Thursday, January 31, 2013

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episode 3 “May I Trim Your Hedges?” (B+)

This show truly has no limits, and that’s what makes it so immensely ridiculous and watchable. This episode’s standout plotline was the succession of events after Debs was the victim of a pedophile pervert’s glances on a bus. Lip gathering everyone up to go beat up a newly arrived neighborhood pedophile resulted in an unexpected surprise – her gender – but then he felt compelled to go back and act like a young student to compel her to act with him the same way she did with her student. His inability to reject her advances then led to Mandy finding out about his indiscretion and going over there to dig the teacher a grave. Only on this show! It’s great that Fiona’s response to the inappropriate come-on by the supermarket manager was to have Veronica go in and threaten him, opting to take the job anyway rather than let him get away with his behavior. Veronica had enough rage to get out with the absolutely nutty Cheryl being around, and it’s a shame that Debs had to form a wonderful brief relationship with her fake son, since we likely won’t see him again. The friendship that Veronica and Fiona have is terrific, and it was good to see Fiona to step in to scream at Kev when she thought he might be considering leaving her. Frank enrolling Carl in cancer camp to reap the financial benefits is awful, and of course Carl is just excited about going to camp. I liked Carl’s response to his head being shaved: “I’m going to look like a penis.” Steve’s fake wedding sure was eventful, and it was both reassuring and awkward to watch him try to resist Estefania’s sexual advances. I guess Ian got his answer about how Mickey felt about him, which was bad news for the unsuspecting Lloyd.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episode 4 (B+)

With Matthew’s investment funneled into Downton, it’s great to see things back in swing at the estate. It does seem that Matthew has encountered something suspicious in the books, and I like that he turned to Violet to ask how to handle it. She had some sincerely excellent one-liners in this episode, cracking jokes every time something serious was being discussed. Mrs. O’Brien has found herself a new nemesis in James, who would rather be known as Jimmy, since Thomas seems determined to help him get ahead of Alfred. It’s reassuring that Carson isn’t so easily brainwashed, instead opting to quiz Alfred on which spoons are which to help him learn. After rebuffing William for Thomas so many years ago, Daisy once again finds herself in the middle of a love triangle, about to confess her affection for Alfred just as the new kitchen maid arrives to steal his glances away. Branson’s revolutionary activities are just never going to set well in the Crawley household, and though Sybil isn’t bothered by her husband’s complicity, everyone else certainly was. Having him at Downton may be worse than getting arrested in Ireland, since he’ll now be seen as even more of a pariah than he previously was. Mrs. Hughes and Isobel were diligent and kind in their assistance to Ethel, something which has little impact on the overall show but still serves to reinforce the characters of two of the show’s purest personalities. I’m glad to see Edith finally win a small victory, getting printed and earning praise only from Matthew for her article about women’s suffrage. Bates and Anna seem destined to a life of misery apart, but their joy at reading all of each other’s letters was quite sweet.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 13 “The Seven Day Rule” (B+)

This episode was full of dramatic legal moments, and involved a handful of fun returning characters. It’s always great to see Louis, of course, who in this episode tried his standard disability tricks but ended up getting undone by the fact that he had alluded to the possibility of Clarke getting hired after their business was done. It was nice to see Cary apologize to Clarke for how things went down and to have him wish him good luck on the bar exam, and for things with Clarke to end on a generally positive note. The return of Neil Gross was terrific mainly because it presented David with a challenge of how to get his fiancée to realize that she should create a suitable pre-nup. Hinting at blackmail proved the right solution, and it was satisfying to see Neil so easily defeated. This wasn’t a great episode for Alicia, who finally got her dream offer of becoming an equity partner, only to learn later that she owed $600,000 if she wanted to go through with it and that the same offer had been made to four others, including Cary. Diane’s speech to her at the end of the episode about taking advantage of it despite how it came about was an unusually tense moment between them, and hopefully Alicia will come out of it in a good frame of mind. Peter’s reaction to the news was good, and he certainly seems less concerned about religion than Eli and Jordan, and I like how Alicia didn’t hide her atheist beliefs at all. She did seem ready to unload on Maddie, however, and it’s a good thing that Peter stopped her before she did.

Take Three: Banshee

Banshee: Season 1, Episode 3 “Meet the New Boss” (B+)

This episode was the most intense – and violent – hour of this show yet. Seeing Carrie brandishing a gun and kicking ass at the beginning of the episode was unexpected and cool, and she managed quite a meeting with Mr. Rabbit, who, it turns out, is her father. It’s definitely bad timing for Lucas to have decided to engage in a full-on bloody brawl with Sanchez that’s going to be uploaded to YouTube and visible to the whole world, but something tells me that, given the fact that this show just got renewed for a second season, which is exciting, that there’s no way that Lucas’ stint in Banshee will end so soon. Carrie is definitely making sure that Lucas doesn’t feel at home, being extremely rude to him when her husband invited him over for lunch and then standing over him with a gun while he was sleeping. Kai is also trying to impress upon Lucas the fact that he owns the town, though it looks like Rebecca isn’t the only one who isn’t scared of Kai. Watching Sanchez brutalize the poor girl he had come to his room was highly unsettling, and it wasn’t any better to see Lucas get extremely bloody and beaten up when he decided to take Sanchez down. Sanchez asked for it, of course, daring him to come and get him when Lucas told him that he was under arrest, but it was much more disturbing than it needed to be. This show is certainly watchable, and it’s one of the most violent and compelling shows I’ve seen in a while.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 3, Episode 8 “Aftermath” (C+)

I’m becoming less and less enamored with this show as time goes on. With Amanda appearing only sporadically, this show definitely doesn’t have a specific direction in which it’s headed, instead spotlighting different former Division baddies who just don’t feel like giving up. Liam was, as expected, completely intent on taking out as many people as possible and executing his mission with maximum collateral damage. Yet it didn’t take much to take him down, just some carefully-planned choreography, as Ryan described it, which for some reason merited applause from everyone at Division. Some of Liam’s lines were just silly, like “What’s the first rule of cleaning? Before it gets clean, it gets very messy?” and Nikita’s response to one of his statements later was equally hilarious: “He only missed because I cut off his hand.” Michael’s new electronic hand, though it seemed cool, didn’t pan out as it should have, and it seems only to have caused more problems for everyone. Ryan clearly wanted to bench him, and that’s something that won’t sit well with Michael. Snapping at Nikita and telling her that she’s helped enough was not a positive development, and Michael realizing that his anger triggers his hand just led to plenty of destruction, mostly of Division property. Alex not being in the field means that they’re down some of their best people, and Owen doesn’t seem to want to be involved more than he already is. I think it might be time for me to stop watching this show, or, at the very least, stop reviewing it.

What I’m Watching: Suits

Suits: Season 2, Episode 12 “Blood in the Water” (B-)

I’m beginning to get a bit tired of this show. Harvey’s theatrics and his threats to fire Mike on a weekly basis are one thing, but it’s Louis’ constant desire to quit and subsequent failing to follow through on his promise that frustrates me to no end. Louis can be a good character, when he’s not too cartoonish or pathetic, and hearing him tell Mike that he doesn’t want to come into work at a place where he knows that he is hated actually made sense. Harvey standing at his door and ripping up his letter of resignation should not be enough to get him to stay; instead, it should motivate him to leave more quickly since Harvey still won’t take the time to address him as an equal. It was good to see Jessica take Harvey down a peg, refusing to cave to his arrogant request to be made a name partner, and it’s reassuring to know that the balance of power won’t shift so dramatically anytime soon. I can’t describe my hatred for Harold as a character, and even wasting this episode on ousting him and having him get a better job qualified as too much of a distraction for me. Mike getting attacked by Tess’ husband was his own fault, and he couldn’t even get any sympathy from Rachel, who didn’t care that he had already broken things off with her by the time he got punched. I like that Harvey threatened to hunt him down, only to back off when Mike revealed that he was to blame. I might continue watching this show, but I’m not so sure that I’ll keep reviewing it in the weeks to come.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 11 “Women in Garbage” (B+)

There aren’t many shows that, five seasons in, can still come up with terrific plotlines each week that utilize all the characters to excellent effect. Pairing Ann with Ron was a delightful idea, mainly since Ron was clearly so agonized by having to watch Diane’s children and he never seems to know much about Ann, using her when it’s convenient for him and forcing her to suffer the consequences. She turned out to be pretty well-liked, which was fun, save for an unfortunate hair-cutting incident that Diane shrugged off, luckily. Ann making fun of Ron after he accidentally confessed his love for Diane was a great moment. Maybe Ron and Diane will ultimately work out, which could present a problem for Ron, who likes living a solitary life, and would surely incur the wrath of the many Tammys from his past to return and make their claims to take back their former beau. April getting into helping Leslie because she loves garbage was fantastic, and I always like seeing them get involved in something together. Somehow, Leslie getting passionate about shattering the glass ceiling never gets old, and it’s eternally magnificent to hear about all of Pawnee’s backwards policies regarding women holding public office. Tom getting Ben and Andy to help him understand basketball was hilarious, starting with Andy getting his Skittles and then essentially letting them all fall to the floor. Tom’s failure to comprehend the sport was even more amusing than his inability to play due to his small stature.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 12 “Customer Loyalty” (B-)

This episode was all over the place, and I wasn’t terribly taken with any of its plotlines. What upset me most was the forced strain on Jim and Pam’s relationship. That couple wad doing just fine, and then Jim had to go mess it up by not telling Pam about the exciting job opportunity he had found, setting the stage for confrontation and problems. Jim missing Cece’s concert was bad enough, but scolding Pam for not using her camera properly was harsh. Them fighting wasn’t worth the first opportunity to see the documentary crew, one of whose members was kind enough to comfort Pam since their friendship apparently goes back many years even though we’ve never seen him on camera. Dwight hosting a customer loyalty meeting was over-the-top in classic Michael style, which isn’t always a good thing, and committing a milkshake prank with Darryl in the car didn’t work out so well for him. Their time together could have been much better utilized. Nellie realizing that she may have pushed Erin to be with Pete prompted funny results until Kevin came out and said exactly what everyone was thinking, which just made it hopelessly awkward. I also think that Toby thinking that he and Nellie have some fantastic relationship is just creepy, and an unfortunate use of a character that was oddly appealing even when he fantasized about how Pam might feel about him. Now that he’s acting on his impulses and being physical, I think he’s gone too far.

What I’m Watching: Last Resort (Series Finale)

Last Resort: Season 1, Episode 13 “Controlled Flight into Terrain” (B-)

This show clearly wasn’t meant to end like this, but the powers that be obviously had enough notice to modify the ending of its thirteen-episode run to kill off the main character and resolve the story in a big way. Like the show, it had hope, but didn’t quite work in the way that some might have imagined. This episode was focused on a tense mutiny, one which didn’t have all that much impact because of the extensive flip-flopping that occurred with both Prosser and Sam. Ultimately, it reestablished our main characters, giving Grace and Sophie a particular importance in taking down the mutineers and the Chinese. Marcus and Sam laughing and taunting Anders was perhaps a bit too detached from reality, but it’s hard to deny that Marcus’ pledge to go down with his ship and Sam’s promise to tell the world wasn’t a bit moving. That final shot of Marcus laughing and crying as the missiles strike the sub was an appropriate finale for this occasionally-engaging show. As always, James was off on his own plotline, ready to fire a single shot and change everything, only to have Tani distract him yet again. And Kylie finally did her part, getting Hopper to bring back Christine and then walking up to the President and shooting him. If only we knew where it went from here, except for the fact that seeing it play out to this point was hardly satisfying. This show had potential, and I think it did about as well as it could given the confines of a weekly format and an out-of-control premise.

Series grade: C+
Series MVP: Andre Braugher as Marcus Chaplin

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock (Penultimate Episode)

30 Rock: Season 7, Episode 11 “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” (B)

There are two directions that this show could take as it signs off permanently this coming Thursday – literal or figurative. There is no way that Jack could be convinced, through a “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” style set of circumstances, to put Kenneth in charge of NBC, since his purity most clearly resembles the original intentions of the Peacock. Additionally, Liz could have had a disaster on her hands in terms of the kids she got, and instead she ended up with miniature versions of Jenna and Tracy, the kind of children she has been taking care of for years. I suppose that’s a fitting coda, and the not-so-dramatic “I quit” sequence was just the right level of offbeat for this show. I liked how Liz, faced with an impossible number of tasks, chose to watch the episodes of “Treme” that had been building up on her DVR, something I decided not to do when I was watching too much TV on a weekly basis and had to cut something out, pointing out what everyone says about HBO’s slow-burn drama, that it gets good after a while. It’s crazy to remember that TGS used to be “The Girlie Show” with Jenna at its center, and how far its immature leads, Jenna and Tracy, have come from hating one another to understanding that they’re both the same type of person, desperate for attention and the spotlight. Let’s hope that the one-hour finale is satisfying rather than purely ridiculous.

What I’m Watching: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 11 “You Win Again” (B)

This episode was heavily sensational, but it’s hard not to be drawn in by the utter soapy quality of this show. Rayna and Juliette sharing a plane and trading insults makes for devilishly enjoyable entertainment, made more serious and hurtful due to Rayna’s marriage problems and Juliette’s mother issues. Teddy, to his credit, seems to be really trying, but Rayna doesn’t want to have anything to do with a guy who has proven himself more reliable and faithful to her than the guitarist she still idolizes as her partner. After nearly spiraling out of control, Deacon achieved a stunning moment of revenge when Rayna asked, dumbfounded, if her manager had hired Deacon without telling her, only to discover that he was there for Juliette and not for her. That’s just going to make things on the tour crazier, which makes everything more fun for those of us watching at home. It was pathetic to see Avery embarrass himself with his introduction to Juliette, and I thought that he was going to be the victim of a car accident, but I suppose that seeing everyone who used to care about him happy without him is a far more bitter fate. Let’s hope that Gunnar doesn’t get caught up with any legal trouble, especially since he got his guitar back and his brother should now be out of his life for good. This show is now at what should be its first season halfway point, and I’m eager to see where it’s headed next.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 2, Episode 10 “Chinese Chicken” (B)

There are some things I really liked about this episode, and others that just didn’t do it for me. I can’t describe how much I enjoy hearing most of Dallas’ lines, including “Look at the DPI!” and “I can finally print people’s dreams.” That was much more fitting with her personality than, say, Sheila’s sudden and surprising ability to sing, which prompted George to allow Noah and Fred to depart the dad band he had created specifically to escape from the constant nagging of a female presence. Sheila’s comment about Yokos was amusing, but I just didn’t buy that particular plotline. Tessa becoming a football girlfriend tracked completely with this show and its depiction of plastic people, though that’s a part of it that I haven’t always enjoyed entirely. Tessa accidentally disbanding the football girlfriends after she helped one girl realize her name and others realize that they wanted to do other things was expected, and I did like that, after Ryan threw a temper tantrum, he helped Tessa run through paper and acted as her cheerleader. I don’t think this relationship is destined to last, however. Tessa referencing the show’s timeslot during her speech, claiming that there must be something good on Wednesday night at 9:30pm, was funny, and I also enjoyed Lisa’s response to Malik mentioning his lacrosse playing, dismissing him and assuring him that no one had any idea what he was talking about. Ryan, Sheila, and Fred need not be featured so much: let’s see more of Lisa and Malik.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 13 “Fulgencio” (B+)

I can’t say that I loved this episode, but, all told, it was pretty creative and funny. Elizabeth Peña was fun as Gloria’s mother whose expression of her dislike for Jay – and brandishing of a gun in his direction – prompted him to make a spontaneous confession of the truth behind his first meeting with Gloria, which of course caused a wild scene between her and her sister Sonia. Jay realizing that he was Phil to Pilar was entertaining, and I like how Phil was in agreement with everything that Jay was saying before the christening. Phil attempting to solve all of his children’s problems by killing people with kindness worked out miserably, and watching Luke carry out his bidding while he was being referred to as the Godfather was quite clever. Luke talking about his accidental mix-up between his teacher’s name and “Mommy” and Haley’s suspicions about her lesbian neighbor were great, and it’s always a blast to hear Claire’s assertive tendencies referenced. Cameron and Mitchell struggling to stop being catty around Lily to be a good example for her were predictably amusing, and I like that it was ultimately revealed that Claire was the one who had prompted her “wambulance” remark. Their fights tend to be hilarious, and Cameron repeatedly apologizing for being the one who influenced Lily’s bad behavior to trick Mitchell into blaming him for the whole thing was among that plotline’s best moments. This family really is a lot of fun, and it’s good to see them succeed with laughs in an otherwise out-there, chaotic episode.

What I’m Watching: Arrow

Arrow: Season 1, Episode 11 “Trust but Verify” (C)

Before I watched this episode, I was considering whether I’d like to continue watching and reviewing this show. It’s just not of the same caliber as so many of the other shows I watch, and while it’s on the not-so-crowded Wednesday, it isn’t entirely worthwhile between busy Tuesday and Thursday nights. This episode didn’t reassure me much, pitting Diggle against Oliver as he went after the latest name on his list. Both men would be well served to have less blind faith in those they admire, since Diggle turned out to be completely wrong and nearly got both himself and his sister-in-law killed, and Oliver is considerably boneheaded about how he selectively goes after certain people and not others. It’s always silly to me to see criminals try to force unwilling participants to commit crimes on their behalf when they could far more easily do it themselves, especially if they’re sitting in a van only a few feet away. It’s equally frustrating to watch Thea parade around reacting however she feels like it to the news of her mother’s apparent affair, taking drugs and crashing a car without any familial implications and an impending legal problem. Malcolm, who, to this point has been extremely subtle, is being considerably more careless than ever before, meeting openly with Moira and bluntly presenting a brutal request to his son. All of the developments that we’re now seeing play out on the island also feel hopelessly irrelevant, and I’m not sure that I’ll be checking back in to follow up with this show.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What I’m Watching: Parenthood (Season Finale)

Parenthood: Season 4, Episode 15 “Because You’re My Sister” (B+)

It always catches me off guard how this show ends its seasons so early, beating last year’s February end date with a January closer this year. Against all odds, almost everything turned out happily in this hour, which is a wonderful way on which to end things, though of course we won’t know for a few months if this show will be returning for a fifth season. That said, this would be a fitting finale, if it comes to that. The only person whose bubble got burst was Sarah, who saw Hank rush off to Minnesota and then told Mark that she was going to make it work with Hank, only to have him return and tell her that he was moving to Minnesota, when she thought he was going to propose. At least it’s not a miserable break-up, and Sarah should be able to move on with her life. Drew’s meeting with Amy was surprisingly mature, and it’s good that Sarah will now have no kids at home to hold her back from living her life. Sydney telling Victor that she didn’t want to come to his adoption ceremony wasn’t nice, but it was sweet that he later asked her, and that everyone, including all of his new uncles and aunts, said such kind things to him during the ceremony. Ryan managed to win Amber back, and they might even get engaged soon, which is tremendously exciting. Renee going to live with Jasmine’s brother didn’t seem like a productive development, but we did get the news that Jasmine is pregnant, which might make Renee being around far from the most stressful thing in Crosby’s life. Most inspiringly, Kristina is in fact healthy, off to Hawaii with her darling Adam after all. As always, this has been a strong season of this show, and I’m sad to see it finished so early in the year.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Monica Potter

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 3 “Truth and Consequences” (B+)

I’m still not sure at all where this season is headed, but it’s definitely as intriguing as ever. Randall threatening Raylan knowing full well his day job was bold, and Raylan seemed just as ready to throw down with him and have one of his typical standoffs. It looks like Randall may be more trouble than he’s worth, of course, since Lindsay has gone and disappeared along with Randall. The standoff with the FBI at Eva’s house was tense, and Barnes trying to get Raylan to shoot him before he gave up her location and then killed himself was one of the episode’s strongest moments. Eva’s psychic abilities were intriguing, and her conversation with Raylan and Tim was fascinating. Her subsequent kidnapping, however, was quite disturbing, and this season seems much darker than those before it. Art wryly interrogating Eva was a treat, and I’m glad to see that he’s taken an active interest in ongoing cases despite his impending retirement. Boyd has found himself a formidable enemy in Rachel, who tried to shake him down before sending her poisonous stakes after his hitmen, and I wasn’t sure if she was going to tell Billy that the snakes were in fact poisonous. The fact that he held one anyway was extremely captivating, and probably the last thing that he’ll do. Johnny coming to see Wynn for a deal to kill Boyd and Rachel telling Raylan that she left Joe were additional developments of interest which will likely have tangential roles in this season’s events.

What I’m Watching: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project: Season 1, Episode 12 “Hooking Up is Hard” (B)

This episode could have been so good, and had some great elements, but boy was it messy. Mindy deciding that Brendan would be the perfect person for her to have a one night stand with made some sense but also went completely against her worldview, which was that she didn’t respect his profession or his attitude at all. I enjoyed her initial selection, Draco Malfoy, and her revelation that she always wears underwear, even under her bathing suits. Brendan not believing in snacking or corn starch was much funnier than Mindy’s mishap in his shower and their different approaches to handling Morgan’s asthma attack. Brendan telling Mindy in the elevator that they are going to have sex, but not now, was, like many of the elements of this show, intriguing but awkward and inconclusive. I did like that Morgan and Duncan’s friendship was revisited, best seen in their ineffective attempt at subtle communication in the office. It makes sense to me that Danny wouldn’t be on board with Eye-Patch Girl’s plans to go to an innovative show with nudity and an 11pm dinner reservation, but that has much more to do with him being Danny than him being old. I’d like to think that maybe they could work things out, since Danny could use a distraction from his boring work life. Mindy sleeping in a murderer mask to avoid being murdered was rather entertaining, and I most enjoyed Danny’s reaction to his startled question about why she was wearing it.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 14 “Pepperwood” (B)

This episode was over-the-top but certainly entertaining. Jess having some trouble with her adult students is no surprise, and it’s fun that she brought her work home with her, which led to Nick launching an investigation into Edgar by Googling him, which turned out to be pretty funny. I enjoyed watching him pose as Julius Pepperwood and going on about not liking thin-crust pizza because he was from Chicago. Nathan Corrdry’s Edgar turned out, luckily, not to be a murderer, but he was a bit of a strange guy, not being able to draw eyes, carrying around a mysterious duffel bag and being in a relationship with the woman that Nick and Jess were certain was his mom. Nick and Jess seem to get themselves into situations like this rather often, and it’s entertaining to see them try to get out of them while making fools of themselves. Nick’s Julius Pepperwood: Zombie Detective novel sounds fantastic, and I like that Jessica Knight was one of his main characters. It’s just like the residents of the apartment to have a concept of a “pogo,” which, for Winston, means that he tended to poke people with his penis. Schmidt freaking out about what it could be was amusing, especially since it included shaving his eyebrows and cutting his toenails. Jess’ pogo being that she is a know-it-all and her reaction to Nick putting butter and salt on bacon were funny, and it’s always great to have Cece around the apartment to have ridiculous interactions with the guys.

What I’m Watching: Ben and Kate (Last Episode)

Ben and Kate: Season 1, Episode 13 “Bake Off” (B+)

I can’t describe how much it dismays me that this show has been cancelled and pulled from the air. In the past, shows have come to an end because of overwhelmingly negative reviews or because networks have opted not to renew midseason entries. In this case, however, it’s one fall show that got picked up for episodes beyond its initial thirteen-episode order, and less productive ratings doomed it to a premature cancellation. It’s also much superior to “The Mindy Project,” which hasn’t been subject to the same fate, which makes its departure all the more lamentable. This episode especially feels ready to send the show in a whole bunch of new directions, as Ben’s Rail Mall idea finally takes off and Kate enters into what looks like a wonderful new relationship. It’s fun to see Sarah Burns in a role so different from the one she plays on “Enlightened” here as Stephanie, who decided on a whim to come with Ben and Tommy only to realize that she might have made a mistake – and the house doesn’t even have a fax machine. I would have loved to see more of Ben and Vera’s unhealthy relationship and what actually happens to Rail Mall, and maybe the two remaining episodes will eventually air and fill that in for us. Will’s return was appropriately unsatisfying, and I like that Kate managed to find some romance that could fit with her craziness in Lance. BJ training Maddie to be British was terrific, and it was nice to see her think of Maddie and turn down the opportunity to get the commercial by herself. Why this show has to go I’ll never be able to comprehend.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Dakota Johnson as Kate

Pilot Review: The Following

The Following (FOX)
Premiered January 21 at 9pm

I had heard a lot about this show going into it, and my main feeling was that it didn’t seem like something that network television could pull off as well as cable might be able to. This pilot offering was much darker and more violent than I had expected, creating a universe in which this deranged mind of Joe Carroll exists and in which he has enlisted a terrifying cult following to help him carry out his crimes. The sheer magnitude of his operation is appalling, and does require some suspension of disbelief, to formulate the idea that both Sarah Fuller’s gay neighbors and Claire Matthews’ nanny were secretly posing as good people for years so that they could complete their specific tasks when called upon. That’s what makes this show especially frightening, since anyone – we’ve already seen a prison guard and a cop – can be a disciple of Carroll’s, ready to do his bidding and help brutally murder some unsuspecting victim. The cutting out of the eyes is especially gruesome, and that makes this show considerably more disturbing to watch than anything from all of the seasons of “Dexter” so far. Kevin Bacon isn’t necessarily the most talented actor, but he’s a good fit here for this edgy role, and James Purefoy is over-the-top but sufficiently scary as Carroll, who may well be able to inflict more fear from behind bars than most killers could out in the open. Shawn Ashmore’s excitable profiler and Annie Parisse’s by-the-book federal agent still could use some finessing, and I’m excited by the role that Natalie Zea will be able to play here. The use of Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” is extremely effective, and this show is one of the moodiest network dramas I’ve seen in a while. I’m not yet sure how this show will play out, but I was sufficiently hooked by this intense opener.

How will it work as a series? Now that Carroll has been apprehended, it’s unlikely that he’ll try to escape again, instead sending his minions all across the country to make Ryan’s life miserable. That could make for an oddly formulaic pattern, but I suspect that this show is creative enough to remain compelling for an extended period of time, and it’s just a question of what direction the show goes in, opting for even more unsettling material or a less horrific view of the world.
How long will it last? FOX hasn’t had a drama hit in a while, and this could be a real boon for the reality- and comedy-driven network. The pilot numbers were strong but will have to stay that way if the show doesn’t want to earn the same fate as “Alcatraz.” Buzz should be good enough, and I think this one will be FOX’s big hit of the season.

Pilot grade: B+

Sunday, January 27, 2013

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The competition: The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family, The Office, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock

For your information: There’s no new blood in this category at all, though “Nurse Jackie” is a first-time nominee for its fourth season. This is the seventh consecutive nomination for “The Office,” the sixth for “30 Rock,” the third for “Glee” and “Modern Family,” and the second for “The Big Bang Theory.” “Modern Family” won the past two years, “Glee” the year before that, “30 Rock” the year before that, and “The Office” twice in a row before that. The only show without an individual cast member nominated is “Glee,” and “Modern Family” is the most honored with three.

Who should win: Not a great list, honestly, especially considering the wealth of comedic ensembles on TV. I vote “Modern Family” at this point.

Who will win: There’s no way that Modern Family doesn’t take it.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

The competition: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Homeland, Mad Men

For your information: “Boardwalk Empire” won this race the past two years, and “Mad Men” took it home twice in a row before that. This is the second consecutive nomination for “Breaking Bad,” and the first time that “Downton Abbey” has been eligible. “Homeland” was shut out last year and is now nominated for the first time. Each show has nominees in just one other category – “Downton Abbey” has two actresses nominated and the rest each have one.

Who should win: Such excellent choices, it’s impossible to decide. Maybe “Downton Abbey”?

Who will win: This show clearly likes competent casts, and I think it would be the perfect place to recognize Downton Abbey.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Edie Falco’s pill-popping nurse (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey’s nerdy TV writer (30 Rock), Amy Poehler’s government employee (Parks & Recreation), Sofia Vergara’s Colombian wife (Modern Family), and Betty White’s wise-cracking scene-stealer (Hot in Cleveland).

For your information: White has won this award the past two years, and Fey won three times in a row before that. This is Falco’s fourth consecutive nomination, and she won three individual SAG Awards for her role on “The Sopranos.” This is Vergara’s third consecutive nomination, and, appallingly, Poehler’s first. Falco, Fey, and Vergara are also nominated along with their ensemble casts. The Golden Globe and Emmy winners in the corresponding categories, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lena Dunham, aren’t nominated here.

Who should win: Poehler, hands down.

Who will win: I’d love to think that it would be Poehler, but I think that White is a safer choice.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Alec Baldwin’s TV executive (30 Rock), Ty Burrell’s goofy dad (Modern Family), Louis C.K.’s wry comedian (Louie), Jim Parsons’ stuck-up scientist (The Big Bang Theory), and Eric Stonestreet’s flamboyant father (Modern Family).

For your information: Astonishingly, Baldwin has won this award a staggering six times in a row. This is the third consecutive nomination for Burrell and the second for Stonestreet. Parsons and C.K. are both SAG nominees for the first time. Everyone but C.K. is also recognized as a member of his ensemble cast. The Golden Globe winner in the corresponding category, Don Cheadle, isn’t nominated here.

Who should win: Anyone but Baldwin

Who will win: It’s been six years, why not give him a seventh? This is likely Baldwin’s last shot, since his show will only air five episodes in 2013, so I see no reason why voters would wise up to the existence of any other funny men on TV now.

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 6, Episode 2 “Quitters” (B+)

It’s always good to see recognizable faces appearing on this show. I haven’t seen Maggie Grace in a regular TV role since she starred as Shannon on “Lost,” and Faith is clearly a much more devious, intellectual bad girl, one who used to spend her life as a groupie and doesn’t mind rolling marijuana in rehab with a page torn from the bible. She made quite an impression, and Hank is not going to be able to forget her quickly. I’m glad to see another “Lost” alum, Patrick Fischler, reprising his role as sponsor slash Bates-bedder, even though it’s hardly the most invigorating role he’s had. She had an American accent as Kate Warner on season two of “24,” but I had no trouble recognizing Sarah Wynter as Karen’s new boss, someone who wasn’t opposed to hiring a prospective employee who came in high for an interview and who will serve to connect the plotlines together and provide Karen with an unknown link to Hank. It was terrific to see Stu again, trying to seduce Marcy in his own way, one which turned out to be effective but yet another miserable misstep in the parenting of Stuart. Unsurprisingly, Charlie is so concerned with getting ahead in his career that he isn’t above lying to a potential client about his sexual orientation, something that’s going to help define him in a whole new way and might even be able to overshadow his renowned reputation as a masturbator. Becca, usually a bastion of maturity, hit her low in this episode when she had her much-rehabbed one-night stand, whose name she didn’t know, drive her to rehab to visit Hank.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Claire Danes’ eccentric CIA agent (Homeland), Michele Dockery’s posh heiress (Downton Abbey), Jessica Lange’s sadistic nun (American Horror Story: Asylum), Julianna Margulies’ maternal lawyer (The Good Wife), and Maggie Smith’s stuffy countess (Downton Abbey).

For your information: Lange won this race last year for playing a different role on the first season of FX’s spooky horror series. Margulies won twice in a row before that. Danes won a SAG Award two years ago for her lead role in the TV movie “Temple Grandin,” and earns her first SAG nomination for her current show after back-to-back Golden Globe wins. Smith was nominated for this same part last year in the miniseries race, and is also recognized this year for her film work in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” This is the first nomination for Dockery. Danes, Dockery, and Smith are also nominated as part of their ensemble casts.

Who should win: Danes

Who will win: Lange and Smith going up against each other makes for fierce competition, but I’d bet on the red-hot Danes to edge them both out.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Steve Buscemi’s Atlantic City gangster (Boardwalk Empire), Bryan Cranston’s meth cooker (Breaking Bad), Jeff Daniels’ temperamental news anchor (The Newsroom), Jon Hamm’s ad man (Mad Men), and Damian Lewis’ conflicted Congressman (Homeland).

For your information: Only one actor in this group has ever won this award, and that’s Buscemi, who won the past two years. After his show took 2011 off, Hamm is back with his fifth nomination. Cranston earns his fourth consecutive nomination, while Emmy and Golden Globe winner Lewis and freshman show star Daniels netted their first-ever nominations. Everyone but Daniels is also nominated as part of their ensemble casts.

Who should win: All great choices, honestly.

Who will win: It’s hard to say. I think Lewis continues his awards-bodies sweep.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 2, Episode 2 “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Planet” (B+)

This episode is a substantial improvement over the premiere, getting back to what we like about this show and focusing less on trying to unearth what happened on Marty and Jeannie’s drunken night on the town, though of course that played into the final scene of the episode in the same way that it did last week. In Vegas, Marty, Clyde, and Doug got treated to the new addition of Tamara, played by Nia Long, who is the polar opposite of Jeannie, opinionated precisely when she shouldn’t be and far from a team player, determined to let her personal feelings be known even if the pod has decided that they’re going in a different direction. Jeannie treating Tamara like an invading pariah didn’t help matters, of course, and those two are going to hate each other immensely if Tamara ends up sticking with the group. Of course, that’s not necessarily likely, given that she managed to upset Mr. Pincus enough for him to walk out of the meeting thanks to her overeager suggestion of a social media approach. Fortunately, and surprisingly, Clyde has superb connections that may enable the pod to get to his number one competitor and pitch the same idea, a strategy that is sure to have negative implications in the end. Doug’s shrimp grab was almost as amusing as the revelation of his ban from the casino, and it was alarming to see Jeannie sabotage her meeting with Julianne Hofschrager, only to learn that she could well be fired despite her seemingly rock-hard case against the company.

What I’m Watching: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 2, Episode 2 “Revenge Play” (A-)

I’ve always liked the music on this show, and in this episode, it really astounded me. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh has delivered a score much that like of one of 2012’s best films, “Moonrise Kingdom,” one that drives forward the action and gives it a completely enhanced feel. This show, in many ways, is a comedy, but you would never know that from anything in this episode, especially not the haunting music that dominates this half-hour. What’s most unsettling about everything is Tyler’s sudden change in attitude, going from a sheepish, non-committal participant in Amy’s big plan to bring down the company to a grinning mastermind impressed with himself for figuring out a way to kill two birds with one stone. Even Dougie seems thrown off by Omar being fired, and given how quickly the appropriate people came down to the basement to investigate the hack, Tyler and Amy are going to have to figure out another way to execute their whistle-blowing operation. I was very nervous about what was going to happen with Krista, namely that Amy was going to do something to reignite that awful relationship. Fortunately, Krista seemed appreciative of the pillow generously offered up by Amy’s mother, and, rather politely, just told her that she didn’t want to rehash anything that might stress her out. Krista’s trip to the hospital is an eerie reminder that even those things that seem harmless and safe, like her pregnancy, aren’t, and that Amy’s takedown of Cogentiva is going to inflict some collateral damage, starting with Omar’s departure.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 2, Episode 2 “I Get Ideas” (B+)

The developments of this episode were mostly negative in nature, but, as always, the writing on this show is so excellent that it’s hard not to be complete drawn in to every situation. I enjoyed Elijah confronting Sandy in the bathroom about being a Republican, which of course led to an unpleasant conversation later on about Sandy’s beliefs which resulted in Hannah saying much more than she probably wanted to about how much they disturbed her. Jessa was quick to pass judgment on Sandy, telling Hannah that she overthinks too much, and that if he hasn’t read her essay yet, he wasn’t ever going to make time for it. It turns out it was worse than that, since he didn’t like it because nothing happened, but that wasn’t nearly as bad as Hannah’s ensuing confrontation with Adam. Dialing 911 brought over the least subtle cops ever, and Adam ended up getting himself arrested while Hannah panicked and tried to apologize for dialing 911. Marnie rebounded from having a miserable interview where she was told that she didn’t belong in the art world admirably, thanks to Shoshanna’s recommendation, though, as expected, Hannah didn’t think much of her new career. I’m not sure it can last, but it’s good to see Shoshanna experiencing some happiness for once, seemingly having entranced Ray with her quick talking and particular interests. In season one, it was Hannah and Marnie who were in relationships, and now it looks like it’s the other two main characters, whose unlikely romances seem to be blossoming.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episode 2 “The American Dream” (B+)

This episode managed to capture some new lows for the Gallagher family, and it wasn’t even Frank calling child protective services. Jamie nearly getting thrown in the trash was pretty awful, but that wasn’t it. It’s not a surprise that Frank would have the perfect way to get a crying baby to calm down, and the fact that it involves giving the baby valium is disturbing but expected. I like that Frank confused Jamie for Liam, though that was when Debs was still talking to her father. The affection she had for him couldn’t have lasted long, though seeing her go nuts on him with a bag full of soap bars after he carelessly wrecked her log cabin was pretty intense. Lip, Ian, and Carl putting him in the dumpster was an appropriate solution to that particular problem. It was sad to see Fiona realize that she had forgotten to factor in all of the servers at the club and that she was left with only $900, but it seems that the more lamentable damage has been done in her relationship with her brother. Lip’s concert parking scam was clever, and it seems to have given him a sense of entitlement that makes him think that he should be able to have a say in how the money of the house is handled. Mandy is going to get frustrated soon that he won’t listen to her about college, and Ian is going to get his heart broken when he realizes that Mickey isn’t actually in love with him. And, in the strangest news of all, apparently Kev is already married? Let’s hope he can explain his way out of this.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episode 3 (B+)

It’s a real shame that it took so long for Edith to get to this day, and then Sir Anthony decided that he just couldn’t go through with it. Robert and Violet might not have approved, but the truth is that it would have made Edith happy, and therefore it’s quite unfortunate that it didn’t work out. Let’s hope there’s some happiness for Edith ahead at some point in the future. To her credit, Mary was nice for once, acknowledging that she’s not always nice and that it probably won’t change, but still trying to be sweet to her sister on her wedding day. I enjoyed Edith’s comment about Sybil being pregnant and Mary probably being pregnant. It’s a good thing that Matthew got that letter, which was authenticated by Daisy, since Mary telling him that she’s still mad at him every week was getting somewhat tiresome. I’ll admit that I did think that she had written the letter herself to try to ease Matthew’s guilt, and it’s reassuring to know that it was in fact real. The trip to Downton Place was fun, and I guess we won’t be seeing much of that from here on. Violet saying that she’d take the food if the poor didn’t want it was hilarious. It’s nice to see Carson express such care for Mrs. Hughes and to hear him singing gleefully at the end of the episode. Thomas hit a new low by telling Mosley that O’Brien was leaving, and I can’t wait to see what she does to get revenge.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Round Two: Banshee

Banshee: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Rave” (B+)

After the thrilling pilot from last week, this second installment does not disappoint. It’s always a debate for me regarding how to refer to characters like our protagonist, who now is Lucas Hood but whose original name is something entirely different. I’ll opt to call him Hood since everyone else on the show does. He’s certainly making waves in Banshee, particularly with Matt Servitto’s Brock, who really hates him. Telling him to shut up when he chastised him for being late and then following it up with a warning not to make him ask twice is hardly the way to make friends, but that’s not Hood’s style. Punching out both of the bouncers at the rave was quite a strategy, and it’s clear that Hood is going to make a mark on his new town. Everything is rather incestuous in this small town, as Hood manages to have sex with the daughter of the friendly Pennsylvania Dutch patriarch who reported the rave to the police, and then he took home Carrie’s daughter after her boyfriend died at the rave. The entire rave scene was intense to be sure, as was the fact that Hood decided to show up at and eat the food from the wake for the man he killed. Kai continues to be a terrifically terrifying villain, slicing off one of his minion’s fingers before releasing his dog on him after giving him a slight head start. It’s a good thing that Kai likes Hood, otherwise he’d really have his hands full.

What I’m Watching: Nikita

Nikita: Season 3, Episode 7 “Intersection” (B-)

For a show that isn’t always terrific but has always been strong with its villains, Anne was awfully cartoonish. Taunting Sonia from afar was stupid, mainly because she’s just at much at risk of falling prey to Amanda’s fury and losing her life to the boss too. Birkohff’s dream was rather vivid, and enlisting everyone’s help to save Sonia was a daring mission that actually went off pretty much without a hitch. You’d think, however, that Alex would have done a better job of surveillance and been closer to the spy when he was exposed instead of cutting it very close and nearly getting Sonia killed. It was interesting to see Amanda get upset with Anne for throwing a grenade at Michael and Nikita’s car, since she clearly wants to keep them alive, but it doesn’t make total sense given that they are her enemies and she’d definitely want them dead so that her plan of world domination could be considerably more achievable. Neither of them is dead, but Michael’s not going to be nearly as cool anymore without his hand, which Nikita seemed very ready to chop off without much hesitation. Michael confronting Alex about her drug addiction made for a painfully convenient weapon for Amanda to use, and everyone at this new Division seems awfully forgiving when it comes to being a traitor, a drug addict, or just a generally overly excitable agent whose instincts and passion often put the rest of the team in danger on a regular basis.

What I’m Watching: Suits (Mid-Season Premiere)

Suits: Season 2, Episode 11 “Blind-Sided” (B)

Without any USA shows currently airing new episodes, I had almost completely forgotten about this show. It turns out that it’s not entirely essential viewing, but it does possess that soapy quality that makes it immensely watchable, particularly for the dynamic between Harvey and Mike. This episode was a bit literal in terms of its depiction of Mike’s sense of right and wrong, having him offer $100,000 to the victim’s family when they said they would accept $20,000 and then going to the lawyer who offered his grandmother a similar deal when his parents were killed by a drunk driver. Mike trying to report the fact that his client was high when he hit the victim to the opposing counsel was crossing a line, and this is now the umpteenth time that Harvey has talked about how he’ll never again stick his neck out for Mike. Speaking of repeated mistakes, haven’t Jessica and Harvey learned by now that they can’t manipulate Louis, lest he feel truly betrayed and then try to seek vengeance of his own. Not only did Jessica’s fake hiring freeze rob the firm of its newest Mini Louis acquisition, Maria Monroe, it also ended a relationship that, while unsettling to watch, seemed to make Louis quite happy. Harvey even got a chance to be sentimental in this episode as he tried to romance Zoe and even brought flowers for her niece when he came for the second date. Harvey isn’t destined for true love, however, since he’s so clearly married to his work.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 11 “Suit Warehouse” (B-)

It definitely doesn’t feel like this show is on its way out in terms of where the plot is headed, except for the tearing up of the carpeting on the floor, which didn’t even get finished. Either Pam and Jim are going to move together to Philadelphia or they’re not, and dragging it out like this just isn’t necessary. Darryl almost tanking his audition and then sinking a basket into a tank wasn’t all that funny, and him moving to Philadelphia doesn’t have much relevance, especially since Val is not a main character and therefore their relationship working out just doesn’t matter. It’s nice to see that, after all these years, people still know how to waste time at the office while there’s no boss around, and trying all of the espresso flavors to see which ones they like best is one way of doing that. Erin getting stressed out about being tasked with receiving the pen delivery was too much of an obvious metaphor for her concern about starting a romance with Pete behind Andy’s back, and it’s about time we saw Andy again since the show might end before he has the opportunity to return. Dwight posing as Clark’s father on a sales call was hardly as entertaining or speedily effective as his joint efforts with Jim, including the ones that were referenced at the beginning of the episode, and I’d love to see a less forced attempted integration of the new characters into this show’s final season.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 10 “Two Parties” (B+)

I love that this show finds a creative way to handle almost every situation, and the bachelor and bachelorette parties for the happy couple were no exception. It was obvious that Leslie’s would turn, much like most fun occasions in her life, into a crusade to get something accomplished, and I liked the throwback to the Native American relations that were prevalent back when Ben and Leslie were first getting together around the time of the Harvest Festival and Lil’ Sebastian. Putting April and Ann together is always a recipe for hilarity, and having Donna there as well was a blast. The boys’ outing was infinitely cooler, however, since Chris opted to host a bachelor party for each of them since the never had the opportunity. I was thrilled to see Ben excited about playing Settlers of Catan, a game that has recently taken up an unnerving amount of my time. The rest of the bachelor parties were terrific, especially Tom’s trip to the bar that serves spray vodka and other such fittingly preposterous items. Ron’s token meat fest was expected, and it was fun to see a waiter well prepared for Jerry since he has a tendency to drop his food. It was sweet of the guys to celebrate Chris as a best man, and Andy’s well-intentioned speech was a highlight. I think that Shauna Malwae-Tweep may not be the girl for him, but it’s good to see him putting himself out there. The cameos by the various athletes and Newt Gringrich were entertaining as well.

What I’m Watching: Last Resort

Last Resort: Season 1, Episode 12 “The Pointy End of the Spear” (C-)

We came so close to an awesome resolution in this episode, and instead all we got was the suicide of a character who could have been truly pivotal. I admit that I’m a sucker for the thrilling music that played while Kylie was watching the television and then sitting in the car with her dad, reminiscent of the great suspense score from “Lost,” but I wish it could accompany something more productive. Kylie telling her father that she trusts him completely is absurd since he’s so clearly a bad guy, and the fact that he was able to get on Air Force One right from the limo definitely indicates that he’s in cahoots with the President. There was so much deceit in this episode, it was nauseating, and it’s hard to keep track of who’s on what side at this point. Grace declaring her allegiance via flare to Marcus was sweet, though I suspect that she and Cortez are the only ones still with him. Sam trying to pull rank and relieve Marcus was bold and indicative of trouble brewing, though I’m much more worried about Prosser and his determination to stage the coup. Anders is already back on the point and ready to exercise some revenge on Grace, which is definitely and wholly a bad sign. I’m curious to see where Serrat will fall in all of this since he’s no big fan of Marcus’ but he doesn’t much like Prosser either. Coming up tomorrow night is the grand finale, and let’s hope that it’s been worth these thirteen episodes.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock

30 Rock: Season 7, Episode 10 “Florida” (C+)

This show is heading towards its end soon, and therefore the cancellation of TGS seemed inevitable. Yet this episode was wholly ridiculous, and trying to cast Colleen as a happy lesbian just doesn’t track with anything that we’ve seen before. I know that this show loves to go for shock value and to do things that are utterly absurd, but this just didn’t do it for me. I did enjoy Liz asking Jack why they never got together romantically since it’s the best way to acknowledge that people thought it might eventually happen on the show without actually having it happen. Those kind of subtle breakings of the fourth wall are what this show has always done best, and it’s good to see that happen again. Liz is going to have to deal with a lot now that she has twins coming, and I wonder how far we’ll get with that in the final three episodes. I was much less impressed with the happenings back in New York, Tim Meadows’ entertaining cameo aside. His best line was that he didn’t “super duper finish law school.” Pairing Tracy and Jenna up and giving them responsibility is never a good idea, and here we had to have poor Kenneth manipulated by them, something that’s become so regular at this point that it’s just not that funny anymore. I suppose that Hazel made her mark in a positive (or rather, negative for the purposes of the show within a show) way by reporting all of the abuses she had encountered while working at NBC. The montage of some of her claims was amusing, and I think that’s a fitting farewell for her.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What I’m Watching: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 10 “I’m Sorry for You, My Friend” (B)

This show has always been more than a little bit sensational, and that’s starting to take it over as things get out of control on a number of fronts. It was obvious that Deacon would part with his band at some point, and having the jealous frontman try to have his way with Scarlett definitely sealed the deal. Liam did a good job stepping in for Rayna’s departed guitarist, despite his point about not being able to turn into Deacon, but I think that it will be good for Deacon to reconnect with the tour, as long as he doesn’t come in between Rayna and Juliette romantically. Juliette’s attitude towards Sean is simply cruel, and pushing for a divorce rather than an annulment is an unnecessary manipulative move on her part. It’s not surprising given what we know about her, but it’s hardly a positive choice. I thought she was going to fly off and not come back for the concert after Sonny laid down on the floor, and it was a relief to see her return in time. Teddy winning the election makes sense given that he’s been a much more prominent character than Coleman, and it will give him something to do. Lamar may have denied buying votes to Tandy, but I’m sure that’s something that will come back to haunt all of them at some time in the future. There is no circumstance under which it’s a good idea for Peggy and Teddy to see each other, no matter how depressed Teddy might be by hearing Coleman say on television that nothing would matter if he didn’t have his wife to come home to.

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 2, Episode 9 “Junior Secretary’s Day” (C+)

It’s episodes like this that make me doubt my loyalty to this show. Tessa getting her wisdom teeth out seemed like a good setup, having her get hopped up on the pain meds and start thinking that aliens were invading was a little silly. Only on this show could the sight of Fred wrapped in tinfoil and an essence-stealing photograph of George and Dallas actually be real, making Tessa’s paranoia all the more intense. Fred planning a fake business trip to convince Sheila that he was still gainfully employed and that he was once again winning his award was extreme but typical for the wacky Shay family, and it was somewhat entertaining to see Ryan try to be nonchalant about his plan to go over to Tessa’s and Lisa tell George that she really didn’t care. Ultimately, it sounds like Sheila was well aware of Junior Secretary’s Day, likely enamored with Fred for going to such lengths to convince her that he was still successful. The rat poison plot was a bit ridiculous, and while George is usually funny when he’s backed into a corner by his weird neighbors, this wasn’t the most creative instance of that. I’m glad to see that, at Lisa’s urging, Ryan is continuing to pursue Tessa, helping her to wrap a makeshift splint of sorts around her head so that her teeth wouldn’t hurt as much. He may be stupid, but his speech was actually quite moving and passionate, and maybe there’s hope for Ryan and Tessa after all.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 12 “Party Crasher” (B)

Preparing for Manny’s surprise party was generally fun, but this wasn’t the most compelling or funny installment of this show that we’ve seen. Jay being grumpy is nothing new, though it was somewhat entertaining to see the fun that he and Gloria were having breaking rules, stealing cakes and driving through parking garage exits. Claire’s concern about having to set up for the party was amusing, and I like that she listened to Mitchell’s point about encouragement being the best natural detractor. Watching Phil agonize over not saying anything about his daughter being with an older man was funny, and it was great that Haley realized on her own that it was crazy because he got a call from one of his ex-wives, especially when Phil came back up on the elevator to make his impassioned speech. Claire taking Phil to task for thinking that Hermione Granger was attractive was hilarious, and I like little tidbits like that which are thrown in casually to the dialogue. The Mitchell-Cameron-Lily plotline was uneven, mainly since Cameron is excessively dramatic more than occasionally. Its best moment was definitely Cameron thanking Mitchell for assuming that he would be terrible about his job. Eventually Lily will grow up to be a less obnoxious child, but for now it’s enjoyable to see Luke give her a hard time. The dynamics between the youngest generation tend to be terrific, and I’d like to see more of that soon. Speaking of those kids, Manny getting his kiss was a great moment.

What I’m Watching: Arrow

Arrow: Season 1, Episode 10 “Burned” (C+)

Part of this episode felt a bit too much like a horror movie to me, reminiscent also of the recent arsonist killer on “Dexter.” Characters like Joanna are useful explicitly for this purpose, to have family members who can die on a whim and then prove generic all of a sudden to the plot. Thought it doesn’t exactly track with what we know about her to this point, it was fun to see Laurel steal her father’s phone from the Hood and call him up to ask for his help exacting justice and exposing the truth. Oliver could be much more productive if he spent less time worrying about the particular ethics of helping one person or taking out another, and Diggle pushing him in both directions at different times isn’t helpful. Quentin giving the phone back to Laurel while having it traced is rather duplicitous of him, and I suspect that she’s going to be angry next time the Hood calls and (nearly) gets caught because of that. Tommy seems to have gone from unlikely love interest for Laurel to a guy who feels confident enough to request a drawer in a remarkably short amount of time, and there’s little suspense left in that relationship since it’s progressed so incredibly. Moira debating whether or not to take over Walter’s position would be far more compelling if we weren’t acutely aware of just why Walter in missing in action and whose fault that is. The flashbacks to the island are taking a long time to reveal themselves, and that’s a device I think the show could do without.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What I’m Watching: Vegas

Vegas: Season 1, Episode 12 “From This Day Forward” (B+)

The D.A. couldn’t figure out who the rat is, but it took Vincent all of two seconds to realize that it was his wife. It’s reassuring to know that, loyal to the mob as he may be, Vincent is, unlike Johnny, not the kind of person who would kill his own wife. Vincent’s confrontation in the car with Katherine was great, first because he warned her about the danger she was in and then because she pointed a gun and reminded him that she could kill him and not get in any trouble. Katherine has a somewhat tangential role on this show, and I’m hopeful that this run-in will provide the framework for an intriguing relationship between the two of them in the future. Mia telling her father that she and Jack were dating wasn’t smart, and him having her fired was a cruel punishment. I imagine that Jack should be able to defeat Johnny when he comes after him, but something tells me it won’t be quite as simple as the disposal of Angelo. It’s fun to see Ralph around his former flame, Dixon’s French teacher, who clearly isn’t over him and wants to pull him back into her web, something that seems unlikely given both the undying affection he has for his wife and the potential romance he might have with Katherine. Yvonne asking Dixon to be her wedding date was definitely the episode’s comic relief, and it’s nice to see him show up and do exactly what she had wanted, smiling the whole time.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 4, Episode 14 “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” (B+)

There were definitely some major developments in this episode, most of them positive. Perhaps the most inspiring one was Amber’s motivation of Ryan not to give up and his successful attainment of his job back from Joel, thanks to some honesty, apologizing, and donuts. Kristina fighting the PTA on Max’s behalf to bring back the vending felt like a lost cause from the start, but a stirring speech and some compelling points did the trick, which resulted in that euphoric scene at the end of the episode in which Max discovered its return. Julia sharing her feeling about not feeling loved with Crosby was a rare moment of bonding for the two very different siblings, and it was welcome both for its endearing value and for the effect it had on Julia and her perspective on the adoption. Crosby’s difficulties with Renee just continue to increase, and it’s a shame that her feeling cast out by him is going to reflect poorly on Crosby going forward and will certainly put a strain on his relationship with Jasmine. For anyone who didn’t respect Mark before, which may be most viewers, he kicked things into gear in a major way in this episode by asking Sarah to coffee and then going to tell Hank that he’s going to take Sarah back. That seemed to have worried Hank enough to tell Sarah she had to choose, and, while Hank is a better fit in many ways, I have a feeling that she’s going to choose the man who’s more outwardly passionate about her.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 2 "Where's Waldo?" (B+)

It’s not any clearer than last week where this season is heading, and instead we get a family to rival the Bennetts, though with considerably less combined intellect than even Coover. Among them, it was good to see Beth Grant, who always manages to find fantastic film roles that fit her peculiar nature. Raylan reminding them that they were federal officers when they started smoking pot in front of them was pretty funny. The search for Waldo Truth is going to much more complicated than Raylan or Art expected, and it seems like it’s going to take a toll on them, especially with Art headed out the door soon. I enjoyed the bickering between Raylan and Art, with Tim refusing to get involved. Citing a DMZ was an amusing moment as well, and I liked Art’s comment that they’d stop for lunch on the way in case Raylan shot one of them. Raylan’s flirtation with Lindsey at the end of the episode was endearing, and it’s very troublesome to learn that the aggressive fighter is her husband. It was good to see Wynn Duffy again, and he wins the award for the best quote of the night: “I don’t even trust the way you just said I could trust you.” Shooting the man Boyd caught was brutal, and it’s interesting that Wynn suggested Boyd talk to Raylan. That’s one way to unite all the plotlines. Billy continues to be extremely interesting, and I enjoyed the soapbox debate that he and Boyd had about their true intentions and the possibility of salvation.

What I’m Watching: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project: Season 1, Episode 11 “Bunk Bed” (C+)

I’m a bit worried that I’m letting what I hear and read other people think about this show affect my perception of it. Yet that’s not entirely the case, since I am concerned and unimpressed with the direction that some of these plotlines are going. Most annoying and problematic are the antics around the office. To the show’s enormous credit, Morgan works as a character. When he’s the only bearable one in the office, that’s saying something. I’ve read that Shauna will be written out, which is fine, but Betsy is pretty bad too, and having them sneak around all day while they’re at the office – when Danny, who mandated Saturday hours, isn’t even around – to find a People magazine because he verbally banned Facebook is a waste of time. The fact that Morgan got called by Mindy to come to her apartment and build a bunk bed, and that Danny had time to leave and come find him, was just ridiculous. I wish that there would have been more to Danny and Gwen’s meeting than painkillers and a comment about being a handsome jerk, and I also find Mindy’s attitude towards Gwen’s daughter to be too childish, even for her. What was positive about this episode, however, was the very welcome appearance of Allison Williams, star of “Girls,” as the woman with the eye-patch who wasn’t going to let Danny get away with whatever he wanted. I sincerely hope that she’ll be sticking around and that we can forget all this letter business and just move on to him making Mindy jealous by dating Eye-Patch Girl.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 13 “A Father’s Love” (B+)

This show has scored some seriously good guest stars to play its characters’ parents, and seeing frequent gangster portrayer Dennis Farina as Nick’s dad was a departure from his last terrific role, in HBO’s short-lived “Luck,” though he did get to spend some time with the horses in this part too. His cons were rather elaborate and obvious, but it’s just like Jess, and Winston too, to fall for it because of the allure of his personality and his mustache. I liked Nick’s poor performance with the buyers, which resulted in him having to fake having accidentally ingested sugar. Nick is a character who doesn’t need a dependable father figure, but it’s good to see where he came from and part of what made him who he is. It’s clear that Schmidt is never going to get over Cece, and while that could get old, it hasn’t yet. In fact, this was one of the best plotlines featuring the two of them yet, mainly due to Schmidt running into Robbie while they were both stalking her. Seeing them hang out and bond, while Schmidt kept muttering his plans to smite Robbie under his breath, was a blast, and it’s nice to see this unlikely friendship develop. I never thought that it could get better than Schmidt and Cece sneaking around together and her dressing in the least sexy way possible, but this is definitely a lot of fun. It’s good to see this show proving itself to have mastered several of its characters, knowing full well just what to do with them.

What I’m Watching: Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate: Season 1, Episode 12 “Girl Problems” (B+)

It’s hard to describe the level of awkwardness that Kate possesses when she is trying to seem cool. I was thrilled when Tommy ran into Brittany Snow’s Lila walking her dog, and I’m excited to see her become a part of the regular plotline. Kate’s overenthusiastic attempts to befriend her were unfortunate enough, and blabbing about Tommy having been in love with her for ten years really sealed the deal. AS always, however, this show is immensely charming, and having Kate hide behind the mailman with Tommy deemed too tall to do the same was sweet, and I hope that Lila sticks around for a while. She’s certainly a more endearing fit than Ben’s new sexual partner, Vera, who is portrayed by Melinda McGraw, who had a superb role on the second season of “Mad Men” as promiscuous housewife Bobbie Barrett. Ben does love lofts, though, and so maybe Rail Mail will have to take a backseat to the electronic version that she pitched which maintains few to none of his original ideas. I like that BJ interfered and posed as a Southerner to try to protect Ben, and it’s fun to see her actually care about something and invest time and energy in trying to get it accomplished, a rare occurrence. Hearing about her dog is very disconcerting, given that we see just how irresponsible she is in every other aspect of her life, which doesn’t bode well for the poor, possibly fictional pet with a truly odd, unusual background.

What I’m Watching: Apartment 23

Apartment 23: Season 2, Episodes 10 and 11 “Mean Girls” (C+) and “Dating Games” (B)

Including more episodes that should have aired in season one isn’t doing this show any favors, and it doesn’t help that the second, more time-appropriate installment, feels awfully formulaic and like it would be a better fit for the show’s first season. I was pleased, however, to see Fiona Gubelmann, who stars on FX’s “Wilfred” as Jenna, in the role of the main mean girl who June thought Chloe had murdered. The whole plot played out rather obnoxiously, and there wasn’t much to take away from it. This show has proven itself to be clever, and it’s a shame to see episodes like this which don’t take full advantage of the relationship between June and Chloe. Episode two from Tuesday night was considerably better if still unsatisfying, mainly because June, as easily manipulated as she may be, wouldn’t likely go along with a scenario that prevents her from dating the man she wants. Kyle Howard, recently seen as jerk Dr. Van Dyke on “Royal Pains,” was an interesting choice to play the charming, entirely sympathetic pawn in their game since it’s far from his typical role. My favorite moment of the many unfortunate dates – June at a dungeon, really? – was Chloe bringing Daniel an uncooked egg and a rented chair for herself only on their picnic. This show doesn’t seem to know what to do with Robin or Eli, whereas it knows just how to use Ray Ford’s Eli to this utmost scene-stealing potential, which just gets better every episode.

Pilot Review: Continuum

Continuum (Syfy)
Premiered January 14 at 8pm

This Canadian series started last May on Showcase and now finally arrives to the U.S. on a fitting home, Syfy. American audiences will recognize Rachel Nichols, from season five of “Alias” and other work, in the lead role of Kiera, the cop who has the unfortunate luck of being transported back to 2012 from the future without the hope of a return ticket. The show’s bleak opening provided an intriguing look at a dystopian future, hardly the glamorously decrepit world briefly seen in “Terra Nova” or other series, but still a pessimistic look at what might happen if corporations took over the world. The notion of terrorism and freedom fighting is definitely interesting, though I think that grounding the show in the future rather than in the present might have made that angle more effective. It turned out to be remarkably easy for Kiera to get herself confirmed as a cop with little to no evidence or knowledge to support her story, and I hope that this doesn’t devolve into a generic cop show. Nichols is a good actress, but she’s a bit too frenetic and excitable for this role. I’m more impressed with Erik Knudsen, who previously starred on “Jericho,” as Alec, the inventor of the technology used by Kiera. I particularly like his theories about the space-time continuum, which I think is one aspect this show will handle well. More importantly, what could be better than revealing that Alec’s future self is none other than the Cigarette-Smoking Man, better known as William B. Davis. He’s an intimidating presence just by himself, and he looked awfully pleased that the prisoners were able to time-travel, which suggests a sinister role in things. This pilot didn’t wow me, but it’s probably worth a second shot, and it’s the kind of show that ideally should be right up my alley.

How will it work as a series? It’s not entirely clear since stranding characters in a time not their own often leads to a lack of finite direction. I think that having Kiera adjust to her new life should prove interesting on one level, and learning about the timeline from Alec should be interesting on another level. Showing snippets of the future can’t hurt either, since that’s the more intriguing setting.
How long will it last? In August, this show was renewed by Showcase for a second season. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will air in the U.S., since there have been a number of cases where poor stateside performance has meant the death of a show, even cancelling its second season in its home country. Given that the pilot didn’t attract too many voters, I wouldn’t count on this being a hit in the U.S. A second showing should seal its fate, so we’ll have to see how it does on Monday.

Pilot grade: B

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pilot Review: The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries (CW)
Premiered January 14 at 8pm

I’ll start off right away by stating the obvious, which is that I’m not a part of the target demographic for this show, or really for this network at all, select superhero series exempted. I’ve also seen few episodes of “Sex and the City,” so I can compare it only to a presentation I did with several female students in a romantic comedy course in college and the first film, which I have unfortunately seen. The main appeal going into this show was AnnaSophia Robb, who wowed me in “Sleepwalking” and seems to be one of the better young actresses working today. She is in fact 19 years old, but I still think that she looks much more like a high schooler than someone who might have graduated college and already be working in the real world, as everyone she meets seems to think. Her move to Manhattan high life was quite quick and hard to believe, and its lack of reality is paired with the far less interesting antics at her school and home, particularly her obnoxious sister Dorrit. This show is all about never reminding you that you’re watching something set in the 80s, and I think that it’s likely to get caught up with that as it tries to stay somewhat true to the existing events in the “Sex and the City” timeline. Taken as its own show, it has spunk but little appeal otherwise for me. The dialogue is less than impressive, and this show is unlikely to be able to capture the phenomenon that HBO did with the series from which this one was created.

How will it work as a series? Carrie is now a Manhattan connoisseur after spending a few hours in the city, so her time will likely be split between living in and dreaming about living in Manhattan, with plenty of teenage angst mixed in. Sexual exploits, betrayal, and other plotlines are sure to surface.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot weren’t great, losing viewers throughout the hour, and the numbers increasing through DVR viewings only helps so much. This is a good fit for the CW, so I can see how they’d want to keep it around, but I would be tentative about them endorsing a second season just yet.

Pilot grade: C

Friday, January 18, 2013

What I’m Watching: Californication (Season Premiere)

Californication: Season 6, Episode 1 “The Unforgiven” (B)

This show has always been wild and crazy, and after the events of the final moments of the season five finale, it was clear that things would be changed in a big way. What wasn’t necessary, however, was the sight of an unshowered Hank drinking his way through an entire episode, even resorting to peeing in a bottle and then drinking it because he didn’t feel like visiting one of Charlie’s three and a half baths. It’s much better to see him sarcastic and focused, spiraling out of control because of his own purposeful misdeeds rather than being able to blame it on the booze. I’m much more enthusiastic about scenes like the horrific intervention, which found Marcy airing her troubles a bit publicly and, as usual, Becca having to be the mature one. With Tyler out of the picture, let’s hope she can avoid following in her father’s footsteps and try to get her own life together after she helps him with his. We’ve seen a few too many eccentric creative partners for Hank in the past, and I’m not sure that another wild personality is what this show needs right now. Karen and Hank giving their relationship a try is definitely a reason to watch, and I’m much more intrigued by the guest stars I’ve heard about for later this season than I was by the content in this particular episode. Let’s hope rehab proves productive for Hank. This show’s writing continues to be top-notch, and it’s hard to find anything as full of wit and self-deprecation.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies (Season Premiere)

House of Lies: Season 2, Episode 1 “Stochasticity” (B)

I couldn’t have been more excited for Don Cheadle when he deservedly won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical on Sunday night. I predicted it but didn’t honesty expect it to happen, and I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who appreciates both his performance and the show. Unfortunately, this premiere was a typical instance of trying to get back in the right mode after a while spent off the air, and there were a few kinks that need to be ironed out before it really revs up for another great season. Spending so much time obsessing over what may or may not have happened between Marty and Jeannie – what we did see was depraved enough – was unnecessary, mostly since it’s ultimately all less relevant than Jeannie’s final recollection, her confession of love to Marty, and it does a disservice to the terrific final scene from last season, which didn’t need an epilogue. Moving past that, of course, it’s intriguing to see Marty now framed entirely as the irresponsible parent, with Monica rejecting his advances and purporting to be a positive influence in her son’s life. Aside from Jeannie’s non-promotion and the introduction of a new executive at Galweather-Stern, not much happened in this episode, making its central development, the mystery caller named Pincus, feel somewhat underwhelming. It’s still interesting to see the team work, forcing him to surrender his line of business with a well-executed blitz, but I’d like to see this show kick into gear in a much more affirming way next week.

What I’m Watching: Enlightened (Season Premiere)

Enlightened: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Key” (B+)

I had forgotten just how unique this show’s spirit is during its long time off the air, and billboards around LA hadn’t adequately reminded me of its appeal. The “previously on” segment was a good reminder of the show’s specific plot developments, but the opening scene, in which Amy talked to her entirely unsympathetic mother about fate, was the perfect refresher of this show’s idealism and eccentricity. It looks like Tyler is going to have a much bigger role in this season, as he continues to find himself manipulated by a well-meaning but oblivious Amy, who forced him to drive her to LA only to make him stay in the car. Amy’s excitement about being a whistleblower is the very thing that’s clearly going to get her caught, and her lack of self-awareness is, as always, mesmerizing since she really does live in her own world. Dermot Mulroney’s reporter should be an interesting ally for Amy, since he seems convinced of her endgame but less so by the specific evidence she presents and her motivations for trying to bring the truth to light. As viewers of the show, we understand that her point about the company having no social conscience really does reflect how she feels, but it’s easy to understand how that doesn’t exactly sound convincing. “I’m so sick of dying” was a memorable way of summing up her situation, and the episode’s ending shot, coupled with her narration about kingdoms falling, was a haunting way to close out the first installment of what’s sure to be an enthralling season.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What I’m Watching: Girls (Season Premiere)

Girls: Season 2, Episode 1 “It’s About Time” (B+)

After this show’s big wins at the Golden Globes the same night that this episode aired, I had forgotten just how much I found this show appealing. It’s all about the writing and the fact that this show knows how to use actors and characters subtly. The best illustrations of that are two actors who have series regular commitments to NBC shows, Andrew Rannells and Donald Glover. Rannells’ Elijah seems to be taking on a much bigger role this season, and he’s already one of its best additions, far more bearable than his character on “The New Normal.” I almost didn’t recognize Glover because his character is so much more muted than Trey on “Community,” and I think he’s probably the first good choice that Hannah has made when it comes to men. Adam isn’t entirely out of the picture, of course, and he’s still saying manipulative things, like that he doesn’t know how to behave without her, and he’d die if she went away. I’m glad to see Shoshanna still feeling strongly about Ray, and standing up to him (“I am really tired of being insulted, even when it comes before a compliment”) only to see him try harder to win her affection. Telling her that she has a beautiful, fresh, vibrant sincerity sounded like a good enough line to me. I think that the casting of Rita Wilson as Marnie’s mom was absolutely perfect, and it’s clear that Marnie isn’t headed anywhere good as she continues to think that she can be friends with Charlie despite the obvious problems with that. I love that Elijah and Marnie almost had sex (“You can only make fun of bisexuals and Germans, and I’m both”) only to see that plan fail miserably. Jessa and her new husband seem to be having a good time together, though we saw precious little of them in this opening installment. The best line of the night comes from Elijah: “I didn’t even know there was a G train.”