Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 10 “18 Miles Out” (B+)

Things have got to be getting grim when even Rick is thinking about killing innocent people for the sake of his family and his camp. I’m always a fan of open, honest conversations, and Rick telling Shane that he knows both about the affair and the way Otis died was almost as impressive as Shane not even trying to deny it. Their fight was rather intense, and this show does an excellent job of drawing out the terror in moments like the realization that the smashing of the glass has awakened and unleashed a legion of Walkers from within the police station. Rick’s firm words of caution to Shane that it’s his family and he’ll need to follow his lead and trust him if he’s going to be with him were resounding and powerful, and I have a feeling that Shane may fall back into line now that they’ve put everything on the table. I didn’t think that Rick was going to come back for Shane, which would have been an immense character transformation. Randall did himself a disservice by saying that he went to school with Maggie, since he could have fended for himself and now finds himself back in the trunk of the truck awaiting possible execution. Things aren’t much better back at the farm, where Hershel’s absence leads to Maggie and Lori holding down the fort. Speaking of honesty, Andrea really let Lori have it for walking around thinking she can have everything, and Lori wasn’t too kind back to her. Encouraging Beth to commit suicide, however, crosses a line, and something tells me that tensions are going to explode over the course of the remaining three episodes of this season.

What I’m Watching: Luck

Luck: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

This episode was relatively sedated and slow-paced, digging deep into its characters to reveal how they deal with pressure in various situations. Ace’s hotel room conversations with Gus are definitely my favorite part of the show, since it allows both men to be themselves at their most relaxed and honest, which usually leads Ace to snap at his henchman when Gus says something without first thinking about it. His concern over Clara being late was so intriguing, and it was great to see just how thrilled she was to receive a check for $367,000, based on his lucky number. Both Escalante and Joey are being torn apart from all sides by the people telling them what to do and yelling at them for doing it wrong, and Joey really has no one to support him, while Escalante has a special relationship with Jo, whom he’s at risk of pushing away with the way that he treats and speaks to her. Jerry forcing Marcus to go to the hospital was a positive idea, but the wheelchair-bound grump with a cough doesn’t seem to be interested in any diagnosis. It’s good to see Jerry using his money for something other than gambling, but it’s never a good idea to seem too eager to lend, lest one of two things happens – he comes back for more or starts digging into how he got it in the first place. The dynamic of the group that includes Marcus, Lonnie, Renzo, and Jerry is easily one of the most entertaining parts of the show.

What I’m Watching: The Finder

The Finder: Season 1, Episode 6 “Little Green Men” (B+)

An alien episode this early into the show could have been a bad idea, but, like everything else this show has to offer, it’s oddly appealing and fully entertaining. Despite the fact that he kept his clothes on for the entirety of the episode, I immediately recognized Jason Beghe, currently starring as Bates on “Californication,” as disgraced astronaut Colonel Bradshaw, the man that hired Walter to find the UFO. T.J. Thyne playing the same role he plays on “Bones” wasn’t a problem, seamlessly incorporated into this show to the point that I didn’t make the connection until after I finished the episode. His style of speech and personality are just right for this show’s unique tone. Hector from Kansas with the glasses and the zapping was a strange but formidable guest character, and I’m glad the show didn’t fully explain the science of everything. Walter’s meeting with Pope was enlightening, and I liked how he called her his opposite before things took a serious turn when she threatened to ruin the lives of everyone he cares about, save for Leo, whom she was trying to make him think worked for them. Leo is a dedicated father figure for Willa, and hopefully his run-in with Uncle Chad, played appropriately evilly by Eric Roberts, won’t cause her any undue harm. Her web skills proved to be truly impressive, as she dug deep and uncovered the first-generation video. She can definitely do better than leaving the Ends of the Earth and marrying Timo.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 16 “Risk” (B+)

This episode was full of familiar TV faces, starting with Matt Lauria, recently seen on “The Chicago Code” and previously on “Friday Night Lights” as big-time money man Adam Saunders, who seemed slimy at first but turned out to be a devoted guy trying to make up everything he got from his uncle to him. That uncle was played by John Scurti, best known as Lou on “Rescue Me,” while Scott Cohen from “Necessary Roughness” appeared as the corrupt Inspector Rasmussen. Reese continues to impress with his ability to detect something awry, noticing the construction but no construction workers and avoiding the trap. Reese’s time spent living among the homeless proved to be quite useful, and it’s interesting to hear him describe how his life has progressed. It’s nice that Adam bought the building so that the homeless encampment can stay there, and it also allows his uncle Bob to run his food truck business in a good space. The cleverest move of the episode was investing heavily so that the plan to tank the stocks wouldn’t succeed, and it would out the culprits to the proper authorities. Since corruption runs rampant on this show, it didn’t take long for Rasmussen to be silenced, and Carter was on the ball to start digging right away when she noticed something was afoot. I realized as soon as she started looking that Elias was the mastermind, and I’m glad he’s back, ready to antagonize Reese and deliver some major excitement for us viewers.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 8, Episode 16 “After Hours” (B+)

Having a bunch of the crew in Tallahassee is turning out to be productive on almost all fronts. My least favorite plotline, and the only one that I don’t particularly like at the moment, involves Nellie and the attempted seduction of her by both Todd and Dwight. It’s over-the-top and a bit creepy, not to mention entirely unbelievable. Jim’s squirming a lot in Florida after realizing that Stanley is trying to have too much fun, and his antics in the hotel room were quite entertaining, sliding off the bed and then even enlisting Dwight to come swat bed buds away to scare Cathy away. I hope nothing more happens with that since Jim could get in a whole lot of trouble. Ryan’s fun with Erin seems to have been short-lived since he couldn’t bear the thought of having to wait six months to sleep with her. Back at home, the absence of the Tallahassee team was a good excuse to keep the group together after hours, working to ensure that all of their accounts are up to date. The opening sequence with Angela, Pam, and Oscar all complaining about each other was amusing, but there was no beating the arrival of Val’s boyfriend, who promptly accused Darryl of sleeping with her. Kelly taking an interest in the drama and forcing Darryl to read the texts was hilarious, and I’m glad that Darryl didn’t give up easy and left Val with exactly five dots to mull over as he exited the conference room.

What I’m Watching: Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Season 4, Episode 16 “Sweet Sixteen” (B+)

A leap day episode is quite welcome, and of course it would be Jerry who was born on February 29th. Leslie has stretched herself too thin in the past, and she’s always hilarious when she’s incredibly tired, be it when she’s in the middle of an all-night telethon or trying to come up with her next great idea during a camping trip. She’s just the type of person that would be obsessed with the rules, dealing with campaign business only just outside the physical government building. As is often the case, Ron has to be the one to talk some sense into her, and he has his work cut out for him in trying to convince her to take a sabbatical or reduce the amount of time she was committing to the Parks department. Forgetting to invite Jerry to his own party was the icing on the cake, and what a miserable surprise it turned out to be. It’s still peculiar that Ann and Tom are dating, but it’s definitely entertaining, mainly because of the preposterous objections about Ann that Tom verbalizes. April’s accidental infusion into their relationship is thoroughly amusing too, and I love it when mean people can’t stand the fact that they’re perceived as being nice. Andy was busy realizing that Chris is truly lonely, and a dog is a perfect companion for him. Donna hosting the surprise party at her secret family house added a considerable amount of awesome one-liners for the show’s most under-featured character.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 9 “Leap Day” (B+)

This episode was certainly ridiculous, but I do have to admit that it was quite hilarious. In half an hour, this show managed to create an enormous universe in which everyone is gleefully aware of the celebration of Leap Day every four years. Leap Day William was a fun character, nutty as anything, and casting Jim Carrey as the movie version of him, or Leap Dave Williams, was inspired. I will say that this was the best instance of Jack time-traveling or imagining another version of his life, in which Liddy had become a hard-working liberal in the future. Jack’s desire to do extra business on Leap Day was completely in character, and it’s nice that he decided it would be worth it to spend a few of his extra minutes with his daughter. Poor Steve Little, currently appearing in the third season of “Eastbound & Down” always gets saddled with the most miserable and pathetic roles, even if his Thad Warmald was one of the richest men in New York. It’s rare that Jenna is less desired than Liz, but Thad had plenty of women chasing after him because of his money. Tracy’s efforts to use the full balance of his gift card on its last day of eligibility were amusing, particularly in his description of DotCom as his imaginary friend, and I also liked how he kept going after getting to soup kitchen and had to come back around to it a second time in order to realize that he could feed the homeless.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains (Season Premiere)

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 16 “This One’s For Jack” (B+)

It seems somewhat sudden for this show to close out its season, but it’s been a busy year in terms of friendships and relationships. Jack’s death was an unfortunate surprise last week, but it’s nice that everyone chooses to remember his positivity and energy as a fitting tribute to him. I’ll miss Tom Cavanagh since he’s so bright and excited all the time, and I do hope he lands on another show soon. Bonding with Nina was fun, and I’m glad that she confessed to being the child actress he had thought she was. Paige’s departure means that Evan is ready to focus on other things, namely the business of HankMed, which turns out to be headed in interesting directions as Boris’ cousin presents the new self-diagnosing shirt, which ends up winning over even Divya. After his comedic banter with Divya throughout the episode, worrying about why she was being nice to him, it took a serious turn with Evan going too far without consulting Hank while he was preoccupied getting over Jack’s death and taking out his frustration on a few dumb filmmaker kids looking to make the next “Jackass.” Hank and Evan have always had a minor difference of opinion on how the business should be conducted, and it seems that things have reached a boiling point, with Evan taking control of HankMed and Hank branching out on his own. I’m sure this split won’t last long, but I’m somewhat interested to see how it plays out when this show returns for its next round of episodes.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Paolo Costanzo as Evan

Monday, February 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 16 “Virgin Territory” (B+)

Here we had an episode of surprising revelations, which at first shook those involved but ultimately proved to be positive moments from which they were able to go forward, after they ruined breakfast, of course. Manny and Luke’s plan to get Lily in trouble for spilling milk was the least consequential, and I enjoyed their slow-motion joyride, both forwards and backwards, down the street designed to impress Manny’s latest crush. Cameron pretending to be injured in order to snoop around Claire’s house to find a container she had never returned to him was in line with his character and quite amusing. Jay finding out that he didn’t actually make the hole-in-one that earned him the nickname Ace was quite a blow, but it’s always good to see him and Mitchell move past something and bond as father and son. Gloria following Claire after she seemed uninterested in inviting her along to yoga felt like the typical disconnect between them, and I like how it turned out to be something altogether, with Claire revealing her secret passion of going to a firing range, and Gloria displaying even more exceptional talent (those poor blind models that can’t see how beautiful they are…). Phil’s misheard aversion comment led to one of the funnies tropes involved with his character, which was his inability to easily accept the fact that his kids are growing up, which is why he so readily agreed to allow Alex to purchase a $200 doll when she realized the motherly characteristics she possessed.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 15 “Fire with Fire” (B+)

This episode was a whole lot of fun because it brought together characters that don’t usually interact, and even shone a bit of a spotlight on Noah’s family. Not fixing the shower turned into a much bigger situation, and Dallas’ flair about her divorce started to inspire Jill to consider leaving her hapless husband. That provided the proper inspiration for George to realize that he gets jealous when he sees Dallas with someone else, which in this case was Wilder Valderrama’s obnoxious South American Yani, obsessed with dressing all in white. Fortunately, George was able to convince Noah to make a big show of his love for Jill, which actually wowed Dallas more than it did Jill. George paying for Dallas’ drink was a sweet gesture, and I’m hopeful that it leads to more in the future, though I sort of love the flirtation as it is. Dalia befriending Lisa to get back at Tessa for dating Scott Strauss was actually quite hilarious, inspiring Lisa to ditch her old pals and Tessa to come up with the perfect revenge strategy – get Kimantha to take Lisa’s place nad make her jealous. Ultimately, it was Malik who seems to have drawn Lisa back to her proper place, but the whole situation provided the framework for a very funny and surprisingly complex scenario as stated by Dallas: when George and Dallas got married, they would ship Tessa to an all-girls boarding school, where she would fall in love, then Dalia would steal her girlfriend and marry her, with Tessa serving as the caterer.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 3, Episode 17 “Remember Me, I’m the One Who Loves You” (B+)

One of this show’s best couples, however unlikely they were to work out, has always been Crosby and Jasmine. Their flirtation and banter is akin to many of the relationships on this show, and there’s something very sweet about the way they came together when Jasmine brought Jabar back. Though I’m happy to see D.B. Woodside and Courtney Ford I recurring roles as their current partners, I agree with Jabar when I get excited about the notion of them getting back together. The opening tents scene was a perfect introduction to this rain-soaked morning that reunited them after Crosby said that he had lost his perfect family and Jasmine asked if he would still marry her. That’s truly thrilling news, though I’m sure the collateral damage will be somewhat difficult to control. Crosby will also be furious when he finds out what Adam has done, getting an upped offer too high to refuse for the Luncheonette. It’s not entirely clear what’s going to happen with Zoe’s baby, but Julia coached her so well through the process of giving birth, and now it looks like she’ll be devastated since she may not actually get her son. Mark is just full of radical ideas, and I imagine this show would be somewhat hard to maintain if Sarah is all the way in New York, though the timeframe is a year, so there’s no rush to make any major decisions. I like that Sarah went to confide in Kristina, and I especially appreciated her casual reaction to the news that Amber was going to sleep with Bob.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 3, Episode 15 “Stealing Home” (B+)

This show is always at its most fun when there’s a caper afoot. Things got especially complicated in this hour because of Neal’s impending hearing. I’m happy that Sara continues to be incorporated into the main plotline, and I enjoyed that Peter was the one who brought her back by talking her about testifying on his behalf. Her conversation with Neal appears to have been fruitful, and I hope that means she’ll be sticking around on a more regular basis going forward. Neal did alright resisting the temptation to run a con, but Mozzie’s criminal conscience may get them both into trouble. The fact that he was already in with Taylor before they began the operation means that he’s hardly lying low, and he seemed truly thrown when Taylor asked him about the future job in Paris. The heist was clever, with Neal posing as a security guard and then tossing the ball to his accomplice, but it’s hard to beat the plan to sew a note for Peter into the stitching of the fake baseball. Peter and Neal’s conversations about the meaning and worth of baseball bats and paintings was entertaining, with valid points being made by both parties. Unfortunately, such casual chatter is going to give way to Peter having to tell Neal, or allow him to be blindsided, about his letters to Kate that Kramer and his people have been decoding. Both Diana and Peter are looking out for their friend Neal, but I’m not sure even they will be able to adequately protect him.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 3, Episode 6 “When the Guns Come Out” (B+)

This series shows no signs of letting up, intensifying more and more with every episode. The terrifying opening scene was rather brutal, featuring the cold murder of Bosno and one of his seductresses, leaving behind a frightened witness, Ella Mae, who has problems of her own to deal with when she comes home empty-handed. William Mapother was fittingly creepy and vile as her abuser Delroy, and it takes a fair amount of offense to elicit a punch from Raylan. As usual, he managed to get himself shot at, though he did an exceptional job of escaping the situation and killing one of his attackers with a lucky shot to the throat. Being associated with his father is not a positive thing, and it’s likely to come back to haunt him when Quarles does some digging. It was nice to see Raylan and Ava together again, even if just for a moment, and I don’t imagine there’s much of a possibility of that working out now that Winona and Raylan have rather boldly and surprisingly decided to officially separate and figure out a way to raise their baby together. Limehouse is now involved in a conflict between Boyd and Quarles that he hadn’t initially inserted himself into, and I’m sure things are going to get worse before they get better. Boyd’s visit was enlightening because it showed just how much he didn’t know, and as Quarles will tell you, it’s always important to make sure you know as much about your enemies as possible.

What I’m Watching: Ringer

Ringer: Season 1, Episode 14 “Whores Don’t Make That Much” (C+)

This episode had plenty of backstory, much of which had been missing previously, but after an installment full of the real Siobhan in the present day, we barely got any of that in this hour. It does make sense given what we know about Siobhan’s personality and demeanor that she would hold Bridget fully responsible for the death of her son since she allowed Dylan to take him out. Bridget is towing a dangerous line, however, by going over to see his mother, unknowingly, of course, and then forgiving him for his part in the accident. It’s dangerous mainly because she now wants to tell others who she really is, which is not going to end well. Henry and Malcolm meeting is amusing because they’re each reporting the other’s movements to their respective twin. Henry cashing out of his portfolio with Andrew and alluding to the fact that he’s a crook is sure to raise plenty of red flags, but I’m not sure that Andrew and Bridget will be able to put the pieces together to deduce what he’s doing. Tessa spending all of her money on a new car was not smart, but Juliet telling Mr. C was an even poorer idea. He claims not to be the one responsible for Tessa getting beaten, and I suspect that the surprise evil mastermind, Katherine, is the one that did it. She’s quite conniving, and I suspect that both Andrew and Bridget are going to change their tunes in a major way once they learn of her plot.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 1, Episode 14 “Bully” (B+)

Having Cece and Schmidt sleep together this early in the show could have been bad, but it turns out that it’s truly entertaining on all fronts. Cece’s inability to resist Schmidt and his silly speech about cheese was amusing, and her desperation for a Starbucks bathroom in which to have fun with him in private was enthralling as well. I particularly enjoyed when Schmidt distracted his curious roommates by telling them there was a crescent moon. For all the operating he does, Schmidt is a relatively nice guy, and therefore it’s understandable that he would be offended when Cece wouldn’t let him come into the party because she was ashamed of him. Forcing her to have breakfast in public with him led to a hilarious reiteration of Schmidt being Schmidt, unable to pass up the opportunity to brag about sleeping with Cece to the entire restaurant. Nick’s over-analysis of the cactus sent to him by Julia proved to be his undoing, and it makes me very sad since I really liked having Lizzy Caplan play the kind of role she was born to play. There’s little that sounds crazier than Nick at his most frantic and frenzied. Jess’ teacher-student conflict was funny, highlighted by her accidental breaking of the robot arm and Winston’s note that evil people like her should not be building robots. Ultimately, things worked out alright, as Jess was dubbed a real teacher by Tanya because she’s a kid-hater, and she got her revenge on Briana by making her sing a duet and then posting positive comments on the YouTube video.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 3, Episode 14 “On My Way” (B-)

Let’s start from the beginning. I still don’t understand why Sebastian is a featured character on this show, and this episode was particularly manipulative in terms of his character because of his initial threat of posting a doctored photo of Finn on the internet and his almost immediate three-sixty shift to playing nice following Karofsky’s suicide attempt. He’s an inconsistent character who wouldn’t seem likely to be influenced by a cruel remark made to Karofsky after purposely throwing rock salt into Blaine’s eyes. Pairing his preparation with Blaine singing was an interesting but relatively effective choice. Kurt’s closing pep talk to Karofsky was fairly inspiring, and it’s great to see them move forward positively after all their negative interactions in the past. Regionals was full of great performances from all involved, and it’s nice that New Directions can get so excited after the show has now repositioned them as the frontrunners rather than the dark horses. Sue telling Quinn about her pregnancy and her admiration for her, followed by her invitation to rejoin the Cheerios, was a familiar trope in which a character is seemingly headed for redemption, only to have it all taken away by something like texting while driving. I don’t think that anyone is going to find out before Finn and Rachel tie the knot, much to their parents’ chagrin, but it’s sure to impact everyone in a big way once the news breaks. I’m not yet sure whether this development is a stunt or if it will help strengthen the show, and we’ll have to see how that plays out in coming weeks.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Take Three: Smash

Smash: Season 1, Episode 3 “Enter Mr. DiMaggio” (C)

As the plot of this show progresses, it is starting to become less and less compelling and believable. Karen’s post-rejection state is one of extreme optimism, and her weekend trip to Iowa underlines just how unlike most others starting out in show business she is, which in a normal world would cost her many opportunities. Being in the ensemble is a big step down from having the lead, but Karen seems entirely unphased, and I suppose she’s being supported by her initially uncertain but ultimately kind-hearted dad. The rest of the show is shaping up, but it’s not without problems. I find Ellis to be particularly irksome, and while Julia is a lot to handle and never gave him a chance, he’s being rather bratty in the way he’s conducting himself. The revelation that he’s not gay seems awfully contrived, and I don’t see the relationship between him, Tom, and Julia ending well at all. The casting of an actor with whom Julia had a passionate love affair is certainly not a good idea, and I do hope that the writers can come up with better passionate dialogue than “You smell good.” Derek is not being subtle about his affair with Ivy at all, and I have to assume that there’s nothing wrong with his apartment save for a potential guest or two that he wouldn’t want Ivy to meet (or the other way around). Anjelica Huston is entertaining, but I think she’s thrown one too many Manhattans in her ex-husband’s face.

What I’m Watching: Alcatraz

Alcatraz: Season 1, Episode 7 “Johnny McKee” (B+)

This episode reminded me most of the second episode, with a determined killer with no emotion set on wreaking havoc by committing targeted killing sprees. Johnny McKee was especially cunning in terms of the prep work he did before each kill, getting himself a job in a place of servitude so that he could take those that abused him and others. Poisoning the obnoxious guests at the bar was a strong way to start, and the shot of all of the people in the pool was particularly chilling. It’s becoming obvious that the warden really tried to get into prisoner’s psyches at Alcatraz, forcing them to admit what it is they’ve done for some nefarious purpose utilized by Lucy and/or Beauregard. I imagine that’s connected to why the 63s are being brought back, and while it’s likely that it will take a long time for all to be revealed, things are slowly but somewhat surely become clearer. It doesn’t always seem that way, as evidenced by Rebecca’s meeting with Jack, in which she asked him how he got to the present day and he told her that was exactly what he wanted to know. Emerson is trying purposely to keep Rebecca and Doc in the dark about what he’s doing with the 63s that have been caught, and he’s not exactly in a good mood these days. His older self does not seem like the type that would have the patience to sit down and read to a comatose patient, but I suspect his younger, more starry-eyed self is winning out at the moment.

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls

2 Broke Girls: Season 1, Episode 17 “And the Kosher Cupcakes” (C+)

This show is capable of being very funny, but this episode was way too tacky and over-the-top for my tastes. Its inception was entertaining, with Han continually sneezing in Caroline and Max’s faces and the two girls expressing opposite sentiments about getting sick. It makes sense that Caroline would have tangled with Orthodox Jews in her previous life, but this episode tried way too hard to play up her desperation to fit in and be accepted despite her obviously goyish qualities. I didn’t care for much of the Jewish humor, save for Max’s delight at fighting out that kugel is both a pasta and a dessert. Renee Taylor’s guest spot was a fun inside joke for those paying attention, and she stood out among the whole Jewish crew. The very inappropriate Bar Mitzvah boys were particularly irksome, and I think the show could have done better than to have them be such silly caricatures whose behavior was puzzling at best. This show is getting very close to a line that it doesn’t seem that it should cross on network television, both for decency’s sake and for the purposes of its own ability to be funny, that I don’t think has even been crossed by the show that follows it, “Two and a Half Men.” While that show is impossibly suggestive, this one now explicitly comes out and says its dirty double entendres (the crack about Caroline’s mouth being full was particularly shocking). In other news, Sophie’s still around, and her new boyfriend Sergei, played by Matt Winston, was only mildly entertaining.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pilot Review: Life’s Too Short

Life’s Too Short (HBO)
Premiered February 19 at 10:30pm

There’s a certain style that has come to be expected from mockumentaries, and a spin on that style when the mockumentaries are of British origin. “Life’s Too Short” is the perfect show for anyone that enjoyed the British version of “The Office” and Ricky Gervais’ own brief HBO series “Extras.” The awkwardness is fully there, and it’s what drives the humor. Warwick Davis, known to most either as an Ewok or as Professor Flitwick in all of the “Harry Potter” films, is certainly game to mock himself, and he’s a fun if somewhat pitiable lead. This show seems very much like it’s going to involve Warwick interacting with other celebrities, which is a decent enough premise that will have to be careful both not to depend too much on its guest stars and to offer interesting takes on the characters. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are up to the task of providing dry, easily annoyed versions of themselves, and it’s good to have them on board given the tone of the show, much in line with their previous series, which is no surprise given that they created this one. Liam Neeson’s over-serious interpretation of himself was amusing to a degree, and I imagine the show will ebb back and forth between sedated and wacky portraits of its guests. Warwick’s new assistant Cheryl seems full of personality, and his accountant was hilarious. I’m not sure how resilient or long-lasting this show will prove to be, though, like most of its kind, it’s only been ordered for seven episodes. It could definitely work, and I’m interested to see how other guest stars affect how enjoyable and enthralling it is.

How will it work as a series? Much of its success will depend on the viability of its guest stars, mainly due to Warwick’s relative non-role in the entirety of Neeson’s appearance in this episode. Warwick is likeable enough, and though the show is mean in many respects, it’s not filled with cursing or overly deplorable behavior, which should make it easier to stomach for easily offended viewers.
How long will it last? The show’s ratings during its initial airing on BBC2 last fall tumbled downward throughout the show’s run, but it has supposedly been renewed for a second season in the UK. That doesn’t always translate to its continuing existence on American television, but I suspect that it will be a hit considering how similar shows from the same creators have done in the past. I’d expect this one to have a purposely short run of two seasons.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 5, Episode 7 “Here I Go Again” (B+)

This episode isn’t nearly as fun as season three’s revolving apartment installment, but it’s most notable for its dramatic value. Hiding a broken-down Bates in his house means that Hank has to give Karen the cold shoulder to get her to leave, and he could really have used the opportunity to have brunch with her and make her feel better about their relationship. Tyler, surprisingly enough, is the one that asks the obvious question, which is why Hank is working so hard to protect Bates when letting his indiscretion be known could help Hank get back together with Karen. Their relationship is far too complicated to analyze, and I just don’t see it working out well anytime soon. Drea DeMatteo’s stripper Holly was foul-mouthed and atrociously-behaved, and I’m not sure whether her sticking around would be productive for anyone. Becca sure got pissed at him and wounded him with her words, and it’s doubtful that he’s going to be able to please both of the women in his life that are important to him. Samurai Apocalypse wasn’t even present in this episode, and it didn’t suffer at all from his absence. Charlie sleeping with Lizzie is not a good idea, but the unknown events at the pool (not the first time we’ve see that on this show) mean that Lizzie may be playing everyone involved, which is sure to come back to hurt both men in Marcy’s life. I don’t particularly care for her as a character, so I’m not sure I would mind if she didn’t stick around.

What I’m Watching: Eastbound & Down (Season Premiere)

Eastbound & Down: Season 3, Episode 1 “Chapter 14” (B+)

I’m so thrilled to have this show back. This comedy was entertaining during season dos, but being stuck in Mexico with an all-new cast hindered it a bit. Back in Myrtle Beach, the show is on fire, opening with Kenny strutting down a beach towards the water with a Confederate surfboard, telling an African-American couple that he hopes to have their face tans by the end of the summer. Jason Sudeikis’ buddy is a good addition, and he seems just as depraved as Kenny without the creepy, pathetic factor that Donny had. Seeing him at his one-year-old son Toby’s birthday party was decently depressing, as he proved to be a horrible father by cursing incessantly and then giving Toby a PlayStation, followed by a toast that implied something that he definitely didn’t mean to say. What’s great about this show is that April, annoyed as she might have initially seemed, just can’t resist Kenny, delighted to be whirled away on a wrecking-filled adventure, where even April got the chance to curse at some children. Seeing how they are together explains how, in a perfect world, they’d make a great couple, but alas, things are never that simple for Kenny. His career is back on track, he’s writing a new book, constantly getting with girls and treating them poorly, and now, it appears, he has a baby to take care of too. Unfortunately, this is said to be the final season, so let’s hope that Kenny, April, and everyone else go out with a bang.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 1, Episode 7 “Bareback Town” (B+)

When this team works well, it works well, but there are so many instances of Marty shutting down the ideas of his subordinates, mainly Jeannie, that he can’t hope to come out of this impending acquisition in any sort of good way. Having Brenda lie to them and cover up some of the discovered information from the study doesn’t help matters, and them screwing her over led to her doing the same thing to them, accepting the job at Pfizer and getting ready to lose Gallweather a major client. Marty’s no cheating policy inspired by his affection for April was awfully inconvenient, as he had both Brenda throwing herself at him and Monica walking around nearly naked in the bathroom trying to have some fun with him. Jeannie really is charged with unthinkable tasks in her role, and she actually handled it quite creatively by drugging the overactive woman. It was fun to see Clyde and Doug fighting over the same woman, played by Peyton List, and realizing that Clyde doesn’t want Doug stealing his spotlight with Marty, though it doesn’t seem like Doug will ever hold a special place in Marty’s heart. Jeremiah’s lupus is an unforeseen complication, and April seems to be doing a strong job of supporting Marty’s family. Unfortunately, she may have just inadvertently broken it up, as Monica seems highly offended by the sight of her playing house with the man she just can’t let go. There’s that dramatic edge rearing its ugly head again, and not the kind of stress Marty needs right now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 8, Episode 14 “Get Out of My Life” (C+)

Let’s start with the more minor of two major bombshells in this hour. Julie’s pregnancy was a random surprise in itself, and finding out that Porter Scavo is the father complicates things immensely, creating an unnecessary conflict between Susan and Lynette, since Lynette is tired of raising children all her life and that’s exactly what Susan wants to do right now. I don’t see this ending positively, and I doubt this will positively impact Lynette’s love life. Relating to Bree, her sex streak is over, but now Orson is back, and his return isn’t nearly as welcome as it initially seemed. The closing flashbacks revealed him to be a deranged stalker, methodically planning a way to trick Bree into falling back in love with him, by sending the letter after witnessing Alejandro’s murder and even watching her sleep with so many men. Alienating her friends doesn’t bode well for her future, since she’s likely to soon realize what she’s gotten herself into and find herself trapped in distant Maine. Mike proved himself to be a good friend to Ben, reaching out to Renee on his behalf, who was able to clear his debt and hopefully repair that previously broken relationship. Gaby having Roy stay with her and failing to let him reconcile with a cancer-stricken Mrs. McCluskey is typically selfish, and I’m very worried that she’s going to get sick fast, and it’s going to be too late for anything, leading Gaby to not be able to forgive herself, restarting this cycle of guilt all over again.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 3, Episode 15 “Live from Damascus” (B+)

Opening with a direct continuation of the ending of last week’s episode didn’t mean seeing any more of Wendy Scott Carr, but it did foreshadow her lingering presence, as she managed to screw him over by passing along his fifteen-year-old mistake to those that could disbar him. It’s so interesting to see Will so readily admit that he deserves his fate, deciding during his confession to Alicia that he should take the suspension, and that his reduced sentence is due to the firm’s participation in a program that he fought so ardently against. His departure scene was strong, walking away with his bat and telling Alicia to follow Diane. He won’t be gone for long, I’m sure, but things are likely to be different in his absence. Alicia’s newly assigned case involving Kalinda is sure to be intriguing. Kalinda’s videoconferencing with Omid Abtahi’s Samir was a high point of the episode, and it’s a shame that he doesn’t appear to have survived the conflict. Jonathan Groff was a good non-showy guest star as Jimmy, whose sister turned out to be very much alive. It was great to have Rita Wilson’s Viola Walsh and John Benjamin Hickey’s Neil Gross back, and it was also dramatic to have Caitlin incorporated into their presence. Denis O’Hare’s Judge Abernathy is always entertaining, and his pepper spray-soaked Occupy Wall Street eyes were among the most amusing anecdotes of the episode. The path to Eli agreeing to consult on his ex-wife’s campaign was fun, and I’m glad that will be a focus in the near future because it means we’ll see more of Parker Posey. I’m not sure what Cary’s reassignment of Dana will mean, but I doubt that the State’s Attorney’s office will cease to be spotlighted.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 9 “Triggerfinger” (B+)

In terms of strong openings, the shot of Lori lying unconscious in the crashed car and awakening, screaming, to the sight of a walker trying to crawl into the car only feet away from her face was definitely up there. I’m glad that Shane found her quickly, since this could have turned into a whole new Sophia situation. Shane lying to her about Rick being back at camp was important, however, since she now realizes that Shane is too far gone to stick around, and the episode’s closing conversation implies that she wants Rick to kill Shane before he kills Rick. The aftermath of the shooting at the bar was quite intense, and both Hershel and Rick are far too good to leave behind a dying man to suffer an awful fate. Bringing back Randall, played by Michael Zegen of “Rescue Me” and “How to Make It in America,” was kind but is likely to incite much infighting among the residents of the farm. Shane managed to spill the beans about Lori being pregnant too, and that’s most notable for how inquisitive and excited it made Carl. Glenn being upset at himself for not wanting to die so that Maggie wouldn’t be sad was sweet in its own way, but I imagine that it’s going to work against their relationship rather than for it. Hershel seems okay with letting them stay on his farm longer, but I suspect that a sharp division is coming soon thanks to Shane, and it looks like Andrea’s going to be on the wrong side of things.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 2, Episode 7 “A Bottle of Jean Nate” (B+)

We have some productive developments in this hour, with some clarity and positive steps for certain couples. Jasmine’s boat party proved to be quite eventful for all involved, particularly for Jasmine herself. Kissing Fiona after she was upset about Steve wasn’t a terrible move, but coming over to her house the next day and insisting that Fiona let her move in because of all that she’s done for her was rude and is sure to push Fiona away. I don’t expect Jasmine to go quietly, however, so I’m sure this will continue to be a problem. That’s also true for Jody, who was so swiftly kicked out by an infuriated Karen and continues to serenade her from his tent under the L train while Lip begins to get back together with her. It’s good that Lip and Ian got some of their frustrations out by fighting, and it turns out that Grammy had a positive suggestion after all. Teaching Carl a skill was entertaining, and, as usual, he got carried away and caused a fortunately controlled explosion in the meth lab. Kevin’s search for Ethel was sweet, and their similarly-named bunny didn’t seem like a fitting replacement. A baby, on the hand, just might, and it’ll be good for Kevin to get his mind off Stan and the missing Ethel. I did enjoy some of the Gallagher family humor present in this hour, particularly Debs’ innocent question about how she would know if she was dating a tool, to which Lip responded in a terrific brotherly manner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What I’m Watching: Luck

Luck: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

This show is beginning to take shape, and some of its segments are becoming truly dazzling. There’s one sequence in particular that stuck with me, which utilized Max Richter’s beautiful “On the Nature of Daylight” from “Shutter Island” to score the horse racing. This show derives its most meaningful moments from its spectacles, and from seeing the emotion on the faces of its players. I was thrilled to see Kerry Condon, one of the standout performers from “The Last Station,” as Rosie, who’s both quite religious and got quite the personality when she’s not behaving with decorum. Jerry continues to be headed down a dark, dangerous road, and Leo is proving to be a vicious enemy for him. Playing at his restaurant was not a good idea, and it’s a good thing that his buddies came to check on him. Lonnie and Renzo are an entertaining duo, and their inability to figure out whether Marcus was talking about himself or Jerry being sick was hilarious. Joey is spiraling out of control, and Richard Kind is delivering a compelling and engaging performance. What continues to be the most interesting, of course, is Ace’s business with Nathan. Mocking his 8th grade notebook and asking him what he’s done since they last spoke was predictably harsh, and I was proud of Nathan for calling Ace out on answering a question with a question. Gus telling Ace what he would have done for a million dollars at his age was also interesting, and I’m glad to be getting to know these characters.

What I’m Watching: Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time: Season 1, Episode 13 “Whatever Happened to Frederick” (C+)

This town of Storybrooke is truly peculiar, and while I understand that the point of this series isn’t for there to be a logical, sound background for the real-world version of the fairy-tale world, it still bothers me that the town is so inconsistent. It seems like a boundless universe, with a giant school and a tiny diner, and with a population so tight-knit that everyone in the whole town finds out about Mary Margaret breaking up Kathryn’s marriage. The strongest part of the episode was James’ successful defeat of the siren, which didn’t seem likely when he was stuck at the bottom of the water with the siren posing as Snow White. It’s nice to know that Kathryn’s alter ego, Abigail, is capable of kindness, and the two couples ended up relatively happy ever after thanks to James’ bold rescue of her betrothed from his gold-plated state. Regina is making herself a bit obvious, and she’s quick to dispose of people as soon as she has no more use for them. This show runs the risk of losing track of all its threads, omitting Rumplestiltskin entirely and forgetting about prisoner Belle. Eion Bailey’s August is somewhat intriguing, taking Emma to a literal watering hole, but I’m much more interested in why he’s doctoring Henry’s book and then leaving it for Emma to find. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s so much happening that it’s hard to imagine it all ever being brought together, conceived of in spurts rather than with a long-term endgame in mind.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 2, Episode 15 “Origins” (B-)

This is an exciting, action-packed hour, but I have to take issue with the way that some of these plotlines are heading. The sudden insertion of Carla into the story truly changes things, and I guess it does make sense that Division was originally founded as a way to help those headed down a dark path to find a second chance in life. Her faith in Percy, however, is a big problem, and there’s so much treachery going on that it’s hard to find any two characters that actually fully trust each other on this show. It’s also not clear to me whether Amanda is fully aware that Alex is working with Nikita since she so blatantly gave the phone to Ari with Nikita on the other end. Either way, putting out a hit on Carla because she happened to run into Amanda while she was with Ari seems silly, particularly because Carla had to put so much effort into deducing what secret it was that she knew. Alex’s coming out as Alexandra was heavily over-dramatic, and it puzzles me that Ari felt he couldn’t use his video recording of Semak ordering Alex to be killed since Alex was still alive. Attempted murder is still a difficult charge to skirt, and this web is much more complicated than it needs to be. There are so many parties in play now that things can only become wilder and more unpredictable, thanks to the fact that no one can be honest with anyone else.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 1, Episode 15 “Blue Code” (B+)

This show has established itself enough now that it can skip over the exposition and just introduce the case of the week with Reese already in as the group’s driver. This episode featured a few recognizable faces in its criminal crew, including Robert John Burke, who played Father Mickey Gavin on “Rescue Me,” as Fusco’s new HR contact within the police force. Finding out that a number or a target who initially appears to be a villain is actually a good guy working to bring down the bad guys is always a shock, and this episode pulled that off very well, with Reese doing his best to help without giving away what he knew. Being able to shoot someone, or graze them, in just the right place, is a truly useful skill, and both Reese and Finch utilized the two detectives on their “payroll” to great effect in this hour. It was interesting to see them come face-to-face before Fusco broke into the undercover room, and I have feeling that, given the way things just played out, Carter is going to end up trying to take down Fusco, not knowing that he’s actually working undercover for the same man she is. Fusco nearly bravely bit the bullet, and now he’s going to have the chance to prove that he’s a good, honest cop once and for all. The flashbacks to Reese almost talking to his ex-wife weren’t entirely effective, but a good parallel can always be good for something, in this case helping Reese to empathize with the guy he’s trying to save.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 8, Episode 15 “Tallahassee” (B)

Whenever half the office picks up and heads somewhere, it often leaves the folks back at home with little to do. In this case, Andy makes a rookie mistake and doesn’t demand that someone, like poor Pam, act as the receptionist, and instead takes on the job himself. The closing shot seemed to indicate that he was doing it since he misses Erin and it makes him think of her, and I suppose that’s sweet, but enough already with this being so dragged out. On the road, I enjoyed Dwight’s different wake-up calls, with Ryan being tricked into thinking that Erin wanted him and Stanley not waking up to anything save for Dwight nearly suffocating him. Florida Stanley was a blast, and I like that he’s picked Jim to be his buddy there, telling him that he has to relax. Jim pranking Dwight during the wake-up call was fun, and telling him that he had poisoned him was entertaining too, though clearly there was much more wrong with him. Dwight busting out of the hospital to come back to try to win the title of Vice-President was a bit over-the-top, though I suppose it’s not out of the character for him. I appreciate the efforts to incorporate some of the best auditioners from last season’s finale, with Catherine Tate’s Nelly Bertrum proving to be an eccentric and wacky boss. Speaking of familiar faces, I’m not sure why Todd Packer keeps returning, since he’s really not someone the show needs to keep around.

What I’m Watching: Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation: Season 4, Episode 15 “Dave Returns” (B+)

It’s always fun to have former players return for a guest spot, checking in with the main characters at whatever stage both parties are at now. Louis C.K.’s Dave was always awkward but sweet, and his composure and conduct in this episode are perhaps more aggressive than usual, but otherwise none too surprising. Telling Leslie he still loves her at dinner when Ben was away from the table is one thing, and handcuffing Ben to a urinal so that he can go back to the table and have a moment alone with her was a much more grievous offense, not to mention a short-lived one, considering the fact that he called from the bathroom only moments later. It certainly didn’t help with Ben’s paralyzing fear of cops, which resulted in several humorous interactions throughout the episode and an endless line of cops going to the bathroom before him at the very end. Andy’s recording studio trip was entertaining, particularly due to its Duke Silver-heavy location. April helping Ron to do something is always a blast, and her angry smashing of the mug with Duke’s face on it was a highlight. I’m still surprised about Tom and Ann, particularly since Tom continues to try to put moves on her in his sleazy way, and for some reason, she seems to be defenseless against it! I’m not sure it’s a plotline that ends well, but you never know. Andy and April and Ben and Leslie both didn’t seem so likely there for a while.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 6, Episode 8 “The Tuxedo Begins” (C+)

This has to be one of the most schizophrenic shows I’ve ever seen, rarely committed to any one style, plotline, or general operating scheme. Liz protesting all of the things she hates about New York was decently entertaining, especially for this viewer, who has lived in New York for the past six years, and much of it was entirely spot-on. Jack getting mugged by a middle-aged white man got him thinking quite a bit, and when his wheels starts turning, it’s never going to end simply. What resulted was a wacky parody of “The Dark Knight,” with Liz playing the part of the maniacal, diabolical Joker, scaring away everyone in public places so that she can have group experiences alone, and Jack vying to fix the city by running for mayor, mainly to ensure that the rich can survive. I like this show better when it’s able to be zany and grounded at the same time, and this episode just didn’t have any of that. It also featured past guest star Steve Buscemi in a momentary appearance, and I’d appreciate it if he was better used. Paul’s return also created some silliness with his and Jenna’s perception of their being normal as some bizarre sexual fetish called “normaling,” which is akin to the notions of hipsters saying things ironically, which can often lead to them actually saying those things without being ironic. Ultimately, they’re who they are, and therefore they’ll be headed down different paths before they’re inevitably brought back together again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 3, Episode 15 “Hank and the Deep Blue Sea” (B+)

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen or heard from Boris, and now he’s back in a big way, bringing his whole family along for the ride. He’s an intriguing choice to be Carlos’ godfather, but it is true that Boris doesn’t get along well with most of his family. His French cousin Claudette seemed awfully friendly, and her delivery of a mysterious gift for Evan was highly suspicious. I’m not sure how making peace within the family is going to be central on this show, but I suppose that it’s a fine focus since this show could always use a bit of soapy drama. The Raj plotline has now been contained, after Evan, caught in the middle of something he didn’t understand once again, witnessed Raj removing a bee from near Divya and then agreed to buy her shares in HankMed, to be bought back by her when she was able, so that she could pay him back in full. Jill’s nephew Luke sure is energetic, and his boss Quincy proved to be too hyped up on that energy drink. Jack was not doing well on the water, and I’m glad that Jill was able to convince him to come back. Finding out that he died was shocking and tragic, and I doubt it’s something that everyone, particularly Jill, will be able to recover from quickly. Hopefully, Nina will be sticking around to help pick up the pieces and make sure that both Hank and Jill are in an okay place.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 3, Episode 15 “Aunt Mommy” (B+)

This episode was fun and creative because it brought everyone in the family for, generally speaking, one extended plotline, all the while incorporating each character’s separate tics. Steven and Stefan adopting a baby was the perfect impetus for Cameron and Mitchell to start thinking proactively about fast-tracking the attainment of their second child. I enjoyed how Phil managed to make his “commission impossible” sale by talking to Claire about Luke and Leon, realizing that both parents had accidentally left the kids all at home. If I’m remembering correctly, this was the first time that we saw a friend of Luke’s that was his own age, and Leon certainly makes sense as a pal of similar intellect and adventurous nature. The adults have spent time together apart from the kids before, but this night of drinking, which was quite fast-forwarded, prove especially amusing for the vigorousness with which all four parties agreed that they Cameron and Claire should be the ones to create the baby. In traditional sitcom fashion, both couples overheard the reactions of others and presumed that them knowing was significant, and I liked that Claire and Mitchell ended up trapped under a table, where they decided it was a bad idea before snapping at Jay that they could do whatever they want. Manny is not meant to play football, and Jay, as always, was able to come around to supporting and rooting for his stepson in a way that he’s able to appreciate. The most memorable part of this episode was when the parents realized that their kids have pieces of them in them, which is always tender and moving.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 1, Episode 14 “The Body” (B+)

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Lisa’s brother Ryan, and he definitely brings down the average intellect, though no one in this episode comes off as terribly smart. His victory dinner for wrestling allowed Lisa to shine, constantly ignored by her parents in favor of her brother and his esteemed body. His injury, and all of the funeral parallels, were amusing, and it was nice to see Lisa finally get what she wanted, or at least come close to it. For the record, venison marinara doesn’t sound too appetizing, and neither does tuna with shells. George gave an entertaining and extremely misunderstood pep talk to Ryan, and it’s always a treat to see George do some good old introspection. Tessa running for school office was never going to result in a win, but I do like how it turned out, with Tessa agreeing to drop out in exchange for having her opponents hire Lisa as their campaign manager, mainly because Dalia got bored. It was sweet that, though she was ignored, Lisa still got her favorite meal, thanks to Ryan and his time spent living her life and realizing what it’s like to be unpopular and in a wheelchair. One of the things I love most about ensemble shows is when characters that rarely interact get a chance to spend time together, and therefore Dallas’ visit to Noah’s to get her teeth whitened was very welcome. Dallas does look good with super-white teeth, and I wonder if finally expressing her true feelings to George is next on her list.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 3, Episode 16 “Tough Love” (B+)

This was an episode for transitions, as many of the plotlines that have been building up until now came to a climax or turning point of sorts. Crosby accidentally being given Zeek’s medication at the pharmacy was an impetus for him to think about someone other than him, Jasmine, and Jabar for once, concerned about his father’s health and suspicious both about all the pills and about his mother not being able to tell him anything. It was a good time to tie in Max’s desire not to play basketball since he kept getting picked last, and it was great for Max to make a new friend who had something that kept him from being part of the mainstream. His parents seemed particularly elated to be able to share their special instructions with sympathetic, understanding people at the play date. It didn’t look good for the relationship between Julia and Zoe when Zoe didn’t even apply for the paralegal job she recommended, but I’m glad that, after some yelling, they were able to find a good way to communicate with each other and not drive each other crazy. The most dramatic plotline of the hour was Drew and his negative reaction to finding out about Sarah’s plan to have a baby, and I thought that Mark handled his chat with him quite well. Hopefully telling Seth won’t screw everything up. His reasoning for being upset was far more compelling than the logic presented by Debra Messing’s son on “Smash” earlier this week. Amber bringing sexy clothing for her business trip with Bob alarmed Hattie enough that she said something to her mom, and something tells me that Kristina isn’t going to get over this anytime soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 3, Episode 5 “Thick as Mud” (B+)

Here we have some duplicitous villains, and the best part is that they’re all getting involved with one another in some malicious way. Dickie isn’t much of a threat to Limehouse, but the fact that Limehouse lied about the money is sure to come back to haunt him somehow, especially considering how he will soon insert himself into the conflict brewing between Boyd and Quarles. It’s clear that, after his motivations and aims were ambiguous last season, Boyd has decided which side of the law he wants to be on. Taking Devil’s cell phone before he buried him meant that he was determined to get to whoever it was that tried to steal one of his men and get revenge. Quarles seems just as robustly ready to take on an enemy, but his “carbetbagger” status means that he’s alone without many friends, whereas even Raylan has a soft spot for Boyd, to a degree. Dewey was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get $20,000 so he could get back his kidneys, which turned out not to have been removed in the first place, making him the latest in a long line of dumb criminals in Harlan. His fruitless search for cash was entertaining, and while he was fine, Raylan nearly lost his own life in the pursuit of his extortionist. I was thrilled to see Maggie Lawson from “Psych” in a guest spot as the flirtatious nurse, and even more excited when she turned out to be the baddest of the bad guys. Raylan, however, remains effortlessly cool, shooting her through the dead man on top of him. It’s not easy to kill that man.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What I'm Watching: Ringer

Ringer: Season 1, Episode 13 “It’s Easy To Cry, When This Much Cash is Involved” (C+)

It’s quite convenient that Bridget is able to tell her driver Solomon that she used to be a drunk and get him to take her to every single place that Siobhan went. She’s getting so close to discovering that her sister is still alive, and that would be productive if the real Siobhan wasn’t one step ahead of her. She is one manipulative, conniving woman, blaming Gemma’s murder on Bridget, deceiving both Henry and Tyler to serve her own aims, and coldly walking out on Andrew when she was in the apartment. She also doesn’t take too kindly to things going on behind her back, like Henry’s forced assistance to Olivia in procuring his father-in-law as a new investor. Whatever Siobhan played for Henry on that tape is sure to have serious implications for everyone, though it’s not clear what just yet. Katherine seems to have found some respect for Siobhan, or rather Bridget, but that’s at the expense of this show’s credibility in terms of its Juliet plotline. I wasn’t sure why there was such a focus on the teenage drama with Juliet, and it was infinitely worse than I could have imagined. The only thing less credible than Mr. C making a move on Juliet based on what we’ve seen of him is him actually going in on a scam with her and Tessa to rip Andrew off. I’m not sure why this needed to be a plotline, and I’m sure it’s not headed anywhere good or productive.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 1, Episode 13 “Valentine’s Day” (B+)

This installment was a whole lot of fun, firing on all cylinders and delivering marvelously for each of the characters and their storylines. Jess’ plan to have a one-night stand was predictably ill-fated, and it was thoroughly enjoyable to see her try to detach herself and get so excited about having nothing in common with the rather dumb Oliver. It was amusing to see Ryan Kwanten from “True Blood” pop up as Oliver, the bona fide lunch lover whose ex-girlfriend still lived with him. What was most fantastic about Jess’ quest for action was her 100-pack of condoms, which managed to shock both Schmidt and Nick. Kyle’s Shrooms escapade provided the perfect opportunity for Cece to sleep with Schmidt, threatening to kill him in her usual style before realizing exactly what she had done the following morning when Jess confessed how she nearly did the same thing. Nick going to see Julia at work could have turned out badly, but he managed to be truly sweet and help her out after convincing her creepy intern Cliff that he shouldn’t waste his life being a lawyer. I love Lizzy Caplan, and I really hope that she sticks around for a while. Even Winston, the most disconnected and underused member of the ensemble, had himself a productive Valentine’s Day, hanging out with the girls and starting to build something real with the girl he had managed to alienate during his time away. I’m sure they wouldn’t all last, but it looks like all the men on this show might be in relationships of some sort!

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 3, Episode 13 “Heart” (B)

This episode was a whole lot of fun, but, as usual, I have to take issue with some of the progress in the plotlines. To start with the good, I enjoyed the focus on Sugar and her Valentine’s Day bash at Breadsticks. Having Artie and Rory battle for her affection was a blast, and their performances were both highly entertaining. As soon as Rory announced to everyone that he wasn’t able to renew his visa, I thought that was the certain end of his arc on this show, but it seems that it may just have been a ploy to try to get with Sugar. His departure would be timed perfectly with the arrival of another winner of “The Glee Project,” Samuel Larsen, here to play God Squad singer Joe. Aside from the convenience of having a new kid in town, I have to commend the show for rather seamlessly incorporating these arranged guest stars into the universe of the show. Finn and Rachel’s engagement announcement was met with expected hostility, and it was fun to see Rachel’s dads trying to scare them into getting too close and then having a big fight. I still don’t think they’ll ultimately work out, but it’s a relationship work watching. It seems that Mercedes and Sam’s time is up, but what a way to go out! I liked Mike and Tina’s performance of “L.O.V.E.” and the vocal valentines were a blast too. It’s sweet that Santana and Brittany were able to have their relationship recognized enough not to be stifled by Figgins. I do have to really object to Karofsky courting Kurt since it’s such a character shift, and it wouldn’t kill Kurt to be just a little less clueless. The Whitney Houston dedication was a nice emotional touch on which to end the episode.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Round Two: Smash

Smash: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Callback” (C+)

In week two, this show demonstrates that there’s more to it than just music, mainly in the form of familiar drama with all of the characters. There isn’t all that much that’s original here, and all the threads are highly predictable. The adoption plotline with Julia seems particularly over-the-top, with her conversation with her son reaching exceptional lows in terms of effectiveness. It’s great that Frank wants to go back to work and teach science, but there’s a point at which too big a net can be cast, to include elements of an extended universe that just aren’t all that interesting. Karen’s perfect boyfriend being up for a promotion and getting stood up thanks to her late rehearsal, on the other hand, is completely par for the course, and I’m sure that Karen isn’t going to stop alienating him anytime soon. Eileen is not someone you want to cross, as evidenced by her disposal of her Manhattan in her ex-husband’s face during their run-in at the restaurant. At least Derek has her back, and it’s good to have friends in a business like show business. In terms of casting Marilyn, I was rather shocked that they ended up going with Ivy. That’s probably due to the fact that Ivy slept with Derek, something that Karen wasn’t willing to do. The show is obviously slanted towards Karen’s story, portraying her in a much better light and even envisioning her as Marilyn in the staging of one of the musical numbers. That’s one area in which this show rocks – the song and dance performances are top-notch.

What I’m Watching: Alcatraz

Alcatraz: Season 1, Episode 6 “Paxton Petty” (B+)

I wanted mythology, and this episode was all about that. Focusing on Emerson as a young police officer is extremely interesting, particularly because it delved into his relationship with Lucy, who seems to have had quite an impact on the way that things operated in Alcatraz. Finding out more about Lucy also shines a spotlight on Dr. Beauregard, who seems to have fallen out of favor with the warden when Lucy swooped in with her “twentieth century” methods. The criminal of the week also provides the opportunity for Tommy Madsen to prove himself useful, explaining how mine locations would often be hidden in lullabies. Paxton Petty was a fearsome villain to be sure, just as undiscerning with his random acts of violence as sniper Ernest Cobb but far more maniacal, driven mad by his lack of recognition from his military service and determined to get revenge on the world for treating him so poorly. The warden seems to have a special, individualized welcome ready for every inmate, and incorporating Emerson and Lucy into the plot means that we actually see less of what the warden specifically did, mainly because he was such a high-profile prisoner due to the existence of an unknown mine somewhere out in the world. Even with his own life on the line, Emerson is hardly willing to tell Rebecca everything, remaining cryptic to the point of her calling him out on it. I enjoyed seeing Doc’s flustered reaction to meeting the Sandman-sporting medical examiner, and it was also great to see Mehcad Brooks, though sad that he won’t be able to return again.

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls

2 Broke Girls: Season 1, Episode 16 “And the Broken Hearts” (B+)

I’d imagine that those unimpressed with the use up until now of the supporting characters will be generally pleased with how this episode changed that. That’s not necessarily addressing Han, whose Valentine’s Day enthusiasm turned out to be all for naught, or Oleg, whose quite literal comments about coming with Sofi were a bit, shall we say, invasive. At least she can throw it back at him, which is something that many aren’t capable of doing, and she even out-one-liners Max. What I was particularly excited to see was the focus on Earl, who up until this point has been used merely to deliver comments and liven up the diner environment with his sarcasm. His casual heart attack provided a wonderful impetus for Max and Caroline to rush to his defense, Max with her fierce threatening of the desk jockey and Caroline by reaching out to her former doctor boyfriend. Being shut down by the doctor because of who her father was an unfortunate kick in the pants to Caroline, but it’s nice that her father, however terrible a person he might be, still sent flowers, and even sent some to Max, prompting an expected inappropriate comment on her behalf. This show can still manage to bring the funny even without a single mention of cupcakes. Making taking the people out of the diner is just what this show needs to energize itself, utilizing its regular cadre of characters to greater comic effect when they have to interact out in the real world.

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 5, Episode 6 “Love Song” (B+)

This show has a tendency to get nostalgic, and there’s no better idea of idyllic perfection than Karen being totally in love with Hank. This show has done black-and-white flashbacks before, and there’s such a simplicity to things that just isn’t present anymore. You don’t get the same feeling seeing Charlie and Marcy together since their love was always much more animalistic, whereas there’s the look Karen gets in her eyes when she looks at Hank that has faded considerably from that time. It’s intriguing to see Hank remember all of this while he’s being seduced by the flavor of the season. Kali is certainly alluring, but she’s too complicated for Hank, and not the woman that’s he going to end up with ultimately. His sad clown face was a bit literal at the start of the episode, but that’s the state he’s in, getting deeper by the moment in the mess that will ultimately end with him getting physically hurt by Samurai Apocalypse. Kali’s much more trouble than she’s worth, and finding out that she bailed out the window after being proposed to doesn’t exactly extend her credibility. While Hank was frolicking around with Kali and thinking about Karen, it seems that she was thinking about him too, as, perfectly timed, she comes crying into his arms, unable to cope with Bates’ current state and seeking a familiar, if all too predictable, comfort. This moment may not be more than just that, but it’s still quite a notable and positive development for fans of Hank and Karen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 1, Episode 6 “Our Descent into Los Angeles” (B+)

It’s the sign of a good show when it can abandon its own general format and still succeed with a superb installment. It’s become clear that Marty and Jeannie are the lead characters on this show, which is why, on a weekend, we don’t see all that much of Clyde or Doug. We do get the opportunity to see Roscoe, however, which is always a pleasure, since that kid is feisty and full of personality. His kissing incident provides a great opportunity for Principal Gita to get a little riled up as well, cursing out Marty because she used to be married to a sniveling management consultant. I was thrilled to see April return, especially since Megalyn Echikunwoke used to be the silent daughter of Senator David Palmer on “24” and clearly has much more to say these days in this role. Having a female cop chug a water bottle of GHP and then die isn’t exactly easy to fight off, but something tells me that Marty can do it, so long as he’s not too thrown by the invocation of his mother and her suicide. This show continues to display a dramatic edge and one hell of a dark side when it comes to Marty’s past and present. Jeannie’s situation isn’t a laughing matter either, as she becomes so nauseous at the thought of picking out wedding cakes with her fiancĂ©e that she has to fake a work call. He seems well aware of who Marty is, but I’m sure that Marty and the rest of the team would be shocked to hear about him.

Take Three: Luck

Luck: Season 1, Episode 3 (B)

I’m still having trouble keeping track of just how everyone in this massive complex of characters is connected, but it’s definitely getting more interesting, and I’m inclined to stick around and find out just exactly what’s about to happen. I was pleased to see Patrick J. Adams, who earned himself a surprise SAG nod for his performance as a fake lawyer on “Suits,” as a much more by-the-book numbers guy who both infuriated and impressed Ace with his courage to speak up and say what no one else would. Being offered a million dollars isn’t something many would easily turn down, and I have a feeling that Nathan is going to get himself in way over his head, and Ace is not someone you want to cross. That final scene with both Ace and Gus falling asleep while they were talking was very powerful, and a great way to end the episode. I’m quite intrigued by the relationship between John Ortiz’s hotheaded trainer Turo Escalante and Jill Hennessy’s Jo. Their walk to the bedroom at his place was exquisitely filmed. If nothing else, this show has exceptional cinematography, and it’s not just about the horses anymore. Slowly but surely, the ragtag crew of winners is trying to do the most productive thing with their winnings, but Jerry can’t seem to get anywhere on time, and he also still has this gambling addiction that’s going to get him and everyone else in trouble. Horse breeding and racing is hardly a simple or safe craft.

What I’m Watching: Desperate Housewives

Desperate Housewives: Season 8, Episode 13 “Is This What You Call Love?” (C+)

Half of this episode includes some new stuff that we haven’t seen before, but the rest, specifically anything involving Susan and Gaby, is just a new spin on plotlines that have come up at least a dozen times before on this show. Julie was one of the best characters in the show’s first season, and I wish that she hadn’t been tossed aside and then brought back just for this. Her comments to her mom about having already had to raise a child were quite harsh, and Susan didn’t deserve that, even if she was manipulative in the way that she scared away the prospective adoptive parents. Gaby writing her daughter a valentine from her crush was ill-advised also, considering that Juanita nearly got herself expelled thanks to the kiss she tried to plant on him. Lynette’s dating efforts were surprisingly entertaining, as her new beau seems to be the real deal, wanting to look at her in the light, forgiving and even understanding her crying, and then still trying to sweep her off her feet. Bree’s downward spiral definitely hit a low point as she picked up the same man she had already seduced two nights earlier, and things could have gotten bad quickly had Orson not come to the rescue. I’ve never been so happy to see him, and I’m hopeful that he can provide Bree with some sort of fulfillment so that she’ll return to her normal self. We’re in the home stretch here, with less than a dozen episodes left, so arcs are going to have to start wrapping themselves up soon!

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

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 8 “Nebraska” (B+)

There wasn’t much topping that devastating final scene from November, when zombie Sophia came wandering out of the barn after Shane executed all of the members of Hershel’s family and Rick shot her in the head. The aftermath isn’t much more pleasant, as Hershel wants them gone, Maggie is furious at Glenn for not wanting to stay behind, and there’s plenty of infighting among the group that remains. It’s interesting that, even in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, alcoholics still go to bars to drown their sorrows. This nearly zombie-free episode, with the exception of the undead family member outside the barn and Lori’s jaywalker, produced an unsettling fear of a different sort at the bar. Michael Raymond-James from “True Blood” and “Terriers” was quietly terrifying as Dave, one of two visitors to the bar that hinted at Hershel having a permanent base somewhere nearby. Rick, Glenn, and Hershel were smart to pretend that they were living out of their cars, but that deception didn’t last long. Rick is rarely the one to be trigger-happy, and therefore his swift execution of both men was startling. Lori’s impulsive road trip definitely won’t end well for her or for her baby, and with all that’s going on, I suspect it’ll take some time before anyone even realizes she’s missing. Tensions are set to explode back at the farm, as Dale keeps talking and earning himself the continued contempt of Shane, who has already blown a fuse and isn’t likely to continue taking orders from anyone.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 2, Episode 6 “Can I Have a Mother” (B+)

It turns out there’s a Gallagher parent worse than Frank. We had only seen a brief shot of Louise Fletcher as Grammy Gallagher once last season (I couldn’t even remember if we had before or not), and now we get the full picture. Her bribery of her grandchildren at least has some merit to it, but her horrible treatment of her son, and of Sheila, is despicable. That final scene with Fiona telling Frank her parents suck too was sweet, and I’m sure glad that Frank didn’t pull the trigger on his mother, since that would have ended badly for everyone. Frank sure stepped in it with Sheila, becoming so obsessed with getting Eddie’s life insurance and ranting at Jody when he finds out it all got left to Karen. She may be forgiving, but even she has her limits. Her toast started out very sweetly, perhaps a bit too focused on penetration, but she did a great job of standing up to Grammy and hurling the insults back at her, even daring her to shoot her when she pulled out the gun. In terms of guest stars, I was pleased to see Rob Benedict from “Threshold” and “A Little Help” as the doctor slash former meth lab employee. The double date with Steve ended predictably poorly, with Fiona alienating Adam and Steve earning contempt from all because of his marriage to a Philippine drug lord’s daughter. Ethel’s reaction to Clyde’s murder is sad, especially for Kevin, who has clearly become very attached to her, but at least she has Malik on her side, selling Kevin’s pot so that they can run away together. Lip is still in a very bad place, and telling Karen to have an abortion was absolutely the wrong thing to say.