Thursday, February 28, 2013

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 2, Episode 7 “Video Games” (B)

This show is extraordinarily capable of achieving a spectacular focus, tuning out the rest of the world to focus only one specific place. Jessa bringing Hannah with her to see her father turned out, expectedly, to be just as much about Hannah as it did about Jessa, and it was a fascinating if odd journey. The casting of Ben Mendelsohn, who played Pope in “Animal Kingdom,” as her father, and Rosanna Arquette, who I remember best as Cherie Jaffe on “The L Word,” as Petula, was fantastic, and added greatly to the episode. Some of my favorite quotes from the episode were “Do you have any evidence that life is just a video game” and “I really like the way that you fold down your turtleneck.” Jessa’s visit quickly turned sour, of course, and, as usual for Hannah, it turned into a horror story when Jessa covered the driver’s eyes. This show never portrays serious trauma, but rather something that seems very much like it and then ends up being merely disappointing, like Hannah’s cemetery rendezvous with Frank. Jessa telling Hannah that their trip wasn’t meant to be a sexcapade was condescending and unsupportive, and very much in character for her. Calling her parents while she was struggling with her UTI and waiting for her train back prompted similar results to times past: an authentic effort to be grateful for something random interpreted as an attempt to be manipulative and snide. Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker are so terrific as her parents, and it’s great to see them again.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episode 6 “Cascading Failures” (A-)

This was a very emotional episode, laced with comedy but ultimately guided by a much more devastating realization about the reality of the Gallagher family situation. Hearing the kids describe how they’ve been through this before wasn’t anything close to adequate preparation for the different way this time played out, though at least no one was in for a truly horrible fate. Carl and Liam’s time spent with the rich gay couple was probably the least serious and most entertaining, particularly due to Carl’s recent fascination with the science of gay sex. Debs was well-suited for her role, and Lip managed to make the best of his group home experience by smuggling out Ian and trading him for Mandy. Unfortunately, Ian’s night spent with Mickey was horrifyingly disturbing thanks to the arrival of the senior Milkovich, whose psychological punishment was much more than the physical violence he inflicted on both Ian and his son. Fiona quitting her job was inevitable, and she sure rallies quick when it comes to protecting her family. That look of fury in her eyes after she hears Frank’s voice is a sign of the hurt she’s preparing to bring on him. He did do a respectable job trying to fake being a good parent, even drinking his own urine to ensure that he could pass a drug test. Sheila seemed to have fun playing Monica, though it’s clear she has deeper regrets about what happened with Karen. Veronica setting Kev up to have sex with her mom was all kinds of disturbing, and the visual of the mother and daughter sitting on opposite ends of poor Kev will be forever burned into my memory. Carol confusing Jennifer Love Hewitt shows had me chuckling quite a bit.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 11 “I Ain’t A Judas” (B+)

This episode had a very powerful feel to it, bleakly expressing the state of affairs both in Woodbury and at the prison. Andrea sneaking out to the prison represented a stark reality check, as she arrived to great hostility and immediately asked where Shane was, completely ignorant of everything that has transpired since. The Governor does continue to lie through his teeth to her, but she is so blind to his true nature that it’s no wonder Michonne can no longer stand her. The meeting between Hershel and Merle where they quoted scripture together was absolutely fantastic, and I also like that Merle, who is becoming more and more likeable very minute, half-apologized to Michonne, telling her that they had to clear the air, a sentiment I’m sure she won’t take to heart. Andrea’s car ride out of the prison was melancholy, and it looks like she’s conflicted about what to do next. Let’s just hope that the Governor doesn’t catch on to her obvious betrayal before she makes her move. It’s a shame that Milton is such a willing follower, since he’s a good person who truly has no concept of what the Governor really is and how much he’s helping him to achieve his sinister aims. Tyreese and his crew coming to Woodbury is an interesting development, and the Governor seemed intrigued by them only to learn more about Rick. Back at the prison, Beth’s spontaneous song was soothing and eerie at the same time, a fitting ode to the current tone and mood of this show.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey (Season Finale)

Downton Abbey: Season 2, Episode 9 (B+)

Now this is a more fitting finale. I had gotten confused watching the episodes and so I’m tackling this one a bit late, but now I am officially caught up. A trip to the Scottish countryside was an appropriate way to send this show off the air until the start of its fourth season. While seeing more of Rose and watching Anna surprise Bates with her dancing talents was fun, it was actually much more compelling, as it tends to be, to follow the goings-on back at Downton with most of the staff away. Edna proved to be completely unconcerned with societal codes and expressly interested in romancing Tom, something which Mrs. Hewes actually agreed was completely unacceptable. Tom deciding to dine with the staff prompted expected disapproval, but there’s something to be said about someone who can exist in both worlds simultaneously. I love the relationship between Mrs. Hewes and Carson, and it was fun to see a softer side of Carson in this extended episode as he opted not to come to the fair because no one would be able to enjoy themselves with him around. Mrs. Patmore’s romantic moment was all too brief but quite entertaining, and I heartily enjoyed her reaction to the news that she had a solid out from that relationship. Thomas getting beaten up to save Jimmy was noble, and it’s good that they’ve achieved the best possible solution for 1920s England. In Scotland, it was difficult to see another of Edith’s suitors discounted for some unfortunate reason, and hopefully he’ll be able to make it work despite Matthew’s objections. Mary’s deteriorating health was a false scare, but there’s nothing quite as horrifying as the sight of Mary happily joking about Matthew with no idea that he has been killed while gleefully driving to see her. That’s going to make things incredibly somber in season four, and, like many others, I’m eager to see what comes next in the Downton saga. Without all the war enhancements of season two, this year wasn’t quite as fascinating, but it was still thoroughly engaging and immensely watchable.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Maggie Smith as Violet

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 1, Episode 7 “Behold a Pale Rider” (B+)

Let me tell you, Banshee is a terrible place to live. Dava especially is going to grow up with some serious problems, mainly because she’s witnessed her boyfriend die, her mother nearly sexually assaulted, and now had her life threatened with a gun literally to her head. There’s no one quite as awesome as Lucas, who gets himself betrayed and left for worse than dead by Carrie, then manages to break free and the first place he goes is the school where the hostage situation is playing out, where he walks right in, kills one hostage taker, and then kills the other. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and he definitely doesn’t seem like a cop. I’m not sure which reaction was more startling – Rabbit’s fury at not finding Lucas in the motel room, or his shock at seeing Lucas walk right past the camera out of the school on TV, something I feared would happen when Lucas saw the hostage situation playing out while he was trapped. Banshee once again reasserted his existence as a small town when Brock told one of the hostage takers that he was a year behind him in school, and both the mayor and the District Attorney always seem to be connected to every big event in town. Emmett performed commendably during the robbery, calmly reciting a prayer while preparing for what he thought was certain death. I liked Lucas’ response to Kai during their conversation: “I’ve never had much patience for people who quote scripture.” While Lucas has avoided being indebted to Kai thus far, I have a feeling that he’ll be just the person to help him out when Rabbit’s hitman catches up with him.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17 “Possibility Two” (B+)

I love the rapport that is now being developed between Sherlock and Watson as he tries to train her to be a detective, something which she isn’t resistant to, if only a little less enthusiastic about being constantly tested. Her visits to the dry cleaners were particularly entertaining, and I like that Sherlock refused to acknowledge to her that he was in fact testing her at all. I love that Watson swiped a pen and that Sherlock stole a comb and then gave Watson a hard time for not carrying an evidence bag with her. Dividing up the household errands and chores seemed somewhat unfair, but it looks like Watson is proving herself just fine, and I like that their dynamic is being transformed without the impending threat of her leaving her job. It’s always a blast when a detective like Sherlock has to find proof that someone has been artificially given dementia, and the conclusion in this case was quite interesting. It’s nice to find a layered narrative where there’s more than one killer and more than one crime, and they might not actually even be connected. Sherlock does have his own style, and repeatedly texting both Gregson and Bell before shouting his thoughts aloud while they were in the middle of an interrogation to tell them that their suspect was in fact innocent was a perfect example of his signature style. While I’m sure they aren’t all for Watson’s input, it’s a refreshing dose of humanity mixed in with scientific observation.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 15 and 16 “Booked Solid” and “Relevance” (B+/A-)

This is the final show for which I’ll be tackling two episodes at a time, as I’m now caught up on everything. These two were a formidable pair, however, since the first was an especially strong installment of this show featuring some excellent field work from Reese and Finch together, and the second was something wholly different and awesome. Mia Maestro of “Alias” fame was Mira the maid, and though she was initially resistant to Reese’s offers of help, she ultimately proved to be a useful number who was cooperative enough and even managed to survive an attempt on her life while she was in police custody. It was thrilling to see Reese engage in hand-to-hand combat with a newly released Hirsch, though the second episode had much more exciting material related to that. Carter not getting the FBI job because of Cal was bad, and it’s a shame that the one good thing she had going in her life turned out not to be that. Seeing Root as Special Council’s secretary at the end of the episode was great, and it led right into a completely gripping hour. Not even showing Reese until midway through the episode was a magnificent decision, and instead we got to see just how the numbers work for those instances the government didn’t deem irrelevant. Sarah Shahi was perhaps the best instance of casting this show has found since it cast Amy Acker as Root, and I sure hope she comes back, though she truly is not a nice or remotely trusting person. She’s even more impressive than Reese when it comes to getting out of a bind, as well as preparing for her loss of consciousness. Ebon Moss-Bachrach was also terrific as Cole, and it was great to see Paul Sparks, minus Mickey Doyle’s signature squeaky voice from “Boardwalk Empire,” as Wilson. It’s wonderful to see recurring characters like Zoey and Leon pop up again too, and I’m glad to see that this show has developed a truly admirable mythology.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 16 “Moving On” (C+)

This show is now less than ten episodes away from its series finale, and I’m just not sure where it’s headed at this point. Jim and Pam were experiencing some trouble but seemed to be doing better when Pam suggested that Jim not go to Philadelphia and that he instead stay behind so that they could properly fight. But for Jim to react so poorly to Pam saying that she wasn’t sure she wanted to get a job in Philadelphia is a bad sign, and there’s definitely trouble ahead for this couple. Being told that she’s a good bet because she sticks around was a huge wake-up call for Pam, and I think she’s going to want to be sure she accomplishes something concrete professionally soon. I do prefer Bob Odenkirk’s conniving lawyer Saul on “Breaking Bad” to his Michael Scott imitation in this episode, but it was good to see a talented actor stop by for a guest spot. I’m not sure why the versatile Michael Weston was cast without really being given a role as one of Mark’s employees. Andy’s jealousy is, above all, petty, and the only worthwhile part of his temper tantrum was his boneheaded decision to invite Collette Wolfe’s Alice and Zach Woods’ Gabe to work for the company specifically to provoke conflict. It’s about time that Dwight and Angela got together, and I don’t think we needed this whole episode’s setup for it to finally happen again. I’m very curious to see how Oscar and the Senator will react.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episodes 13, 14, and 15 “Emergency Response,” “Leslie and Ben,” and “Correspondents’ Lunch” (B+)

What could be better than two episodes in a row of this show? I’m not sure. I’m tackling three as part of the tail end of my two week catch-up, and it’s a pleasure to take them together. I love the city of Pawnee, and the fact that Councilman Jamm had an emergency response scenario called to divert Leslie’s attention away from her gala fundraiser was absolutely brilliant. Even more impressive was the fact that she managed to pull it off without even being there. Chris’ response to dying and Ron filling in for Leslie on “Pawnee Today” were among the best parts. Seeing a brief snapshot of Andy’s horrendous Police Academy interview was well worth the entire lengthy process. It was wonderful to see Leslie and Ben decide to have a spontaneous wedding, which was actually quite beautiful in both of its parts. It’s so great to see them finally married, and it’s reassuring to know that even a last-minute ceremony proved to be perfectly fitting. Their gifts upon returning from their honeymoon were superb and hilarious too. Ben’s new post at the Sweetums foundation made for an extraordinarily entertaining day on the job with April, Andy, and Tom there to help, and it’s wonderful that Ben has found something for Andy to do professionally after his disappointment following his failure to become a police officer. Leslie’s effort to take down her Pawnee Post nemesis was spectacular, particularly because she planted a story about midi-chlorians and attributed its cleverness to Ben. It makes total sense that Ann would ask Chris to be the father of her baby, and if he says no, it’s just a matter of time before the perfect opportunity for Mark Brandanawicz to make a return to Pawnee.

Pilot Review: Zero Hour

Zero Hour (ABC)
Premiered February 14 at 10pm

If I were coming up with a television concept, I’m sure that I’d love to make it as convoluted and crazy as possible, but there’s an important reality to the way that things work these days that necessitates an alternate plan to make sure that a story can be sufficiently wrapped up should it be cancelled prematurely. The best examples of this are “Flash Forward,” “The Event,” and “Last Resort,” all of which premiered to high concepts and high hopes and ended up fizzling out as they didn’t make it past one year. I don’t think the buzz on this show was ever strong, and its midseason premiere date puts in a class of automatically less likely to succeed. Most problematic, of course, is the show’s mythology, which involves plentiful doses of Christianity and apocalyptic predictions, not to mention the concept that people – our main character, at the very least – can be reincarnated with no useful memories to help them prevent easily avoidable deaths of other characters. Anthony Edwards would hardly have been my first thought for go-to action hero, but the role is so broadly written that his casting almost doesn’t matter. Not one but two “Californication” alums are on board as Hank’s sidekicks, Addison Timlin and Scott Michael Foster, whose roles here lack much depth or personality aside from their awful attempts at flirtation and banter. British actress Carmen Ejogo struggles to hide her accent and is absolutely terrible as tattooed social worker slash FBI agent Beck Riley, whose presence is always an irritation. It always amuses me that international actors in films that prove to be hits in the United States end up cast as villains in American TV shows, and I suppose Michael Nyqvist, from the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is better than his part allows him to be on this show. This show is so immensely outrageous and silly that it’s not really worth dissecting it. If there was something about it that appealed, I would stick around, but there just isn’t.

How will it work as a series? Because I’ve been playing catch-up the past two weeks and reviewing episodes two at a time, I figured I would watch the second episode, especially since pilots are often two hours. I was equally unimpressed, mainly because episode two took on even more of an impossibly large global operation, and I think this show is just too eager to get out of hand, and there’s no way they’ll be able to wrap it up in time for its impending cancellation.
How long will it last? I’ll be surprised if it’s still on the air by the time this review posts. Netting the lowest numbers ever for a series debut on ABC is bad enough, and it only took NBC two weeks to get rid of “Do No Harm,” which started with similar results. Dropping in episode two almost seals its fate, but I think ABC is worried that it will never get the Thursdays at 8pm time slot right after the demise of “Last Resort,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “My Generation,” and others, so maybe they think people will turn it on by accident and make it a sleeper hit?

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 13 “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight” (B)

Rayna’s marriage with Teddy is officially ending, and somehow she still managed not to be able to find a moment alone with Deacon, alienating him instead and choosing Liam for what could have been and still might be her free pass. Finding out that Teddy is sleeping with Peggy is sure to rile Rayna up, especially after Teddy tried to make her feel guilty and to force her not to put off telling their daughters about their separation. Fortunately, things at work are going fine for Rayna, even after she missed multiple cues on stage and had to snap back into the moment in order to recover. Juliette, on the other hand, continues to push away everyone in her life, and it’s a surprise that Glenn lasted this long working with her when she wouldn’t listen to anything he said. Having her mom come live with her isn’t going to solve much, and I suspect that Deacon won’t stick by her forever, even more so if the irresistible Rayna comes calling once again. Scarlett’s strict policy about harboring fugitives seemed oddly procedural and stringent, but it looks like she’s let up just enough to allow Jason to cause them some real hurt. Nothing good can come from Hailey trying to sign Avery, both for him and, more importantly for us, for Scarlett and Gunnar. Watching him realize that this business isn’t what he thought is tough, but it’s also still hard to feel bad for him considering the way in which he continues to behave.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 4, Episodes 15 and 16 “Heart Broken” and “Bad Hair Day” (B+)

It’s refreshing that, four seasons in, this show can still pull off an invigorating and creative Valentine’s Day episode. Splitting it into three segments, each of which addresses one of the adult couples, was smart, and perhaps an effective strategy for this show to pursue regularly in the future. Opening with Clive Bixby’s routine was a familiar reminder of Valentine’s Day pasts, and it was fun to see it take a different turn, one which concerned everyone but Claire herself. Phil coming downstairs to see the purposely deceptive faces of all three of his children was entertaining, and the ensuing visual of Claire with her heart exploded was both awful and humorous. Gloria being attracted to Jay being of his aggressiveness was a one-note but perfectly effective plotline, and it was sweet to see Jay so concerned about Manny not getting embarrassed. Cam blaming everything that happened during their blackout on Mitchell was amusing, especially since it turned sour, and I liked that Dylan got to be part of their storyline as their apologetic third roommate. Closing the episode on Cam and Mitchell doing the Clive Bixby act was great. Episode sixteen wasn’t quite as clever but still proved to be enjoyable. Claire’s promiscuous past is always a fun diversion, and I like that Phil had his eyes on the wrong man before realizing just who he was up against. Gloria’s joy at being perceived as a super-mom was good since it was the first real thing she’s done since her pregnancy. Jay getting Manny to sing on the bus was a bit silly, but at least they’re boding. Lily gluing the wig to Baby Joe’s head was hilarious, particularly for the revolving door of blackmail it provoked for who had to ultimately tell Gloria. I’m looking forward to Mitchell’s trip to Missouri with Cam, something I hope we get the chance to see. My favorite bit from this second episode was definitely Luke trying to repurpose his not-so-dormant volcano for a Revolutionary War project.

Monday, February 25, 2013

What I’m Watching: Vegas

Vegas: Season 1, Episode 15 “Two of a Kind” (B)

There are some things this show does very well, and being visually stylized is one of them. The sequence of the handoffs leading to the plane arrest was smooth and exciting. Business isn’t looking too good for Vincent, and that’s a shame, considering it means that Jack has now been called upon to do illegal things for him in exchange for Vincent not telling either Ralph or Mia about his involvement in Johnny’s death. Fortunately, the charade didn’t last long, and though Mia is not likely to forgive Jack anytime soon, Ralph seems to be supportive of him. He did manage to figure it out by himself, something for which he deserves credit, but investing his time into his work has led to the potential loss of his crush, Katherine, to the visiting FBI agent. The case of one man living two lives is nothing new, but it was a decent focus for this episode. I’m less impressed with everything involving Dixon, who often feels like a fish out of water on this show. Anna Camp has had much better parts in the past than she did in this episode as diva starlet Violet Mills, and Dixon should really have better things to do than look after her. The same goes for Enver Gjokaj, who showed tremendous range as Victor on “Dollhouse” and just doesn’t have the same opportunity here. Why is Sarah Jones the only one able to take advantage of this show to make it her best TV role yet?

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episodes 6 and 7 “Foot Chase” and “Money Trap” (B+)

One of the things I love most about this show is the way it subtly inserts absolutely fantastic supporting characters. Art is the best example, someone who never smiles yet makes endless foot puns while talking to Raylan at the beginning of episode six. It also features some of the best villains ever, and they’re the ones who appear in only an episode or two and go after Raylan in search of a duel. It was both awesome and terrifying to see Chris Chalk from “Homeland” back as Jody, who gave Raylan a hard time in the season’s opening episode. The first few minutes of the seventh installment were superb, showcasing Jody’s violent escape with the assistance of Kenneth, played by Michael Gladis of “Mad Men” fame, and his quick but vicious shoot-out with Sharon. I like the way that Raylan and Jody talked about hating each other, and I enjoy the fact that this show finds time for humor in between its more serious moments. Colt’s spiraling downwards as he tries to track down Ellen May, and Johnny is getting a nice showcase as he takes an interest in tracking down the man who beat his beloved Teri. Boyd made a bold and romantic move by proposing to Ava, and it was good to see him come to her defense at the fancy party, where he got an interesting work-related proposition that he’ll be able to use to his advantage. Raylan’s rapport with Jackie Nevada was rather exceptional, and she managed to be able to take care of herself pretty well without the marshal’s help. I suspect that Arlo’s story isn’t over, even if Raylan is ready to be completely done with him.

What I’m Watching: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project: Season 1, Episode 15 “Mindy’s Minute” (B-)

Mindy Kaling is clearly funny, and it’s just a shame that this show can’t come out completely right. The concept of Mindy recording a commercial to put in taxi cabs makes some sense, but having it turn into something as exaggerated as her being asked to go on TV because of her pity factory is just unnecessary. It also doesn’t track that Mindy, who is rarely seen addressing or caring even remotely about her patients, would become so concerned with the cruel but paranoid Drea De Matteo enough to miss her moment to shine, prompting Danny to have to go on TV to do her segment for her. To his credit, Chris Messina always performs well despite sometimes mediocre material, and watching his surprisingly strong talk go south when he accidentally said the word “vagina” was admittedly amusing. After hooking up for a short time, it seems that Mindy’s entertaining relationship with Brendan is now done with, and he’s back to a midwife nemesis for Mindy and Danny. Maria Menounos appearing as herself was a bit random, and it’s always interesting to see celebrities portray themselves in guest spots like this. Beth Grant is a talented actress perfect for distinctive parts, and I don’t think that Beverly is a character she or this show needed to revisit. Devoting anyone else’s time in the office to training her on how to use a computer is a waste, especially since, overall, it’s just not terribly original or funny. This show is hardly achieving its full potential.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pilot Review: Cult

Cult (The CW)
Premiered February 19 at 9pm

When two shows with similar themes premiere around the same time it’s hard not to compare them. FOX’s “The Following” began just over one month ago, and while it’s far from perfect, it is considerably better than this. Setting up a show-within-a-show allows for that fictional program to be as over-the-top as possible, but when the real dialogue is actually worse, there’s not much hope. I haven’t heard a catchphrase quite as lamentable as “Hey, these things just snap right off” before, and utilizing devices like the red and blue sunglasses that allow cult members and those investigating it to see secret messages and door handles and such. The concept of a TV show about a cult with a whole layer underneath it that involves actual followers is cool in one sense, but it just plays out as laughable here. The casting of Robert Knepper as the actor who portrays cult leader Billy Grimm is definitely spot-on, and I suspect that he’s actually the mysterious creator Steven Rae. I’d love to see him used productively, but it looks like Jessica Lucas and Matthew Davis, whose resumes include “Life As We Know It” and “The Vampire Diaries,” respectively, will be taking center stage, along with Israeli actress Alona Tal, who portrays the show-within-a-show’s star. Having that show air on the CW gives this show a marketing advantage, but I think its bleak, dark, and miserable-looking nature won’t merit a return visit from most viewers, and certainly not from this TV reviewer.

How will it work as a series? The abduction of the overly enthusiastic producer by the cult suggests that we’ll get a direct pipeline into what’s happening in the real world with the cult, and it’s likely to take Jeff and Skye much longer than it should to find actual evidence of its existence, which Aisha Hinds’ cult-follower detective impedes their progress. I can’t imagine it will have anywhere near enough focus or intrigue to carry through its season.
How long will it last? On a night of little-watched television, this show didn’t make a splash. Its network doesn’t tend to net high ratings, but this premiere was way down from the episode of the now-cancelled “Ringer” that aired in the same timeslot last year. While this show was supposed to debut first, the fact that “The Following” beat it to the air dooms it to certain cancellation, a fate it probably would have suffered anyway. I think the CW will ditch this show pretty soon.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 17 “Parking Spot” (B)

This episode was entertaining but a little silly, and it’s great to see that the relationship between Nick and Jess is playing out as something awkward rather than overly and inappropriately sentimental. My favorite part of the half-hour was actually the interaction between Winston and Cece, particularly since the latter pointed out that they are nowhere near close enough for him to come over and bang on her door to ask for condoms, mainly because they barely ever speak to each other. The discovery of the parking spot was a somewhat artificial device to provoke conflict between the roommates, something which Winston wasn’t much of a part of due to his being off on his own plotline, which is in a sense refreshing since he’s been sidelined so much over the course of this show and relegated to not doing much. Schmidt’s anger at the way in which Nick and Jess hooking up will change the dynamic of the apartment was funny, and I especially enjoyed how Jess took the news that the guys had made an agreement about what would have to happen in such a situation. Mostly, though, it’s seeing and hearing how Nick and Jess deal with their situation that makes this show watchable. If they were to get together and start dating, that wouldn’t be satisfying, and seeing them forced to face their feelings and deal with, say, Jess dressing up to seduce Nick into giving her the spot, is where the real fun comes in.

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episodes 4 and 5 “Mad Love” and “The Siege” (B)

I’m less and less impressed with the way this show is playing out, not so much because of the events themselves but rather their speed and the conversations that go on around them. The love triangle between Emma, Paul, and Jacob is the most notable example of these symptoms, since the dialogue related to their threesome troubles is particularly unimpressive and the obsession with Jacob never having killed is fairly one-note, especially because it’s clear that he’s going to continue to fail to do so, no matter how many times Emma and Paul stab poor Megan and put her back in the basement. Her assurance of “It’s only a flesh wound” was so unintentionally humorous, and it’s a sign that this show isn’t quite achieving the tone it wants to. The rapid-fire flashbacks are a bit nauseating, and it’s hardly the most effective way to relay something like lawyer Olivia losing two of her fingers and now doing all of Joe’s bidding. It’s hardly a fitting follow-up role for actress Renee Goldsberry after her ongoing stint as Assistant State’s Attorney Geneva Pine on “The Good Wife.” To his credit, Joey did a commendable job of realizing his situation and trying to get away, though it did cost one older couple their lives. Claire trying to slip away from her police escort to meet Charlie, portrayed by Josh Brolin lookalike and “Suits” recurring guest actor Tom Lipinski, was silly, and it seems like things are coming to a head now after just five episodes, which begs the question, where will the show head next? I don’t plan to give up just yet, but I can tell this show may not be headed towards greater quality.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 6, Episodes 4 and 5 “Hell Bent for Leather” and “Rock and a Hard Place” (B+)

As it becomes clearer where this season is heading, I’m starting to enjoy it more and more. There’s something recognizably consistent about this show, mainly due to the dialogue and the way in which everything invariably comes down to sex. These two episodes had very different focuses, the first spotlighting Charlie’s last-ditch effort to maintain his gay front and the second returning things to the rock and roll themes of this season, bringing both Atticus and Faith back into the picture. Fortunately, things seemed to have worked out despite some emotional and physical abuse endured by Charlie. It was fun to see Jorge Garcia reunite with his former “Lost” costar Maggie Grace as the drug dealer who spoke just like Hank, and he managed to be helpful in convincing Atticus that he should hire Charlie and Hank to get them back on track. I’m glad that Bates keeps popping up to invigorate Hank’s life, in this case affording him the opportunity to see Becca in her element without her knowing that she was there. Maggie Wheeler’s Ophelia is almost as memorable as her “Friends” character, Janice, and I like the effect she’s having on Marcy. Only Stu would so willingly agree to put on Ophelia’s horrific male-hating device, which was a disturbing but humorous element of the fifth episode. It was interesting to hear Hank talk about how he’s now a single man since Karen isn’t likely to welcome him back with open arms anytime soon, but it looks like he might have more luck in the long run with Faith than he did with Ali.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 2, Episodes 4 and 5 “” and “Sincerity Is An Easy Disguise In This Business” (B-/B+)

I’m sad to say that this season of this show just hasn’t been living up to the quality of the first, and I’m not sure exactly why that is. The awkwardness between Marty and Jeannie still exists, but at least they’ve stopped having flashbacks. While Cat Deeley had a memorable and brief cameo in season one, Matt Damon’s appearance as himself didn’t prove terribly effective, mainly because he was unlikeable and arrogant but only served as a device for Marty to be able to be brutally honest and impress his client by taking him down a peg. I’ve seen funnier self-parodies and hilariously over-the-top commercials, and, as a result, episode four just didn’t do much for me. Episode five, on the other hand, was more enticing. There is no one more skilled in the art of self-sabotage than Jeannie, who was having a pleasant date and managed to destroy it completely by mocking the way in which they had met. Surprisingly, Doug actually had a great time, which was an unusual occurrence whose timing proved humiliating for Jeannie. It was refreshing to see a dramatic moment from Clyde, thanking Marty for choosing him to come along for once. Lisa Edelstein’s Brynn was a formidable match for Marty, and her guest spot was equaled by the hilarity of Michael McDonald’s untested candidate Carl Criswell. Larenz Tate’s appearance as Marty’s brother Malcolm was strong, and this show tends to be most impressive when it veers into dramatic territory and analyzes the weaknesses of its main characters.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What I’m Watching: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 2, Episodes 5 and 6 “The Ghost Is Seen” and “All I Ever Wanted” (A-/B+)

I love it when supporting characters get the chance to take charge, and after having Levi be the focal point for a recent episode, it was great to see Tyler take center stage. Having him narrate and explain that being a ghost has its pleasures has a marvelous introduction, and I loved the casting of Molly Shannon as Eileen. Seeing the two of them experience genuine happiness as Amy and Dougie schemed to use her to hack into Szidon’s e-mail was refreshing, and I like that Eileen chose Tyler over Dougie after his seemingly successful approach in the gym. Tyler bragging about being able to download music illegally was fun, and Eileen telling her to look at him before they had sex was sweet. Ending the episode with his struggle to place the flowers correctly and announcing that “The ghost is happy, he is found” was wonderful. Episode six brought things back to normal, showing that Amy too might be able to achieve happiness with the apparently wonderful Jeff, who has proven to be quite romantic despite his questionable level of affection for and interest in Amy. Levi showing up at Amy’s door shortly before Jeff was set to arrive really threw Amy for a loop, and her ensuing panic attack upon returning home was difficult to watch. Levi does seems sincerely changed by his experience in Hawaii, but it looks like Amy is ready to move on. Having him watch Amy drive away was melancholy, and she definitely has a dilemma on her hands. I enjoyed a Helen moment more than I have in a while in this episode, which was her extraordinarily unhelpful suggestion for Amy to get a haircut when she thought Jeff was at the door.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 2, Episodes 5 and 6 “One Man’s Trash” and “Boys” (B+)

The first of these two episodes was such a uniquely captivating standalone installment that felt in many ways so in tune with the tone of this show while taking a definitive departure from its usual format. Hannah wandering over to Joshua’s home to confess that she did in fact deposit trash in his bins was a peculiar but fitting segue into their dreamlike night together, which involved a whole lot of honesty and much compliance from his part regarding just about everything. Without being too enthusiastic or charming, he really was a willing participant in perpetuating Hannah’s fantasy escape from her life, which ended less than cinematically with Hannah quietly wandering out, presumably never to see Joshua again. Scoring that exit to music was repeated at the end of the next installment, which saw Hannah and Marnie not being honest with each other over the phone about their nights and drifting more and more apart. Hannah getting her book deal was huge, but needing to write in just one month diminishes the excitement considerably. Marnie, unfortunately, got the rawer end of the deal, when she broke down and realized that she wasn’t even dating Booth Jonathan, a situation he quickly turned into a conversation about his own misfortunes. I was absolutely thrilled by the unprecedented interaction between Ray and Adam, whose highlights included their discussion about dating only younger and older women and Ray’s conclusion that they’re both honest men, to which Adam responded that they’re both weird-looking. Ray reacting to Adam’s use of the word “coy” was especially fantastic as well.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episode 4 “The Helpful Gallaghers” and “The Sins of My Caretaker” (B+)

What a superb duet of episodes this was, starting with a rather humorous hour featuring some truly spectacular developments and culminating with a much more serious and unfortunate turn of events. Among my favorite parts of the two-episode thread was Debs practicing holding her breath underwater so that she could go to the pool, which resulted in a humiliating incident and her subsequent near-drowning of one of her tormenters. Carl’s time at cancer camp was legendary, and I love that he complained so bitterly and then matter-of-factly convinced the poor counselor to take off her shirt to make his buddy’s dying wish come true. It’s subject matter like that which shows just how tremendously skilled this show is at handling potentially awful and offensive material. Sheila bringing out the beast in Jody was most amusing for the fact that her caretaker’s vow of silence didn’t include refraining from her blog, and that was a wholly hilarious revelation. Steve being torn apart by the news about his father and Ian was unfortunate, especially since Fiona yelled at him for being whiny, sending him right into the arms of his all-too-willing wife. Veronica asking her mom to be a surrogate was a big move, and let’s hope there aren’t too many problems with that. Lip pushing Mandy away and then calling Karen to scream at her and thank her for leaving was tough, and it looks like, for now at least, he’s managed to get back in Mandy’s good graces. After Fiona finally found Aunt Ginger’s body in the yard, there was nothing more simultaneously funny and devastating than the sight of a social worker from Child Protective Services walking in on the horrendous sight of, among other things, Steve’s dad pulling a bullet out of Mickey. Vindictive coworkers are going to be the least of Fiona’s problems, and Frank is going to get a beating once Fiona realizes he was the one who reported them.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 14 “Red Team/Blue Team” (B+)

After such financial misfortune for a while, it’s startling to see the firm in good fiscal shape, suddenly cognizant of the fact that it doesn’t have to award the partnerships it had offered to the fourth-years. Expectedly, that didn’t go over well with Alicia, Cary, and the others, and it was great to see them band together to concoct a plan to intimidate the partners into acquiescing to their demands. David Lee offering the partnership to Alicia with a considerable lack of empathy was cruel but, as always, quite entertaining. Having Alicia and Cary play opposing counsel opposite Will and Diane in the mock trial was perfectly-timed, and it was a lot to fun to see them go at it with Jerry Adler’s disinterested Howard preside over the trial with considerable bias. On the guest star front, Colm Feore was the cold, easily angered head of the company that made Thief, and Raphael Sbarge, recently seen as Jimminy Cricket on “Once Upon a Time,” as his legal counsel. I was thrilled to see Kyle MachLachlan as Elsbeth’s new nemesis and potential beau, who got quickly tricked by some conniving plotting to send Eli in wearing a wire to get Hamish Linklater’s David Laguardia to admit the illegality of their operation. Will and Alicia’s relationship is a thing of the past, and their heat-of-the-moment kiss was passionate but apparently something that they want to keep as a memory, agreeing not to be together in private and to continue to keep their relationship strictly professional.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episodes 6, 7, and 8 (B+/B+/B)

I’m tackling nearly four hours of this show that have aired over the past two weeks. Starting with the aftermath of Sybil’s passing, this show had a distinctly melancholy tone that was extremely different from the more joyous note on which the season ended in the middle of a cricket match. It was interesting to see Thomas’ sexuality take center stage in such a negative way, as his decision to make a move on Jimmy revealed what everyone at Downton apparently already suspected. It’s great to see Bates go to bat – cricket pun not intended – for Thomas and use the information Thomas gave him to get O’Brien to back down, and he fits right in back now that he’s finally been freed. The presence of Cousin Rose added some light-hearted dramatics to the finale, which were helpful mostly in paralleling Edith’s situation, which, as always, is somewhat romantic but tinged by something less than acceptable in society. Matthew’s efforts to make Downton a viable institution going forward have worked to alienate Robert in a major way, and when Tom has to be the one to step in and make the case for Matthew, things have clearly come very far. It was entertaining to hear Robert mention Charles Ponzi as a reputable moneyman, and it was fun too to see Tom’s even more extreme brother. Violet’s aggressive attempts to get Ethel a new job to avoid scandal actually worked out well in the end, which is a relief considering how upset it got Isobel. This season, away from the focus of the war, wasn’t quite as strong as the second season, but it was still a competent and entertaining series of installments. I realized in my watching of this show that my recordings were somehow off and so I'll be reviewing the finale special if it were airing this coming Sunday night.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episodes 9 and 10 “The Suicide King” and “Home” (A-/B+)

This show is better than it’s ever been, weaving an extraordinarily compelling and fearsome narrative. Though the fight to the death between Merle and Daryl didn’t end up happening, events were still enormously dramatic, and Daryl’s decision to stick with his brother led to extreme anger on Glenn’s part and resentment from Carol. That woman just hasn’t had any luck in love, as she started to bond with Axel right before he took a bullet to the head, and Daryl’s return to save the day with Merle likely will likely come too late to win back Carol’s heart. Daryl truly is a good soul, stopping to help defenseless humans when his brother expressed no interest in assisting. That’s one brotherly relationship that’s truly interesting to see. It’s fascinating to watch the Governor, now turned into an infinitely more evil villain due to his eye patch, detaching himself completely from life in Woodbury and cutting off contact with the outside world. It’s astonishing that he continues to lie through his teeth to Andrea, telling her that he’s abdicating and that she should take over and assuring her that he won’t attack the prison unless Rick and crew make the first move. That look in his eye at the end of the episode when he and his men are firing on the prison was immensely disturbing, and it’s clear that he has it out for his enemies. Rick spiraling down the deep end comes at an especially bad time, but it looks like Hershel managed to talk him back to reality just in time for the deadly walker-aided attack by the Governor. It’s hard to deny the awesomeness of Michonne, running with her swinging swords to Rick’s rescue, and I can’t wait to see the pieces get picked up in the coming episodes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 1, Episodes 5 and 6 “The Kindred” and “Wicks” (A-/B+)

These last two episodes were even more brutal and disturbing than the ones that came before them, yet the show remains enormously compelling, especially as it moves closer to Lucas getting handed to Rabbit by Carrie, an event I don’t think will ultimately come to fruition. The biker gang in episode five arrived in an unsettling manner, and their actions were even more horrific, particularly the way in which they terrorized the town during the festival as an effort to get revenge on Siobhan for killing one of their own. Burning down her home was a terrifying and devastating move, and Trieste Dunn turned in a fantastic performance in that hour as Siobhan. Telling Lucas that when he spends the night, it won’t be to protect her was the best line of the night. Episode six was immensely violent, and what Lucas has done and been through in Banshee can’t even compare to what he endured in prison. It’s hard to decide which was more awful, what the Albino did to Lucas or what Lucas did to him to ensure that he would be able to survive in prison. Wicks showing up was bad news, especially since he tipped Brock off to something being up, and the way in which his fate was revealed by showcasing the closing conversation between Sugar and Lucas was moody and brilliant. Proctor’s latest power play was cruel, and Carrie’s family problems are clearly getting the best of her and compelling her to make a desperate play to ensure her family’s safety.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 15 and 16 “A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs” and “Details” (B+)

These two episodes were both great, featuring a problematic blast from the past for two of the show’s main characters. It’s always good to see John Hannah, who last year handed in a standout performance on “Damages” and here played Rhys, who stopped by Sherlock’s apartment after his daughter was kidnapped and presented a serious threat to Sherlock’s sobriety by encouraging him to take drugs so that he could be a more focused investigator. Watson stepping in to defend Sherlock and warn Rhys about his actions was compelling, and Rhys made up for his mistakes by planning to sacrifice himself to allow Watson to get away. Sherlock’s dismissal of him at the end of the episode was cold but less cruel than it could have been. In episode sixteen, Detective Bell got to be the center of attention for once, as he got framed for murder and revealed that he had a criminal brother, played by Malcolm J. Goodwin. It was nice to see Andre use what could well have been his final moments to defend his brother, especially after they had fought, and to see that relationship survive the hardships of being on different sides of the law. Paula Garces, from “The Shield,” was cast in a familiar but ultimately much more devious role as Officer Reyes, who turned out to be the culprit who tried to frame Bell. The best part of the episode was the latest development in the business relationship between Sherlock and Watson, which was highlighted by them throwing balls at each other. Sherlock revealing that he knew that Watson’s contract had not been extended and offering her to stay on as his paid companion was great, and I like how Watson responded by stating her conditions. It will be good to see the team continue to work without the impending chance of her leaving hanging over everything.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 14 “One Percent” (B+)

This show has always attracted top-notch ensemble players with lengthy television resumes, and it was great to see Jimmi Simpson, who starred on “Breakout Kings” but really made an impression on me in the TV movie “Virtuality,” as one-percenter Logan Pierce. Reese has worked with difficult numbers before, but never one so adept at losing his tail and interested in the people who are trying hard to protect him. Reese raising the bid to ten million simply to get his attention was bold, and he didn’t even bother to collect the expensive prize that Finch would certainly have been less devastated to see him secure. Finch did a great job of tracking Pierce by posing as his dry cleaner, but it took Reese taking out his Mossad bodyguard to really get him to listen. As has been the case in the past with some other eccentric numbers, there was more than one person trying to kill Pierce, though it didn’t take Reese too long to stop them. Pierce’s transformation to subway rider was a nice epilogue. It was interesting to see how the machine first came about, with Nathan coming to Finch on September 11th and then, eight years later, acting on information the machine gave him to protect a victim. I hope to see more of that soon, and it’s also both intriguing and disheartening to hear Carter tell Fusco that she won’t cover for him if she discovers his involvement in illegal activities. Fusco really needs to ask for help before he finds himself in serious trouble.

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 15 “Couples Discount” (C+)

Andy wandering back into the office after three months off is very much like the lead actor of this show checking back in after some time off to find that things are in a wholly different place than one might hope. In this case, of course, everything was much more productive with him gone, and you could see the contempt in Angela’s eyes when she gave Andy his bonus check for the excellent work accomplished during the time that he was absent. It looked like he had David Wallace fooled, realizing in time that discussing the warehouse fire was a mistake, and that he might even be able to hold on to Erin, but her unexpected bravery led to the end of their relationship and his presumable firing once David processed the fact that he had been gone so long. He’ll leave Dunder Mifflin a very different, almost unrecognizable character from who he was when he first joined the show. The couples’ discount plotline was somewhat amusing, and I suppose I chuckled at Dwight’s daily routine of having Pretend Andy sign off on his projects. Andy did a spectacular job losing a client, and I’m somewhat interested, though also don’t quite care at this point, to see who would replace him if David does in fact sack him. Pam meeting Brian on Valentine’s Day was a bad idea, but she made up for it by demanding that Jim stay and fight with her, which suggests that this show’s best couple has a chance of lasting after all.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 12 “Ann’s Decision” (B+)

This episode was a blast, and it’s fun to see people taking on unexpected tasks and roles. Ann’s declaration that she’s dating herself doesn’t come as a surprise at this point, but her interest in having a child was considerably more alarming, and it’s good that she has Leslie around to keep her focused and to realize that she shouldn’t be taking the Douche’s sperm. Announcing Ann’s plans to ask for his sperm on the radio was a cruel move, and leave it to Leslie to go on air to dispute the allegations and defend her friend’s honor. I had hoped that we might see Mark Brandanewicz as one of the candidates, but I guess that would have been too convenient, and he might have actually been the right fit for her. Ben enlisting the help of Chris, Ron, and Tom was a hilariously excellent plan, and I love that it was the mini calzone that prompted the awful reaction from everyone minus Tom, who was too busy taking Instagrams of all the food. Ben’s realization that J.J.’s Diner should cater the wedding was a brilliant one, and I can’t wait to see the appetizing, horrifically unhealthy menu they offer. April trying to be like Leslie when she has to lead a public forum was entertaining, and it was sweet that Andy, for once, picked up on something and helped her to realize that she just needed to be herself. Burning the clothes Leslie has loaned her was a terrific finale, and I liked April’s response that Leslie should have said something before they burned them.

What I'm Watching: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 12 “I’ve Been Down That Road Before” (B+)

Here we had quite a jam-packed episode with a handful of romantic developments, most of them entirely shocking. I suppose Teddy’s hook-up with Peggy could have been expected, but not his subsequent trip to Chicago to tell Rayna that he wanted a divorce. The fact that Deacon was on his way into Rayna’s room at that very moment because she had texted him following their passionate elevator kiss was even more momentous. Unfortunately, while these new pairings could work out just fine, I suspect that Deacon will not easily forgive what he’ll likely interpret as a deliberate set-up by Rayna, and I’m curious to see how the recently absent Lamar will react to the news that Teddy is no longer his son-in-law. Juliette is having altogether different troubles, and it’s most demoralizing to see Glenn respond so negatively to her attempt to break free of her brand, though it’s hard to blame him given how rarely she follows his advice or advises him that she won’t be adhering to it. She may actually have unintentionally earned some respect from Rayna in the process of reinventing herself. Gunnar’s roommate problems were a thin device for him to move in with Scarlett, but it was extremely satisfying to see him punch Avery after he insulted Scarlett. Avery may have walked out on his new manager, but it’s too late for him to right the wrongs he’s committed and to win back the girl of his dreams. Fortunately for Gunnar, he’s in exactly the place he should be, no doubt earning points for defending Scarlett’s honor while declaring that they weren’t sleeping together.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 14 “A Slight at the Opera” (B)

This episode was, for lack of a more fitting description, too literal. That was applicable nowhere more than with Claire and her complete failure to see just what was going on right in front of her while talking about the obviousness of things occurring right before her eyes. Dylan and Haley’s magical parenting skills turned sour quite quickly, and the plotline was mildly amusing while it lasted. I would have enjoyed seeing Claire carry out her meticulously-plotted revenge on Phil, but, alas, he had a serious epiphany instead while trying to learn how to play golf from Jay, whose meanness, for once, inspired rather than demoralized him. It was fun to see Nathan Lane’s Pepper again, and I enjoyed hearing him coach Mitchell on being a more skilled golfer and being able to beat his father. The cameo by Fred Willard’s Frank Dunphy was brief but welcome, and it’s nice to know that he can stop by for such an occasion without needing a bigger part in the episode. I was surprised – and a bit in disbelief – about Luke’s vocal prowess, and Manny’s efforts to convince him not to take the leading role were entertaining, though the notion that Cam would ignore Manny’s desire to take the part when he clearly possesses the charisma a leading man needs seemed less logical. Alex spending time with Gloria was an enjoyable distraction, though the show still needs to figure out the proper balance of post-pregnancy Gloria since her plotlines since then haven’t been superb.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What I’m Watching: Vegas

Vegas: Season 1, Episode 14 “The Third Man” (B)

It could have been so easy for Jack to stick around after shooting Johnny to show both his brother and his girlfriend that he was being tortured and that he shot his assailant in self-defense. Instead, Jack’s decision to flee the scene and keep the truth from everyone, mainly to protect his relationship with Mia, which would likely end if she knew what had happened, is going to put everyone on edge and have certifiably adverse effects for all involved. I could have predicted that Mia would swear vengeance on her father’s murderer, and I doubt that Jack will have the opportunity to tell her that it was because he was protecting her that he got himself in trouble. Sharing a major secret like this with Vincent should prove helpful in unexpected ways, and I hope to see that forced relationship turn into something more positive and beneficial for both of them. Katherine threatening to out Laura as an informant if Vincent didn’t cooperate was harsh, and it’s a clear sign that she’s tired of dealing with business as usual in Vegas. This is now the second time in a few weeks that Dixon has had to go undercover for some hugely desirable assignment, and he does get quite pouty and annoyed when Ralph tries to step in to distance him from a case in which he’s become too ingrained. While Jack is in serious trouble, everything on that front worked out well, and Dixon was able to help his friend out of a tight spot.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 5 “Kin” (B+)

This episode was full of notable guest stars, and I heartily enjoyed every one. Stephen Tobolowsky’s corrupt fed Jeremy Barkley didn’t fare so well, earning a bullet in the head from Theo Tonin’s frightening disciple Nick Augstine, played by Mike O’Malley in a role far less friendly than that of Burt Hummel on “Glee.” Gerald McRaney’s Josiah was in for a brutal car ride courtesy of Raylan, but he brought that on himself by being uncooperative and not telling Raylan what he needed to know, and losing his feet is definitely a worse punishment from someone on the wrong side of the law. Patton Oswalt, returning from the season premiere, was once again excellent as the constable Bob. Bonita Friedericy, who I recognize as General Beckman from “Chuck,” was great as Mary, the saving grace for Raylan and Boyd, who were otherwise quite doomed after they found themselves in a pit together. Their reunion was fantastic, but not quite as much as the conversation that went on between Tim and Colton at the bottom of the mountain while they were waiting for their associates. Boyd paying Arlo’s attorney to ensure that his deal doesn’t go through is an intriguing move, and it’s beginning to become slightly clearer where this season might be headed. Johnny still going through on his deal with Wynn is bad news for Boyd, but I suspect that it won’t pan out. Boyd should much more fear that Shelby is going to be the one to take him down with some crucial help from Ellen May.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project: Season 1, Episode 14 “Harry and Mindy” (B)

This episode aired just one week before Valentine’s Day, probably because this show will be preempted this coming week due to the State of the Union address, but somehow, it still felt odd to me, before I realized that the romantic holiday is in fact just around the corner. Like any other episode of this show, there were some very funny parts, but something about the construction just didn’t do it for me. Though the plotline was too over-the-top to be believed, it was fun to see Common, who is so terrific on AMC’s “Hell on Wheels,” as an Empire State Building security officer who thought Mindy was a terrorist. After I cracked up when Mindy tore up what she thought was Danny’s suicide note and instead ended up being the jaywalking ticket he was fighting, I’m glad that Mindy brought Danny along on her date to try to distract Lucy from taking all of the attention from her date. They actually were a great pair, and while I suppose it’s endearing that Mindy got to play matchmaker in a way other than she had expected, it’s a shame that we couldn’t have seen Danny and Lucy together a bit more first. I’m gradually becoming more and more annoyed with Morgan, something that should have happened the moment he first appeared, but I suppose it’s at least giving Jeremy something to do, which is probably a good thing since he’s actually among the show’s most easily entertaining characters, provided he’s given the appropriate plotline.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 16 “Table 34” (B)

This was hardly the best episode to follow up last week’s awesome installment, and I think this show can do and has done better than Schmidt wearing a turban and crashing an Indian marriage convention. That said, it was a funny half-hour, thanks in part to the unusual pairing of Nick and Cece as unaccomplished people relegated to Table 34 due to their lack of advanced degrees and part-time employment. However bad it is for them and whether or not it will last, it’s still terrific to see Schmidt and Cece reunited, thanks to Schmidt’s grand gesture of telling the whole room that they were missing out by not going over to her. Nick trying to get Jess to be okay with the kiss failed, and, after everything they’ve gleefully made it through, like the circumstances that were supposed to lead to the kiss and the switching that occurred while they were on vacation at Sam’s boss’ cabin, hearing about Jess’ kiss with Nick was too much for him, ending that relationship. It was sweet to see Nick try to get on Jess’ good side again, something he seemed to manage. That was one layered hug that they had, complete with screaming eyes telling so much more of a story. I’d rather not address Winston’s plotline in this episode, which was a far cry from last week’s success story, and an embarrassment to an otherwise decent episode that actually worked, for the most part, despite not having the most grounded focus.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pilot Review: Monday Mornings

Monday Mornings (TNT)
Premiered February 4 at 10pm

I didn’t have high hopes for this show, which I had read about beforehand, described as the next generation of “Grey’s Anatomy” from one of my least favorite TV creators, David E. Kelley. This show doesn’t really feel like some of his past work, namely the detestable “Boston Legal” and “Harry’s Law,” but it still has an irksome quality about it that makes it difficult to watch. Some of the characters are sympathetic, sure, but by sparing none of them the excruciating agony of having to be skewered by Alfred Molina’s cold chief of staff, the show comes off as unlikeable. The first such meeting, which compels Ving Rhames’ Dr. Villanueva to get up and list off the obituary of the victim of the doctor’s incompetence, feels somewhat deserved, but seeing Jamie Bamber’s Dr. Wilson get ripped apart the same way after the death of his patient nearly destroyed him was awful. The casting on this show is theoretically great, but it just goes to show that these actors have had better TV roles before – Bamber in “Battlestar Galactica,” Rhames in “Gravity,” and Jennifer Finnigan in “Better with You.” Bill Irwin is also wasted in a petty competitive part, which is disappointing after seeing his work in “Rachel Getting Married” and on FX’s “Lights Out.” This show’s dialogue and relationships are tired and uncreative, and the stylized cinematography and editing don’t serve to help anything. This is one new version of the medical drama that TV today just doesn’t need.

How will it work as a series? This episode has already gone to great lengths to take down its noblest and kindest character, and presumably we’ll see plenty more of that as time goes on. Some platonic relationships will likely turn into intersections of a romantic nature, and then there are the cases, which will certainly prove trying and, hopefully, somewhat interesting.
How long will it last? This will probably rank as one of TNT’s failures, since its hit shows really take off. It didn’t help that the second season premiere of “Dallas” also performed poorly. If next week’s numbers aren’t any better, this show is going to be definitively cut off after its initial ten episodes air.

Pilot grade: C-

Friday, February 8, 2013

Take Three: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Poet’s Fire” (B+)

The relationship that we’re seeing fleshed out between Ryan and Joe prior to Joe’s arrest is remarkably similar to that between Agent Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter in the first chilling scene of “Red Dragon,” where the investigator is completely unaware that the intellectual he has been turning to for advice on catching a killer is in fact the very suspect he’s hunting. There’s a devilish vindictiveness to this game that Joe has orchestrated, however, illustrated emphatically in the episode’s final moment, where Emma tells Joey to wave to the camera and say “Hi, Ryan,” taunting him and letting him know that he can’t escape his involvement in what is to come. Emma’s violent past has already been explored, and cutting Paul’s arm to shock him into submission triggered something in him that has now involved a poor young woman who is most certainly doomed to a violent and unpleasant death. Jordy’s suicide was immensely disturbing, and it represents just the latest unfortunate development. Debra learning that Maggie was a member of the cult was a chilling revelation, and one that came too late for Troy, whose grisly demise is a shame since he was such a great character. I am liking Debra more and more, and I think that her energy here – she recently appeared as Kara Stanton on “Person of Interest” too – is extremely appropriate and just the right balance of forceful and sarcastic to contrast the deeply unhealthy state in which Ryan currently finds himself, subject to supervision by the excitable and talkative Mike.

What I’m Watching: Elementary (Superbowl Episode)

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 14 “The Deductionist” (B+)

I was personally thrilled about the notion of an extra episode of one of my favorite new shows of the season, and, from its opening moments, this felt like a special installment with plenty of sex and violence thrown in to make it all the more spectacular. Starting with Sherlock’s double date was a deceptively light-hearted introduction to an otherwise very deadly hour, one which included stabbing with scissors and tales of other unsavory events. Terry Kinney was a great choice to play Martin Ennis, who seemed a rather formidable nemesis for Sherlock, one intelligent enough to plan an elaborate scheme where he had his sister intentionally deteriorate her kidneys so that she could catch Kari Matchett’s obnoxious profiler off-guard and stab her, however ineffectively due to her weak condition. Sherlock’s choice to meet Ennis alone was bold but hardly surprising, and it was smart of him to have backup nearby to come arrest Ennis after he went for the gun and was in for an unfortunate and painful retaliation from Sherlock. Their discussion of Kathryn’s similar profiling was extremely compelling, and it’s good to see Sherlock truly rattled by someone he believes to be incompetent. Watson is continuing to hone her deductive skills and figure out that her super was in on the porn scheme to deliberately get her evicted, and she got a decent deal for herself once she pieced it all together. Sherlock would be impressed, but he’s likely to soon discover that Watson is now paying her own bills even though she’s living rent-free.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 3, Episode 5 (B+)

This show has killed off characters before, most memorably Lavinia and William, but not since the show’s opening moments has a beloved member of the Crawley family been taken. It was especially tragic since Robert so stubbornly supported his doctor throughout the whole time that the family doctor was saying that Sybil needed to be treated lest her life be threatened. It’s something that Cora likely won’t forgive Robert for, and that’s going to make things at Downton extremely uncomfortable. Mary catching Matthew during his meeting was also an instance of truly bad timing, and now his active interest in using the money from Lavinia’s father to help Downton is going to be used against him. I have no idea what will become of Tom now that he is a widower and no longer closely tied to the Crawley estate. I had all but forgotten the fact that Thomas is gay, and it seems that his latest love interest does not share his feelings, and that’s something that O’Brien will likely use to her advantage to get Thomas in real trouble. Daisy needs to say something to Alfred before she really manages to alienate him by treating his new crush horribly, and it’s good to see Mrs. Patmore advising her in that manner. Never one to conform to high-class society, Isobel has made her latest revolutionary move, hiring Ethel to work at her house and causing serious social change to occur, utterly horrifying Carson and likely staining the good reputation of the greater Downton estate.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What I’m Watching: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 2, Episode 4 “Follow Me” (B+)

Plunging right back into Amy’s storyline without addressing Levi’s half-hour from last week at all, this episode moved the plot forward in a major, awesome way. Dougie was truly furious at Amy in a way that he hasn’t been before, singling her out for her frequent whispering with Tyler, and it seemed like things were going to blow up and get really bad for everyone. Asking Tyler to find e-mails that would turn Dougie turned out to be just the right move, and he was truly devastated to see what had been written and said about him. Having him on Amy’s side is going to be an enormous boon to her mission, and I can’t wait to see the revolution progress. Amy’s Twitter startup is invigorating but highly awkward, as she hovers around people and forces them to start following her. Surprisingly, Amy’s visit to the hospital to see Krista was remarkably calm, and Krista even seemed to receive her somewhat warmly, put off only by the fact that Amy couldn’t tell her what it was that she was so excited to be working on. Introducing herself to James Rebhorn’s CEO was an intriguing if inadvisable strategic move, and I’m sure he’ll soon have Amy on his radar. Jeff inviting Amy to the event with Roberta showed her a snapshot of what her world could be like, and while she’s likely too self-involved and na├»ve to get to that place, she really does fit in so well with the idealism and energy of those who have successfully achieved the change she so desperately wants to make happen.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 2, Episode 4 “It’s a Shame About Ray” (A-)

There’s simply nothing quite as terrific as the dialogue on this show. I heartily enjoyed Elijah’s argument that he shouldn’t have to pay rent because he paid for all of Hannah’s burritos while they were dating, which were inordinately expensive because she added so much to them. Hannah having Charlie and Audrey over was fine, but inviting Marnie and then judging her for coming was truly unfair. For all of Marnie’s unacceptable behavior, this action wasn’t one of them, though Charlie going to the roof to check on Marnie while Audrey was upset was definitely a misstep. The way that Audrey phrased her question about what Marnie did was extremely insulting, and Marnie replied in kind. It was good to see Hannah step in to defend Marnie to Charlie, calling him a jerk for mistreating her and for not understanding what Marnie has been going through, though she could have done without the accidental revelation about Marnie and Elijah sleeping together. Shoshanna discovering that Ray was actually living with her seemed like a bad thing, but their subway platform declaration of unintentional love was superb. Jessa’s meeting with Thomas-John’s parents could not have gone any worse, and it was sad to see Thomas-John cast her aside so easily after she sabotaged the evening with inappropriate honesty. It was sweet to see Hannah comfort Jessa with humor after she got into the bathtub with her and cried, and refreshing to see Hannah as the reliable friend for once, taking on yet another unexpected role.

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 1, Episode 4 “Half Deaf is Better Than All Dead” (B+)

It’s good to see that Lucas hasn’t given up his life of crime altogether, and it’s fantastically thrilling to see Carrie spring into action to help him make the perfect getaway. Defending her assistance as a necessary move to ensure her wellbeing as well as his own makes sense, but it’s clear that her attachment to him runs deeper than that, given the way she was enjoying herself in the bathtub about a lackluster night with her husband. She and Lucas do make an excellent team, as evidenced by his “Three, three, three!” which prompted her to spin the car and him to shoot at and subsequently flip over the cop car. It seems that even the police are untouchable in Banshee, as the Moody brothers ambushed Lucas as he was bringing Kai in and planned to murder him in cold blood as well as the unexpected prisoner they detested just as much. Lucas pulling one of their ears off and then throwing it back to its owner was brutal, but it’s nothing new on this show, which has established its nature after only four episodes. Kai’s time spent in prison was much worse for everyone else than it was for him, and it’s evident that he’s always going to manage to skirt legal justice. Job arriving in Banshee should make things considerably more interesting, and Lucas is now going to have a business partner in Sugar as well. Brock getting ambushed in the motel with the witness at the end of the episode was no surprise, but it was very well executed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pilot Review: Do No Harm

Do No Harm (NBC)
Premiered January 31 at 10pm

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde concept is inarguably an interesting one. Turning it into a compelling and half-believable television show, on the other hand, is a separate matter. This interpretation is highly over-the-top and ineffective, though it’s not as if it had much potential. Steven Pasquale was terrific in his long-running role as Sean on “Rescue Me,” playing one of the firehouse’s least intelligent members. Yet here, he’s tasked with too roles, one as the angelic Dr. Jason Cole and the other as the cartoonishly evil Ian Price. Pasquale would hardly be my pick to play these parts, and it’s obvious that the show is trying to overcompensate for Pasquale by showing an exaggerated shift from day to night that turns Jason into a monster. The medical cases in this episode were painfully obviously in terms of their attempts to mimic Jason’s life, using face blindness as a metaphor for literally seeing someone else in the mirror and then presenting an opportunity for Ian to mete out physical punishment on an abusive husband. People are going to start noticing that Jason is behaving erratically at night, and asking Ian to stay away from his life seems to have inspired exactly the opposite impulse in him, prompting the episode’s dumbest line: “Monkeys have been known to eat their young.” Alana De La Garza and Phylicia Rashad are wasted in personality-free supporting roles, and there’s no positive anchor for this show. Like Jason’s five-year plan, let’s call it a failed experiment.

How will it work as a series? In the first hour alone, Ian managed to sleep with a handful of women at the same time and alienate the one woman Jason actually cares about with nothing more than an unfriendly laugh. Imagine how much destruction Ian can reach if this show actually airs more than a few episodes, and I’m sure it will only get more far-fetched as time goes on.
How long will it last? Not long at all. Touted as one of the worst series premieres in history, which is especially unfortunate given that the series finale of “30 Rock” earlier that night on NBC should have given it a boost. I would be surprised if this show manages to air three episodes.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13 “The Red Team” (B+)

When someone like Sherlock isn’t on active duty, it’s good to see something from his personal life pop up to feed his active mind. I love that his hobby is not conspiracy theories but conspiracy theorists, tracking the outlandish delusions of paranoid people and even contributing to the frenzy by adding his own preposterous suggestions to the mix. Sherlock is just the type of investigator to insist that someone might be faking Alzheimer’s, though it turned out to be an induced case designed to mimic the symptoms. Choosing static as his song when he was in the car with Watson was extremely entertaining, as was his unsuccessful attempt to use an actual whistle to hail a cab. Putting together the pieces of the team’s actions and motivations was a terrific thrill ride, and, as usual, it’s the last person anyone might suspect, Dresden. Sherlock did an excellent job of talking him down, much to Gregson’s chagrin. It was interesting to see just how angry Gregson was about Sherlock’s continued involvement in the case, and he really gave it to him when they went for a drink. I was shocked to see him punch Sherlock in the stomach, though I suppose that’s the kind of insult that Sherlock isn’t used to at this point. It’s a relief that Sherlock didn’t end up cooking his new pet turtle Clyde to make soup, since I think that’s one action that might make Watson reconsider her decision to keep stringing Sherlock along regarding her continued presence in his life.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 13 “Dead Reckoning” (B+)

Kara’s stint in Reese’s present-day life was considerably more short-lived than expected, but she certainly made her mark. It was unnerving to see Reese look panicked and start to tear up as Finch tried hard to diffuse the bomb strapped to his chest, since the military man is usually so calm and collected, especially under pressure. Reese’s desperate efforts not to kill innocents while doing Kara’s bidding sharply contrasted with Snow, who seemed more than okay with the means necessary to achieve the ends. For someone who hasn’t had much control of his life for the recent past, Snow sure chose exactly how he wanted to go out, deciding to take Kara with him, even though she wasn’t necessarily to blame for the actions she was executing. It’s hardly surprising that the name she got who would have been her next target was Finch’s, and I suspect that, when Reese learns of his involvement, there will be some tension, but I’m sure Reese will be able to forgive the man that so expertly saved his life by winning a fatal game of best of five. Being in the car in which Donnelly was shot and from which Reese was abducted gave Carter a sense of purpose and an investment in the events of this episode, and it’s good to see her hard work rewarded by the FBI’s mistaken conclusion that Snow must have been the mysterious man in the suit. With Kara gone, this foursome might finally catch a break and get to deal with an isolated number without any distractions for a while.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episodes 13 and 14 “Junior Salesman” and “Vandalism” (C+)

I’m getting tired of subpar Thursday night NBC comedies preempting my beloved “Parks and Recreation.” This hour followed the series finale of a long-running show that started a year after it did, and it’s about time this show closed up shop too. It’s understandable that a new character like Clark should need something to do, but does he really have to spend an entire episode jumping through hoops so that Dwight couldn’t hire one of his friends? I don’t like when Dwight changes his personality so extremely, and having him hide between Jim to inform his friends that he wasn’t hiring any of them was unfortunate. Pam asking Dwight if he wanted to prank Clark was much better, and even the horrifying sight of Dwight wrapping plastic around Clark’s head was more in line with his character’s typical tendencies. Pam’s mural being defaced was terrible, and it seemed a silly reason to bring Brad William Henke in after his masterful “Justified” turn for such a worthless part. Without much addressing Jim’s actions at the end of last episode, he’s suddenly asking David Wallace to invest in his company and proving himself to be a slob to his new roommate Darryl. I liked that we saw a bit of the documentary crew at the end of last week, but having them appear so many times again is going too far. Oscar and Angela’s awkward party was generally unfulfilling, but for Kevin’s remark to the Senator about how he wasn’t a nice person. Let’s hope for some more creative plotlines before this show goes dark for good.

What I’m Watching: 30 Rock (Series Finale)

30 Rock: Season 7, Episodes 12 and 13 “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch”

This show was always going to go out in style. I can’t say that I loved every part of the two-episode finale – the focus on Lutz being the one to choose where the last free lunch came from was a bit much for me – but, overall, it was a fitting sendoff for the show. I liked how Liz and Jack’s relationship played out, with Jack making Liz think that he was going to commit suicide only to hop onto his boat for a several-second journey, brought to an end by his brilliant idea to market clear dishwashers. Liz going to meet her cyber-enemy at the park only to discover that it was Cris was great, and I’m glad Liz realized that she needs to be the one in the relationship working. The fact that Tracy had it in his contract that he gets $30 million if TGS filmed less than 150 episodes was fantastic, and Liz’s pep talk for him was perfect. I will miss Tracy spelling out his name by letter and explaining all the ridiculous things he references. The multiple breakings of the fourth wall were superb, including Tracy trying to roll the credits halfway through the episode and Jenna announcing to the camera that she has to confess that she’s never met Mickey Rourke. Jenna heading to Hollywood, starring in a Broadway adaptation of the eternally awesome “The Rural Juror,” and coming to life as a corpse on SVU was entertaining, but the best finale for Jenna and Tracy was the goodbye moment they shared while both dressed as Hitler. Pete faking his own death was a hilarious subplot, the likes of which the writer hasn’t seen in years. Kenneth telling Jack that he would be comfortable if they switched places, even though it was his office, was fitting, and the final moment of the show was admittedly silly but fun. This was the most fitting finale that a show like this should have, and helped to cap a final season that was, for the most part, pretty good. This show was never quite as excellent as people seemed to think, but it definitely had its moments, and made its mark in TV history.

Series finale: B+
Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Best Season: Season 1 and 2
Best Episode: “Hardball” / “Seinfeld Vision”

Pilot Review: The Americans

The Americans (FX)
Premiered January 30 at 10pm

I’m usually a fan of FX shows. Some of them turn out to be truly excellent, like “The Shield,” “Sons of Anarchy,” or “Justified,” while others are cancelled far too soon, like “Lights Out.” This one isn’t nearly as appealing, using its clever tagline of “All’s fair in love and cold war” to craft a story about two KGB spies living in the United States in the 1980s and working actively for their country. The show is very big on reminding viewers of when it’s supposed to be taking place, with frequent allusions to Reagan and other distinct 80s references. The duality of being a Russian spy and an American citizen at the same time is emphasized repeatedly, no more so than in the scene where Phillip sings the “Star-Spangled Banner” along with his son and applauds for America. The conversations are blunt, like Phillip saying to Elizabeth that “America’s not so bad” and planning to go next door to his new FBI neighbor to hand over his prisoner, who he decides to kill moments later after Elizabeth reveals what he did to her. I suppose there’s something interesting about their relationship becoming real now that he has stepped in to protect her, but neither Keri Russell nor Matthew Rhys, both of whom had long-running television roles, on “Felicity” and “Brothers and Sisters,” respectively, is terribly engaging, which makes getting into the show difficult. Having an FBI agent specifically tasked with finding Russian spies move in next door feels all too convenient, as does his immediate request for jumper cables, which of course Phillip still keeps in his trunk next to his prisoner. This show had potential, but I’m not impressed.

How will it work as a series? The fact that Stan has already gone ahead and searched his garage means that everything’s going to be happening very carefully and deliberately, and I’m not sure where the show can head without him gaining definitive proof or being disposed of soon. The missions should create some intrigue, but this pilot wasn’t thrilling enough to suggest too much exciting action.
How long will it last? Though I won’t be among its many viewers, this show should have a healthy future. The ratings for the pilot were excellent, rivaling the starts for “American Horror Story” and “Sons of Anarchy,” which spells good news for both the network and the show. Expect a season two pickup sometime in the next few weeks.

Pilot grade: C

Monday, February 4, 2013

What I’m Watching: Suburgatory

Suburgatory: Season 2, Episode 11 “Yakult Leader” (C)

I made my list of shows I was giving up on too early. I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to watch this episode, which sealed the deal for me in terms of a fifth show that I was planning to drop. It’s interesting, because this episode’s random inclusions of Judaism made for the perfect fodder for a post on my Jewish Journal blog, Awards Material, but that’s mainly because they were so incoherent and unexplained. Wilmer Valderrama has been used to much better comedic (“That 70s Show”) and dramatic (“The Dry Land”) effect before, and forcing George to painstakingly pronounce his name just isn’t funny. Dallas allowing yet another person into her relationship is frustrating since it’s happened so many times before, and there doesn’t seem to be anything George can do to get her to focus solely on him and not on the people who want to see them apart. I did enjoy seeing George bond with Dalia, though the content of their conversation didn’t do it for me. Sheila asking Tessa to help set Lisa up was, surprisingly, championed by Lisa herself, and the fact that it was Scott Strauss who turned out to be the internet date made for a few quick laughs and nothing more. Ryan asking Scott how he gets his hair so silky and telling Tessa to break up with him for Scott was admittedly entertaining, but Lisa’s emphasis on her potential mate having several limbs wasn’t. This show can be fun sometimes, but at this point, it’s ceased to be more endearing than bizarre, and I’m done.