Sunday, March 31, 2013

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

Revolution: Season 1, Episode 11 “The Stand” (F)

I hung on through the first ten episodes of this show back in the fall because the concept truly is cool, and I had hoped that the awful execution would somehow improve with time. Unfortunately, all hopes of that were dashed with this eleventh episode, which reminds just how terribly this show is written, with the worst possible characters and dialogue. The introduction of the helicopter changes things in this universe considerably, but it also means that the power is definitively back, prompting Randall to go for flair and drive to meet Monroe at the end of the episode. The way that this show’s reality played out was never compelling enough, and to take away the one bit of originality it has going for out leaves it doomed for failure. Allying Randall with Monroe makes things very bad for our merry band of rebels, but I’d still rather see a glimpse of the enemy governments which the Monroe Republic plans to quash. Nate has now officially made himself a nomad, and he’ll likely create more trouble for his father, whose lie about his son’s death is sure to be unmasked eventually. Danny firing the rocket launcher, however unrealistic, was helpful, but it’s his own fault for standing around and looking puzzled, as usual, leaving himself right in the line of fire and ensuring his own death. It’s not every mother who cuts out something electronic from her son’s dead body, and let’s hope that whatever she pulled out can help reignite this show’s energy. I doubt it, but the sci-fi fan in me isn’t willing to give up just yet on this immeasurably disappointing show.

Round Two: Bates Motel

Bates Motel: Season 1, Episode 2 “Nice Town You Picked, Norma” (C)

I was hardly enamored with the first installment of this show, and episode two sealed the deal for me in terms of whether I’ll be tuning in again as more and more shows begin to return next week. After an intriguingly hypnotic start with Norman looking through his book of drawings, the episode got too wrapped up in the eeriness of the town and its people to be truly focused on creating a compelling story arc. Max Thieriot’s Dylan sure is trouble, but it seems a bit much that he and Norman would already come to blows about the treatment of their mothers, demonstrating such violent impulses in Norman at this early stage. “Stop calling me Norma, I am your mother” is yet another obnoxious quote that serves to signal that Norma should always be referred to by her maternal status rather than by her name, whereas she actually has just as much of a starring role as Norman does. Flirting with one cop while the other has it out for her should work to her advantage, but the law has already come far too close to discovering her role in the death of the motel’s former owner to make an episodic format sustainable. To her credit, Emma is somewhat of an interesting character, going on about sex slaves when she sees Norman’s book, but things turned violent and real all too quickly when they were chased away by men with guns, prompting the episode’s most embarrassing moment, which was when Norman told Emma not to breathe. I understand this show may have potential, but I was bored within the first few minutes of this second hour.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episode 10 “Guilt” (C)

The incompetence of law enforcement on this show and the inconsistency of the intelligence level of the cult members continues to be immeasurably aggravating to me. It wasn’t difficult for the FBI to discover that Claire’s location had been compromised, which calls into question both the security of their operation and the effectiveness of a hack that is so immediately visible to them. Why an armed crew of cult members could so easily mow down an FBI agent is incomprehensible to me, especially if they knew there were suspicious people roaming around the lobby. It was awfully convenient that Claire found the tracker on her clothing, and it’s a good thing that Tyson, played by David Zayas of “Dexter” fame, was excited about his shotgun that would be able to penetrate a bulletproof vest. Unfortunately he still got shot, but this show seems determined to put most of its characters into comas rather than finitely killing them, or to have them reappear in hallucinations, as has now become Paul’s role. Jacob threatening Emma so strongly after putting a pillow over Paul’s face seems out of character, and I’m not sure what’s going to become of that. Joe seems to have found a way to connect with his son through smores, though Joey should prove completely calm once his mother arrives. Instead of Claire, however, Joe got a different visitor at the end of the episode, in the form of Ryan’s ex-girlfriend. Something tells me that, no matter the strength of his cult, Joe wouldn’t have been able to pull that one off.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 6, Episode 10 “Blind Faith” (B+)

There’s something to be said for an episode that can omit a good portion of the characters from a show and still prove engaging. It’s strange to think of Hank as an example of a good person to take home to meet your parents, though he has always been quite charming. Faith is proving to be a fascinatingly layered character, incapable of a pleasant interaction with her parents because of her mother’s strong faith and her aversion to all that Faith represents, and her father’s apathy and unhelpful nature. It’s just like Hank to express his less appropriate inner feelings, though his indiscretion with Faith in the church hardly compared to her vivid dream with Atticus as Jesus coming down off the cross to engage in some illicit activity. It does seem that Faith and Hank’s relationship is getting much more serious, though I suspect that she still won’t be around past this season, and therefore something dramatic will have to occur to drive a wedge between them. Becca’s latest news is just the more recent in a series of declarations that seem designed to upset her parents, but it really isn’t surprising that she has such loose, grand, adventurous aspirations given the casual parenting that Karen and Hank have provided to her until now. Karen manages, miraculously, to shift between hatred for Hank and a complete sense of admiration in each episode, and it’s a credit to the somewhat bizarre but appealing acting style of Natasha McElhone. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 2, Episode 10 “All In” (B+)

Seeing Marty start to look at office space and seek out more investors in his forthcoming firm makes his big plan look more and more like a reality, but there’s an overwhelming feeling of dread that each episode of this show gives off, indicating that not everything is going to work out well for Marty and that he might be headed for catastrophic failure. His disrespect for Jeannie as a person is perhaps the biggest mistake he is making at the moment, taking her completely for granted and failing to congratulate her on what actually does mark a substantial achievement, the extension of an offer for her to run her own pod. Delegating all of his work to her and clearly being jealous of her relationship with her new beau are likely to make her feel underappreciated, and, though she would never do anything about it, it’s likely to make her think twice about whether she’s backing the right horse and has anywhere to which to aspire. When Clyde congratulated her on being offered her own pod, it was a sign that she’s not thinking of herself at all, blind to the fact that she should be able to be successful independent of Marty. Sarah is evidently a good influence on Doug, giving him the appropriate encouragement to nail his own meeting. I’m worried about what Monica is up to, though it was definitely worth it to see Monica and Tamara interact. It appears that Marty has succeeded in making his brother feel entirely unwelcome, and his father chastising him for it was yet another wake-up call that Marty is sure to ignore.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 18 “Death of a Client” (B+)

This episode was presented in an intriguing and creative format, setting itself entirely during a party, as the show has sometimes done in the past, and using flashbacks to introduce the episode’s murder victim, played by John Noble of “Fringe” fame. The panic on Alicia’s face when she heard that the killer was headed to her apartment was palpable, and it’s a good thing that her children turned out only to be in danger of learning too much about the nature of their conceptions from Stockard Channing’s Veronica. It’s nice to see Laura working amicably with Alicia, though her wanting to date Will could certainly complicate their friendship. Now that Maddie is out of the picture, it’s good to see Matthew Perry’s seedy Mike Krusteva again, just as duplicitous and manipulative as ever. Alicia telling him to die choking on his own blood was fantastically harsh, but nothing compared to Peter punching Krusteva in the bathroom and then making it look as if he had been drunk. Eli and Alicia’s reactions to the news were particularly excellent, and it’s nice to see some comedy from a situation that has in the past benefited only Krusteva. Peter so bluntly offering Diane the vacant supreme court justice seat was a bit shocking, and it would absolutely change the dynamic of the firm and of the show to have her in a different position. Suggesting that Will remain the only name partner is probably the best idea, though if she does accept the job, things will definitely be different in a number of ways.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episode 10 “Civil Wrongs” (B+)

It’s times like these that I understand how this show can be classified as a drama. The various ridiculous elements in this hour aside, there were a few substantial serious moments that were extraordinarily powerful. After all of the depravity and frustration that Kev and Veronica have endured, it was truly heartwarming to see them celebrate with everyone else at the bar the news that Carol was finally able to conceive. Fiona reacting in dramatic fashion to Steve’s casual news that he was planning to return to medical school in Michigan was an appropriate response, far more understandable than her inability to listen to his woes after he found out that his dad was gay. She has finally found a great job with good people, and she has a romantic interest who actually seems like a good guy waiting for her as soon as Steve does leave. Karen being in the hospital was extremely difficult to watch, though of course this show would find a way to incorporate Jody’s sexual proclivity into getting Karen to wake up from her coma. I’m very concerned that Lip is going to bide his time and find a way to punish Mandy for what she did, and that it’s going to end up being bad for everyone. I’m equally worried about Ian and his latest discovery. It’s just like Frank to manage to get paid by two opposing organizations for lying through his teeth, and after a surprisingly satisfying rendezvous with a rather friendly lesbian, he’s now in over his head, and I wonder exactly how he’s going to wiggle his way out of this one.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 15 “This Sorrowful Life” (B+)

It’s astonishing to see just how willing to kill off its main characters this show is. Merle’s return at the beginning of this season was big news, and it’s sad to see him go, especially after he proved unexpectedly decent and heroic in this hour. Seeing Merle as a walker was almost more devastating than the sight of Sophia walking out of the barn, and it was heartbreaking to see Darryl’s reaction. The way this show has been structured this season made the Governor’s appearance all the more fearsome, and his deadly response to Merle’s presence was blunt and cruel. Merle and Michonne’s conversation in the car ride towards Woodbury was fantastic, and they did make a pretty terrific team for the few moments that they were actually working together to kill walkers with the sharp objects they wield. The scene with the car alarm was expertly done, and it’s good to get a fulfilling bit of action every now and then. I’m curious to see how Michonne will act now after Rick essentially commissioned her handover, though I suspect that a joint hatred for the Governor will enable them to make amends enough to fight their common enemy. Hershel giving his permission to Glenn was somber but sweet, as was Glenn’s unromantic proposal, and I do hope that both Maggie and Glenn survive long enough to get married. The upcoming season finale is sure to be explosive and exciting, and I suspect a few more major players will lose their lives before the season is done.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Office

The Office: Season 9, Episode 17 “The Farm” (F)

Somehow, I missed this episode when it originally aired a week ago, mainly because NBC’s Thursday night schedule has been so spotty lately to account for more than four shows in four timeslots and, inexplicably, extra episodes of “1600 Penn.” Perhaps it would have been better if I hadn’t seen it at all. What’s worse is that this was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for the proposed spin-off about Dwight’s life on the farm that NBC wisely passed on. It’s about what I might have imagined, an awful attempt to make what has worked as an occasional joke about Dwight living on a farm into a central plotline, which is not a good idea. Even the interview segments on the farm feel forced, because, out of the office setting, there’s no legitimate reason to ask each of Dwight’s relatives to share absurd details of Schrute family customs with the camera. And we really didn’t need to see Dwight teach his excessively mature nephew how to milk a cow. To make matters worse, the other half of this episode had to include Todd Packer, one of this show’s worst characters, and bring him back to trick the entire office into thinking he was atoning for the way he treated people while he gave them cupcakes laced with drugs instead of frosting. This show has almost completely lost a sense of what’s funny, showing brief snippets of Andy and Kevin’s night at the office presuming that its events were hilarious. Let’s hope that this show goes out on a better note than this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 11 “Decoy” (B+)

It seemed puzzling to me that last week’s episode ended on a tense note that would ordinarily serve to set up a season finale, yet this was only the third-to-last installment of this show’s fourth year. This series, however, is immensely capable of making conversation utterly captivating, and therefore little happened but this hour was still immensely watchable. The man of the hour was definitely Bob, who managed to hold out and resist Yolo’s brutality and rile up his captor by playing dumb about Drew’s whereabouts. I love that Boyd and Ava both realized where Raylan was going to try to land a helicopter because of an astronaut’s visit to their high school that had also proved memorable for Raylan, yet another reminder of the small town Harlan really is. Mike O’Malley’s Nick delivered some of this episode’s best lines, telling Boyd that he uses forty words when four will do and then invoking Abraham and Issac and using it to convey to Boyd the importance of relying to the most powerful being in the universe’s command. Nick was especially cruel to Ava, though she did a formidable job of formulating a way out of that situation. Colt and Tim proved equally resourceful in their roadside standoff, and I think that the two of them are an extraordinary match. Shelby had plenty of interesting things to say, recognizing his impending death and reminiscing about when he first met Arlo standing in front of a brothel reading a book while he was on LSD, a rather unique and unforgettable story.

What I’m Watching: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project: Season 1, Episode 17 “Mindy’s Birthday” (B)

As with pretty much every other episode of this show, there are some appealing elements but just as many peculiar and inexplicable insertions of inanity. Mindy’s friends should know better than to trick her into showing up for a surprise party by making her think that she was actually meeting a guy for a blind date. The gift of the “cooking for one” book was particularly thoughtless, to the point that it truly wasn’t believable. I’m continually annoyed by the presence of Maggie, who I think adds nothing positive to the show, as opposed to Alex, who has a bit of a backbone despite being nothing more than a romantic object in this episode, and Gwen, who continues to lack personality but still possesses some charm. Jeremy and Danny warring over seducing Alex was decently amusing, though it wasn’t quite as hilarious as it could have been. Mindy treating herself to a solo sundae for her birthday was fun, and joining in with a group of friends who were similar on the surface led to an expected explosive incident and the impossibly random return of Beverly, a character this show seems destined to include, no matter how little she contributes to the show. Brendan arriving at the hospital produced an entertaining immature reaction from Mindy’s friends, yet another first meeting between characters, and it was sweet that he named a constellation for Mindy. Maybe that romance isn’t dead after all, but let’s hope that Danny realizes his affection for Mindy and does something about it sooner rather than later. He’ll have plenty of time, of course, since this show has been renewed for a second season and will now officially be around for a while.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 19 “Quick Hardening Caulk” (A-)

I don’t think I’ve laughed as much as I did during this episode in a long time, and I mean long, lasting crack-ups, of which I counted three. Jess discovering an unexpected continued sexual attraction to Nick was very entertaining, and her attempts to suppress his more motivated side were extremely amusing. Their slapstick mishaps were rather epic, and Jess on pain meds was certainly funny. I’m glad that they decided to kiss again and couldn’t manage to stay calm around each other for long enough to sleep together, which suggests that this romance may continue for some time in a delightfully awkward way. Odette Annable’s bossy manager Shane appears to be out of the picture, but I wouldn’t mind seeing her again, even if she is somewhat similar to Nick’s most recent bar-dwelling girlfriend. Winston trying to help Schmidt get over Cece was simply superb, highlighted by Schmidt’s sudden desire to purchase the fish which he fell in love with so immediately. Schmidt getting stung by a jellyfish was hilarious, primarily because of Winston’s unhelpful secondary suggestion. It was good to see Winston stand up for his good friend Schmidt and tell Cece that she has to give him some space. Hopefully her charitable donation of the lionfish means that she still cares about him and won’t ultimately go through with her marriage. Another great friend moment in this episode was Schmidt’s call to arms upon seeing a bruised Nick. These roommates are simply fantastic, and they’re in the midst of their best interactions yet.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pilot Review: Bates Motel

Bates Motel (A & E)
Premiered March 18 at 10pm

Like the forthcoming NBC take on Hannibal Lecter, it’s impossible not to watch this show without referring back to its source material. Anyone who saw this pilot is surely familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho,” which was based on Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel. Prequels always come loaded with potential problems, namely that it’s hard to create a compelling narrative on an episodic basis that has a predefined end point. The haunting shots of the motel and Norman calling Norma “mother” repeatedly are the two most prominent instances of excessive allusions to the future of this universe, which become tiresome since the show needs to develop an energy of its own in order for it to be sustainable. It’s intriguing that this show is set in the present day with cell phones and other modern inventions that make the notion of a roadside motel less intimidating on one hand, yet features characters who seem like they’re from a wholly different era, namely the girls who fawn over Norman simply because he’s a new kid and Vera Farmiga’s Norma, who hardly seems like a twenty-first century personality. I’m curious about the Bates son who isn’t entirely loyal to his domineering mother, and I wonder when and how he’ll show up. In terms of casting, this is exactly the kind of role that Freddie Highmore should be taking on, and I hope that he’ll have more to do than sheepishly follow his mother and vomit at the sight of blood. Farmiga is decently effective as a monster mother capable of manipulating her son, and it’s an involved and determined performance. I do wish that Nestor Carbonell would stay away from standard police roles like the one he has here and had in “Ringer,” instead focusing on meatier parts like his gigs on “Lost” and “Psych.” Portraying lonely people who shut themselves off from society does, however, have the potential to create a lonely show, one devoid of too much compelling material. The brutal rape of Norma and her stabbing of her attacker made for a bold, disturbing scene which sets a tone for the whole show, one of quiet, moody creepiness. I do hope that the next installment will demonstrate the show’s staying power, but I’m not convinced that it can.

How will it work as a series? It’s going to be a while before Norman is driven to kill his mother, so as long as the series runs he’ll have to be pulled away more and more from social life and into his mother’s controlling arms, which may make for an alienating and uncreative experience. The attack on Norma foreshadows dark times ahead for the Bates family, as if their predicament wasn’t bleak enough already.
How long will it last? The premiere numbers were strong, and this show has plenty of hype that could help this network define itself as a successful producer of original television programming. I’m not sure that the show’s ratings will last throughout the season, but I think this show might benefit from the kind of early pick-up designed to bolster the show’s chances even if it doesn’t deserve it.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episode 9 “Love Hurts” (B-)

Almost ten episodes in, this show is heating up and heading in a new direction, letting Joe’s master plan begin to take shape as the chapters of its various members play out. This particular segment was especially disturbing, populated with public killings of people based only on their names. Marin Ireland, recognizable as terrorist Aileen on “Homeland,” was sufficiently creepy and believable as Amanda, who was a perfect henchman for Joe, carrying out her murders with no remorse and even a sense of purpose, believing that she was helping to punish those unfaithful to their spouses for their sins. Ryan definitely has suicidal tendencies, offering himself up so enthusiastically for Amanda to kill in order to save one Claire Matthews. The FBI needs to work on its encryption system, since it’s just a matter of time before Claire gets taken to Joe and then the FBI won’t have any hope of catching up with the cult. Paul’s demise was only a matter of time, and it’s interesting that his death marks Jacob’s first kill. Setting up their shared back story, which confirmed that Jacob had never in fact killed anyone, makes Jacob’s defiant reunion with Emma somewhat less impactful, since we know that he’s inarguably the least threatening and least dangerous member of the cult. Emma crying over her tryst with Joe turning into a one-night stand shows her weakness, and it’s clear that Roderick is not impressed with her, which is sure to make things at the cult compound quite tense.

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 6, Episode 9 “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” (B+)

It’s astounding to me that this show is six seasons in and has had several party-set episodes like this, yet it still feels fully fresh. Seeing Eddie Nero again is jarring, mainly because he’s the polar opposite of Rob Lowe’s character Chris Traeger on “Parks and Recreation,” but also because he’s sure to cause some kind of trouble, as if Atticus wasn’t already making enough for Hank. Eddie sleeping with Karen, however, was new territory for Hank and Karen, and it’s sad to see that Karen was so hurt by the way that she saw Faith looking at Hank. Atticus put on quite the show in order to get his wife to agree to take him back, but it’s clear that she’s done with him, and she’s likely to continue pushing for Hank to have an affair with her. Marcy meeting the crazy widow wasn’t as dramatic as I expected, but it was great to see devoted fan Marcy meet Atticus and get told to stay after her escorts Charlie and Stu were thrown out of the room. Atticus is one nutty guy, but there’s something totally appealing about his unfiltered craziness. It was fun to see Jorge Garcia’s drug dealer again, and to hear him talk with Charlie about his plans for fitting into his suit and to counsel Hank on his love life. I know that there were talks about Faith getting her own spin-off show from Showtime, and I do hope that her eventual parting from Hank isn’t one that comes on bad terms.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 2, Episode 9 “Liability” (B+)

It’s rare that the members of the pod ever have a brush with conscience, and we haven’t yet seen that from Clyde. The sight of a little boy whose father died in a work-related accident and whose mother won’t be compensated appropriately for his death because of a policy he came up with, however, did the trick and got Clyde thinking, enough so even to tell Doug about it. Clyde and Doug sharing a room was never going to end well, and it actually went better than expected, highlighted by a hug that Clyde relaxed into and actually seemed to enjoy for a moment. Jeannie and Tamara talking together was a recipe for disaster, and I love how everything that they say to each other is so laced with hatred and insults. Marty didn’t waste any time telling Kevin that he was sleeping with Tamara, and that self-destructive tendency and blatant disregard for her is likely to cost them their romance and affect their working relationship in a negative way. Roscoe going to live with Marty was a big victory, but it hardly felt like it considering the send-off Monica gave him. For how self-destructive Marty is, it’s appalling to watch Monica function, falling off the wagon again and tossing her relationship out the window because she didn’t want to be told what to do. Sleeping with Marty’s brother is going to drive a huge rift between them, and it won’t be long before Marty’s world comes crashing down even more than it already has.

Friday, March 22, 2013

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 2, Episode 10 “Together” (B)

Ten half-hour episodes don’t leave much time to tell a story, and this finale felt somewhat rushed and oddly timed in that sense. Seeing Hannah spiral downward to such an appalling level that she was cutting her own hair was not a good thing, and I’m not sure why she had to bottom out like that, even having to give up her advance because she just couldn’t focus on work. While I understand that her problems may be genuine, Hannah was a compelling, flawed character without OCD weighing her down, and I therefore regret its initial introduction. After coming close to crossing the line again with Natalia, Adam sprinted to Hannah’s side with no shirt on in a heavily dramatic scene that was somewhat out of place but also hard not to like. It’s good to know that he cares. He’s not the only one, of course, since the ever unenthusiastic Charlie apparently loves Marnie and is willing to put up with her ultra-serious talk about starting a family together and even dying. Shoshanna’s break-up with Ray wasn’t pretty, particularly on the heels of Ray finally motivating himself to do something productive with his life. And we haven’t even seen Jessa in weeks, and all we got was an angry voicemail from Hannah attesting to the fact that she truly has disappeared. I still enjoyed this season of this show since the writing is so strong and original, but I object to some of the turns the plot took later on. Elijah and Marnie’s moment, Hannah’s Republican adventure, Jessa’s marriage explosion, and Adam’s initial romance with Natalia were all high points, but overall season two wasn’t nearly as satisfying as season one. Let’s hope for great things in season three.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Allison Williams as Marnie

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 17 “Invitation to An Inquest” (B+)

It’s always a blast to see Will and Alicia argue cases in special courtrooms where different rules apply. The coroner’s three-question rule was entertaining, particularly for the way that Will managed to include multiple questions within one overarching question. Involved in that trial were three prominent guest stars, Frederick Weller of “In Plain Sight” as the prosecuting attorney, Jessalyn Gilsig of “Glee” in a much tamer role than usual as the widow, and “Star Trek” veteran Remy Aubuerjonois as the coroner. Kalinda and Robin seem to be working together quite well, and I look forward to seeing them get to know each other better. Cary’s father is truly slimy, and it was satisfying to see Cary figure out his own solution to the problem and cut his father out of the very deal he had brought to him, impressing Diane in the process. Jordan’s firing was inevitable, and Eli did manage to throw him completely under the bus and solve a political problem in the process. I’ll admit that it was somewhat disappointing to see Maddie fall off the radar and disappear into oblivion, especially since I doubt Matthew Perry will be regularly available to reprise his role as Krusteva for when the actual election rolls around. It’s clear that Alicia and Will still have unresolved feelings for each other, and it seems for now like they’re both trying hard to make sure that they don’t lead to anything since that’s the last thing either of them needs right now.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episode 9 “Frank the Plumber” (B+)

There seems to be no limit to the depths that Frank will sink to in order to get him hands on free stuff. Christopher was offering him a bed, food, and all the comfort he could want, and he decided to throw it away by trying to get them classified as domestic partners and reap the benefits of Christopher’s insurance. After some slander and a visit to a gay bar, enter Bradley Whitford as an odd man named Abe, who will surely have plenty to contribute in the final few episodes of the season. Fiona had quite the first day at work, and it’s good to see her endure despite the odds being totally stacked against her (not to mention the fact that she looked up penises on a work computer). With Carol absent from the episode, it was fun to hear Kev and Veronica debate circumcision, and to hear Fiona’s reasoning for why it was a recommendable move. Mandy applying to colleges for Lip was bold but apparently the right thing to do, but hitting Karen with her car is sure to drive him away forever should he ever find out. I’d like to see him working on robotics at MIT, but I doubt that’s in his immediate future. Ian’s rendezvous with Mickey was heartbreaking, and he’s going to have a very tough time coming back from that. It was very sweet to see Debs stick around and help Sheila feel better, and I continue to think that Debs is this show’s best character. I’m not sure how quickly Steve can become a well-paid doctor, but I’m glad he got encouragement from his de facto bodyguard and that all hope is not yet lost.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 14 “Prey” (B+)

This show is defaulting more and more to switching off between its two major plotlines each week and showing nothing but that, and I think it’s an interesting device that allows for a greater focus on the characters. In fact, seeing Rick for just a short moment made Andrea’s predicament all the more powerful, particularly because she was so happy to see the prison and wave her arms at him before the Governor appeared behind her and dragged her away. She sure changed her mind quickly about the Governor after Milton revealed what he was doing, and it’s a shame that Milton stopped her from killing him then and there. Milton is taking a much more indirect route to resistance, and I liked the revelation that he was likely the one who torched the biters that the Governor had planned to release at the prison. The travelers who spent a brief stint at the prison finally got personalities in this hour, and it seems that, overall, they’re pretty complacent, and we just have to hope that they’ll realize Andrea was right before it’s too late. Seeing the Governor return without any mention of Andrea’s fate was a harbinger of doom, and that final scene that showed her chained up in the Governor’s new torture chamber was immensely disconcerting and disturbing. Unlike Maggie’s interrogation, which was brutal enough, no one knows that Andrea is there, and she’ll remain the Governor’s prisoner until he sees fit to use her for some nefarious purpose. Let’s just hope she survives.

What I’m Watching: Banshee (Season Finale)

Banshee: Season 1, Episode 10 “A Mixture of Madness” (A-)

This episode was all kinds of awesome, and it makes me want season two right away. I realized earlier this week that this currently ranks as my most anticipated show of the week, a testament to its quality and appeal. This episode reached new violent heights that seemed previously impossible, due mostly to the brutal choking of the assassin sent to kill Kai and the shooting of one of Rabbit’s henchmen in the leg. There simply is no one quite as cool under pressure as Lucas, who managed to survive the predicament he was left in at the end of the previous episode thanks to some timely interference by Kai, then defiantly handed Brock the sheriff’s badge before turning himself in to Rabbit to save Max. Carrie comes in a close second for that description, of course, and it’s clear that she wowed the police in her presence when she took down multiple henchmen in mere seconds. The sight of Carrie, Job, Sugar, and the cops running in guns hot to save Lucas was terrific, and it truly was an epic battle. Brock getting shot will likely give him a newfound kinship with Lucas, who was admittedly in much worse shape. Rabbit’s death was quick and in many ways appropriately unmemorable, and now Lucas and Carrie will have to deal with the FBI looking into them and the body with a hole in the hand they just unearthed. Kai has now enlisted Rebecca into the business by having her push the button that detonated the building, and I’m eager to see what comes next. Alex may be Kai’s nemesis, but his sister should prove a formidable foe too. I liked her response to Alex feeling violated by the delivery to her door, and I think she’ll have a greater role to play next season. It’s always a great idea to start a finale of any sort with a relevant flashback, and seeing Lucas bond with Anastasia Griffith’s social worker was superb, right up until the moment where she creepily delivered Rabbit’s message for him. This has been a stellar first season, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Ulrich Thomsen as Kai

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18 “Déjà Vu All Over Again” (B)

This was, in my opinion, one of the weaker episodes of this show yet to air. I’m glad that Sherlock is training Watson to be a detective, but having her get arrested for breaking into someone’s car and so freely air her hunches in a far less dramatic and composed fashion just doesn’t have the same oomph as it does when Sherlock does it. Sherlock also isn’t made for such an educational role, and I prefer him tossing objects at Watson to get her to think fast than tasking her with figuring out things for her own. She’s done a great job up until this point of contributing without being directed, and I think that should continue. After spending so much time with Sherlock, it’s no surprise that her social skills have decreased considerably, but it’s probably good for her to have a few friends of her own. I’m glad to see that she’s utilizing the sponsor she found for Sherlock to help her better her car theft skills. The cases weren’t all that exciting, namely because the big revelation that Drew Gardner killed the woman on the subway so that he could make it seem like the video his wife recorded for him was more recent than it actually was wasn’t all that shocking or unpredictable. It’s fine to have Sherlock’s all-powerful father referenced indirectly, but, one of these days, we’re going to have to meet the man whose influence helped make Sherlock into the person he now is.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 18 “All In” (B+)

One of my favorite things about episodic television with generally unconnected episodes is when the greater mythology is invoked and recurring characters return to fill in the blanks. In this installment, we saw Leon, HR, Cal Beecher, and even dealt a good deal with Finch’s romantic life and the relationship he gave up to keep the love of his life safe. Leon does have his uses, and I enjoy his participation in whatever elaborate setup Finch and Reese have going. I couldn’t figure out how I recognized Michael Rispoli, who played Makris, and some research indicates that it’s likely from his brief stint as Jackie Aprile on “The Sopranos” a decade ago. This week’s number proved to be quite endearing, and it’s great that everyone got a happy ending. Reese comes in handy for the physical and operational side of things, and Finch has that human touch driven by his kindness and empathy for others that really solidifies the relationships built on this show. Unfortunately, Carter isn’t operating so smoothly, and she made the mistake of trusting another “Sopranos” alum, Al Sapienza’s Detective Terney. Szymanski being framed to help HR get a new partner off was a bad start, but Alonzo Quinn meeting with both him and his lawyer only to kill him so that he can ensure the case will go away means that HR has now taken a definitive step towards being relevant and formidable once again. It’s time for Fusco to own up to what he knows about HR and step in to help Carter before she finds herself HR’s next casualty.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Episode 16 “Bailout” (B+)

It’s always a delight to see a new episode of this show, especially after a few weeks off the air. There are few political problems that Leslie has been able to solve without getting derailed considerably along the way, and this was no exception. Jason Schwartzman’s video store owner represented a typical Pawnee citizen, someone with slightly good ideas but a poor sense of how to execute them. The lack of any relevant films in his inventory was amusing, and the fact that he quickly turned his shop into an adult video store was terrific. I love when past recurring guests return, and though Brandi Maxxx is a bit over-the-top for my tastes, the notion that she had already filmed and released the story of the video store’s revival was hilarious. Ron’s intervention against Leslie was also fun, since he rarely tries to impede her progress so directly. Ann forcing April to be friends with her was a blast, and I loved April’s syringe and her reaction to Ann giving her a hug. Chris’ journey of self-exploration with Tom as his son was enjoyable, and I’m eager to see what becomes of his parenting desires. What I liked most about this episode was the casting of Mona Lisa, Jean-Ralphio’s equally annoying sister, who has now entered into an enormously unhealthy relationship with Tom. Those who watch “House of Lies” will recognize actress Jenny Slate as Sarah, the girlfriend of Doug, the work rival of Jean-Ralphio portrayer Ben Schwartz’s Clyde. It’s so fun to see them in these different roles elsewhere in the television universe.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 10 “Get Drew” (B+)

Now that Drew’s identity has been revealed, it makes sense that more than a few people would want to get their hands on him. Arresting Boyd was always going to be a temporary measure on Raylan’s part, but it served as a fun opportunity to hear Boyd talk about Raylan’s alternate life as an outlaw. Shelby coming to see Limehouse to get protection for Ellen May was a good chance to see a great cast member from last season, though there was something about this Limehouse who didn’t seem quite as grand or intimidating as he did in the past. The fact that he knew who Shelby actually was turned the tables considerably, and his decision to force Boyd and Ava to choose which of his two prisoners they wanted to purchase created a dramatic confrontation. Boyd would have been unwise not to heed Ava’s plea to look to the future, and Ellen May was understandably not happy with their choice. I did think that Colt was going to snap and kill Shelby, and instead Raylan and the other marshals arrived just in time to save him from certain death at the hands of Nick and Theo’s men. Both Wynn and Boyd are not going to be pleased when they discover that Johnny sold them out to make a deal with Raylan, but that will all have to wait until Raylan and the other good guys figure out a way to, as Raylan put it, get out of Harlan alive.

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episode 7 and 8 “Let Me Go” and “Welcome Home” (C)

This show hasn’t even aired ten episodes and Joe has now managed not one but two prison breaks. The developments in the plot are objectively interesting, but it’s frustrating to see Ryan and Debra watch the transfer so closely only to fail to realize that Joe wasn’t in the van. Mike’s abduction was equally mind-numbing in terms of the obvious nature of its eventuality, and Ryan having him hack Donovan’s e-mail was excessively moronic. Mike Colter’s Donovan is hardly a positive addition, just another instance of bureaucratic red tape that’s going to slow the good guys down from apprehending the bad guys. While they’re at it, the FBI needs to figure out a better way to ensure that its captured suspects don’t commit suicide. All of the less than compelling news on the side of the law pale in comparison to the fact that Joe has now managed to unite with all of his followers in a mansion that should provide them with plenty of seclusion to continue doing nefarious deeds. Charlie offering himself up as a sacrifice after his twin failures was somewhat eerie, but I suppose Joe does need to keep up with his killing, especially in front of his followers. I was surprised to see Warren Kole from “Common Law,” who I initially didn’t recognize, as Roderick, Joe’s apparent number two who has some twisted perversions of his own and wins the prize for most well-connected devotee thanks to his status as the sheriff. Learning that he actually committed several of the murders for which Joe was convicted is certainly intriguing. Emma and Joe getting together romantically is probably a bad idea, but it’s a good way for both of them to blow off some steam.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 6, Episode 7 and 8 “The Dope Show” and “Everybody’s a Fucking Critic” (B+)

There’s something about the phrase “scared straight” that doesn’t conjure up an image of Atticus Fetch and Marilyn Manson. Hank and Karen have never been traditional parents, and it makes sense that Hank would think of showing Becca just what real rock stars are like. It’s astonishing to see what has become of Becca now that she is starting to grow up, and her struggle with being a crazy partier was almost less consequential than her desire to become a writer. Hank’s initial feedback session was a misstep, and it was good to see him revel in misery with Becca after receiving some negative feedback of his own. Faith seems to be a good support system for him, while Atticus’ wife is only going to get him in trouble sooner or later, both personally and professionally. I think it’s absolutely fantastic how two men on this show can constantly compete together for one woman. Previously, it was Hank and Bates vying for Karen’s affection, and now it’s Charlie and Stu trying to win Marcy back. Charlie had more success with her, but his inability to understand what was happening with one particularly aggressive mom seems to have negated the possibility of them getting back together at the moment. Ophelia was nuts in a good way up until this point, but finding out that she’s actually completely crazy makes it more likely that either Stu or Charlie will in fact be successful in getting Marcy to renounce her vow of hatred on men.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 2, Episodes 7 and 8 “The Runner Stumbles” and “Wonders of the World” (B+)

This show is taking a truly dark turn as it focuses more and more on Marty’s increasing desire to break free of his current situation. Taking Carl’s money to bolster his reputation as a supporter of minority businesses and go out on his own is a dirty move, even for him, and it clearly stressed him out to make the announcement to the press. Being profiled and stopped by police while jogging was the last straw, and going ballistic on the cops had unfortunate physical results which shocked both Roscoe and Jeannie in different ways. Jeremiah attempting to politicize what happened was not a good thing, and Marty is quickly going to lose the only friends he has left. I could tell that showing a drunken, carefree Marty heading towards a hotel room and watching Jeannie head towards her door was a fake-out, and instead Marty would choose the less damaging route of sleeping with Tamara, who is far from a permanent member of the pod. Jeannie acting so rudely to Adam Brody’s Nate while touring his sex toy shop led to quite the romance, one full of flirtation, innuendos, and passion, and it’s good to see Jeannie fall for the right person for a change. Carlson is turning out to be an enormous pain, and I thought that Marty was going to do something a whole lot worse than sleep with Tamara after he dismissed them immediately after beckoning them to Las Vegas. Marty is headed down a slippery slope, and there’s no coming back from it now.

What I’m Watching: Enlightened (Season Finale)

Enlightened: Season 2, Episode 8 “Agent of Change” (B+)

It’s bittersweet to reflect back on this episode considering what happened in the wake of the show’s first season finale over a year ago, which saw this series as the only survivor of HBO’s comedy slate at that time. The way this show has concluded now could well serve as its series finale, but I think that this universe deserves further exploration. Amy going to Krista’s house shortly after her delivery to accuse her of ratting her out was a bad idea, and her reaction to Tyler’s admission that he told Eileen wasn’t great either. After everything, it was sweet to see Eileen come over to Tyler’s to give him a second chance, and it’s wonderful to see them both find happiness. The most satisfying scene of the episode was Szidon’s meltdown, since it showed Amy that she had in fact done something good and that the hope of getting her dream job was never actually real in the first place. Dougie’s parting moment with Amy was great, and it’s so terrific to see the character he’s become. While Jeff may not have turned out to be the greatest guy in the world, it’s nice that Levi gave Amy another chance, and Helen smiling at the article about Amy was heartwarming. Seeing the triumphant way in which this season ended is a tribute to the magnificent and unique nature of this show, and I would very much love to continue watching this spectacularly individualized and hopeful series in a third season and beyond.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Mike White as Tyler

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 2, Episodes 8 and 9 “It’s Back” and “On All Fours” (B)

It makes sense to me that Hannah would be spiraling out of control and regressing to childhood problems now that she essentially has no support system with her friends otherwise occupied. The return of her OCD, however, was uncomfortably jarring, and while it provided an excellent opportunity to see Hannah’s miraculously apathetic parents once again, it was really more depressing than anything. Bob Balaban was a perfect therapist for Hannah, someone who refused to indulge any of her specific questions or allegations. The reaction to the first draft of her book wasn’t helpful, of course, and that q-tip scene was painful. It was not, however, the most unsettling moment of the ninth episode. I thought it was great that Adam got a chance to have his own plotline, going to an AA meeting and offering to bring cookies next time even though he doesn’t like them, netting himself a date in the process. I enjoyed his chemistry with Shiri Appleby’s Natalia, and it was devastating therefore to see him be so horribly rough with her, something that she didn’t take well. His run-in with Hannah was awkward, and I’m not sure whether this mishap in his current relationship will make him long for her once again. Marnie’s performance wasn’t actually bad, but it was somewhat embarrassing for the sheer nature of her obliviousness to everyone else’s perception of her. She really needs to move on, especially since Charlie can’t make up his mind about her. Shoshanna also needs to start being honest with Ray, since he may be forgiving but he sure is clingy and that’s not what she wants right now. This Sunday marks the season finale, but at least we have a third season to look forward to where things can head in a whole new direction.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pilot Review: Red Widow

Red Widow (ABC)
Premiered March 3 at 9pm

It seems these days that more and more shows are starting with a premise that doesn’t lend itself to an extended life, instead jumping off from a specific event and then being forced to mutate into something else after a few episodes, and certainly a season, something of which it might not actually be capable. The murder of Evan Walraven, admittedly less than dramatic in style than it should have been for a mob hit, was a catalyst for Marta’s immersion in her family’s world, something about which she apparently remained blissfully unaware for the entirety of her marriage to her poorly-groomed husband. Anson Mount belongs in the Old West during Reconstruction on “Hell on Wheels,” and he seemed an odd fit for the supposedly angelic dearly departed on this show. This show is hardly original, and it’s especially unimpressive to see how some of the characters are so thinly written. Lee Tergesen’s Mike is the worst offender, someone who utters horrendous dialogue and serves no productive purpose. Clifton Collins Jr. should have a much better part than a one-note federal agent with a junkie girlfriend who is supposed to have some complex relationship with the mob guys, and you’d think he’d be smarter than to change a flat tire while on a stakeout where he doesn’t need to actually be moving, allowing the person he was watching to slip away. Seventeen-year-old actor Sterling Beaumon played a young Ben Linus on “Lost” only a few years ago, yet he’s lost the signature appeal he had as the mischievous Walraven son on this show. Goran Visnjic is always good, but his role isn’t entirely consistent either, and his earpiece-wearing number two is particularly laughable. In her first American TV role, Radha Mitchell doesn’t display a tremendous ability to carry the show, and it’s hard to find her believable as a housewife-turned-criminal since she seemed pretty tough from the start. This show just doesn’t possess a unique appeal that makes watching it past the initial two-hour pilot worthwhile.

How will it work as a series? That’s the crucial problem, since this show’s premise only lasts so long, and, at a certain point, Marta becomes her own person and doesn’t have to identify as Evan’s widow anymore. She’s already indebted to Schiller, and Agent Ramos being so close to putting everything together means that many more developments are going to have to occur to complicate matters. I’m not sure this show has enough creativity in it to make it past a couple of episodes.
How long will it last? The ratings for the two-hour pilot were not good at all, and earning the accolade of having similar numbers to that of “Zero Hour,” which met its demise after only three episodes, makes it all but guaranteed that it will be cancelled within the month. ABC has other scripted fare on which to focus, and this one won’t live to see April.

Pilot grade: D

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 4, Episodes 15 and 16 “Going for the Gold” and “Runnin’ with the Devil” (B+)

These two episodes were both very engaging, but so different. I loved the focus on Elsbeth and Josh in the first hour, with her repeatedly denying his advances and his constant introduction of a brand-new witness. I loved that Jackie negated her testimony on the stand, and Diane blaming Clarke when she was implicated was extremely smart. It’s terrific that Peter called Eli during the debate and got great advice from him, which then prompted him to hire Eli back and give him a hug. Maddie is becoming less and less relevant as the working parts of Peter’s campaign take center stage, and I have a strong feeling that Peter is going to win. After experiencing difficulty exerting her newfound authority over the associates in the first episode, Alicia had equal trouble in the second hour dealing with the other partners. Kalinda was rightfully furious to find out about the firm’s decision to hire a second investigator, though it seems that her working relationship with Robin will be much more successful than her previous history with Blake. Looking out for Cary was nice, and it was a treat to see them flirt at the bar, with her expressing potential interest. As always, this show likes to bring back past cases, and Lemond Bishop is good for a number of storylines. Wallace Shawn’s Charles Lester was a peculiar character, and it was devastating to see his intimidation serve as the reason for the case’s dismissal rather than Alicia’s carefully-prepared legal remedy. Will and Diane’s relationship is among the best elements of this show, and it’s always great to see them celebrate their friendship in the process.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 3, Episodes 7 and 8 “A Long Way From Home” and “Where There’s a Will” (B+)

A custody battle between Frank and Fiona is not something I would have ever expected, but it’s still quite enthralling to watch. It’s magnificent to see the Gallagher family spring into action to make sure all the pieces are functioning, and it’s reassuring to see them break free of their current unfortunate situations. Carl did a great job of discouraging his guardians from keeping him and Liam, and Debbie made a daring prison break to escape from her predicament. Hearing Carl and Debs testify somewhat on Frank’s behalf was interesting, but nothing beat Fiona’s tales of his deadbeat nature. The biggest problem turned out to be Cousin Patrick, played by Brent Sexton, currently making the TV tour after his guest appearance this past week on “Justified.” Carl listing the symptoms of rat poison was fantastic, and Patrick really is a terrible nemesis, even besting the Milkovich brothers. Debs’ performance did the trick in the end, and it’s good to know that the Gallagher family isn’t going anywhere. Karen’s return is a big deal, and Mandy is not going to go down without an angry, violent fight. Sheila’s latest cause is horribly ill-advised, and she’s far too out of tune with the world to realize just how poorly it’s going to work out. Steve meeting his med school friends was an interesting development, and I wonder how he’ll be able to continue his new barista job after realizing where he could have been in life. The Veronica/Kev/Carol baby-making situation is getting out of control, and let’s hope their marriage doesn’t suffer as a result. Christian Clemenson is the perfect actor to play Frank’s new roommate Christopher, who may not be a serial killer but is definitely peculiar.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episodes 12 and 13 “Clear” and “Arrow on the Doorpost” (B+/A-)

It’s fascinating how often this show departs from its regularly scheduled plotline to focus on just one aspect and a few characters. In this case, it was highly demoralizing to see Morgan in such a bad state. Lennie James was a big part of this show’s pilot thirty episodes ago, and he was a bastion of strength and resiliency. To see him so broken down and unable to trust others is awful, and Rick leaving him behind is almost a worse fate than killing him would have been. Rick’s time with Morgan provided an excellent opportunity for Michonne to bond with Carl, and while she’s often at her most effective while she’s not speaking, it’s great to hear her talk (and see her eat). Episode thirteen represented yet another dramatic and exciting path towards all-out war between the prison and Woodbury. Rick’s meeting with the Governor was full of startlingly honest moments, and it’s a thrill to see them finally meet. I can’t decide whether it was more fantastic to see Daryl and Martinez getting to know each other or hearing Milton and Hershel talk about science and medicine. It was disconcerting but not unexpected to hear the Governor tell Martinez to kill Rick and everyone with him, and maybe Milton might just be able to save the day with his conscience, especially because Andrea continues to be totally oblivious to his true nature. Rick not telling the camp about the Governor’s offer was interesting, and I suspect that his newly appointed deputy Hershel will be able to talk him out of giving Michonne up and into coming up with some plan that might suggest hope of survival.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 1, Episodes 8 and 9 “We Shall Live Forever” and “Always a Cowboy” (B+)

Things are really coming to a head on this show, and there’s something both appealing and terrifying about a universe in which anything really could happen, namely Carrie nearly getting bludgeoned to death by Olek and Rabbit actually appearing in Banshee and taking Max from the playground. These two episodes each contained one monstrosity of a fight that was excessively brutal and shockingly lengthy, and it’s a wonder that only one person lost his life after all of the violence. Episode eight started out in a mesmerizing manner, showing Gordon’s utter silent dismay, which quickly turned to fury, at Carrie’s absence as we saw her experiencing passion with Lucas, who she immediately told should think of their love as something of the past. Carrie deserves credit both for her combat skills and for her resilience, refusing to answer any of Gordon’s highly relevant questions and, more crucially, ditching the hospital to go save her family. Rabbit’s visit to her home was fascinating and highly disconcerting, and I was concerned that Rabbit was going to kill Gordon on the spot. As I predicted, Lucas did go to Kai for help with Rabbit, though we don’t know what he asked him just yet, and Kai felt the need to beat Lucas to a pulp before sharing some scotch and agreeing to help him. It seems that Kai’s expanded universe will be somewhat central in the near future with the new focus on the Longshadow family. That will have to wait mostly for next season, of course, thanks to that awesome ending with Lucas realizing that he has not one but a whole bunch of guns pointed right at him.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 2, Episode 17 “Proteus” (B+)

This was in many ways a strange installment of this show, but an extremely thrilling and involving one nonetheless. Starting out on a rainy day on the eve of a major storm with Finch and Reese emerging from a movie led to an eerie payphone call with six numbers at one time, and the eventual search for a serial killer. Many shows – and movies – have featured the scenario of a small group of people, one of whom was a villain, stuck together in one place during bad weather, and this was a sterling example of that setup. It was obvious from the beginning that the FBI desk agent was in fact the killer, but everything that led up to Finch’s horrified discovery with the false agent standing in the shadows behind him was truly compelling. Finch flying his plane there posing as a stormchaser was great, and I like that Reese decided to out him as a suspicious person in service of his plan to control the situation. Beecher sure is persistent, and he’s actually quite helpful, both in terms of noticing things on the video and in giving Carter a ride to Finch and Reese. Him driving like a madman was somewhat worrisome, but he made up for it by fighting for her to give him a second chance and then saving everyone’s life by shooting the bad guy who was wearing his body armor. Aside from Carter and Beecher’s relationship, this episode did nothing to advance the greater storyline, but it was an excellent diversion.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What I’m Watching: Psych (Season Premiere)

Psych: Season 7, Episodes 1 and 2 “Santabarbaratown 2” and “Juliet Takes a Luvvah” (B-)

I have mixed feelings about USA Network. I used to enjoy all of their shows and watch them religiously, but I easily gave up on both “White Collar” and “Suits” last month since there was much more dramatic and compelling fare airing on other channels. Now, the longest-running USA show still on the air, and the only one not to air this summer when the network was functioning at full capacity on multiple nights a week is back, and I’m unsure of how I feel about it. Seven seasons in, the show has gotten somewhat ridiculous, and it’s becoming more and more obsessed with outright parodies than with actual cases that can have funny elements inserted to enhance them. The premiere episode of the season was extensively overdramatic in terms of Shawn’s pursuit of his father’s shooter, and mixing the actual concern Shawn has for his father with the comedy of their relationship and the presence of Chelsea doesn’t always lead to effective results. The case itself was quite interesting, and I liked how it played out on its own. Episode two was wholly over-the-top with Juliet’s infatuation with Mr. Possibilities, not to mention the Chief’s. Shawn is getting much less perceptive, and it’s frustrating to see him fail to realize the simplicity and ultimate inaccuracy of his discoveries. Living with his parents and walking in on them having sex was an unnecessary distraction, and it’s about time that he moved in with Juliet, however unlikely that relationship remains. Parminder Nagra’s Rachel is an intriguing addition to the cast, and I think that Gus actually could handle dating someone with a kid, since it’s arguably better than dating a serial killer. This show was renewed in December for an eighth season, which makes me less inclined to stick with the show than if it was in its final year. We’ll see if the next few episodes improve or if this is another one that doesn’t need to be mandatory weekly viewing anymore.

What I’m Watching: Nashville

Nashville: Season 1, Episode 14 “Dear Brother” (B-)

Everything is getting a bit out of control on this show, and only certain aspects of it remain fully coherent. Juliette’s spur-of-the-moment decision to plan Deacon a surprise party after learning it was his birthday while she knew that he wouldn’t want it was questionable, if somewhat in line with the way she lives her life, and it really ended up being so much more about her than about him. That said, Rayna did manage to come in and steal the show, something that was doubly damaging to Juliette, who had to deal with her mom’s relapse at the same time. I don’t trust Jay Hernandez’s sponsor Dante not because of any reason related to this show, but because his character Paul Wells on “Last Resort” was sent in as an enemy spy, a certain sign that my excessive TV watching has caused me great confusion. To her credit, Rayna is handling her separation well, and it’s good, though highly inconsistent with everything we’ve seen thus far, to see her sister step up to the plate to help in her time of need. Teddy appointing Coleman to be his deputy mayor is audacious but respectable, whereas giving Peggy a position is just plain stupid, and Lamar is sure to come after him to get revenge for his betrayal. The death of Gunnar’s brother is ultimately incidental, but at least Scarlett and Gunnar have finally gotten together, and Avery couldn’t even get inside to see them play. It’s about time, and hopefully it can only lead to good places.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 17 “Best Men” (B+)

It’s always a pleasure to see Elizabeth Banks and her nutty unhinged charisma. This is the second time that Sal has popped up, and the first since season one. It’s especially fun watching Banks play crazy after seeing her unusual but much more buttoned-up (and Emmy-nominated) Avery on “30 Rock.” Preparing for her spur-of-the-moment wedding gave Mitchell and Cam a wild opportunity to see what being in over your head feels like, and to examine their own relationship. Their reactions to Sal making out with a bartender, and their comments about it, were amusing, and I like that Tony admitted during the ceremony that he made out with a stripper the night before, to watch Sal bragged that she had kissed the bartender just one hour ago. The closing moment between Lily and Sal was somewhat over-the-top but admittedly quite hilarious. It’s rare to see Luke nervous, but his awkward attempt to get a date with Phil’s help led to the latest case of mistaken romantic identity, a temptation that Phil nobly resisted, only to have his effort to be honest taken hostilely. Claire and Hailey’s bonding time was expectedly cut short by Hailey’s obliviousness and desire to be a teenager, and it was great to see them both brushed aside by a surprisingly talented Alex, who was embarrassed to be seen with them in front of her bandmates. Manny acting on his crush on Dalia the nanny by drawing very inappropriate things was par for the course for the young romantic, if a bit more visually extreme than usual.

Pilot Review: Golden Boy

Golden Boy (CBS)
Premiered February 26 at 10pm

If there’s one thing that CBS doesn’t need, it’s another cop show set in New York. The network managed a successful update of the genre a few years ago with “Blue Bloods,” and now it’s getting away from the extended family format and focusing instead on a young cop and his gradual rise to the top. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it all that much more interesting, and the show feels far too dated to be timely and relevant. Telling the story in multiple time periods with the knowledge that certain characters, namely Chi McBride’s Detective Owen, won’t make it to the present day. McBride is just one of several actors wasted in roles here, after his standout humorous parts in “Pushing Daisies” and “Human Target” showed that he’s capable of being extremely entertaining when he’s not just dryly gruff. Kevin Alejandro had such better roles in both “True Blood” and “Parenthood” in the past, and Holt McCallany was so terrific in the lead role in FX’s short-lived “Lights Out” that it’s sad to see them both relegated to meatless characters here. Bonnie Somerville is the sole member of the cast who is actually given a decent part, but her accent is all too excessive. Star Theo James, who, like so many on American television these days, is not actually American, brings little charisma to Walter, and it’s hard to empathize with him since he’s just not an exceptionally compelling character. This seems like a show that might have been hard-hitting and groundbreaking a decade or two ago, but not so today.

How will it work as a series? One episode was enough for me, so I haven’t continued to see where the show goes. I do suspect that Walter will come up against many more obstacles as he makes his way to the top, and his working relationship with the other officers will get rockier before it gets smoother. We’ve seen it all before, and I don’t think this case merits special observation.
How long will it last? It looks like it may indeed have a promising future, considering the fact that the show managed to keep the Tuesdays at 10pm slot that was previously occupied by “Vegas,” with that show being banished to Fridays instead. This is just the kind of show that CBS likes, and so I figure that, even if it doesn’t ultimately succeed, it should last for a while, especially if CBS is looking for a midseason win. It could easily be renewed, but I wouldn’t count on it happening for sure.

Pilot grade: C

Monday, March 11, 2013

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Hatchet Tour” (A-)

The search for Drew Thompson could only have ended so many different ways, and the blunt reveal that it was Shelby was masterfully done, especially as uttered and confirmed by Hunter. That fact changes things considerably, particularly for Boyd and the danger he faces, since Shelby is no longer an enforcer of the law but now a threat much more potent than another former agent of the law, Hunter. Raylan taking Hunter on a joyride around Harlan was extremely interesting, highlighted by Hunter’s attempt to get hit by a truck and Raylan’s angry, violent reaction. It was good to see Constable Bob again, experiencing some trouble being taken seriously and responding with corresponding immaturity. Tim tailing Colt led to a subdued but emotional confrontation with Tim asking Colt if he killed his friend after he saved Cassie from certain death. Colt admitting his sin to Boyd after he tested him by asking specifically how he had killed Ellen May was a serious turning point, and I’m curious to see how it will affect the relationship between Boyd and Johnny. Boyd and Ava preparing to play house enabled them a terrific opportunity to take down a snooty realtor after Ava recognized the home they were looking at as the home that her mother used to clean. Ava is undergoing an important transformation, and hearing her coldly say that she should have killed Ellen May herself suggests that she’s headed down a dark road and turning more and more into a Crowder.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 4, Episode 8 “Outlaw” (B+)

Raylan broke the news as if it were some common occurrence, but it’s hard to accept the fact that, just like that, Arlo is dead. Admittedly, he did put up quite a fight, attacking Mosley while he was in the barber’s chair and almost getting the upper hand until he got fatally stabbed with those scissors. Ushering Raylan closer just to tell him to kiss his ass was cruel, and in keeping with everything that he’s done up until this point. Art forcing Raylan to go on leave is an unwise move, and I’m sure that Raylan won’t take it sitting down. Raylan’s reaction to Ava and Boyd’s engagement was priceless, and I like that he still managed to take out the bad guy in the room who gave away his status as a police officer impersonator by ordering Raylan around. He was one formidable assassin, a perfect villain for this show. Boyd made quite the power play in this hour, exerting that he is the outlaw and this is his world while getting Wynn to take out a few of his enemies and earning several hundred thousand dollars in the process. Johnny’s deal with Wynn won’t mean much now, especially since Johnny is so focused on tailing Colt, who is unsubtly leaving a trail of bodies all over town. Shelby seems to be holding all the power now, and his conversation with Ellen May was extremely interesting. Boyd may be doing well for the moment, but Shelby and Ellen May are sure to have sinister things planned for him.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Mindy Project

The Mindy Project: Season 1, Episode 16 “The One That Got Away” (B+)

It’s nice to know that Mindy Kaling is all about having her comedy friends stop by for a visit. It’s also interesting to see Seth Rogen utilized in a less explicitly funny context, somewhat similar to his role in last year’s “Take This Waltz.” He was pretty good, however, and I liked his semi-chemistry with Mindy, which wasn’t overly romantic but still relatively charming. I heartily enjoyed the opening flashback scene which detailed their first meeting and where he made a quick joke about Mindy being Sephardic, which he declined to explain to Mindy, congratulating himself on its effectiveness instead. It’s understandable that Mindy would get quickly attached to the notion of being able to be with a person so similar to her, but it makes sense that she shouldn’t end up with him right now since it would drastically change the framework of the show. Danny considering donating sperm as a way of having kids at the request of his patients was an intriguing situation, and I liked how Mindy reacted to hearing that he was contemplating it. That’s always been the strongest, most consistent aspect of this show, and it’s probably better that Mindy and Danny don’t get together just yet. Having Danny hold the letter for Mindy and then console her in the halfhearted way that he knows how was fitting, however, and it’s good to see their friendship continuing to blossom and progress in a positive way. If only the rest of the team had better things to do.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 2, Episode 18 “Tinfinity” (B+)

It’s always fun to see the relationship than Nick and Schmidt have showcased and analyzed. Celebrating their ten-year anniversary as roommates is a very typical Schmidt move, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that Nick isn’t into at all. That made for an entertaining dynamic and a potent dramatic confrontation, exemplified by Nick’s decision to buy, not rent, the crappiest porter potty he could find and Schmidt’s backup rental of an excessively fancy one. Their party turned out to be less about them than about the two unexpected proposals that stole the spotlight. While it wasn’t a terribly meaty role, it was fun to see Steve Howey, best known as Kev from “Shameless,” as the overly emotional and clingy sports star who Winston rightfully knew not to set up with Jess. Cece’s first proposal was certainly unmemorable and unromantic, and his grand gesture at the party wasn’t all that much better. This really is something that Cece is rushing into, and I suspect that she’ll have regrets soon. Schmidt’s reaction to the news was especially heartbreaking, and it’s clear that he’s never going to be able to get over Cece, especially if she has enough disregard for his feelings to get engaged at his own party. It was entertaining to see the guests at the party and watch them waiting in line for the bathroom. It’s easy to forget that there’s a wider web than just these four roommates, Cece, and their significant others, and it’s nice to see a bigger glimpse of their extended world.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

TV with Abe is on Vacation!

Once again, things have become extremely busy, and unfortunately TV with Abe is going on a short hiatus once again. I am currently out of the country traveling and, while I have been doing my best to keep up on new episodes and pilots, reviews will have to wait until there is more time to appropriately address them. Stay tuned, and thanks as always for reading!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Fall” (C)

As all of this show’s threads come together, it’s demonstrating that it truly isn’t a strong thriller, incapable of creating believable and consistent characters. Most jarringly, both Charlie and the dim-witted duo of Jacob and Paul leave literal keys to freedom lying around for their prisoners, yet when they need to make it out of a situation where they are surrounded by police from all sides, they manage to think quickly and devise an impenetrable plan. Charlie was even messed up enough to bang his head against a pole and then had no problem thinking on his feet to get away. Sure, Jacob and Paul were assisted by members of the ever-growing cult who took out two SWAT team members evidently untrained in the art of watching their backs, but the omnipresence of this cult is growing tiresome. It was obvious that small-town cop Ava was a follower of Joe’s, and even she isn’t capable of actually taking out someone that she shoots, instead leaving Mike good as new for when Ryan ran up to him. The more interesting stuff has to do with Joe, who is tormenting his lawyer by giving her hints about what he’s having her do, and who told Emma to tase Ryan so that his pacemaker would be disrupted. Seeing flashbacks to Debra’s past hardly seems relevant, though I suppose it makes more sense since she was herself part of a cult. The flashback-within-a-flashback device, however, is irksome and unnecessary, and a sign that this show loves flashbacks way, way too much.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What I’m Watching: Californication

Californication: Season 6, Episode 6 “In the Clouds” (B+)

This show knows how to have a party, and this episode featured one unforgettable cross-country flight. The hilarity of Air Force 69 even existing is enough, and the fact that it’s populated with such a wild group of passengers is fantastic. Hank never seems to know exactly what Charlie’s gotten him into, and he has plenty of opportunity for trouble with everyone on board aside from the watchful and terrifying Krull, who is ready to inflict a world of pain upon Hank. It’s always the wives of those Hank is closely working with who desire him, and it was fun to see Atticus’ wife explicitly tell Hank that she wanted to have an extramarital affair before being drugged with an Ambien by her husband, who was intent on an affair of his own. Faith not being swayed by Atticus’ offers made her episode-ending seduction of Hank all the more mesmerizing, and sometimes it’s as if Hank doesn’t even need to try to win the women in his life over. Repeatedly trying to reach the women he loves when he thought the plane was going down couldn’t have hurt, of course. Charlie and Trudy are perhaps the most genius pairing of all time, and they were undoubtedly the funniest part of this episode. After six years, the excessive sex and ridiculous way in which these people live their lives should be getting tiresome, but this episode was as creative and alluring as ever, demonstrating that this show still has enduring potential.

What I'm Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 2, Episode 6 “Family Values” (A-)

This was the first really good episode of this show in a while, exposing the dramatic edge that it has and fleshing out all of its characters save for Jeannie, who has had more than enough focus in the past. Marty calling Julianne out on not being real with him had a very negative impact, and her pressuring him into skipping Roscoe’s recital for the sake of the company was the last straw. Marty telling Tamara that he’s leaving the company is a big step, and he managed to mess up his opportunity to reunite with a very willing Tamara by purposely offending her and shooting down the prospect of a night alone with her. Tamara was much looser and more likeable in this installment, and it’s good to have the usually serious Marty taken down a peg. The pod member who got the biggest boost in this episode was Doug, who turns out to have quite an attractive girlfriend and even managed to stand up to the unfeeling, manipulative Clyde and tell him exactly how he feels about him, without holding anything back. Though she’s totally off base about Jeannie wanting to sleep with Doug, Sarah earns major points for not letting Clyde get under her skin, literally. Jenny Slate, who previously appeared as Jonathan’s romantic interest Stella on “Bored to Death,” brings an intriguing freshness to Sarah. Roscoe is most definitely Marty and Monica’s child, and it was great to see their reactions to his horrifically inappropriate performance.

What I’m Watching: Enlightened

Enlightened: Season 2, Episode 7 “No Doubt” (B+)

It always seemed like Amy was too much of an idealist, assuming that the information she wanted to find existed and that it could serve to bring down Abaddon. Now, that’s true, and she’s in a completely different place, back to her blissful opinion that change is possible and that maybe she can make a difference from inside the company. Jeff’s negative reaction to her news and his subsequent break-up was a wake-up call to the fact that everything isn’t as wonderful as she’s thought, and none of it is permanent. Szidon’s offer of a $100,000 position for Amy to do exactly what she wants is quite monumental, and I’m really curious to see what she tries to make happen. I was surprised that she told Krista everything, and even more caught off guard by Krista’s reaction, which was just that she hoped she knew what she was doing. Levi is definitely furious at Amy, and I suspect that he won’t forgive her anytime soon. Tyler wants everyone to have a happy ending, something that it seems he’s found with Eileen, and I sincerely hope that she doesn’t find out what he’s done. Dougie is losing it, and his speech to his underlings was actually quite powerful, much more impassioned and energetic than he’s ever indicated himself to be. It’s hard to know how things will turn out, and we got our first glimpse of Amy losing her temper in a long time, and while it wasn’t terrible, it’s still not good to see her teetering on the edge of losing the positive attitude she’s found.