Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pilot Review: Anger Management

Anger Management (FX)
Premiered June 28 at 9pm

This show seemed preposterous from the outset – a chance for Charlie Sheen to mock himself after putting in zero effort on his uber-popular CBS sitcom before being ousted after too many disruptive rehab stints pissed off his cast and crew. FX’s show seemed like a hastily scrambled-together excuse to get Sheen back on screen. Surprisingly, however, it’s anything but that, since it’s actually a decently entertaining comedy that takes a good premise and runs with it. Sheen plays another character named Charlie, an anger management therapist with a daughter of his own. While he’s apparently just as promiscuous as his former character, he’s very different otherwise, capable of much more maturity and boasting morals. The show’s potty humor is far more sophisticated than that of “Two and a Half Men,” and much more bearable as a result. The laugh track isn’t overly problematic, and the supporting cast is actually pretty great. Daniela Bobadilla and Selma Blair stand out as Charlie’s daughter and best friend, respectively. The show’s first episode paints an accurate picture of Charlie in the moment, and the second takes him back to a former, less likeable state where he used an unattractive woman in Wisconsin as a “slumpbuster.” Ultimately, Charlie is endearing, and that’s what makes this show work. It doesn’t seem much like an FX comedy, and might fit in better with some of TVLand’s more recent programming. Nonetheless, it’s a fun addition to the summer slate that’s far better than I, and I imagine most, could have expected.

How will it work as a series? Season one includes just ten episodes, and tempers provide a wealth of possibilities for storylines. Charlie running group therapy out of his home means that his various patients can be spotlighted on occasion, and there’s more than enough potential related to his ex-wife and his daughter as well.
How long will it last? The most-watched premiere on FX in history is a pretty good way to start off, especially considering the way this show’s renewal is slated to work. If the show continues to be a hit, which I imagine it will, it will be renewed for a total of 100 episodes. FX is going to want to hold onto Sheen, and so it looks like we’re headed for a hundred.

Pilot grade: B+

Friday, June 29, 2012

Take Three: Dallas

Dallas: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Last Hurrah” (C+)

As more shows start returning and premiering this summer, something tells me I’m going to be spending less time in Dallas. It’s hard to keep the relationship drama between the second-generation Ewings straight since it now appears that both cousins are close to cheating on their significant others with the same woman. John Ross didn’t waste time using the information he has on Rebecca against her, forcing her to try to get a recovering addict to get photographed using drugs, and when she couldn’t do it, Marta volunteered and made sure to get the job done right. J.R.’s meddling has enabled him to exact control over the situation, cutting John Ross out of his own deal and scheming to get everything for himself. Christopher actually looked like a bad guy for once by paying Elena for her help so that she couldn’t come back and try to claim ownership. Being a Ewing is making him immensely paranoid, and he’s alienating the only true friends he has. Rebecca, however, isn’t going to let what she’s done bring her down, and while her brother is continuing to seethe evil at every time he pops up on screen. I’m curious to see how Christopher will react, and I presume that he’ll run to Elena for comfort, which is sure to give Rebecca every reason to hate him. In the midst of this goodbye party, however, both Christopher and Bobby seemed awfully preoccupied with birthing a cow, which is hardly exciting drama on a show like this.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 4 “Dawn of the Med” (B+)

Jill’s departure seems entirely permanent, as the show continues without her in the opening credits, with Brooke D’Orsay’s Paige and Campbell Scott’s Boris taking her place officially. We haven’t seen Boris in a while, but now he’s back to shoot guns with Hank, terrify Eddie, and then shoot an intruder on his property just because he can, only to have Hank purport to be able to save him. That will be the centerpiece of next week’s episode; for now, it’s worthwhile to praise this hour for its strength in horror parody. Usually, shows that try for Halloween-themed episodes end up sacrificing plot and logic for the sake of laughs, but in this case, having the scientist grandfather be a bit creepy worked excellently, and Hank’s prank was particularly amusing for how seriously Evan took the situation. The zombie chase to find the man suffering from the same ailment as the professor was amusing yet not too lightly-handled. On the guest star front, it’s not hard to recognize Halley Feiffer from “Gentlemen Broncos” and “The Squid and the Whale” as the kindly granddaughter. Henry Winkler was also back once again as Eddie, and I enjoyed his ill-advised attempts to get jacket quotes from bizarre sources. He didn’t really do it, but it seems HankMed has been reunited. That reunion, however, comes at the same time as the threatened disbanding of another union, that of Divya’s parents, which, if nothing else, should lead to Divya’s reconciliation with her father, which should help her conclude her soul-searching.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What I’m Watching: Franklin and Bash

Franklin and Bash: Season 2, Episode 4 “For Those About to Rock” (B+)

As if Jared being sentenced to serve as a judge in small claims court and having the bailiff take his photo when he strutted out into the courtroom wasn’t enough, he had to go and defend the man he sentenced during that brief stint. The appeal of a rock and roll legend is almost as strong as a real-life superhero to this duo, and therefore it’s no surprise that they got some excitement from defending the mysterious rocker played by Peter Weller in a friendlier part than he usually tends to play. Beau Bridges’ return as Jared’s father made for a rather spite-filled trial, but at least he loves his son enough to discard one gift for the sake of another. Singing in the middle of testimony is definitely novel, but of course Jared and Peter could explain it away and get it allowed. Infeld pushed some buttons in this hour, even provoking a comment that he had become more like Franklin and Bash rather than setting a good example for them, in his defense of the deceitful doctor played by Thomas F. Wilson, best known as Biff of “Back to the Future” fame. The judge’s humorless response of “There are plenty of other ways to put it” to his assertion that “There’s no other way to put this, you are a scumbag” was amusing, and calling Pindar to the stand was an interesting move. I like that he was both afraid of talking and of not talking, and it seems that he’s done well for himself, eliciting a kiss before ruining the moment by talking about e coli and unwashed strawberries.

Network Jews: Eli Gold from "The Good Wife"

I'm excited to announce my second post on Jewcy, another installment of the "Network Jews" series. This time, it's Eli Gold, Alan Cumming's character, under the spotlight. Head over to Jewcy to read the post, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Cancer” (B+)

This show is impressing wildly with the creativity of its plotlines, and it’s even managing to make productive use of the reservation. Watching these mysteries play themselves out with the subtle investigations conducted by Walt and his team is fascinating, and it’s a step up from traditional crime TV shows, far better than other twists on traditional formulas. I love that Walt orders a pizza to a mile marker and that the delivery guy happens to be both a pot dealer and his informant. Henry asking to be deputized so he could carry around the pot plant was a fun moment of levity from a usually serious guy. Mathias is proving to be almost as angry as actor Zach McClarnon’s mobster on “Ringer,” though at least he’s one of the good guys. Vic alleging that the woman involved in the case fainted as a classic sign of flirtation was entertaining, and it’s good that she fights back when Walt tries to get mad at her for meddling in his personal life. Speaking of romance, Branch dropped an accidental hint regarding his love life which is sure to come back to haunt him, casually talking about how “we” went somewhere. There may be some less-than-honest forces in the law in Wyoming, but Vic, sarcasm included, has proven herself to be extremely loyal, taking off with impressive speed when she heard gunshots to make sure Walt was okay. That’s the kind of person you want watching your back, and that’s why they make such a great team.

Pilot Review: The Newsroom

The Newsroom (HBO)
Premiered June 24 at 10pm

Expectations are incomparably high for this show. This is only Aaron Sorkin’s fourth-ever TV series. His first, “Sports Night,” lasted two seasons, and his third, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” made it through just one. “The West Wing,” however, enjoyed seven successful seasons and earned and a handful of Emmy Awards. Sorkin is back to making TV about TV now, and the best part is that he has a network that’s all but guaranteed to stand by him, HBO. Like “Studio 60,” this series opens with an on-air meltdown featuring an intense tirade by a TV personality. Unlike Judd Hirsch, who was just a one-time guest star on that show, Jeff Daniels is the star of this series. The extra-long pilot serves to introduce all of the other characters, and it works in a crisis-management format that may not continue to be the style for the rest of the show. As can be expected, there is plenty of highfalutin talk to be found in the first episode, and characters often go minutes at a time without letting themselves be interrupted. Some of the actors handle Sorkin’s material better than others, though it remains to be seen how they’ll factor into future episodes. Daniels played a similarly unlikeable man who thought highly of himself in “The Squid and the Whale,” and here he’s rather detestable but still commands respect. Emily Mortimer is magnificent as MacKenzie, his new executive producer who takes charge, and John Gallagher, Jr., a Tony Award winner for “Spring Awakening,” is a real find as her right-hand man Jim. It’s lovely to Alison Pill from “In Treatment” as the desperate and dedicated accidental assistant Margaret, and, though he’s harder to like, Thomas Sadoski does a great job in a tough spot as the outgoing Don. Sam Waterston shines in a role that lets him do more in one hour than he did in all the episodes of the last few seasons of “Law & Order” combined. The show drags a bit in its middle, but the handling of the crisis demanded attention and made for an incredible twenty or so minutes of television. Let’s hope there’s more of that to come. I liked learning that MacKenzie actually did make the signs, and I’d love to dig deep into these characters, which I’m sure we’ll do.

How will it work as a series? Sorkin hasn’t yet been able to enjoy a cable network where his seasons have only ten episodes, so, rather than produce filler content, he’ll be able to really focus and hone the best plotlines for the remaining nine hours, which will likely be less sensational but just as gripping as this one, if his past work is any indication. News is great ground for material.
How long will it last? The pilot ratings weren’t in the league of HBO’s megahits “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones,” but I’m not sure anyone expected them to be. This show has a certain appeal to a distinct crowd, and I think that’s just the audience HBO wants to be serving. A renewal may not be right around the corner, but it’ll come.

Pilot grade: B+

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies

Falling Skies: Season 2, Episode 3 “Compass” (C)

It’s not clear to me why shows with enormous potential such as this one can fall prey to such poor, familiar plotting and even worse writing. The increased visual presence of the aliens should make things more exciting, yet it leads to more excessive human drama rather than any major shoot-outs or revelations. Following up last week’s superb eye-bug introduction with nothing but a hypnotized Ben being spared by the aliens is an enormous letdown. More problematic, however, is Tom’s inane suggestion that he be assigned to the Berserkers, so that he reports to Pope despite giving orders to the contrary on nearly every occasion. Pope is supposed to be the thorn that constantly gives all the other characters grief about taking themselves too seriously, but he’s becoming extremely obnoxious and just feels like an angry Nicolas Cage character at this point. It’s better that he be kicked loose to have his own misadventures and maybe make some headway on defeating the enemy aliens instead of constantly second-guessing and dragging down the 2nd Mass at every turn. Avery Churchill’s arrival by old-fashioned plane felt a little too airbrushed and out of place, and Charleston seems like a dream that’s very far away. Jimmy’s death is somewhat of a surprise, but his funeral seemed forced and overly emotional, turning what might have been dramatic moments into over-the-top, corny scenes with an excessive amount of fake tears. The whole group moving out, with Ben in tow, signals that there should hopefully be more excitement to come in the near future.

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 3 “Whatever I Am, You Made Me” (B+)

This show is so completely singular and strange. The Authority is an organization that could exist only in this show’s universe, with sex wielded as a weapon and plenty of scheming to be had by all. Valentina Cervi is particularly alluring as Salome, who managed to seduce both Bill and Eric in different manners. I enjoyed witnessing Eric and Bill’s first meeting back in 1905, and learning that Pam asked Eric to turn her and then forced him to by slitting her wrists, telling him “Let me walk the world with you, Mr. Northman, or watch me die.” She’s much more okay with being a vampire than Tara, who chugged a whole lot of TruBlood before getting stored in Sam’s freezer and trying to kill herself in a tanning bed. Jessica smelling the most wonderful smell and then racing to tell Jason about it could have turned sour since Jason was realizing that all he ever does is sleep with women after his repeat affair with his former teacher, but her decision to put on sweatpants and stay to talk to him was sweet. Holly agreeing to “go steady” with Andy was cute too, and it’s good that Andy didn’t let himself get too hung up on the Facebook photo of him naked. In other assorted developments, I loved seeing Tina Majorino as the Authority employee who harnessed Bill and Eric, and it would be great to see her reappear. Sookie has managed to alienate yet another man, this time by keeping secrets from him, and he’s an ally she could really have used. On top of all this, Lafayette is still struggling with being possessed. Reverend Steve makes for an intriguing new member of the Authority, but more interestingly, it seems that the Authority is in trouble, and Bill and Eric may just have a crucial role to play in saving it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: How To Be a Gentleman (Last Episode)

How To Be a Gentleman: Season 1, Episode 9 “How to Be Shallow” (B+)

Well, that’s it. Three short episodes didn’t establish a lasting connection to this show for me, but bringing it back for another six definitely did. This is a fitting installment on which to end, however, since it exemplifies the show’s best qualities and gives both Andrew and Bert an unexpected shot at romance. Andrew’s tryst with a model was amusing because of just how unaware he was of his “hot girl goggles” that made both him and Mike think that she was legitimately interesting. Her last stupid remark was by far the best, as she expressed outrage over the fact that he wasn’t actually the captain writer, just the caption writer. I liked that Mike, Janet, and Bert hung out in the living room for the express purpose of meeting the model, ever so unsubtly. It was fun to see Bert find himself actually connected to a girl and miss his chance by refusing her offer of a date, only to go ahead and crash the date she decided to have with someone else. I knew I recognized Melissa, but couldn’t place it – it turns out she’s Christine Woods, who was on “Perfect Couples” and “Flash Forward.” This episode didn’t offer much in the way of closure, since Andrew was still his dorky self and Bert wasn’t yet able to commit (though he might have come close). Nonetheless, it’s an endearing conclusion for a show that I still contend wasn’t all that bad and should have lived longer even in its initial phase than three episodes.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: David Hornsby & Kevin Dillon

What I'm Watching: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 6 “Performance Anxiety” (B+)

They may not get along well, but it’s hard to argue with 398 arrests. I enjoyed how performance anxiety popped up not only in therapy in relation to sex also with Travis and Wes in their efforts to pursue the 400th arrest to come close to records held by Captain Sutton. It was amusing to see both Travis and Wes go to the same side of the building with their teams in the middle of an operation, and to hear them awkwardly and sheepishly apologize for their errors later. Wes going on a date was a major step, though talking about hotels and his ex-wife the entire time definitely wasn’t smooth. If only she wasn’t engaged, he might have had something more tenable to share than just the fact that the door was opened to them having sex. The criminal couple was an intriguing centerpiece for the episode, with subtle entrances to big-time robberies with less than criminal motivations. Letting the wife go instead of charging her was an important communal decision for Wes and Travis, one of the few times that they’re actually able to make a reasonable decision rather than led their egos lead them. The disparity between $5 and $20 bets at the beginning of the episode was brought back in a hilarious way at the end when Wes said he could beat Travis without even taking a shot by psyching him out with the others watching. Seeing Wes win is fun, but not quite as much as Travis barely looking and still making the shot, leaving his partner speechless.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Choice” (B+)

He didn’t even appear in this episode, but Hardman is definitely making his presence felt. The fact that Jessica is vulnerable is what makes Mike’s employment such an issue, and it’s putting everyone on edge. I enjoyed Donna giving unsolicited input in how to handle Hardman to Jessica, and she did a great job of fending off Louis after he tried to give her the tickets under the pretense of the two of them going together. Louis exploring his options is perhaps the episode’s most surprising development, since he has always been manipulative and whiny, but fiercely loyal. Getting the Dictaphone he always wanted as a gift and then telling Jessica he didn’t need her anymore when she came back to look for him after ignoring him earlier in the day suggest that he really is considering leaving. Harvey and Jessica went head-to-head as he disobeyed her wishes and tried to get too involved in the case previously handled by Michael Cristofer, who recurred as Jerry on “Smash” earlier this season. Harvey apologizing to her at the end of the episode should smooth things over, which is good since they have a hostile takeover on their hands. Even though he knows that Harvey threatened to quit if he was fired, Mike will still resent him for not being able to tell Rachel his secret and consequently having to break up with her. He managed to find a solid way to blame it on her and her past relationship, but the fact that he ended it is sure to have negative implications in the near future.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 6, Episode 2 “Mixed Messages” (B+)

I’m not sure there could be a more exciting guest star for this show than John C. McGinley. He’s been spotted before as a soldier, in “The Rock,” and he’s most well-known for “Scrubs,” in which he tormented main character J.D. with girly nicknames and furious speeches about incompetence. Casting him as the man who trained Michael is brilliant, since he displays some of the same memorable qualities he did as Dr. Cox, including whistling at his protégé, but they work just as well in this dramatic context. Going to him to help get to Fiona is likely to turn into a recurring gig, but that’s fine by me since Card is a great character, and I especially liked his reactions to meeting both Jesse and Sam. Inviting Michael back to the office for some frozen yogurt was the icing on the cake. Michael recognizing the lawyer and having to bail on the mission looked like it was going to turn things sour, but Jesse has demonstrated in a short time the ability to make the most out of unexpected situations, and he sold his story as best he could. Coming face-to-face with a real dirty DEA agent was reminiscent of when Michael accidentally outed an undercover operative, but in this case, the corrupt fed was a true bad guy and paid for his treachery with his life. Michael, Sam, and Card did a marvelous job of faking not one but two DEA operations with nothing but their bodies, their vests, and their guns. A newly single Nate will probably be good for a similarly single, at least for the moment, Michael. Fiona didn’t waste much time making enemies in prison, and her one friend, played by Taryn Manning, turned out to be trying to kill her too, meaning that she has more to worry about than just some cafeteria skirmishes.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Take Two: Dallas

Dallas: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Price You Pay” (B-)

I wasn’t sure whether I’d stick with this show after its two-hour pilot last week, but, for the moment, there’s not enough else on midweek to merit giving up on this abundantly soapy show. J.R. was extremely front-and-center in this hour as compared with last week, coming close to slitting his son’s throat with a razor and putting himself right in the middle of all the action. Getting a fellow resident to call Bobby posing as his doctor got him back in Bobby’s home, and now he’s going to be able to see everything that’s going on and directly influence it, as evidenced by his staged slap scene with John Ross where he tried to manipulate Bobby and Ann into trusting him. Carlos Bernard, best known as Tony Almeida from “24,” guest-starred as the Venezuelan oil man funding the two JRs’ hostile takeover, and I suspect he’ll be back to collect if things don’t turn out as has been promised to him. As he’s hearing about his options, it makes sense that Bobby would tell Christopher about his cancer, though it seems that he waited long enough to alienate his son by not trusting him sooner. After hearing the news, Christopher sure didn’t wait long before planting a very public and passionate kiss on Elena. Though Rebecca’s brother is just oozing evil as he sneaks around with a camera phone and a flash drive, she seems enamored with Christopher, forgiving him after he gives her a good speech despite not confessing to his stolen kiss. Rebecca’s biggest problem now is going to be that John Ross knows she sent the e-mail, which is sure to lead to plenty of vicious blackmail and deceit.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 3 “A Guesthouse Divided” (B+)

After finding out that Jill’s job fell through last week, I expected her to stick around for quite a while and take on a new role with Hank’s newfound company. The introduction of a new, equally exciting position for her came as a shock, and seeing the footage of her in Africa at the end drove it home, since she’s really officially left, which should give Hank a chance to get focused and started finding new romance for himself. Jill’s departure coincides with Paige’s return, which was underwhelming because of just how much a clueless Evan ignored her to focus on being a competitive shark in business. Her getting fired means that she’ll be around now and can help give Evan a competitive advantage over his brother, or maybe she’ll distract him from his work by spending more time with him. She was certainly thrilled to hear about Divya’s efforts to sabotage both companies, and equally exasperated to see them fail miserably. Ultimately, Divya may weaken both of their practices, and their reputations may be damaged too much to continue along a united front. Dr. Sacani is proving to be extremely amusing, following up memorizing social security numbers with a very blatant statement to a patient about her being morbidly obese and an unfortunate follow-up joke about how the fat lady can now sing. Dr. Van Dyke’s infrequent appearances suggest that Dr. Sacani may be around even more, and though it’s not good for business, it’s definitely good for entertainment purposes. Eddie’s return is sure to shake things up next week, and I imagine neither brother will be happy about it.

What I’m Watching: Franklin and Bash

Franklin and Bash: Season 2, Episode 3 “Jango and Rossi” (B+)

It’s no surprise that Franklin and Bash would have rivals with a similar dynamic and a similar tendency for the ridiculous in this episode with just as much guest star stuffing as last week. It was a lot of fun to see Eric Mabius, veteran of such shows as “Eyes” (in which Garcelle Beauvais also starred),“The O.C.,” “Ugly Betty,” and, most recently, “Outcasts,” and Seth Green as Jango and Rossi, who went up against Franklin and Bash in the case. I’m very glad that the judge didn’t allow the dog to be put on the stand, and I enjoyed Franklin’s quick reaction to hearing about being put in contempt when he wasn’t the one that had done something wrong. Attacking the prosecution’s height was highly amusing as well. Cybill Shepherd made for a fitting diva in the form of Evanthia. Rick Fox’s appearance as the dog’s rightful owner led to a sensational ending, and an unfortunate nightcap for an overly hopeful Infeld. The dog case, however, was not the best case this week, since that’s the one that involves a robbery with a gun made out of cheese. Karp swapping with the dynamic duo enabled him to do something strange but fun – working with Pinder – and allowed them to win the case by discovering the rather obvious reasons that the pizza place’s owners would have wanted the shop to be robbed. Karp asking for payment in cheese at the end of the episode was definitely the icing on a very cheesy cake.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What I’m Watching: Girls (Season Finale)

Girls: Season 1, Episode 10 “She Did” (A-)

What a finale, and what a show. This show has had excellently-written female characters since its inception, and this installment demonstrates that the men can be just as strong too. Adam in particular is a fantastic and extremely intriguing character, casually suggesting moving in with Hannah and then getting very offended when she finds a new roommate instead, telling her that he loves her and that she doesn’t have it so bad. Getting hit by a car and then saying he wished he had a concussion and that she wasn’t family was harsh, and I suspect that their relationship won’t be so easily repaired now that they’ve finally started talking about their feelings. If Adam isn’t back right away, I do love the idea of Elijah moving in with Hannah since he’s proving to be quite entertaining too. Ray calling Hannah out on faking illness to go to Jessa’s party was amusing, and I love that told Shoshanna that he can’t stop thinking about her since she vibrates on a very strange frequency. Her anger about wearing white to a surprise wedding and her comment to him to stay out of her emotional way were magnificent, and I really want her to be featured more in season two. Charlie suggesting to Marnie that they go have sex in the bathroom was bold, and it seems that his aggression led to her doing something wild, but not with him, picking up the hapless host instead. And then there’s Jessa, who married Thomas John after knowing him only a few weeks, which isn’t quite what Catherine was suggesting last week when she told her to take control of her life. The final shot of Hannah on the beach after falling asleep and getting her purse stolen on the subway indicates that life goes on, and I’m sure they’ll be plenty going on when this show returns next year. It’s been a fascinating first season, and I can’t wait for more.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Lena Dunham as Hannah

Take Three: Longmire

Longmire: Season 1, Episode 3 “A Damn Shame” (B+)

This show continues to demonstrate above-average tendencies for a police procedural, incorporating strong characters in a magnificent setting. The best example of personality on this show was Walt’s response to a firefighter’s suggestion of “At least wear my hat!” to which he responded, “Thanks, I’ve got one.” Vic and Branch’s negative reactions to hearing about happenings in their department via the newspaper were met with considerable dismissal from Walt, with an easy solution proposed: don’t read the paper. Vic does a great job of giving him a hard time, telling him that she could send a picture to his cell phone, except for the fact that she can’t because he doesn’t have a cell phone. I enjoyed seeing such short, subtle spurts of the Ferg proving himself to be rather incompetent but readily owning up to it, offering up his resignation after screwing up. I liked Walt’s response to him, that he hired him for two reasons: because he was helping out his dad and he’s still waiting to find out the other reason. Cady stopping by to see him in his office to complain about the legality of his actions was interesting too, and I hope to see them interact more, both on a professional and a personal level. Discovering Ray was still alive was a shock though not an entirely unexpected one, and he proved to be quite brave in the face of danger as he took the assassin’s fire long enough to get himself killed and save his family. It definitely helped the mood that it started snowing in the middle of their standoff, and that’s just one of the things that makes this show continue to be worth watching.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Big C (Season Finale)

The Big C: Season 3, Episode 10 “Fly Away” (B+)

Cathy going missing at the beginning of this hour was an interesting dramatic note on which to jump off, and definitely emblematic of the way that characters have drifted apart this season. Sean fretting over having lost his buddy is yet another sign of his disconnect with normal life, and he’s understandably upset about letting himself be guided by his attraction to woman rather than his actual human connections. Cathy getting literally caught in a fishing net was entertaining, and I liked her initial comment about regretting taking four years of French. Ultimately, she managed to bond quite well with Angel, and it makes sense that she’d confide in someone who couldn’t understand her about the fact that her tumors have in fact returned. Turning around and jumping into the water to get back on Angel’s boat suggests that she really wants to run from her life, and though it surely won’t be permanent, it’s still a big step. The fact that Paul is about to sleep with a woman he met a bar after pulling a Cathy and telling her that his wife died of cancer and that his name is Brian complicates things even more since their marriage is already so close to dissolving. Andrea had a nice chat with the Jesus portrayer, and she seems to have come full-circle in accepting her given name. This has been a strong season, and I look forward to seeing more of Cathy and the whole extended family, even if Cathy’s health is going to be getting worse.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: John Benjamin Hickey as Sean

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies (Season Premiere)

Falling Skies: Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2 “Worlds Apart” & “Shall We Gather at the River” (B-)

I had all but forgotten about this show since it aired last summer, and, now that it’s back, I think I feel exactly the same way about it. Unlike, say, “Terra Nova,” this show didn’t get bad and lose all focus after its pilot. Instead, this show has never managed to truly live up to its potential, offering mediocre writing and only a small sample of awesome action each episode. Tom getting some face time with the aliens is a pretty big thing, and I enjoyed Karen’s lofty comparisons to examples of oppression from history designed to sway Tom into believing. Seeing him spared while all of the others were mowed down on the field underscores his importance as a leader of the resistance, which is likely to be more determined than ever now that they know that all the aliens want them to be purely subservient. That parasite in Tom’s eye was pretty freaky, and seeing him scared almost most worrisome than anything else. In Tom’s absence, Hal has become bossy, Ben has had the opportunity to get annoying, and Matt has grown up enough to learn how to fire a gun. Pope’s as obnoxious as ever, and it’s a good thing that Weaver and Anne are bonding since they’re Tom’s number one allies. Brandon Jay McLaren, who played Bennett Ahmed last year on “The Killing,” is now a prominent player, one of several interchangeable supporting cast members without any crucial individual function. I want to like and anticipate this show much more than I do, and I’m hopeful that it will rein me in more over the next seven weeks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Killing (Season Finale)

The Killing: Season 2, Episode 13 “What I Know” (B+)

After two seasons, we finally know what happened. Starting with the flashback to Rosie alive and Seeing Jamie accidentally hit Rosie too hard was somewhat underwhelming, but finding out that Terry was the one that put the car in reverse to resolve the situation without knowing that Rosie was in the one in the trunk was gut-wrenching. Watching Jamie unravel was unsettling but believable, since he was raving about how Darren was going to ascend to more power while pointing a gun at him, feeling immensely trapped in his situation. I’m not sure how he could have survived, and his death at Holder’s hands is a definitive period at the end of this long search. The news really did come at the worst time for the Larsen family, since they were finally ready to move on to their exciting new home, but the videotape that they received with her smiling so much offers fitting closure. Darren’s victory was hardly triumphant, though Mayor Adams did give him a partial compliment by dryly congratulating him on getting elected on his first try. Shutting Gwen out isn’t friendly, but losing Jamie definitely struck a blow to Darren’s sense of trust. The fact that he helped Chief Jackson get her charges thrown out is interesting since she was clearly complicit, but I guess he’s realizing that he has to play the game if he wants to survive. The final scene with Holder assuring Sarah that they got the bad guy (“Yeah, who’s that?”) and then telling her to keep in touch ended on a very moody note, with Sarah walking into the distance and a dreary, uncertain future. This season was definitely an improvement over the first, and I’d be interested to see what might happen in season three.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Joel Kinnaman as Holder

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 2 “Authority Always Wins” (B+)

Things are not going well for just about everyone in this hour. The interrogations of Bill and Eric were fascinating, and I was particularly excited to hear and then see Christopher Heyerdahl, who played the Swede on “Hell on Wheels,” here with his unmistakable voice as Bill’s torturer, who spent a fair amount of time talking about the Original Testament, which alleges that vampires were made in God’s image. I’m glad neither of the two men, who have never gotten along well, let the false stories of each other’s betrayals influence them to give in. Christopher Meloni’s high-powered Authority figure is certainly eccentric, and I’m unsure of how Bill pulling the Russell card is going to play out. Tara did not respond well to being turned, and I hope that this transformation will turn her into a more interesting character – it certainly worked for Steve, whose conversation with Jessica was among the best moments of the episode. Sookie going into the anti-vampire weapons shop and telling the clerk that murder is a federal offense was quite amusing, and it demonstrates how unconnected and oblivious she is to everything else that’s going on. I loved the flashback to Pam in 1905, which showed Eric saving rather than turning her. Terry’s starting to go a little crazy, and I’m glad that Arlene isn’t standing for it after all of her baby drama from last year. Jason getting into trouble for his promiscuousness is hardly new, but I liked Jason’s admission that he’s probably close to having had sex with all the women in the town. Alcide not wanting to be the pack master makes sense, but Emma suddenly turning into a wolf after Luna kicked Sam out changes things considerably.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What I’m Watching: How to Be a Gentleman

How to Be a Gentleman: Season 1, Episode 8 “How to Upstage Thanksgiving” (B+)

There’s nothing quite like a Thanksgiving episode in June, but if it’s a chance to see more of this show, then I say it’s welcome. Jerry’s continued presence in the Carlson family life is definitely peculiar, and Janet and Mike trying to introduce the nickname “Uncle Jerry” did a good job of getting him scared, forcing him to stress the casual nature of such a spending such a momentous family holiday together. Andrew faking sick to get out of dinner obviously had some sort of ulterior motive, and getting back together with Lauren was a bit of a surprise. It’s fun to see Janet and even Mike express their hatred for her, siding with Andrew and looking out for his best interests when he clearly can’t see straight. His David Beckham ponytail was particularly lamentable and embarrassing. We knew that it was easy to take advantage of Andrew, but it turns out that Lauren is much worse than that. She proved to be extraordinarily self-centered and manipulative, testing out her current compatibility with Andrew before breaking off her current marriage. I enjoyed how Bert tried to get Andrew to realize that he wasn’t seeing clearly, bringing back a particularly volatile ex-girlfriend to show him how awful a bad relationship can be. Their proposed trip to Vegas sounded pretty awful, but at least Bert knew better than to shoot washing machines while driving a rented Ferrari for an hour. It’s good to see that Bert does have Andrew’s back, even if his methods are, at best, unconventional.

What I’m Watching: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 5 “The T Word” (B+)

It’s rather convenient that Travis has so many foster family members that he’s able to get intel on cases on a regular basis, but this was an important complicated step in which he had to realize that he can’t always depend on the people he knew growing up. Equally important was the trust that he and Wes have established, bantering as always but reliably having each other’s backs, as evidenced by the cooperative diffusing of the mine on which Wes had accidentally stood. Their work with Agent Demeiko was actually quite effective, and it was entertaining to see them fight, for once, over who would get to ask her out before deciding that it wouldn’t be right for either of them to do so during the case. Giving them both her card and telling them not to call her until after the case was over was a brilliant strategy, and it definitely sunk in during therapy when Dr. Ryan suggested just what she had done. Captain Sutton did a magnificent job of puncturing their manliness with his unnecessary mention of their therapy, to which they reacted with appropriate misery. I’d be eager to see more of Travis and Wes’ fellow therapy patients, such as Gary Grubbs’ Mr. Dumont. His excitement at his wife’s return on investment was highly enjoyable, and he and the rest of the partners in that room are relegated to purely reactive comments, sort of like the two children on “How I Met Your Mother.” Sooner or later, they’ll be involved in a case, I’m sure.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What I’m Watching: Suits (Season Premiere)

Suits: Season 2, Episode 1 “She Knows” (B+)

Mike definitely looks a whole lot more like Harvey than he ever did before. Watching him talk down to Myra and make her think that her lawsuit was worthless was cringe-worthy, and, though he helped her, he wasn’t very nice about any of it along the way. He handled himself magnificently at the dinner with Jessica, but his behavior afterwards was lamentable, especially considering Harvey was about to fire him while he was in the middle of celebrating. It’s impressive that Harvey is willing to put himself on the line to protect his protégé, something which Mike clearly doesn’t appreciate but would also be hard-pressed to believe. I like the new relationship that’s going to form between Jessica and Mike, and I’m hopeful they’ll do some work together instead of everything just going through Harvey. The return of Daniel Hardman is sure to shake up the show, and I’m very pleased to see David Costabile, a frequent TV guest star who was incredible in a soft-spoken role on “Breaking Bad” during season three, as the seemingly unthreatening partner motivated to cause trouble by Harvey’s preemptive efforts to expel him. Trevor intercepting Rachel’s voicemail and her overanalyzing, with some help from Donna, Mike’s response means that particular relationship may not be in the cards, but something tells me that it’s not going to be quelled so easily. Trevor’s assertion that he and Mike are even is so far from the truth, as Mike now has the upper hand and will likely come out on top both in terms of his work and his relationship. Again, he’s looking more and more like Harvey, and while it doesn’t look completely good on him, I suspect he’ll get there.

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

Burn Notice: Season 6, Episode 1 “Scorched Earth” (B+)

This is a fitting title for an installment in which a usually calm and collected Michael is desperately and furiously hunting for the man who ruined his life and may have cost Fiona hers. Michael’s anger at Sam and his lack of patience is obvious, and it makes him a much more dangerous man. Fortunately, Jesse is a strong asset, finally worthy of being included in Michael’s opening speech at the start of each episode, and capable of tracking Anson without letting decoys misdirect him. Anson somehow looks even more villainous with his mustache shaved, and, with Fiona having turned herself in, he’s not going to have any luck convincing Michael to back off, and they’ll surely meet again soon. Sending a psychopath after Madeleine was not nice, but she did a great job defending herself, though she caused Jesse some anxiety by waiting until he counted down to one to blow him away. Pearce is being awfully supportive to Michael after he lied to her, but another associate isn’t having so much luck. It’s not as if Fiona was going to be able to resolve everything by turning herself in, but she’s coming up against a brick wall trying to convey the important information about Anson. Even worse, Agent Bly is expressly trying to manipulate her into confessing her association with Michael, faking his death and bringing her conclusive proof so that she’ll turn on him. Fiona isn’t one to be tricked easily, and so she’s sure to have a long and bumpy ride ahead of her trying to talk and scheme her way out of a cell.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pilot Review: Dallas

Dallas (TNT)
Premiered June 13 at 9pm

This summer’s most buzzed-about new show has arrived, and it’s just as advertised. Since I was born in the late 1980s, I’ve never actually seen the original series that ran for a staggering fourteen seasons. This show has been described as a continuation of the original show rather than a reboot or a remake, but I’m happy to say that it stands well enough on its own, using the actors and characters that were featured on the original series in supporting rather than lead roles. The show boasts an old-fashioned look most evident in its opening credits, and it’s most definitely a primetime soap opera. The Ewing characters are firmly established as determined, egotistical businessmen desperate for power. The amount of duplicity and manipulation going on in Dallas is appalling, but that’s what makes it so fun. There’s not one clean character in the entire series, and each scene brings a new level of lying and deceit. The show would probably be better off without tech talk about extracting methane, but the show does need a plot to drive it. The younger stars are well-suited for their roles, some more heavily-accented than others. Josh Henderson looks alarmingly like Jonathan Rhys-Meyers with his mustache, and Jesse Metcalfe seems like he belongs in Texas. It’s interesting to see Jordana Brewster from “The Fast and the Furious” as the girl caught in between the two warring Ewing cousins, and Julie Gonzalo as the nice one’s new wife with plenty of secrets of her own. The older folks are still kicking too, and both Ewing patriarch are quickly established and defined. This soapy show definitely has an appeal, and though I’m not sure I’ll stick with it for that long, it should be good summer fun for a while.

How will it work as a series? There’s so much scheming to be found on this show, and that creates webs upon webs of intersecting plotlines from which to spin off. If the original series could produce fourteen seasons and this one has a whole new cast of young characters, there’s no telling how much material can be milked from this particular property.
How long will it last? A while. Given how long the original series ran, this one could go forever too, but it’s most crucial that it’s on TNT, which has found plenty of success with original programming lately and will be thrilled to add this show, whose pilot is officially the highest-rated cable series premiere this year, to its regular roster. I’d expect a renewal very shortly.

Pilot grade: B-

Friday, June 15, 2012

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 2 “Imperfect Storm” (B+)

I have to admit that I didn’t expect Hank and Evan to remain separated for long, and I’m actually quite happy with how it’s playing out. The excitement with which they realized that they could have a friendly, amicable, equitable divorce for HankMed quickly faded when complications emerged, and I’m enjoying seeing how HankMed and HankMed 2.0 operate side-by-side. Having a client that wanted to retain them both and Divya deciding that she was going to split her time evenly between both businesses means that they’re going to come face-to-face with each other on a regular basis, which is sure to be awkward but extremely entertaining. Dr. Sacani memorizing all of the files by social security number was very amusing, and it’s clear that he’s going to be an interesting and unpredictable asset for Evan’s business. Dr. Van Dyke continues to be business-oriented and unfriendly, and Evan’s having to work overtime to charm his clients, which he’s doing rather well so far. Hank, on the other hand, is operating blind without help, and it’s a good thing that Divya is going to work with him so that he won’t be all alone. The fact that Jill’s job fell through isn’t a surprise since she wasn’t exactly rushing out and had been pushing it off for so long. No job and no home means that she could well be an asset for Hank’s new business, and it would be nice to see how she operates without being tethered to Hamptons Heritage.

What I’m Watching: Franklin & Bash

Franklin and Bash: Season 2, Episode 2 “Viper” (B+)

This show is really growing on me. It’s also possible that it’s getting better with age, or maybe just more likeable as the plotlines get more ridiculous. The arrival of Jane Seymour as Peter’s mother, who did inappropriate exercises while sitting with Karp and then texted Wendy for a booty call for son, was not the craziest part of the episode, but only on this show could such a parent be tolerated (and so encouraged by Jared!). the fact that Wendy actually went along with the booty call after discovering its source suggests that she’s a little outrageous herself, though she may not be around for long if Peter goes back to pursuing the infinitely less interesting Janie now that she’s no longer getting married. The dynamic duo couldn’t contain their excitement at the opportunity to represent a real-life superhero, played by Sean Astin of “Lord of the Rings” fame. It was a far better part for him than his season five stint on “24” as a counterterrorist agent, and he played it well. That they had to strip away his own self-perception to get him exonerated is a shame, but he seemed to deal with it positively, and everything worked out in the end. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when Pindar came face-to-face with the girl that caused his phobias, and her first reaction, running away, seemed just about right. Making her into someone with a restraining order and problems of her own is great, and I’m hopeful that she sticks around to get fixed along with Pinder.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 1, Episode 9 “Leave Me Alone” (B+)

This blowout between Hannah and Marnie was inevitable. It’s unfortunate because neither of them can really make a verifiable claim to not being selfish since they do talk mostly about themselves. It’s been building for a while, and Hannah lending Adam her key definitely isn’t productive while Marnie is still a mess about her breakup with Charlie and her unknown future, throwing out old clothes since poor people shouldn’t have to wear her old stuff on top of everything else. Hannah’s essay reading bombed after she wrote her piece on the subway en route to the reading, and it’s purely because she second guessed herself that it didn’t go well. It’s interesting to see Michael Imperioli as an artsy intellectual since he usually plays less intelligent and relaxed people, and I wonder if he’ll stick around as Hannah explores her Marnie-less life. Jessa got a rather direct talking-to from Catherine, and it’s great to see Kathryn Hahn prove that she’s an actress with diverse talents after her more comedic recurring guest spot on “Parks & Recreation” earlier this season. Shoshanna has sort of been maligned this entire season, and a JDate doesn’t mean all that much since she’s had such few plotlines. I’d love to see that change in the finale and heading into season two. With just one episode to go left this season, I’m curious to see how the chips will fall as both Hannah and Marnie may turn to Jessa for support, and things could end up being seriously shaken up.

What I’m Watching: Veep (Season Finale)

Veep: Season 1, Episode 8 “Tears” (B+)

It seems like this season only just started, and it’s already over! Yet it has been an entertaining ride, and the central plot of this installment is a perfect way to go out for the summer. Congressman No-Jaw telling Dan then Selina that he didn’t want her endorsement for governor was, if nothing else, extremely rude, and she didn’t mince words telling him how she felt about him. Unfortunately, that did unlock the floodgates, and the “Chinese daughter torture” was only so effective in getting her approval ratings back up, only to have them threaten to drop when the journalist expressed that Selina’s team had engineered her crying. Dan’s swift promotion to policy director couldn’t have been more poorly played-out, as he announced it immediately and then got demoted after the angry congressman, who even tried to belittle Sue, announced that he was launching a congressional hearing into Dan’s actions with the Macaulay Amendment. That should make for an interesting season two. What I love most about this show was exemplified in several choice scenes and lines in this episode, like Gary whispering in Selina’s ear that he didn’t know what to say, so he’s just whispering, Mike saying that he’s Pinocchio, the puppet master, and Selina, in a rare moment on top, using her token “Sue, did the president call?” as a sarcastic weapon against a self-congratulatory Jonah. This entire cast is superb, and, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus is pretty much a sure thing for an Emmy nomination, I hope she’s not the only one from the cast recognized.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Anna Chlumsky as Amy

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Round Two: Longmire

Longmire: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Dark Road” (B)

In its second outing, this show proves itself well worth watching while still ironing out a few kinks, namely the flashback scenes revealing some secret event involving Walt and Henry. What I’m loving most is the female participation in the storyline. Cady is a fabulous character, and I like that Walt was able to deduce that she had a boyfriend because her door lock had been fixed. The fact that it’s Branch was much more predictable, and that’s sure to complicate things once he finds out, especially after his very nice message in which he told her to have him meet him only when she was ready. Withstanding interrogation by Henry was particularly impressive on her part. Vic’s pondering about going into stripping and asking if Walt would write her a recommendation was hilarious, and her methods of getting information were untraditional but highly effective. I’m so glad that both Cassidy Freeman and Katee Sackhoff found these roles after their sci-fi television origins. This week’s plot was well-constructed also, featuring the Mennonite people and their pre-adult pilgrimage into the real world. What’s most striking about this show and the way Walt works is that he almost never tells people that someone has died, instead waiting until they’ve had several encounters for informational purposes. He’s the law out where he is, so he can do what he wants, but it does seem like he’s waiting an awfully long time in almost every case to make a death notification, something which surely appears insensitive.

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Season Finale)

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 13 “The Phantom” (A-)

It’s hard to believe this season is over already, and there are a handful of bittersweet and awkward goodbyes to be had in this hour, as well as a select few positive developments. Lane’s absence definitely does cast a shadow over the office, and Don’s visit to his widow to deliver a check that he and Joan decided should go to her was met with nothing but anger towards the lifestyle that led Lane to end his life. Megan was always a clean player in the advertising business, and as a result it’s extremely surprising to see her sell her friend out and ask Don to have her cast in the commercial. Don watching Megan’s reel was decently heartbreaking, and seeing her excitement and how proud he is at the commercial shoot seems to indicate that this relationship could really work out well for both of them (no sign of Betty in the entire hour, of course). Roger proved to be daring, posing as Emile on the phone so that he invite Marie over for an evening delight. Pete’s fantasy romance fell apart when Beth told her she was getting shock therapy and then didn’t remember him, and he has now made himself a pariah on the train after letting the clueless husband realize that he was the one cheating with his wife. Peggy’s new job seems about as fulfilling and frustrating as her previous one, in different ways, and it’s so fitting to see her run into Don while both of them are playing hooky, going to movies during the work day. As always before, this show is simply excellent, and I can’t wait for season six. Don’t expect this one to give up the Best Drama Series trophy too easily this year – more on that in July.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Jon Hamm

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 3, Episode 9 “Vaya Con Dios” (B+)

In the wake of Joy’s death, a trip to Puerto Rico is therapeutic in an unconventional way for the extended Jamison family. Cathy’s lack of affection, and now compassion, for Joy isn’t productive for a grieving Paul, whose grief extends a bit too far, considering he is a married man. Throwing Cathy’s secret life at the bar in her face led to an unfortunate response on her part, that she’s been going through a lot when both of them have had their separate and shared miserable, complicated experiences to deal with. Andrea’s screw-up was rather amusing, though Paul didn’t seem to find the humor in it. I like that Andrea didn’t stand for Paul’s abuse for even a second, calling him out on his selfishness and ungratefulness and promptly quitting. The fact that Paul incorporated her departure into his talk regarding his heart monitor was interesting, and not entirely commendable. It seems that the only person having fun in Puerto Rico is Sean, whose break from women didn’t last long after he let his eyes get the better of him, going so far as to sleep with a married woman even though he chastised Cathy for her infidelity. Adam also seems to be consoling himself with religion, something Cathy isn’t really ready to support. That parting shot of Cathy scuba-diving is very typical for the dramatic underbone of this show, and next week’s season finale may bring some bad news for Cathy following Doctor Sherman’s call. Let’s hope things aren’t about to take a turn for the worse since the Jamisons already have enough drama in their lives.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 2, Episode 12 “Donnie or Marie” (B+)

In terms of dialogue and nicknames, Holder is starting to approach Sawyer from “Lost” in terms of his sarcasm and skill in manipulating the English language to his witty delight. His monikers may be less sophisticated, and my favorite quote form the episode was said to the poor valet, “Minimum wage ain’t worth fighting the popo.” His far more biting comment to Gwen, “We’re just asking questions, you’re the one that keeps lying,” was also extremely effective and not too nice. Sarah’s decision to trust the Mayor’s campaign to help them get out of their tricky situation was bold but effective, and presuming that both Jamie and Gwen were complicit in Rosie’s murder is major news. Going to the brutalized right hand to Chief Jackson to get to the truth worked well, and that final parting shot of Jamie staring up angrily at the camera was haunting. Darren being told about all this comes at just about the worst possible time, when he’s about to clinch the campaign if these last-minute curveballs would stop popping up. Mitch’s return home came with predictable obstacles, though Stan was actually the calmest and kindest to her, until she started telling him that Rosie wasn’t his daughter. Tommy’s frustration is understandable, and hopefully he won’t give his mother too much trouble. It’s good that Terry stood up for herself and for just how much she’s been doing for the Larsen family in her absence. That family’s on its way to getting back together just as Rosie’s murder is finally about to be solved.

What I’m Watching: True Blood (Season Premiere)

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 1 “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (B+)

It’s fantastic to have this show back. A lengthy recap of what happened last season was useful mainly in its depiction of all the major events that took place in the jam-packed finale, including Steve’s return, the apparent exhumation of Russell Edgington, Tara and Debbie’s deaths, Jesus’ demise, and Bill and Eric’s decision to kill Nan rather than face the Authority. Those messes are still being cleaned up as new characters start to appear and change the landscape. Most significant is Bill and Eric’s flight from the Authority, complete with a reunion with Eric’s dear old friend and “sister,” a high-ranking official in the Authority. Her allegiance didn’t seem to mean too much, unfortunately, as the Authority did find them by episode’s end, likely due to Eric’s usage of his cell phone. Sookie and Lafayette asking Pam to turn Tara is sure to have unfortunate results since that’s going to make for one unhappy vampire, and I can’t imagine her being suited well for an undead life. It’s a good thing that Steve’s return as a gay Vampire-American was only brief, and Jason was only so bright to tell him he wouldn’t be glamored before allowing him to do just that by looking directly into his eyes. Jessica’s relationship with Jason doesn’t look like it will be simple as she gets into living her college years, and Hoyt’s none too happy either. I’m glad that Holly’s still around, giving Andy a bit of happiness, as long as she’s the sole remnant of the necromancers plotline. Scott Foley’s Patrick is bringing out a dark side in Terry, and that chill he got when he mentioned the fire was eerie. Alcide and Sam’s problems with the pack don’t seem to be going away, but at least they’re in it together. This is going to be as wild and violent a season as ever.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What I’m Watching: How To Be a Gentleman

How To Be a Gentleman: Season 1, Episode 7 “How to Get Along with Your Boss’ New Girlfriend” (B+)

This episode perfectly exemplifies the nature of traditional laugh-track sitcoms, to present a rather straightforward and expected situation and milk the comedy out of them. Bert’s efforts to help turn Jerry’s life around were clearly going to fail, and setting him up with Andrew’s mom was definitely not a productive idea. It was entertaining to watch Bert try to coach a blouse-wearing Jerry on how to pick up women in a bar, first sending in a clown in the form of an overzealous Mike and then continuing the parade of idiots with a clueless Andrew. Ultimately, Jerry’s relationship with Diane proved inconsequential since the guy with the ponytail who so intrigued Bert ended up getting the back page anyway. Diane saying that she didn’t want gifts for her birthday while not so secretly hoping for the opposite resulted in an amusing display of Andrew’s irksome positive qualities, which in this case would be his need to one-up everyone else, which he managed to do and then some with his hand-made pixilated super picture, compared with four ten-dollar gift cards from Janet. Swapping gifts wasn’t going to fool her, and Andrew’s delight at being complimented was hardly subtle. I’m so pleased to have this show as a nice weekend summer treat, since I thought that it was coming back for just an episode or two back in May, whereas, by the end of its run in a couple of weeks, it’s actually going to end up airing at least double the number of new episodes originally shown back in September.

TV with Abe Giveaway!

I’m excited to announce that I have received a handful of posters for the new seasons of “Weeds” and “Episodes,” which premiere back-to-back on Sunday, July 1st, from Showtime. The former show is headed into its eighth season after one hell of a rollercoaster run. It looks almost nothing like it used to, and its format is completely different from when the show started back in 2005. Its seventh season finale left its future unknown, yet the show’s wacky cast will return for yet another round of life in the drug business. The latter isn’t nearly as old, entering its second season with its eighth episode. The show, which chronicles the transformation of a top-notch British series into an American imitation of that same show, has already aired half its second season on BBC2 in the UK, and will appeal most to American audiences thanks to its Golden Globe-winning star, Matt LeBlanc, who delivers a skewering parody of himself on a weekly basis.

If you haven’t watched these two shows, now is the time to start. “Weeds” may be a shadow of its former self, but it’s still enormously intriguing and entertaining, and I have no idea where this coming season will go. “Episodes” is still in its prime, boasting a fantastic international cast and very witty writing. Catch these two on Sunday nights beginning July 1st at 10pm and 10:30pm, and in the meantime, enter to win posters of your own!

To earn yourself a poster, comment on this post with the name of your favorite character from either show (or both!) and tell us why you like them so much. Said character does not need to be a currently featured player or even still be alive. Get ready for the return of these two shows by looking back and remembering what you love most about them.

Winners will be announced next Monday, June 18th at 9pm, so get your entries in before then!

What I’m Watching: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 4 “Ex-Factor” (B+)

This show just keeps getting better and better, and this fourth installment demonstrates that this show really knows how to use guest characters to its advantage. Greg Germann proved himself skilled at playing a vindictive jerk on “House of Lies” this past season, and here he’s essentially playing the same part, as the spurned ex-partner determined to get back at Travis for casting him out. I enjoyed how Morgan made Travis feel incompetent thanks to his nickname, Travis 2.0, and that Wes sternly told Morgan off when he offered him the friendly advice to distance himself from Travis. Phil and Morgan being around did inspire Travis and Wes to work together quite commendably, though Travis blatantly chomping down on appetizing and plentiful food in front of Wes during his juice cleanse was hardly kind. His offer of support came too late as Wes had already managed to break into the bucket of fried chicken in the refrigerator. Though she hasn’t gotten much less annoying, Dr. Ryan is now serving a better purpose, as her words and sentiments haunted both partners and encouraged them to let Phil take some of the credit for their bust instead of throwing him under the bus. Also in the guest cast in this episode was Mark Moses from “Desperate Housewives” and “The Killing,” in a minor but crucial role as the mayor who managed to treat his son so poorly that he became part of a major carjacking ring that ended up targeting the mayor himself at one point.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pilot Review: Saving Hope

Saving Hope (NBC)
Premiered June 7 at 9pm

The broadcast networks don’t save their best shows for summer. Therefore hopes, if you’ll pardon the word, aren’t high for this medical drama that may or may not have a supernatural twist. I say that mainly because it’s entirely unclear from the pilot episode exactly what the comatose Dr. Charlie Harris is capable of since he stands idly by watching things most of the time and only has one quick conversation with a deceased John Doe, gleaning crucial information about his identity that he doesn’t even try to share with anyone. Absent an explanation or even a spotlight, events at Hope Zion Hospital in Toronto are less than exciting, and there’s not much appeal to be found anywhere. After spending six seasons complaining and spitting out sarcastic dialogue on “Smallville” as Lois Lane, Erica Durance has found a somewhat calmer but equally irksome and hardheaded part as surgeon Alex Reid, who is likely to be influenced considerably by the comatose status of her fiancé. No one else in the cast deserves mention, not simply because of their unknown status in the United States but because their characters are so uniformly unspectacular. I initially thought that this was a Canadian series from the spring being imported for airing in American television over the summer, but it’s actually airing new episodes simultaneously on CTV in Canada and on NBC here in the United States. That means people in both countries will get to experience this lackluster medical drama at the same time. Lucky them.

How will it work as a series? That remains to be seen, since this pilot was the opposite of indicative of what the show will be like, though I worry that future episodes may be just as disjointed and pointless, featuring medical show tropes and stale characters and nothing more than a hint of a less-than-original from-the-beyond twist.
How long will it last? Judging this show is difficult since it’s not going to bring in the same kind of numbers as regular primetime programming, but it did well compared to what NBC aired last year. A modest thirteen episode order should be just what this show makes it through, and I wouldn’t expect much fanfare after that.

Pilot grade: D+

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

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 1 “After the Fireworks” (B+)

If there’s one show that feels just right for the summer, it’s this one. Yet things aren’t going too well at this point since Hank and Evan are at odds after Hank quit at the end of last season. Hank’s frustration with Evan at calling him a quitter isn’t merited since Hank literally said the words “I quit,” but it’s clear that Evan is the one who plays dirtier, as evidenced by his forcible use of the shares purchased from Divya to wrest control from his doctor brother. The rift isn’t likely to be resolved anytime soon, as Evan has gone ahead and hired not one but two doctors, and it’s not a good combination. Dr. Van Dyke’s lack of compassion for individual patients, coupled with Dr. Sacani’s lack of social skills, means that Evan will have to do all the emotional heavy lifting and charm the patients while their doctors are making them feel anything but comfortable. The revelation that Raj is an expecting father is sure to wound Divya, and she’s going to have to start up a new relationship sooner rather than later if she really wants to be able to get her mind off of him. On that note, it seems like Jill will never leave for Africa, despite repeated dialogue to the contrary, and now she’s going to have to help Hank with this explosion. Her house being sold doesn’t mean much, and maybe she can become Hank’s new roommate if Evan seriously considers moving out.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What I’m Watching: Franklin & Bash

Franklin & Bash: Season 2, Episode 1 “Strange Brew” (B-)

After not being so into this show last summer, I’ve come to accept it as a highly entertaining guilty pleasure, and as a result I enjoyed this season opener quite a bit. Starting off with Franklin being trapped in a tank full of water was great, and Infeld’s subsequent announcement that they might be made partners was an exciting challenge that could change the game considerably. The fact that Hanna has chosen to ally herself with Damien to use their newfound promotion to get them kicked out of the firm altogether is bad news for this dynamic duo. They’ll be able to have some fun in the meantime, however, and it will enable Carmen and Pindar to take a more active role in the firm’s activities and on their cases. This episode boasted a number of fantastic guest stars, including Ernie Hudson and Martin Mull’s judges and Melora Walters’ restaurant owner. Eddie Jemison from “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Hung” made for a fun client, struggling to defend himself after a drunken, costumed encounter with the law, and Kat Foster was superb as the extremely attractive Officer Cowell. Her chemistry with Bash was excellent, and I do hope that she’ll stick around since, despite her attraction to him, she’s going to make him work to woo her. Bash’s Spartacus moment in the courtroom was almost as over-the-top and ridiculous as the opening water tank stunt, and it assures that these guys are going to provide plenty of arguments for Hanna and Damien to try to get them kicked out.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 1, Episode 8 “Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too” (B+)

Seeing Adam out of his apartment and out of the club leads to some pretty intense events, though it shouldn’t come as a surprise given what an out-there and unpredictable character he is. His monologue performance was actually quite effective, and his reaction to nearly being hit by a car with Hannah was extreme. Somehow, however, things always seem to turn out, and his end-of-episode apology to Hannah seemed sincere, and this odd couple may just work out. Their loud, gross sex was very much in character and something that Marnie really didn’t need to hear. I enjoyed her bonding with Jessa, who was completely bored with the idea of going home with a man from the bar, while Marnie found the opportunity exciting and took it upon herself to prove that she could be adventurous. Their host got quite riled up by their exclusion of him, and it’s lucky that it didn’t turn into a violent situation with an unhappy ending. Jessa seems like she’s extremely capable of getting herself into those messes without much though for how it will affect others. The night out was exactly what Marnie needed since she was spending so much time wallowing in self-pity and watching slideshows of supposedly happier times with Charlie. Her description of herself as the uptight one was not inaccurate, and it’s becoming clearer that she judges others while not taking a harsh look at herself. Hopefully this was her turning point, and she’ll be on an upward swing going forward for the season’s final two episodes.

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 1, Episode 7 “Full Disclosure” (B+)

Seeing Selina mad is not a pretty sight. Her fury in this episode was palpable as she toyed with firing Amy, Mike, or Dan. Her instant rejection and demeaning of their suicide pact was entertaining, as was Dan’s quick abandonment of it. The fact that she praised Gary as the sole valuable person around since he actually cared was quite amusing, and he did do a commendable job preemptively breaking up with Ted for her when she thought that he was about to do the very same thing. Her miscarriage solves a major problem, but Smile Story was definitely pervasive throughout this episode. Her solution, to pin the whole thing on Amy being the one who was pregnant and therefore influenced to make unsound decisions, was effective but cruel nonetheless. I liked the suggestion of Sue as the person to be fired, and something tells me Sue wouldn’t have gone down without a fight. The most hilarious moment of the episode was Selina rhetorically asking Mike if he was really writing down their secret plan not to fully disclose everything. Seeing Jonah is his natural habitat was expectedly pitiful, and his anger at the nickname e-mail being leaked was enjoyable. It’s hard to believe there’s just one episode left in this season, but fortunately this show will be back for another round of mishaps next year. I wouldn’t expect this Sunday’s finale to be terribly eventful, but I’m sure it will provide a fitting temporary conclusion to this first season’s terrific arc.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pilot Review: Longmire

Longmire (A&E)
Premiered June 3 at 10pm

This is one show about which I would never have heard had it not been for the plastering of advertisements all across New York City. A&E is a network that rarely ventures into scripted original series, and two of its most recent series, “The Cleaner” and “Breakout Kings,” enjoyed generally successful runs before being cancelled at their end of their second seasons. “The Glades” made it to season three, and airs as this show’s lead-in. Now, the network is trying for a new, old-fashioned spin on something very conventional. Police procedurals come in many shapes and sizes, and this one just happens to be set in the state of Wyoming. That gives it a very laidback, distanced feel, somewhat like Kentucky in “Justified” but with less intelligent criminals and an even gruffer lawman. As a lead character, Sheriff Walt Longmire is relatively inaccessible, and his occasional moments of honesty about the death of his ex-wife don’t help that too much. It’s much more exciting to see Katee Sackhoff, best known for playing loudmouth pilot Starbuck on “Battlestar Galactica,” as his deputy Vic, full of personality and energy. It’s a good part for her also, putting her in an entirely different setting. It’s also nice to see Cassidy Freeman move out of Metropolis to a place more like Smallville after playing Tess Mercer in the CW series’ latter seasons. There’s nothing especially clever or creative about this show, but it could be a fun summer distraction when not much else is on, and a great opportunity to see Sackhoff back on the small screen.

How will it work as a series? Procedurals lend themselves to easy plotting, and Wyoming offers a setting for specific crimes and villains that can go head-to-head with and then fall to the sheriff. The Native American presence should also add considerable drama to the mix, and there won’t be any shortage of conflicts or crime to be found on this series.
How long will it last? Fortunately, the pilot ratings were the best the network has ever seen for a series premiere, which suggests that the show will be around for a while. Having one cop in Florida and another in Montana back-to-back is great for the network, so I imagine they’ll want to get this winning pair renewed as soon as possible.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 12 “Commissions and Fees” (B+)

Poor Lane. This wasn’t the way he should have gone out, but there really wasn’t any other option after he forged himself a Christmas bonus check only to find out that the partners weren’t getting Christmas bonuses. Cooper coming to Don to tell him something was up with the books was appropriately subtle, and Don’s meeting with Lane was cold and unfriendly, matter-of-factly telling him that he would have to resign because of his mistake. After seeing Joan sacrifice herself and losing Peggy, something which wasn’t even mentioned in this hour, last week, Don had yet another heartbreaking blow, which was the news of Lane’s suicide and then the sight of him hanging on his door. Deaths and injuries in the office are always handled awkwardly, and this instance was no exception. Don dealt with it by fleeing from his home and doing something different, letting Glen drive his car as he took him back to college. Sally’s first period came at an unfortunate time, and running from Megan to Betty must have meant something was wrong. Watching her out at dinner with Megan and Julia showed that she has really grown up, and I was surprised to hear her admit that she had a boyfriend. Roger setting up a meeting with Ed for Don resulted in the most aggressive, unfeeling pitch ever, something which may end up being effective but certainly doesn’t pave the way for a positive and warm relationship between the two companies should they decide to consider a new firm.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Big C

The Big C: Season 3, Episode 8 “Killjoy” (B+)

If there was a way to make Dave and Maxine feel as embarrassed and hurt as she was, Cathy found it. Having their strip and then leave their clothes while she was waving a gun and shouting at them was excellent payback, and they didn’t do themselves any favors by telling her that she was crazy to think someone would want to give a baby to a woman with cancer. They weren’t the only people Cathy eviscerated in this hour, as she tried to intimidate the hotel clerk into giving her Joy’s room number by insulting her middle management status. Joy didn’t seem fazed at all by Cathy’s remarks, but then she had to go get hit by a bus, which might have been comic and unnecessary if not for the shot of Marlene exiting the bus as Cathy stood over the body. Paul is sure to be devastated about her death, and he’s also not feeling particularly connected to Cathy after discovering that she has been going to the bar and posing as someone else whose husband died of a heart attack. Sean’s removal from his three-wide relationship was inevitable, and he didn’t take it lying down, giving both his partners some constructive criticism that was less than kind. Now, everyone except for Adam is back to square one - no baby, no speaking gigs (unless Paul inherits the franchise), and no romantic partners. There are still two episodes to go this season, so we’ll see where things head in preparation for the finale.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 2, Episode 11 “Bulldog” (B+)

Now that she’s on the outside, Sarah is still flying off the handle and behaving in an extremely disconcerting manner. Defiantly holding up the ID badge in the elevator for Chief Jackson to see on the surveillance footage is the definition of reckless, and it actually enabled her to call ahead and warn its owner. Even after having Holder beaten up, the direct brutality and fury exercised by Chief Jackson upon learning that news was quite frightening. That closing moment in which the ID worked to open a door, but not the one that they thought, was very intriguing, and should lead to some even more disturbing developments next week. At least Carlson is finally trusting them and giving them some privileges rather than working directly for the Mayor. There was no way that Darren was going to drop out of the race because Mayor Adams threatened to leak the fact that he tried to commit suicide, and owning up to it is the kind of honest bravery that defines him as a candidate. Stan has a productive episode not related to his own rage, though he snapped to attention when Janek threatened his family. Alexi killing Janek solves a lot of problems, and Mitch’s return comes at a time that could actually help the Larsen family get back on track, if there are no unfortunate revelations in the two-part season finale that serve to further tear them apart and shave off what’s left of the halo over Rosie’s head.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Season Finale)

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 10 “Valar Morghulis” (B+)

After that insane penultimate episode, it’s hard to imagine this one topping it, but it did a pretty good job of coming close. After his bravery last week, it’s a shame to see Tyrion immediately dethroned and forgotten since Tywin has now taken on the position of the King’s Hand, riding in triumphantly on horseback to celebrate his victory. At least he still has his love by his side, as Joffrey grows ever more power-hungry and throws Sansa under the bus for a political marriage. Her stubbornness and stupidity is infuriating, since yet another kind soul offers her safe passage out of King’s Landing and she refuses it because she thinks she’ll be better off staying than going. Theon’s speech was quite impressive, though clearly his men had had enough, and unfortunately Maester Luwin was the final casualty of that invasion. Brianne proved formidable in escorting Jamie, resisting his taunting and taking out her assailants after Jamie’s identity was revealed. Jaqen is arguably the coolest character ever, telling Arya how she can always get in contact with him before changing his face to take on a new identity. After having her dragons stolen, Daenerys is back on top, successfully rejecting the allure of being reuniting with Khal Drogo and commanding her dragons to breath fire to incinerate their captors. The episode’s end was haunting, as Sam was privy to a frightening sight, which managed to rival “The Walking Dead” in terms of zombie hordes. Season three can’t come soon enough.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Peter Dinklage

What I’m Watching: How To Be a Gentleman

How To Be a Gentleman: Season 1, Episode 6 “How to Dip Your Pen in the Company Ink” (B+)

It’s rare that Andrew’s the one the girl likes better, and that’s what made this episode highly enjoyable. Fiona Gubelmann, best known for playing the similarly charming and unattainable Jenna on FX’s “Wilfred,” was a fantastic guest star to play Amy, Andrew’s new assistant with the same attitude towards grammar and politeness that he boasts. It’s no surprise, therefore, that she would have the same rule about dating her boss that he does, though one would hope she has high enough standards to be able to resist Bert’s charms. Wearing Andrew’s blazer and then telling him that he didn’t come to debate whose blazer it was ended up being quite amusing, though Andrew taking Bert’s cigar hostage as a way of getting him home from his date was more impressive in terms of creativity since Bert didn’t even bother to put on a button-down shirt for the fancy dinner. Mike’s dismay at finding out that Janet told Andrew all of his secrets led to an entertaining effort to find a new confidante, calling both Andrew and Bert to try to get them to be his new go-to person, with considerably little success. I do love it when Mike and Bert interact since they’re not primarily interactive characters, and Bert’s much nicer to Mike than you might think considering how much he gives Andrew a hard time. Andrew, however, was the butt of many one-liners in this episode as his high telephone voice was revealed when he was continually confused for his new female assistant.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Take Three: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 3 “Soul Mates” (B)

This show is definitely finding its footing, establishing itself as an unspectacular but consistently entertaining series. There’s an appropriate amount of drama to be found with Wes clinging to the idea of his ex-wife and then seeing himself matched up with her when Travis creates a dating profile for him, but it’s not overwhelming, and the overall tone is comedic. Watching the two of them pose as dating site police was amusing, and Travis always goes the whole distance when it comes to playing the part of the crazy person. I like the latest female addition to the cast, Nora Zehetner, best known for her recurring guest spots on “Heroes” and “Grey’s Anatomy” as well as her role in the film “Brick.” It would be great if she ended up getting together with Wes and managed to make Travis extremely jealous. Speaking of jealousy, the captain’s love life may take center stage as he expressed to Dr. Ryan that he thinks his wife may be cheating on him. That’s another kind of drama this show doesn’t necessarily need, though some backbone may be nice. As USA series go, this one is definitely goofier, especially since its murders, to this point, haven’t been excessively gruesome or unsettling. The rest of the network’s lineup starts coming back this week, so it will be interesting to see how the first season of this show plays out alongside the other shows that have already established themselves. Should make for a fun summer, at the very least

What I’m Watching: Touch (Season Finale)

Touch: Season 1, Episodes 11 & 12 “Gyre, Parts 1 & 2” (B)

This show’s double-decker season ender comes a bit later than most other broadcast network spring finales, but this show has always proceeded along at its own pace, so that’s not much of a surprise. These two installments were full of familiar faces from early episodes, including Jude Ciccolella’s pawn shop owner, Rob Benedict’s Invisible Prince, and Titus Welliver’s lottery winner. All three played important supporting roles in Martin’s successful escape with Jake following his near-loss after Clea’s alleged betrayal. Clea and Avram proved that they were extremely trustworthy, but I’m not sure that Martin should really open himself up to anyone else. His sister-in-law continues to be shady in her motivations, and Sheri has demonstrated that she is only interested in the research Jake can help to provide. Martin came quite close to death twice in the course of the finale, indicating that Jake is much more instrumental than he could ever have expected. Heading off to Los Angeles because the numbers indicated so was cool, and I was most impressed with Martin, who, when met with a mother looking for her child, knows to ask the child’s name since it could well be Amelia. Jake was clearly proud of his father as well, rewarding him by holding his hand. Maria Bello’s Lucy has been doing similar work to Martin, as she helped her friend on the beach to find the woman he nearly drowned with, to connect them to give them both a sense of satisfaction and completion. She’ll likely have an interesting role to play in season two, when the show returns this fall on Friday nights. It hasn’t been a superb season, but this show definitely has potential, and I’d be intrigued to see more of it.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Kiefer Sutherland