Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 3, Episode 2 “Innocence” (B)

After a strong start to the season, this show is back to the same antics and personal relationships, but there’s definitely still more than enough action to go around to make the episode entirely exciting. Starting with Nikita getting her ring sized and being told that she’ll soon be having babies led to an extremely coincidental situation in which a child just happened to be in a similar circumstance to Nikita’s. Annalise Basso, who appeared as a Pawnee ranger on “Parks and Recreation” and as the daughter of Jess’ older boyfriend on “New Girl,” was more than competent as Liza, who had been trained by Wade but managed to hang on to enough of her independence to eventually break free with Nikita’s help. Ryan considering Liza as a target rather than as an asset was a move that could threaten the delicate new balance that exists at the refurbished Division. It’s interesting to meet a Division agent so old that he doesn’t even know who Nikita is, and that suggests that her legacy doesn’t go back quite as far as it has seemed up until now. Birkhoff turning Wade’s automatic gun on him, enhanced by his subsequent reaction, was amusing, and it’s good to see that the team dynamic is still relatively the same, goofy and usually effective. Nikita letting Alex take Liza in to her parents because she got the last girl was an important action, and it’s good to see the relationship between Nikita and Alex being rekindled.

Pilot Review: Mockingbird Lane

Mockingbird Lane (NBC)
Premiered October 26 at 8pm

This isn’t technically a pilot since the show hasn’t yet been picked up and is instead airing as a standalone special for the moment, but I don’t want to miss out on any prospective series after the awesomeness that was “Virtuality” on FOX a few years ago. This presentation, however, is hardly as compelling. Having seen creator Bryan Fuller’s previous series, like “Pushing Daisies,” “Wonderfalls,” and “Dead Like Me,” it’s easy to expect a certain level of color and campiness to his productions. That’s true here, but, unlike those extremely inventive series, this one tries too hard to mesh a handful of supernatural tropes into one story and ends up with a huge mess. There’s no consistency to the show’s tone, and it’s far too enthusiastic and energetic for its own good. I much preferred seeing Eddie Izzard as the unlawful owner of another house in FX’s short-lived “The Riches,” and Portia de Rossi and even Jerry O’Connell have both seen better television days. Cheyenne Jackson was a fun doomed addition, but yet another sign that this concept, a reimagining of the 1960s series “The Munsters,” just doesn’t quite work as well as it should. Lines like “I ate the lion naked because it was naked” and “I can’t be a vegetarian werewolf” fall flat, and the script, which should be clever and inventive, just seems like it’s trying to accomplish too much in an unproductive space. The ratings were strong leading into NBC’s successful “Grimm,” but I don’t think that this show has what it takes to be a full-fledged series. I’m much more excited about Fuller’s upcoming television take on Hannibal Lecter.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Rat Race” (B+)

With every new episode, this show continues to develop the fabulous relationship between Sherlock and Watson. Getting set up on a blind date with a man who turned out to be married for humanitarian green card purposes only provided Sherlock with plenty of ammunition, and while he may not have shared his findings with her in the most delicate manner, he really was just looking out for her. That served them both well when Sherlock got himself captured because, according to Molly Price’s secretary with great career aspirations, he was just like an executive in his blatant overconfidence and desire to broadcast his intelligence. Sherlock’s lock-picking experience came in quite handy, and I enjoyed that he tried to take credit for Watson saving his life. Craig Bierko was a good choice to play Sherlock’s prime suspect, whose visit to Sherlock’s home proved extremely informative and disturbing, classifying all moneymen as sociopaths. A faked drug overdose was an unfortunate way for the missing executive to be killed for Sherlock since he was clearly unsettled by the smell of cooked heroin and the memories it stirred up for him. Watson telling Captain Gregson about Sherlock’s drug addiction was a gamble, and it led to a very serious, personal conversation between Gregson and Sherlock about the fact that Gregson already knew and was just waiting for Sherlock to tell him. A bonus funny moment: Sherlock telling Watson that he didn’t speak Mandarin as well as he’d like, and Watson telling Sherlock that he didn’t speak Mandarin as well as her mother would like.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation (Halloween Episode #4)

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 5 “Halloween Surprise” (B+)

It’s great to see Halloween used as a backdrop for an episode like this which still manages to cover plenty of other material. It was extremely entertaining to hear about Donna’s live tweets of “Death Canoe 4,” including her snippets about the canoe being the hero in the fifth film and the ire she incurred from an angry fan unhappy with the fact that she didn’t tag any of her tweets with spoiler alerts. It’s not a shock that Ron wasn’t adept at the art of trick-or-treating with children, and his usual stoic attitude didn’t do him much good with an angry Diane. It’s nice to see April nudging him in the right direction, and I’m eager to see how Ron starts opening up his life, hopefully with fewer sharp, dangerous objects like saws. Andy’s excellence at observation is entertaining, and it’s fun to watch him prance about as he tries to take himself seriously. Jerry’s heart attack framed a more serious contemplative situation for Leslie as she tried to raise money by prostituting Ann and to rectify her personal life. Ben’s excitement at the possibility of running another campaign, something he’s clearly good at, was endearing but worrisome, and it’s absolutely wonderful that he decided to show up at her new house with one of the most unexpected, heartfelt proposals recently seen on television. The relationship between Leslie and Ben has always been so sweet and subtle, and it’s great to see it progressing in what’s sure to be a great new direction.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 4 “Triggerman” (B+)

The episodes of this show that deal with good people in villainous roles are often the most compelling, and this one certainly was. While it was obvious from the start that Riley wasn’t a hardcore mob man, the best part of the plotline was the disagreement between Finch and Reese about what Riley was. Finch classifying him as a killer and as bad code drew surprising compassion from Reese, who could relate all too well to the notion of having to do bad things to protect the people you love. Once Reese was honest with Riley about who he was, they made a great team, and it’s nice to see Reese have a solid ally in combat. Both Carter and Fusco are proving to be useful in their own ways, and it’s good to see the team working together smoothly. On the guest star front we had Jonathan Tucker, who was last seen as a politician on “Parenthood,” as Riley and Kevin Conway, who appeared as third partner Stern on “The Good Wife,” as George. Mob roles weren’t much of a stretch since the two starred together on NBC’s short-lived “The Black Donnellys” several years ago. It was terrific to see Elias again, and a real treat for him to sit down face-to-face with Finch. His price for helping to cancel the hit was truly superb, and to think that a villain like that just wants to be able to play chess with a worthy opponent makes him an excellent recurring character.

What I’m Watching: The Office (Halloween Episode #3)

The Office: Season 9, Episode 5 “Here Comes Treble” (C-)

Ah, the show this once was. I almost needed to be reminded of Andy having gone to Cornell and being in an a cappella group since they haven’t been referenced in so long, making Andy bringing in his former group a completely random occurrence. For once, Erin is the one thinking clearly, unable to comprehend why Andy is so obsessed with his status as the Boner Champ. This was a horrible waste of Stephen Colbert, whose friendship with Ed Helms should have led to something much, much funnier and indicates that the show is in dire need of being propped up from its unfortunate current state. Finding out that Andy’s parents are broke is likely to cause Andy to try to redefine himself, but I’m not interested in watching what happens as a result. In other recycled news, we have Meredith put into a net by Dwight, something that was really only funny the first time with the bat, and Clark’s overenthusiasm for Andy’s antics is becoming infuriatingly irritating. The Senator showing up at the party and having some fun with Oscar was also something that we’ve heard about and didn’t turn out to be any funnier to see. Dwight persecuting the owner of a pill to get some for himself was unnecessary, though I suppose he does have a decent, logical relationship with Nellie. Jim really needs to stop making crucial life decisions without consulting his wife since he has a shot at something good but seems to be doing everything possible to screw it up.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 7, Episode 4 “Unwindulax” (B+)

This show is often at its best when it’s most delusional, as long as it has some firm grounding in reality. This episode doesn’t necessarily rely on much logic for its claims, but it does do a spectacular job of mocking the current political situation, an effective follow-up to Governor Dunston’s ascension to the vice-presidential ticket. Liz fast-forwarding through Jack’s story was hilarious, and the notion of her being at a Republican fundraiser was comedy gold. Jack’s obsession with money as the solution to all problems resulted in an extraordinarily funny Romney ad starring Don Cheadle and the breakdown of Florida’s political leanings by both Tracy and Jack. Discovering that it was the Crab Catchers, Jenna’s loyal followers, who would decide the election made for a humorous “To be continued” segment at the end which promises plenty of wacky resolution coming next week, which just happens to be the last episode before the election happens. I liked the quick summary of TGS’ coverage of the election up until this point, featuring Baseball Mitt Romney and Barackallama. Lutz’s grand-nephew being a star of “Twilight” was sort of silly, but it did help underscore the banality of the execution of the election material Liz tried to write. Jenna having to be Island Jenna in front of her groupies was the perfect setup for Frank, Lutz, and Twofer to mess with her, and she did a pretty impressive job of fighting back and trying to give them a taste of her own petty medicine.

What I’m Watching: Last Resort

Last Resort: Season 1, Episode 5 “Skeleton Crew” (C+)

Five episodes in, this show has become all about grandstanding and highly emotional speeches. As usual, there were some close calls and everything almost got blown to smithereens again, but there was an important difference this time, which was the presence of Secretary of Defense Curry on the island. Offering Chaplin immunity for the entire crew and two years in jail following a guilty plea for all the top officers seemed too good to be true, and it was endearing to see Marcus encourage Sam to accept the counteroffer made to just him that guaranteed a negative future for Marcus. The sudden destruction of the deal and Curry’s order to take the Colorado down indicated that the government is not interested in negotiating, and Admiral Shepard’s seizure of the gun singlehandedly saved the lives of everyone on board. Marcus was likely right in his analysis of what would happen following the shootings, and it’s going to be back to the square one for his cause. It would be great if he could get camera crews out there right away, but then this series would have to be turned into a miniseries since it wouldn’t have much of a place to go. It’s nice to see Prosser finally warming to Grace after her impressive performance in charge of the boat, and I’m not quite sure why James chose this particular mission to finally get his act together and volunteer for the cause. I am excited about an alliance between Kylie and Christine, who, fortunately, is smart enough to realize that she’s being played by the supposed friend of her husband’s.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Take Three: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 3 “Someday You’ll Call My Name” (B+)

It didn’t seem possible that Rayna and Juliette could hate each other any more than they already did, but the way things are going, their rivalry is going to get uglier and uglier. Deacon is right in the middle of their drama, putting his feelings for both women in his life above his own career. Rayna letting him go seemed like the perfect opportunity for him to fall right into Juliette’s open arms, but he was smart enough not to agree to her exclusive contract which would have really put the nail in the coffin in his relationship with Rayna. Neither of the women is having a particular easy family time at the moment, as Juliette’s mother returns and Rayna’s father once again asserts his ugly self by trying to impose restrictions on Rayna’s public behavior. As they both prepare to go on tour, it’s going to be tough to continue without distractions, and I’m sure their paths will cross more often than either of them would like. Juliette shoplifting while eager fans were looking on wasn’t a bright idea, and such a small, simple act is sure to cost her dearly. Things didn’t look good for Scarlett’s singing career as she botched her demo recording session and nearly saw Gunnar go solo without her, but, somewhat unexpectedly, Avery rallied to her defense and proved a loyal supporter. It’s remarkable that this threesome doesn’t yet have as much drama as their celebrity counterparts, and I’m sure that’s soon to follow.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory (Halloween Episode #2)

Suburgatory: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Witch of East Chatswin” (B+)

I don’t usually love when Halloween episodes add a supernatural touch to otherwise normal shows, and as a result, I wasn’t entirely sure about how the Halloweening of this installment would play out. Fortunately, as tends to be the case with this show, it actually worked fairly well, and featured yet another “Saturday Night Live” alum, Rachel Dratch, in a fun role. Tessa has always been established as the only sane person in Chatswin, and therefore it makes complete sense that she would be a good candidate to receive the wisdom of the one feminist in the whole suburb. The flashbacks to the horrible, witchlike things she did to Sheila as a child were amusing, and the angry mob with Mr. Wolff at the head provided an entertaining if slightly terrifying image. Lisa was the best part of that whole plotline, playing into Tessa’s uncertainty with fantastic determination. The brief bit about Malik and Ryan wearing the same costume was funny, and I think just the right amount of time was spent on it. Noah dressing up as George for Halloween was hilarious, and, the voice aside, he definitely blew George’s Noah costume out of the water. Watching Noah’s George get treated differently at the bar was great, but the best part o George’s Noah was Dalia’s conversation with him, which prompted him to ask out a very pleased Dallas. I’m extremely excited to see where that relationship goes, and I’m sure that it will be a delight to see them give dating a try.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family (Halloween Episode #1)

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 5 “Open House of Horrors” (C+)

This was hardly the best Halloween installment this show has produced. I’m trying not to let the overkill of Emmy enthusiasm for this show influence my perception of it, but I am feeling like the same plotlines are being recycled, and they’re not that funny anymore. We understand that Jay is both old and intolerant, and that Gloria’s moods are fueled by hormones during her pregnancy. Seeing it over and over again isn’t positive, and there’s not enough creativity in how it’s being showcased. As an older, talking character, Lily hasn’t proven as productive as she was when she was merely a silent baby. Thinking her mother was a princess and forcing Mitchell to scramble to hide that fact from Cameron weren’t entertaining, and that couple has hosted much more enjoyable parties in the past. It was nice to see Manny do his best to capitalize on his accidental antiestablishment action, attempting to earn a place in the cool kids’ crowd, but that plotline didn’t go nearly as far as it could have, and the angel and devil bit was too obvious. I did like the throwback to Claire’s excessive Halloween obsession from years past which resulted in her being shunned by frightened trick-or-treaters. It’s fun to see the usually more stoic Claire indulge her passion for messing with her husband, whose idea to have an open house on Halloween didn’t quite pan out as planned. Credit is due to Ty Burrell, whose facial expressions and speaking style enhanced his so-so material.

Take Three: Arrow

Arrow: Season 1, Episode 3 “Lone Gunmen” (B-)

This show is continuing to establish itself as a very typical superhero show, gradually filling in the blocks of its protagonist’s past while simultaneously chronicling his present-day adventures in both his lives. The Green Arrow may be a formidable guardian for the city, but the new Oliver isn’t much of a conversationalist, specifically when it comes to finding out that Tommy and Laurel had a relationship while he was gone, something which prompted no reaction from him. Laurel’s physical combat skills are somewhat of a surprise, but it’s good to see that she can take care of herself so that Oliver won’t always have to swoop in to save her. Handing over some intelligence to Detective Lance was a smart idea, though it’s clearly going to be a long time before he trusts the mysterious man in the hood enough to willingly work with him. Thea sure is a pain, and one would hope that she eventually has a greater purpose in life than merely partying and causing aggravation for her family members. I’m pleased to see that John Diggle, Oliver’s bodyguard, got a personality, taking Oliver and Tommy to his sister-in-law’s restaurant and revealing an emotional family connection. The events at the function were decently enthralling, even though Walter was never going to get taken out so easily. John getting shot saving the day, however, was the perfect setup for Oliver to rescue him and feed him the poison antidote, saving his life and revealing his identity in the process.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What I’m Watching: Vegas

Vegas: Season 1, Episode 4 “(Il)Legitimate” (B+)

It’s interesting to see Vincent purposely bring Ralph into his house, offering him up a criminal who has been caught cheating in his casino. Ralph wearing a smirk the whole time shows that he knows Vincent is up to no good, and their dynamic is becoming more compelling each week. Stopping by after the attempt on Vincent’s life and telling Vincent that Vegas is his town was met with a fantastic response from Vincent: “It’s my town too.” I’m glad to see that rivalry, something about which I was initially concerned, proving to be the show’s strongest asset. Vincent’s expansion plans have taken on a life of their own, garnering disapproval from Johnny Rizzo and resulting in the murder of the competition. This episode was stacked with guest stars, including Jamie McShane of “Sons of Anarchy” as the now deceased Cornaro, William Russ as Tumbleweed seller Mert Hayes, Michael J. Harney, recently seen as Detective Ouellette on “Weeds,” as Leo from the bank, Wade Williams of “Prison Break” as the union leader, and Christopher Cousins, most memorable as Ted on “Breaking Bad,” as the unexpected father of the murdered maid. It was fun to see Jack interview Mia for her work card and get some good flirting in, with questions about her having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, it looks like the crooked district attorney beat her to the punch, but I’m sure there will be time for romance eventually. As usual, the episode contained a stylized violent scene, with Cornaro and his associate meeting their end set to music.

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 12 “Wishful Beginnings” (B+)

It was never going to be an easy tradition for Annie back to life in the CIA after her unauthorized trip to Russia, but this was especially uncomfortable. Arthur offering her a medal for her service felt very procedural, especially considering how he acted while she was gone, and Joan wasn’t exactly warm, particularly in her harsh but not untrue point about Annie’s attachment becoming a pattern. She and Eyal do have a great working relationship, evidenced by Annie playing the kinder part and Eyal staying serious when they discovered a scared Karina, and it’s a shame that his boss Rivka, played by Tovah Feldshuh, wants him to exploit Annie and use her as an asset. The fact that he gave her the intelligence but didn’t tell her that he had offered Annie his apartment suggests that he’s going to find a way not to betray Annie, though there’s only so much of that she can take after losing Simon and being abandoned by Ben before that. Eyal giving Auggie a hug upon finally meeting him was an unexpected comic moment, and I do hope that Annie starts being honest with Auggie again lest she lose her best friend. Joan lying to Arthur isn’t going to lead anywhere good, and something tells me he might understand her trying to get her drug problem under control rather than suspect something much worse as she continues to lie to him. It’s still a big deal to see Joan struggling, and hopefully those around her will be able to help her instead of growing distant.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 4, Episode 6 “I’ll Be Right Here” (B+)

This episode was a powerful balance of comedy and drama, as Kristina prepared for her surgery and everyone else rallied to help support Adam and offer him plenty of tea. I was worried that Crosby’s offer to be helpful would turn into Adam once again resenting him, but a coned Otis and a late food delivery were quickly forgotten as Crosby showed up to the hospital more frequently than indicated on Julia’s frighteningly scheduled time sheet, thankfully with no more painful massages for Adam. At the hospital, it was most entertaining to hear Adam’s excitement at Sarah sharing some of her personal life with him and telling him about her kiss with Hank. Drew not gelling with Mark immediately isn’t a surprise, but it’s nice to see Mark making concessions to try to ease him into it, like getting cable and declaring that he’ll never read a book again. I’m loving the budding relationship between a surprisingly sheepish Ryan and Amber, and I hope that only goes good places. Max speaking up about his Asperger’s during his speech was brave, and I like that he continued to stay firmly focused on his vending machine issue. It was nice to see Haddie there to support him as he won, and tough to watch Adam and Kristina lie to her so that she would go back to school and not take her entire fall semester off. This show sure knows how to pull off heart-wrenching family scenes featuring faces full of so much emotion.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 5, Episode 7 “Toad’s Wild Ride” (B+)

This show is quickly threatening to overtake “Rescue Me” for the distinction of the most devastating FX show. The world in which SAMCRO exists is becoming far too incestuous, with rogue factions operating within the club and business too often being mixed with pleasure. Gemma calling Nero after being robbed by Warren only to find the club in tow is the ultimate example of the latter, since Nero has gone from Gemma’s confidante to the club’s best ally. Clearly, Nero isn’t over her, as evidenced by his brutal beatdown of Joel McHale’s hapless Warren. Unser is a smart man for refusing to put down his gun while he was in close proximity to Clay, who continues to prove even more devious as he set up the Nomads to die and then presumably sent two Niners to try to kill Jax and Chibs to deflect Jax’s rightful suspicion away from him. Juice will likely prove the key figure in Clay’s downfall, though it’s not yet clear which side he’ll take. The sight of Tig sitting guard outside of the cabin with Tara inside was ominous, though it didn’t serve as adequate preparation for Gemma to fall asleep and end up run off the road, with the sound of a baby crying and blood dripping down. The death of one of Jax and Tara’s children, especially indirectly at Gemma’s hands, is going to make SAMCRO explode at their most volatile time yet. I’m worried but can’t wait to see what happens next.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What I’m Watching: Apartment 23 (Season Premiere)

Apartment 23: Season 2, Episode 1 “A Reunion…” (B+)

I hadn’t really missed this show while it was off the air despite the fact that I did enjoy the first season. That may be because its content really isn’t tethered to reality, especially when it comes to the actions of its title character. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy this premiere, a light dose of fierce entertainment, with great character interaction all around. Two supporting characters, Luther and Mark, got superb showcases in this episode in brief scenes, most notably in Luther’s reaction to being shot with a tranquilizer gun and Mark’s short but spectacular scene encouraging June to pursue her latest dream. Chloe running around carrying a tranquilizer gun and shooting people was hilarious, and her boredom with James’ interest in doing a reunion show was a blast. Most notably, this episode did a good job of establishing James as a solid character, enhanced from his original status. Three familiar TV faces were also incorporated solidly into brief, very funny scenes. It was nice to see Busy Phillips, now of “Cougar Town,” and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, now of “Franklin and Bash,” as well as a freaked-out Frankie Muniz, who has been racing rather than acting as of late. Luther referring to Muniz as “Malcolm in the Middle” in his master screenplay was very amusing. June’s phone calls to her three extremely successful friends were quite embarrassing, but Chloe’s quick dismissal of their ultimate fates of failure was, as usual, largely nonsensical but strangely comforting and endearing. This is a great start to what should be a fun season.

Round Two: Emily Owens, M.D.

Emily Owens, M.D: Season 1, Episode 2 “Emily and…The Alan Zolman Incident” (C)

I can understand this show’s appeal, and I think it handles its content decently for the audience it wants, but this second installment makes me more certain that I’m not a part of that group. Emily’s inability to stop herself from staying stupid things is hardly an endearing quality, and it makes the show’s intellect, and its titles, considerably less mature than they would otherwise be. Plot-wise, the deck is fully stacked, with Emily being very obviously tricked into handling a difficult patient, Emily and Will experiencing plenty of awkwardness as he refuses to stop being insanely nice to her and saying things that make it seem like he too is in love with her, and Dr. Beckett continuing to be the most robotic, evil boss ever. Emily earns points for befriending the woman with the extreme obsessive compulsive disorder, and also for blackmailing Dr. Dupre to get an expedited approval for her patient, though that backfired with Dr. Beckett. I could do without all the nurses hating her via Tyra’s communicated comments, and I think the show has plenty of evolving to do before it feels anywhere near natural. This show didn’t perform as well in week two opposite more than just the presidential debate, but the CW has commissioned three more scripts, so it’s possible that this show may last for a while. The CW has so few offerings that it’s well worth it for them to see if any of the new ones are actually able to stick.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 5 “Models” (B+)

Though I didn’t love quite everything about it, this episode had its hilarious moments. I’m not as big a fan of Fat Schmidt as I think many might be, but seeing the peculiar bonding between him and Young Nick is rather amusing. I also didn’t love the extended sight gag slash Ford advertisement that was Jess trying and failing to walk in heels, but I think that the rest of that plotline worked well enough for that to be forgiven. Now on to the good – I absolutely loved Jess explaining her simpler problem of not knowing how to talk to the models, resigning to pointing at objects and letting them observe obvious things. Her physical fight with Cece was infantile but entertaining, and I like seeing their friendship front and center again (though I’m all for Schmidt and Cece getting back together too). There was no better moment in the episode than when Nick started to question Schmidt’s motivations for getting him a cookie. Some have thought that Schmidt has been too exaggerated and obnoxious this season, but this was the perfect usage. Winston also got involved productively, less concerned about thoughtful grand gestures and instead focused on Nick’s inability to tell him “good night” before bed. Winston’s list of things that Schmidt did for Nick without him appreciating or acknowledging them was great, and I liked that Schmidt was still enjoying their tender moment while his roommates were prepared to go back to their masculine activities as quickly as possible.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What I’m Watching: Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate: Season 1, Episode 5 “Emergency Kit” (B+)

I’m very pleased about just how bountiful the relationship between Ben and Kate in terms of supplying comedic plotlines. This is actually the show’s most natural episode yet, as Kate’s need to always be prepared triggered, as usual, Ben’s need to show his sister that she’s not always right. Staging a major drill for which she was entirely prepared was amusing, and I’m loving the dialogue that accompanies Ben’s theories and Kate’s retorts, or vice versa, more and more each time. Ben’s claim to know how yogurt is made, which was promptly refuted by Kate, was the funniest of all his wild assertions. Tommy being in the middle of their competition is especially entertaining since he finds ways to legitimize being on both sides. I very much enjoyed his delivery of his sudden urge to eat a granola bar and his unfortunate faked realization that it had been made in a facility that processes nuts. The two love interest guest stars of the episode, Lindsay Sloane, who costarred with Lucy Punch in “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” and Rob Corddry, were both great, and I liked that BJ had links with both of them. The health inspector routine and the bottle of glass shards were amusing and horrifying tactics that made the hilarious relationship between BJ and Buddy even more fantastic. Kate’s tame reaction to BJ’s excitement about being with him and BJ’s unintentional acceptance of her advice not to sleep with him were equally fun, shaping these characters into more developed personalities.

What I’m Watching: Alphas (Season Finale)

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 13 “God’s Eye” (B+)

This show has been building towards Stanton’s massive plan for the world for the whole season, and it’s fitting that the finale should end on a similar note to the first season’s closer, an enormous game-changer that’s sure to transform the feel of this show going forward. Dr. Rosen was losing his mind for most of the episode, hallucinating Dani and plotting to kill Stanton upon seeing him. I’m continually fascinated by the relationship that Stanton seems to think he has with Dr. Rosen, preparing a safe room for him so that he can survive the blast and emerge as a leader in the brave new world. Dr. Rosen’s eventual decision not to kill Stanton made sense given his outlook on the world, though I’m not sure any of that matters anymore. It was good to see a prickly Kat standing up for herself to Cameron and to Rachel, and I’m really impressed with how she’s grown as a member of the team (she also ranks as one of my top ten new characters of the summer/fall season). Skylar fit right in too, antisocial as always but extremely efficient, and nothing would make me happier than to see Summer Glau join the show as a series regular next season. Having Gary as the last man standing while everyone else, including all that Alphas and Stanton, dropped, with “The Only Living Boy in New York” playing was a fantastic way to close out the second season, a year greatly improved on an already strong first season and a fabulous reason to anticipate the third eagerly.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Ryan Cartwright as Gary

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 2, Episode 4 “New Car Smell” (A-)

I haven’t been watching this show live, and as a result I keep reading about some monumental development at the end of each of this show’s episodes. Fortunately, I’ve avoided spoiling anything for myself, but at the rate this show is going, I’m going to have to make time for this series on Sunday nights since it’s going nonstop with spectacularly exciting twists. It was immensely satisfying to see the look on Estes’ face as Saul showed him Brody’s martyr video, and it was refreshing to see Carrie’s surveillance operation back up and running, this time sanctioned by Estes and with the very intriguing Peter Quinn supervising and clashing with Carrie. I loved their interactions, which all started with Peter saying something incendiary and Carrie shooting back with one of her shocked looks and a biting comeback. Brody stopping Carrie to say hello at the CIA was a surprise, something she handled quite well. Brody calling Carrie while he was under surveillance was somewhat expected but still fantastically awesome, and her going to knock on his door demonstrated her lack of a grasp on the situation. Blowing the operation and revealing her hand to Brody was one of the most intense scenes yet, telling him that she loved him and then that he’s a traitor and a terrorist and it’s time for him to pay for that. I can’t imagine what’s going to happen next, and I can’t wait. Brody wasn’t doing too well before he ran into Carrie either, staying at a hotel while Mike helped Jessica out and heard even more theories about why Brody might have been in league with Walker. I can’t imagine it will be too good once Brody’s actions go public for the new romance developing between Dana and Finn.

This is a perfect Emmy submission for both Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, who could easily win again, as could the show. That final scene was spectacular. Unsurprisingly, the show has been renewed for a third season. I can’t wait!

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 2 “Sick” (B+)

This season is roaring head with plenty of violence and enthralling twists and turns, leaving the useless dialogue and occasionally slow plotting of previous seasons behind. Hershel’s condition set a melancholy tone for the episode, as it meant the loss of their father for Maggie and Beth but also the need for Carol to take over some doctoring duties that would require practicing a C-section on a walker corpse. Carl’s excessive maturity got seriously wounded by Lori’s disciplinary talk and Beth’s chastising of him for talking back to his mother. The reactions of the inmates to the news about the fate of the world (you can’t say the word “zombie” on this show, apparently) were telling of just how commonplace all this walker business has become on this show. The inmates were always going to be a problem, but their situation played out ominously as they went to clear out another cell block after Rick decided to make a compromise with their trigger-happy leader. Getting approval from Lori to deal with them as he saw fit may have been a factor in Rick’s quick decision to kill the leader with a machete and then chase down the poor prisoner who ended up locked in the yard with a bunch of walkers. Letting the other two live was a welcome sign of compassion, and a confirmation that Rick hasn’t gone completely off the deep end, despite what his hostility to Lori would indicate. Daryl seems like a loyal lieutenant, and his apology to the inmates about their friends was a rare intimate moment. I’m not so worried about the two inmates left alive, but the group is going to start experiencing cabin fever sooner or later; it’s just a question of whether a new enemy gets to them first.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 3, Episode 6 “Ging Gang Goolie” (B+)

Nucky sure tends to disappear for a while these days, leaving both women in his life waiting without a clue when he’ll return. Getting arrested by Harry wasn’t exactly his fault, though he did incite the attorney general considerably. Paying his $5 fine with a $100 bill was amusing, but taking Esther Randolph out for breakfast after suggested that he wasn’t taking the matter lightly. Offering her full access to Remus with an impressive degree of transparency came as a surprise, and Gaston Means seemed eager to help take down both Remus and Harry as well. With Gyp absent from this episode, Nucky may finally be able to take down another enemy and establish himself as the sole bootlegging kingpin. He is neglecting his duties at home, however, and, unsurprisingly, Owen is there to keep Margaret company, watching over her as Tommy reveals his own protective instincts. It’s an interesting regression for Margaret, who has managed to become quite independent recently and perhaps can now see it as her making the choice to have an affair since she has certain confirmation that her husband is doing the same. Margaret is not the only one finding ways to improve her situation, as Gillian found someone who looks a lot like her dead son to fill the empty hole in her heart in that disturbing, incest-heavy way. It’s good to see Richard making a female friend too since Jimmy’s actions got the woman he was closest to killed as well, and he’s now seeming lonelier than ever.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 4 “Don’t Haze Me, Bro” (B+)

This show really likes to make its judges colorful characters, and the same is true of its opposing counsel. John Glover was last seen in season two opposite Martha Plimpton’s Patti Nyholm, and here he got the chance to go solo and keep an angry Diane and Alicia on their toes as he continued to change his defense and try to prove something else that would get the case thrown out. Luckily, they managed to trick him into negating his case, which made a frustrated Diane quite happy. Her ambitious plan for bringing Lockhart Gardner back from the dead may not play out so easily, but it should be fascinating to watch. The trustee’s suggestion for Diane and Will to share an office was expectedly shot down, and instead new best buds Cary and Alicia ended up in awfully tight quarters. Alicia’s drunken night with Maddie was extremely interesting, and it’s a shame that Alicia felt compelled to be Eli’s mouthpiece since that seemed to represent a downturn in the evening’s fun. While Jackie was busy making steam come out of Eli’s ears and seeing bugs, Alicia did a superb job deflecting Mandy’s questions, and Kalinda fought hard to ensure that the story couldn’t possibly be true. The phone call Eli got from the blogger in the episode’s closing moments, however, changes everything, since even an untrue rumor can prove detrimental, as the entire extended Florrick campaign is about to experience. Eli’s attitude towards the blogger on the phone certainly didn’t help matters.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 7, Episode 4 “Run” (B+)

This show tends to be at its best when it’s focusing on one villain for an isolated period of time rather than a whole season. Fortunately, we have both in this case, with Speltzer representing the former and Sirkov the latter. Batista did a magnificent job of warming up Speltzer to be taken down by Deb, and she deserves credit for how well she took him down. Getting off on a technicality is one of Dexter’s main triggers, though Deb nearly took him out first when she went off on him at the funeral. Speltzer easily ranks as one of the more methodical, creepy killers this show has seen with his notes and mazes, but Dexter did manage to use outsmart him quite easily with common sense. Burning his blood slides with Speltzer, who didn’t get his cheek sliced or experience most of Dexter’s usual ritual, was an important step for Dexter, as was calling Deb after to have her ask if he did it for her and to reveal that she was glad about it. It’s a good thing that Dexter didn’t dispose of Speltzer via his boat as usual, since Sirkov is circling and closing in on him without his having the slightest idea. Forcing the bartender to commit suicide was cruel and unfeeling, and hopefully Batista will let his inner detective win and won’t give up on pursuing it. With Hannah stopping by for some more mysterious flirting, Dexter is definitely going to get distracted at just the wrong moment.

Pilot Review: Hunted

Hunted (Cinemax)
Premiered October 19 at 10pm

After the success it’s seen with Sky One import “Strike Back,” it makes total sense that Cinemax would be interested in another action-packed British collaboration. The network has certainly found that in its newest series, which is perhaps best described as a dark, brooding mix of “Alias” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” In the lead is Melissa George, who appeared in the ABC Jennifer Garner series as well as in the first season of HBO’s “In Treatment.” George is well-versed in action scenes and therefore serves as a fitting protagonist, mysterious but generally sympathetic, whose role allows her to utilize both her Australian and her American accents. Two experienced British actors, Stephen Dillane and Stephen Campbell Moore, known for “Game of Thrones” and “The History Boys,” respectively, among others, stand out in the supporting cast as Sam’s boss and her mark. I’m pleased to see Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, who broke out in season two of “Lost” as Mr. Eko, back on TV, but disappointed to see his relatively tame role, one in which I didn’t even recognize him. In many ways, this is a stuffy British drama, but the notion of a long-haul mission is intriguing. The opening sequence was captivating, but the excessive use of flashbacks to scenes we’ve already seen is tiresome. This show might prove dense to get into, but it’s likely to improve and pick up its pace with time. I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll check back in to see where it goes in the future.

How will it work as a series? The first season is just eight episodes, which means that this particular mission could last out the entire season with the suspense building slowly, perhaps too slowly, in the process. Creator Frank Spotnitz has a good track record for supernatural shows like “Night Stalker” and “The X-Files,” and we’ll have to see how good a series without monsters or superpowers will be.
How long will it last? Airing on two networks at once gives the show two opportunities for success, and the series is showing two weeks ahead of Cinemax on BBC. The creative team is already prepping for a second season, and I think it’s probably likely that both networks will be interested in allowing this one to grow.

Pilot grade: B

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What I’m Watching: Nikita (Season Premiere)

Nikita: Season 3, Episode 1 “3.0” (B+)

I didn’t expect much from this premiere after this show earned a very surprising renewal last year. My expectations, however, were exceeded, as this opening hour turned out to be action-packed, exciting, and productive in terms of a wholly new direction for the series. Ryan running Division presents the opportunity for much more organized missions, yet it still has its share of problems, like Birkhoff not being allowed to hack the CIA and Nikita having to, as she tends to, go rogue when Ryan tells her to call off the mission. Hunting down former Division assets who didn’t come in the from the cold could be a fun recurring plotline, and Jeffrey Pierce, recently seen as Jack Sylvane on “Alcatraz,” was a good start as the calculating Martin, who got angry that his plans went awry when Nikita stayed behind to get Michael back. The show still has its token humor, mainly expressed by Birkhoff in just about every scene he’s in and also evident in a handcuffed Michael enthusiastically running back to reclaim Nikita’s engagement ring. The new Division is in a state of limbo, not officially existing and still working to clean up the mess made by Percy, and the president threatening to burn Division to the ground if more mistakes occur is a bad omen. Amanda’s return should only complicate matters even more, and I’m looking forward to that. I hadn’t necessarily planned to continue watching this show, but I’m intrigued, and I think I’ll stick around.

What I’m Watching: Boss (Season Finale)

Boss: Season 2, Episode 10 “True Enough” (A-)

This show just doesn’t stop pulling surprises and major, game-changing turns that make its universe all the more watchable. Meredith becoming the new alderman was hardly the most notable of all the political appointments in this hour, as Kitty managed to come back and work for Tom despite the fact that she was wearing a wire. Doyle himself revealed to Zajac that he would be running against Tom, and Claire therefore would get to move up to his position despite Doyle failing to express his gratitude. Things are certainly looking up for Zajac, as his wife even came back to him, showing her support for his eventual run for the presidency. Though many people experienced downfalls in this episode, none was worse than Sam’s, after he played right into Tom’s hands and got his story refuted and his reputation destroyed because he paid for information. His loyal coworker Jackie wasn’t even up to helping when she knew that Tom was in fact sick. Kitty’s decision to go back and work for Tom because it’s where she belongs is both fascinating and disturbing, and the way she spoke to Dr. Harris about conscience was cruel and scathing. Preparing to handle the public revelation of Tom’s disease allowed for a terrific amount of transparency so rarely seen on this show, and Kitty is going to be a great asset to Tom now that she knows about his condition and has seen it in action. Ian’s aspirations were squashed by Tom’s cruelty, and he didn’t seem bothered by Emma’s discovery of the fact that they were half-siblings. It was a sad end for Darius, who likely won’t be back in the future since his ties to Emma have essentially been severed. Not only was Tom the one who commissioned the assassination attempt, he also nearly let Meredith die after she went out and had an affair with Vacarro. Mona’s situation is the best summary of what happens when Tom no longer needs someone – she’s horrified by what he’s done but can’t do a thing about it. This season was exceptional, and I’m worried that the ratings will cause Starz to think twice about renewing this series that promises to be excellent in its third season based on the developments in this hour. Please bring it back!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kathleen Robertson as Kitty

Take Three: Elementary

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 3 “Child Predator” (B+)

This show continues to be the best new series of the fall season, tackling fascinating cases with its equally interesting characters. I didn’t mention the superb opening credits sequence last week, and I love the music that accompanies all of Sherlock’s realizations. The relationship between Sherlock and Watson is the best reason to watch this show, and it only improved in this episode, as Watson managed to distinguish herself as more than just space between two ears. Going for telling her that he when he agrees with her, it means that he’s not listening to thanking her for talking to him was quite a development, and I like that squats were involved in the process as well. Watson’s determination to get him to rest after a win was wonderfully opposed to Sherlock not being a part of the police force proved extremely useful, and his conversations with Adam, mostly made up of fictions on his part, were brilliant. Deducing that Adam, not Samuel, was the Balloon Man was impressive, and finding a way to get him charged despite his immunity was even cleverer. Despite his progress treating Watson as more than just an animate object, Sherlock is still hilariously prickly with everyone else, spray-painting a video camera to ensure that an interview doesn’t happen and sarcastically asking an interviewee if she was a color person after she said she wasn’t a car person. His humorous interrogations help this show to create a perfect balance between light entertainment and serious drama.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 4 “Sex Education” (B+)

There just isn’t any other character like Tom Haverford. In a sense, it’s just Aziz Ansari playing himself, but that makes him even funnier, since he could very much be a real person. His obsession with social media and being online is magnificent, and I enjoyed the judge’s punishment: being cut off from all technology for a week. Going into the woods with Ron was a perfect solution, but, as tends to be the case, he just talked too much for Ron to be able to bear. Suggesting that he speak to Leslie when he has problems in the future was an amusing conclusion to their bonding experience. Recurring characters are the sign of a good show, and it’s great to see the intolerant Marcia Langman again and to meet her equally despicable and highly gay husband Marshall Langman as they protested Leslie’s efforts to stop the spread of STDs among the elderly in Pawnee. As usual, Chris’ peacekeeper role in the situation was amusing, and I liked Ann’s involvement as well, as she got the chance to once again realize that she was allowing her life to be shaped by the men in it. Ben’s discovery that his candidate powers down completely and just stares into space when he doesn’t need to be on led to an entertaining bonding opportunity with April, who, for once, got to side with Ben in mocking someone rather than use him as her target. The best line of the episode came from Donna: “It’s not my favorite shirt, but it is my least favorite shirt.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 3 “Masquerade” (B+)

As this show eases back into its normative state, it’s clear that it’s improved considerably since its debut last year, getting comfortable with its characters and establishing a much more enticing framework in which its sarcastic personalities interact and work together to help save the number of the week. Officially adding Carter and Fusco to the semi-credits that accompany the show’s opening monologue emphasizes the fact that a much more efficient and fulfilling working relationship now exists. Carter’s “You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” has become endearing, and I like how she doesn’t sit back and take his orders, suggesting that he sit in the car and then coming into the bar because she got bored and it took him more than four minutes, in addition to her advice that you should ask people questions before you knock them out. After playing the punching bag as always, Fusco even got the chance to come to the rescue and to set up his very own punchline before Carter rammed the car. Sofia was a great number, constantly ditching Reese and then finally coming to accept and value his help. Finch dealing with a difficult adjustment back to the real world was powerful, and underscored comically with the presence of the dog. Agent Snow’s predicament is rather unfortunate, being held captive and forced to do whatever he is asked by Cara, and I have a feeling that Carter is going to keep on pushing to find him, even if she’s not entirely honest with her two friends.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 4 “Work Bus” (C+)

This show has taken a number of field trips in its time, and this is hardly the best one. Dwight’s ownership of the building was amusing at first but has now become more irksome than anything. Jim’s desire to do something nice for Pam since she was (seemingly) supportive of his choice to finally move on with his career was sweet, but driving out to the middle of nowhere to get pies during a work day was a bit extreme, especially since the entire office ended up being part of it. Planting the unpopped popcorn on Dwight’s desk was another great reminder of the good old days, something this show seems intent on doing about once per episode in case not all viewers have caught on to the fact that the show has gone downhill in recent years. Nellie wanting to adopt a baby seems like it came from out of nowhere, and it’s just another obvious setup to create conflict between Andy and Nellie, pulling at the heartstrings even more since Erin always wanted to be adopted. Creed hitchhiking while he was playing hooky and getting picked up by the work bus was funny, but another indication of a character who has been underused during the show’s run. Kevin’s sudden ability to do math when it involves pies is perfectly in line with the character but equally frustrating. It’s at least refreshing to see Clark get hated on, and to have Dwight and Jim experience a brief tender moment.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 7, Episode 3 “Stride of Pride” (B+)

This episode is exactly what I like most about this show. It’s a commitment to comedic characters and understanding what drives then and makes them tick, exemplified in all of the characters’ storylines in this installment. Tracy telling Liz that he doesn’t think women are funny provided a perfect platform for her “nerd rage” that resulted in a performance of a two-woman show with Jenna that led Tracy to conclude that the notion of a female doctor was hilarious. Tracy may seem like an idiot on a regular basis, but it’s fair to say that he tries to incite Liz’s passion as much as possible by making inflammatory remarks that he knows will set her off. Jack’s insatiable need to know what kind of partner he is for one of his many girlfriends is funny for a number of reasons, mainly due to his breakdown of the archetypes that might make up a typical person’s many partners. His identification of himself as the father figure was an amusing conclusion specifically because it came just at the moment that Jenna burst in to affirm his fears and doubts about playing that role. Their shared enjoyment of the older companion role because it doesn’t require much effort was great. Jenna leaking a story about looking good at 56 and vying to be the model of an electronic chair put her to better use than she’s been put in a while, allowing her to accept her situation by overcompensating in the other direction far too much.

What I’m Watching: Last Resort

Last Resort: Season 1, Episode 4 “Voluntold” (C+)

This stupidly-titled episode further represents a longevity problem with this show. If half of the crew wants to leave now, what’s going to happen as time goes on and things only get worse for the crew? Curry ordering Brennan to sink the boat when he realized that he wouldn’t be able to make it to neutral waters in time was an important turning point, in that the whole crew is now united by the U.S. government’s desire to take them down in the pursuit of covering up the truth. Kylie is still talking to too many people about her rather accurate suspicions about the Colorado, especially her father, but going back to Admiral Shepard is smart, since he’s her only friend in the world until she finally decides that it’s worthwhile to contact Marcus himself. Kudos to Christine for speaking her mind and not caving to the government’s persecution, managing to seem like a maniacal crazy person in the process. Sophie’s efforts to help Sam get a message back to his wife failed miserably as she chose to trust the ethically challenged Serrat, who occasionally gives up morphine when demanded to do so but otherwise is devious and cruel. Learning that the SEAL who died in the pilot was James’ brother adds some depth to his character but doesn’t change the fact that he’s still sitting around doing nothing and providing no help to anyone while the crew of the Colorado runs drills on what seems to be an hourly basis.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Round Two: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 2 “I Can’t Help It” (B+)

This show did a terrific job of maintaining its momentum going into week two, cementing the severity of the rivalry between Rayna and Juliette as they continue further along their collision course. Deacon is their crucial connector, and Rayna is going to even less happy to find out that he’s going skinny dipping with Juliette as she was to find out that Juliette tried to poach her for her tour. The scene in the bar was evocative of a classic scene from the 1975 film “Nashville,” where Keith Carradine announces that his song is in honor of a special lady, prompting multiple smiles from the audience. Juliette sure was furious to see Rayna stroll up there and ease into a performance with Deacon, and I suspect she’ll be out for blood now. Rayna and Deacon’s relationship is clearly complicated also, as her reluctance to discuss the particulars of its start and finish with the men vetting Teddy and his family for dirt. Teddy burning papers after they speculated about his guilt was a bit overdramatic, but it’s sure to produce some interesting revelations later. Rayna going to see Coleman indicates that this really is one small big city, and the campaign is going to be far from easy. On the less famous side, it’s obvious that Scarlett and Gunnar belong together, and I don’t think that Avery is long for this show’s world, just waiting to be cast out when he can’t show enough approval for his very talented girlfriend.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory (Season Premiere)

Suburgatory: Season 2, Episode 1 “Homecoming” (B+)

It’s great to have this biting comedy, which quickly improved after a disappointing start last year, back on the air and in a fitting time slot immediately after “Modern Family.” Tessa’s summer in the city provides the perfect opportunity for a tough transition back to the suburbs, obsessed with ideas of her mom as she settles back into life in Chatswin. George’s awkwardness about the whole thing was typical, and it was nice to see him reach out and comfort her when it looked like she wasn’t going to perform in the Fall Follies. I liked her singing of the film’s theme song at the very end, and it’s fun to see her indulge in her passions. Noah and Dallas warring over Carmen was very funny, complete with a gold Corolla (promotional consideration by Toyota) and Dallas’ unsuccessful attempts to destroy a delicious gift that only got tastier as she cooked it on the grill. Playing rocks, paper, scissor for her was an amusing end to the whole debacle. Dalia’s speech to Carmen about always considering her a nanny even if she cured caner was highly ineffective but completely typical of the dim-witted blonde. Lisa was brilliant in how she tried to blackmail her parents into giving her attention over her adopted brother, but Sheila struck back with an even more terrifying reality. I laughed when Fred walked in and couldn’t understand why Lisa and Sheila were sitting down unless it was a meal, and watching the shed that literally housed all of their secrets burn down at the end of the episode was satisfying.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 4 “The Butler’s Escape” (B)

This episode was entertaining but hardly terribly clever, especially compared to the level of humor and creativity this show usually presents. Luke wanting to give up magic was probably the most disappointing of the plotlines, since Phil has had much better physical comedy moments than his inability to break free of the butler’s confines. I much more enjoyed Alex being really mean around the house since Haley wasn’t there, followed by Haley skewering Alex’s fashion sense and all other discernable qualities. Cameron’s antics were always going to be too much for his first day of class, and you’d think maybe he’d know that by now. His choreographed conversation with Mitchell about where to find Lily in the supermarket was amusing, as was Mitchell calling Claire to help save the day, a fact she couldn’t help revealing when Mitchell decided that he wouldn’t be honest with him when he got home from his horrible day. Jay renting a hotel room to get a good night’s sleep away from the snoring Gloria was funny, and I like that she called him and made him head down to the lobby rather than having actually gone up to find him in his supposed location. Her revenge was perfect, taking Jay’s hotel room and sending him home for the night. All three of these plotlines are related to this season’s themes, and I’m hoping that a child at college, a transition of roles, and a baby on the way can lead to more original storylines in the future.

Round Two: Arrow

Arrow: Season 1, Episode 2 “Honor Thy Father” (B-)

This show is definitely entertaining to watch, though it could still use some finessing, including working on the woodenness of its lead actor, Stephen Amell. He was great as a dim-witted, easily manipulated male prostitute on “Hung,” and I’d love to see him display some of that same charisma here as someone far more intelligent. His character is certainly smart, consistently dodging his bodyguard and then saving his life, and not bowing to his mother’s every wish. The news that she sabotaged his father’s boat isn’t entirely surprising given what we learned at the end of the pilot, but it’s still important, since Oliver is likely to proceed hunting down the villains in his city without realizing that his mother is among the worst. Seeing Oliver get shot with an arrow by a masked man on the island suggests that there’s plenty of ground to be covered there, and we’ll likely be seeing many flashbacks to how Oliver went from playboy to marksman. Oliver’s relationship with Laurel is definitely improving, even if her father continues to detest him and threaten to kill him if he doesn’t stay away from his remaining daughter. Oliver’s conversations with his younger sister don’t feel entirely relevant, and I’d love to see her do something other than simply demonstrate herself to be a drug-smoking, heavy-drinking partier. Being evil like her mom isn’t necessary, it would just be nice to imbue her with a bit of enticing personality rather than merely the normal traits of a teenager.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Best New Shows of the Season

I’ve written a piece for Shockya about the Top 5 New Shows of the Fall TV Schedule. Head over to Shockya to read about why the top five earned their spots, and keep reading right here to see a ranked list of the twenty new broadcast network series. We’re still waiting for “Malibu Country,” which debuts November 2nd and I don’t imagine will be too great, and then a whole new crop come midseason. If I haven’t continued watching through the most recent episode, find the number of installments I’ve watched of a given show in parentheses. Click on a show's title to read all reviews for that series. What’s your take? Any major disagreements?

1. Elementary
2. The Mindy Project
3. Nashville
4. Ben and Kate
5. Vegas
6. Last Resort
7. Arrow
8. Partners (2)
9. Emily Owens, M.D.
10. 666 Park Avenue (1)
11. Go On (2)
12. Chicago Fire (1)
13. Beauty and the Beast (1)
14. Revolution
15. The Mob Doctor (1)
16. Made in Jersey (2) - CANCELLED
17. Guys With Kids (2)
18. Animal Practice (2) – CANCELLED
19. The Neighbors (2)
20. The New Normal (1.5)

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 3, Episode 11 “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (B+)

For some reason, this particular USA show gets to return early for the back six of its third season while the rest of the network’s slate has to wait until November or January. That does help pick things right back up from Annie’s murder of Lena last episode, which strands her in foreign territory and promptly gets her arrested. This hasn’t exactly been an easy year for Annie, who has had to endure much more than ever before. Things weren’t looking good for her after her apprehension and her interrogator’s explicit knowledge of her true identity. She held up well, but it did seem like things were getting pretty bad after Auggie revealed that it had been two weeks since her capture. Fortunately, Auggie is always on her side, as presumably is Joan, who wasn’t present for much of the episode but gave Arthur quite an earful for treating Annie like just any other operative. The reveal that Annie’s savior was Eyal was great, and it’s nice to see him pop up so frequently. Annie’s unwillingness to follow his protocols, however, may have damaged their friendship somewhat, but it seems like everything was made right by Annie’s quick thinking and ability to convince the interrogator that she had damaging information about his loyalties that she would leak if he didn’t let them go. Now that Lena has been neutralized and Annie is home safe, maybe things can finally return to normal and Annie can enjoy some light local drama only.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy: Season 5, Episode 6 “Small World” (B+)

Episode after episode, this show manages to be even more devastating. The death of Roosevelt’s wife provided a melancholy start, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. Unlike Unser and Hale, Roosevelt isn’t a lawman who’s had a positive relationship with the Sons, and therefore it’s not surprising that he would come fully loaded at Jax, Chibs, and Bobby declaring war. Fortunately, Jax’s diplomacy may have calmed the situation, but if anyone finds out that the home invasions were ordered by Clay, there’s going to be much more violence. It’s fascinating and disturbing to see how Pope has turned himself from a controlling enemy into an ally for SAMCRO, giving them more business rather than taking a cut and offering up the prison guard who helped execute the killing he ordered as a goodwill gesture. Tig shooting the guard’s wife was full of aggression, but it didn’t compare to Jax bludgeoning the guard to death with a snow globe. Carla’s visit to Gemma’s house looked to be another disturbing act of sex blackmail, but it turned into something much worse, a highly emotional suicide. While Clay came to her rescue, Unser for the first time stood up to Gemma, and his harsh words are likely to send her right into the arms of the mysterious new character played by Joel McHale. Tara going to see Otto was a surprise, and even more of a shock was the lie she told Jax as they had what might have seemed like an honest conversation but was really anything but.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pilot Review: Emily Owens, M.D.

Emily Owens, M.D. (The CW)
Premiered October 16 at 9pm

The last of the three new CW fall offerings to start definitely falls somewhere in the middle of the other two. It’s definitely better than “Beauty and the Beast,” but far soapier and less serious than “Arrow,” which is already soapy enough. Comparisons to “Grey’s Anatomy” are not unfounded – the show is set in a major Western city and features a spunky female doctor narrating her life as pretty much all of her colleagues sleep with one another. The main thing it has going for it over CW’s other Tuesday night female doctor drama is that Mamie Gummer is far more believable as an intelligent physician than Rachel Bilson, her “You are a doctor!” moment notwithstanding. Justin Hartley, far more reserved and bespectacled than he was as playboy Oliver Queen on “Smallville,” and Michael Rady, who has starred in “Swingtown,” “House of Lies,” and “Melrose Place” most recently, are good male foils for Gummer, and both seem to care for her a great deal. I’m less impressed by Necar Zadegan’s icy Dr. Gina Beckett, a far cry from her brave Muslim wife turned politician on “24.” Relative newcomers Aja Naomi King and Kelly McCreary seem able but somewhat annoying as Emily’s nemesis and new best friend, and it’s good to see dependable Harry Lennix in what looks like a scandalous role. The show’s themes and pacing are familiar, but Gummer does seem competent of carrying a show and being immensely likeable in spite, if not as a result, of her flaws. I’m not a member the target audience for this show, and I’d still say that it ranks in the top half of the new series slate this year.

How will it work as a series? A hospital is the perfect setting for intrigue and romance, and so many shows have done it well before that it shouldn’t be a problem at all. Gummer has chemistry with Hartley and Rady, and King and McCreary seem to have a good sense of the show’s tone. It should prove to be good mindless entertainment, with a bit of medical drama mixed in too.
How long will it last? Premiering yet another show against a debate on all the other networks gives the CW a running start advantage, in a sense, but it also confuses things since the competition just isn’t the same. This pilot was the least-watched of the three new shows’ debuts and less popular than “Ringer” last year, but performed better than “Hart of Dixie” right before it. Its fate, at this point, is uncertain.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate: Season 1, Episode 4 “21st Birthday” (B+)

It’s fun to have a show where characters are permitted to ramble on uncomfortably for as long as they like. I’ve become extremely comfortable with what to expect from this show, and as a result, this was a great half-hour. After channeling Kate’s desires in episode three, this installment turned to Ben’s notion of what Kate enjoyed, specifically related to her birthday celebrations. Inviting Kate’s crazy partier friend set BJ off, and it was a blast to see BJ team up with Ben so that she could avoid being at the boring party and having to watch her best friend have a good time with Molly. Their trip to Darcy’s house was amusing and at times nonsensical, and I particularly enjoyed BJ’s run-on speech followed by awkward making out with Ben and the subsequent shot of Ben hauling the tree out of her car at home. This show is often loud and unsubtle with its comedy, and it’s nice to see something like a silent image of Maddie rubbing a balloon on BJ’s hair to mess it up, with Ben and BJ blankly staring, powerless to stop it from happening. Tommy’s fury at Molly for not paying him back his fifteen dollars was a wonderful catalyst for his confession of love to Kate, and it was hilarious to see him squirm as she refused to finish her sentence about how she felt about him. His panic after her whispered comment about her feelings was funny as well, and I’m sure little will come of that imagined relationship other than some great comedic moments.

What I’m Watching: Revolution

Revolution: Season 1, Episode 5 “Soul Train” (F)

It’s clear that this show is headed nowhere interesting fast. Its events are increasingly laughable, and at this point it really just has become a never-ending chase in which Charlie and Miles get painfully close to Danny only to lose him again. It’s useful to know that there’s a working train still left in the world, and our useless wanderers could benefit from the opportunity to sit down and cover distance more efficiently. It’s amusing that Tracy Spiridakos considers herself to be a good actress, so impressed by her performance upon meeting a nosy Captain Neville that she feels the need to take a deep, agonizing breath after he walks away. Danny’s inability to maintain a straight face evidently tipped Neville off to Charlie’s presence, and he ranks as the worst escapee in history, once again failing to get away. I was pleased to see Jeff Fahey from “Lost” as fellow revolutionary Hutch, though I really wish that plotline were cooler than a Joe Biden code phrase. When Hutch stabbed Nora, it seemed like this show was ready to hemorrhage more characters, but I’m sure it’s only a flesh wound. Flashing back to Neville’s past is about too stark, presenting him as a sad sack with a determination never to use violence. It’s less shocking that Nate escaped so easily from Miles and company than that’s he’s Neville’s son, and I’m sure we’ll learn why it is that Neville detests him so much. Finally, it’s upsetting to know that Rachel was so willing to give up everything at the mere sight of her child, making the events of the last five episodes pretty much worthless.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes (Season Finale)

Major Crimes: Season 1, Episode 10 “Long Shot” (B+)

This is a fitting finale for a show like this, employing one particularly intense case to close out the season with a bang. I liked the way that we saw glimpses of how the shooter set himself up while the team was investigating and piecing that together for themselves. This show hasn’t exactly settled on a specific format for portraying the commission of its crimes, but the different ways they’ve shown and revealed details over the course of the past ten episodes have all been effective. Filling the restaurant with police personnel to ensure the protection of their witness was amusing, and it’s a good thing since the determined assassin didn’t go down without a fight. The hot-button issue of a Muslim superintendent for a school system initially seemed like it was going to be central, but instead we got a much more far-reaching investigation that didn’t actually relate much to the crime itself. It’s disconcerting to think that the assassin was so easily able to gain contact information for the witness from police officers, and one would hope that such a scene wouldn’t take place in real life. Daniel’s return to the station seemed far too casual, and his dismay at the news that Rusty wanted him to give up all parental rights or face prosecution suggested that he wasn’t really a bad man, just not the right father for Rusty. I’m hopeful that, in season two, this show can allow Rusty to be a less central character, and can give Sykes just a bit more intelligence. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to this show’s return next year and presumably for years to come.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: G.W. Bailey as Provenza

What I’m Watching: Alphas

Alphas: Season 2, Episode 12 “Need to Know” (B+)

Lines are being drawn, or, more crucially, crossed, as the season finale approaches and the showdown with Parrish with it. Dr. Rosen in particular is going off the rails, plotting secretly with Cameron to aggressively interrogate Scipio and get to Parrish before the rest of the team knows what’s going on. Betrayal will definitely continue to sting as the team is divided, with Rachel awkwardly caught in the middle and earning the contempt of John, who, for only the second time, actually gets something to do other than just flirt with Rachel. Kat is a regular field agent these days, springing into action and even doing some detective work to figure out that the firestarter’s abduction was an inside job. It’s great to see Skylar again, though her situation was far from ideal. Gary pinging her was creative, and it’s nice to know that she didn’t willingly go to work for Parrish and that she’s still officially one of the good guys. Expectedly, Parrish was not pleased to discover that Mitchell’s memories of him had been erased, and he won’t be happy to find that he’s missing once again. It looks like Parrish’s plan is about to come to fruition, and it’s going to be much more difficult for the group to stop than they thought. I would imagine that preparing for the new world in Dani’s name is what’s going to prove to be the ultimate undoing of Parrish and his allies, as neither Dr. Rosen nor Cameron is going to allow that to happen.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 2, Episode 3 “State of Independence” (B+)

This wasn’t a great episode for our main characters, as they both realized that it’s hard to have only one foot in the door. Carrie staying up late all nigh to write her report really didn’t pay off as she was purposely left out of the meeting and then told by Estes that she shouldn’t have expected to be reinstated. Vomiting up her medication suggests that she is spiraling downward once again, and hopefully Saul’s house call will help prevent that. Showing the video of Brody to her before letting Estes or anyone else see it implies that he trusts her again, and hopefully they’ll be tactful in how and where they share the news. Brody receiving on-the-spot assignments from Roya while he’s supposed to be in the public spotlight is immensely problematic, and his panic was evident as he pursued his reluctant passenger through the woods near the gas station. He was much more calm and collected when he used a piece of wood to jack up his tire, but he revealed how his situation was getting out of control when he killed Bassel because he was making too much noise while he was on the phone with Jessica. His wife, for her part, did an impressive job of rescuing the event, but threatening Brody with a divorce is going to undo all that hard work. Everything is heating up and heading towards a boiling point, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the coming episodes.

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

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 1 “Seed” (B+)

This was an especially dark start to what’s sure to be a game-changing season, where a farm with a poisoned well will hardly be the most enthralling place to live. Leaving out dialogue in the first scene as the group ran from house to house was a chilling beginning, and watching them systematically take out all the walkers at the prison indicates that everyone has been transformed from what they used to be. Hershel in particular looked extremely wearied, no longer objecting to killing walkers in cold blood, and it looks like he may have just breathed his last, either from the bite on his leg or the subsequent surgery by Rick that removed it. The walker guards wearing masks presents an interesting new challenge, but Maggie seems to have solved that pretty easily. Far more intriguing would be the prisoners watching the amputation who are all very much alive. Andrea has also found herself in what looks to be a fascinating situation, and I’m sure her relationship with Michonne will continue to be extremely interesting. It’s nice to see Daryl and Carol getting close to intimate, and fun to see a very grown-up Carl romancing Beth, as the two suddenly aren’t that far apart in age. Rick has definitely taken on a new identity for the group, and it’s scary to hear Lori, who clearly feels abandoned by her husband, talking about the possibility of her baby being stillborn and immediately turning into a walker. Welcome back, the most chilling show on TV!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I’m Watching: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season 3, Episode 5 “You’d Be Surprised” (B+)

This show sure knows how to start off an episode. It’s not much of a shocker that Gyp, who makes violence and brushes with death a part of his every day, likes to be choked when he’s intimate with a woman, but it’s still disturbing to watch. Interestingly, it’s what saves his life, as his indiscretion permits him a few extra moments to prepare for his assailants and to sacrifice the poor girl next to him. Anytime an extra gets lines, they’re automatically doomed, as was the case with the paperboy who got yelled at for delivering yesterday’s news in the diner. Rothstein seemed extraordinarily angry with Nucky and Eli, skewering New Jersey as a state, and it’s a good thing that he wasn’t being sincere about working with Gyp, since that would have done immeasurable damage to Nucky’s livelihood. On another front, Nucky dealt appropriately with an uncooperative actor by sending Chalky, or, if you prefer, Milky, and his associate to intimidate Eddie Cantor into performing with a stunned Billie. Margaret running into Nucky and Billie in town was predictably awkward, and Nucky managed what for him counts as an apology, admitting to demonstrating bad form, which was something. Margaret may not have the numbers she wants, but she’s succeeding well enough with her class to earn the respect of the doctor and even to teach a lesson by herself when the doctor had pressing business. Nelson had a few close calls with being found out in this episode, and it’s a shame that his wife reacted so defensively to put him in the situation of having to kill someone and, presumably, to have to go back on the run.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 3 “Two Girls, One Code” (B+)

Is there any show on network television that handles so many plotlines in one episode this well? I don’t think so. It’s obvious that it’s respected in the industry since so many actors – in this episode, John Benjamin Hickey, Rita Wilson, and Jill Flint – return again to recur on the show. Hickey’s Gross and Wilson’s Walsh are particularly fantastic since they hate Will and the rest of the firm so much, to the point that Gross optimized his search engine to highlight Will’s suspension and Walsh tried to go behind Will’s back to negotiate a settlement directly with the trustee. It’s good to see Clarke sticking by his new partners, especially after Diane gave him a piece of her mind when Cary reported his meeting with Walsh. Dominic Chianese was a fun guest as the hard-of-hearing judge who knew more than enough about search engine optimization and wasn’t particularly interested in being pandered to like a jury. Miriam Shor was the perfect choice to play Mandy Post, and I hope to see more of her as cheating scandals die down and other obstacles emerge. Kalinda talking to the staffer and hearing her make up lies about speaking directly to Alicia was very satisfying since Will and Alicia’s scandal emerging would have been disastrous. Kalinda’s home life situation continues to worsen, and egging Nick on to try and hurt Lana by telling him that she’s a federal agent may not have been the smartest move. She clearly can’t handle this by herself, and should really enlist the help of someone like Alicia or Eli.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 7, Episode 3 “Buck the System” (B+)

It’s wonderful – though that’s perhaps too pleasant a word – to see Dexter and Deb’s relationship playing out now that she’s starting to come to terms with what he is and why he does what he needs to do. Some of what he says out loud sounds nuttier than when he just narrates it, but it’s crucial to have that human interaction to keep him sane. Deb, however, should make sure to process how it sounds to the average person, as telling Laguerta about her lizard brain proved highly unproductive. It’s sure to be a continued uphill battle, but I really like where it’s headed. Focusing all of his attention on Deb has gotten Dexter very distracted, and he has no idea that Sirko is coming for him. I loved their chance meeting at the club, and I think Sirko will be very surprised once he learns that he’s already met his new target. Dexter did a terrific job of getting Louis booted from all aspects of his life, but it prompted Louis to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as he was neatly executed by an angry Sirko like it was nothing. It’s refreshing to see some more honesty, as Nadia came clean with Quinn about working for George and Sirko, and I hope that doesn’t end badly for the ever-more-endearing Quinn. I’m thrilled to see Yvonne Strahovski as Hannah McKay, a role very different from the entertaining one she played on “Chuck,” and I think her interaction with Dexter is going to be the best part of this season.

What I’m Watching: Boss

Boss: Season 2, Episode 9 “Clinch” (B+)

There had to be a way out of this mess, and Tom was going to be the one to find it, at everyone’s expense, particularly Mona’s. Sending her to DC so that he could pull the strings without her watching was cruel, and he wasn’t exactly gentle with her after she was clearly devastated by this new casino that he had announced to the public. His compromises with both Cullen and Alderman Ross were somewhat surprising, since he’s been known to lord his achievements over his enemies rather than make peace with them in the pursuit of victory. He also made sure to alienate his most important supporter, Meredith, by thanking his crush Mona instead of her and not bothering to acknowledge her for the crucial work she put in to introduce Cullen to Gil Bellows’ financial savior. Locking Emma in her room was a harsh but fair punishment, and I don’t see how her situation ends up getting any better with Ian’s uncertain help and Darius’ unfortunate descent into cold-blooded murderer. I’m very curious to see what happens now that Ian knows about Tom’s condition. Taylor’s sudden demise was hardly the most shocking death of the episode, however, as the victim of the hit presumably ordered by Tom was Walsh’s annoying aide – and lover – Tina rather than Sam’s detective contact. Its timing all but negates Patty coming to Kitty with the report of her indiscretion with Ben, and things have taken a serious new direction in preparation for the upcoming season finale.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pilot Review: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast (The CW)
Premiered October 11 at 9pm

The CW is off to a late start this year, premiering its three new fall series in October. This one, like “Arrow” the night before, revisits familiar territory. Even if its story and setting are new, its title and themes should be entirely recognizable: an attractive young woman drawn to a man with animal-like qualities and a kind heart. In this particular case, Kristin Kreuk stars as police detective Catherine Chandler, whose mother was murdered in front of her eyes and who was saved by a mysterious creature she thought was a beast, who turns out to be presumed dead former military man Dr. Vincent Keller, who was part of an experiment that turned him into something inhuman. Initially gruff and paranoid about her asking questions, Vincent seems to have reached an accord with Catherine by episode’s end, in which he’ll be her guardian angel and help her to protect innocents, though she’s quite capable of that herself, having inherited some of Lana Lang’s physical combat skills from “Smallville,” put to use in a subway station that’s clearly in Canada and not in New York. Kreuk, who was initially sheepish and then way over-the-top on “Smallville,” is positioned to be more self-assured here but reasonably irritating. From the supporting cast, the only familiar face is Brian White, who was great in early seasons of “The Shield” and is now relegated to the role of a detective here. This series is a good fit in terms of subject matter for the network, but it’s far from a good show.

How will it work as a series? Perhaps just as much as a typical police procedural, this cop-superman dynamic has been featured on television so many times before. Catherine’s pursuit of her mother’s killers will flare up occasionally but take a backseat to solving everyday crimes and taking down bad guys with the help of her new friend. Let’s call it a superpowered procedural, but nothing more.
How long will it last? Airing opposite only the vice-presidential debate, it’s hard to tell how this show will do, but a strong start equivalent to that of the now-defunct “The Secret Circle” from last year should do it favors. If viewers keep coming back, this is just the kind of show that the CW will want to be able to tout as a reason that it’s still going.

Pilot grade: C