a bag. That made for the simultaneously creepiest and funniest moment of the episode, which was Gemma’s discovery of the fourth head in Chucky’s chili, which the two officers were gleefully consuming outside the kitchen. The delivery of the headless bodies, while less disturbing than on “Dexter,” still wasn’t pleasant, and things are getting downright ugly in Charming. It’s strange to have Clay announce his check and pledge support for Elliott in an episode filled with so much violence, especially concerning him. Winning the vote for a leadership change is a victory sure to go to his head, but what was infinitely more shocking was his visit to Piney’s home, where, after pretending to leave peacefully, he broke down the door and got the truth out of Piney, plugging him in the stomach and leaving him for dead. The crooked emblem from his back transforming into the closing shot was a heartfelt if fleeting tribute to one of the only SAMCRO members who’s always had a conscience.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take Three: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 1, Episode 3 “Someone Else’s Life” (B+)

I like that this episode had a rather definitive theme to it, bookended by Amy’s perceptions of other people’s lives, going from those whose joy she envied to those whose loneliness she wanted to fill with something else. Amy’s current job situation is truly miserable, stuck in an office where she can literally apply for jobs all day but isn’t allowed to leave for a made-up doctor’s appointment since it’s not an emergency, forced to pretend to have slept in her car while she goes to have an interview off the premises. I enjoyed her defense of her theoretical homelessness, to which Dougie didn’t really know what to say. I’m glad that she’s taken an interest in being friendly with Tyler, especially since it was so sad to see him ask her to lunch and then be rejected. She did swoop to his defense, amid his own protests to the contrary, when Krista suddenly decided she was free for lunch and tried to steal Amy away. There’s no debating that Amy’s run-in with Krista and Damon and the crew wasn’t hopelessly awkward, and it’s going to be a while before that kind of interaction gets back to normal. What is clear is that Amy is a kind, sensitive soul, and though she may have been privy to a mental breakdown, she’s doing much better now, and even co-workers wiping their germ-soaked, diseased hands on each other’s faces as they leave to go home sick aren’t going to get her down.

What I’m Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Black Clock of Time” (B+)

I found this episode highly amusing, thanks mostly to the dialogue uttered by Jonathan and George. Jonathan’s preparation for Dick Cavett wasn’t terribly commendable, but he ended up doing a great job by providing an enticing story that made Dick take an interest in him. Running into Louis there provided the opportunity for a superb victory on Jonathan’s part, as Louis managed to humiliate himself after being bumped to give Jonathan more time and literally found himself hanging upside down on the set. I loved that people kept getting his book title, also the name of the episode, wrong. George’s discovery that Bernard had in fact proposed to Emily without waiting for his permission was somewhat unfortunate, but it was fun to hear George talk about how Jonathan was like a son, though he didn’t care what happened to him. Emily definitely inherited some of her weirdness from her father, yet she possesses other undesirable traits, such as argumentativeness and a zany perception of the world. Ray’s introduction to the women of the breastfeeding circle couldn’t have gone much worse, and it was absolutely hilarious that the first thing the women found on Google upon looking him up was the cartoon images of him with a giant penis. His obliviousness to Spencer’s absence was more than a little disturbing, and it’s sad to think that his accidental switch may have cost him his weekly time with his son. At least he has two good friends to bail him out in a situation like this.

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls

2 Broke Girls: Season 1, Episode 6 “And the Disappearing Bed” (B+)

You’d think that Max’s ability to offer a retort in nearly every possible situation would have become grating, but it hasn’t! Perhaps it’s the glee with which she rapidly fires them off, getting joy in each little insult and pun. Her delivery “I could do this all day” is particularly appealing, and that’s what makes it even more fun to see her tripped up and tongue-tied. I’m not talking about her inability to make a sales pitch to her boss, but instead her post-celery awkwardness, when she didn’t know how to handle figuring out whether or not they actually had a moment. Biting that celery microphone was a rather bold move, but it doesn’t seem like Johnny is too self-aware. Caroline’s failure to efficiently and speedily install a bed clashed amusingly with her impressive ability to sell, as evidenced by her clever pawning off of Earl’s CDs, complete with fake biography and made-up last name. Even her pitch to Peach was quite good, and she was right to celebrate, since it was only their experience that prevented them from getting the gig. It doesn’t quite seem like Caroline to have a bed that also doubles as something else, but it has t be a step-up from her current condition of having to sleep on the couch, unable to share a bed with her rather grumpy host. These two are making for pretty good partners after all, even if the one who’s not paying the rent, somewhat fairly, is getting the raw end of the deal.

What I’m Watching: How to Make It in America

How to Make It in America: Season 2, Episode 4 “It’s Not Even Like That” (B+)

I completely neglected to mention last week the guest appearance of Joe Pantoliano as Felix, offering up a wry, highly entertaining performance opposite Cam’s excitable personality. I’m glad to see that he’s sticking around in a recurring role, agreeing to let his place be used for the photo shoot and then starring in it after the main model fell through. Domingo asking Ben if he’d be okay with him asking Rachel out was a good move, but it’s a real shame that Rachel had to go ahead and tell him they’re dating, making Domingo seem like a huge jerk for asking only after the fact. The two of them were having a good moment, and it’s too bad that they can’t just get together already and realize that they’re supposed to be with each other. I fear that Ben is going to reject her quite a bit now, and things won’t be smooth between the two of them. I enjoyed Rachel’s boss pointing out that she has an angry listening face, which now that I think about it, is totally true, and it’s highly amusing that everyone else thought the exact same thing. Rene is doing a good job of collecting money owed to him, but he’s not doing as well with his relationship, as a purchase of fake diamonds got him the boot and will likely require him to do some serious penance in order to get back into his lady’s good graces again. I do hope that David doesn’t end up in jail, since that’s an awfully serious twist for such an underused fringe character.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 3, Episode 4 “Fuck Me, Mr. Drecker or Let’s Not Go to Jail” (B+)

For someone who was rejected last week as not being young enough, Ray seems to have found his game again as Logan goes crazy loving having Ray pretend to be her teacher while she’s the student. The sight of Ray playing pool and showing off isn’t necessarily pretty, and there’s something about it that just seems too cocky, as if Ray is about to be set for a fall. Jessica’s visit puts that on full display, as she is less than impressed with his choice of companion. Jessica’s bonding with her boss over musicals seemed innocent and dorky enough, but he really isn’t the right man for her, not that Ray is at the moment either. Lydia, not unsurprisingly, didn’t react well to being dumped by Ray, and she was ready to threaten Tanya to ensure that she wasn’t discarded. Tanya’s efforts to ease the situation by sending Jason in as the burglar didn’t yield positive results, and it looks like it’s pissed Lydia off enough to arrest Ray, which is sure not to pan out but still doesn’t bode well for our protagonists. Charlie is giving Tanya some good advice, but her only listening to his essence is both aggravating him and causing her to make poor decisions. Both Jason and Sandee are doing their best to get as much as they can out of Lenore, but she is one strong, unyielding, and highly manipulative woman who is without a doubt the most entertaining and fantastic character on this show.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 4 “Semper I” (B+)

This episode marks the first time that I’ve seen these opening credits since the Showtime screeners for the first three installments didn’t include any titles. I have to say they’re rather disjointed and scattered, which isn’t necessarily a bad or inappropriate thing, just somewhat jarring. Like the last three installments, this one starts with Carrie eating breakfast while watching her daily morning show, which in this case means a hallucinating Brody getting out of the shower. The dismantling of all the cameras in Brody’s home was disheartening and felt like a huge blow to the case, and it didn’t even go out with a bang, with Carrie barely protesting Saul’s decision since his mind seemed so clearly made up. Among the couple introduced last week is Omid Abtahi, who starred in Showtime’s previous terrorists-based show, “Sleeper Cell,” as Raqim Faisel, who is warned with a rather accurate sign that he is being followed when his wife hangs an American flag out their window. The party at Brody’s house didn’t go too well, though fortunately he still doesn’t have conclusive evidence about his wife’s infidelity and only shot an animal. We got to see considerably more of Estes in this hour as he first tasked another agent to spy on Carrie and then opened up to her by reminiscing about their relationship. Carrie takes the cake for her unbelievably bold and potentially stupid action at the end of the episode, making direct contact with Brody to establish a way of determining whether or not he’s actually guilty. That’s sure to lead nowhere good, and I can just imagine Saul’s reaction when he finds out.

This morning, this show received a very deserved pickup for season two. I'm very excited!

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2 “Bloodletting” (B+)

This episode felt almost serene in the way that comes with finding a tranquil house in the middle of the woods that seems almost untouched amid a zombie apocalypse. Any chance to see Pruitt Taylor Vince on television is just fine by me, and his role as Otis was considerably less murderous than the types of parts Vince usually gets, though he does get familiarity points for managing to shoot a kid through an animal. Starting the episode off with Carl being told that Rick was shot via flashback was a clever way of reversing the situation to drive home the bond between father and son. Hershel had plenty of interesting things to say, talking about how the zombies might not be so bad, regarding them as just as another epidemic that’s bound to pass eventually. There’s something about riding in to save the day on horseback that’s just very powerful, and Maggie’s rescue of Andrea and subsequent spiriting away of Lori was a high point of the episode. Upon her arrival, Lori was not pleased with the state of things and with the veterinarian about to operate on her son, but she does seem hell-bent on keeping her family together. T-Dog’s delirium-fueled rantings back on the road were rather frightful and paranoid, and that’s the most we’ve heard him talk in a while. I like that this show doesn’t tie each episode up with a bow, ending instead with Otis and Shane trapped between a bunch of zombies and a hard place with no way out.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 2, Episode 5 “Gimcrack & Bunkum” (B+)

Memorial Day makes a powerful backdrop for this episode and its rather dramatic and violent events. Nucky calling Jimmy up during his speech and telling him he doesn’t think he even knows the rules produced a surprising effect, as Jimmy delivered an unexpectedly moving speech that pissed Nucky off considerably. Dealing with the commodore’s problems is no picnic, and getting hit in the face with a cane can’t feel good. Scalping is a rather terrifying revenge, however, so I have no doubt that Jimmy was able to make his point. It’s good for Richard to get back to work too after his near-suicide and his encounter in the woods. Eli’s visit to Nucky’s house could have ended well if Nucky was capable of some compassion, accepting his regret and tears as enough of an apology rather than demanding that he gets down on his knees. though Eli has much bigger problems to deal with now that he’s accidentally murdered O’Neil and gone to town on his face after the accidental deed. Nucky was rather harsh to Margaret and didn’t even bother to thank her for saving his life, simply yelling at her for not checking the safety. A quick peek into the lives of the help reveals that Katy did in fact contact Margaret’s family and they wanted nothing to do with her, and that Owen is proving to be a bad influence on at least one of the servants, potentially creating an eventual rival for power within this particular empire.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 8, Episode 5 “The Art of Making Art” (C+)

Our familiar comic beginnings lead to especially dramatic endings in this unspectacular hour, which introduces some surprising developments that aren’t all entirely thrilling. Gaby’s new role as PTA president was about as painful as I expected, with her being stupid and audacious enough to presume that the other mothers were jealous of her and would be satisfied with a spa day on her. The emergence of Carlos’ alcoholism reared its ugly head quite fast, and resolving the PTA crisis immediately and presenting a much bigger problem in its place. Lynette’s foray into dating actually went pretty well despite some early hiccups including a run-in with her sons’ friend, but her affection for Tom and her former married life seem to be getting in the way. Given that it’s the show’s final season, I think they’ll probably end up getting back together in the end. Susan’s inability to take painting a nude model seriously was rather childish, especially since she was the only one who couldn’t keep it together, and her showing up nude was considerably over-the-top. The same goes for Bree’s desire to turn cooking for the homeless into a gourmet opportunity, to the point where it attracted diners with laptops and scared the homeless people away. Ben was smart in enlisting Bree to champion his project; it’s just a shame that she was essentially digging her own grave by pushing the low-income housing project through that is sure to unearth the deadly deed she and her friends so desperately want to keep hidden.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 3, Episode 5 “Colin Sweeney Agonistes” (B+)

The return of Dylan Baker in his Emmy-nominated role as Dylan Baker is certainly a delight, and that’s hardly even the most compelling element of this episode. Celeste is popping up quite a lot lately, now fully on the same side as Lockhart Gardner as she and Diane are jointly trying a case in which their whistleblower commits suicide and needs to testify from beyond the grave. Colin’s strong desire to help Alicia is peculiar but appealing, and it’s not many people who could figure out a way to get a skinhead to admit to a murder without getting themselves killed, resulting in his release from prison in exchange for testimony. Cary and Imani are proving to be proper partners, making small talk while pretending to go run something by Peter. Interestingly enough, it turns out that Peter wanted to be a bit more cutthroat, forcing him to wear a wire if they wanted the deal approved. Eli’s desperate efforts to get Peter the coveted keynote speech put him dangerously close to discovering the fact that Kalinda wants nothing to do with Peter, and I hope he won’t unearth that particularly troubling truth. The most powerful plotline of the hour was Alicia’s hiring process, in which David rather unsubtly told her that he wanted his niece to get the job and then undermined her by having Caitlin hired without telling her. Anna Camp should prove a solid addition to the cast, but I’m much more worried about the revelation that Alicia was a Caitlin in her situation, and Will voted for her and got her the job by cashing in a favor.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 6, Episode 4 “A Horse of a Different Color” (A-)

This episode was by far the most invigorating and mesmerizing this season, acting somewhat uncharacteristically as both a thriller and horror piece at different times throughout the hour. Mike’s connection of the crimes to the Book of Revelation took on an entirely new, horribly disturbing meaning when Travis decided to sleep with the waitress, prompting James to string her up to be executed by a trip wire with locusts prepared to swarm out of a nearby closet. That was seriously freaky and entirely unsettling, much more so than everything else we’ve seen up to this point. The fact that James’ identity is known but he’s underground also makes him even more of a frightening threat. Harrison’s sudden appendix condition also helped to create some unexpected compassion in Dexter, with Brother Sam doing a good deed and being there for him in his moment of need. Matthews asking Deb to run the press conference instead of Laguerta was a surprising and interesting move, and it did produce amusing results, with Deb performing better than anticipated but negating it all with the dropping of an unnecessary expletive. I’m glad that she has her sparkplug-loving supporters since Laguerta is proving herself to be more and more conniving every day, taking credit for selecting Deb when she was anything but her choice. Everything did seem too good to be true with Ryan and Masuka, and his discovery of her having sold crime scene evidence as memorabilia online was the first time we’ve seen him truthfully betrayed, in a serious rather than childish way. Everyone has to grow up sometime.

Pilot Review: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time (ABC)
Premiered October 23 at 8pm

There are two fairy tale-oriented series premiering this week, both of which are set in the present day, in the real world as we know it, with a few supernatural modifications, of course. Without having seen the other, it’s hard to compare, so let’s save that for my “Grimm” pilot review in a week or so. “Once Upon a Time” is an adventurous, decently creative attempt to revisit folklore with a new and inventive approach. What’s not so smooth, however, is the blending of fantasy world and real world, as shown in the series’ first episode. The fantasy world, complete with familiar characters such as Snow White and Jiminy Cricket, is hopelessly corny, and there’s not much saving it. That makes the real world overly serious by contrast, and, while a clever idea, it feels very forced. The show starts with Jennifer Morrison’s bail bondsman introduced as a tough-as-nails gal pursuing a crook on her birthday. Only moments later, her son Henry, also the child of Don Draper, bursts into her life and changes the entire tone of the show, from a spunky sort of “Prime Suspect” to somewhat much sillier and les convincing. Her insistence on calling Henry “kid” every sentence is enormously frustrating and seems to be trying to make her out to be too tough and anti-establishment for her own good. I will say that Lana Parilla is certifiably devilish as the Evil Queen’s alter ego Regina, specifically in her treatment of Emma. I’m pleased to see Raphael Sbarge taking on a role that isn’t terribly creepy, playing the likeable Jiminy Cricket. Robert Carlyle should be plenty interesting as Rumplestilskin’s mean counterpart and town thug Mr. Gold. Overall, I think this show is going to be too theoretical and mystical, and I’m not sure it’s going to achieve its desired effect.

How will it work as a series? It’s unclear if any of the fantasy world happenings addressed in this episode will be revisited in flashbacks, and similarly uncertain about the timetable of the characters discovering their fantasy roots. It should be fun if nothing else, but I’m not sure if the pace will be anywhere near enticing enough to merit weekly viewing.
How long will it last? This show won't be disappearing anytime soon. Most reviews were more positive than mine, but the show had a staggering debut, even with the show being put online early, putting the rest of ABC's lineup to shame and ranking, reportedly, as the number one debut for a new show this season. I'm not sure if multiple seasons are in the cards just yet, but this seems like a bona fide hit.

Pilot grade: C+

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pilot Review: Boss

Boss (Starz)
Premiered October 21 at 10pm

The cinema has seen its share of corrupt politicians, yet it’s hard to find someone quite as despicable and manipulative as Tom Kane. This pilot provides an intriguing introduction to Kane, showing him broken down before we see him put together, receiving some devastating details about his diagnosis. From there, he reveals his true colors, giving an intense speech in support of the Governor Cullen reelection campaign and then calling in wunderkind Ben Zajac to position him to run against that very same governor. Kane is hardly alone in his ruthlessness and cruelty, as evidenced by Cullen’s reaction to bad news from an underling, which leads to tragic results for an iPad. Grabbing someone by the ear during a meeting, threatening to expose voters by name if a bill doesn’t pass, and commissioning a terrifying warning for someone who hasn’t even done anything wrong all add up to make Kane one seriously determined and frightening leader. I can’t get that scene where the doctor was paralyzed in her car as her son was only feet away just to ensure that she got the message out of my head. Seeing how coldly Meredith reacts to him underlines his ability to make and keep friends. Sarn Miller is sure to have an intriguing and troublesome role in the res of the show, and Tom’s daughter seems to have enough problems of her own. The rather graphic sex scene between Ben and Kitty says plenty about those two characters, and I find Martin Donovan’s almost unrecognizable Ezra Stone especially captivating. The show can be dense and dark at times, but overall this is a strong and compelling series, even if it may not be my particular cup of tea.

How will it work as a series? There should be no shortage of possible plotlines related to politics, and with characters like these, there’s going to be a wealth of ground to cover. It may be a bit dull and impenetrable at some times, mainly due to the show having a widespread ensemble cast with a number of tangents.
How long will it last? This show got renewed for a second season before the first even began nearly a month ago. Kelsey Grammer is a bankable star, and I don’t think Starz will want to let him go anytime soon. The first season is only eight episodes, while the second will be two, so we’ll have to see where it goes from there.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 2, Episode 5 “Looking Glass” (B)

Talk about a packed episode, with nearly everyone involved in a good portion of the plot. It seemed like Michael was talking to someone other than Nikita at the start, and she was quite ruffled by Cassandra’s presence and her obvious effect on Michael. The fact that she has a son threw Michael and the mission off, and Nikita managed to discern that, in contrast to what she told him, he was actually his son. The notion of having a body double replacing a public figure is rather smart, though the risk of having that asset get out of control should be considered as well. It seems that the fake Ovetchkin could have been enough of a problem for Amanda to give Percy a suit and make some sort of deal with him, which should prove extraordinarily intriguing in weeks to come. Amanda has proven herself exceptionally duplicitous, manipulating Alex to get her to Belarus to assassinate Ovetchkin without realizing it. This episode had a few amusing points that seemed rather self-reflective, one of which came from Birkhoff, when he noted that Michael and Nikita really need to learn when to turn off their comms, a comment considerably less ridiculous than the sight of him playing golf inside was. Percy acknowledging that running Division lends itself to making chess metaphors was entertaining as well. I’m hopeful that we’ll have more intersections of missions and aims like this in the near future with everyone involved and doing something interesting with a few other characters.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 5 “Judgement” (B+)

This show continues to get better with each hour, and I’m especially pleased to report that this episode follows up fantastically on what I most liked about last week’s installment. I’m a huge fan of David Costabile, who is capable of being excellent both dramatically and comically, in fare as diverse as “Breaking Bad” and “Flight of the Conchords.” This role was closest to the one he stoically played on “Damages” as a corrupt cop, and his judge was fairly subdued but appropriately capable of taking his situation seriously. Reese almost managed to prevent the whole thing by stopping the abduction, but he made up for his failure in that moment later by following through and capturing Angela and leaving her wrapped up with a bow for Carter and Fusco to find along with the men Reese gave rides in his trunk to for most of the episode. Reese’s method of approaching to the judge and breaking to him the reality of the situation was somewhat cold but effective, telling him he has two questions and asking him which one he wants to answer first. The conversation between Reese and the judge about what will happen once people find out what he’s been doing was intriguing, as was the back-and-forth between Reese and Finch about getting to know each other. It may take some time, but I have a feeling that Frisco and Carter are going to end up working well together, especially given Fusco’s genuine desire to help in the child kidnapping case.

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 6, Episode 2 “Last Night Gus” (B+)

Having characters wake up from a terribly wild night with absolutely no recollection of what happened during their drunken adventures is nothing too original, and I’m pleased to see that this show used the device to productive humorous effect. The grouping of Shawn, Gus, Lassiter, and Woody is inspired, and adding Henry to the mix just makes it funnier. Determining which one of them is the angry one is certainly a challenge, and I would have picked Lassiter, with Henry as a semi-close second and the other three lagging far, far behind. There was considerably less fake psychic activity present in this hour, but there were more than enough jokes about Lassiter killing people to fill in for them. Woody is weird, and spotlighting him this much may have been extreme, but I think it worked just fine. The fact that Shawn asked Juliet to move in with him is rather huge, and I like how, in usual fashion for them, they sort of swept it under the rug and agreed just to be happy. The presence of Jessica Lucas as Gus’ would-be conquest livened up the episode, and I did enjoy seeing Dule Hill doing his best to seem as out of it as possible, laughing uncontrollably and having absolutely no idea what was going on when guns were going off around him. Discovering all of the great things – such as TV and snacks – that the guy living in his house, better known as him, had was particularly hilarious.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 6 “Go Bullfrogs!” (B+)

It was only a matter of time before the kids on this show had to start growing up, and having Phil be the one to take Haley to visit colleges provides a somewhat more gradual start to the transition. Eating chicken wings rather messily was a good father-daughter bonding activity, and his enthusiasm for his alma matter created the perfect situation for him to offhandedly led her go off and have fun at a frat house, only to discover that she was actually just hanging out with a high school friend of hers and his parents. Phil tracking Haley’s location on his phone was funny, and I enjoyed Claire’s constant confusion of the Bulldogs with the Bullfrogs, which managed to get Phil so turned around that he started cheering, literally, for the Bullfrogs. Claire having a night at home to herself predictably went less smoothly than expected as she wanted to have some crazy fun with Cameron and Mitchell, only to be left with their friend Julian who, as it turned out, wasn’t gay. It was inevitable that she would have to tell the women how “Gone with the Wind” ended, revealing her lie and then some. Mitchell and Cameron getting the wrong car led to some humorous comments. Jay’s quickly-established affection for the Colombian soap opera was amusing, especially since Gloria was concerned with completely separate drama. Manny trying to stretch himself so that he can get taller is one of the most normal things he’s done so far, and it’s nice to see him act like a kid for once.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 4 “Don’t Call Me Shirley” (B+)

Following up on last week’s surprisingly enjoying installment, this show continues to find its funk and establish its own distinctive voice. The theft of Sheila’s dolls provides a great impetus for Tessa to relentlessly mock the suburbs in voice-over, explaining just how ridiculous it is that dolls could drum up such a police presence. I’m always a sucker for instantly-made T-shirts trumpeting silly causes, and therefore seeing the Shay family members outfitted in shirts related to the missing dolls was quite amusing. Dallas and Dahlia moving in with George and Tessa for the night may have been extreme, but anything that gets Dahlia and Tessa to work together towards the same goal has to be worth watching. Their staged confrontation about the dolls didn’t immediately catch Mr. Wolfe’s attention, and he seemed all ready to send Tessa packing when he met with George. It makes perfect sense that Lisa was the one who took her mom’s dolls, and Allie Grant is playing even more of a punching bag here than she used to play on “Weeds.” Alan Tudyk gets a bit of screen time in this episode as Noah suggests that George build panic rooms for people after the break-in, but I do wish he could be given something more worthwhile to do. George and Tessa’s relationship provides the ultimate heart of the episode, as he is fully aware of what she’s been up to the entire episode and is only responding as he should to let her think that she’s been deceiving when the truth is just the opposite.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 3, Episode 6 “Tales from the Luncheonette” (B+)

While it might seem ill-advised to leave your wife and newborn daughter at home pretty much right away to go and work a lot, there is something inspiring about seeing Adam so passionate. His citation of his childhood wintertime lemonade stand was an amusing reference, and I do admire his optimism. I like that, after some bumps along the road, he and Crosby chose to celebrate failure rather than success, only to have Cee Lo Green waltz back into their studio and proclaim that he was having an off day. Seth’s blood-soaked offer to take his kids out for brunch signaled a definite problem, and I’m glad that Sarah has taken it upon herself to help him this time, revealing their plan to Amber and Drew at the end of the episode. Going to Julia for money after being shut down by Zeek was a smart move, and it provided Joel with an unusual chance to call Zeek out on not supporting his daughters enough, giving him double ammunition with his impending adoption also in the mix. Mark seems somewhat turned off by the idea of Sarah being so involved in getting Seth back in track, leaving us roughly where we were last episode in terms of the future of that relationship being up in the air. Drew asking Amber advice about how to kiss Amy was entertaining, but the episode’s sweetest moment was between Kristina and Haddie when the exhausted mother told her daughter she didn’t have any notes for her on her college essay.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 4, Episode 7 “Fruit for the Crows” (B+)

This season, more than those before it, is headed in a direction where it seems almost impossible that things could actually get any better. That’s most certainly the case with Juice, who, in the final moments of the episode, breathes his last breath as he preemptively hangs himself rather than be forced to betray his club. That’s something that will surely eat Roosevelt up, while Linc won’t be all that broken up by it, which I imagine will cause Roosevelt to have quite the crisis of conscience. The episode got off to a furious start with Alvarez getting shot right outside the lab, and I like that Jax single-handedly chased after the shooter, hell-bent on catching him and getting revenge. Gemma bringing the note straight to Tara led to a feeling of uneasiness within the club as no one had any clue where the threat was coming from, save for an increasingly duplicitous Clay, who was not pleased with Unser’s continued interference. Bobby suspecting Ima made sense, but it’s clear that Jax’s message to her at the end of last week stuck and that she won’t be messing with any members of the club again. Tara overhearing a mention of the cartel isn’t going to help matters at all. The driver’s large family and the unexpected intruder led to a few unfortunate casualties, and Chibs, usually one to keep it together, lost control in a rather frightening way after the driver’s sister got shot in the head by the intruder. It’s not a good thing when the stoic people start to freak out.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: Ringer

Ringer: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Poor Kids Do It Everyday” (C+)

My suspicions about Henry not having actually Gemma turned out to be entirely correct, but he certainly doesn’t seem much like an innocent man. Perhaps it’s his inability to make friends, pushing away the only person who can tolerate him and prompting her, somewhat unwisely, to point the police in his direction, giving them the location of the bloody rags and all. It seems that somehow Bridget’s fingerprints ended up connected to Gemma’s disappearance, which means that Machado, fresh off plenty of disappointment in terms of finding Malcolm in Macewa’s clutches, is going to be thrilled to come back to New York and attack Siobhan for harboring her sister. I predict Machado as the next person to discover Bridget’s true identity, though I think he’s developed enough of a soft spot for her that he’ll end up helping her rather than blowing the whistle and turning her in. Much more of a spotlight than ever before is being given to troublesome teen Juliet, whose first day at public school has her being hit up for money and brawling with another girl in a fight that could only be described as unavoidable. The addition of Jason Dohring from “Veronica Mars” and “Moonlight” should excite fans of those cult shows beyond imagination, and I do think that he helps to liven up that part of the storyline, showing her some clear favoritism that will likely bring them closer. The real Siobhan pops up, as usual, only in the last minute, revealing that she is the one who ordered Gemma dead. Let’s hear more about that; give her more screen time!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pilot Review: Man Up

Man Up (ABC)
Premiered October 18 at 8:30pm

Here’s the show about guys who just want to be guys that no one was clamoring for, brought to you directly after “Last Man Standing,” making it seem even more redundant and unnecessary. It’s hard to single out any one element of this show that works better than another since nothing works particularly well, and there isn’t much worth writing home about in terms of the show as a whole. Teri Polo is a peculiar case, because she’s a generally talented actress who doesn’t often have much to do in projects, which tends to make her characters especially uninteresting. The other two men don’t have stable women in their lives, which essentially just makes them into a trio we’ve seen before on so many other shows in the past. The one thing that did make me smile was the sight of all the grooms running out one after the other to chase Craig, Will, and Kenny away after Craig’s attempt at sentimentality with the guitar. I don’t think that it’s a good thing that the one part of the show I enjoyed involved the three main characters about to be beaten to a bloody pulp. Grant is a rather over-the-top personality, and I imagine he’ll serve mostly to emasculate the other guys and to be a constant thorn in Kenny’s side, reminding him that Brenda has moved on and is seeing someone else. Figuring out what Tobey Maguire what do, however random that may be, won’t help much. I don’t have any particular comments about the performers since no one stood out or made an impression. This is a show that didn’t need to be on, and I doubt it will be much for longer. I certainly won’t be watching again.

How will it work as a series? The title will likely present countless opportunities for our three heroes to prove just how masculine and macho they are. Will and Kenny will presumably move on from their current obsessions and try to find new ladies, to little to mixed avail. There are infinite possibilities here, but that doesn’t make them appealing in the slightest sense.
How long will it last? The pilot numbers weren’t terrific, and I think that airing right after “Last Man Standing” will hurt rather than help it. This definitely doesn’t feel like a show that’s going to have a long life, but until ABC decides to fill it with something else, it could eke out half a season or so.

Pilot grade: D-

Round Two: Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing: Season 1, Episode 3 “Grandparents Day” (C+)

I’ll say right off the bat that I don’t see this as a show that I’d be interested in watching on a weekly basis. It’s a perfectly fine, harmless sitcom, but there isn’t much to distinguish it aside from Mike’s almost stifling efforts to be manly. I’ll allow that Boyd’s preschool is rather over-the-top and that his concerns there are somewhat justified, but it’s still a bit much to take on a regular basis. Boyd getting expelled from Happy Happy Preschool was quite a feat, and Mike’s inability to keep an eye on him was decently amusing. I liked that he managed to overcome his pride and try to get Boyd back into the preschool, only to have Kristin be the one to nearly derail the process. Vanessa’s reaction to the “at our age” comments she received from another woman proved to be very dramatic, and her midlife crisis-like shopping trip was entertaining due mostly to her request for three size 2s in the absence of a size 6. Mike and Vanessa’s other two daughters were considerably underused in this half-hour, and that is one area in which the pilot was much stronger, dividing time up equally between the three Baxter girls. It’s understandable that Kristin might be featured more prominently because she’s the mother of another character on the show, but it would be nice to let the other two shine, particularly Kaitlyn Dever, who deserves a spotlight after her terrific work during season two of FX’s “Justified.”

Round Two: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 1, Episode 2 “Now or Never” (B+)

I can tell that it’s going to take a bit of time to truly get into this show, but this second installment is genuinely delightful and clever. Laura Dern’s Amy is so nice and honest that it’s hard not to like her, and naïve as she is, she’s not entirely of touch with reality. I love the music that scores her imagined presentation and many of her later moments of serenity, and that’s probably my favorite thing so far about the show. Getting left on Level H working with a bunch of horrifically awkward people isn’t a pleasant fate, but if Judy’s reactions to her attempted creativity are any indication, she isn’t getting out of there anytime soon. Fortunately, she’s found a potential friend and slightly social human being in Mike White’s Tyler, pulling double duty here as the show’s co-creator and star. The other man in Amy’s life, Levi, is more at ease with human interaction but considerably grumpier and more hostile, and I think that’s probably an unhealthy relationship she needs to work on improving. I was pleased that she got passionate with Krista and gave her a speech about how she felt betrayed since she always had Krista’s back. It’s not clear that we’re actually going to see more of Damon in the near future than we did for just a moment in this episode, but I think it’s fine, since Amy still has plenty of work to do in terms of getting herself and her life back together before she can once again face one of her biggest fears.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What I’m Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 3, Episode 2 “Gumball!” (B+)

Now this was one hilarious half-hour. Ray running straight into a cop and using a fake accent to pose as the co-op inspector was great, and I love that he caught Jonathan by his tie. The rationale about Jonathan having blog interviews scheduled being the number one reason for him not to go to jail was ridiculous, as was Ray’s suggestion that it could be good for book sales. Jonathan’s natural tendency towards guilt didn’t help him much in this situation, though the pilot costumes sure did, thanks to Patton Oswalt’s Howard. George’s paranoia actually proved somewhat useful, and I enjoyed that he stole Bernard’s bike without answering his question about whether or not he was giving him his blessing to marry his daughter. Bringing up Ray’s attempts to spoon both of them in bed was the perfect way of proving that it was really Jonathan, and it’s a good thing that George finally caught up to his pals since his being so out of the loop made everything much funnier. Jonathan nearly got framed again at the carnival, but fortunately, the police showed up, including our very own Officer Drake, who was impressed with Jonathan’s detective work and wanted to commend them by giving them NYPD hats. Ray’s obsession with being a father is turning him into a new person, but mainly it just provides him with another excuse to try to get to Jonathan to live a more tranquil lifestyle: “You have to stop being a detective, it’s too dangerous!”

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls

2 Broke Girls: Season 1, Episode 5 “And the ‘90s Horse Party” (B+)

On what other show would the main characters decide to pimp out their horse in order to charge hipsters exorbitant amounts of money designed to pay off Max’s student loans? That kind of plotting makes this show incomparably unique, and fortunately, it’s funny too. Last week started with Caroline needing to get her bite guard back, and the impetus for this installment is Max having a crazy amount of bills that she keeps in places where no one could ever find them. Caroline’s excitement at being able to manage such things is very much in line with her personality, and I enjoyed seeing that side of her come to light and annoy Max almost more than anything else has already. Getting all of the hipsters to come out to the horse party was pretty great, and I liked how Max stepped in to defend Caroline’s honor and roast her ex-boyfriend William in front of his friends. While it would have been fun to see Caroline chew him out for dumping her after her father got sent to prison, it was fine that she didn’t actually confront him. This episode provided a fun spotlight on one supporting character in particular, and that would be Han, who wins a lot of points for his truthfully ironic “Talk to the Han” shirt. He may have lost some of those points by choosing a certain hipster to dance with, but he gets credit for actually managing to attract a lady, which was his goal all along.

What I’m Watching: Terra Nova

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Runaway” (B)

This episode is considerably better than the one that preceded it, but still not nearly as strong as the first three hours this show produced. The notion of having new characters introduced each episode for one episode only worked wonders for “Outcasts,” but here, I feel like we need to develop the regular players first before getting to other people. The search for the traitor seems to be going quite slowly while the Sixers come face-to-face with the leaders of Terra Nova once again. I like the sound of Taylor’s threat, that the third time they come to the gates it’s going to be war. I don’t think we’re at that point yet, however, and I imagine that this cold war of sorts will continue for a while before all hell breaks loose. Jim getting some face time with Mira proved very enlightening, and I’m incredibly intrigued by her claim that the bigwigs in 2149 want Taylor gone and promised her a chance to see her family if she helps bring him down. Mira really wanted that box she sent Leah to retrieve, and I don’t imagine that Malcolm will have any success discovering what its purpose or function is. While we’re a bit light on dinosaurs in this hour, there are some highly amusing romantic developments. Jim’s response to Reynolds telling him that he’s in the first stages of courting Maddy was hilarious, and his military attitude towards relationships is sure to be good for some terrific laughs in the near future.

What I’m Watching: How to Make It in America

How to Make It in America: Season 2, Episode 3 “Money, Power, Private School” (B+)

I have to commend Ben for his willingness to do something that might not at first seem beneficial for their business, something which Cam strongly opposed and only later came to understand. Nancy can definitely do a lot for the boys, and their ability to create a shirt design for her son’s middle school shows their dedication to becoming serious business people, even if the design won’t prove to be as politically correct or acceptable as the middle school educators might hope. Ben’s breakup with Julie was rather pathetic, but there’s something to be said for his being honest and not choosing to lead her on any further. Rachel seems a bit too excited about this news, but at least she’s playing her cards right and not telling Ben that she spent $1200 on his gift. Sleeping with Domingo is hardly her proudest moment, and it’s definitely going to complicate matters if she tries to get back together with Ben, which seems inevitable despite his surprising proclamation to her about what he remembers of their relationship. Rene’s Rasta Monsta stunt was rather ill-fated, but it was definitely dramatic, and now he has some impressive leverage to hold over his girlfriend’s daughter to get her to be a bit more polite to her mother. Andy Sussman doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere, even if his tactics aren’t working terribly well in impressing Ben and enticing him to give him the shot that he likely deserves. I have a feeling he’ll get it eventually though.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 3, Episode 3 “Mister Drecker or Ease-Up on the Whup Ass” (B+)

It’s hard to be a prostitute for long without running into someone you know and mistakenly thinking that he or she is a client. Kaitlin Doubleday, sister of “Youth in Revolt” star Portia, made for a charming and alluring Logan Louis, Ray’s former history student who quickly realizes what Ray’s profession is and desperately wants to get with him. Fortunately, her presence came at the same time that Ray was feeling insecure about clients wanting to be with younger men, making Logan’s extreme desire to get an A this time the perfect ending for the episode. I’m glad that Jessica is getting a plotline of her own, though her unintentional mention of Mindy’s infamous action with Ronnie may have just screwed up her new gig. I enjoyed the rarely-seen Drecker children’s odd musical performance, and it was good to know that they’re still around and kicking. I’m thrilled that Tanya has decided to have Charlie released into her custody, and that should prove plenty entertaining and enlightening. It already has, as Charlie’s ditching of his anklet to “go get milk” leads to the revelation that Ray’s too-intense client Lydia is actually a cop, which explains quite a lot about the fantasies that she consistently acts on with Ray. I love that Lenore saw right through Sandee’s fake pregnancy, and I’m genuinely curious to see how Lenore manages to corrupt this formerly innocent girl, and what role she is going to end up taking on in the grand scheme of the show.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead (Season Premiere)

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 1 “What Lies Ahead” (B+)

One of last year’s most enticing series is back with one hell of a season premiere, breaking ratings records and firmly establishing that this season is going to be just as gloomy and dreary as the first, if not more so. That opening theme gives me chills every time, and helps to set the tone for this unique show. I like that Morgan is still cast as the impetus for Rick’s quest to stay alive, and I do hope that he’ll pop back up just as we least expect it. The sudden appearance of a whole horde of walkers led to one of the longest straight scenes this show has ever featured, as our remaining survivors fought off a terrifying number of undead enemies only to have one of them chase Sophia off the road and into the woods. This episode revealed just how little Carol has it together, as Lori took home the award for coolest under pressure, if not a bit cold. Andrea’s frustration with not being allowed to have a gun was understandable, and she got herself a harsh talking-to from Lori when she complained. Shane and Andrea do make a decent pair of outcasts, and I’m intrigued to see if their relationship will develop in the near one. Everyone praying to God in a godless world was interesting, and this episode really did need a miracle. Unfortunately, that came in the form of an alluring animal and led to one of the most devastating yet still unclear resolutions this show has produced so far. I don’t think Carl is dead, but him getting shot is pretty damn serious.

Take Three: Homeland

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 3 “Clean Skin” (B+)

This episode keeps its plotlines very tight, featuring a few extremely important developments but nothing more. It’s still a productive, gripping hour, just less crowded than the previous two installments have been. Brody’s relationship with his daughter Dana hasn’t been explored previously, and so it’s intriguing to see how she goes from rebellious teenager trying to figure out how best to cause a commotion by saying or doing something controversial to a loving daughter eager to place all her frustrations on her mother and be angelic to her father. Telling her mother that she knows she was sleeping with Mike caught Jessica by surprise, and hopefully that’s one secret that won’t come out anytime soon. Jessica’s not a happy camper, and Brody isn’t helping matters at all by refusing to engage with her in the bedroom in a way that’s remotely satisfying or pleasant for her. It’s disturbing how much uncomfortable intimacy Carrie finds herself watching while on surveillance duty. Saul seems truly betrayed by Carrie, and she could really use all the friends she can get at this point. The loss of Lynne is tragic, and I have to say that I was genuinely surprised and even got chills when she was shot and killed by the gregarious man walking her to the car. The danger definitely felt very real. Now we have a trail to follow about which Carrie and Saul are completely in the dark, featuring the prince’s aid selling the necklace and a young couple buying a house right by an airport.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 2, Episode 4 “What Does the Bee Do?” (B+)

In this installment, we have a number of relationships redefined. The most intriguing one has to be the Commodore and Gillian, who spend the opening moments and closing moments together, with Gillian in surprising control during both. The Commodore’s stroke isn’t enormously surprising, but the ending scene is rather shocking, as Gillian recounts their horrific first meeting and gets revenge on him by slapping him continuously as the show fades to black. She’s one character who is certainly independent-minded, and we haven’t yet seen her in this light, interacting mostly with Jimmy in the past. Eli seems particularly distressed by the Commodore’s condition, and Nucky seems to have gotten a break in more ways than one. It was almost possible to see the light bulb appear when the idea of how to get Nucky off was introduced. Margaret and Nucky seem to have very different ideas about how to deal with their money, especially when it comes to dealing with the housekeeping staff. Fresh out of jail, Chalky seems to be having some trouble re-acclimating to life on the outside, and people don’t seem too happy with him either. Nelson’s underlings have gotten themselves into a world of trouble trying to tail their boss and catch him in the act, something for which I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to exercise punishment. Richard posing for and opening up to Angela was quite an interesting, unprecedented moment of bonding for two fringe characters. It was also great to see Jimmy try on some Yiddish to impress William Forsythe’s Horwitz in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 8, Episode 4 “School of Hard Knocks” (C+)

This episode features some solidly-packed plotlines for each of its main housewives, but the direction in which some of them are headed concerns me. Gaby rallying the other mothers to protest with “Braveheart” and “300” references against Dana the tyrannical PTA president was pretty funny, especially as it got her banished from the B-lot to the C-lot. Hitting Dana with her car seemed like appropriate revenge, and I do wish it could have ended there. The notion of Gaby as PTA president might be amusing for an episode or two, but having her spend a night in jail would do the trick without trapping her in what’s likely to quickly become a stale situation. Susan as an angry artist isn’t too appealing either, and it’s reminding me in an unpleasant way of Jenny’s writing class with Sandra Bernhand in season two of “The L Word.” Miguel Ferrer is entertaining, but Susan is no Jenny, and that’s a good thing. Lynette’s suspicion that Tom was dating someone turned out to be worse than she could ever have expected, since he’s actually dating the woman Lynette really liked. I don’t see that turning out well at all. I’m all for Danielle returning to the show anytime she wants, but it seems strange to me that she wouldn’t expect her mother to be alarmed by what it is she was producing. I’m also slightly concerned about her young son helping her out with their construction. Bree’s going to have much bigger problems soon, as evidenced by Chuck’s fury about being dumped and the file that just landed on the top of his missing persons stack.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 3, Episode 4 “Feeding the Rat” (B+)

It’s rare that things actually start right in the middle of the action so that we get to see the meat of the case and understand that the prosecution’s number one suspect couldn’t possibly be guilty because we saw the crime from his perspective as a witness. It’s equally intriguing to see Cary going up against Alicia through someone else’s eyes, as Imani starts working with him and ends up being a pretty respectable ally not without her own tricks up her sleeve. Harvey Fierstein was a fun guest star Judge Francis Flamm, clearly advocating for Alicia but easily swayable depending upon the delicacy and attractiveness of the claims made. Diane’s interest in Celeste put Will in an uncomfortable position, though nothing could have been as squirm-inducing as bringing Peter over and talking about how Alicia works with Will. The revelation that Celeste is actually starting a new firm and wants Will to come there so that he can one day become the new baseball commissioner threatened to actually convince him to leave, but his loyalty appears to be stronger than that. I was surprised to recognize John Lutz from “30 Rock” as the lawyer providing the strippers in his hotel room, but it’s always fun to see an actor in an unexpected place. I’m glad to see Romany Malco from “Weeds” and “No Ordinary Family” getting an interesting new role as the pro bono lawyer from Legal Aid whose situation so inspired Diane that she wants to bring them in-house, which is sure to shake things up and cause Eli some grief, especially as he tries unsuccessfully to fully take Kalinda and Alicia for his own use.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 6, Episode 3 “Smokey and the Bandit” (B+)

For all this thinking about his son that he’s been doing lately, it’s fitting for Dexter to have a look into his future as he skillfully tracks down a serial killer in his seventies. Dexter’s comparisons of old age to a second childhood rang true, and he seemed determined not to let this become his fate, furious at Walter for even suggesting that, moments before his death. Walter was an alternately off-putting and amusing guest character, and it was interesting to see how quickly the grouch took to Dexter, though it turned out that he realized Dexter was onto him and was taking measures to ensure that he got to Dexter before Dexter got to him. I noted before Dexter did that he had gotten into another car accident just after he got it repaired, but that should give him a reason to go see Brother Sam again, if he doesn’t decide to take him up on his offer to come to church. Deb’s not having an easy time being “Lieutenant Me,” and Laguerta is making it infinitely worse by trying to make decisions for her and undermining her during the briefing. The Chicago transfer’s reaction to her greeting him was particularly harsh, but she did a great job chewing him out for his insubordination. Ryan’s acceptance of Masuka’s date request was a surprise, and I’m still hopeful that it won’t lead anywhere negative. Travis holding Nathan prisoner and demanding that he atone was disturbing, but there’s nothing quite like the demonstration of his death with the two bodies on the horse, an image I’d be perfectly happen to get out of my head.

Take Three: How to Be a Gentleman

How to Be a Gentleman: Season 1, Episode 3 “How to Attend Your Ex-Fiancée’s Wedding” (B)

This show has now been marooned on Saturday nights, but I’m prepared to stick it out and watch whichever produced episodes end up airing. I like how aggressively and unapologetically Bert is trying to get Andrew to confront his fears head-on by consistently putting him into situations in which he’ll find himself hopelessly uncomfortable and unprepared. Changing his RSVP to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding to “Hell Yeah!” is a great way to start that, and I enjoyed the fact that the entire Carlson family was at the wedding. Bert’s efforts with the wedding planner were surprisingly successful, and it was actually rather sweet to see him cast her aside for the sake of helping out Andrew. Our gentleman deserves enormous credit for figuring out that she cheated on him and still managing to deliver a moving, memorable toast with no hint of spite in it, unable to even allow himself to take his gift back. He’s getting the hang of turning his often less-than-exciting life into fluffed-up prose for the magazine, and it’s fun to hear Andrew regale Jerry with his made-up adventures before they go to print. Andrew did manage to get his revenge in his own way by going home with Tabitha, who had famously hit on him years earlier, and there’s something to be said for small, subtle victories. I’m very much enjoying the group dynamic here, with Mary Lynn Rajskub and Rhys Darby continuing to be the supporting standouts in their roles as couple Janet and Mike.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What I'm Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 2, Episode 4 “Partners” (B-)

It seems that there is an almost infinite number of people that were involved in the road to Nikita’s break from division, and this episode features the return of the latest. I know from seeing the intense 1978 film “Midnight Express” that breaking out of a Turkish prison is no laughing matter, yet it seems that it wasn’t much of a stretch for her to escape. It’s hard for Nikita to catch a break, and therefore the revelation that Kelly was actually working for Ari Tasarov is disappointing but not wholly surprising. What’s a bit more dramatic is the reaction that everyone seems to have to Alex, declaring that her capture is just as valuable as the retrieval of a black box and then deciding that she should be shot on sight going forward. Roan coming with Alex to Turkey to find Nikita seemed somewhat uncalled for, but he definitely knows what he’s doing, and the idea that he was impressed with how Alex carried herself in the field bodes well for the young Division contractor. Her allegiances are clearly still underdetermined, as she allows Nikita and Michael plenty of time to get away before the arrival of Division backup. I’m glad that Alex’s time in the field allowed for Amanda to go have a personal chat and tea with Percy, who seems quite interested in protecting Alex and remains the most intriguing character on this show, even in his present confines, where it seems his onesie doesn’t suit him.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 4 “Cura Te Ipsum” (B)

I like the notion of this show as featuring strong guest stars in each installment, much the way “Human Target” did for the past two years prior to its untimely cancellation. After showcasing Natalie Zea in the pilot, now it’s time to give Linda Cardellini of “Freaks and Geeks” fame the spotlight. She delivers a strong performance as determined doctor Megan Tillman, who is revealed to be moonlighting a revenge-seeker aiming to bring down the man who raped her sister. I like that Finch was the one who went in to talk to her initially. Reese has a strange bedside manner, but it seems to be generally effective, usually serving to shock people into realizing the seriousness of their situation. His efforts to merge two of his cases, putting Andrew Benton behind bars and shutting down the drug dealers pressing Detective Fusco for $1 million, was noble in intent but less effective in execution. The fact that he got knocked out and interrogated by the drug dealers and still managed to get to Megan in time to stop her from killing Benton was quite impressive. The episode’s ending was an intriguing one, leaving Benton’s fate up in the air as Reese tried to reason out what to do with him. Having Fusco transferred to be Carter’s new partner is an interesting development, and I’m wondering just how much he’ll try to protect Reese’s identity. Finch’s interview with Carter was very layered and entertaining, the best moment being Finch’s deadpan uttering of “I’ve never been accused of being like most people.”

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 8, Episode 4 “Garden Party” (B)

This episode cements the fact that Andy is going to be the same type of boss Michael will be when it comes to activities outside the office – desperate for attention and determined to create a horribly awkward scene to get it. This is hardly the show’s most commendable outing beyond the walls of Dunder-Mifflin, but it’s also not the worst. I’m not sure how much Stephen Collins, Dee Wallace, and Josh Groban were needed in this episode, and it’s just uncomfortable to see Andy squirm when he is sidelined. It does seem that he requires less reassurance than Michael ever did, and he also doesn’t make nearly as big a deal out of everything. It’s impressive that Jim had the time to pen an entire book about garden party traditions, and it really was full of strange stuff that no one besides Jim finds all that funny. Robert bringing the basil plant rather than the marmalade was amusing, and I liked how Dwight managed to entice him to have his birthday party at Schrute Farms with the mention of rare meats. Ryan’s efforts to suck up to him are no surprise, and the same goes for the entirely unsubtle Gabe, leaving poor Kelly freezing while he got two jackets put on him. Pam and Angela warring over using the name Philip for their unborn babies was hilarious, and I’m really enjoying the two of them being pregnant at the same time. The sight of Mose having fun with all the valet-parked cars provided a few additional laughs.

What I’m Watching: Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Season 4, Episode 4 “Pawnee Rangers” (B+)

This show has featured several installments where the focus is on how Ron likes to do something manly and Leslie thinks that women should be allowed to be included. While this must be at least the fourth or fifth time this theme has been explored, it’s hardly old yet, and seeing the differences between the Rangers and the Goddesses proved quite entertaining. Having them go to the same campsite with such drastically different amenities and activities was funny, and I like that, ultimately, Leslie realized that Ron should have his proper followers, thereby creating the Swansons and cheering him up a bit. Ann trying to fit in predictably didn’t go too smoothly, but it was amusing to see her try so hard, particularly with that pre-prepared fish. I couldn’t place the actress who played Millicent, and I’m pleased to discover that it was Sarah Wright, who I remember as one of the standout performers from season one of FOX’s “The Loop,” on which she portrayed Lizzy. It’s fitting that Jerry would have a gorgeous daughter, and that he would be happy to let Chris take her out without spending days on end getting to know him. Unfortunately, Chris’ enthusiasm means that he is prone to over-detailed progress reports that should definitely not be given to a father. Treat Yo Self day was a hoot, with Donna and Tom indulging in a way that they pretty much do the rest of the year too. I’m glad that they invited Ben and managed to get him to dress up as Batman and buy the costume, which made for one great visual.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: Psych (Season Premiere)

Psych: Season 6, Episode 1 “Shawn Rescues Darth Vader” (B+)

What an absolute pleasure it is to have this show back, and I’m excited to report that this season premiere was just as funny as ever. The setup was brilliant, with Shawn already inside the ambassador’s home because of his extracurricular Darth Vader-related mission, prompting him to use his knowledge of what he actually saw happen in the house to get in good with Malcolm McDowell’s Ambassador Fanshaw. His response to having been photographed in the house, claiming that the person had similar hair but no idea what to do with it, was quite funny, but it was his desire to do whatever possible with his newly-gained and quickly-rescinded diplomatic immunity that really took the cake. Trying to commandeer a car from a driver was one of his high points. Lassiter forcing Juliet to take a polygraph so that she’d admit her relationship with Shawn was typically extreme for the lone wolf detective, and I like that Shawn managed to pass too, admitting that he loved Juliet in the process – which was quickly confirmed by the machine after everyone expressed curiosity – and convinced Lassiter once and for all that he actually was a psychic. The flashback to Henry training a young Shawn how to pass a polygraph back in 1991 was no surprise. I’m most delighted by the presence of Kurt Fuller’s coroner Woody, who has a whole slew of hilarious lines to deliver in this installment. Fuller was one of the most consistent, funnier parts of ABC’s cancelled “Better With You,” so I’m glad to see him back on television in a perfect scene-stealing part.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 5 “Hit and Run” (B+)

I’m pleased to report that the introduction of David Cross’ Duane Bailey last week has led to something quite productive, as Claire has decided to run for city council, which should prove an intriguing and new direction for the show. Phil was the one who wanted to be able to push Claire off the cliff, and it was fun to see him smack Luke in the face while trying to open a band-aid and accidentally give Alex the nighttime allergy medication. Haley’s loss of the $900 prompted an entertaining field trip by the men while Gloria and Claire sat at home and drank. Cameron going nuts on the father when they were actually in the Muppets movie was hilarious, as was his reaction to the hit and run. I’m glad that Mitchell was able to redeem himself by tackling runaway Peter, though everyone seemed almost too distracted by his achievement that they almost let him get away. It’s always great to hear Manny articulate his frustrations with kids his age, and he had a brilliant moment with his mother confusing Bieber with beavers. Gloria did end up being a superb solution for Jay when it came to presenting his closet pitch to Samm Levine’s young hotshot who wanted to hear something that would wow him. I loved that it was the exact same pitch, and Jay’s face said it all. Luke having literally frozen his assets in ice was highly amusing, and definitely the best thing to come out of Haley losing that $900.