Sunday, September 30, 2012

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 2 “Roy’s Wedding” (C+)

This show is not headed anywhere good. Revisiting an old character whose life is completely different now reminds of the days when things on this show were simpler, when Roy was just an impatient, insensitive jerk who was getting in the way of Jim and Pam’s true happiness. I’ve always been a fan of Jim and Pam as a couple, while most critique their having gotten together as a negative downturn in the show’s quality. Their conversations about having no mystery left are legitimate, and Pam won’t be happy when she finds out that Jim has accepted the job with his old buddy. That may take longer than it should, however, and I’d really prefer not to see their marriage and relationship tested so much. I did laugh at Pam bringing a banana to the wedding because she thought there would only be hot dogs, as well as her embarrassed disposal of the peel to the server. Nellie starting a charity drive so that Andy can’t shut her down was a decent idea, but Dwight’s invocation of the Taliban was rather silly, resulting in a complete waste of time with her prepared to have him cut off her hand. Mainly, it’s just not that funny, though Darryl distracting them with “127 Hours” was mildly amusing. Clark’s request for Erin to come over and get filmed reading the news was idiotic, and the only silver lining of the plotline was Pete’s solution to ruin Clark’s fun. The fact that everyone is so stupid is eternally frustrating, and anyone who watched “Better With You” knows that Jake Lacy is being wasted so incredibly in a role that doesn’t allow him to do anything other than react with as little emotion or enthusiasm as possible.

Pilot Review: Last Resort

Last Resort (ABC)
Premiered September 27 at 8pm

There are times when it doesn’t matter how good or bad a show is going to be – the pilot is guaranteed to be awesome. That’s absolutely the case with this series, which boasts a furiously exciting premise that doesn’t necessarily promise an entirely coherent or compelling series to follow. Its pace is perhaps its best asset, as orders to bomb Pakistan are given, Andre Braugher’s Captain Marcus Chaplin is promptly relieved of his command, and then the ship comes under attack of a missile just moments after they decide to question the order. The sub diving and crashing on the ocean floor was indisputably enthralling, and this show knows how to speed up the heart rates of its viewers. Braugher is a big part of that, since he’s completely at ease with being awesome, when he launches a missile allegedly aimed for D.C. and particularly in the pilot’s final scene where he publicly states his authority and threatens to nuke anyone who approaches the island. Braugher has had top-notch commanding roles before, and here he’s simply superb. I’m intrigued and pleased to see Autumn Reeser in the supporting cast as a scientist involved with tracking the boat’s location, Bruce Davison as a high-ranking politician, Dichen Lachman from “Dollhouse” as an island inhabitant, and Jessy Schram, best known as Karen from “Falling Skies,” as a loved one back home, as well as Max Adler, Karofsky from “Glee,” in a now-defunct small role. In establishing a premise and telling what seemed a story whose details were already generally known based on the show’s description, this pilot did exceptionally well, and it’s hard not to await episode two with baited breath.

How will it work as a series? That’s not to suggest, however, that this concept is infallible. If Chaplin has already revealed his location to the entire American public, what’s going to happen on an episodic basis? I’d be a fool not to tune in for episode two, but I don’t quite see where this is all going and how it can constitute an entire weekly series for more than a few episodes.
How long will it last? Unfortunately, the ratings for this well-reviewed show were nowhere near what they should have been given the hype, which could lead ABC to get rid of it as quickly as they did “Charlie’s Angels,” which held this time slot last year. I think ABC understands this show’s potential to attract audiences, and that will likely translate to it staying on through the rest of the season, though not necessarily any longer than that.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: The Neighbors

The Neighbors (ABC)
Premiered September 26 at 9:30pm

I’m not sure there was ever much potential for this show. A cartoonish comedy about a neighborhood full of aliens doesn’t exactly jive with the rest of ABC’s comedy lineup, which includes a modern family, a biting take on suburbia, and other edgy, hip series. This show sticks out just like its featured human family, opting for bouncy, broad physical humor instead and jokes about sports stars’ names instead of actual intelligent comedy. Lenny Venito, most recognizable from “The Knights of Prosperity” and “The Sopranos,” is thrust into the lead role, portraying a stable yet sometimes uncertain patriarch rivaled by his wife, played by Jami Gertz from “Still Standing.” Neither is extraordinarily capable, and they’re joined by two non-American actors, Simon Templeman and Toks Olagundoye, who are hardly familiar to American television audiences. Without a coherent star or comedian front and center, all that’s left is the show’s tone, which plays to the lowest common denominator, assuming little brainpower on the part of its audience. It’s problematic mainly because of other alien-centric sitcoms like “3rd Rock from the Sun” that in the past demonstrated a clearer capacity for transforming a premise into something clever, whereas this shoots about as unenthusiastically as possible. One could argue that it’s another great show for the whole family to watch together, but neither child nor parent is going to be laughing much at this stale, extremely familiar and unwelcome humor. Shortly and punnily put, no one is going to want the characters on this show as their neighbors.

How will it work as a series? So much has already happened in episode one, with Lennox nearly transporting himself to the future for the sake of his people and Jackie kicking Wilt out of the house for demeaning the validity of her opinions. Now, the aliens and the humans are going to have to continue to adjust to one another, which is sure to make for at least a few tired tropes every episode.
How long will it last? Based on the negative reviews and improbability of its quality, you wouldn’t think long, but the pilot numbers were actually quite presentable, thanks in part to the fact that it airs immediately after “Modern Family.” While I wouldn’t expect that success to continue, it may inspire ABC to stick with it throughout its first season.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: Modern Family (Season Premiere)

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 1 “Bringing Up Baby” (B)

This show won its third consecutive Emmy for Best Comedy Series last Sunday, and many feel that it’s past its prime. I’m not sure I agree with that entirely, but this premiere is hardly its best effort. That was the case with the season three premiere also, so I’m not overly concerned, and part of why this episode wasn’t entirely effective for me is that I saw way too many ads during the Emmys which included the episode’s most memorable punchlines. Jay turning sixty-five provided the usual opportunity for some old age jokes, but also the chance for a botched kidnapping which involved Jay to fall into the water twice. Lily is becoming ever more bratty, and the search for a kitten provided some of the episode’s more literal moments featuring the animals atop their car. Cameron and Mitchell both getting upset about the notion of having to go through a lengthy process to adopt a cat was entertaining, and it’s far more fun to see them in action being themselves than trying to deflect an awkward pre-choreographed situation. To me, Claire punishing Haley for getting drunk at prom was more worthwhile than all of Gloria’s pregnancy business. Jay’s heartfelt comment about having something new coming in his life was sweet, and a perfect moment of tenderness from which to fast-forward to Gloria more pregnant, Dylan living with the Dunphys, Phil with a beard, and Cameron and Mitchell back from a trip to London. My favorite line from the episode, delivered exquisitely by Chazz Palminteri and received with skepticism by Jay, was “Between you and me, I’m thinking about pickling my own cucumbers.”

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pilot Review: Vegas

Vegas (CBS)
Premiered September 25 at 10pm

While cable networks often set their shows in the past, it’s not nearly as common on broadcast network series. One reason is that creating a universe set in a different time period is laborious and expensive, and demand an immersion into that setting that requires tuning in every week. NBC’s “The Playboy Club” was an enormous failure, while the same network succeeded with “American Dreams” for three seasons a decade ago. Now, CBS, king of the procedural, is entering into the 1960s, the choice time period for new shows these days after the success of “Mad Men,” visiting Sin City again after its very short-lived 2004 series “Dr. Vegas.” The network has used movie stars like Gary Sinise in the past to headline its series, and now Dennis Quaid checks in as the grumpy unlikely sheriff who makes it his mission to fend off his city from invading gangsters and planes flying over his flock. Claims of “You don’t look like the law” and response like “I am the law here, and I will decide who’s breaking it” are only mildly effective in establishing Quaid’s Ralph Lamb as a realistic and empathetic figure. He’s hardly as charismatic as local villain Vincent Savino, played by Michael Chiklis, one step up from his unfortunate role as a super-powered dad on “No Ordinary Family” but nowhere near as productive as his career-making role as Detective Vic Mackey on “The Shield.” Jason O’Mara, who has proven extremely versatile, earning series regular roles on three series on three different networks in the past five years, gets demoted to a supporting role as the sheriff’s brother, but it’s probably fine that he’s in the ensemble. Carrie-Anne Moss also stops by television to round out the cast, which includes Taylor Handley, best known as the ridiculous Oliver from “The O.C.” The show itself manages a stylized and antique mood but isn’t terribly engaging. It seems to be like an idea that sounded good on paper but will be much more difficult to execute well on screen.

How will it work as a series? We’ve already seen several interactions between Ralph and Vincent, and the fact that Chiklis is a series regular means that he’ll be a frequent player in crime in Vegas. That could translate to Ralph trying to take him down every episode, which might get repetitive, and this series also seems like it’s going to very dark and moody.
How long will it last? The premiere numbers were excellent, putting this show on pair with the NCIS pair that precedes it and giving it a memorable launch. I’m not sure its numbers will continue as the show goes on, so I’d say that CBS will aim to invest in it but won’t necessarily make a renewal decision before assessing how much potential it really has.

Pilot grade: B-

Friday, September 28, 2012

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 5, Episode 3 “Laying Pipe” (A-)

When it wants to, this show is capable of being absolutely devastating. Pope coming to visit Jax in prison to tell him that he wanted blood in addition to a major part in the Sons’ business and Tig in prison for life was a bad start to an utterly horrifying and noble sacrifice. Opie volunteering himself to be the one who died was extremely brave and happened so quickly with no hope of his survival, underscored by Chibs’ cries as they watched it happen. Watching his best friend being beaten to death is going to transform Jax, who just moments earlier was brutally honest with Opie, telling him everything, including the cartel-CIA link. Tig especially is going to feel Jax’s wrath, as evidenced by his mandate of eternal loyalty and support to him. Things weren’t much better on the outside, as an angry Gemma went to Wendy to try to get her to turn against Tara. The doctor has become extremely hardened since her early days of SAMCRO life, and threatening to have Jax kill her was a sign of her refusal to let anyone, even her new mother-in-law, endanger her family. Clay asking Juice where Gemma has been was never going to lead anywhere good, and the one who bore the brunt of the whole situation was the poor girl Clay chose. Nero’s establishment getting raided means that SAMCRO has just lost its best ally, and a few more of the club’s members may be headed to jail soon too.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 4, Episode 3 “Everything Is Not Okay” (B+)

This was an episode for hot tempers all around, some of which were caused by more dramatic reasons than others. Kristina’s breast cancer diagnosis was by far the most serious, and it was exceptionally-handled, as Adam’s positivity got to Kristina, who just needed to be able to vent without being told that everything is going to be okay. Kurt Fuller is an interesting selection to play the doctor who upset Adam but ultimately proved to be Kristina’s choice since it doesn’t allow him to use his usual comic flair, but he seems decently-suited for the role. It was good to see Amber speak her mind, and she performed admirably upon learning the reason for Adam snapping at her. Max’s obsession with the missing vending machine led to a very predictable run for student council president, which is sure to prove both interesting and entertaining. Zeek getting pulled over with the grandkids in the car was a humorous incident turned melancholy by the concern voiced by the middle generation, and it was nice to see Camille stick by him and help him prepare for his road test. Though her work talk is threatening to negatively affect her relationship with Mark, Sarah’s inquisitiveness and pushiness seems to be working for her, managing to convince Hank that making up personal days to avoid doing weddings isn’t the best business plan. The dynamic that Hank and Sarah have is fantastic, and I’m eager to see more of their superbly amusing and funny conversations about work and life.

Pilot Review: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project (FOX)
Premiered September 25 at 9:30pm

There’s something about knowing that a performer is writing his or her own material that makes it inherently more endearing. With Lena Dunham and Louis C.K. notably recognized at the Emmy Awards for creating their own series, it’s about time a broadcast network player got into the game as well. Enter Mindy Kaling, who has been a creative force behind the scenes on “The Office” for years now and is finally getting a vehicle of her won. The danger of featuring such a clutch ensemble player in a lead role is that she might be given too much attention, but Kaling does a superb job of crafting her character. Starting with the romanticization of romantic comedies, this is the necessary meltdown episode for her on-screen alter ego, who needs to go down to come back and start her life over in a positive way. The flurry of pop culture references and over-analysis of each situation is extremely entertaining, and Kaling knows how to deliver her material with just the right energy and intonation. I’m delighted to see the multi-talented Chris Messina as her workplace rival, eager to go head-to-head with her in a competitive conversation but also capable of being a decent guy, as evidenced by their episode-ending conversation. Anna Camp, Richard Schiff, and Stephen Tobolowsky will all hopefully be put to better use in future weeks, and while this pilot isn’t overly creative, it’s still funny, and a strong indicator that this particular project will in fact prove wholly worthwhile.

How will it work as a series? Mindy’s personal and professional life are going to clash repeatedly since, as she points out, she talks a lot and can’t avoid causing drama. Looking for the right guy, sleeping with the wrong guy, and bantering with another guy should make things plenty amusing as eccentric patients of all sorts come her way.
How long will it last? While the show’s numbers weren’t quite as high as those of “Raising Hope” in this timeslot last year, the ratings were still positive, and I think that FOX is going to want to support Kaling and her series. Positive reviews for the show only help, and I suspect that this will be one of the season’s first renewals.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate (FOX)
Premiered September 25 at 8:30pm

In the case of some shows, it’s evident that the pilot isn’t entirely representative of the show as a whole. Ben won’t get to protect his sister from a cheating scumbag and Kate won’t get to help her brother crash the love of his life’s wedding again; that’s just for the pilot. Instead, it’s better seen as an introduction to the characters, two generally endearing and likeable siblings. What’s most surprising is that Nat Faxon, most recognizable as a member of the zany Broken Lizard comedy troupe, is actually great as Ben, who is painted as enthusiastic and passionate but not excessively stupid or mean. Judging people by the quality of their high-fives is entertaining, and he’s not meant to be taken entirely seriously. Kate, on the other hand, is sincere and sweet, and unlike another blonde lead actress on a new comedy this fall, she actually has a personality. In the supporting cast, Lucy Punch stands out for her commitment to comedy, training Kate in keeping attention on her mouth in the midst of a date. Their sibling bond is especially wonderful, and positioning Ben as dependable in the right moment is important so that the show doesn’t repeat the same formula each week, in which he makes a big mess that she needs to clean up. This is a much more pleasant version of the exceedingly cartoonish and overdone “new normal” on the new NBC show, and I’d much rather spend time watching these appropriately wacky characters get themselves into and out of trouble, all the while having each other’s backs.

How will it work as a series? We’ll have to wait until episode two to know for sure, since Ben’s arrival was a new occurrence in this installment. I suspect, however, that he’ll find a more permanent way to stick around, which will create regular shenanigans and opportunity for familiar bonding and support. While it’s not as edgy as its other comedies, this is just the kind of comedy that belongs on FOX.
How long will it last? While it’s hard to compete against “Glee,” which used to have this timeslot, the pilot performed decently with the ratings. FOX seems invested in creating a comedy block with “New Girl” as the anchor, so, packaged with “The Mindy Project,” this seems like a worthwhile investment at least for the remainder of the season, and likely beyond that if its quality endures.

Pilot grade: B+

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: New Girl (Season Premiere)

New Girl: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 “Re-Launch” and “Katie” (B-/B)

I’m sad to say that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about either of the first two episodes of this show which quickly grew on me over the course of its first season. It may be that getting back into these characters requires a bit of finessing, while these two installments tried to pinpoint too obviously each of the characters’ token personality traits that usually serve to make them so likeable. Jess getting laid off sent her into her latest of a number of spirals, and seeing her down on her luck is just how this show started, and it was only once she started to put her life back together that the show got really good. It’s about time that Schmidt’s penis cast was removed, and it’s a shame that Cece has moved on, causing him to fixate on getting her back and nothing else, despite the fact that he was the one who broke up with her. As usual, Winston has little to do. The second episode was lamentable for its overly obvious positioning of Josh Gad’s Bearclaw as Nick’s selection for Jess despite the fact that she was clearly interested in the other guy. David Walton got to play his usual role as a vain sex maniac unconcerned with the fact that Jess lied to him. The whole situation made for an entertaining bathroom-set confrontation which made the plotline somewhat worth it. Nick’s visit from his future self, played by Raymond J. Barry, recently seen as Arlo Givens on “Justified,” was highlighted by one hilarious moment where Nick thought that he might invent the hot air balloon before realizing it had already been invented. Let’s hope for more of that kind of knee-slapping humor in the episodes to come.

Round Two: Revolution

Revolution: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chained Heat” (C)

If ever a second episode resembled its pilot, this is it. Swordplay seems to be the most fascinating and frequent part of a future devoid of technology, and dictatorship is in full swing. What’s most grating about this show is just how terrible its writing is. Anything that comes out of the mouths of either of the show’s two most imbecilic characters, Miles and Charlie, is hopelessly irritating, and the ragtag duo made up by Aaron and Maggie isn’t much better. The only characters given decent dialogue are the villains, Captain Neville and the great General Monroe. Devoting a lengthy scene to Charlie’s recollections of her mother shooting a man after he tried to steal their food was entirely unnecessary, and it would make sense that she might have gotten over her aversion to killing much earlier considering her formative childhood. That reasoning will continue to bother me, as an obviously alive Rachel, Elizabeth Mitchell’s character, is told that her husband is dead, because apparently she’s just been sitting around doing nothing for the past fifteen years. This show is going to turn into a procedural if Miles keeps getting caught every episode and then energetically taking out all his captors. Nora seems to have just the right attitude for this show, which isn’t necessarily a compliment. Having sole electricity-possessor Grace get discovered by a villain after coming face-to-face with General Neville is illogical, since now there’s officially no hope for the good people still left in this supposedly intriguing future.

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Shame Game” (B+)

It’s never a good thing when the founder of an organization devoted to helping human trafficking victims is found murdered. As tends to be the case, however, there’s more to the story than it initially seems, and it turned out that he was too aggressively pursuing his passion. The senator’s presence at the start indicated another ill-advised over-investment in a case by Assistant Chief Taylor, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope, by playing politics to help keep the department running. The ruse he and Raydor concocted was impressive, and it sure succeeded in trapping the guilty man. It’s entertaining that a suspect breaking an interview room door while in the middle of a fit of rage actually exonerated him from the crime of which he was accused, since the real killer’s strength and actions didn’t match up. The arrival on the scene of Daniel Dunn, Rusty’s father, was rather abrupt and somewhat unexpected. His presence was most effective in helping to establish a rapport between Raydor and Provenza, something that is crucial to the success of the team but still needed some finessing up to this point. Rusty’s reaction to the news was expectedly panicked, and the episode ended on a powerful note with Rusty looking into the room and then running away when his father saw him watching. Having Rusty walk in just as the executive director of the human trafficking victims organization is talking about working with kids from the streets feels somewhat manipulative and contrived, and it’s good to see Rusty – and the writers – taking some steps to distinguish himself from just being a convenient statistic for the show to invoke.

Great news for fans of the show - it's been renewed for TNT for a second season!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: 2 Broke Girls (Season Premiere)

2 Broke Girls: Season 2, Episode 1 “And the Hidden Stash” (C+)

Perhaps my time apart from this show has awoken me to the truth that most people seem to know about this show, which is that it’s not much more than half a dozen punchlines repeated endlessly. I don’t think this episode was any worse than most of the series’ installments from the first season, but there’s something about its cockiness that bothers me. Maybe it’s that, after a whole season of not revealing his identity, Caroline’s father suddenly appeared, in the form of Steven Weber. It’s great casting, but so many cancelled visits and forgotten phone calls were forgotten awfully fast when he finally showed his face. Kat Dennings continue to dominate this show, as Max flirted her way through her encounter with Mr. Channing and didn’t hide her excitement at the notion of illegal activities and of finding a large sum of cash in Caroline’s trophy. It was obvious that there was no cash to be found in the trophy, and watching Max and Caroline decide that it was true when it so clearly wasn’t was a bit irritating. I’m still not a big fan of Sophie, but I’m glad that her relationship with Oleg is being expanded to more than just the four hundred-plus sexual encounters they’ve had. I’m not sure whether this show will sufficiently entertain me this season to keep me watching, but I enjoyed it too much in its first year to give up on it so quickly now. Its new 9pm time slot also suggests that CBS has grand, lengthy plans to invest in this one.

Pilot Review: Partners

Partners (CBS)
Premiered September 24 at 8:30pm

Expectations can be key to how enjoyable a series is. CBS is still in the business of manufacturing laugh-track-assisted sitcoms, and they seem to be doing quite well, since people watch their stuff even if critics don’t love it. This show is most touted as coming from the creators of “Will and Grace,” which isn’t a surprise given how familiar the material is, constantly acknowledging the dichotomy of the gay-straight relationship and how both main characters approach situations differently. In the lead, David Krumholtz of “Numbers” and Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty” make a great pair, and their back-and-forth bickering requires no additional perfecting. That said, Urie isn’t nearly as likeable or endearing as he was on “Ugly Betty,” which isn’t to suggest that he was either of those on the former show. This series doesn’t exactly have much potential, since it’s fairly one-note in its premise, but it isn’t agonizingly boring or off-putting. I will say that both Sophia Bush, of “One Tree Hill” fame, and Brandon Routh, best put to use as Shaw on “Chuck,” aren’t terribly well cast as the significant others of the respective parents, with Bush’s character being too widely drawn and Routh’s too narrow. Most of the jokes can be seen coming from a mile away, but it’s standard fare for CBS, which means that the predictability doesn’t necessarily negate it being funny. It’s the kind of show that could be grown into, assuming that its characters also have the potential to grow, which isn’t entirely indicated by this generally decent yet unmemorable pilot.

How will it work as a series? Now that Krumholtz’s Joe and Bush’s Ali are engaged, we’ll likely see some relationship tribulations for them and for Urie’s Louis and Routh’s Wyatt. Their business partnership will also doubtlessly provide a good portion of the plotlines as their personalities clash in their everyday dealings.
How long will it last? Not too long. CBS demands much higher ratings than most other networks, and given the fact that this show’s numbers were much lower than all of the network’s other fare on Monday night, a bright future does not appear to be ahead for this show. There’s no reason for them to axe it right away, but I don’t think it will last the season.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 9 “The Devil Will Drag You Under” (B+)

This episode didn’t waste any time, jumping right into the story and fast-forwarding to the point where Cameron was already operating on his own trying to get Dani back in whatever way he could. It was good to see Kandyse McClure, best known as Dee from “Battlestar Galactica,” staying true to her sci-fi roots as the mysterious Scipio, whose powers mirrored Dani’s but were far more harmful to those around her. Her fascination with Cameron and his ability to hide his plan, courtesy of Nina, from her, was truly interesting, and it’s always great to see a supposed villain who can’t quite decide which side she’s on. Dani’s grand gesture to call and distract Stanton while Gary worked to disarm the devastating effects of the explosion was a harbinger of doom, and it ended up being all the more melancholy since Gary did succeed in dampening the effects of the explosion but Dani died anyway. Stanton pulling the trigger knowing that she was inside and then telling his associate that their plan worked is bad news, because it assumes that a weakening of Dr. Rosen and his team is crucial to his plot. Nina telling Dani not to die made for an intense but ultimate unsuccessful moment. Dani was never quite central to the plot, but I suspect that, in death, her role will only increase, as both Dr. Rosen and Cameron are infinitely more motivated to take down Stanton now that he has taken away someone that they both loved.

What I’m Watching: Treme (Season Premiere)

Treme: Season 3, Episode 1 “Knock with Me – Rock with Me” (B+)

It’s been over a year since this show ended its second season, and not much has changed in New Orleans. Antoine is still trying to hustle cab drivers and giving cops a hard time, Toni is pursuing an impossible case with the utmost drive and determination, Jeannette is making day trips to New Orleans to figure out property concerns, Davis is causing trouble at the radio, and Ladonna’s not doing well. Fortunately, this show is so well-done that such repetitiveness isn’t a problem, and it’s interesting and worthwhile to check in with the characters and to see what they’re up to now. David Morse’s Terry is getting more of a spotlight, as he heads to Indianapolis to see his kids after being denied a transfer and learns from his ex-wife that she doesn’t want them staying in his FEMA trailer with him. His loneliness should permit him to be a great asset to Toni, who seemed somewhat taken aback by the visiting reporter’s inquisitiveness but nonetheless helped him on his way. Nelson is also doing the best he can to try to get his operation back up and running, and it’s marvelous to see him work. Albert’s excitement at hearing himself on the radio was fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed Davis’ tour, which was brutal and honest, if not entirely correct, and didn’t seem to have a positive effect on its participants. Sofia’s new boyfriend should help make her life quite interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing all these characters for another season and a half.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 5, Episode 2 “Spaghetti and Coffee” (A-)

This show scored a surprise win at the Emmys on Sunday night (during HBO’s first broadcast of this episode, ironically) in the directing category for the second season finale. Installments like this remind me that this is one of the most spectacularly-directed series currently on television. This episode had a handful of excellent scenes made infinitely more dramatic by the staging, cinematography, music, and performances. As he expresses himself less with physical violence and more with a domineering presence, Rosetti is proving to be capable of extraordinary things. I was very concerned for that poor gas station attendant, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to the spaghetti and meatballs at the diner. Eli’s return was rather melancholy, but he did an impressive job of reestablishing himself, and clearly Owen respects him more than he does Mickey. Watching Nucky do his own dirty work in New York is somewhat disconcerting, and I loved meeting Stephen Root’s eccentric Gaston Bullock Means. Nucky’s conversation with Rothstein was refreshingly honest, and it’s great to have such an intimate look at Nucky’s romance with Billie, who truly is a free spirit. It’s good to see Chalky again, and asking his prospective son-in-law to “doctor him” was a formidable request to which Samuel responded admirably. Maybelle may not think he’s interesting enough to marry, but it’s hard not to like a guy who immediately runs to tend to a guy who slashed his face open moments earlier while his face is still bleeding.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 2, Episode 7 “The White Spirit” (B+)

With the train safely away, Durant is completely out of the picture, which makes for interesting times in Hell on Wheels, as Lily attempts to reinstate the Swede and both Cullen and Elam contemplate their commitments to their work without the boss around. The Reverend’s memory was barely invoked, but Ruth summed up her father’s modus operandi succinctly: “He once wanted to be a Christian, but he really wanted to be a martyr.” Lily did an impressive job of holding her own against the angry workers worried about not getting paid if Durant dies, and summoning the Swede was a smart move. His newly shaved head suggests that he’s completely detached from the community, something that Cullen could tell right away and tried to use against him. Those two are never going to get along, and it was fascinating to hear the Swede do his best to get under Cullen’s skin by telling him that he really does like the killing before proclaiming that death was coming for all of them. Elam was rather bold and blunt with Toole about Eva’s pregnancy and his role in it, and it’s somewhat sweet, if unrealistic, for Elam to up and quit the railroad to build a house for him and Eva. Cullen giving him tips and telling him that the Sioux will come for them anyway was entertaining, and I love their dynamic. It’s about time that Cullen and Lily slept together, and what passion they had. It may or may not be a good thing to have the two most powerful people in this town sharing a bed.

What I’m Watching: Boss

Boss: Season 2, Episode 6 “Backflash” (B+)

The characters on this show are so magnificent, and seeing how they deal with a crisis and with knowing next to nothing about what’s going on is incredible. Meredith springing into action in Tom’s absence was especially terrific since we haven’t seen her doing nearly as much while she’s been injured, and it’s obvious why she and Tom make the perfect power couple. Tom’s shock therapy allowed for a window into his past and his rise to power, highlighting the moment that Meredith started despising her husband, when he cut off her father because he was trying to continue exerting influence over him. It’s disconcerting to see a younger Tom unsure of himself and an older Tom truly losing it in Toronto. Meredith’s take-charge attitude has definitely alienated Ian and Mona, and it’s interesting to see the different ways they handle it, with Ian internalizing and controlling his rage and Mona wearing her emotions on her sleeve. The riots in Lenox Gardens are getting dangerous, and it’s great to see a dejected Zajac put himself to some positive use and get down and dirty with the people. Kitty doesn’t seem capable of settling down in a real romantic relationship, and to watch Sam try to slow her down is a harbinger of her inevitable betrayal. Her realization that Ezra was Deep Throat is sure to have major implications, and I suspect that will be Sam’s next story, which should be a welcome break from the entire press room watching news on TV all day instead of writing stories.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred (Season Finale)

Wilfred: Season 2, Episode 13 “Secrets” (B+)

This episode was crucial because it was practically that, all signs to the contrary, Wilfred wasn’t nefariously plotting Ryan’s demise. That drawing done by Ryan when he was young is extremely important evidence that Wilfred’s relevance in Ryan’s life goes far beyond the current moment. Ryan running to grab the magnifying glass to examine the photo on the fridge at the end of the episode was a fantastic moment on which to end, proving to him that, for once, Wilfred wasn’t making something up just to mess with Ryan’s head. I’m saddened somewhat by the fact that Amanda had to turn out to be crazy, but it seems a necessary sacrifice for the good of the episode and Ryan’s arc. Telling someone else that he talked to Wilfred has huge enough, and to have her acknowledge that she too heard him speak was monumental. It was all downhill for her after that, of course, as she revealed that she was the one who had stolen company money and put it in an offshore account in Ryan’s name, and then dug herself deeper by putting words in Wilfred’s mouth and assigning him a French accent. That led to the most magnificent part of this whole episode, in which Ryan realized that, objectively speaking, Amanda wasn’t any crazier for him for imagining a different talking Wilfred, she just got caught doing the illegal things she claimed he told her to do. With all these self-realizations going on, the wedding still went off pretty much without a hitch, and it was a sentimental, thought-provoking finale. The show has yet to be renewed for a third season, but I’d love to see more of this truly unique series, especially after this unexpectedly depressing and dark season.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Allison Mack as Amanda

Monday, September 24, 2012

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 1 “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” (B)

Expectations were high for the season premiere of my favorite comedy, and, like last year, the opener didn’t quite deliver. A disappointing episode of this show is still much better than any installment of most comedies on the air. That said, this episode just didn’t seem entirely fresh, serving more as an arguably necessary reintroduction to the characters and their new statuses in life. Leslie not getting to make her presentation was a bit of a disappointment, but showing Andy around Washington was entertaining. I most enjoyed Andy’s closing tour, which highlighting Sinbad living in the White House and the story of Oval Redenbacher. Leslie getting motivated to clean up the river by herself was a more positive start, and having her back in Pawnee will definitely be welcome. Objectively, Ron running Leslie’s barbecue, complete with a live slaughtering of the dinner and no vegetables, was a funny concept, but there was too much stubbornness on Ron’s part and too much complaining on the part of everyone else for it to work entirely. That said, the pig being named Tom was good for a few laughs, and finding out that Ann and Tom were pretending to stay together just because everyone told them they wouldn’t last was extremely amusing. Ann putting glitter in all of Tom’s moisturizers because he put glitter in the laundry and in the butter was terrific, and the best part of the whole thing was that, angry as he was, Tom loved the idea. Let’s hope for more of that kind of hilarious humor in the coming episodes.

What I’m Watching: The Office (Season Premiere)

The Office: Season 9, Episode 1 “The New Guys” (C)

This show is finally entering its last season, and it’s definitely time. This finale, more than anything, lacks freshness, and while it’s not completely awful, it does feel terribly unoriginal and repetitive. The notion of “new Dwight” and “new Jim” is too obvious, and it suggests that there’s no possibility for change on this show, just more of the same. That was especially true when Dwight realized he had met his match – the bloody mouth and hanging from the bike were his lowlights – and Jim’s acknowledgment that Pete was just like him. Dwight Jr., whose name I’ve already forgotten, is too well-liked by the office to earn that nickname, and Jake Lacy, who was wonderfully unintelligent on “Better With You,” is wasted in a role that elicits laughs merely because of his random nickname, Plop. I did like that Jim was finally motivated to accept a different position, and that Pam staunchly defended her boring life to Dwight. It was also intriguing to learn that, while Dwight is not the father of Angela’s baby, the Senator is having an affair with Oscar, which is terrific news! I’m tired of all the Andy and Nellie business, two characters who have become excessively stale, all the more unfortunate since Andy used to be such a great addition to the show. Kevin’s turtle story was a bit overblown, but decently entertaining, and it was fun to see both Kelly and Ryan get post-mortems rather than having them simply disappear. Creed’s confused recap of the day’s events best sums up the episode – more of the same, and let’s just hope it gets funnier as the show counts down to its final episode.

What I’m Watching: Glee

Glee: Season 4, Episode 2 “Britney 2.0” (C-)

This episode doesn’t exactly provide reassurance that this show can still be saved. Reusing a past plotline – Britney – isn’t awful in theory, but it comes from out of nowhere, with no present-tense relevance. To think that Rachel would stage her sex-appeal show to “Oops I Did It Again” is even more preposterous. The giant warehouse Kurt and Rachel are now renting in Brooklyn should provide them with many unrelated adventures, the first of which was the smooch between Brody and Rachel, which sure didn’t take long. Seeing Cassie’s YouTube-captured meltdown and Rachel bringing it up in front of her wasn’t terribly dramatic, and it might be worthwhile to see a broader picture of the school rather than just the one class if Rachel is going to continue to be such a prominent player on the show. A quick visit from Puck and a Skype shot of Santana isn’t going to suffice for following the lives of the other graduates, and things aren’t much more interesting at home in Lima. Brittany’s downward slope wasn’t engaging, and the only part of it that was decently effective was seeing Sam reach out to her as a friend. Far better was the dynamic between and performances by Marley and Jake. It’s a shame that Jake has been painted as such a womanizing bonehead that he can’t tell that dating Kitty when Marley clearly likes him is a bad idea, but this show has never been about doing the smart or right thing, at least not right away.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains (Mid-Season Finale)

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 14 “Sand Legs” (B+)

There was always going to be something to undermine Hank’s seemingly perfect relationship with Harper, but I didn’t expect it to be him. His need to rush back to check on his patient, who ended up being fine, sealed the deal of doctoral unreliability for Harper, just as he was about to meet and impress her family. It’s strange since Evan is the Lawson brother who seems like he’d be more of a workaholic, but Hank’s passion for his patients is what gets him. It was interesting to see Evan recoil at the notion of taking someone on as a client due to his financial history, but he deserves a dramatic moment of his own every once in a while too. The news that Lou isn’t Paige’s mother was especially devastating both because it came from her and because it came just s Paige was finally connecting to her, but Evan managed to salvage her happiness by declaring their wedding imminent. I’m glad that it wasn’t a shotgun wedding since that would have been unrealistic, and instead we’ll be treated to a two-hour TV movie that chronicles a December wedding to close out the season in a few months. Divya hearing about Rafa’s home life was an unfortunate way for her relationship to take a nosedive, but it was Rafa’s poor choice of words in handling the confrontation that sealed the deal. Luckily, Dr. Sacani was able to provide appropriate comfort for her when she needed it most. With just one happy relationship continuing, it’s best that the show focuses on that, and maybe those whose romances have just ended can find their own happiness come December, a time that will likely not focus on the big explosion at the end of the episode but instead on those characters whose lives and livelihoods are still intact.

Season grade so far: B+
Season MVP: Ben Shenkman as Dr. Sacani

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Live-Blogging the Emmys

10:58 These things never used to end on time, and certainly not early. This was an alright ceremony, and Jimmy Kimmel was a rather subtle, decently effective emcee. I predicted 10/25 categories correctly, which is actually better than I did last year. The only true surprises were Jon Cryer and Aaron Paul, and I was very pleased that "Homeland" pulled off wins for Damian Lewis and Best Drama Series. The wealth didn't go around all that much, but it was a fine ceremony. What was your favorite moment or win? Post in the comments, and thanks for reading! Also, let me know if you'd like more live-blogging in the future! Good night, everyone!

10:55 Michael J. Fox is a great choice to present the final category of the night, and the audience really loves him, especially after Jimmy Kimmel introduces him as someone no one likes. No surprise, it's "Modern Family," which has now won three years in a row. Again, I have to remind myself that I really do still like this show.

10:47 Julianne Moore, a questionable choice to present Best Drama Series. Who will it be? And it's "Homeland"!!! I didn't think they could do it after its somewhat lackluster nominations tally. Series, writing, actor, and actress ain't bad. It's fun to see the whole cast up there, including Mike, Estes, Morena Baccarin, and Mandy Patinkin. "I don't know when they're going to me off, but I'm going to keep talking until they do." Great line, and it's the first Showtime Emmy win for Best Drama Series! What a spectacular series.

10:45 Andre Braugher! I'm stoked for "Last Resort." Now, will it be "American Horror Story," "Hatfields and McCoys," or "Game Change"? And, it's the latter, meaning that "American Horror Story" will be back next year to compete again, earning just one major win, for Jessica Lange. Now we get Tom Hanks and his slight mustache! Now just the big two categories to go!!

10:36 This late into the show, it would seem to make sense to be having other categories than miniseries or TV movie directing, which goes unsurprisingly to Jay Roach, who won this award a few years ago for "Recount," for "Game Change." He doesn't get very long to speak at all. What to pair with directing? Lead actor, of course! And the winner is...Kevin Costner. Good for him, I suppose, though I haven't always been too impressed with his acting skills.

10:27 Another odd pairing - writing and actress. "Game Change" wins for both writing and star Julianne Moore, neither of which is a surprise. I'd like to watch that TV movie, which premiered on my birthday earlier this year.

10:17 Ron Howard gets to introduce Andy Griffith, which segues into the real In Memoriam segment. Among others, Marvin Hamlisch, Sherman Hemsley, Michael Clarke Duncan, Lupe Ontiveros, Andy Rooney, Steve Jobs, Gil Cates, Whitney Houston, Tony Scott, Mike Wallace, Ernest Borgnine, Dick Clark, and, of course, a nominee tonight, Kathryn Joosten.

10:14 Seeing Kerry Washington reminds me about "Scandal," a show I had otherwise completely forgotten. And Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie goes to...Tom Berenger. I don't have any particular desire to invest in "Hatfields and McCoys," but I've heard only good things.

10:12 It's hard to make archived interviews sound entirely interesting, but they did their best, partially thanks to Ellen still not wearing pants.

10:06 Great to hear Steve Buscemi congratulate Tim Van Patten. Obviously it's Jessica Lange, but why such a rush through the nominees' names?

10:03 I've seen so few of the nominated miniseries or TV movies, save for "American Horror Story," which creeped me out way too much after too episodes, and "Missing," which is not a miniseries but an awful cancelled series that shouldn't be allowed to compete in these categories, let alone be nominated for Ashley Judd's performance.

10:02 Having your parents removed because they encouraged you to win an Emmy is one way to deal with hosting, but I don't think there's a need to give Tracy Morgan any mores screen time.

9:54 It's odd to group the variety series and directing categories together rather than the traditional duo of writing and directing. Jon Stewart wins for the tenth year in a row, but it's the most fun time since Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon try to subdue him on his way to the stage. It's hard not to like him, especially when he calls out the accomplishments on fellow nominees. Bonus points for use of the world ephemeral.

9:50 Ricky Gervais has made quite the reputation for himself, having a grand old time mocking the category he's presenting, as two of the nominees are in the process of working backstage. Glenn Weiss wins his sixth award for the Tonys, accepting from backstage and asking to be played off during his speech.

9:41 It seems strange that there's a whole variety montage for just a couple categories. Another marvelous pair - Aziz Ansari and Jane Levy together! Ansari pretending to be British was hilarious, and Clive Owen's face was priceless. "Suburgatory" doesn't return until the middle of October 17th, and I'm looking forward to it. I didn't even predict this category, but something tells me it will be Louis C.K. or the Tony Awards, most likely the latter. And the variety writing winner is... Louis C.K. They really like him. He's quite humble and unassuming, and it's a nice shout-out to live comedy.

9:39 Danes starts off by acknowledging that the writers got cut off delivering their speech. Sounds like a great show to work on!

9:36 The pairing of Tina Fey and Jon Hamm is superb. Fey was very funny with her inability to read the teleprompter. Huge spoiler in the "Homeland" clip. It always amuses me that the clips get longer as the show goes on when it should be the other way around. At least they're not cutting things short. And the winner is... Claire Danes! Go "Homeland"!

9:28 Lewis introduces himself to the crowd, requesting a round of applause for his fellow nominees, and praising his cast for being great to dine with before acknowledging his kids. Very sweet!

9:27 My mom loves Julianna Margulies' dress. Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series! Bryan Cranston again? No! Damian Lewis breaks the streak! He's very happy, and so is my mom!

9:25 A false start to the In Memoriam tribute with Jimmy Kimmel clips? A bit strange.

9:23 Giancarlo Esposito gets to present! He's very well-dressed, of course. It's the drama guest acting awards, with Martha Plimpton and Jeremy Davies as the winners! Davies still has crazy hair. Interviews with the directors - are they dramatic people? And the winner is... "Boardwalk Empire," the one nominee I thought had no chance. Sometimes these categories make no sense. A great episode, though!

9:17 Supporting actress in a drama series goes to... Maggie Smith. I guess episode submissions just don't matter that much anymore.

9:16 A delightful speech from the "Homeland" writers, and a real shame that they got played off so quickly.

9:14 Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton presenting best drama writing. I do enjoy interviews with writers, and this montage was a lot of fun. And the winner is... "Homeland"! Woohoo! Such an excellent pilot, and such a weird main title theme.

9:12 Jimmy Kimmel was to play a prank on people that aren't watching the Emmys, and Tracy Morgan is his volunteer to pass out on stage. We'll see if anything comes of it.

9:04 A pregnant Claire Danes presenting the drama supporting actor category! And the winner is...Aaron Paul! It's a shame that it's not Giancarlo Esposito, but it's wonderful to see him get up and hug Paul as he's about to go up on stage. I've liked him more and more each year, so I suppose it's fine for him to win, but I wish it would have been either Esposito or Harris for this season. A wonderful, heartfelt speech from Idaho native Paul, ending with a shoutout to his fiancee!

9:02 Drama series montage!! Why does "House" get called out with a title card? And "Once Upon a Time" and "NCIS" too? A bit of a spoiler for "Homeland" and for "Grey's Anatomy." Glad to see "I am the danger" included in the montage.

8:58 Seth MacFarlane starts talking away from the microphone while presenting the reality host category. It's not Cat Deeley or Betty White; instead, it's Tom Bergeron! No comment from me on his qualifications, but a funny speech, with a great comment about Jeff Probst being snubbed.

8:56 I very much liked the "Big Bang Theory" clip with Sheldon praising the skills of accountants and Penny reminding him that writers are not popular.

8:51 Excellent ABC comedy representation by Damon Wayans Jr. and James Van Der Beek. I really just don't care about reality. "The Amazing Race" wins for the ninth time! Yikes.

8:49 I've never been fond of segmenting the show into genres, mostly because I don't like reality and haven't watched any of the miniseries or movies. It's better if they're spread out so the whole show is enthralling to any viewer.

8:46 I like that the comedy actress nominees like to have fun, as evidenced by Amy Poehler swapping speeches with Julia.

8:44 Stephen Colbert babbling on about women as he presents best comedy actress. And the winner is... Julia Louis-Dreyfus. No surprise, and a well-deserved win. She's now won for three different series.

8:42 After these repetitive winners, Louis C.K. excepted, it wouldn't surprise me if Melissa McCarthy, Edie Falco, or Tina Fey won. Some new winners please!

8:37 Mindy Kaling and Melissa McCarthy presenting best actor! Definitely the best reaction from Jim Parsons to McCarthy's comments. And the winner is... Jon Cryer? Seriously?! Even Cryer is in shock. I can't comprehend this win. Any explanations?

8:30 Matthew Perry announcing comedy guest acting winners, trying hard for laughter but not really getting it. Very matter-of-fact reveal of the winners. Fun to see Kathy Bates and Jimmy Fallon together - her dress is sparkling like crazy! The comedy directors aren't nearly as personable as the writers, and two mention of Jews as the ideal director! And it's a "Modern Family" win here too; hardly exciting or creative, especially for the lesser episode of the two nominees from that show, the season finale. A rather self-congratulatory speech, sarcastic in nature of course, and then cut to a pre-filmed "Modern Family" skit. All of this attention makes me forget that I actually love this show!

8:24 And Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series goes to... Julie Bowen again! That's two in a row for her, and my first correct guess of the night! It's truly wonderful to see costars cheering for each other, especially as loudly and enthusiastically as Sofia Vergara! I'm not sure why nipple covers are important, but her speech last year wasn't too memorable either.

8:23 Kat Dennings! I'm probably the only one excited for "2 Broke Girls" to return, though I honestly forgot all about it until this moment.

8:22 "Breaking Bad" before cable - definitely a humorous idea.

8:19 Jim Parsons and Zooey Deschanel - another superb pairing to announce Best Writing in a Comedy Series. I'm glad to see writers given the opportunity to speak in a short and sweet montage. And it's Louis, not Lena! The crowd loves him, and this bodes well for his chances in the directing and lead actor categories. It's great to hear Pamela Adlon, who plays Marcy on "Californication," acknowledged and thanked.

8:12 And the first award of the night goes to...Eric Stonestreet. Not a huge surprise, in retrospect, but I, like many others, thought Burrell would be the one to repeat if O'Neill or Greenfield couldn't win. It's great to hear that he and Jesse Tyler Ferguson are such good friends, and to hear him talk about getting to play a happy gay couple on TV. Terrific inspirational message to aspiring actors!

8:11 Fun pairing of Amy Poehler and Louis C.K., reunited after starring on "Parks and Recreation" together.

8:09 First montage of the evening! I love montages. Great "30 Rock" excerpts, but it's always bizarre to see shows like "Happy Endings," which got zero Emmy love, featured. The towel bit from "New Girl," the elevator scene from "Veep," and Andy running into an ambulance on "Parks and Recreation" were also hilarious.

8:07 Great joke about Jon Hamm not winning, which is quite likely to occur. Awkward but nice to see Lena Dunham singled out for being so young and successful.

8:05 A lot of "Downton Abbey" fans in the house, and a whole lot of Democrats too.

8:02 Fun choice of actresses to participate in the opening skit, and great cameos by Lena Dunham and the reality hosts (Ellen DeGeneres too). Not excessively funny, but endearing nonetheless.

7:57 "I couldn't agree" doesn't mean the same thing as "I couldn't agree more." In fact, it means the opposite.

7:54 Nothing worthwhile to report in the past ten minutes. Ready for the show to start!

7:41 Understatement of the year from the very endearing Aaron Paul: "Breaking Bad is going get really dark."

7:38 Glad to hear some support for the color orange! And nice to hear Stephen Colbert talking about being nominated with friends - competition should always be friendly.

7:32 Obviously Rico Rodriguez is charming, but hasn't he participated enough in bits like this at other awards shows over the past three years?

7:31 Leave it to Tina Fey to clarify that "30 Rock" is currently filming its final season, meaning that it could be nominated again next year. That particular show isn't airing now, but it's useful to clear up the misconception that the TV from this summer and this fall is not what's being rewarded right now.

7:28 The references to the large number of nominations accrued by "Modern Family" are getting excessive, but it's great to learn about Jesse Tyler Ferguson's advocacy for marriage equality. And to hear his careful pronunciation of "Vergara."

7:16 Always awkward when the interviewers aren't up to speed on Emmy facts, like the guest acting awards already having been given out, meaning that Michael J. Fox already lost both of his bids.

7:08pm I've never been one for pre-shows, since it just delays the start of the awards themselves, and the questions posed are so vain. A lack of personal interest in style doesn't help. It is fun to see likeable actors like Amy Poehler and Steve Buscemi, however, and quite embarrassing to see Zooey Deschanel's name misspelled initially then correctly only moments later when they showed it again.

7:00pm Stay tuned for live coverage beginning at 8pm here at Final predictions are available below, and enjoy the pre-show on ABC.

Final Emmy Winner Predictions

The Emmy Awards air tonight on ABC. For the first time, I'll be live-blogging the show, so tune in throughout the ceremony for updates and reactions! So far, I’ve predicted 1/4 correctly, choosing Jimmy Fallon (Saturday Night Live) but not Jeremy Davies (Justified), Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife), and Kathy Bates (Two and a Half Men). Last year I said that Kathy Bates was a threat to win because of Paul McCrane’s guest actor bid, but this year I think she’s a threat since she won a guest acting bid, and now contends for her show’s series finale. Julianna Margulies and Elisabeth Moss are much bigger threats to frontrunner Claire Danes, though. Otherwise, every race is extremely competitive, and I’m sure we’ll have more than a few surprises.

An important note about my predictions: I’ve established a track record for myself of writing very accurate analyses and then choosing the wrong winner. That means that Damian Lewis, Giancarlo Esposito, Maggie Smith, Jim Parsons, Zooey Deschanel, Ty Burrell, and Kathryn Joosten could all feasibly win, but I’m betting on different horses.

The most exciting and unusual thing about this particular year is that there are four legitimate contenders for Best Drama Series. Not only that, but my predictions suggest that those four shows will split all the drama awards, leaving every other show empty-handed. I’ve picked “Breaking Bad” to take series and actor, “Homeland” for actress and directing, “Mad Men” for supporting actor and supporting actress, and “Downton Abbey” for writing. They could all easily swap and one – likely “Downton Abbey” or “Mad Men” – could sweep. No matter what, there will be records this year, whether it’s Bryan Cranston’s fourth win (tying Dennis Franz) or “Mad Men” breaking the record with five consecutive series wins. I’m hoping for “Homeland” since I love it, but “Breaking Bad” is terrific too, and, honestly, so are all the nominated shows, which makes it easy to be happy no matter who or what wins. That’s not as true in the comedy races, but they’ll be enjoyable as well.

As I mentioned above, I'm excited to report that I'll be live-blogging the show for the first time, so stick around during the Emmys for reactions. Enjoy the show, and leave your thoughts in the comments! For detailed predictions in all applicable categories, click on the hyperlinked category name.

No guts, no glory (same as last year):
Kathy Bates (Harry’s Law)

Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

Claire Danes (Homeland)

Jared Harris (Mad Men)

Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)

Pilot (Homeland)

Downton Abbey (Episode 7)

Modern Family

Don Cheadle (House of Lies)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)

Julie Bowen (Modern Family)

Palestinian Chicken (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Pilot (Girls)

American Horror Story

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia)

Julianne Moore (Game Change)

Ed Harris (Game Change)

Jessica Lange (American Horror Story)

Game Change

Game Change

The Daily Show

Cat Deeley

The Amazing Race

What I'm Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 5, Episode 2 “Vested Interest” (B+)

The pace of this show is absolutely fantastic, with enthralling events happening at lightning speed with the fate of the whole club in jeopardy. The trust Gemma feels with Nero is extending to the club in a big way, and Jax got a good look at Nero’s life when the two took a drive together. It’s an objectively odd scenario, but he’s a fascinating guy, visiting his son and then playing chicken with a tail, and Jax is clearly impressed by him. It’s most refreshing to hear Jax be so honest and open when asked about his illegal business since that so rarely happens. Let’s hope that Romeo and Luis can figure out a way to get Jax, Chibs, and Tig released from prison before Pope makes their lives on the inside miserable. Jax’s proposal to Tara was about the least romantic in nature, but she didn’t seem to mind, and even Gemma was generally pleased about the wedding. I enjoyed Chibs’ toast, and it’s nice to see such loyalty from the whole club. Opie punching Roosevelt just to hitch a ride to prison was especially impressive, and I was very surprised by Clay’s positive visit to Opie, in which he encouraged him even if he didn’t tell him the full truth of his murder of his father. It’s a good thing that Tig didn’t go looking for his daughter alone since he nearly killed her boyfriend, and putting everyone on alert for their families means that, from now on, only actual club members will be the victims of Pope’s fury. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exclude Unser, who did a great job defending his honor and general incorruptibility to Roosevelt.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 4, Episode 2 “Left Field” (B+)

There were plenty of parenting firsts in this episode that made for good comedy, but even more for good drama. The most notable of them was Victor faking being sick in order to get out of school, and Julia’s unexpected gesture that puts her in the running for Mother of the Year, promising to stay outside the school for the entire day to make him feel comfortable. That may prove to be the turning point of the relationship between Victor and his adoptive parents, which is great. Kristina mentioning the potential dog purchase to Max after she knew that Adam didn’t approve was unfortunate, and it played out as expected, though Adam did eventually change his mind. From completely out of left field, it looks like Kristina may have breast cancer, which is awful and sure to add another layer of stress and unhappiness to the already strained marriage between Adam and Kristina. I’m interested to see how that will be handled, since no one has really been afflicted with a serious disease yet on this show. Crosby’s frustration with Adam’s ringing calendar was amusing, and Jasmine’s fury at Crosby’s inability to definitely commit was both funny and fearsome. Drew getting broken up with was hardly a surprise, but it was entertaining to see Sarah more upset about it than him, having Mark check on him during school and report back. I enjoyed Sarah’s horrified reaction to Hank’s stories and the subsequent considerably more calm conversation between Hank and Drew.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs (Mid-Season Finale)

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 10 “Let’s Dance” (B)

It’s not quite accurate to call this a mid-season finale since the show returns in just three weeks, but that’s not how it was originally planned, so better to examine it with the impact of its cliffhanger ending, something which comes close to topping the final scene from two weeks ago, in mind. Back on her feet, Annie is one angry, unhinged agent, trusting no one, not even Auggie, and it’s going to be interesting, and probably frustrating, to see how her reckless actions go unpunished by her superiors upon her eventual return. It’s fortunate that Joan has realized that Annie needs the kind of support she used to get from Lena, and following up with her to tell her that she had completely unofficial backing to go to Russia was both sensitive and smart. Arthur’s response of “How is it going to look if she dies?” was unfeeling and the wrong thing to say, and I sense that their marriage, not to mention their working relationship, is getting thinner and thinner by the moment. The middle of the episode felt a bit like a dream as Annie established a deep cover and prodded her necessary contact for finding Lena, complete with piano playing and lots of stalking. It was a shame that Lena got to him first, but it was all worth it for the final scene, in which Lena made a surprising play for Annie to take over as the new double agent. Taunting Annie about not being able to shoot her and then pulling a gun on her didn’t pan out so well for either of them, and I suspect that, though she’ll ultimately be fully exonerated, times will be tough for Annie in the weeks ahead when she returns in October.

Season grade so far: B+
Season MVP: Sarah Clarke as Lena

Saturday, September 22, 2012

This Season’s Most Jewish Moments on Television

In preparation for tomorrow night’s exciting ceremony, I’ve compiled a list of the top five Jewish moments from Emmy-submitted episodes being considered for Best Drama Series and Best Comedy Series this year. Head over to Jewcy to read about and watch the scenes in question, and stay tuned for final Emmy winner predictions tomorrow!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What I’m Watching: White Collar (Mid-Season Finale)

White Collar: Season 4, Episode 10 “Vested Interest” (B+)

I did enjoy the episode throughout, but that final obvious revelation killed it a bit only because it was so clear, almost from the very start, that Sam was Neal’s father. Even with that being true, he’s acting awfully suspiciously and stirring up unnecessary trouble by making a big stink about Peter and then going to Mozzie’s safehouse alone. I liked that Mozzie’s pet rat had a part to play in enabling Neal’s plan to set the trap, and that Jones was the one most freaked out about the rodent’s presence. Sam and Mozzie have a fun dynamic, but I suspect that will change dramatically now that Sam’s true identity has been revealed. After last week’s memorable ending, Neal’s anger towards Peter faded quite easily and uneventfully, though it did look for a moment there like Neal had caught a bullet. It’s no surprise that he couldn’t resist putting on the immensely bulletproof vest, and he and Peter proved to be an excellent team in action. Their camaraderie in the second interview, while much improved from the first, was perhaps too friendly for the other agents, but it didn’t seem to be a problem. I liked the identifying quality of FBI agents, that they immediately pat their pockets when asked about their badges, and how that helped the team to root out the impostor in their midst. This season has come a long way from Neal on the run and Peter working a terrible job, and it’s been a fun year full of great guest stars like Laura Vandervoort, Michael Weston, Rebecca Mader, and Mircea Monroe. The season will likely continue in November, and I’ll be back to tune in for more then.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Matthew Bomer

Pilot Review: Revolution

Revolution (NBC)
Premiered September 17 at 10pm

There’s a problem that seems to plaguing science fiction series with futuristic premises lately. The initial idea – a world without electricity where society has reverted to medieval times and militias rule – is immensely intriguing, yet the grander notion is emphasized heavily, while decent storytelling and characters are not. I’m thinking specifically of two shows from last year, one which survived and the other which didn’t, “Falling Skies” and “Terra Nova,” that made invading aliens and resident dinosaurs infinitely uninteresting by focusing centrally on horribly written, one-note characters with pitiful dialogue. The five-minute swordfight and the emphasis on archery showcased in this particular pilot is indicative of the fact that the legend is more important than the actual events, meaning that we could be subject to regular such events rather than actual plot points or conversations. It’s worthwhile to learn, at the tail end of the episode, that dictatorial leader Monroe was actually the man in the car with Miles, but that also means that heavy flashbacks will be featured to explain how events turned out the way they did. The danger with that, of course, is that either the past or the present will be inherently more interesting, and the other will pale in comparison. Regarding the pilot itself, I would have liked to see much more poisoned whiskey and fewer grandstanding speeches and swordplay. It was awfully convenient that Miles was the first person that Charlie and crew happened upon in Chicago, and the fact that the woman who hid Danny is also the sole possessor of electricity feels just as contrived. Why exactly would Monroe be seeking the Matheson brothers so many years after the blackout? I am pleased to see Giancarlo Esposito back in a proper villainous role after “Breaking Bad,” but it’s hardly a perfectly-written part. From this pilot alone, this show seems to have been thought of merely as high-concept, with no regard paid to creating a decent show through which to tell the story.

How will it work as a series? Time is sure to be split between the moment the lights went out and the timing of the pilot’s events so that series regulars Tim Guinee and Elizabeth Mitchell, now both officially deceased, can continue to be featured on an episodic basis. The light bulb and computer in the episode’s closing moments suggest an unending mystery that should play out similarly to that of “Flash Forward.” Don’t forget about the archery and the swordfighting too!
How long will it last? Premiering in the same slot as “The Playboy Club” did last year and doing well doesn’t exactly constitute success, but airing after “The Voice” might. If buzz continues for this show, it could last a while, but I doubt that it has the stamina or creative ability to go on for too long. For now, it’s safe, but a second season is far from guaranteed. That said, NBC could use a hit right now, and this would definitely be their genre hit.

Pilot grade: C

Pilot Review: The Mob Doctor

The Mob Doctor (FOX)
Premiered September 17 at 9pm

The concept for this show at once sounds intriguing and absolutely ridiculous. To frame an entire series around someone who has to do favors for the mob or risk the livelihood of those she loves demands that her actions, occurring on an episodic basis, would raise suspicion due to their sheer frequency. It would also seem that the mob has enough people on its payroll to position Grace to use her doctorly presence to get things done for them that they don’t even really need her. The pilot serves as a cheat of sorts, since she manages not to do the bidding of one gangster, only to find him infuriated and then killed by a gangster who happens to like her. I was surprised, both because of his resume and because of the trailer that revealed more than just the pilot’s content, to see William Forsythe as an apparently reformed gangster, and I must admit that he’s much more threatening with a European accent on “Boardwalk Empire.” That said, he’s a far better actor than Michael Rapaport, who is fortunately dead after a sufficiently irritating stint as Moretti. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jordana Spiro, who was on “My Boys” and was supposed to star in “Love Bites” before that project quickly flickered out of existence. Here, she’s far from likeable, and it’s difficult to sympathize with her even if her actions do help to save those around her. I wish that both Zach Gilford and Zeljko Ivanek had better roles, since a show like this might be worthy of their talents, but not playing doctors inexplicably loyal to eternal troublemaker Dr. Grace Devlin. There’s nothing about this show that ranks as outstanding, and despite what intends to be a creative premise, the show is extremely dull.

How will it work as a series? Since she cheated and didn’t do the bidding of the mob in episode one, the second installment, which I don’t plan on watching at this point, will provide a better sense of how the show will be formatted. Presumably, there will be an evil deed to be done each episode, and Grace will have to reason how to hurt as few people as possible without making herself known or How long will it last? The ratings for the first episode weren’t strong, and FOX has too many hits on the air right now to invest in a show like this if people aren’t watching. They had no qualms about cancelling most of their freshman slate last year, so I suspect that the quick demise of “Lone Star” in this same slot two years ago doesn’t suggest a long life of more than a few episodes for this series.

Pilot grade: D

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 1, Episode 6 “Out of Bounds” (B+)

This is hardly the first time that the Assistant Chief has taken an inappropriate interest in a case because it related to his or her life personally. Taylor didn’t try to hide his connection, readily noting his child’s attendance at the school in question, and the aggressiveness with which he sought to close the case wasn’t actually problematic, just a bit more forceful and pushy than he’s otherwise been since gaining this post. Identifying the murder as a result of road rage or just one solitary person rather than a gang shooting was quite important, and the squad did a productive job of getting that done. Unfortunately, Sykes got herself quite injured as she sprinted to stop the victim’s brother from catching the latest suspect, and hopefully the dedication with which she ran after him and the aftermath of her beating will help her be taken more seriously by the rest of the team. It’s no surprise that it was the kid’s racist father, always presuming the worst of a certain type of people, though the execution of the discovery was well-handled, as Raydor realized that he was carrying around just the receipt and nothing else in his wallet so that he could handily provide an alibi for his son. It’s nice to see Sanchez spring into action when gang-related activities, his expertise, are front and center. It’s also quite welcome to see Rusty embracing his current situation with Raydor, deeming a meeting with his own relatives unnecessary since he likes where he is at the moment.

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 8 “Falling” (B+)

It’s a shame that this situation presented itself and Dr. Rosen had the one to piece together his daughter’s involvement with Stanton Parrish. Having Gary hack the research and asking Nina to get a passport weren’t ever going to lead to anything since Dr. Rosen is driving by doing the right thing more than anything else, but it’s too bad that it meant sending his daughter to Binghamton, something he might realize isn’t right after his own wrongful incarceration. Cameron is sure to be furious, especially after Dani used her ability to help Cameron and Tyler realize just how they felt about each other, bringing them much closer together and turning the visit into an extremely positive one. Gary’s excessive analysis was accurate for once, explaining that hearts can’t break but they can stop and leak, and sometimes they just give up after a while. Bill, Gary, and Kat were so far away from this, anyway, since they were busy trying to figure out this drug that caused seeming invincibility. Kat’s willingness to put herself in harm’s way is both admirable and dangerous, and I liked how she forced Gary to help her despite his repeated claims of allowable activities and decisions. It’s fun to see that younger agent relationship developing, and that teamwork should only increase now that Kat is being sent to field training. All of this obsession about Rachel and her Farsi-speaking boyfriend is fine, but it would be nice if either Rachel or especially John actually had something to do at some point in the episode.

What I’m Watching: Weeds (Series Finale)

Weeds: Season 8, Episodes 12 and 13 “It’s Time”

I turned this one-hour episode on about sixty seconds too late and was entirely confused, though starting over at the beginning of the episode just revealed that this was an unexplained flash-forward, picking up right before Stevie’s Bar Mitzvah. There’s something very appropriate about ending a show with a life-cycle event because it’s a logical time to bring people from many parts of your past back together, allowing for people to have fallen out of touch or out of favor (Celia, the most notably absent one). The most intriguing and unexpected guest, who had previously appeared only on the pilot but was evidently on loan from another Showtime series, “Shameless,” was Justin Chatwin as Josh, Doug’s son, who got taken from his apartment twice so that Guru Doug could apologize to him (sort of) for being a bad father. I most enjoyed Guillermo sitting down to correct Stevie’s perception of his birth father, though it had interesting and uncomfortable results as played out during Stevie’s speech during his Bar Mitzvah. Four dead husbands is quite the legacy for Nancy, and owning an enormously successful chains of legal marijuana stores didn’t seem to be fulfilling for her or her relationship with either of her older children. Oddly enough, Silas turned out just fine, thanks in part to Megan, while Shane went down the deep end and grew the world’s worst mustache. Andy, on the other hand, was the picture of serenity, and it’s nice to see him end on such an inspiring serious note, even if we pretty much missed much of that development. The final scene out in the snow was a bit overlong but generally effectively nostalgic. Some of the futuristic innovations, namely the see-through phones, were a bit odd, but this is hardly supposed to be science fiction. It was nice to hear about Isabelle becoming Bruce, and seeing Conrad and Sanjay in relationships that worked for them. This show, perhaps more than any other, has been a wild rollercoaster ride since its second season introduced other players besides Nancy in the game, yet it’s managed to stay interesting and often quite good in the process. It’s most worthwhile for getting the opportunity to see those five core characters grow from their original young selves in the first season to these bona fide accomplished adults now.

Series finale: B+
Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Justin Kirk as Andy
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy
Best Season: Season 1 and Season 4
Best Episode: “You Can’t Miss the Bear” / “Go”

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire (Season Premiere)

Boardwalk Empire: Season 3, Episode 1 “Resolution” (B+)

What a violent season premiere this was, offering a detailed and colorful reintroduction to the roaring 20s and its murderous players. Bobby Cannavale definitely made an impression as Gyp Rosetti, and he managed to alienate most of his business associates with his fiery temper on New Year’s Eve. Something tells me he’s going to continue to be a thorn in Nucky’s side, and won’t be killed off so easily if Nucky and his associates attempt such a thing. It’s never a good omen to get a glimpse into a minor character’s supporting life, and a kiss and a new hat were too much for Manny, who got himself taken out by Richard after asking for some autonomy. Manny was only really an ally for Nucky to get rid of Jimmy, whose absence was most felt in Richard’s conversations with his son about how little of the truth he knows about both his father and his mother thanks to Gillian’s influence. It was heartbreaking to see Van Alden come so close to good fortune in his new life and then miss out on a technicality. The Egypt-themed New Year’s Eve party was quite memorable, thanks in no small part to the theatrical performances involved, and it’s interesting to see that Nucky has found himself a new muse in the talented Billie Kent. It doesn’t seem that Margaret minds, though even her professional relationship with her husband has become demeaning, after she was chewed out by two men for raising questions about birth-related policies at the hospital. As always, the world is best seen through Margaret’s eyes, most effective in this hour through the horrific scene that was instantly forgotten at the hospital, and the excitement with which she watched female aviatrix Carrie Duncan’s flight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Contest Winners!

Thanks to all who entered the latest TV with Abe contest! I am pleased to announce that two winners have been randomly selected from the thirteen submissions. Congratulations to shifferbrains and Elana Kobernick. Please e-mail by Friday to claim your prize!

To all those entrants and readers who still haven’t watched the first season of “Homeland,” please do so immediately! It’s truly terrific. Otherwise, watch it for to win at least a couple Emmys this Sunday night, and then tune in to the Season 2 premiere next Sunday, September 30th at 10pm on Showtime. I’m sure season two will be just as excellent and thrilling.

Stay tuned for plenty of episodic reviews, pilot reviews, Emmy reactions, and more giveaways in the future!