Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 3 “Hazard Pay” (B+)

This new business model isn’t proceeding exactly as expected, mainly because there’s not one person in charge, and each of the four players has his own specific concerns in mind. Walt was clear on the division of labor, which is that he’s the cook and Mike is the business, but Saul wasn’t too pleased about that. The tour of possible cook sites was rather demoralizing for an enthusiastic Saul, who saw his ideas rejected continuously by the rest of the group. The idea of following around the tenting company was quite smart, and it’s good that they have Mike on board to outline just how little contact the workers are to have with the unnamed Walt and Jesse, something that Jesse Plemons’ Todd didn’t take long to disregard. The ending conversation about the actual profits revealed greater tensions in this new dynamic, mainly because Mike is working so hard to ensure that those owed hazard pay don’t talk. This was a fantastic episode for a recently slighted Jesse, who both got to show his dedication to the cause by offering up his money to solve a problem and dismissing his inquisitive friends’ requests to be involved in his new business, and also took time to grab a tortilla off an assembly line and eat it for a bit of comic relief. The conversation about relationships and trust was one of the best of the episode, and we really just have to hope that Jesse never finds out about Walt’s involvement with Brock. It’s about time someone went nuts on Marie, and Walt’s quick thinking should solve the problem unless Marie decides to open her mouth again and cause more trouble.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 1, Episode 6 “Bullies” (B+)

I’m continually impressed by how this ensemble show structures itself around one main character and uses him as a focal point to tell the stories of all those around him. It’s also great to see the show speeding through time (the events of the pilot were now a year ago) and picking a certain point in time from which to reflect on events of the recent past. It was intriguing to see Will reluctantly divulge his thoughts to this therapist’s son, played by David Krumholtz from “Numb3rs,” and to learn that he bought a ring to pretend for Mackenzie like he had it all along and then threw out the receipt to save it for a future occasion. I love that Mackenzie launching opposition research into Will meant that Maggie and Jim dug up dirt on each other, and that it revealed something about her own personal life rather than anything productive. Sloan’s primetime debut was quite memorable, as she spoke Japanese on-air and then revealed what her source had told her off-the-record earlier, prompting an intense scolding from Charlie and a decent solution that saved her career but didn’t present her in the best light. Will’s death threat brought in an entertaining new character, Lonny, played by Terry Crews, who made his fair share of jokes before threatening to kill Will if he hadn’t been specifically assigned to protect him. Will managed to deliver his most unforgiving and harsh takedown of an interview subject yet, but he got it right back, and then some, from the insulted gay African-American. Don coming over not to yell at Sloan but to ask about the flirtation between Maggie and Jim was representative of just how good this show is at weaving together the personal and the professional. It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the season.

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 8 “Somebody That I Used to Know” (B-)

This episode is considerably better than last week’s, but things still feel hopelessly disjointed, and with a few exceptions, nothing is connected anymore. Alcide losing his bid for pack master to his rival is inconsequential since the vampires no longer have any use for an alliance with werewolves. Luna shifting into Sam was unnecessarily comical, and he’s now just acting as an enforcer of the law more than anything else, forgetting the fact that he owns a restaurant. Lafayette’s latest Jesus journey didn’t have much of a point, and of course he’d actually be possessed while pretending to be possessed for Arlene and Holly. I don’t see how that ends well at all. Pam arranging for Tara to be able to feed on her particularly deplorable former classmate was just the latest step in her vampire training process, and things in Bon Temps are getting awfully lonely for the vampire community with only Pam, Tara, and Jessica representing the undead. Jessica nearly getting killed by Hoyt’s new buddies at least connects in part since Andy and Sam are still on the right track, but I think things are about to get much worse considering the way that the vampires have been behaving lately. Sookie tracking down the vampire who killed her parents is going to be sidetracked once Bill and the Authority begin their plan to have vampires exact public violence against humans. The complete about-face of all the Authority members still boggles my mind, and I’m even less impressed by Bill’s changing attitude. Eric is immune to the fascination with Lilith because he has no principles, but Bill wouldn’t shift so easily, and it sure seems like he’s taking it further than just a charade.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What I’m Watching: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 10 “In-Laws vs. Outlaws” (B+)

This episode was full of fun guest stars, and it’s entertaining to see them in these roles compared with some of their previous parts. Both Jeff Fahey and Kevin Tighe played integral roles on “Lost,” the former as Frank Lapidus and the latter as Locke’s father, though they only ever appeared in the same episode once. Charlie’s wife was played by Zabryna Guevara, who has been busy for the last few weeks helping Fiona while she’s in jail on “Burn Notice,” and Steven Bauer played a mob-connected man with an impressive number of bodyguards similar to his cartel entourage on “Breaking Bad,” where he played Don Eladio. Having Fahey and Tighe around as Dan and Fred, respectively, was a blast since Travis and Wes expressed clear support of their mentors, which led to a lot of head-butting and some interesting detective work on the part of their fellow group members. Comparing their situation to the in-laws problems (the title of this episode) was clever, and it’s fun to see Travis and Wes arguing about something different for a change. Dan and Fred did their fair share of arguing without their protégés present, but everyone had a happy ending when they agreed that retirement was for the best and the younger guys should take the deserved credit. With the number of shoot-outs that have already taken place in just ten episodes of this show, it’s getting hard to find new locales, and the selection of a car wash as the scene for this episode’s token bullet-filled scene was quite impressive.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 2, Episode 6 “Control” (B+)

It makes sense that Ryan would want Amanda to meet his friends, though it’s worth remembering that Wilfred and Jenna are really the only friends that he has (he would do well to keep her away from Kristen for as long as possible). That first encounter on the beach when he had his arm around Jenna wasn’t a great way to start, and things got infinitely worse at his dinner party when Wilfred sabotaged things by distracting Ryan and revealing the unfortunate fact that Amanda doesn’t like dogs. Things got pretty awkward after that, especially since Amanda was familiar with the widely-circulated video featuring Jenna’s drug-induced on-air meltdown. Wilfred’s meddling broke things down completely, but it looks like Ryan’s efforts to calm both sides by telling them lies about each other was interpreted as what it was meant to be: a sweet gesture designed to help them better get along. Amanda and Jenna could end up being good friends, though something tells me that Amanda’s intellect is far superior to that of Jenna, and certainly to that of Drew, something which she may be tempted to point out to Ryan and which could drive a wedge between them. More importantly, however, Amanda managed to bond with Wilfred, which helped him to stop messing around with and obsessing over Bear and focus instead on his peculiar, highly volatile relationship with Ryan. There are few lengths he wouldn’t go to in order to get attention, and this was him on relatively good behavior.

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 2, Episode 6 “All In” (B+)

I had honestly expected to see Harvey somehow go after Donna and try to bring her back in this hour, but it seems that he has other things on his mind and a firm determination to move forward without dwelling too much on the past. His new assistant seems entirely competent but a bit overeager for Harvey’s tastes, and I’m not so sure he’ll last. Harvey picking Mike up in a tux and bringing along an extra one for his associate to the casino he was banned from for counting cards was an entertaining start, though the situation in which Peter Outerbridge’s Keith Hoyt found himself was considerably more serious. Harvey’s methods of trying to discredit the company’s alleged new owner were typically conniving and cold-hearted, but it’s hard to expect anything else from him at this point. What was most interesting about the case was Jessica’s relationship with the judge. It’s intriguing to hear about her tendency to pull pranks on people, and unfortunate that the judge she had embarrassed so many years earlier wasn’t willing to recuse herself from the case at the start despite her obvious conflict of interest. Louis and Rachel’s bonding at the ballet was fun, and there’s nothing quite like seeing Louis in action. I’m still not happy with Harold being featured on this show since he’s such an incompetent character, and it’s disappointing to see Rachel make the same mistake as Mike did and betray Louis’ trust by letting him take the Dictaphone. The final scene with Harvey coming in to threaten Louis was intense, and I suspect that encounter will make Louis a whole lot more amenable to working with Harvey in the near future.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What I’m Watching: Anger Management

Anger Management: Season 1, Episode 6 “Charlie Dates Kate’s Patient” (B+)

His judgment may not be quite as bad as that of the previous Charlie he played, but this anger management therapist sure picks interesting women to date. To be fair, his initial meeting with Ellie was innocent enough and not malicious in intent, and there’s no reason they wouldn’t have hit it off even if Charlie wasn’t trying to one-up Kate’s intellectual affair. It did turn out, however, that Ellie was considerably more invested in making Kate jealous and taking advantage of risk-filled situations than Charlie, and her flagrant attempts to excite and startle Charlie while Kate was in hi house were only slightly less deplorable than her intense desire to have sex on Kate’s couch. Fortunately, Charlie didn’t seem too dismayed by his status as the first man to turn down sex from a hot woman, suggesting that he is able to exhibit some level of self-control. His efforts to establish a phone tree following Lacey’s injury didn’t seem like they were going to work out too well, but Patrick managed to put it into action after his first call to Ed was rejected and he turned instead to Lacey, who called Nolan to do her bidding, which resulted in a scene that probably should have been seen onscreen and landed them all in jail. I’m continually pleased by the role the patients play in the show, and I like that Kate is also a regular player who doesn’t do much in the way of therapy for Charlie but still manages to analyze him on a rather consistent basis.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 6, Episode 6 “Shock Wave” (B+)

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like things are getting infinitely more serious than ever before this season. It seemed far too easy for Anson to be caught so quickly, yet it also makes sense that more than one person wouldn’t want Anson talking if he got caught, as he had promised Nate he would do. Unfortunately, having Nate get gunned down means that Michael has just traded one enemy for another, and this unknown shooter, or whoever hired him or her, has wounded Michael especially hard by killing a member of his family. Michael is never going to be able to forgive himself either, considering the way that he treated Nate when he made up a story about bed bugs and then ordered pizza in the middle of a stakeout. Nate’s death makes Fiona’s release from jail bittersweet, though it’s good that she wormed her way out of the impossible situation in which she was put and even managed to get Ayn on track for release in the process. Sam and Barry found themselves in their own deadly situation in this hour, fending off an attack from a calculated killer played by the always-superb William Mapother. As always, Sam did a marvelous job of making it seem like there were more people on his side than just the two of them, making beer cans look like bullets and bacon look like gas canisters, and ultimately taking shelter under a bathtub while his assailants got themselves blown up in the midst of their attack.

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 5, Episode 3 “Failure is Failure” (B+)

There’s something odd about seeing Ellen on the prosecutorial side and Patty being the one bringing up the defense. After a harsh negotiation about deposition length and breaks over lunch, Ellen ended up being the one to brutally interrogate Rachel in extreme detail and do her best to poke holes in her carefully-prepared story. You could see the steam coming out of Patty’s ears as she tried to reason what Ellen was doing by reading back the text of Rachel’s last conversation with Naomi, and Ellen managed to turn the tables in that deposition when she revealed that the call she had described lasted only two seconds. It’s disconcerting to see Rachel’s version of the meeting between Naomi and Channing, and the fact that she had a monogrammed possession of his definitely suggests that he’s not telling the whole truth either. Something tells me that Rutger is going to fight for Ellen to stay on despite his investor’s uncertainty, though the latest break in the case may mean they have a fighting chance. After being given what she thought was busy work, Kate proved herself competent and earned herself a seat at the deposition next to her new boss. Her personal connection to Patty hopefully won’t impact her ability to go against her in court. Likewise, Ellen’s mother’s situation may prove distracting to her important case. At least she has Chris by her side, who sprung into action to defend Ellen when he heard a noise in the middle of the night. The most crucial positive about this episode – no flashes to the future. And it didn’t make it less impactful; if anything, more so!

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 7 “Fools Russian” (B+)

Having Hank in a different place actually worked out pretty well in this installment that featured two notable guest stars and gave Dr. Sacani yet another opportunity to become more ingrained in the HankMed family. In the city, Hank had quite a time, treating Boris’ faked symptoms, getting romanced by a translator, and helping to set up a medical treatment for Mark Ivanir’s Dmitry, a crucial component of Boris’ impending deal. The fact that Christina is coming back to Shadow Pond means that Hank may be stretched thin both professionally and personally, which could be fun, and she’s not a doctor, which may make dating her less complicated, if not for Boris being their link. Ryan Hansen from “Party Down” make for a great millionaire space cadet, and it was most fun to see him and Evan bond over their love for all things space-related. Evan chewing Dr. Sacani out for being too blunt was harsh, but, as usual, Dr. Sacani managed to find an unconventional way to impress his boss. Paige’s involvement in HankMed thus far has been nothing but productive, and it’s really too bad that she and Evan won’t have the first wedding in space. Divya’s father not talking to her wasn’t much of a surprise, but it seems that they managed to get to a good place by the end of the episode. The fact that he didn’t try to commit suicide but still made Divya think he did suggests how much he cares about their relationship, and she was smart to be supportive but not to take sides in her parents’ marriage problems.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Last Thing You Should Do” (B+)

Auggie’s trip to Eritrea was never going to go off without a hitch, and getting taken hostage by pirates with very specific aims was an unfortunate turn of events. Julianne Nicholson was a determined and vicious enemy, and it was lucky that Auggie was there to think quickly and save the lives of Parker and Wade. Pretending that Parker was Wade’s fiancée was a smart tactic, and getting his fellow hostages to barrel out of the back of the truck as soon as they saw daylight to make a run for it was a crucial split-second decision. Running and jumping from building to building took guts, especially for a guy who can’t see. Lena and Joan spending more time together on an operation was the last thing anyone needed, and the fact that Annie got to have final say over decisions concerning her good friend Auggie showed that they should never be paired up on anything again. Their animosity clearly stems from events long in the past, and Lena taking Joan’s operative didn’t help matters at all. Auggie proved himself to be extremely loyal by holding onto the ring the whole time, and hopefully his heroic actions swayed Parker into trusting him again after he read her in under the least desirable of circumstances. Michael’s unseen return looks like it will take Danielle out of the picture, at least for the time being, but I think that’s a good thing since she didn’t really add anything to the show, even after being read in by Annie.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: Franklin and Bash

Franklin and Bash: Season 2, Episode 8 “Last Dance” (B+)

This show just doesn’t stop, keeping things semi-serious by giving Stanton a stalker and then making sure they stay ridiculous by bringing a stuffed bear into a courtroom to determine what is and isn’t art. Damien asking Carmen for support didn’t elicit any especially entertaining scenes, but it’s good to see the whole gang involved on a more regular basis. Stanton and criminal-turned-lawyer Jeffers, played by the usually despicable Todd Stashwick from “The Riches” and other memorable guest spots, did a good job of realizing that they were being pitted against each other while the bank teller sought to ruin both of their lives. Leave it to Stanton to straighten everything out and give the whole crew a happy ending. Jared and Peter tracking the judge down to his gym was a risky move, but it seems to have paid off as their sketch artist held up against the immigration witness who tried to get the husband’s body termed a corpse rather than a work of art. It was good to see Boris Kodjoe, star of the short-lived J.J. Abrams series “Undercovers,” as Nolan, whose chemistry with Hannah was immediate, and though I suspect this is a one-shot guest spot, it would be fun to see him again to help her get some rest and relaxation. The final conversation about what each of the lawyers want to happen to their bodies when they die was entertaining, and the best line, as usual, went to Stanton, particularly for its delivery: “You assume I’m going to die.”

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 4, Episode 3 “Diminished Returns” (B+)

There’s really not much worse than being stuck in an evidence room all day, especially when the guy you’re working for clearly got punished for something and wants to take it out on his underlings. The always excellent Brett Cullen wasn’t ready to give Peter a break at all for coming in even a minute late, but it seems that the kind work done by Neal and crew to help Peter get his cell phones sorted helped get him on his good side so that he might now have a more pleasant daily office experience. His role in catching the elusive diamond thief played by the real Michael Weston, not to be confused with the character of the same name on “Burn Notice,” could help get him sprung back to his old job, but I suspect that will take some time. It was entertaining to see Neal and Peter essentially switch roles, and to have Peter go undercover and improvise a $5,000 squash bet and then undercut his supposed friend to steal his deal. The contributions of Diana, Neal, and Elizabeth to narrowing down which jewelry store he planned to hit were entertaining, and it’s great to see them all working together so well. The method of distracting the appraiser by using the word blue over and over and words that rhyme with pink was quite cool. The ending of the episode prepares us for a whole new direction, as Neal reveals a childhood spent in Witness Protection and a burning desire to know more about his father.

Take Three: Perception

Perception: Season 1, Episode 3 “86’d” (C)

I’ve decided that it’s worthwhile to give a show at least three chances if time permits. I think that’s all this show should get since it doesn’t appear to be getting any better with age. Starting the episode with a theoretical question like “Which comes first, yesterday or tomorrow?” is highly pompous and unnecessary, and this show tries way too hard to make its protagonist seem uniquely brilliant and completely unparalleled by the rest of his peers. Bringing in Kate’s father as a former detective working on the case didn’t add much other than revealing the very surprising and inconsistent fact that Kate is married, something that didn’t seem to come up last week when she took a new professor to a sports game. There were two familiar TV faces in this installment, the more intriguing of which was Sheryl Lee, best known as Laura Palmer on “Twin Peaks,” as another young woman whose life was taken away from her at an early age. Pamela Reed, famous for playing fierce matriarchs on “Jericho” and “Parks and Recreation,” was considerably kinder in this role. I know that the repeated introductions to Daniel and Kate were meant to be indicative of the fact that she can’t make new memories and won’t ever remember them from day to day, but it was more illustrative of the fact that they just aren’t memorable characters. Daniel’s imaginary friend Natalie isn’t all that interesting either, and it’s hard to get attached to lackluster characters such as these.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: Alphas (Season Premiere)

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 1 “Wake Up Call” (B+)

Things aren’t going well at the start of the second season premiere of this terrific Syfy hit from last summer. Dr. Rosen in a psych ward, Rachel unable to leave her room, Nina using her abilities for evil, and Gary being incarcerated at Binghamton all pointed to a rather miserable future, but this opening hour managed to change all that and present a whole new problem. It was evident with the simply robbery pulled off by the trio of Alphas that the team has a whole new brand of enemy, and now that a horde of Binghamton inmates have escaped and are working together, they’re going to have their hands full. Dani’s involvement with Stanton may also pose a problem, but it’s the cool, determined leadership of Stanton that’s going to do the most damage since he’s calculating and specific in what he wants to achieve, if that coordinated train explosion and derailment is any indication of what’s to come this season. This premiere emphasized what’s best about this show, which is that all the characters, especially the guests, get to have intriguing powers and psyches, and the faked torture scene on the video cameras was probably the coolest instance of that in this episode. Cameron making the shot was pretty great as well, and it’s nice to see Dr. Rosen back in his mentorship role. Coaching Gary back to normal was an endearing scene, and I enjoyed seeing his disturbed reaction to everyone wanting to give him a hug.

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 18 “Drug Fiend” (B+)

This episode hit especially close to home for Brenda in a way that the season-long case that has troubled her didn’t. To be fair, Dr. Parr had just about the worst bedside manner ever, and he wasn’t exactly cooperative with the investigation. That final scene in which Brenda told him he didn’t deserve an apology and then broke down when she told him she was going to bring her father in because he’s considered to be one of the best was quite powerful, and it’s seeming ever clearer that Brenda is going to make her exit soon to move home to be with her parents. The continued alienation from Pope will certainly help that decision along as well, as Raydor becomes increasingly more involved in the daily operations of Major Crimes. Discount drug dealer Wally spouted an interesting viewpoint on cancer medication, and this episode featured an especially compelling series of events that led up to the revelation that Wally was the one responsible for the patients not being treated. On a lighter note, it’s good to peek into the personal lives of the detectives other than Flynn and Provenza. Anne had just about the least comfortable experience seeing Gabriel in action, highlighted by Brenda’s misconception of who she was and her unfortunate decision to speak up and inform Dr. Parr of his legal rights in front of Brenda. She’s likely not as judgmental as Gabriel’s mother or grandparents, but she’s in no mood to be messed with right now.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 2, Episode 4 (B+)

Fading ratings definitely weren’t a good thing, but, prior to this, it didn’t mean radically changing the show even more than it’s already been transformed from Sean and Beverly’s original concept. Because we’ve already spent a season and a half getting to know Sean, Beverly, and Matt, the notion of Matt being essentially written out of the show is considerably more miserable. His assertion that he’s the only one on the show that anyone’s ever heard of is correct, and I enjoyed seeing Sean and Beverly try to conjure up the name of a project in which Morning had starred. Running into a no-name young guy whose career was doing marvelously was not a positive step for this particular trio, and the scene ended perfectly, with Matt saying that he was going to hit him. Carol coming over to Beverly’s home is becoming one of my favorite traditions, and among its best moments in this hour were Carol’s matter-of-fact statement of “Who says I don’t have a problem?” and her too-early interruption of Beverly’s venting to chime in with her own story about Merc. Morning giving the YCOMT pen to Sean was an interesting gift, and it’s a good thing that Beverly didn’t find out about that. Facebook was well-incorporated into the episode, and the ending was sweet and inspiring, as Beverly and Sean got touchy-feely while skating together after Matt rented out the rink for everyone. Maybe the British couple does have a fighting chance in the USA after all.

What I’m Watching: Weeds

Weeds: Season 8, Episode 4 “Only Judy Can Judge” (B+)

It’s extremely disconcerting to see Nancy in this state, collapsing at the laser tag arena and then calling Stevie Judah before falling into her salad. Her physical and mental lapses were likely due to the fact that she tried to operate as if things were normal, though she did manage to get a whole lot accomplished in her short time out. Hooking Kiku and Demetri back up was an important step, and Nancy is intimidating enough that having more people know that she’s been shot in the head should help rather than hurt her. Having uninvited guests over at dinner, however, isn’t exactly a good plan. California enthusiast R.J. was not happy about Silas keeping company with cops, and, though she’s odd enough to begin with, Angela probably though the family was quite peculiar, and Shane was lucky that they just barely managed not to reveal his past criminal actions. Doug’s war with his neighbor took an unexpected turn at end of the episode when video footage revealed that he, while under the influence of Ambien, was the one defecating on the newspaper. Jill and Andy’s relationship was working out fine until he offered to cook dinner for Nancy, and Jill responded cruelly by taking Stevie out for the day and then giving him Dimetapp to sleep so that he wouldn’t be able to have dinner with Nancy. Fortunately, Nancy got a happy ending when Stevie couldn’t sleep and she took him to swim in that random neighbor’s pool, finally getting an opportunity to spend some time with her son.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 1, Episode 8 “An Incredibly Beautiful Thing” (B+)

There really aren’t many things more terrifying than a cult, and this episode exemplified that as it got darker and darker as more was revealed about Evelyn’s disappearance. The human element, as always, was very much present, particularly with Ruby trying to write the obituary for the deceased owner of the gas station. Vic getting her husband to help in the case specifically if she promised that Walt wouldn’t be involved was also amusing, though that ended up being more serious than expected, as Walt got himself into trouble by overstepping his jurisdiction. Henry’s tracking skills came in quite handy, as did Ferg’s surprising rock and mineral knowledge (he could give Hank on “Breaking Bad” a run for his money, it seems). Offering a reward for information on Evelyn brought in a lot of useless tips, and the one that did pan out wasn’t presented very nicely. October stabbing the social worker in her attempt to steal the baby was scary, but not as much as the sight of the twelve girls strapped to the tracks as part of a joint suicide pact. This show is subtle and strong enough not to need a big, overly dramatic scene to demonstrate the rescue, and it still manages to be powerful and tense. The brief interaction between Cady and Branch in the middle of the case reveals that she hasn’t been returning his calls, which seems to suggest that she cares for him too much to let him jeopardize his campaign for her.

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 5, Episode 2 “Madrigal” (B+)

In a departure from last week’s peek into the future, this installment opened with an international clip that was perfectly eerie and haunting, representing the global scale of Gus’ operation. It’s intriguing to see that start and then zoom in on how small-scale the cleanup is for those affiliated with Gus and trying not to get caught by law enforcement. Mike’s diner meeting with Lydia boiled things down to specifics, and after Mike’s negative reaction to the notion of killing eleven people, she took it upon herself to hire someone to kill him. Mike isn’t one to be blindsided, and he even managed to turn the situation to his advantage when he decided to spare her life, accepting Walt’s earlier offer to be a partner in their newfound grassroots drug-cooking business. In his interrogation, Mike managed to piss off Hank enough that he’s sure to continue going after him, especially now that his last hunch turned out to be right. The meeting between Walt, Jesse, and Saul was unsettlingly calm, and a carefully-treading Saul couldn’t avoid irking Walt after his parable about a man who wins the lottery. Walt’s dry response of “What lottery did I win, exactly” was a sign of his lack of amusement, and it’s likely to be an increasingly darker road from here on out. If Jesse ever finds out that Walt did in fact poison Brock, things are going to get really bad, though something tells me Walt will be ready for it, as evidenced by his stoic statement to Skyler that it gets easier.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 1, Episode 5 “Amen” (B+)

This show is really indulging in its cinematic moments, but all of the superb dialogue and compelling plotlines leading up to them make them worthwhile. This episode got right into it with a depiction of the events in Egypt in early 2011, and it gave Neal a great role as he set up the relationship between the network and their Egyptian correspondent on the ground, Amen. His excitement about Amen referencing WikiLeaks was fun, and punching his fist through a computer was quite a show of passion. Elliot getting attacked when he left his hotel room added some depth to an otherwise comic character, and allowed Don to experience a crisis of conscience which he hadn’t previously done. Inserting Valentine’s Day into the mix was quite hilarious, and I enjoyed Maggie’s careful preparation of a seduction plan for Jim which he managed to mess up completely, requiring some iffy defense from Maggie. Sloan tutoring a hapless Mackenzie in economics was amusing, as was Will gathering the attention of the entire staff to point out that Mackenzie needs to subtract with her fingers. On a more serious note, Wade managed to reveal himself to be cruel and uncaring in the way that he spoke to Mackenzie, and the relationship ended quite poorly. Will, on the other hand, proved himself to be extremely loyal, both in his threatening of Nina and his wiring of his own money to save Amen. He may be gruff, but his actions do seem to merit a “Rudy” moment.

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies

Falling Skies: Season 2, Episode 6 “Molon Labe” (C+)

With every episode, this show is continuing to head nowhere. It’s the same old story, that not everyone thinks waiting for Tom and Ben is the best idea, and Maggie and Weaver are the worst patients ever since they refuse to rest and actually heal before some more intense running and combat. This episode felt particularly odd because it turned into a horror movie halfway through, as the skitter spiders started crawling out of Jamil’s mouth and Lourdes started freaking out because she thought they were all going to die. After that, the standoff in the snow ended up just being the aliens gunning down a defenseless fighter to prove a point, making the body count in this hour considerably higher and more serious than usual. Karen has turned into the most detestable character on the show thanks to her bragging to Hal about being able to predict his every move, and as a result it was satisfying to see the Mason boys get the upper hand on her when she came to see her master. Hal and Maggie making out after talking about Karen was a completely unnecessary development, and its arbitrary nature was best illustrated by Maggie in her claim that she changed her mind, just like that. I’d hope that this is the final time that Ben leaves, and that maybe his departure will finally allow this rebellion to kick into gear. The fact that Tom believes the rebellion is real is the most crucial thing, and let’s hope he can convince Weaver and the rest of the Second Mass before more stupid decisions are made.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 5, Episode 7 “In the Beginning” (C+)

I’m not really sure what to make of this episode. After an extremely intriguing introduction to this season’s major plotlines, things get really weird all at once with lots of dead people coming back to life in various ways. The most disturbing was surely Lafayette’s situation, and I’m not sure exactly where that’s headed since he’ll either survive or he’ll die, and I can’t imagine this show would kill off one of its most popular characters. Recurring guests, of course, are fair game, as Christopher Heyerdahl’s Authority chancellor gets his head popped like a watermelon by Russell for speaking out against him. The ease with which all of the Authority members accepted Russell as an ally and drank the blood of Lilith was unsettling and inconsistent, and the fang-heavy wandering through the street was among this already strange show’s oddest moments yet. Preying on innocent humans was bad enough, but now that Lilith has materialized out of blood to cast another spell over the vampires, things are going to take a whole new turn, unless a Godric-inspired Eric can do something about it. Sookie trying to destroy all of her magic is not going to end well, and it’s not clear what purpose she would serve as a mere human. Alcide’s coup may be considerably more successful now that his rival has revealed himself to be a V addict. Sam’s policework continues to be highly entertaining, though I’m concerned that the hate group that has so readily accepted Hoyt has something terrible planned. I would have thought that Jessica was to be their victim, but it seems that all she has to deal with is relationship drama.

What I’m Watching: Common Law

Common Law: Season 1, Episode 9 “Odd Couples” (B+)

If there’s anything that wasn’t a good idea, it was having Travis and Wes share the same apartment, even just for a stakeout. After an initial agreement about whether it’s better to arrive early or late, they were at each other’s throats as soon as they were in a room together. Wes telling the group that Travis is the worst roommate ever didn’t help matters, and things got really bad when they broke the thermostat trying to make each other miserable. Travis was right about suspecting the author, and he got both the opportunity to do a celebratory dance and to have a gun pointed at his head when he went off to pursue her by himself. Fortunately, personality differences aside, they’re actually a pretty great pair, since Wes ended up following Travis and saving the day. Starting the episode with Cooper making his daring escape was strong, and barely featuring him after that was an interesting choice but one that worked well, since this show is more about Travis and Wes as partners than anything else. Working with the FBI proved even less pleasant than working with each other for Travis and Wes. They may not mouth words just to mess with their partners, but they don’t communicate particularly well either. The captain coming to see Travis and Wes with a bucket of chicken was fun, though he’s clearly having more serious problems in his life, as evidenced by his getting stood up by his wife for their date.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 2, Episode 5 “Now” (B+)

Wilfred seems to really want to challenge himself when it comes to convincing Ryan of things, but it’s not actually such a difficult task. The fact that Wilfred was able to convince Ryan that he had a tumor in mere moments was impressive, and only on this show could such a thing occur so casually and easily. Ryan is, of course, doomed to misfortune, as evidenced by the theft of his wallet during Wilfred’s speech about his tumor. Wilfred losing his sense of smell was a fun twist since it opened up the door for Wilfred to think and to read a whole slew of depressing books. His observations on life and the fact that Jenna doesn’t cease to exist when she leaves his line of sight were highly entertaining, and his voicemail was particularly amusing. His suicide was typically dramatic, and was followed up by another thing that could only happen on this show, which was Wilfred finding Bear in the middle of a suicide attempt as well. The lengths Wilfred will go to in order to obtain a $9,000 doghouse are mesmerizing, and it’s certain that this won’t be the last time that an unexpected condition and a mischievous aim on Wilfred’s part come together to make Ryan’s life even more chaotic and difficult than it is already. Bob Gunton’s guest spot as the overly serious moneyman was a typically stoic and intimidating part for the actor best known for his role as the warden in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Pilot Review: Sullivan and Son

Sullivan and Son (TBS)
Premiered July 19 at 10pm

After watching the first two episodes of the TBS show that occupied this time slot earlier this summer, I was well prepared for this similarly irritating series. The concept is a conventional sitcom setup, and it follows the formula perfectly, bringing its protagonist from the big city to his small hometown where he can make an unfounded spontaneous decision to move back home. After being dumped by his girlfriend, something that doesn’t seem to bother him one bit, the perfect girl presents herself, except she’s already dating an exact replica of him. Subtlety is nowhere to be found on this show, and it’s hard to stomach the stupidity of all the characters. When you side with the departing girlfriend, it’s hard to be interested in staying where Steve has decided to settle down. This version of Pittsburgh is overstuffed with stock characters, like the overly flirtatious over-sharer Carol and her son Owen, who is able to get a job and master Arabic within a day when the bar is closed but then goes back to being a man-child as soon as it reopens. Suspension of disbelief is partially necessarily for any TV show, particularly a sitcom, but this asks too much, particularly in regards to the closure of the bar in the second episode. Stereotypes and racism run rampart on this show, but apparently it’s okay since ethnic characters are the ones making the jokes. Regardless of its appropriateness or political correctness, there’s simply nothing funny about this obnoxious show.

How will it work as a series? Now that he’s back home, Steve is going to have to suffer through many miserable interactions with his family and his patrons in his efforts to make the bar a palatable place. He’s already clashed with his mother and gotten arrested for keeping his bar open after a health inspection shut it down, so I’m not sure how many other places things can go.
How long will it last? This is just the kind of fare that TBS, a network that leans more towards syndicated repeats, seems to want to air. It’s hardly intelligent, but it’s easy entertainment and contains a diverse cast that should differentiate it enough from other substandard comedies. It could very well have a long life, and a second season shouldn’t be difficult at all.

Pilot grade: F

Monday, July 23, 2012

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 2, Episode 5 “Break Point” (B+)

Well, things certainly got intense at Pearson-Hardman, and not necessarily in the way that might have been expected with Daniel’s newfound presence. Donna’s mistake spiraled into more than just the omission of one document after she failed to tell Harvey about it and then destroyed it by the time Mike got around to telling Harvey. It makes sense that Jessica wouldn’t cut Harvey loose so easily, but it means that Donna takes all the blame for her mistake, something that Harvey doesn’t usually let happen, especially with his favorite protégé Mike. It would be a shame for Donna to depart the show completely since she’s one of its most entertaining characters, but I suspect that won’t be a problem because Harvey won’t want to give up completely on her. Mike fared well all by himself in court, and did a strong job of changing his tune after he realized what was really going on, illustrating his point by grabbing a French fry off the agent’s plate and defiantly eating it. The subplot involving Louis wasn’t terribly, but it also shows that, when he’s not front and center, it’s hard to figure out what to do with him, and the same is doubly true of Rachel, who had words with Donna and gave Mike a hard time about keeping more secrets but otherwise wasn’t germane to the storyline. Finding out that Louis cares more about his cat than he does people is logical, but I really wish that it could have been done without subjecting us to more of Harold.

What I’m Watching: Anger Management

Anger Management: Season 1, Episode 5 “Charlie Tries to Prove Therapy is Legit” (B+)

There are many who will likely take issue with the fact that Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife appeared on this show in a highly tongue-in-cheek role within its first five episodes. Yet, practically, it works on multiple levels as more than just a running joke, and even manages to make productive use of Denise Richards, whose acting isn’t always exactly top-notch. Introducing her as a friend of Jennifer’s was a good start, and it also enabled Charlie to mock her proposed business venture, Vanicures. Lori’s utter dismissal of therapy paid off most strongly in her final appearance, in which she professed a belief in ghosts but not in therapy or, more crucially, condoms. The sight of Charlie wearing a tie, a jacket, and boxers was most worthwhile for his complete ignorance of the fact that he looked ridiculous. Kate’s negative influence is entertaining, and it’s fun to see her try to poke holes in Charlie’s bad decisions and then pat herself on the back when he ends up being wrong. Patrick’s drama with his mother was a good foundation for Lori to be able to express her beliefs, and the group dynamic continues to be engaging and amusing, particularly when it comes to Nolan’s inability to make quips and Ed’s racism and homophobia. That’s a gimmick that could have been irritating, but it seems that it’s given just the right amount of time each episode so that its members can be present and featured without taking over too much of Charlie’s life.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 6, Episode 5 “Split Decision” (B+)

It’s rare that a show peaks so late into its run, but after plenty of years of Michael being misguided and manipulated by one shadowy agent after another, the show is now just focusing on action and a very determined Michael working as hard as he can to ensure that he can get Fiona out of jail and out of harm’s way. I’m equally thrilled that John C. McGinley’s stint as Card wasn’t a one-shot deal, and he had even less patience than Michael has recently in this hour as he tried to execute the takedown of Fiona’s gun dealer. Whereas in the past Michael has been somewhat aloof about leaving things so that a slightly bad guy is marked for death, it looked like he was ready to let Wes shoot his wife because he thought she was the traitor. Fortunately, it seems like everything worked out well, thanks in no small part to the quick thinking and excellent driving of one Sam Axe, who willingly made himself the subject of a car chase and then bailed into the water so that he and Rebecca could escape by boat. There’s nothing like two spies that hate each other working together, and it was a lot of fun in this hour. I like that Card has become so involved in the path to Fiona’s release, and I can only hope that we’ll see much more of him as Michael moves one step closer to finding Anson and getting Fiona out of jail.

What I’m Watching: Damages

Damages: Season 5, Episode 2 “Have You Met the Eel Yet?” (B+)

I have to admit that this has quickly and unexpectedly become one of my most anticipated shows of the week this summer (“True Blood” is the main competitor). There’s something about it that’s evolved so well since the show’s much-lauded inception, which I didn’t particularly care for, in both the plotting and the music, which helps considerably in creating an aura of mystery. I’m not sure how I feel about the “gotcha” reveal towards the end of the episode, complete with illustrative flashbacks, in which Patty gloated about tricking Ellen into getting the judge thrown off the case. This show does have a tendency to harp on the same scenes over and over, for effect, which is sometimes more necessary and productive than at others. Ellen interviewing applicants is a good step since she could really use some support, and it’s intriguing to see just how differently her two interviews went. Someone interested in gossip about Patty is not who she wants, while unsolicited applicant Kate is extremely intriguing. It’s good to see Glenn Close and Janet McTeer working together after scoring Oscar nominations for “Albert Nobbs” last year. Channing wearing a wig and meeting random girls is not smart, and being caught on video near Naomi’s room is even worse. This is not going to be an easy battle for Channing or for Ellen, and right now, the deck is stacked against them. There are sure to be many more developments, but as we know already, there’s no way this ends well.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 4, Episode 6 “About Face” (B+)

I must say, it’s a small TV world we live in where two shows can feature the same rare condition in the same week. This particular case of prosopagnosia proved far less deadly than it did on Monday’s episode of “Perception,” but it did cause Ashley Williams’ Sydney Bartlett a far deal of trouble in terms of keeping her club members happy. Reuniting Williams with her former “Good Morning, Miami” costar Mark Feuerstein wasn’t terribly exciting, but it’s worth mentioning. I loved Dr. Sacani’s efforts to be more like Hank, particularly his delivery of “Call me Jeremiah, how can I make you feel better today? It would be great to have him stick around for an extended stint in the Hamptons, and HankMed 3.0 seems to be functioning quite well, though I agree with Evan’s concern that Paige working for the company may not be the best idea. The apparent suicide attempt by Divya’s father is sure to shake her, and it’s likely that her mother will come back to be with him again and he’ll be able to forgive Divya for breaking her engagement. I’m so glad that Hank pursued Harper, but it’s a shame that he got paged by Boris at just the moment that could have been the start of something fabulous. The ending of the episode was considerably more serious than usual, and I hope that this latest mysterious adventure with Boris pays off in terms of a surprising revelation or new direction for the show.

What I’m Watching: Dallas

Dallas: Season 1, Episode 7 “Collateral Damage” (C)

I think this is going to be my last trip to Dallas. With other, much better shows returning and other series providing the same entertainment without the over-the-top corniness, I think it’s time to abandon ship. This episode had a few notable developments, but things seem to be slowing down with J.R. out of town and everyone else still struggling to make heads or tails of the Southfork situation while getting distracted by other elements. It didn’t take long for the news of Rebecca’s pregnancy to reach Christopher since Elena just came out with it, and, as Rebecca put it, the fact that Christopher is the father of Rebecca’s child means that he’s going to have to reassess his priorities. Elena seems to have chosen which Ewing cousin she wants to be with, especially since she didn’t react negatively to Sue Ellen’s request for her help on John Ross’ behalf. Marta stealing Elena’s cell phone was an unnecessary time-waster, and all it served to do is implicate John Ross in a murder that’s going to make it pretty hard for him to see his oil promises through, which means that Vicente is sure to come after him for blood. Bobby wasn’t comporting himself too wisely around Harris, even after Harris had the charges against Bobby dropped, but fortunately he also didn’t fall prey to Harris’ trap, which might have undone the one solid Ewing union by revealing some torrid secret from Ann’s past. If I cared what it was, I might stick around, but I honestly don’t.

What I’m Watching: Franklin and Bash

Franklin and Bash: Season 2, Episode 7 “Summer Girls” (B+)

I’m glad to see that the summer associates aren’t fully taking over this show, but, instead, they’re filtering in slowly to either help or to stir up trouble. Damien was extremely awkward around Elisa the entire time, both when he was trying to hide the fact that they knew each other from her past job and when he was trying to hide the fact that he really liked her. Sleeping with her was a bad decision no matter where her career path takes her, but Damien really stepped in it when he ended up having to offer her a full-time job rather than fire her. It will be good for him to have a woman in his life, so long as he’s not breaking the rules by being with a summer associate in his own firm going forward. Jared and Peter’s exploits in military court weren’t nearly as comical as might be expected from this duo, and Hannah also played a productive role in assisting their defense. Forcing the captain into speaking up to reveal her actions and defend them was smart, and it’s hard to blame Jared or Peter for anything during that trial. Hannah deleting the file on her computer is big, and maybe that means that Jared and Peter won’t have to worry about being ousted after all. Pindar’s daytime drive to get the fancy knife he broke repaired was a hilarious subplot, due mainly to the fact that he got pulled over for going seven miles an hour and for having a license that had expired five years earlier, and also to Stanton’s serious defense that managed to annoy the judge into letting Pindar off.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 2 “Sound and Vision” (B+)

Annie has only been working with Lena for a short time, and she’s already paired up on a mission with someone from her old team, but I think that’s a positive rather than a negative since Auggie is easily this show’s most endearing character. Additionally, it’s a good way to keep Joan involved since she gets to play out two power struggles at the same time, one with her husband and the other with Lena, both of whom have taken away her strongest assets. Though he can’t see, Auggie is an excellent asset in the field, and he and Annie work together quite well. Annie rushing back up the fire escape to help Auggie when he was being attacked was extremely loyal, but the best collaborative effort on their parts was when Annie shouted directions to Auggie while he was battling an enemy agent in the elevator. Red Rover was a fun and wild addition, and it’s nice to see Auggie with a kindred spirit. On that same note, Annie did not seem happy to hear that Auggie was proposing, and I wonder whether Parker will say yes and the relationship will continue. It’s best that Annie and Auggie haven’t hooked up yet, and I think the feelings – mostly platonic – that they have for each other are better left unspoken. Annie didn’t miss a beat after Auggie’s departure, stepping right back into action to go see Simon and continue her mission. I like the notion of a long-term job, and I think Simon a great asset for Annie to develop, or a target, whichever he may end up being.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What I’m Watching: White Collar

White Collar: Season 4, Episode 2 “Most Wanted” (B+)

I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take for this to play out, and how it was going to be resolved, but this was an exciting and efficient way of getting things back to normal before dropping another enormous bombshell in the episode’s closing moments. Neal quickly deducing a way to escape was met with an unusually harsh response, a gunshot to his knee, which managed to hinder the brilliant and entertaining rescue plan that Mozzie and Peter had already concocted. Fortunately, it worked, and Peter’s nursery rhyme-aided discovery of Dobbs’ true identity helped them to get to the next stage of their plan, which hilariously involved Peter learning how to be a bartender in just a few hours and then blabbing to all the guests about Dobbs being halfway out the door. The installation of a fake safe was a fun idea, and Neal and Mozzie always seem to have a blast pulling off their cons. Collins was dead set on bringing Neal back, but Peter’s bargaining paid off, since Dobbs was an even bigger get than Neal. Unfortunately, Peter’s meddling netted him a transfer, something that surely won’t be permanent but will certainly affect how Neal operates since he’ll be assigned a new handler, one who is less likely to be so trusting and have an affable relationship with him. I look forward to seeing how Peter manages to get back to white collar, and I hope for some drama and intrigue along the way as well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Emmy Nominations: The Day After

Yesterday was a busy day full of much reflection on the Emmys. My score on the drama and comedy series races was actually roughly the same as last year, 61/106, or 58%, but my overall average improved with the addition of all of the other categories to 100/161, or 62%.

You can browse through the various categories and their nominations here. My thoughts on the nominations as a whole are best summarized in my Shockya post from yesterday, The Best and Worst Surprises of the Emmy Nominations. Head over to Shockya to take a look, and leave your opinions on the nominees below!

Round Two: Perception

Perception: Season 1, Episode 2 “Faces” (C+)

Though I’m still not convinced that there’s much to this show, I will concede that this hour does a much better job of showcasing prosopagnosia than last year’s Milla Jovovich starrer “Faces in the Crowd.” Daniel may be obnoxious, but it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of the test he conducted in which he dressed Kate differently and introduced her to Frank as an entirely new person. This case was laden with incestuous complexity, since Frank, the initial suspect, was actually a culprit all along, even though he didn’t murder the person they thought because she wasn’t actually dead. Unfortunately, Daniel’s ability to recognize faces doesn’t also come with a clear grip on reality. Hallucinating a mole on the task force did assist him in solving the case but also made him seem crazy, and it’s unclear whether he was actually visited and threatened by a Ukrainian man who told him to stop helping the FBI. His therapist’s suggestion that there’s another kind of mole, one that burrows underground, suggests that this show will try to make its storylines as layered and full of subtext as possible, if only to seem more intellectual. I predicted the big reveal that Kelly Rowan’s Natalie wasn’t real midway through the hour, and I’m not sure it changes much other than to explain that Daniel really does have no one in whom to confide. I’m thrilled to see Jamie Bamber, of Apollo of “Battlestar Galactica” fame, as a new hire in Daniel’s department, and I’d love to hear his take on the workings of the brain and see him in action working with Daniel.

What I’m Watching: The Closer

The Closer: Season 7, Episode 17 “Fool’s Gold” (B+)

It’s so much fun when Provenza and Flynn get themselves into trouble. Being present at a pawn shop while a robbery was being committed is among their larger offenses (finding a car with a dead body in a garage comes to mind as well), and it was even more fun because Provenza’s first ex-wife was there with him. I enjoyed watching their interactions quite a bit, and it was especially entertaining to see them posing as a corrupt cop and his wife. Provenza switching off the comm to suggest a one-to-five-minute activity was amusing, and his insistence of the original cost of the ring was endearing. Frank the dog eating the glove worn by the robber was most worthwhile for the uncomfortable confession it elicited from Brenda and the furious reaction it elicited from Pope. The number one suspect, the shifty Mr. Cooper, was considerably over-the-top as an interview subject, but that kind of personality works well on this show since all of the detectives are skilled executors of sarcasm. The search for the gold coins gave Fritz a sense of purpose and involvement in the case that was considerably less serious than his affiliation tends to be, in a good way. There’s a clear tie for the episode’s funniest moment: Provenza and Flynn reading off a concocted list of gluten-free items such as chicken parmesan, and Flynn being told by Liz that Provenza’s four ex-wives consider him the fifth ex-wife, meaning that he’s earned an invitation to their monthly gripe sessions.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 2, Episode 3 (B+)

This episode was entertaining because, unlike those that came before it, it was structured around one single event, which drew everyone’s attention and led to some rather hilarious side conversations. Jamie getting the news while in the middle of an untoward act with Matt was quite a way to start, though he made it considerably worse by positing that she continue doing what she had been doing before they got the call. Beverly and Sean’s assistant is truly amusing, and I’m surprised that she even managed to get something right amid all of her constant requests to leave for the day. Matt’s enthusiasm about getting in on whatever Beverly and Sean were doing for Merc resulted in some less than considerate comments about one charity that helps homeless people get tattoos removed and another that does something involving Canadian geese. Morning’s accidental remark to Beverly that she had been in Sean’s bedroom produced expected awkwardness, though Beverly seemed more upset by the notion of never being with Sean again than she did by the actual act. I’m glad that she found out about Matt’s infidelity as well since it’s always fun to hear him try to justify his adulterous actions. Though he initially seemed upset about his father’s passing, Merc is just the kind of man who would interrupt the rabbi at his funeral to make – not just take – a call about Matthew Broderick so that he can snatch him up before another network does, which may or may not jeopardize the future of “Pucks.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Emmy Nominees: Best Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking “Parks and Recreation” and “New Girl” over “Girls” and “Veep”

This is easily the worst snub in the history of the Emmys. "Parks and Recreation," the best comedy on television has one of its best seasons to date and earns two writing nominations, only to be shut out of this race? I can’t fathom how this happened, and I don’t want to blame the two exciting and somewhat unexpected new additions to this category, both from HBO: Girls and Veep. I’d much rather point the finger at 30 Rock, which certainly did not have its best season and does not deserve to take its spot. The rest of the nominees were expected: The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Modern Family. Of note is that both “Glee” and “The Office” were forgotten, or perhaps much more purposefully ignored.

Who should win? With “Parks” out of the running, give it to “Modern Family,” “Veep,” or “Girls”
Who will win? It could go to “Veep,” but I suspect that “Modern Family” takes it again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Drama Series

My predictions: 6/6!

Interestingly, what could arguably be called the biggest race was my only perfect category. It wasn’t terribly difficult given that there were only seven shows legitimately in the running. The loser was “The Good Wife,” which still managed to hang on to six acting nominations, one of which it will probably win (for Michael J. Fox). The newbies are Downton Abbey, freshly eligible in this category and which garnered a massive sixteen nominations (six of which were for acting), and Homeland, which managed only nine despite still earning two lead acting nods and bids for directing and writing for its pilot. Returning to the race after not airing last season is Breaking Bad, with five acting nominations and a directing bid. Challenging it are Boardwalk Empire, which had twelve nominations, only three of which were in major categories, Game of Thrones, with those statistics adjusted to eleven and two, and the nominations leader, Mad Men, which scored seventeen nods, six of which were in the acting races. It would have been nice to see “Justified” or “Boss” make an appearance, but the five of these shows I do watch regularly are all excellently.

Who should win? “Homeland”
Who will win? Can “Homeland” take down “Mad Men”? Until we see the submitted episodes, I say maybe. Watch out for both “Breaking Bad” and “Downton Abbey” as well.

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Girls” and “Louie”

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

I’ve only seen three of these nominees, but this is easily the best category ever. I spotlighted it as the number one best surprise about the Emmy nominations in my Shockya article since just one of these nominees – Girls! – is up for Best Comedy Series, meaning that it’s recognizing true individual achievement in episodic writing. While Parks and Recreation should never have been snubbed for Best Comedy Series, it’s so wonderful to see it here twice! This is the second Emmy nomination Community has ever earned, and the first in a major category. This represents one of seven nominations for Louis C.K. of Louie, and he’s not the only actor nominated in this category: Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler are too. No 30 Rock, no Modern Family, just some creative thinking and writing!

Who should win? Still have to watch “Community” and “Louie,” but “Win, Lose, or Draw” is probably the best
Who will win? Either “The Debate” or “Pilot”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/6, picking only “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and one “Modern Family” episode

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

We have some great independent thinking here as “30 Rock” is omitted for the first time in its history. As tradition demands, a pilot is present - New Girl - which is interesting since it’s actually one of the weakest episodes of the show, and there were a handful of others to choose from. Either way, it’s a fun inclusion, as is the season finale of Girls, directed by none other than star Lena Dunham herself. Another series star, Louis C.K., is up for directing an installment of his show, Louie. One of the funniest episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm is in, as expected, as are two episodes of Modern Family, one of which is the season finale. Nothing for “Veep” or “Parks and Recreation,” unfortunately, despite being present in other categories, and the completely ignored “Enlightened” doesn’t make an appearance even though it had several amazingly-directed episodes submitted.

Who should win? “Palestinian Chicken” or “She Did”
Who will win? “Palestinian Chicken”

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing for a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/5, missing “Downton Abbey” and one “Mad Men” episode

The nominees: Episode 7 (Downton Abbey), Pilot (Homeland), Commissions and Fees (Mad Men), Far Away Places (Mad Men), The Other Woman (Mad Men)

I did much better here than in the directing category, correctly calling two Mad Men episodes and missing a third altogether. The AMC drama has dominated this category throughout its run, with thirteen nominations now amassed in five years. It would have been great to see a second Homeland installment here, “The Weekend,” but the “Mad Men” episodes are all terrific. Rounding out the category is the lone submitted episode of Downton Abbey, which did excellently in a whole host of categories.

Who should win? “Homeland”
Who will win? “Homeland,” but maybe “Commissions and Fees”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing for a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/5 on the shows, but only 1 of the episodes correct

The nominees: To The Lost (Boardwalk Empire), Face Off (Breaking Bad), Episode 7 (Downton Abbey), Pilot (Homeland), The Other Woman (Mad Men)

Perhaps it wasn’t wise to bet against season finales, since those installments of Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad made it in over the ones I had predicted. Downton Abbey was clearly very popular as well, and its lone submitted episode got recognized. A different episode of Mad Men made it in than I had predicted, but “Commissions and Fees” still got a writing nod. The pilot of Homeland was a sure thing, and the real snub here is “Blackwater,” the best episode of the season of “Game of Thrones.” Otherwise, this is a great list!

Who should win? “Homeland”
Who will win? “Homeland”

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 1/6, picking only McCarthy, though four of my alternates got in!

This was my worst category by far, but the only nominee I really didn’t think had a shot was Margaret Cho (30 Rock). I can’t comprehend why she was more deserving than Mary Steenburgen, but oh well. The complete shut-out of “The Big C” save for a lone casting nomination is a shame since Susan Sarandon was so great this year. This category represents a crucial problem with the rules in this race, since two of the nominees are recurring guest stars who appeared in multiple episodes also nominated last year, Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock) and Dot-Marie Jones (Glee), two one-shot guests, Kathy Bates (Two and a Half Men) and Cho, and two variety hosts from “Saturday Night Live,” Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph. It’s just odd for them to be grouped together when this awards guild has so many different categories. Oh well.

Who should win? I haven’t seen half of these, so no comment just yet.
Who will win? Maybe Bates?

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/6, picking just Michael J. Fox and Jimmy Fallon

Potentially this year’s biggest surprise (almost) is the snub of Matthew Bomer, who was terrific in his guest stint on “Glee,” a show that went from a Best Comedy Series nomination and a whole lot more to a guest actress nod and two other technical mentions. It would have been nice to see Paul Rudd for “Parks and Recreation” too, but he’s only recognized as part of the two episodes nominated for writing in which he plays a major part. Rather than honor new blood, voters chose to recognize two previously-nominated “30 Rock” guest stars, Will Arnett and Jon Hamm, who weren’t in all that much this year but were pretty funny. Greg Kinnear (Modern Family) got in for his unspectacular guest spot, and he joins Bobby Cannavale (Nurse Jackie), who won this award for “Will and Grace” back in 2005, Michael J. Fox (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and Jimmy Fallon (Saturday Night Live).

Who should win? I haven’t seen enough of these, but Fox!
Who will win? Fox

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Louise Fletcher and Jenna Elfman over Martha Plimpton and Jean Smart

So it seems that the only part of Showtime’s excellent “Shameless” that Emmy voters notice is “guest star” Joan Cusack, who appears as a major player in every single episode. It’s a shame that Louise Fletcher and Jenna Elfman couldn’t get in as well, but the rest of this list is decent. I didn’t see the cancelled David E. Kelley series through to the end, but Jean Smart (Harry’s Law) is typically great, and last year’s winner Loretta Devine (Grey’s Anatomy) is back again. Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife) got snubbed in the Best Comedy Actress race but is recognized here for her more tempered but still hilarious performance as a manipulative lawyer. Uma Thurman (Smash) was pretty good on her show, which earned nominations in expected categories: choreography, music, and original song (“Let Me Be Your Star”). I think everyone can agree that Julia Ormond (Mad Men) was fabulous as Don’s mother-in-law, and it’s great to see her included here.

Who should win? Haven’t seen them all yet, but Cusack or Ormond at this point
Who will win? My gut says Smart

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/6, picking only Michael J. Fox and Jeremy Davies

So much for Mykelti Williamson and Chris Messina getting recognized, but this is a pretty damn good list. Most perplexing is the inclusion of Jason Ritter (Parenthood), who is hardly the strongest actor on a show full of fantastic performers completely ignored by Emmy voters for that particular series. Matthew Perry didn’t make the cut, but past nominees Dylan Baker and Michael J. Fox earned their second nominations for “The Good Wife” (Fox also earned a nod in the comedy guest acting race). Jeremy Davies (Justified) was great on the FX drama this year, and it’s just a shame that he’s the show’s sole representative. It’s exciting to see ensemble players recognized from two highly-heralded shows, and that would be the bell-ringing Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad) and the rule-breaking Ben Feldman (Mad Men), ousting the usually-nominated Robert Morse from the same series.

Who should win? Fox or Davies, but they’re all good choices
Who will win? Probably Fox.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Betty White and Cloris Leachman over Mayim Bialik and Merritt Wever

I’m quite surprised that two veteran sure things – Betty White and Cloris Leachman – got swapped out in favor of two younger, unrewarded actresses who have crucial supporting roles in shows I don’t watch regularly: Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) and Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie). I’m most perplexed by Wever’s inclusion since the popularity of her show is most definitely not on the rise, whereas Bialik’s series certainly in. White still managed to knock Jeff Probst out of the reality host category, so she still has a shot at Emmy this year. Also out of the race for the first time is Jane Lynch from “Glee,” which was almost entirely ignored this year, and Jane Krakowski is gone too. I would have loved to see Cheryl Hines make an appearance for “Suburgatory,” but no luck on that front. I was right about Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives) earning a posthumous nomination, joining returning nominees Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live) and the “Modern Family” ladies, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara.

Who should win? Bowen
Who will win? It will depend on episodes, but I suspect Bowen again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/6, picking Nick Offerman over Bill Hader

No offense to Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) since he is a funny guy and a terrific ensemble player, but it seems like Emmy voters are just trying hard not to nominate Nick Offerman. The bad weather yesterday derailed his plans to come announce the Emmys (they nearly grounded me in North Carolina too), but his fate was sealed long before that, sadly. The snub of “Parks and Recreation” in the Best Comedy Series is appalling, but this is equally horrendous. That said, the rest of the list is pretty deserving. The four “Modern Family” men - Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O’Neill,, and Eric Stonestreet - all continue to be excellent, and joining them is a fun fresh face, Max Greenfield (New Girl). Also of note is the omission of Chris Colfer from “Glee,” a show that found itself with a measly one major nomination in guest acting this year. Strange too that Mayim Bialik finally got in but Simon Helberg didn’t for “The Big Bang Theory.”

Who should win? Greenfield
Who will win? It would be fun if it was Greenfield, but I think it’ll be Burrell again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking January Jones and Kelly Macdonald over Joanne Froggatt and Anna Gunn

As with all of the other drama categories, “Downton Abbey” snuck in to claim a few spots, with Maggie Smith and Joanne Froggatt earning nominations. It seems like Emmy voters really don’t like January Jones, nominating her just once over the show’s five-year history, and instead honoring just Christina Hendricks for the third time. Kelly Macdonald is out as “Boardwalk Empire” earns just a few high-profile nods this year, and another disenchanted wife of a criminal gets in, Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad). I thought she deserved a nod for her lead performance two years ago, but it’s still good to see her nominated. Though their show was toppled from the Best Drama Series race by “Downton Abbey,” Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi still seem to be invincible.

Who should win? Hendricks or Panjabi
Who will win? Smith

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/6, presuming the inclusions of Mandy Patinkin, Neal McDonough, and John Slattery

It’s unforgivable that Neal McDonough got snubbed. I had high hopes after last year’s surprisingly wide recognition of performers from “Justified,” but this year it’s down to Jeremy Davies’ maniacal recurring guest spot. It’s a real shame. No Mandy Patinkin either, which is a surprise. I’ve only seen the first installment of “Downton Abbey,” but I do remember both Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle being excellent in it, though I can’t help but feel that if this show was still in the miniseries category, other actors could have been recognized. At least Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) got nominated for his tremendous performance, joining previous winner Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad). With two shows taking two thirds of the spots, there’s not much room left, but fortunately there was enough for Jared Harris (Mad Men), who replaces John Slattery, who had represented the show the past four years. There’s no denying the brilliance of last year’s winner Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), but it seems strange that the show elicits just one acting nomination from amid its terrific ensemble.

Who should win? Esposito
Who will win? Esposito or Harris

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/7, picking Laura Dern over Edie Falco and Melissa McCarthy

It’s always frustrating when there are more than six nominees, especially if the extra inclusions don’t feel totally worthwhile. After her surprise win last year, Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly) returns again, and Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) is back too, along with a supporting friend whose time I would have presumed had long past. Tina Fey (30 Rock) is another obvious familiar face, and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) makes it in despite her show’s appalling Best Comedy Series snub, though she also picked up a nod for penning the episode “The Debate.” At least there’s some room for new faces, though not for Golden Globe winner Laura Dern (Enlightened). Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) is in, and her show did pretty well, though not as well as the series of Lena Dunham (Girls) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), both of which managed Best Comedy Series bids.

Who should win? Deschanel or Poehler
Who will win? Probably Louis-Dreyfus, though there are too many nominees to be entirely sure.