Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What I’m Watching: Terra Nova

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 9 “Now You See Me” (C)

Here we have another wasted opportunity, and another disappointing episode that’s nowhere near as exciting or satisfying as it could be. Putting Mira and Taylor together for nearly an hour is a cool idea, yet somehow it’s terribly uninteresting. Their chance meeting reminded me of the complaint I’ve heard some voice about “Star Trek” series, that the captains and high-ranking officers are always the ones going out on missions rather than some random red shirts, and therefore the fact that the two highest-ranking members from each camp happened to run into each other felt more than a little convenient. Swapping stories about how long they’ve been able to survive in the wild was old mildly intriguing, and I preferred Taylor’s theory about an alternate universe where they might instead be allies. The presence of a dinosaur was a letdown as well, and it’s seeming more and more like the show’s entire budget was spent on the pilot, which I still maintain was incredibly awesome. I’m glad that this whole Boxer plotline is done with, since I don’t have any interest at all in that. Mark’s bumbling in front of Jim is silly at best, and it would be better if he spent more of his time with Maddy. I don’t quite buy the fact that Skye is the spy, even if her mother is sick and only the Sixers can help. I imagine there are some seriously scummy people, like Boylan, in Terra Nova, and so having it be a blackmail victim is a bit of a cop-out.

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 3, Episode 9 “A Monkey Named Simian or Frances Is Not a Fan” (B+)

It always seems to be the episode before the finale that packs the most emotional punch. What we have here is our two main characters trying desperately to cling on to things they’ve lost long ago. Ray’s affection for Jessica hasn’t decreased, but his citing of a twenty-year-old incident designed to win her over demonstrates that he’s hardly living in the moment. Tanya getting upset about not being invited to Mike and Frances’ wedding is similarly out of date since, as Ray correctly points out, she can’t expect to be considered a friend when she’s actually a pimp. Seeing Charlie driving the minivan and taking his children away without even a planned goodbye to Tanya was decently heartbreaking, but kudos to Tanya for standing up for herself, however ineffective it might have been. It seemed likely that Jess was going to figure out Ray’s new profession, but I wasn’t sure that she was already aware of it. I thought that Ray’s toast would be considerably shorter and less meaningful that it ended up being, and I’m glad that Tanya told him that she knew before he ran off all gleefully to try to seduce her. Her desire just to dance made for a melancholy scene that seemed to illustrate the end of their relationship as it currently stands. I’m sure that Jessica won’t be able to cut him out of her life entirely since he does seem to have that effect on people, but he’s going to have to try harder than a surprisingly accurate monkey impression to charm her back into liking him.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 1, Episode 4 “Jamais je ne t’oublierai” (B+)

It’s interesting what happens when a character that was previously unconscious or mostly silent finally elects to open his or her mouth and contribute to the show. Lily has almost immediately become one of the show’s most intriguing personalities through her interactions with several of the other characters. Giving the reward money to Joseph is noble and helps her to forge a connection with someone who is essentially friendless. He’s clearly so unused to kindness that he isn’t even interested in the reward money, though Reverend Cole was quick to suggest that it could help buy a lot of bibles. His concern about Indians dying as a result of newspaper account of Robert’s slaughter managed to irk Lily considerably, and I suspect their subsequent interactions won’t be too positive. Lily’s most enticing interaction, however, was definitely with Durant, whose unsubtle attempts to get his hands on Robert’s maps were highly obvious to Lily, who was well aware that Robert and Durant did not see eye to eye. Elam’s bonding with Eva over their similar circumstances provides a terrific spotlight on two standout supporting characters that refuse to be relegated to the statuses and roles assigned to them by society. The Swede saving Cullen’s life led to another enormously interesting conversation in which he swore that he would figure out why he killed Johnson, marked with that terrifyingly loud laugh that he gave in response to Cullen’s request to let him know when he did so. The explosion at the end of the episode was decently alarming, but, as seems to be the case with trailblazers, work just has to keep going.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 9 “Crossfire” (B+)

I would say that this episode features the most responsible and sensible behavior from Carrie that we’ve seen yet, and it stills has her plotting to extort the FBI. This show wouldn’t be nearly as enticing without its wild lead character, who nearly gives herself away when Saul walks into his office a moment after Carrie is popping her pills. With her relationship with Brody ended, she’s able to focus much better, and her conversation with the imam and his wife gave her the first lead she’s had in a long time, which will now find her searching for a Saudi Arabian diplomat. I was very much afraid for Dan, the poor guy who happened upon Walker doing target practice in the woods, and my fears were confirmed when, upon realizing who the man he had just met was, he was promptly killed by Walker’s sniper rifle. Walker seems enormously capable of laying low, and his lack of emotions give me a certain advantage in the path to accomplishing his mission. Much more disquieting is the fact that, contrary to what had been indicated in the previous two episodes, Brody has in fact been turned and is serving Abu Nasir. It’s intriguing to learn the reasons behind this, and to understand that Brody was conditioned to fight for the cause after developing a bond with Abu Nasir’s son. The call from Jamey Sheridan’s Vice President means that this plan is going into action, and it’s considerably more nerve-racking now that there are two marines walking around DC with a strong vendetta against America.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 7 “Pretty Much Dead Already” (B+)

Talk about a wrenching final few minutes to send this show off on a bleak note until it returns in February. The first six episodes of this show have been decently tranquil, with the farm acting as a safe haven both physically and mentally from the threat of the walkers. The discovery of the walkers in the barn is significant because it poses no new danger to Hershel’s guests, but now that they know about it, they feel compelled to act on their knowledge, whether with words, like Glenn, or with action, like Shane. I was convinced that Shane was going to shoot Dale, who looks considerably older without his hat, in the middle of the woods, and it’s so interesting to see him shift to being this father figure for Carl when the little kid expressed his desire to stick around and find Sophia. Glenn getting egged was a shame, but it’s nice that Maggie ultimately forgave him when he expressed his true feelings for her. Carol giving up hope was too much for Daryl to take, and I’m glad that he took the time to apologize since he really is quite gruff. Rick’s efforts to appease Hershel and help fish his family members from the mud were noble, and Shane managed to undo it all with a horrifyingly cruel and vicious execution, followed by the most disturbing zombie mass shooting this show has seen yet. There was nothing more heartbreaking, however, than the site of a zombie Sophia wandering out of the barn afterward, effectively signaling the end of all hope for these folks. After this miserable ending, what could possibly be in store for our lonely survivors come February?

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Steven Yuen as Glenn

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 6, Episode 9 “Get Gellar” (B+)

Talk about a major bombshell. Looking back on this season, it’s very much true that Gellar has interacted only with Travis and never with anyone else, save for Erin the doomed waitress. The important distinction here, as far as I can tell, is that Travis doesn’t realize that he’s killed Gellar. He’s delusional and still sees Gellar talking to him on a regular basis, and assigns the deaths of the waitress and his sister to this already-deceased figment of his imagination. No matter how it’s interpreted, it’s a fascinating development, and an enormous game-changer, since Dexter hasn’t been subtle or secretive with Travis, which means that the hallucinated Gellar knows everything that Dexter told him. Just as she’s making some recovery, I fear that Deb is the one who is going to pay for Dexter’s crucial mistake, though I’m sure she’ll survive whatever trauma she endures. The way that the writing on the wall for Travis was revealed was quite frightening, and definitely indicates that Travis is suffering from a multiple-personality disorder. That fact means that the part of him that’s still Travis may not be beyond saving, but I think that Dexter is going to kill him anyway for the murderous deeds he’s committed, consciously or not. The blood getting dumped on the cops was heavily disturbing, and even the perceptive Dexter wasn’t able to stop it from happening as he noticed too late. Aside from all this DDK-related news, we have two decently unsettling developments with the other cops, and I’m not talking about Quinn’s drunken night and near-loss of his gun. Louis’ possession of the Ice Truck Killer hand doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I have a feeling that it’s going to come up later and probably drive Jamie away. Matthews’ direct complicity in the death of Jessica Morris is not a good thing, and I wonder how that will be handled.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 2, Episode 10 “Georgia Peaches” (B+)

The directions of events are really changing in this hour. Nucky’s lawyer’s prognostications are rather grim and unhelpful, and therefore seeking out Arnold Rothstein’s lawyer for more productive counsel is a smart idea. It’s refreshing to see Nucky serve as a positive parent, stepping in to explain to Teddy that he too had a sick sister rather than smacking him for pretending that he couldn’t move his legs, something which sent Margaret to church with a hefty donation in her purse. Teddy telling Nucky that he knows he burned his father’s house down is an interesting development, perhaps designed to keep Nucky in check while the heat of the investigation is off him for the moment. Using the guise of the white men coming to attack the protesting black workers outside the Ritz Carlton to give Halloran a good beating was clever, and Eli put it rather explicitly to the broken man later: “It ain’t like you got anything else to say, is it?” Nelson testifying to Esther about Hans Schroeder means that she’s very close to making an arrest, though it seems that Eli is now her target rather than Nucky, at least for now, since presumably she’s hoping that he’ll flip on her. Jimmy’s having enough trouble keeping the peace, and Manny’s revenge is going to push him over the edge. Angela’s plea for mercy before her execution almost seemed like it was going to work, but Manny has it out for Jimmy, and now that he’s killed his wife, I think that Manny’s going to be next to die.

What I’m Watching: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: Season 1, Episode 5 “That Still Small Voice” (C+)

This show continues to be interesting, but I think the lines of good and evil are being drawn a bit too explicitly. Regina being impossibly evil is entertaining to a point, but her extensive demeaning of the newly deputized Emma is getting to be ridiculous, especially after Emma risks her life to save him. There’s only so much crowd control to be done, and Regina needs to cool it occasionally if she wants to maintain any sort of authority in the town without having everyone turn against her. Archie’s efforts to crush Henry’s delusion at the unsubtle request of Regina were harsh and highly unproductive, and I’m glad that he was able to muster up the courage to stand up to her by episode’s end. It’s nice that there are happy endings in Storybrooke after all, and Emma’s presence seems to be drawing the fantasy world ever closer as Regina is unnerved by broken glass seeping through. The events in the fantasy world with Jiminy’s family were downright disturbing, as his parents rivaled Regina in their desire to be as evil as possible, and the effects of Rumplestiltskin’s potion on the conned couple were rather terrifying. The revelation that the little boy was Gepetto was sweet, and it’s good to see such a strong friendship between the two of them in both worlds. Mary and David are spending a lot of time together, and something tells me that if David’s wife Kathryn doesn’t notice an attraction brewing, someone else will soon, and I’m not sure it’s going to end well.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I’m Watching: Boss

Boss: Season 1, Episode 6 “Spit” (B+)

This episode is monumental for many reasons, and none of them are good. The extent of the forces rallying against Tom is increasing rapidly as he continues to upset more and more people, and each time he rectifies one situation, he creates at least one more. Getting Dr. Reyes to retract her statement with the help of his former cop friend was impressive, and it did throw the aldermen for a loop and remove the possibility of impeachment. Dr. Reyes spitting in his face couldn’t have felt good, and it’s reassuring to hear that Tom is at least aware of the fact that he is, on occasion, evil. Alderman Mata’s change of heart was never going to have much of an effect, but Ross’ essential rigging of his death was considerably more fatal than I might have expected, and decently terrifying. Ezra being aware of the plotting against Tom is only helpful if the people he tries to talk to in order to sort it out are alive. Ezra is an effective mouthpiece for Tom, telling everyone that Tom will remember who helped him and who didn’t to pressure them not to conspire against Tom. The sudden danger faced by Emma while she was with Darius is representative of the precarious situation she finds herself in with that relationship, something that’s definitely not healthy for her. Tom’s evisceration of Kitty following her simple question about settling the lawsuit was harsh, and it seems that the facts of the case are getting to her. Tom’s most grievous mistake was smacking Meredith following her efforts to help, and it’s sent her directly to Ben, to help him win. Tom is going to go ballistic when he finds out, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 9 “Punkin Chunkin” (B+)

There have been a number of references recently to the superiority that Pritchett family members seem to possess, but this was definitely the best example of the shared sensibilities that Mitchell, Claire, and Jay have. Cameron’s dramatic pumpkin story was perhaps the most outrageous sentiment squashed by the overt realism of his partner, though Phil’s zany inventions come in at a close second. Josh Gad’s guest appearance as Kenneth was purely incidental to the story here, and it was appropriately tempered so that it served merely as an impetus for Phil to stand up for himself and his passion projects such as the Headscratcher. Jay’s desire not to always appease Manny was completely in keeping with his character, as was Gloria’s sense of being overprotective of her son. Alex distracting Haley while she was driving was the foundation for a fun shared cover-up during which Haley performed commendably and Alex proved less than self-assured. The fact that they confessed a mere three seconds before the third pumpkin landed and dented the car in the same spot was hilarious. Phil’s charge of “the Pritchetts versus the dreamers” was highly entertaining, and I like how the stiff Pritchetts managed to garner up some unusual enthusiasm for the fantastical after Cameron’s first pumpkin launch failed somewhat spectacularly. The episode’s Thanksgiving theme was perfect for the unification that proceeded and brought the entire extended family, believers and non-believers, together to really launch those pumpkins into the air and across the full length of the football field.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 8 “Thanksgiving” (B+)

This holiday-themed episode proves to be probably the show’s best and most consistent outing to date, featuring some excellent character interactions and a decent amount of unexpected supplementary drama. This was a brilliant showcase for Cheryl Hines as Dallas, spouting off a number of terrific lines, including “Even if I’m not doing something fun, it’s probably fun” and “That kind of hair is all wrong for a dead body.” Offering to take her to lunch anywhere if she got her hair straightened was a nice gesture, and it prompted some immense cleverness on Tessa’s part, garnering her a trip to New York City. It’s been easy to forget that Manhattan is really not that far away, yet it just seems like that because Tessa has been banished to the suburbs. Dallas’ excitement about buying counterfeit bags and shoes off the street in the city and her desire to buy the painting in the museum were quite hilarious. George being in Manhattan with some woman was a huge surprise, and it definitely irked Tessa more than anything, ultimately earning her a trip to Manhattan for some traditional black-and-white milkshakes. That was considerably more bearable than the suburban obsession with this “Gobble, Gobble” festival, which proved uncomfortable and ridiculous. I enjoyed seeing a brief snapshot of Noah’s family, with Gillian Vigman as his spiteful wife and his daughter Jenna, who was born prematurely so that they wouldn’t have to cancel their cruise, and I’d love to see more of them. At the Shay home, Lisa’s naked attempt at defiance was very funny, and one of its most memorable moments was Ryan’s somehow comprehensible pep talk about Ace Ventura.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 14 “Horse to Water” (B+)

It’s fitting that Annie would only be reminded of her specialty skills when they came into conflict with her morals. Trying to turn sisters against each other is just the thing that Annie wouldn’t want to do as she is continually forced to abandon her sister at nearly every turn thanks to the high demands of her job. This episode was full of guest stars, starting with Bruce Davison as the father in jail who had been convicted of selling secrets to the Russians. His first daughter was played by Alexandra Holden, probably recognizable to most as Ross’ student girlfriend Elizabeth from “Friends,” and the other sister was portrayed by Jamie Allman, formerly Jamie Brown, who I know best as Vic’s prostitute informant Connie from “The Shield.” This mission was particularly meaningful because it saw Annie actually befriend her mark and find some tranquility in horse riding and normal conversation. Back at the office, we were treated to an unusual interaction of men, as Jai asked Auggie to give him advice on how best to beef up his new and autonomous department. Jai seemed to be playing nice, and Auggie was being kind and generous with his counsel, and therefore it’s especially difficult to see Jai go in and steal two of Auggie’s best guys right out from under him. With both Joan and Auggie against him now, Jai does not seem at all concerned with making friends in his new position, something which I’m sure will come back to haunt him soon enough.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 3, Episode 10 “Mr. Honesty” (B+)

It’s not often that listening to Crosby is the sensible thing to do, but in this case, that might have been just what Adam should have done. His sarcastic articulation of just how badly she’d take it was right on track. Telling her about the kiss and then saying that he’d let her go was where he really went wrong, and her inevitable call to the studio answered by her set her off in a major way that will take some serious time and damage control to repair. Her decision to go back to work is a productive one, and I’m interested to see where that takes her since I honestly can’t remember much of her working, if anything. The need for Crosby and Jasmine to explain to a heartbroken Jabar that they weren’t going to be getting married seems to have produced a positive reconciliation that will likely be brief, but I hope that it lasts longer and that Dr. Joe doesn’t remain in the picture since they really are a fun couple, and Crosby is much happier when he’s with her. Amber’s rent crisis and simultaneous car breakdown were difficult to watch, and her mother’s designing of a budget plan didn’t help bolster her confidence too much. Most tragic of all was the derailment of the adoption process for Julia and Joel, ruined by Zoe’s manipulative boyfriend Troy. It all seemed a bit too good to be true, but it’s still a real shame that it seems to be done with now.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 4, Episode 12 “Burnt and Purged Away” (A-)

There’s just no stopping the course of events on this show. It’s most intriguing to look at all of the developments in relation to Gemma and how others are perceiving her involvement. Unser simply followed up on their conversation by essentially directing Opie to kill Clay, yet it seems that she’s not ready to give up on him, warning him about the threat so that Opie couldn’t surprise him. Tara is most concerned that she is meddling in her life with Jax, but she’s just as concerned about her future daughter-in-law’s safety, though revealing that to her would be a horrible mistake. Wendy’s timing couldn’t be any worse, and I have a feeling that even if everything worked out with Jax’s exodus from the club, which it certainly won’t, she’ll still be a thorn in their sides. Opie shooting Clay was a huge shock, since I would have thought that Jax would have first shot him, but that’s sure to change things dramatically, whether he lives or not. Sadly, that might not even be the most tragically notable event of the hour. Bobby being taken into custody after Otto signed the papers was a hugely dramatic moment, and it’s definitely a game-changer. With the rest of the club soon to be arrested at the meet, there’s going to be precious few members of SAMCRO left to take over the reins. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that Romeo and Luis are still intent on finishing the job and killing Tara. It’s a good thing that we got an extra episode and that there are two full hours left to resolve everything.

What I’m Watching: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 1, Episode 7 “Lonely Ghosts” (B+)

On any other show, a dream might not have as much meaning, but it’s clear that Amy puts stock in everything that happens in her life, whether in her waking state of while he’s asleep. Her nightmare sent her to Levi’s, which is a dangerous move given that he really doesn’t want the same things from their relationship that she does, given the fact that he’ll sleep in bed with her one night and then invite another lady friend over the next. This episode was more about other romances, however, mainly that between Tyler and Amy, with whom he’s obviously smitten. Her response to his melancholy comment about being tired of being alone was appropriately serene – “We’re all alone, in a way” – but he hit back just as powerfully by replying “Some of us are more alone.” He was smart to suggest setting Dougie up with someone following his ego-boosting promotion to some sort of VP. The real surprise was that, despite her initial worries about him being “pervy,” Harper actually thought that Dougie was cute and was more than happy to go for him. Somewhat unexpectedly, it was his overly aggressive attitude towards Amy that ultimately ruined the mood, resulting in her trying to break the match by telling Harper that she would be an idiot to date him. Krista’s idea to set Amy up with someone is perhaps more intriguing, and I’d be interested to see what kind of man she’d go for aside from the three with whom we’ve already seen her interact on this show.

What I’m Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 3, Episode 7 “Forget the Herring” (B+)

For a show that flies relatively under the radar, this series manages to get some fairly impressive guest stars. I was delighted to see Isla Fisher in a rather subdued and fantastic role as Rose, a fellow sperm bank baby whose detective skills rivaled and more often than not outweighed Jonathan’s abilities. Stacy Keach, recently seen on “Lights Out,” popped up as Harrison Bergeron, who turned out to be not only Jonathan’s father but also Rose’s, which means that the two are actually siblings, a fact that, if true, is sure to throw Jonathan for quite a loop. Not bothering to hire donors and simply donating all the sperm yourself is one way to run a sperm bank, but it hardly seems like a good idea. While Jonathan is preoccupied, it’s fun to see George and Ray continuing to forge their relationship, highlighted by George’s apparently offensive act of putting Ray’s art up on the fridge as if he were a child. It makes sense that George would be nervous to perform in front of people given that Josephine really only slept with him and didn’t teach him to sing. He actually did a good job before running out and having his song picked up by a somewhat off-key Ray. Both men had more important quests, however. Despite threats from a perturbed neighbor, George seems to have accomplished his mission of attaining forgiveness from Emily. Ray, unfortunately, didn’t have as much luck with his impromptu proposal, and I hope he’s able to bounce back from his rejection.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls

2 Broke Girls: Season 1, Episode 10 “And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving” (B+)

Here we have our first themed episode of this show, and it’s actually two holiday celebrations wrapped into one. Following the timeline of the show, it stands to reason that this would be Caroline’s first real world holiday season experience, one for which she was woefully unprepared. Finding out that she used to serve meals to the homeless was a surprise, and it’s nice that she and Max opted to use the diner to do just that before their 5am shift with Santa. Those less than thrilled with the supporting characters may be more pleased after this episode, where Oleg uttered not one sexual punchline but instead donated his own movie from his New Hampshire cigarette business to pay for the turkeys that Han was less than eager to purchase. Han’s comment about all of the Jewish holidays being so confusing was quite funny as well. Seeing Max and Caroline essentially swap places as Max made an unexpectedly good Mrs. Claus while Caroline had a holiday breakdown in front of all the kids was a fun change from the norm, and getting Caroline to hate Mary Christmas didn’t prove as difficult as it initially seemed it might. Caroline’s foray into baking was predictably unproductive and plagued with trouble, though it did lead to my favorite lien from the episode, via Max of course: “If we could afford cocaine, we could afford a nicer blender!” Their total saved so far didn’t go up much, but this episode certainly helped them gain some new and important life experiences.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What I’m Watching: Terra Nova

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 8 “Vs.” (C)

As I see it, this show is currently suffering from three major problems, all evidenced strongly in this episode. The first is a complete and total lack of stakes. The extent of Boylan’s torture is the blaring of a siren and the spiking of his food, which leads to his being released with no charges despite the fact that he was indisputably communicating directly with a known enemy. Secondly, the web of characters is far too small, and it leads to far too much silliness and constantly shifting loyalties. Malcolm’s discovery of Elisabeth’s mystery skeleton has him reporting her to Taylor moments later, and then the dragonfly flies directly to Jim’s home. After Jim is released, Mark, the arresting officer, has to ask him if he’s allowed to dance with his daughter, to which he politely agrees. Zoe getting the lead in the Harvest Festival play isn’t much of a surprise, considering the fact that Maddy is somehow the director. Where is this show’s lone interesting character, Skye, when we need her? Thirdly, a dragonfly with a chip in it is interesting and all, but where are the dinosaurs? It can’t be that advanced if Taylor was able to replicate a signal so swiftly to try to frame Jim, and watching Mark, Alicia, Taylor, and Malcolm awkwardly chasing the dragonfly around camp was almost comical. The flashback to Taylor’s mentor arriving was helpful only in that it establishes that he was telling the truth, and I’m not sure what to make of the shot of Lucas watching the fireworks at episode’s end since, like much in this episode, it provides us so with little to new no information.

What I’m Watching: How to Make It in America (Season Finale)

How to Make It in America: Season 2, Episode 8 “What’s In a Name?” (B+)

The short length of this show’s seasons makes it feel like it’s there one day and gone the next. This has been a productive season, seeing the boys make some impressive business moves only to have the real world rear its ugly head, and following Rene as his path to legitimacy doesn’t go exactly as planned. Then we have our fringe characters, who find themselves in unexpected new places as the show heads to hiatus before presumably returning for a third season sometime long from now. Kaplan only has to spend fifty-three days in jail, which is good, and he seems determined to leave something behind, mainly the memory of a good 25th hour party and some sage advice for Kaplan about the relative value of money. Rachel’s return to Edie didn’t yield much, and fortunately she has found a brand new job offer from Tim that might actually make her happy. Cam did well for himself, preventing a premature death for him and Domingo and instead proposing a business solution to Everton. At the same time, Rene’s snatching of the wrong guy resulted in Everton’s secret boyfriend being kidnapped instead, providing him with just the leverage he needed to get the Caribbean community off his back. Sadly, Debbie seems to be done with him, and I’m sure he won’t rebound from that well. Ben’s attempt to change the name of Crisp to Crunch so that he can keep the better name for himself didn’t go too smoothly, and accidentally revealing his affair with Nancy wasn’t bright either. Somehow, it looks like things are looking up, as Andy Sussman is back in and has just one question for our boys, which is “What’s next?” With that rallying cry, I certainly hope we get a chance to see just what is in store for these characters.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Luis Guzman as Rene

Take Three: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 1, Episode 3 “A New Birth of Freedom” (B+)

Things on this show are still sort of still in a state of transition, yet it’s becoming increasingly clear what the focus of this show will be. Cullen finding Johnson’s pictures and singling out Harper as the only one he hasn’t killed is the latest step in the one of the more short-term arcs, and the search for Lily Bell is the other continuing plotline that will eventually have to be resolved. The Swede is not prepared to be so forgiving to Cullen despite Durant giving him the foreman job. There seems to be an interesting connection between Cullen and Elam that’s founded on the shared secret of knowing who really killed Johnson and general sarcastic remarks to each other made in front of the rest of the crew. I’m pleased to see Dohn Norwood, a past AFT Award winner for his guest spot on “The Closer,” as Psalms, who is more than comfortable giving Elam a hard time for not helping out with the work after promising that they’d do all their own work and the others’ as well. Elam himself is a man ahead of his time, stepping into a brothel determined not to end up dead and be treated just like anyone else. Cullen performed a rather painful-looking arrow extraction from Lily’s shoulder, and after taking her off Joseph’s hands, he intriguingly decided to let her go rather than hand her over to Durant’s people. The bigwig is proving to be the show’s most smooth-talking character, stopping by Mickey and Sean’s booth and then quoting a different passage after Reverend Cole may his “lay down your swords” speech. I have a strong feeling that he’s going to get what he wants, no matter the cost.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 3, Episode 8 “I, Sandee or This Sex. Which Is. Not One.” (B+)

You have to give Lenore credit for trying so hard to bring down everything Tanya and Ray have worked so hard to build. It’s not all that difficult, given that Jessica’s presence at a class forces Tanya to alter her entire curriculum and sends Ray packing so as not to get spotted. Her revelation to the group that Ray’s most prized instrument didn’t always do it for her definitely threw him for a loop, and finding out that Logan also faked it sometimes wasn’t too good for his already iffy ego of late. It’s clear that the class is really doing a lot for Jessica, especially considering the miserable state of affairs at work with Mindy shouting about her so that the entire office can hear. The fact that she loves the class so much also seems to be influencing Tanya, who resented Ray’s comment that the class is a hooey. Sandee’s continued attempts at controlling Jason are not headed anymore good, and Lenore’s failure to forgive Jason has sent him on a very dangerous path. His decision to offer Jessica a free session is a terrible idea that can only have negative consequences, and Ray is sure to have drummed up some trouble by showing up to their date and punching Jason in the face. The brief return of Mike towards episode’s end offered Ray a chance to rain on his wedding parade, though this episode’s best wedding-oriented scene was definitely the “on-the-house” session that Ray gave bridesmaid Logan.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 8 “Achilles Heel” (B+)

Now that Walker has been revealed to be alive, everything has changed, yet there’s still plenty of unknown and highly dangerous information to be discovered. The introduction of the previously dormant plotline involving Brody being groomed to be a politician is back in full force as Saul and Brody find themselves in the same social circle, and that should be an interesting direction, especially considering the episode-ending revelation that, though he really thought Walker was dead, Brody does have some sort of direct pipeline to Abu Nasir. Carrie’s workplace interaction with Brody was awkward to say the least, and I can’t believe that she came clean with Saul when she wasn’t even going to be found out, and that he took it so well without even giving her a good scolding. Saul’s having enough problems in his personal life, desperate to keep his wife from going to India despite his ever-present Achilles’ Heel, which is that he goes when his work calls him, no matter what else might be interrupted as a result. It was obvious that having Helen Walker answer the phone to keep Tom on the line wasn’t going to go smoothly, and getting two Muslim worshippers killed in pursuit of him is about as bad as it can get. Tom seems to be focused on two things only – completing his mission and remembering his family – and the way he was able to evade his pursuers demonstrates that he’s a serious threat, and that Carrie and everyone else from the CIA and the FBI are not going to have an easy time catching him.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 6 “Secrets” (B+)

For a man who’s not too good with keeping secrets, Glenn seems to have found himself with a double whammy, burdened with the knowledge both of the zombies in the barn and of Lori’s pregnancy. Fortunately, he chose to confide in Hershel, who confronted both parties about their clandestine acts but did so privately and gracefully. Hershel’s outlook on the zombies is particularly interesting and groundbreaking, perceiving them as sick people who shouldn’t simply be put down due to their current state. Maggie shared that same view before coming face-to-face with a rather unkillable zombie in the drugstore, which rattled her enough to give Lori a peace of her mind and freak out at Glenn. It’s nice that her insulting of Glenn actually comes wrapped in a compliment, and it’s true that he’s incredibly helpful in a tight spot and one of the most dependable of the group. Now that he’s conscious, Carl seems ready to get back to growing up, desiring to shoot a gun and all. Rick discovering Lori’s pregnancy and abortion attempt got him quite upset, but he didn’t seem to mind all that much finding out about her affair with Shane, revealing that he knew all along. The most chilling event of the hour was Dale’s third intense confrontation, this time with Shane, telling him that he knows what he is. Shane’s response was unsettling at best, telling him that if he was willing to shoot his best friend, imagine what he’d do to some guy he didn’t even like. That kind of talk can’t lead to anything good.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 3, Episode 9 “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (B+)

Out of all the wacky and memorable judges that have appeared on this show, Linda Emond’s Judge Leora Kuhn is perhaps one of the best. Her disdain for Will is her most entertaining trait, and I love that this case, which presented an unusual guilty verdict, allowed her to have a more dramatic scene as she discussed the ethics of Sergeant Regina Elkins’ conviction. Forcing Will to repeat his muttered comments to Alicia about her out loud was a great introduction, and watching Alicia push just the right amount of her buttons was very amusing as well. The discovery that Wendy Scott Carr is Peter’s new prosecutor and that she is gunning fully for Will and not for Lamont Bishop means that danger is truly lurking near. Diane was smart to tell Will to get his affairs in order and stop sleeping with Alicia, a command to which I doubt he’ll listen. Kalinda’s lack of interest in seducing Dana since it would be too easy is beyond intriguing, and it seems that Dana’s already taken to sleeping with Cary instead. Eli’s efforts to lobby for cheese are hilarious, and Amy Sedaris’ Stacie Hall seems like the perfect enemy for him. In a rare moment of patience, Diane’s willingness to wallow and to drink with him in order to rally him back to a vengeful, aggressive state was unexpected and seemed to be much needed. In terms of shows of force, there’s no beating Alicia, who, upon discovering that Jackie had spied on her computer, promptly changed the locks and sarcastically told her off, going as far as buying Zack a car so that he wouldn’t need a ride from her to get to Peter’s anymore.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 6, Episode 8 “Sins of Omission” (B+)

There’s something fitting about Dexter using a blood-soaked bible to help lead serial killers back to the path of righteousness. It’s not something that would ever have been expected, but in the wake of Sam’s death, it seems to make sense, and it was working on Travis, had it not been for some tragic interference from Gellar. Finding out that it was in fact Lisa that Gellar had killed and framed as the Whore of Babylon was devastating, and Gellar’s knocking out and abduction of Travis was a blow for Dexter. Fortunately, Dexter’s productivity and visit to the priest, which was quite interesting in itself, led him right to Gellar’s church. His entrance was reminiscent of Lila coming in to find prisoner Doakes, and hopefully the consequences won’t be nearly as deadly for either party. Gellar running means that Travis needs to stay off the radar of both the police and Gellar, but that shouldn’t be a huge problem with Dexter’s help. I’m more worried about Deb, whose card popped up on Lisa’s dead body, and who is digging too much in this latest overdose case, in which Laguerta is apparently protecting someone. Deb’s feeling of betrayal was evident when she found Dexter’s Nebraska motel pen, and it’s nice that she came over to cook him steaks, although she really doesn’t know how her brother operates at all. Batista having dinner with Louis and Jamie was funny, and I just hope that Batista’s protective nature doesn’t result in Jamie resenting him.

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 2, Episode 9 “Battle of the Century” (B+)

After last week’s monumental events, not all that much feels different, as Nucky moves to focus in on his illegitimate businesses and Esther’s case against him proceeds. The two burials of the patriarch Thompson were notable in their own ways, with Nucky actually smuggling guns in the coffin in exchange for Irish whiskey from John McGarrigle, and a distraught Eli putting him in the ground back home. Nucky showing off the gun performance was a formidable display, and it seems that things worked out when McGarrigle was taken out upon Nucky’s departure and the deal was approved. Back home, Emily’s polio diagnosis is truly sad, especially considering Margaret’s state of mind, which Nucky only becomes aware of as he’s about to board the boat back from Belfast. The fact that Esther is sleeping with her subordinate Clifford doesn’t necessarily mean much, but her investigation sure does seem to be proceeding as dim-witted deputy Halloran slips up and reveals that he does know the name Hans Schroeder. After some third-person business with Remus, Jimmy’s latest partnership means that Manny is a dead man. Unfortunately for Mr. Darmity, Manny managed to pull off an assassination defense even more impressive than Tony Soprano, leaving him with nothing but an Atlantic City matchbox and one hell of a need for vengeance. Jimmy’s newfound popularity with the ladies won’t help him much if Manny comes looking for him, and he better hope he finds a way to make things right that doesn’t involve one of his loyal soldiers like Richard paying the price.

What I’m Watching: Boss

Boss: Season 1, Episode 5 “Remembered” (B+)

It’s absolutely fascinating to see this crew of hard-working political people jump into serious spin mode when Tom was revealed to have signed a document related to the water pollution when in a previous position so many years back. Ezra’s three-pronged strategy was quite brilliant, and it was so impressive to see it play out on the screens in front of them, with Kitty carefully watching each news channel to see the focus change from Chicago to Bensenville. Kitty tasking her underlings with planting for sale signs on lawns demonstrated both the extremes to which she was willing to go and her ability to think on her feet and swiftly solve problems. Tom managed to have two terrifically intimidating and awful moments in this episode, the first involving him pulling his pants down and going to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting and the second involving a tirade against the half-assed nature of gluten-free muffins. I’ve heard plenty of arguments against being vegan, but never one quite as harsh as that one. Despite his strong moments, Tom seems to be hallucinating to a disturbing degree, imagining everyone in his life in his office when Ezra was talking to him and then conjuring up an image of Meredith comforting him after seeing him drop his pills. His meeting with Emma where she apologized to him led him to break down on the elevator, and he doesn’t even know what’s happening at that same moment, with Ben being promised many things by Cullen and others if he drops out of the race.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 2, Episode 9 “Fair Trade” (B)

This episode was full of action and major developments, and I’m not going to say no to that. I’ll start with the less impressive of the two plotlines, which is Alex’s creative journey back to her homeland. Posing as a trafficked sex worker and then calling immigration was a clever idea, and it’s a shame that Malik Yoba’s immigration agent was actually in the pocket of some traffickers back in Russia. What was annoying about the otherwise strong storyline was the presence of the dubious girl, constantly bothering Alex about her past and how something wasn’t right. Alex was seriously impressive when she took out the guards and killed the immigration agent just for effect, and hopefully her progress in Russia won’t be derailed too much by the fact that Sean is tracking her via her watch. Speaking of planted trackers, Birkhoff’s successful meeting with Madeline’s assistant Alison allowed for Nikita to be present at the big meeting of the clandestine group, which would have gone well had Division not discovered and traced their comm system. Maggie Q’s running speed is awesome, and Nikita’s move to throw a ball at a cop’s head to get away wasn’t too shabby either. Nikita freaked out at Michael when Birkhoff was taken, and I’m glad she got herself back in the game enough to plan a daring escape by helicopter. Amanda slicing Birkhoff’s hand was a formidable form of torture, and I’m glad that the only recently sympathetic techie didn’t have to endure too much of that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I’m Watching: Chuck

Chuck: Season 5, Episode 4 “Chuck Versus the Business Trip” (B+)

It’s a bit of a strange idea to have the Intersect not be a part of this show, but this installment indicates that the show is capable of functioning just fine without it, though the direction that we’ll now be headed in its remaining nine episodes is unclear. I’m somewhat perplexed about Chad Decker’s role in all this and his publicly professed glee for the fact that there was still a hit out on Morgan, but it did provide a good setup for a fun and somewhat unconventional episode. Chuck and Sarah have gone undercover together before, but there was something about this time that felt different, partly because they were actually thinking about whether this could be their real life. That’s the theme of this season, and if it weren’t for bunny-loving partiers, strangling-prone bartenders, and duplicitous would-be friends, they might actually have a shot at peaceful bliss. It was a treat to see Catherine Dent from “The Shield” as the Viper, and I would have enjoyed seeing her in a recurring role. It seems, however, that lifelong spies Casey and Sarah have managed to handle that problem swiftly and immediately, enabling everyone to have a few moments of rest and relaxation as they gather together at Awesome and Ellie’s place. That would be the case if not for one of two major arrests at episode’s end, which found Casey being taken into custody for murder by Chad and Lester arrested at Jeff’s suggestion as well. In an episode full of action, the supporting humor involving Casey’s movie recommendations provided some nice comic relief.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 5, Episode 15 “Necessary Evil” (B+)

While it’s true that all the merry members of Michael’s band work together well, there’s no denying the strength of Sam and Jesse as partners. The CIA clearly feels the same way, as Pearce instructed Michael to bring them in since his Liberian history might lead to him being recognized and compromised. Sam’s cool attitude coupled with Jesse’s nerdy reassurances helped them keep a lid on a chaotic situation that could have turned fatal quickly. I realized immediately that guest star Rick Gomez, who I’ve seen before on shows like “Cupid,” had to be the brother of Joshua Gomez, best known as Morgan on “Chuck,” because the two look nearly identical. It’s always great to see Michael be creative and figure out a plan like blowing up something outside the electric fence in order to cause a reaction inside its supposedly protected boundaries. Pearce being there for that was a nice treat, since it’s interesting to see how Michael works with different people, and she seems to be liking him now than she was several episode back. The revelation that Madeline’s new boyfriend Benny was working for Anson was clearly devastating to Michael’s mom, an emotion Sharon Gless wore on her face when she had to act normal in front of Benny. Hearing his conversation with Anson clarified that he wasn’t doing it maliciously and hadn’t realized the extent of what he’d been forced to do, not unlike Michael, and as seems to happen quite often on this show, as soon as he was revealed to be an ally, his house blew up and he was gone, an event sure to cause Madeline some serious emotional distress.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 8 “Foe” (B+)

And the guest stars just don’t stop coming! I do think this is the first time that I’ve ever seen Alan Dale not in a position of high power, as he has had on “Lost,” “24,” “The O.C.,” “The X-Files,” “Ugly Betty,” and “Entourage.” Influence aside, he does possess just the right demeanor, however to play a German assassin hunting down defectors. What was groundbreaking about Cole is that Reese seemed to know from the very start that he was a villain rather than a victim, and he was actually a match for Reese, managing to subdue him and torture him because he possessed superior skills. Reese was rather impressive in this episode aside from that one hiccup, hijacking the ambulance so that he could get information out of Cole’s latest would-be victim and then shooting the hood of a car in order to get some much-needed face time. Finch being in the field with him led to an amusing conversation between the two men, where Finch said “I’m highly uncomfortable being here,” to which Reese dryly responded, “I’m highly uncomfortable having you here, but I need a spotter.” All of the flashbacks to Reese’s entrance into the mercenary field were intriguing, and I’d like to know more about that. Finding out that Anya was still alive was quite a shock, and Cole did not react well to that news. I was pleased to see Aubrey Dollar from “Women’s Murder Club” pop up as Cole’s long-lost daughter, but I do wish she had been given a more substantial role.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 8, Episode 8 “Gettysburg” (B+)

This is a familiar episode in many ways, with Andy taking everyone on his first poorly-conceived excursion to somewhere completely irrelevant to work and unhelpful to their work ethic. Andy’s enthusiasm was far too high from the start, and leaving the snacks on the locked bus didn’t help the situation much. After much wandering and infighting, Jim’s big speech about how they clearly like Andy because they came with him and were wearing the hats was both much-needed and sweet. It’s good for Andy to get a pat on the back every once in a while. Dwight’s obsession with the Battle of Schrute Farms led to a hilarious revelation that had Dwight defeated and Oscar beaming, and I enjoyed Erin’s mixed reaction to the two of them telling her what to think. Back at the office, Robert’s casual drop-by turned into a rather pathetic pitch session, with Ryan being overenthusiastic, Stanley trying too hard, and Pam just plain giving up midway through her presentation. The fact that Kevin’s idea turned out to be the one he liked was great, and it was made funnier by the fact that a fed-up Ryan felt the need to make clear to Robert that Kevin really was just talking about cookies the whole time. During the cold open, Pam faking her water breaking was funny, and I loved her she went so far as to use a water bottle to really sell it, only to have the bottle itself drop and reveal her charade.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What I’m Watching: Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Season 4, Episode 8 “Smallest Park” (B+)

It’s episodes like these that make it seem like very little gets done in the Parks & Recreation department, as several members are out creating the world’s smallest park, others take an entire day to come up with a new font for the logo, and others are completely out of the office shopping for college courses. The smallest park, amusing as it was, also presented the opportunity for Leslie to make a last desperate attempt to draw out her professional relationship with Ben by making the project go on forever. Calling her a steamroller then led to Ann’s agreeing with that statement, and Leslie’s attempt to rectify the situation. I’m so glad that Ben and Leslie are throwing caution to the wind and deciding that being happy together is worth it, and I can’t wait to see where it takes them. Tom’s extraordinary efforts to choose a new font were rather ridiculous, but his 1970s formatting turned out to be quite a good idea. I did enjoy Tom’s vented frustration with the possibility of turning into Jerry, whose life actually sounded quite pleasant. Andy searching out college courses is almost as fun as Andy picking up random items in the supermarket, and I liked how April and Ron were almost perched on his shoulders giving him contradictory advice. His devastation at the lack of actual lasers in that class and his complete misunderstanding of women’s studies were among the high points of his educational endeavors, and it’s sweet that Ron was kind enough to sponsor his higher learning.

What I’m Watching: Psych

Psych: Season 6, Episode 6 “Shawn, Interrupted” (B+)

This show has always been up for creating tributes to classic movies, and therefore it’s only fair that they tackle another Jack Nicholson movie after showing pictures of Henry at a retirement home in an episode reminiscent of “The Shining.” The casting of Brad Dourif was great, since his debut film role, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, was in “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest.” His performance was good, but this episode was really all about Shawn and how well he seemed to fit in at the mental institution. Juliet’s comments about it being her nightmare, first with him inside and then that he’d like it, were funny, though it really would nice to see more of Juliet than just a few moments per episode. Gus’ undercover role as an orderly is exactly the type of unfortunate position in which Gus always seems to end up, but he didn’t mind this time as he got to have a bit of romance with Vivian when she didn’t think she was a man named Frank. During that scene that belongs in a mental hospital horror movie, it was amusing to hear Shawn describe just what his function was as a psychic with an orderly friend who actually sells pharmaceuticals. The case in this episode turned out to have plenty of twists and turns, and I’ll admit to having been confused more than a few times about exactly who was or wasn’t crazy and who might be out to get them.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 8 “After the Fire” (B+)

Here we had a brilliant comedy episode that was firing on all cylinders. Jay throwing his back out was merely the beginning, which led to a surprisingly relaxing massage from Phil and Jay’s accidental blurting out of affection. I liked how annoyed Jay was and that it turned out that Phil didn’t even hear him. What was truly moving was Jay’s advice to Phil about taking the new job: “Do you want this? Then gamble on yourself.” Claire’s frustration with Gloria’s bonding with Mitchell was most worthwhile for the scene it provoked where Gloria flat-out told her that she liked Mitchell more, mainly because he liked her back. Cam’s attempted manliness never goes as planned, and his truck-driving abilities were not terribly impressive. Alex and Haley starting a fight to get sent out of the house rather than help was clever, though I suppose being sentenced to accompany Cam wasn’t much better than actually having to help. Cam’s apology was awkward as always, when he discovered that the girls didn’t have faith because he was Cam rather than because he was gay. It’s never boring to see Haley proven wrong when it comes to her feud with her sister, and Alex letting her hair down worked wonders when it came to getting the plane back. Anytime that Luke and Manny are together is a delight, and Manny’s frustration with his use of foul language and Luke’s ability to be a bad influence were among the highlights of that particular plotline.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 7 “Sweet Sixteen” (B+)

It’s a rare occasion that we get to see Tessa display some actual enthusiasm for something. She’s not the type of person to want a big, splashy party, but Dallas is exactly the type of person to want to be involved in planning one, even if it’s not for her. I enjoyed just how manipulative she was with getting Tessa to do what she wanted, and suggesting Dahlia as her party planner was the ultimate surprise. I did like the unusual showcase for Dahlia, who was able to be more than just a one-note joke with her back-scratching pencil and severe party planning aggression that involved getting Malik and Lisa, better known as Tessa’s only friends, out of her own party. The sight of Tessa dancing awkwardly to the terrible music all by herself was somewhat uncomfortable, but it’s nice to see her embracing her free spirit. For someone who used to be excellent at playing a crazy person (on “Six Feet Under”), Jeremy Sisto sure is good at playing a frightening person being assailed, or in this case, tended to, by a crazy person. I’m increasingly impressed with his comic abilities and timing. Finding a gray hair on his chest and throwing out his back served as great catalysts for a terrorizing show of care by Sheila and a fortunate rescue by Dallas that enabled him to daringly break out of the house and go be there for his daughter when he thought that he would need her most.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 2, Episode 13 “A Girl Like You” (B+)

I love that this show just has Oded Fehr on call to come guest-star as Eyal whenever he’s needed. Annie’s initial meeting with him in the bar was a great moment, and I really do like their unique relationship. It was evident most in the fact that it later turned physical, finally, which was actually just a ruse by Annie so that she could handcuff him to the bed, something that made Eyal smile rather than get angry or annoyed. He’s not one to go down easy, of course, managing to take down his attackers before Annie came to his rescue with the frame of the bed to which his hands were still attached. Tying in this week’s plotline with the death of his sister helped add some emotional resonance, and he does seem to be one of the few true allies and friends that Annie has. Auggie’s growing concern for his new romantic interest and her forthcoming relocation to Eritrea is sweet, and it’s nice that Joan was willing to help. One person who definitely doesn’t like Joan is Jai, and it’s actually quite uncomfortable to see the two of them try to embarrass each other while in the presence of other people. Jai’s arrogant attitude and effective insubordination isn’t helping, and neither is Joan’s aggressive need to try to put Jai in his place. As the old saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies? I’m sure there’s more bad blood to come between them that will likely have an unfortunate impact on a mission.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 3, Episode 9 “Sore Loser” (B+)

This was definitely an episode abut parenthood, demonstrating one instance of a child being irresponsible, another of a child treating others poorly, and another of a child being treated poorly by others. Of the three, Drew’s D in math was hardly the most serious, and mostly involved Sarah getting some unsolicited but meaningful advice from Camille and from Mark. Amber was the more problematic child, so I have faith that Sarah and Drew will be just fine, especially considering the fact that she was able to apologize to him even if that’s not what she wanted to do. Sydney’s inability to lose led to quite the temper tantrum, and we haven’t really seen Joel and Julia have to resort to discipline up until this point. Fortunately, it seems that she’s getting better at losing, going so far as to shake her grandfather’s hand after admitting defeat. Max getting made fun of at school behind his back is sad, and good for Kristina for taking a stand and yelling at Louis, and hopefully it won’t backfire with even harsher treatment for Max. I sure hope that Adam’s accidental indiscretion – which was more Rachel’s fault anyway – doesn’t get him in trouble, especially considering just how quickly he stopped it from turning into something. Drew seems to be finding young love in the form of Amy, and if he’s lucky, he’ll have just as many lines in subsequent episodes as he’s been given in recent hours, and his relationship might actually last a decent time.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 4, Episode 11 “Call of Duty” (A-)

Just when this show seems like it can’t get any more intense, it does just that. The condition of Gemma’s face is appalling to everyone who sees it, yet no one really does all that much about it, save for Unser, who tells Clay he’ll kill him if he ever hurts her again, and Tig, who feels compelled to turn in his sergeant-at-arms patch. Wendy’s return couldn’t have come at a worse time, and it upset Tara enough for her to damage her hand even more. Hopefully, Tara’s Providence job will still come through, though something tells me Jax isn’t getting out of this anytime soon. Kozik’s death was a startling moment, over so quick and not mourned until long after the Sons and the cartel had vacated the minefield. Juice’s quick trek back through the minefield was frightening, and I was surprised that he came clean with Chibs about his father’s identity. It’s a good thing that Chibs didn’t mind, but Juice calling in to check in with Linc right after that means that his loyalties are now divided. The club has to worry much more about Otto, who wants his execution moved up as part of his terms and also wants to be able to talk to Bobby face-to-face. Georgie was never going to survive for long, but his death was still chilling, as Bobby promised not to kill him before having Opie and Tig shoot up the trunk. Opie’s frustration with learning the truth about Jax wanting to get out is understandable, and he’s about to be a hell of a lot more mad. Unser telling him that Clay killed him was a smart move, but I just hope that this doesn’t lead to too many more dead bodies.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 1, Episode 6 “Thanksgiving” (B+)

I had a feeling that it might just take some time to get into this show, though the initial enthusiasm bestowed upon it by so many made me doubt that. At this point, however, the characters have become endearing and the plotlines creative despite a somewhat limiting premise. It’s hard to pull off a novel Thanksgiving episode since there have been about 684 of them produced in the history of television, and I have to give this show credit for crafting and entertaining and decently inventive half-hour. The introduction of Justin Long’s character Paul is fun because he really is a male version of Jess, and it’s fun to see the guys react to the sight of the two of them together. Of course the guys would be planning a laidback, effortless Dudesgiving, though they weren’t so into Schmidt’s name, and therefore would be thrown for a loop when Jess suddenly decided they had to put something together because she invited Paul over. Hanksgiving turned out to be a blast, and not in a good way for our resident apartment-dwellers, as the dryer got broken thanks to the brilliant idea to use it to thaw out the turkey and there was too much smoke to be able to stay in the apartment. Jess’ anger with Nick over his attitude towards Paul was another great instance of their complicated yet seemingly still platonic relationship. What I really loved was how Cece realized that she was into Schmidt, but only when he was mean to her, which resulted in her getting over the crush because he started apologizing and being nice again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What I’m Watching: Ringer

Ringer: Season 1, Episode 9 “Shut Up and Eat Your Bologna” (C+)

Bridget and Malcolm have finally managed to start putting pieces together, but they couldn’t be further away from discovering that Charlie is actually working for a very much alive Siobhan. It does seem to me the Charlie would prepare a slightly more well-researched story with the appropriate props rather than keeping his keys with labeled information lying around for Charlie to find. I’m not sure exactly why Gemma is tied up in his basement rather than actually dead, but I suppose Siobhan might not actually be a cold-blooded killer. It does appear that Bridget’s actions have not been in her control for a while now, as the cop that Bridget supposedly knocked out when she escaped was actually working for Charlie to get her to come to New York. Bridget going to therapy and finding out that Siobhan was taking antidepressants for paranoia is an intriguing development, and I do hope that she soon realizes that Siobhan isn’t out of the picture. Andrew booking a vacation is a nice ideal, but I have a feeling that it’s something that’s never come to come to fruition, especially considering the fact that his preoccupation with his own happiness over business savvy is getting Olivia to work extra hard to get to Gemma’s father against his wishes. If only she hadn’t found that damning photo of Henry and Siobhan on his phone, because something tells me that she’s going to use that fact to her advantage at just the wrong time and really mess things up for Bridget.

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 3, Episode 6 “Mash Off” (C+)

After an episode all about love and waiting for the right time, now we have an installment about the power of words. While Sue’s over-the-top campaigns were actually quite funny, the show somehow crossed a line somewhere in the middle with the sudden involvement of Santana’s sexuality and Burt coming in to address the situation with Sue. Speaking of elections, Rachel withdrawing from the race in the middle of her speech felt a bit forced, and I’m surprised that Kurt isn’t more offended since she essentially boiled it down to doing him a favor so that he’d have something to put on his college application. Mercedes is becoming far too much of a diva, and I think she worked better on the show in a supporting capacity rather than her new leadership position which for some reason included staff member Shelby in the vote. Finn and Santana have never been meaner to each other, and I think they both took it way too far, resulting in Santana getting extremely hurt and taking out her fury on him. I do hope that Puck’s crush on Shelby won’t head anywhere beyond where it’s already gone, and, for that matter, Shelby sticking around for a while might not be the best idea. Quinn is not going to take being cut off from her daughter well, and the mash off was hardly as interesting or exciting as it should have been. Hurtful words aside, there’s too little competition, and the clubs seem a bit too tranquil to each other, musically speaking.

What I’m Watching: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 1, Episode 6 “Sandy” (B+)

It’s interesting to note that this show, unlike most others on the air, follows a one-stream narrative, wherein supporting characters only appear if they are somehow connected to Amy’s story. The show still manages to be extraordinarily intriguing, and that’s largely due to Amy. What this episode brings that those before it have not is a kindred spirit for Amy, though of course her presence turns out to be too good to be true, since part of what makes this show and its protagonist what they are is Amy’s singularity. Robin Wright did a terrific job of making Sandy seem just like Amy yet still somehow cooler and more reserved. Not showing up to teach yoga when Amy managed to enlist a whole crew, including Krista, was an awful thing to do, and even Dougie got on board with the idea because he was excited by the notion of having women with their legs over their heads. Sandy’s efforts to get into Helen and Levi’s psyches were rather aggressive and made Amy’s approach seem subtle. The idea of Levi sleeping with Sandy seemed to truly irk Amy, and he didn’t help the situation at all by acting like he didn’t care what she thought at all. Seeing Sandy’s journal filled only with drawings revealed her to be far less grounded in intellectual development than Amy, who bid her former friend farewell by telling her that there are things Sandy will never know about her, after which Sandy simply disappeared off into the airport.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I’m Watching: Bored to Death

Bored to Death: Season 3, Episode 6 “Two Large Pearls and a Gold Bar” (B+)

There was somewhat about this episode that felt very smooth and stylized, and everything that came out of Jonathan’s mouth sounded like a warped, ridiculous version of what a true private detective might so. His belief that he would be good at guarding something because he never loses his sunglasses and most people do wasn’t exactly reassuring, and his desire to stick to his principles would have been more compelling had he been able to identify them (not quite as grievous an error as Rick Perry’s). I enjoyed the two prominent guest stars in this episode, Casey Wilson from “Happy Endings” and Rene Auberjonois from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and, more recently, “Boston Legal.” Wilson’s Patty was rather batty and quite obsessed with sex, and Jonathan was in position to defend himself against his charms. The two of them and George and Ray proved to be terrible guardians of the prized jewels, but given that it was Mr. Stevenson who stole them for the insurance money, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway. The call Jonathan received about his father at the end of the episode should prove fruitful in the coming episodes, given that we’re already three quarters of the way through this season. The final two installments will likely focus also on Ray finding a way to get Leah to forgive him and George coming to terms with his latest near-romance and finding a way to have some sort of relationship with his daughter and her new fiancée.

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls

2 Broke Girls: Season 1, Episode 9 “And the Really Petty Cash” (B+)

It makes sense that Caroline and Max’s first big cupcake job would involve some demeaning behavior, both planned and unplanned, and wouldn’t actually result in fiscal fruition. Much as he may be oddly charming, Johnny really is not a good influence on Max, compelling her to make bad decisions and not enabling her to focus on what she really wants. Fortunately, Caroline is keeping an eye on her best friend, with layered remarks about being out of pie when she sees that Johnny is taking advantage of Max and hardly breaking up with his present girlfriend Cashandra. Needing to circulate and actually give out the cupcakes was a bit demoralizing, not to mention unproductive, and I enjoyed that they both let loose and just got messy, creatively finding a way to take home the $500. Cashandra’s comment about preferring chocolate cupcakes to vanilla was rather harsh and somewhat unnecessarily cruel. I did like that the spell Johnny cast over Max made her nice, unable to present witty retorts at every opportunity, which understandably got Caroline worried. It’s a shame that Caroline had to shell out the $500 they made to buy Johnny’s painting of the two of them kissing, but I suppose that Max’s foot going through it, however manipulated, was therapeutic. On the supporting side of things, Oleg was actually helpful for once in trying to get Johnny to notice Max, and the brief interaction between Han and Earl was mildly amusing, as we got to see a bit into Han’s past.

What I’m Watching: Terra Nova

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 7 “Proof” (C+)

I’m not sure what it is exactly that’s holding this show back, but after a decent episode last week, we’re back to the same subpar silliness that we saw before that. What’s most specifically problematic about this episode is the focus on the Shannon family. I understand that Jim is the head cop and Elisabeth is the head doctor, so to speak, but to highlight their children so extensively, especially sans romantic interests in this hour, makes it seem like everyone and everything else in Terra Nova is insignificant. Josh and Maddy are about the two least subtle human beings on the planet, irrespective of time, and they don’t seem to care about listening to anyone else, sounding out their thoughts and then accepting them despite the contradicting observations of others. When Skye tells you that what you’re doing is crazy, it’s time to listen up, especially if you’re planning on confessing and blowing the whistle on the whole operation just to help save one poor patient. I’m not sure we quite needed Zoe’s constant vampire musings, and there was an incredible lack of stakes when it came to the fake Dr. Horton trying to kill Maddy with a deadly spider moments after letting Zoe run off with an obvious distress message to give to Jim. Now that Taylor is aware that Mira can communicate with the future, one would hope that they’d use Boylan or Josh to their advantage, but I have a feeling that nothing’s going to come of it just yet, given that we’re just past the halfway point of the season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

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

How to Make It in America: Season 2, Episode 7 “The Friction” (B+)

Just when things were looking up, everything’s falling apart, and, surprisingly enough, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Ben is sleeping with Nancy. After all of their hard work, it’s unfortunate to see Ben and Cam so let down by Yosi’s excitable announcement of “Crisp by Yosi.” It seems that one of the guys is almost always for a move while the other is somewhat more against it. Cam was dead set against it, mainly because he wants to be an employer rather than an employee, and I imagine this is going to be a lasting point of contention between him and Ben. The revelation that it was Nancy who recommended Yosi and not the other girls represents a major negative development, and I think that the boys are going to be to square one after this. Cam may be in even worse shape with Rene after him looking to give him a beatdown for his collaboration with Domingo in selling the weed spray with the Rasta Monsta name. The East Flatbush Caribbean League’s involvement is definitely not a good step either. Debbie’s pregnancy comes as something of a surprise, and I’m wondering whether Rene will actually stick around. Unsurprisingly, Rachel is out of a job, and after some shrooms and an argument for free soup, she’s going to need a fresh start. Kaplan going to see Rene about prison was quite entertaining, and I do hope he’ll be alright. It’s crazy to realize that next week is the show’s season finale, but I suppose we’ve come pretty far this season.

Round Two: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 1, Episode 2 “Immoral Mathematics” (B+)

I’m delighted to report that this second installment is a hearty improvement over the first in terms of positive engagement and character development. Most importantly, Anson Mount’s Cullen Bohannon has become infinitely more interesting, managing an impressive escape and then going straight to the man in charge to secure both his life and his job. Having him run right into the tent of Tom Noonan’s Reverend Nathaniel Cole was a great usage of both characters, and it’s intriguing to hear Cole’s take on morality and sin, especially coupled with Joseph Black Moon’s recently-found redemption that compels him to save damsel in distress Lily Bell, who is evidently going to be a survivor given her resilience in the face of excessive bleeding. Most notable about this episode is the introduction of a memorable character to rival the late Daniel Johnson, and that’s the Swede, played by Christopher Heyerdahl, who also stars on Syfy’s “Sanctuary.” His character is absolutely fascinating and his stature and tone dominate the entire episode, which is fantastic. Colm Meaney’s Durant still makes quite an impression though, especially when it comes to mutilating corpses for dramatic effect. I’m glad that episode two proved to be more captivating and coherent, and while I may still need to state actor’s names before their characters for a while yet, I think I could well get into this one. Everyone, namely Bohannon, Durant, and Lily, is going to need to settle down and take up permanent residence somewhere, and then this show about a new mode of transportation should really be able to get started.

What I’m Watching: Hung

Hung: Season 3, Episode 7 “What’s Going on Downstairs or Don’t Eat Prince” (B+)

The way Ray acted to Kayla after being informed by Tanya that she used to be a man was truly deplorable, and the fact that he ultimately came to her rescue and danced with her in front of her former classmates only somewhat makes up for his behavior. What I mentioned last week about Ray being less likeable lately was doubly true in this episode, as he was moody with Jason and Tanya and then whined about how he was doing Kayla a favor, to which she rightly responded that she was paying him for it and that he should really be the one complaining. Ray’s blabbering about his potentially gay son were rather incoherent and embarrassing, and I would have expected much more professionalism from the now-seasoned prostitute. Tanya’s style has never leaned towards aggressive, and therefore Charlie’s violent, Gatorade-sponsored involvement in the intimidation of Jason and Sandee was reasonably frightful. The notion, suggested with his departure, that he was the one who stole Ray’s shoebox takes things to a whole new, unsettling level, since he did always seem to have Tanya’s back, even if he was generally against everyone else in her life. Sandee’s excitement at whoring out her fiancée is rather amusing, and I sure hope that she doesn’t do anything with that porn website and her ill-conceived domain name. Lenore appears to know much more about what’s going on than others think she does, and I suspect that Charlie is going to be the least of Jason and Sandee’s problems in the near future.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Weekend” (A-)

Talk about a whopper of an episode. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether Carrie is deliberately trying to catch Brody in a lie or whether she’s actually falling for him and unable to control herself. Antagonizing a neo-Nazi in a bar filled with his buddies was royally stupid, and it seemed like Carrie is looking for a fight more often than not. Deciding to bring Brody up to her family cabin is a monumental move, and finding out when she can’t locate the key that she’s about to be out of pills was just another sign that she was spiraling out of control. It’s so interesting that she gave herself away with something as simple as giving Brody the type of tea she knew he liked, and I love how everything played out after that. Absolute honesty from professional liars is one of my favorite television tropes, and so to hear Brody admit to being a Muslim and killing Walker and for Carrie to tell him outright that she thinks he’s a terrorist, not the CIA, was fantastic. That coupled with the subsequent revelation that Walker is still alive turned everything on its head, and it frames Brody in a whole new light, especially because his story is likely true given that it matches up perfectly with all the flashback evidence with which we’ve been presented. Saul’s road trip with Aileen was extremely unconventional and enlightening, and it’s a wonder to see the man work. Having him tell Estes to show Aileen Brody’s picture was a huge step, and for it to be so quickly transformed into something else was thrilling. Dana seems to be going out of her way to cause trouble at home, and her harsh words to Mike stung. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what’s going to happen next.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 5 “Chupacabra” (B+)

If there was one person on this show who could survive a dozen zombie apocalypses, it would be Daryl. The hard-headed southerner suffered through quite a bit of agony in this episode, getting himself stuck with an arrow, imagining his vicious brother’s return, finding Sophia’s doll, and then getting shot for his troubles by a trigger-happy Andrea. Carol’s comparison of him to a better father for Sophia was high praise, and not undeserved, despite the gruff nature with which Daryl tends to conduct himself. Rick and Shane really got into it in this hour for the first time in a while, starting off by bonding over Shane’s many high school conquests and then derailing when he pointed out that there was no point reminiscing considering all of those girls were dead. The flashback to the early times of the outbreak with bombs being dropped on the streets was rather haunting, and I do think this show is often strongest when it remembers the not-so-distant past. I would be perfectly content to turn back the clock and see how everyone dealt with the outbreak when it first started and before the human race was truly thinned out. It looks like Glenn has stumbled upon something truly ugly going on in the shed, and I sure hope that Maggie’s recently-developed affection for him will enable them to find a creative solution other than killing him. Things are getting tense enough with Hershel and his guests, and this is definitely going to sour things even more.

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 8, Episode 8 “Suspicion Song” (C+)

I was always a bit worried about Chuck’s character heading down the same path that destroyed Orson, going from loving and mysterious boyfriend slash husband to obsessed stalker determined to make Bree’s life miserable. I’m convinced that Chuck is different, however, because he is offended by Bree continually lying to him and simply determined to seek out justice. It won’t be too hard for him, considering Susan has as good as confessed with her imbecilic painting of the girls standing over the grave, and it shouldn’t take too much digging to discover that Alejandro is Gaby’s stepfather. Leslie Jordan’s art dealer Felix was entertaining for a moment, showing himself to be even harsher than Andre by playing Amy’s painting the trash, but I find it hard to believe that he though Susan to be a young Andre due to one dark painting, and putting her painting into the show against her express wishes was a bit too convenient for the greater plot. Chuck can feel he’s getting close, and I do wonder how this is all going to play out, especially considering the other men – Mike and Ben – who know what really happened. The supporting plotlines were obvious and distracting, with Gaby confiding in the wrong employee about Carlos’ drinking problem and Lynette thinking that Tom wanted to get back together because he sent her flowers for their anniversary. Both of those women’s marriages are in trouble, and I think the plots need about as much mending as the relationships themselves do.