Friday, August 31, 2012

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the seventeenth category of the 6th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2011-2012 season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, Justified, Mad Men, Treme

Semi-finalists: Alphas, The Closer, Damages, Hell on Wheels, Luck, True Blood

Finalists: Breaking Bad expanded its net and featured standout supporting players portraying astonishingly intense characters. Outcasts made full use of its diverse cast to create three-dimensional, gripping personalities. Boss assembled a ferocious ensemble to competently play selfish, arrogant, manipulative people. Sons of Anarchy honed in on key club members and guest stars to further embellish the show’s universe. Boardwalk Empire enhanced its period feel with strong turns all around.

The nominees:

Mad Men featured captivating storylines acted out with precision and skill by a more than competent cast. Homeland boasted mesmerizing characters, and its actors delivered equally compelling performances. The Good Wife continued to make its legal procedural relevant with sharp, funny portrayals. Game of Thrones made its massive and complicated universe comprehensible with layered, determined performances.

The winner:

Justified continues to have the best casting in the business, incorporating new villains on a nearly episode basis, each more magnificently-presented than the previous one.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

This is the sixteenth category of the 6th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2011-2012 season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Writing for a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: The Big C (Happy Birthday Cancer), The Office (Goodbye Michael), Parks and Recreation (Fancy Party), Parks and Recreation (Flu Season), 30 Rock (Double-Edged Sword)

Emmy nominees: Remedial Chaos Theory (Community), Pilot (Girls), Pregnant (Louie), The Debate (Parks and Recreation), Win, Lose, or Draw (Parks and Recreation)

Semi-finalists: Enlightened (Comrades Unite!), The Finder (Pilot), Girls (She Did), House of Lies (The Mayan Apocalypse), Modern Family (Door to Door), Modern Family (Express Christmas), New Girl (Cece Crashes), New Girl (See Ya), Parks and Recreation (Bowling for Votes), Shameless (A Beautiful Mess), Shameless (Hurricane Monica), Shameless (Just Like the Pilgrims Intended), Suburgatory (Entering Eden), Suburgatory (Independence Day), Suburgatory (The Motherload), Suits (Pilot), 2 Broke Girls (Pilot), 30 Rock (The Return of Avery Jessup), 30 Rock (What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?), Veep (Tears), Weeds (Do Her/Don't Do Her)

Finalists: Parks and Recreation (Citizen Knope), Modern Family (Aunt Mommy), Veep (Pilot), Wilfred (Pilot), The Big C (Crossing the Line)

The nominees:

House of Lies (Pilot) Girls (Hard Being Easy) Parks and Recreation (Win, Lose, or Draw) Veep (Nicknames)

The debut installment of Showtime’s comedy was brilliant and deeply hilarious. HBO’s series had one of its best episodes with a complex and excellent exploration of its characters. NBC’s superb comedy went out with a bang with his funny and heartwarming election extravaganza. HBO’s political satire demonstrated its wit and humor with this extremely entertaining episode.

The winner:

Girls (Pilot) was a wonderfully inventive, quirky, and offbeat half hour with exceptionally written characters and dialogue.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

This is the fifteenth category of the 6th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2011-2012 season. For the directing and writing categories, I’ve included only honorable mentions rather than semi-finalists and finalists. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Best Directing for a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: The Office (Garage Sale), The Office (Goodbye Michael), Parks and Recreation (The Fight), Parks and Recreation (Harvest Festival), Shameless (It’s Time to Kill the Turtle)

Emmy nominees: Palestinian Chicken (Curb Your Enthusiasm), She Did (Girls), Duckling (Louie), Baby on Board (Modern Family), Virgin Territory (Modern Family), Pilot (New Girl)

Semi-finalists: The Big C (Crossing the Line), Californication (Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be), Eastbound and Down (Episode 21), Enlightened (Pilot), Enlightened (Sandy), The Finder (Pilot), Girls (Hard Being Easy), Hung (Fuck Me, Mr. Drecker or Let’s Not Go to Jail), Life's Too Short (Episode 7), Modern Family (After the Fire), Modern Family (Aunt Mommy), Modern Family (Door to Door), Modern Family (Phil on Wire), New Girl (Cece Crashes), New Girl (Backslide), Parks and Recreation (Citizen Knope), Parks and Recreation (Ron and Tammys), Parks and Recreation (Win, Lose, or Draw), Shameless (Just Like the Pilgrims Intended), Suburgatory (Entering Eden), Suburgatory (Independence Day), Suburgatory (The Motherload), Suits (Pilot), 30 Rock (Leap Day), 30 Rock (Live from Studio 6H), Veep (Nicknames), Veep (Tears), Weeds (Do Her/Don't Do Her)

Finalists: House of Lies (Pilot), Wilfred (Pilot), Modern Family (Express Christmas), Veep (Pilot), Girls (Pilot)

The nominees:

Girls (She Did) Enlightened (Not Good Enough Mothers) Curb Your Enthusiasm (Palestinian Chicken) New Girl (See Ya)

The season finale of HBO’s breakout hit captured its best qualities and sent it out on a spectacularly ambiguous note. HBO’s more serious comedy had one of its best installments with a marvelously meditative take on motherhood and responsibility. Yet another HBO series employed its token wackiness to its most memorable episode of the season. FOX’s breakout comedy hit a high note with its deeply entertaining and warm finale.

The winner:

House of Lies (The Mayan Apocalypse) ended its freshman season with a delirious and magnificently-assembled finale.

Next up: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 11 “Dancing with the Devil” (B+)

This show has never had a shortage of doctors, and that’s proving to be an increasingly good thing. Dr. Sacani got in a great spotlight in this hour as he volunteered to take the night shift gathering spit samples from Ava the pop star, who tried too hard to get him to come out of his shell by taking him with her to a nightclub. He did well dancing for a moment, and even survived a panic attack in a phone booth, but it’s clear that he’s just not comfortable in crowded social situations. Fortunately, Hank is a nice guy and understands that, so the two make a great team. Ava was truly down-to-earth, and the notion of possum pie was equally horrifying to everyone sitting around the table. It’s wonderful to see Hank pursuing a relationship with Harper despite her best efforts to kill the romance, and after it fizzled a few episodes ago, things may finally be starting up again. Divya’s also in the middle of a fresh and fun romance, and aside from the fact that she really needs to start carrying around a change of clothes, it seems like she’s genuinely happy with the upper-romantic Rafa. Though the excitement likely won’t last, Paige being pleased with her tiny little dorm room was a welcome moment of happiness for a recently melancholy character. If there’s one thing that Evan is good at, of course, it’s being cheerfully supportive, something Paige can definitely use a lot of right now.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 7 “Loving the Alien” (B+)

While her transfer application is being sorted out, Annie isn’t wasting any time continuing with her spy life, and it’s a good thing that she has Lena to go to for help since Joan clearly wouldn’t be in favor of the mission she’s currently undertaking. The blanket support she receives from her newfound mentor is astounding, and it’s definitely going to hurt Joan to realize just how close Annie has become to Lena. Going to Cuba with Simon was bold, though him inviting her along was just as surprising. Nestor Serrano, here playing a similarly-named character, Hector Serrano, is always bad news, and he nearly got Annie killed, earning himself a slit throat instead. Simon being in love with Annie is a big deal, especially if he realizes that she’s not telling him everything, and it’s going to make infiltrating his operation both possible and extremely complex. Tailing him while wearing bright colors – white and red – didn’t seem like the smartest idea, but at least she didn’t alert him to her presence by causing a major landslide (though she almost did). Joan showing support for Arthur was mature, and it’s a real shame that his bubble got burst when he found out that this would be seen as abandoning his unsolved investigation and passing off the blame to his replacement. It’s the first time we’ve seen him angry enough to smash plates, and it now seems like he’ll be sticking around in his current position. Auggie’s persistence in interviewing Henry may well produce results, and I suspect there are a few surprises coming our way soon.

Fans of this show will be excited to learn that, instead of taking a hiatus until November like most of the summer shows, this series will take three weeks off and then continue straight through the fall with new episodes!

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 4, Episode 7 “Compromising Positions” (B+)

It’s always great to see familiar faces in fun roles on this show. Perrey Reeves, best known for playing the anger-prone Mrs. Ari on “Entourage,” was fierce and manipulative as professional fixer Landon Shepherd, who didn’t seem to like anyone except for Sara, to whom she was fiercely loyal. I’m glad that Hilarie Burton, no longer a series regular, is still just a phone call away to reprise her role as Sara. This episode made things really awkward as Neal hatched the idea to take incriminating photos of Peter and Sara together, to get Landon to drop Delancey as a client. The most uncomfortable part of the whole situation was Elizabeth watching with a glass of champagne in her hand, stepping in to encourage Peter to be more forceful, while Neal offered his own advice to Sara. It was entertaining to see Peter and Mozzie work together, with Mozzie providing his favorite Suit his voice diary to keep him busy while he was in the midst of illegal activities. Landon’s takedown was actually quite brief and easy, though she’ll likely have an easy time getting off due to her legal prowess. Neal getting to testify was a blast, and, though he does welcome it a bit too much, it’s nice to see him earn some well-deserved recognition for his expertise. We finally got to meet Sam in this hour, who was played by Treat Williams of “Everwood” fame, and it looks like he may finally be willing to help Neal, just as long as Peter doesn’t mess everything up by following them.

Take Three: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 1, Episode 3 “Medical Causes” (B+)

This episode got off to an intense start with an out-of-control car smashing into a line for a club and leaving three people dead. After that, it was all about detective work with the revelation that the woman couldn’t remember anything and that she was a doctor who could have prescribed plentiful medications for herself. Following last week’s stern conversation with Raydor, Provenza is being dutiful about going by-the-book, and it seems to be working well for the team. Staging it so that Tom thought that Leslie was going to jail for twenty years proved to be the perfect opportunity to get a confession from him, and she sure was angry once he casually admitted to drugging her in order to get her to stay. Once again, Sykes was portrayed mostly as a complete idiot, sticking around too long after loudly interrupting an interrogation and earning her first positive mark by judo-chopping Tom in the back to stop him from strangling Leslie. It didn’t take long to locate Rusty’s mother, and his mood changed immediately when he found out that she was coming. Flynn was heavily involved in everything related to his mother, fundraising from the rest of the squad to help send Rusty on his way and then responsible for taking him out to the bus stop. The fact that she stole the money and skipped town is truly unfortunate, but it does seem to have whipped Rusty into shape, finally able to be civil to Raydor and get his act together applying for school.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 6 “Alphaville” (B+)

This episode was very well done, but what I love most about it is the fact that Summer Glau has established for herself this geek status that makes her on call and available for this type of show on a recurring basis. Though she was somewhat more attuned to society in this hour, she was just as fascinating as in her last appearance as Skylar. Having her young daughter exhibit Alpha-level intelligence is part of what makes her great, and it was superb to see Zoe contribute her own mathematical observations when she was helping Cameron after he got injured. Skylar would be a powerful enemy for Dr. Rosen and his team if she joins forces with Stanton, and his subtle, friendly approach may just do the trick in terms of convincing her. It was terrific to see Gary initially upset about the lack of signals in the forest and then overwhelmed with excitement about the signals coming from the trees and the stars. It’s a good thing he didn’t stick around in Alphaville, but it was fun to see him adjusting (and offering to give Nina her office back). The amplification device sure has an effect on the Alphas, which can be quite detrimental. The fire starting was bad, but Rachel’s enhanced senses seem to have led her to a better place, as evidenced by her kiss with John, who continues to be the Most Understanding Guy in the World. Dr. Rosen’s conclusion that they have a traitor in their midst is likely to cause problems in the near future, and I can’t imagine he’ll react well when he finds out just who it is.

What I’m Watching: Episodes (Season Finale)

Episodes: Season 2, Episode 9 (B+)

There were too many secrets floating around to make this anything but a jam-packed, big finale, and it didn’t disappoint. After Beverly accidentally forced herself to reveal Matt and Jamie’s affair to Carol, things went downhill for all parties. Her desire to be with Merc made her spill the beans, and it’s a real shame too considering Merc’s post-meltdown reaction in the car to her excitement at the notion of finally getting to live with Merc. His concern with not giving his wife half his money was his ultimate undoing, and good for Carol for finally kicking him to the curb, or, more accurately, leaving him out in the cold (rain). Hopefully she’ll still be able to get Merc’s job; otherwise, she may have put her own job in jeopardy. Maybe things will actually work out for Matt and Jamie, however, since Matt seemed genuinely intent on making their relationship last, convincing himself in the midst of his own pep talk to Sean and facing loss of visitation rights with her children after Labia answered his phone. The only truly positive development, of course, is that Sean realized that he is still in love with Beverly after rising to her defense when Merc smacked her. Sean’s eagerness to be the one to pop Matt’s shoulder back into place so that Rob wouldn’t get the glory was endearing, and now things can get as back to normal as possible for the always flabbergasted British couple. This has a spectacularly biting year, and though it’s near impossible to find any mention of whether the show has been renewed, I really hope that it will be, since season two was even more fun than season one.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 2, Episode 3 “Slaughterhouse” (B+)

This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen men almost lynched by an angry mob on this show. Elam has sure come a long way since he was the victim last season, though he’d be in danger again if anyone besides Cullen and Lily knew that he was the prostitute’s avenger. The Swede is in an interesting position now, with no friends aside from Reverend Cole and therefore eager for positive interactions wherever he can get them, in this case by egging on the mob and bringing them right to the brothers’ doorstep. Mickey and Sean came awfully close to being killed, but they didn’t take it lying down, promptly murdering Bauer after they were released and feeding him to his own pigs. Timothy V. Murphy, who played Bauer, had a far lighter yet equally bloodthirsty role in a “Burn Notice” episode several weeks ago, as mobster Vincent Durov. In this part, he was stoic and frightening, creating a fascinating character with as much impact and as little time as Ted Levine’s Daniel Johnson in the pilot. Discovering the ethnic and national origins of the workers adds increased complexity to the situation in Hell on Wheels, and I doubt it’s going to get much easier, even with Cullen working hard to keep the peace. Though she’s committed to her husband, Eva’s brief kiss with Elam indicates that she’s not entirely opposed to the idea of being with him, and he’s not going to stop pursuing her until she changes her mind completely.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 8, Episode 9 “Saplings” (B+)

Just as they’ve both attained prominent new legally-approved careers, Silas and Nancy are already out looking for new jobs. The dynamic between Silas and his mother has truly improved, though it’s clear that they both have different ideas about what they want to be doing with their lives. The deal Silas shook on does sound too good to be true, but it doesn’t seem like they’re risking all that much. A happy Silas will go a long way, especially since job satisfaction hasn’t been easy for him to find. Shane’s job perks will likely get him into trouble, and may also impact Angela after her little indiscretion is discovered. Doug, as usual, has gotten himself in way over his head, and pulling out his credit card in front of a bunch of homeless people isn’t going to make things better. It was spectacular to see such a spotlight on Andy, his student, and Rabbi David as they discussed their woes over lunch. Rabbi David’s honesty about his own indiscretion with Nancy was refreshing, and it was nice to see Andy get the chance to cheer him up before he tried to do the same thing with Andy after discovering Jill had left. Wonderfully, Andy let his impulses get the better of him and decided to approach the sweet waitress played by Aubrey Dollar, a former standout player on “Women’s Murder Club.” Even better, the two apparent soulmates opted for the second craziest shotgun wedding this show has ever seen, and I’m really hoping it’s going to last since she seems lovely and he deserves happiness.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 7 “Say My Name” (A-)

This show is totally in worst case scenario mode, and it’s fascinating to see that no character is safe and that this is a completely story-driven series (though the characters are excellent as well). After last week’s high-pressure ending, Walt actually managed to conjure up a terrific plan to make all parties happy, impressing even Mike with its success. Forcing his new partner to say his name and touting his murder of Gus was a bit much, but Walt wants to make an impression, and he’s doing it. Not letting Jesse go and guilting him into not taking the money was harsh, and I can’t imagine Jesse getting out clean. Todd does seem to be a fitting replacement, the perfect coworker for Walt since he wants to get it right and won’t talk money until he does. Hank getting explicitly told not to pursue Mike made it seem as if the DEA was going to completely lose the trail, but tailing the lawyer was another brilliant call from the occasionally ignorant Hank. Walt’s panicked call to Mike indicated the severity of the situation, which spooked even Mike. As soon as Walt saw that gun, there was no way Mike was getting away clean. Like Gus before him, Mike went out in style. Telling Walt to stop talking so that he can die in peace made for a tranquil goodbye, and I suspect the aftermath will be far more complicated, particularly if and when Jesse finds out that Walt killed his friend.

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

The Newsroom: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Greater Fool” (A)

What an episode this was, packing in a whole lot of news happenings and dramatic romantic developments into one fantastic final hour. The death threat on Will’s life, and Neal’s bumbled search for its architect, was actually mostly irrelevant to the plot, with a bleeding ulcer threatening to serve as a convenient excuse for Will’s retirement, something Mackenzie and Charlie were never going to let happen. Nina calling Mackenzie to ask her not to let her find a second source was perfect since it provided a shocking smoking gun for the trio to realize that they got the details of the phone message via hacking. The confrontation with Leona included some unexpected blunt honesty, both from Will and Reese, each admitting to but not apologizing for their illegal actions. Charlie’s solution, to let them report the news and shut down TMI immediately, was perfect, and it’s sure to help "News Night" going forward, at least morally if not in the ratings. The use of a beef stew recipe as supposed evidence and Will’s request for Reese to give six months’ salary to a school were entertaining addendums to that intense interaction. Solomon’s suicide is a shame, and it appeared to hit Charlie very hard. It seems that this show is content to have all the characters aware that they’re with the wrong people, as Sloan revealed a surprising openness to the notion of being paired with Don and now Jim and Maggie have officially kissed after Maggie delivered a memorable frantic speech to a whole bus full of “Sex and the City” fans. Sorority Girl applying for an internship was the perfect way to cap off the season, and I really can’t wait for season two. This show is truly terrific, and I’m sure that it’s just going to get better with age.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Emily Mortimer as Mackenzie

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

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 12 “Save Yourself” (B+)

It’s just like this show to end a season in the middle of a scene. Even Sookie couldn’t get Bill to snap out of his pack mentality, and his apparent death was short-lived as he’s now become an angry, all-powerful, male version of Lilith. I wonder if he’ll ever get back to normal, and I suspect that his current state will be resolved in the sixth season premiere next year. The other Authority members were all swiftly and memorably disposed of, with Salome getting poisoned then staked by Bill, Russell getting destroyed by Eric after killing the fairy elder, and Rosalyn being exploded from the inside by a shifting Sam, one-upping his execution of Maryann several seasons back. Jason took down a handful of vampires, and it seems that getting blasted by the fairy elder has given him permanent hallucinations of his bloodthirsty parents, which are sure to have negative effects going forward. Tara and Pam’s romantic relationship is amusing given their previous hatred for each other, but it’s good to see both of them getting some appropriate companionship for once. Luna announcing the Authority’s actions on air after posing as Reverend Newlin may have major implications for human-vampire relations, but new evil Bill will have to be disposed of first if the humans are to stand any chance. Alcide regaining his packmaster status by using his father’s extra-strong V doesn’t mean much for his greater role in the show, and I wonder whether he’ll be involved at all in the future. Holly midwifing the many births and orgasms of Andy’s pregnant fairy girlfriend was an odd and entertaining scene that could only take place on this show. It’s hard to believe this season is already over, since it’s been one truly intense thrill ride, with a couple of bumps in the middle, but overall a pretty terrific and memorable year.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Authority guest stars Tina Majorino (Molly) and Christopher Heyerdahl (Dieter Braun)

What I’m Watching: Boss

Boss: Season 2, Episode 2 “Through and Through” (A-)

Somehow, she made it, and the first thing Meredith did once she was conscious was to say what all viewers were thinking: that Tom arranged for her to be killed. It wouldn’t be too surprising given that she had learned the truth about what Tom’s illness, but given the other interactions in this episode, it seems that, for once, Tom may actually be telling the truth. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on Tom that Ben heroically shielded his wife as soon as he heard bullets, and Ben is treading very carefully to not offend or anger Tom. Their visit to the hospital was well-received and without the whispered threats that often come with meetings with Tom. Despite an impatient declaration of “Listen to me the first time” and an expression of aversion to Oxford commas, Tom seems to like Ian, impressed by his quick response to being accused of sleeping his way to the top and even offering him a permanent job after hiring what would effectively have been his replacement. Mona got one hell of a job offer with a tight expiration date, and I’m so curious to see how she does working for Tom. Maybe having people around him will help shake the constant sight of Ezra, which is haunting Tom at every turn. Kitty is clearly not coming back to work anytime soon, despite her willingness to do so, and she reacted quite strongly to the news that Tom had seen a neurologist. Sam managed to track down Dr. Harris, and though she’s tight-lipped, he’s not going to stop until he finds out what’s really afoot.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 2, Episode 10 “Honesty” (B)

After a seriously depressing installment last week, this episode was equally dark but more hopeful after Ryan finally admitted what he, or rather, Wilfred, had done to Jenna and found himself unexpectedly forgiven. Wilfred was full of cinematic references, from his obsession with making a cat suit akin to Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs,” and then a parody of a rant that I thought belonged to Christian Bale but was actually delivered by director David O. Russell and aimed at Lily Tomlin on the set of “I Heart Huckabees.” The filming of the cat video, with Ryan’s mask and voice-changer, was definitely extreme, and it’s just the latest awful plot that Wilfred has tricked Ryan into getting himself involved in just to indulge him. Jenna is becoming less and less likeable as she airs her career woes and complains about her new job delivering the Squish report, and it’s interesting to hear her tell Ryan that she’s been using him since she knew that he had a crush on her. Knowing what we do about Ryan’s relationship to Wilfred, it’s strange to think that Jenna is responsible for all that or that she tried to get Ryan to do things for her because she knew he would. Exposing the unrecognizable nature of pot candies is sure to be her new defining career point, and that should earn Ryan some goodwill in the long term. Otherwise, Ryan isn’t getting all that much accomplished in either the love or family department at the moment.

What I’m Watching: Suits (Summer Finale)

Suits: Season 2, Episode 10 “High Noon” (B+)

This whole Daniel Hardman saga was always going to end somehow with Jessica and Harvey coming out ahead, but I don’t think I quite expected this. Harvey getting high with Mike was definitely a surprise, and admitting to his illegal act in front of the other partners was even more of a shock. This may well have been the first time we saw Harvey doing actual paperwork, but, like with everything else, he does it superbly with a smug smile on his face. Deducing that Daniel had invented the memo and planted it in the file room to set Harvey up was a fantastic revelation, and it defines Daniel as a purposefully manipulative man never to be taken at his word. Donna gave Louis a serious talking-to, which was rather cruel and demeaning, but it seems like, that aside, he picked his side after initially voting against Jessica by voting for Daniel’s dismissal. This episode focused heavily on Mike’s personal life, after he delivered a heartfelt and extremely emotional eulogy at his grandmother’s funeral. It’s somewhat odd to see the episode end on a note related to Mike’s romantic relationships rather than the firm, since Harvey is featured as much, if not more, than Mike, on a regular basis. It’s a shame that Tess came into the picture right at the point when Rachel was finally coming back around to the notion of being with Mike, secrets and all, and this is just going to be another Jenny-Rachel situation all over again. It’s probably for the best, though, since Mike and Rachel dating might complicate things at work. Regardless, this season has been strong and fun so far, and I look forward to the show’s return with its next six episodes this January.

Season grade so far: B+
Season MVP: Gabriel Macht as Harvey

What I’m Watching: Anger Management (Season Finale)

Anger Management: Season 1, Episode 10 “Charlie Gets Romantic” (B-)

Sometimes this show seems more intelligent than it does at other times. All the talk between Charlie and Jennifer about inheriting a gay gene because of one lesbian encounter is best left forgotten, mainly because it does nothing to enhance the rest of the show, bringing up irreverent topics and having no relation to anyone’s anger management therapy. Trying to get Kate to come with him to a movie, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable, since she clearly despised the idea enough to hire a movie fanatic incapable of carrying a simple conversation because she feels the need to identify any bit of dialogue as the title of a rare film. Acting is hardly this show’s forte, and so the greater gist of scenes is best remembered rather than the specific talents of Charlie Sheen or Selma Blair, or the words they utter as they make their way to a conclusion that romance can be tolerated if it helps them with their friends-with-benefits situation. If ever Jennifer realizes that she’s not a lesbian and is in fact engaged in a relationship with Charlie, she’s not going to be happy. I feel shortchanged that, once again, we didn’t get to see the epic meltdown by the therapy attendees, instead having Charlie’s personal life take center stage. I’m sure that this show will be renewed for more episodes, probably the ninety that it’s supposed to get if the first season ranks as a success, and I hope to see more of a spotlight on the anger management patients who have moved out of the spotlight as this first season has progressed.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Michael Arden as Patrick / Noureen DeWolf as Lacey

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

Burn Notice: Season 6, Episode 10 “Desperate Times” (B+)

Every time this show closes out one of its half-seasons, it seems that one enemy just gets traded for another. Yet this hour was different, since it put Michael and his crew directly on the tail of the man who definitively pulled the trigger and killed Nate. Yet all definitely wasn’t as it seemed, and the reveal that Card had set them all up to die was extremely well-coordinated. Having him express seemingly genuine emotion and empathy to Madeleine while lying through his teeth to Michael about Tyler’s location emphasized his betrayal and made it sting even more. New character Brady got the chance to prove his loyalty in one short appearance, bravely driving the van towards certain death to save the lives of everyone else. Trapped in Panama with their one CIA ally thinking they’re dead and set on making it happen if he finds out they’re alive is not a good place to be. That’s doubly true considering Michael told Fiona that he’d drop all this spy stuff after this last mission. Kenny Johnson, best known as Lem from “The Shield,” is a fine choice to play ruthless hitman Tyler Grey, who was willing to shoot two of his men to try to protect his own life, and I’m curious how he’ll fit into the ragtag team when the show returns in November. This had been the show’s most exciting and intense season to date, and I look forward to seeing how it all turns out and if Michael can finally catch a break one of these days.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: John C. McGinley as Card

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 5, Episode 7 “The Storm’s Moving In” (B+)

It’s truly fascinating to see two people who hate each other so much stuck in the same small place with no one else around them. I can sympathize somewhat with their situation since I too was stranded in a Maine airport for several hours earlier this week, though my delays weren’t weather-related. I was wondering how things were going to go sour, since Patty seemed to be extremely conversational and genuine with Ellen, even revealing her technological shortcomings, who was putting up quite the brick wall. Rather than Patty coming in with some biting remark, Ellen was the one who sabotaged the conversation by reminding Patty of the fact that she tried to have her killed, something which Patty flatly denied. The proof we viewers saw several seasons ago seemed conclusive enough to assign Patty guilt, but what this interaction will do is egg Ellen on even more to take down her one-time mentor. Chris seemed truly disturbed by what he learned about PTSD-affected soldiers being sent back to active duty, and Ellen being so focused on this case is sure to affect their relationship when he asks for her help and she isn’t willing to give him the time or attention. Channing’s reaction to the news about Samurai was not a positive one, and, as tends to be the case on this show, the supporting characters turn out to be the most compelling. Watching Rutger melt down and embarrass himself with Gita was mesmerizing, and finding out that his top financier was the one who sold Davies the secrets is going to drive him to a very bad place.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 10 “Who’s Your Daddy?” (B+)

It was never going to be a smooth first meeting between Eddie and the General. Yet, despite all of Evan’s obsessing and worrying, it actually turned out much better than expected. The Lawson family’s Judaism wasn’t a problem as related to celebrating Christmas together as an extended family, and the ice was truly broken when the General revealed that he already knew that Eddie had been in prison. The news about the leaked photo came at a very inopportune time, and after much selfishness on Evan’s part, things finally started to take shape. The truth, however, was far more surprising, and Paige discovering that she was adopted is sure to affect her relationship both with her parents and with Evan as they prepare for their wedding and what’s sure to come next. Most importantly, Eddie earned his stripes by managing to cheer Paige up while she was miserable (before the adoption news). It was fun to see two great guest stars at the polo tournament, with Gary Cole of “The West Wing” and “The Good Wife,” among other work, portraying the older player suffering from an unknown ailment and Miriam Shor from “Swingtown” and “GCB” as the businesswoman determined to get the younger player into her underwear. After spending the episode avoiding David, Divya found some romance of her own with that particularly alluring polo player, something that’s likely to be a one-time thing but a sure sign for Divya that not all hope is lost and she may still have a shot at happiness.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 6 “Hello Stranger” (B+)

It’s probably for the best that Annie asked for a transfer from Joan’s team. After working with the far more trusting and less by-the-book Lena, she’s acting rather openly insubordinate during Joan’s briefings, suggesting her own mission and then continuing to argue for it despite the fact that it’s clearly not on the agenda. Though her gamble worked, it still doesn’t bode well for the future of their relationship. Arthur being so checked out of his current post and butting heads with Joan on a regular basis is threatening to affect his status on the show, but that doesn’t mean that Joan is going anywhere, which suggests that maybe Annie won’t be able to get away from the DPD after all. There are certain instances where actors being typecast is a really good thing, and that’s absolutely the case with Omid Abtahi, who has played many a terrorist of questionable villainous conviction. Here, he was extremely compelling as Sayid, who warmed to Annie’s unconventional approach with a friendly smoke and a hamburger order at a local diner. I liked his quote about the difference between fate and destiny that Annie invoked when she was trying to reel him in, which is probably what ultimately convinced him to accept her offer. Auggie has never been one to go the traditional route, and therefore taking his therapist out on a blindfolded walk across the street so that she could walk a block in his shoes wasn’t so far-fetched. The question now is whether their relationship will remain professional or turn personal.

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 4, Episode 6 “Identity Crisis” (B+)

There’s nothing like a Revolutionary War treasure hunt to distract from the search for the truth about Neal’s father. Mozzie’s enthusiasm is unsurprising, and this episode even attempted to pull at the heartstrings with some puppet theatre written by an eight-year-old Mozzie about how his parents were Cold War spies who had to give him up for his own protection. His excitement, however, was a lot of fun, and, along with Peter’s mockery, it’s what made the episode interesting. The “secret in her eyes” from the painting made me think immediately of the Oscar-winning Argentine film of the same name, though that produced much darker results. This secret led to Neal posing as George Washington, which, as expected, was a hoot, complete with Jones as a descendant of Thomas Jefferson. Damian Young, probably most recognizable as Karen’s humorless beau Bill from season one of “Californication,” was perfectly detestable as the author of the Culper exposĂ©, who proved to be less than subtle by waving a gun around at every turn. It was also great to see Mircea Monroe, currently portraying the ageless Morning on “Episodes,” as the female spy with whom Mozzie had the pleasure of interacting, who, to his eternal delight, turend out to be a real member of the Culpers who was able to procure the flag for them. Neal and Peter may never believe it, but they clearly care enough about Mozzie to take a big chunk of time out of their otherwise busy days to save his life.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 5 “Gaslight” (B+)

It’s practically a requirement that shows dealing with the slightly supernatural have at least one haunted house episode. I’m pleased to report that this hour was extremely well-constructed, with each member of the team being weighed down by their own projections of dead people or imagined living people. The most compelling, by far, was a resurrected Anna, talking to Gary and making him genuinely happy as he analyzed her existence and concluded how he was seeing her. I’m intrigued to see what Gary will do to carry on her memory, and glad to see him occupying his mind with a good cause. It’s also good that Cameron used his hallucinations to go see his son, whereas Bill battling himself doesn’t seem to have set him straight as far as his frequent fight club attendance is concerned. As always, Dr. Rosen was cool and collected during the entire experience, preparing to wake Jason up while warning his team members that they’re going to be seeing things that aren’t real. He’s also found a productive job for Nina, having her use her ability for the purposes of ascertaining rather than planting information, sort of a reverse-inception-type trick, which appears to have an effect on her as the memory-procurer as well. It’s doing impressive things for Kat too, though the return of previously hidden memories may not prove to be the best thing depending on how they manifest themselves and how they may affect Kat’s ability to create new memories in the process.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Round Two: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 1, Episode 2 “Before and After” (B+)

In many ways, Raydor and Brenda are very much alike, and therefore watching the rest of the squad have trouble warming up to their leader is a similar experience to what occurred in the first season of this show’s predecessor back in 2005. Yet it’s clear that the dynamic here is somewhat different, with Raydor letting her team run their own investigations and then stepping in only when necessary, a tactic that may not produce the best results. It’s fair that Provenza is upset about being relegated to second-in-command once again, and Raydor leveling with him may or may not put his mind at ease. It would be a shame to see him leave, though, and I hope that he sticks around. Though I like Sykes, she is being painted as a bit too moronic and one-note, and I’d like to see her positive qualities spotlighted more. Rusty continues to be a thorn in Raydor’s side, and if he’s going to be a regular cast member, it would be good to give him something productive to do with his time. It’s never good when a serial rapist is the victim of a crime since all of the suspects are victims themselves as well, and, as was concluded, it’s hard to place the blame squarely on one person. I did enjoy the iPad hacking and the subsequent arrest of the victim’s wife, who didn’t think it worthwhile to leave the police station before destroying incriminating evidence that could – and did - get her sent to jail.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 2, Episode 8 (B+)

There’s nothing like a news story to ruin someone’s day. Last week it was Matt’s weight gain, and now Merc’s competency due to his failure to produce the talking dog show. The staff meeting in which Merc demanded pitches for buzz-worthy series was rather ridiculous and hilarious, and I enjoyed getting another glimpse of the nutty head of comedy, Myra, who insisted that gypsies weren’t real after for a pass several times when Merc pointed at her. It’s no surprise that Merc is being ousted by his superiors, and while Carol being in line for his job isn’t a shock either, it’s great to see the news hit her like a bombshell while she was having drinks. I’m not sure how that would change the dynamic of the show, but it would probably save “Pucks,” if nothing else. For a show with plenty of awkward moments, none was worse than Sean trying to ask Beverly about her date with Rob. It was sad to see how quickly Sean told Beverly to go on her date when she called to get a real answer from him, but it’s nice to see her discover that she’s actually happy, for the first time in a while. Matt, on the other hand, is in for a world of hurt now that he accidentally let his stalker answer a phone call from his ex-wife. There’s no way that ends well for him, and I hope that we get a good in-person scene with a fuming Diane in the season finale.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 2, Episode 2 “Durant, Nebraska” (B+)

This is that necessarily installment of a show, early in the season, where everything somehow has to settle back down to normal. Fortunately, it’s full of rich character development. Watching Cullen and Durant talking about playing god and who the devil is in their particular deal was especially fascinating. It’s good to see Durant doing his own dirty work, though that comes with the possibility of being choked out by your captive or maybe even getting drunk and shooting him by accident. Lily is getting stuff done in a big way in Hell on Wheels, providing shelter to the former residents of Durant via McGuinness and hiring Elam to exact justice for the murdered prostitutes. This new war with the Sioux will likely be a major plot point this season, which should give Joseph a prominent role again and Durant a new headache with which to contend. Reverend Cole is continuing his downward descent, and Ruth and Joseph are going to have to work to keep him in line given his increased fervor. Cullen sure got himself a good deal, just moments away from being shot by firing squad when Durant came in and rescued him. Cullen’s return to Hell on Wheels made many heads turn, literally, and the look on the Swede’s face was particularly telling. Durant bringing Cullen back means that he needs to whip things into shape, which normally wouldn’t be an easy task but shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the talented Mr. Bohannon.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 8, Episode 8 “Five Miles from Yetzer Hara” (B+)

This episode was a thoughtful and productive hour, using its theme of staying on the right track and following the good impulse rather than the evil as a guiding point for all of its characters. The fact that Jill’s not pregnant doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but Andy’s reaction is equally expected. He’s always been a dreamer, and there have been many occasions where he’s gotten too attached to a far-off idea. Hopefully he won’t let the lack of a forthcoming child serve as an excuse for his life to fall apart again. It was sweet to see Nancy and Jill bond after some initial name-calling, and they’re really starting to get to a good place. It’s difficult to judge Nancy for her misdeeds, since she seems to balance it all by following some evil impulses, namely corrupting the rabbi, and emphasizing other good ones, like not striking an under-the-table deal and spending time teaching Stevie the capitals. I liked the throwback to Shane’s Pittsburgh obsession, a stage that feels like it was years and years ago. Watching Silas and Shane alternately miserable and excited at work is fun, and I particularly loved Silas’ competitive experiment with his nemesis. As usual, Doug has dug himself into a hole that he can’t hope to get out of, and clearly getting stabbed wasn’t enough to discourage him. Drugging the homeless woman was bold, but it looks like that wasn’t quite enough. Something tells me he’s going to go the extra mile to save himself.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 6 “Buyout” (B+)

It doesn’t take much for Walt to get a gun pointed at his head by someone fuming with rage these days. Burning his wrist to free himself of his restraints demonstrated how unhinged he has become, if the horribly awkward dinner he manipulated Jesse into attending wasn’t enough of an indication. Saying that he was in the empire business rather than the meth business or the money business was his greediest quote yet, and something tells me he’s just getting started. Before the dissolution plan was put into place, I was convinced that Jesse’s conscience would get the better of him, as he stared heartbroken at the news report of the missing child and railed against Todd for defending the decision to kill him. Walt’s story about being bought out of what would later become a billion-dollar company held some water, but Jesse made an equally compelling point by reminding Walt that he had initially calculated exactly what he needed to make, a figure well under five million dollars. It was great to see Saul in action again, blasting the DEA for their aggressive surveillance of Mike, and hopefully Walt’s actions won’t further complicate Mike’s situation. It seemed like Marie was about to get something concrete, and maybe even truthful, out of Skyler, but she screwed it all up by bringing up Skyler’s affair with Ted. It’s hard to figure out which White spouse is going to explode first, and the collateral damage to those around them is going to be enormous.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Blackout, Part 2: Mock Debate” (B+)

After an amusing beginning with a zany power outage speech by a frantic Mackenzie, things stayed relatively light and entertaining with the continued coverage of banal tabloid affairs related to people with Anthony in their names. It was a great twist to have Lisa revealed as a former classmate of Casey Anthony’s, and she proved herself to be much more serious than ever before indicated when she cited facts, mostly accurately, about child kidnappings and deaths. Accidentally alleging that abortion and murder were the only options was a misstep, and she paid for it with the graffiti on her store. Her eagerness to welcome Jim in after he came over to confess his love for Maggie was unfortunate, and it’s now likely that he’s going to end up dating Lisa while a heartbroken Maggie gets dumped by Don, who, for once, chose to do the right thing. It was impressive to see the group stage the mock debate for Adam Arkin’s Adam Roth and his angry coworker Tate, and it’s a shame that it ended up with questions about Elvis and Johnny Cash. All of the conversations about Mackenzie, Will, and Brian relationship dynamic were fascinating, and they’re being aired more and more in public. Neal’s attempt to become a legitimate troll was fun at first, with Sloan getting very angry at what he was suggesting posting on forums, and then got much deadlier with the emergence of the real poster who threatened Will’s life. I suspect there will be a dramatic edge to the finale, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out.

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

Falling Skies: Season 2, Episode 10 “A More Perfect Union” (B-)

It’s about time we finally saw some alien action again. With the status of the 2nd Mass constantly changing within Charleston’s borders, it’s a wonder that Tom and Weaver got anything done at all, let alone got General Bressler to agree to let them go out in search of the ship that they so wanted to destroy in order to affirm their alliance with the rebel skitters. Ben acting as the mouthpiece of the rebel skitters finally gives him a proper sense of purpose, and it’s fun to see him go to war with Karen when she represents the big evil aliens. It’s no surprise that Anne is pregnant, but what a way for Tom to find out. Aboard the ship, Karen had a wonderful time tormenting everyone before, for lack of a better word, skittering off along the ceiling and declaring that they’d meet again. Implanting Hal, who previously tried to bolster morale by proclaiming “We’re gonna make it, we always do,” with a parasite in his eye was a smart move, and one that’s sure to hurt the humans in the near future. Skitter-on-skitter combat is fantastic, and I enjoyed the rebel skitter rescue mission. Tom and Arthur waxing philosophic about governmental authority was entertaining in a pretentious sort of way, and I happen to disagree with Arthur, believing him to be a far superior theoretical leader than Tom. The arrival of a new humanoid alien changes things considerably, I suppose, even though it’s an eerily similar ending to that of the first season. I had thought that this show had yet to be renewed, but it’s been on tap for a third season since July. Let’s hope for more action, more Arthur, and much, much better writing next year.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Terry O’Quinn as Arthur Manchester

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 11 “Sunset” (B+)

As we hurtle towards the season finale, everything’s coming together and no one is happy. We’re finally getting some answers, via Pam, to why Bill is behaving so deplorably and why all of the members of the Authority are going nuts. Seeing Bill, Kibwe, and Salome experience visions of Lilith telling them that they are her choice to be the leader was about as hypnotic as a human being glamoured, and the infighting has already begun as a jealous Bill ended Kibwe’s life without blinking. It’s a good thing that Godric’s influence has turned Nora, the first true believer, back to the good side, and maybe she and Eric can do some good together. Bill forcing Jessica to go out and turn Jason was cruel, and she’s likely to pay dearly for her crimes. Rosalyn’s visit to Fangtasia ended badly for both Pam and Jessica, and something tells me that Tara is going to come after her maker. I enjoyed seeing Pam and Sam run into each other within the Authority walls, and I’m curious to see how Bill reacts to Sam’s presence. With all the chaos going on around them, the Bellefleur brothers have it easy, with the biggest problems – a fairy pregnancy and Holly’s troublesome son – paling in comparison to the non-human issues currently being experienced by the majority of the population. Alcide and his father defending their neighborhood from vampires suggests that they may be instrumental in saving the humans, but I’m not sure how connected they’ll end up being to the rest of the storyline. The eccentric elder fairy seemed like she had Sookie’s back in terms of waging war against the vampires, but things don’t look good for the newly exposed fairy night club and one very hungry, very old vampire ready to feast on their kind.

Pilot Review: Copper

Copper (BBC America)
Premiered August 19 at 10pm

For anyone tired of typical procedurals, here’s the chance to see some good old-fashioned law and corruption back in 1864. Anyone who has passed through the subway in Times Square over the past few months has doubtless seen advertisements for BBC America’s first original show, which means that it’s British television produced specifically for American audiences. Clearly there’s a market for such things, if the success of “Downton Abbey” is any indication, and this is just the first instance of what’s sure to be a successful fad. I’m not sure what expectations of “In 1864, he was New York’s finest” viewers should have. This first hour was expectedly dense and dark, but most great dramas require some getting used to the characters and the world they inhabit. This one stinks of lawlessness and the rich abusing their wealth to get away with whatever they’d like, and straight arrow Kevin Corcoran isn’t going to stand for any of that. Having the silent support of someone like Elizabeth Haverford may prove helpful, but he’s still going to need to navigate carefully as the 19th-century equivalent of an internal affairs officer. This show is enhanced by the frequent reminders of the time period, mostly related to the status of African-Americans in the North in the midst of the Civil War. There aren’t too many recognizable faces in the cast, save for Anastasia Griffith, recently seen on “Once Upon a Time,” and Franka Potente of “The Bourne Identity.” This one may take some time to warm up to, but I imagine it will soon find its funk.

How will it work as a series? Now that he has seen firsthand how good policework can lead to the most deplorable of cover-ups, Kevin is going to work increasingly hard to both solve cases on his own and to try to change the system from within. The show has just a ten-episode first season order, which should allow for covering enough ground without reaching too far.
How long will it last? A while, to be sure. The pilot airing ranked as the most-watched series premiere ever on the network, which is a big deal since it’s also the first solo BBC America venture. Given the extensive advertising that went into it, I think that this show is ripe for an early renewal.

Pilot grade: B-

What I'm Watching: Boss

Boss: Season 2, Episode 1 “Louder than Words” (B+)

Last fall’s dark drama is back for its second season, and it’s just as gloomy and excellent as ever. It’s best summarized by the intonation of Tom’s greatest and meanest line from the hour: “Don’t interrupt me with attempts at relevance.” A close runner-up in terms of cruelty was Meredith’s whispered sentiment to her father, immediately after demeaning his caretaker: “He’s sick, daddy. You may outlive him after all.” Ezra being out of the picture affects many aspects of the show, with Tom hallucinating him, Kitty visiting his grave, and Sam continuing to probe into what he, quite correctly, thinks Tom has done. It’s not a surprise that Sam’s new position isn’t going entirely smoothly, mainly because he’s not concerned with making friends and instead just wants to keep his investigative journalistic integrity. Tom has new enemies to fear, not that he’d admit as much, with Walsh and Mona both dead set on taking him down. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jonathan Groff as a positive new addition to the cast, the slightly too enthusiastic Dean. I think he’ll make a fine replacement for Tom, so long as he can stand the occasional angry outburst from Tom. Darius is proving himself to be faithful to Emma, somewhat unwisely, petitioning Tom to get her out of jail and then arranging for protection for her on the inside. The closing moments of the episode seem to indicate a new direction for the show, and it may just have eliminated the one person who knows exactly what Tom’s suffering from and could have done some real damage.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 2, Episode 9 “Service” (B+)

This episode got off to a bit of an odd start after Jeremy proclaimed the unfortunate demise of their product due to their competitor being the first out of the gate and then gave a rousing, inspirational speech before committing suicide in his office. Only on this show would such an event be almost entirely dismissed, relegated to a quick comment from Ryan and the first of several shots of Wilfred with a bloody mouth and a story about nibbling on his corpse. Traveling to see Ryan’s mother with Kristen was a breath of fresh air for Ryan since they really are kindred spirits, but the death of Mittens clearly sent Catherine spiraling further into jolly madness. Wilfred was much better behaved than usual, exuding less harshness in his constant complaints about needing to get back in order to do his daily routines in the neighborhood. It was obvious that Ryan’s vacation from real life would be short-lived, and that Kristen and her meds would catch up with them eventually. Ryan’s initial panic at the notion of delivering Kristen’s baby was expected, and it’s great that he managed to work up the courage to help out and make a crucial connection that may benefit him in the future, though it’s not likely given how Kristen has managed to twist every positive in Ryan’s life in the past. With Amanda avoiding coming to work, Ryan can use all of the human friends and all of the human contact he can get at this point.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 2, Episode 9 “Asterisk” (B+)

This show is featuring more and more excessively dramatic confrontation scenes as we’re hurtling towards the show’s summer finale and this extremely momentous partner vote. It’s great to see Donna back so easily, and she proved her worth immediately by going straight to Jessica to tell her that Louis had been made partner. The whole Louis situation is quite complex, and it’s nice to see him standing up for himself, to Harvey, to Jessica, and to Daniel. He did seem excited by the prospect of Harvey actually reaching out to him and taking him out to dinner, but, as usual, Harvey’s ego got in the way and that plan didn’t work out well. Jessica was brutally honest in her conversation with Louis, which may not have been the best idea given how sensitive and manipulated he feels at the moment. His final comment to Jessica and Harvey, that he waited five years so they could wait another twenty-four hours, was particularly biting. Daniel got pretty angry when Louis confronted him as well, and tensions have definitely reached a boiling point for all involved at Pearson Hardman. We hadn’t seen much of Mike’s grandmother in a while, and it’s sad that she passed away just as Mike was finally investing in giving her a great new life. Her death will likely bring Mike and Rachel much closer together, and I suspect that the partner vote may not be the most eventful part of the finale. If things go how I think they will, I think one more person will know Mike’s secret by episode’s end.

What I’m Watching: Anger Management

Anger Management: Season 1, Episode 9 “Charlie’s Dad Visits” (B+)

It sure didn’t take long for another Sheen family member to drop by, and Martin had a much better role here than he did in his unnecessarily Emmy-nominated part as Rose’s dad on “Two and a Half Men.” Charlie dreading his father’s visit led to amusingly sedate and polite interactions, which were most entertaining because of how frustrated they made Charlie. Some of the jokes are a bit obvious (“You as president? I can’t picture it”), but overall, it’s fun to see father and son playing together well. Because this is a light-hearted sitcom, Martin didn’t need to actually apologize for anything he did wrong, and his confession about his deteriorating life didn’t come as much of surprise. Charlie bringing Martin to see Kate and then doing detective work while watching old videos was funny too. The opening conversation about jobs was great, and it’s enjoyable to her each of the group members contribute their own different experience as related to their occupations. As expected, Charlie got himself more worked up than Lacey when he accompanied her on her morning commute to work, but we did get a fantastic chance to see Lacey freak out after she got fed up with the politeness exercised by the far more patient Ed, whose stint as her driver didn’t last long after he abandoned the vehicle just minutes into the drive. Episode ten marks the first season finale, but I’m almost certain that this show will return for a momentous ninety episodes.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 6, Episode 9 “Official Business” (B+)

These guys just never get a break. In the midst of Michael operation to identify the man who killed both Anson and his brother, Fiona had to get called in not to do a favor but instead to do her required service for the CIA as part of the release deal she got. Michael’s initial pitch of South Carolina not being Paris but having guns should have worked, and instead she got stuck with two idiotic agents and right in the middle of a surprising double-cross. Michael’s narration was, as always, entertaining, particularly his casual explanation of “If you need to get out of a zip tie.” Fiona did an impressive job of rescuing herself from that situation and convincing Vincent to trust her and keep her alive so that he wouldn’t have to answer for her crimes. Getting the CIA to rip up her agreement with her was also smart, since Monaro and Bailey are as incompetent as they come and Fiona and crew hardly need the distraction. With Michael out helping Fiona, Sam and Jesse made a good duo as they managed to convince an unfortunate sap that he should come work with Michael’s invented billionaire. Identifying his initials wasn’t too helpful, but Vale came right out and gave away his full name before being shot twice by a sniper, presumably Tyler Grey himself. With only one episode left in this show’s summer set, we can only hope that Michael doesn’t get himself into a whole new world of hurt by the end of the hour.

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 5, Episode 6 “I Need to Win” (B+)

It’s a very bad thing when the people involved in a case want to settle but the lawyers are willing to make a deal to get falsified testimony just to make sure that the case goes to trial. It makes sense that the man of many names staying in the hotel room right next to Naomi wouldn’t be able to contribute much in the way of useful information, and instead he’s just being manipulated by both lawyers. It’s a shame too, since both Rachel and Channing had reached a good place with Channing’s explanation of what happened, and everything could have gone back to normal. It seemed especially therapeutic for Rachel since he was honest about how he was forceful and may have made her feel unsafe. Rachel’s run-in with Mr. Davies was miserable, and it’s clear that she’s going to have just as hard a time getting her life back as Channing will. Instead, Ellen is spiraling out of control, having more nightmares in the middle of the day and now connecting the image of Naomi in the bathtub with that of her dead fiancĂ©. Going back to the support group she sent Chris to is at least a positive step, but it seems that she isn’t taking anyone’s advice in terms of how to proceed both in her professional and personal lives, if Chris’ reaction to overhearing her phone call is any indication. Hopefully the one woman who has worked closely with both ruthless lawyers, Kate, will be able to stop this train wreck before someone else gets hurt.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 9 “Business and Pleasure” (B+)

This episode was entertaining more than anything else, with a bit of drama mixed in as related to Hank’s personal and business relationships. Evan’s fervent desire for the entire staff to enter the Ferrari raffle was amusing, though he definitely took it too far. Evelyn Larson winning was even more hilarious, and it’s good that Evan has Paige to keep him calm and reasonable when he gets out of control. It’s also convenient that Dr. Sacani happens to own a Ferrari, and that closing shot of Evan driving with a buttoned-up Dr. Sacani in the passenger seat was great. Dr. Sacani proved to be exceptionally capable in this emotion-involved case, mainly because it had a specific neurological explanation, and his quick thinking with the fire alarm helped to save the patient’s reputation. Evan was barking up the wrong tree with the undercover DEA agent, and it was nice to see her confide in Evan. It’s nice to see that a DEA operation on this kind of show is infinitely more relaxed and less deadly than on any other primetime series, with her medical condition serving as her only life-threatening problem. The initial meeting between Evan and Christina was heavily awkward, and things just got worse on a more serious note when Christina mentioned Boris’ itinerary and then Dmitry’s condition. Boris canning Christina and blaming Hank has led to a major falling out between Boris and Hank, the likes of which we haven’t seen before, and I don’t imagine it will lead anywhere positive.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 5 “This Is Not America” (B+)

It’s always nice to see a recurring character so well established on a show that he keeps getting invited back for more. This marks Oded Fehr’s fourth appearance as Eyal Levin, and it’s clear that he and Annie have become very close. Annie was rather obvious about her affection for him, enthusiastically asking about his involvement as soon as she found out she was going to Israel. Telling her about his son and then letting her in on in his side assignment was an important step, as was giving her the file on Simon Fisher after she opened up in a similar manner. I liked the Matisyahu music playing when Eyal picked her up at the airport, and enjoyed seeing the two of them work together well, particularly when chases proved necessary. Arthur seemed extremely disappointed with Auggie when he came to bail him out of jail, and it’s the perfect way for Auggie to earn himself a demotion and get sent back to the DPD. I’m not sure what will come of his therapy, but it will be good for him to talk to someone since Annie hasn’t exactly been there for him lately. Daniella Alonso, who starred in ABC’s extremely short-lived “My Generation,” doesn’t give off a terribly intellectual air, but it’s likely that she’ll be able to help get him back to a good place. I’m not completely interested in Joan and Arthur’s marriage problems, which have taken a backseat for a while, so I hope that only productive things come from Arthur’s potential new job.

What I’m Watching: Franklin and Bash (Season Finale)

Franklin and Bash: Season 2, Episode 10 “6:50 to SLC” (B+)

Like any good finale, this episode had high stakes and a monumental revelation that threatened to make things considerably less stable for our good friends Jared and Peter. They seemed horrified to discover that Stanton had hired them as a poison pill, though they got over it incredibly quickly thanks to a meager apology offered by Stanton during their party. If there’s one thing they can do well, it’s cause a ruckus, and they did just that aboard a plane, which successfully negated the elder Franklin’s bid for Stanton Infeld. Both Damien and Hannah proved trustworthy in the end, and now Jared and Peter don’t have much to worry about in terms of their futures. Peter getting temporarily disbarred was a silly stunt, but seeing Jared so amused by it was rather entertaining. Emily’s help getting to the right people unsurprisingly put her job in jeopardy, and it seems that she may now be sticking around in a more permanent way, which is sure to cause problems given Jared’s many roommates. I enjoyed Pindar’s rather unfiltered response to the notion of her moving in, and I expect that he’ll be the one most affected by the new living situation. I hadn’t planned to keep watching this show after treating it just as a guilty pleasure last summer, but I’m delighted to report that this show has found its funk in its second season, exceptionally ridiculous and often hilarious on many occasions. It has yet to be renewed for a third season, but I suspect its chances are quite good.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Peter

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 4, Episode 5 “Honor Among Thieves” (B+)

This episode was a lot of fun because there were a handful of cons going on, and a whole lot more truth than might usually be expected amid all the deception. Rebecca Mader, best known for playing Charlotte on “Lost,” was a great choice to play Abigail, who pegged Diana as a lesbian and even managed to identify Neal. Offering him the marshal file in exchange for the Pascal was bold, and stealing it preemptively so that she could blackmail him was even more daring. As usual, Neal managed to thwart Peter’s trust once again, and it’s a good thing that he thought to call Peter as soon as he made the exchange, and that he turned down the information. After risking his career to rescue Neal when he fled the country, Peter is now going to be plagued by doubts about Neal’s true nature, which is sure to be detrimental to their relationship. I liked seeing Diana come over to talk about cons and relationships with Neal, and a peek into the supporting characters’ personal lives is always a treat. I enjoyed Mozzie’s presentation of his exciting new gadgets, the most useful of which was definitely the face-blurring hat, though it did present the problem of leaving Neal unaccounted for during the heist that he pulled off rather strategically with Peter just moments away in the next room. Art thievery is sure to be the last thing on Neal’s mind in the coming weeks, however, as he turns to find Sam and figure out just who his father was.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 4 “When Push Comes to Shove” (A-)

This show would be good even if it didn’t care too much about embellishing its characters, but it does, and that’s what makes it excellent, especially in installments like this. I love that Nina’s abilities are so overwhelming and subtle at the same time that Dr. Rosen, Becky, and Tommy all didn’t realize that she had pushed them to feel how she wanted them to without them having any idea. Pushing Rachel to kiss her wasn’t very nice either, and I’m wondering what she’ll be like now that she’s realized the error of her ways. Cameron jumping to save her was awfully impressive and heroic, and it’s a good thing that the team cared about her enough to try to find her before someone else did. I enjoyed Gary’s reasoning for locking her up – so that he could use her office as his man-cave – and seeing him walking around in a towel at the office because his alarm didn’t go off. Kat’s full-time presence is slightly irksome at the moment but will probably become more productive soon as she starts listening to Dr. Rosen’s suggestion and tries to preserve her memories by listening to music. The budding romance between Rachel and John is decently interesting, particularly when she recoiled at the sight/smell of his scar, which he took rather poorly. I don’t imagine that Dr. Rosen will encourage any more office relationships, but it would do Rachel some good to have some companionship and something close to an adult relationship.

Pilot Review: Major Crimes

Major Crimes (TNT)
Premiered August 13 at 10pm

Airing this pilot right after the series finale of “The Closer” posits it as a direct continuation of that series rather than a standalone show. It’s unlikely that anyone would try to digest it by itself without having any knowledge of or fondness for the long-running procedural, so examining its self-sufficiency isn’t entirely necessary. Instead, it’s better seen as a new direction for a strong ensemble, replacing one eccentric female lead with another. It’s great to see Mary McDonnell in a central role, and without a dependable supporter like Fritz, she’s going to be able to invest herself fully in all of the cases without risking alienating her loved ones. That said, Provenza hates her even more than he hated Brenda at first, and the new drive for plea bargains rather than trials isn’t going to make adjusting to it any easier. Flynn is airing his concerns equally loudly, and it’s going to take a while for both of them to get accustomed to the new structure of power. Taylor being in Pope’s position doesn’t change much, though he does have a better relationship with the detectives than Pope did. I’m excited about the addition of Kearran Giovanni as Detective Sykes since she’ll bring a positive energy to a show filled with otherwise disgruntled detectives. I’m less certain about the notion of Rusty becoming a regular player after his introduction in the series finale of “The Closer,” though I suppose it will do Raydor some good to have some companionship and a CI if ever she needs one.

How will it work as a series? As someone who would have been happy to keep watching “The Closer” for the foreseeable future, I think this show demonstrates extraordinary potential since it’s working to reframe an already successful model that was positively transformed several seasons back with the formation of the squad that serves as this show’s title. Raydor is a great central character, too, so I’m pleased about that.
How long will it last? Given how long its forerunner lasted, I’d expect a long life. Starting it out immediately following the series finale was a smart idea, and its ratings made it the most-watched cable series debut of 2012, a fantastic feat that’s likely to earn this show a renewal on top of its initial ten-episode order soon.

Pilot grade: B+