Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pilot Review: Under the Dome

Under the Dome (CBS)
Premiered June 24 at 10pm

The recent trend of sci-fi event series is far from dead, and summer may actually be a better platform for this kind of limited series fare. This show, like many before it, has a cool premise but can’t quite deliver in terms of the execution because it gets bogged down with its dull characters and their interactions only tangentially shaped by the introduction of this extraordinary thing, which in this case is an invisible dome which encases a random small town. Being based on a Stephen King novel recommends this show considerably, but this premiere comes far from delivering any actionable answers, and instead presents infinite questions unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Among the cast, there are two recognizable TV faces whose roles here don’t even come close to doing justice to the parts that made them famous to current audiences – Jeff Fahey from “Lost” as the sheriff and Dean Norris from “Breaking Bad” as the hardheaded council member. I’m far from impressed with the creepy Junior, who found the need to abduct his girlfriend and store her in his father’s storm shelter while the whole town is encompassed in a dome. I’ve never understood the need to have everyday villainy when far more interesting things are happening. I don’t know what to make of the unfortunately-named Barbie, and Rachelle Lefevre’s reporter seems to be awfully ignorant of what’s going on around her. These characters just aren’t compelling enough, and the show is sure to miss the grandeur of the greater picture for the sake of pettier plotlines.

How will it work as a series? This show has the potential to be interesting but seems determined to stretch its mystery over thirteen episodes, which should prove agonizing. There’s some chance that it could pick up, but given the characters presented thus far, I don’t have high hopes.
How long will it last? It shouldn’t have a problem staying on through the summer, given that its debut was the highest for a summer show premiere in six years. CBS is big on high ratings, and therefore it’s possible they’ll want to employ this one as a summer staple, though I think it’s more likely to be a one-shot limited series that does well this summer.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 5 “Party’s Over” (B+)

What a start this was, with Walt’s overenthusiastic girlfriend Lizzie planning quite the romantic night for him, earning only a sarcastic comment about Ferg answering the call for all her hard work. Lizzie made things quite awkward in this hour by saying hi to Cady on the street and introducing herself as her father’s girlfriend and then coming by the station later to call Walt out on not making their relationship public. Walt wasn’t the only one with relationship drama in this episode, as revealed by Henry’s on-and-off visitor of whom Walt clearly didn’t think highly. Branch’s visit to Cady’s was somber and definite, though it’s clear that the two of them have a connection that can’t quite be broken even if a romance is not in the cards. Walt chewing Branch out for focusing on the campaign instead of doing his job only to find that Branch had done both was an embarrassing moment, and, no matter what the outcome of the election, it’s incidents like those that are going to hurt their working relationship most. The most formidable maneuver in this episode was, of course, Vic getting ready to spar with Lorna in order to get her to talk. The fact that she so quickly lost and still encouraged Lorna to talk was impressive, and though we didn’t get to know anything more about Vic’s colored past, it was still worthwhile to see her jump right into the ring and express her impatience with the world in an extremely literal fashion.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 3 “Under the Influence” (B+)

This episode got off to a fast-paced start after an unsuspecting introduction to Tao’s TV writer friend with an enthralling police chase scene that is somewhat rare for this show, along with the excessive amount of blood present on the driver’s clothes. It was jarring to recognize Ben Feldman, who plays opinionated copywriter Michael Ginsberg on “Mad Men,” as the cocky, curious Jason Andrews. His romantic interest in Sykes was a bit surprising, as was her being referred to by her first name, an unusual thing for any character on this show. It would be good to see her loosen up and enjoy a love life, though I’m not sure he’s the best fit for her. He did prove helpful in giving Rusty advice on how to write and nearly getting him in trouble for plagiarism, but it’s something considering Rusty framed himself as his own greatest influence, which presents more than enough problems as it is. The showier guest star of the episode was, of course, Elizabeth Pena, whose mother of the year was willing to let her son be deported to Mexico to take the fall for a crime of which she was equally guilty only before she realized that she too would be deported and face certain doom at the hands of the cartel. I noticed that D.D.A. Rios was nowhere to be found in this hour, and instead we got the more reliable D.D.A. Hobbs. Additionally, with Jon Tenney starring in his own show right after this one, D.B. Sweeney’s Agent Morris is a fitting consolation prize.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What I’m Watching: Family Tree

Family Tree: Season 1, Episode 6 “Civil War” (B+)

I really love how committed this show is to deepening the genealogy of the Chadwick line and making it even more ridiculous every episode without going too far or trying for outright comedy. Tom finding two pictures of his great-great-grandfather, one in which he was wearing the Union uniform and the other in which he was wearing the Confederate uniform, both missing buttons, was great, and I like that, as with every other step of this search, something like his participation in a Civil War reenactment was ultimately required. Rick’s warning about how he might be made fun of because of the inconsistencies of his costume – make that uniform – made the subsequent mockery even more amusing, and Tom getting arrested as a deserter when he tried to get up to use the bathroom was very funny. Rick’s wife shooting their captors was a fantastic finale, and it was enjoyable to see her want to participate but express frustration at having to play a prostitute instead of a nurse. Pete hasn’t yet arrived, and now he’s coming with Bea, which should make things even more entertaining. With only two episodes to go this season, it appears that Tom will be spending more time in America, which I think is terrific, since Pete and Bea stand out enough in their home country, and having them get to express their peculiarities on American should be even more of a quirky and welcome delight. I don’t know if this show will make it past a first season, but I’m enjoying it for now.

Pilot Review: Crossing Lines

Crossing Lines (NBC)
Premiered June 23 at 9pm

It’s always interesting to see what kind of shows networks think people will want to watch during the summer. While cable channels are busy throwing some of their strongest and best programming at viewers during that season, broadcast networks often repackage Canadian or British series to see how they’ll fare in the United States. This show is something altogether different, an American-focused international cop show, with a handful of players from around the globe cast as investigators working together to deal with crimes that inarguably cross lines of jurisdiction. What this is, unfortunately, is a huge mess, filled with so many different accents and backstories that it’s hard to latch on to any of them, and when sentimentality is presented, it’s done in an overdramatic fashion, which, in one very predictable case, led to the death of one major character. At the center of the show is the one recognizable American on the show (Donald Sutherland is Canadian), William Fichtner, who was astounding on the short-lived “Invasion” before rebounding the following the year with a fantastic role on “Prison Break.” Here, he plays a protagonist so broken that it’s hard even to be impressed by him – his flaws outweigh his talents, especially when he admits to a confidante that he didn’t actually reveal someone’s inner misdeeds but instead witnessed him doing them. His accent is also highly regrettable, and this show seems to want to use subtitles as little as possible, though they do get blared across the screen in an obnoxious fashion when they are used. This show wants to be cutting-edge but it’s far from it, and it’s a highly missable summer snooze.

How will it work as a series? This first episode was a high-profile case of truly international proportions, even though its bad guy, played by Eddie Jemison, turned out to be far from convincing. I can’t imagine that every episode will be quite so grandiose, which might make this show even less exciting and appealing.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot weren’t great, but they weren’t terrible. Ultimately, however, like all other broadcast network summer shows, this one is doomed to a short and forgettable existence. I see no reason why NBC would trash it during the summer, but once its September 1st season finale date rolls around, I don’t think even NBC will remember it.

Pilot grade: D

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I’m Watching: Veep (Season Finale)

Veep: Season 2, Episode 10 “D.C.” (A-)

This has been a fun season, but what an utterly fabulous and wholly fantastic closer this was. Selina’s prospects as a serious presidential candidate have never been great, and therefore it’s entirely fitting that her plans about whether and when to run would be made public in such an inconsistent and unimpressive fashion. The speed at which Dan got and accepted four jobs was rather startling, and the same goes for Sue, who negotiated formidably with Kent. Amy’s wavering interest in her relationship with the ever-present Ed was entertaining, and I continue to believe in her as one of the show’s best all-around characters. Gary’s cheese-filled future with Dana seems miserable, and I do hope he’s able to salvage that. More crucially, however, this episode did what this show does best, which is make POTUS into a majestic figure whose very presence is cause for awe and celebration. Cleverly not showing him by having him enter Selina’s office without her seeing was terrific, and her triumphant exodus was great. “Sue, did the President call?” has been uttered so little this season, and to have her dismiss him as insignificant was truly satisfying. This was an exciting and enthralling episode, rare for a comedy like this, and it makes the prospect of a third season, for which the show was renewed at the beginning of May, so wonderful. This show really does have one of the best ensembles around, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a great centerpiece for an excellently-written and biting comedy.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kevin Dunn as Ben

What I’m Watching: Mad Men (Season Finale)

Mad Men: Season 6, Episode 13 “In Care Of” (A-)

It’s hard to believe that this season is over already, but what a monumental way to close out the year. The season five finale was dramatic enough, but nothing compares to this in terms of pure shock value. Don expressing his desire to move to California to start over and actually preparing with Megan to go out there was entirely unexpected and uncharacteristic, and he really tanked his own career when he brought up his whorehouse orphan past in the middle of a meeting with a client. Appointing Ted as his California emissary after initially telling him that he couldn’t go was his one act of charity, but to have all the partners, including his dear friend Roger, vote against him to force him to take a few months off is a sign of things being inescapably bad. Running into Duck on the way out was an enormous final blow. Both Megan and Peggy were rightfully furious with the flip-flopping nature of the men in their lives, and it’s going to be hard for either of those relationships to work going forward. Don taking his kids to see where he grew up – prompting an expression of “This is a bad area” from Bobby – was a subtle, quiet way of closing out a busy season. I don’t think this was the best season of this show, but it was certainly strong, with a handful of great episodes and some other perfectly satisfactory ones. There’s no show quite like this on the air, and it will be greatly missed in between seasons.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Who wasn’t great? Too hard a question for the moment.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 3, Episode 5 “Scared and Running” (B+)

This show is returning to its dark, brooding roots, offering up a somber and slow hour that includes some unsettling developments. After finally wising up to the fact that there might actually be something seriously wrong with her daughter, Danette did something right for once and called her daughter back to check up on her. That ending was haunting, as she reached into Joe’s bag to find the phone and then saw him open the door behind her. Like Darren Richmond, I suspect that Joe’s complicity isn’t cut and dry, and that this hardly means that we’re close to finding Kallie. Bullet seems to be warming up to Holder, and it was reassuring to see her bond with Linden in the car, even if it wasn’t a particularly warm moment. I love that Holder had a sweatshirt in his trunk to change into at a moment’s notice, a great throwback to his old style. It’s interesting to see Carolyn in Holder’s home life, and how nonchalant she was about Linden’s visit and Holder’s creative Valentine’s Day policy. Seward continues to be entirely unfriendly and awful to those around him, and his cruel response to Adrian’s foster mother was unnecessary and spiteful. Alton revealing the nature of his crime and how his siblings’ forgiveness affected him provided an excellent counterpoint to Seward’s attitude toward his crime and his impending death. Becker may not have trouble finding volunteers for Seward’s execution, but I’m sure that Seward will ultimately have the last laugh and find some way to torment those involved in ending his life.

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 2 “The Sun” (B+)

It wasn’t clear from last week’s premiere where this season would be headed, but this second installment offers clear evidence that it’s going to be terrific. The fact that the Louisiana government has developed bullets that can actually injure vampires and contact lenses that prevent glamoring is fearsome and fantastic. Bill being a prophet of the future may be a bit much, but that brief glimpse of our favorite vampires being held in a chamber and then exposed to sunlight was well worth all of his Lilith-related daydreams. Bill is otherwise in a bad place, as demonstrated by his disgusting blood draining ritual that cost the poor human prostitute her life. While Warlow still remains a formidable threat, it’s a relief to learn that Rutger Hauer isn’t actually him, and is instead someone with great power looking out for the best interests of the Stackhouse family. I’m not sure what to make of Sookie’s new friend Ben, but it was amusing to see her try to walk away from him and avoid yet another saga of supernatural drama. Hippies from around the country seeking to help shifters and werewolves expose themselves should prove both interesting and detrimental, though that does explain how both Sam and Alcide will continue to remain involved in the storyline. Jessica’s prayer was an emotional but unusual (for this show) way to bookend the episode’s events, and it’s a sign that intense things are to soon to come which will have inescapable repercussions for all of our favorite characters.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred (Season Premiere)

Wilfred: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “Uncertainty” and “Comfort” (B+)

It’s great to have this truly unique show back, especially with two installments a night for the next two weeks. I like that these two episodes both had different focuses, one on the continued question of whether Ryan is actually insane and the other on Wilfred’s inability to comprehend certain facts of life. Two familiar comedic faces were on hand to interact with Ryan, with Angela Kinsey of “The Office” in the first installment as Wilfred’s clone’s caretaker and Zachary Knighton from “Happy Endings” as Ryan’s new mailman friend. As usual, we didn’t get any definitive answers about whether or not Wilfred is all in Ryan’s head. It was inevitable that Wilfred would do something ridiculous like find religion when he discovered that death isn’t something temporary. Inviting Jenna and Drew to join Ryan at the bar while he was having drinks with Bill was just the kind of Ryan-destructive behavior that makes Wilfred who he is, and it’s a good thing that Ryan managed to come out of it okay with a relatively uneventful and therapeutic bonding moment with Jenna towards the end of the episode. With Amanda gone, and with such melancholy memories of her, it’s time that Ryan found someone else to focus on romantically so that he can get Wilfred out of his head for a bit. Friends like Bill won’t cut it, but I suspect both Ryan and Wilfred are in for plenty of misadventures in the coming weeks as this show airs its third round of thirteen episodes.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 3 “Down Range” (B+)

Michael isn’t going to get out of this deep-cover operation anytime soon, and it’s doubly disconcerting because he, Sam, and Jesse aren’t even trying to hide who they are, using their real names and their pasts to convince Burke that they’re on his side. The problem, of course, is that he’s being far from straight with them, taking out a powerful would-be ally and then revealing to everyone’s shock that he’s actually working for someone else rather than serving as the head honcho in charge. That didn’t work out so well for the latest big TV name to guest star on this show, Ricardo Chavira of “Desperate Housewives” fame, whose Sorrano just found himself to be Burke’s hostage after Michael made it look like Sorrano had to be the one who had ordered the team of snipers. Michael stepping in front of the window to force the CIA to shoot at him was a risky move, and a sign that he’s willing to do just about anything to get this mission accomplished. Back in Miami, Madeleine managed to get the upper hand with her latest enemy, which is good considering how much she’s been manipulated into revealing things she’s not supposed to recently. Madeleine deserves a bit of happiness with Charlie now that Nate is gone and Michael is out of the picture, and Fiona not talking to Michael should help ensure that she has plenty of time to keep an eye on his mother and make sure she stays relatively far from trouble.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 5, Episode 2 “Blythe Spirits” (B)

This wasn’t a great episode, but I suppose it wasn’t that bad either. I never like when shows that aren’t supernatural in nature attempt to insert a character’s suspicion of the existence of a ghost or similar entity into the episode, which affects the tone drastically and can’t possibly end in a satisfying manner. In this case, it would have been good to see the very much alive Boris actually be in the house, but the fact that he isn’t a regular cast member anymore probably means that he won’t be stopping by anytime soon. Boris and Dmitry being half-brothers is rather intriguing, though that whole storyline tends to take such a backseat to everything else that it’s not wholly relevant. Divya lashing out at Paige for trying to be a friend was harsh, and I do wonder what, if anything, will happen in Savannah, since Divya still has little to no clue about how Jeremiah feels about her. Paige’s idea to throw a big party to get all of the neighbors to like them was smart, and I’m worried about Evan’s consistent inability to believe in his wife and her ability to solve problems just as well as he can. Blythe will likely continue to be a problem for Evan, but it looks like HankMed will have a new offer to consider that might make all that moot. I think HankMed would be extremely different under new management, but that their prospective buyer is sure to make a big impact on their business whether or not they succeed in acquiring them.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Road to Hell” (B+)

The cases that Walt and his deputies are encountering this season are quite spectacular, in that they involve an awful lot of people and a large ring of suspicious people. It wasn’t much of a surprise that Watts was taking his job a bit literally and trying to carry out justice, and it wasn’t as if everyone else involved was completely clean and guilt-free. There were a few recognizable faces in this episode from past TV series, including Daniel Buran, who played werewolf Marcus in season five of “True Blood,” as Bobby Dunwood, Greg Ellis, who was Michael Amador in season three of “24,” as Jordan Helms, and Hillary Tuck, who was on “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” as the grieving wife who was not happy to hear Vic’s news about her husband. Vic appears to have much bigger problems, of course, considering that she couldn’t figure out who sent her flowers and now quickly finds her past catching up with her. Her relationship with her husband has never been solid, and his nonchalant reaction to Vic’s question about the flowers and his offer of breakfast in bed felt somewhat out of place. The final moments of the episode spell certain trouble for Vic, and that’s not even taking into account the way things were left with Walt, Henry, and Cady, as well as the upcoming election which is sure to shake things up. This is guaranteed to be an exciting and eventful season aside from all of the cases themselves.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 2 “False Pretenses” (B-)

This episode’s central plotline was familiar to me, if not entirely in this context. Fictionalized apps for gay men to find each other have also been featured in other cinematic fare such as the lackluster comedy “Hit and Run,” and here it’s the same kind of idea, enhanced by the notion of this mystery man whose profile picture featured only his chest. Its execution here was certainly full of intrigue, and had quite a resolution as staged by Raydor and D.D.A. Rios. The main reason that I wasn’t taken with this episode is that I’m really not impressed with her character. After Sykes was the unintelligent, inexperienced female last season, Rios has now fully stepped up to the plate, unable to control both her composure and her volume when she arrives at a crime scene. Additionally, she’s completely incapable of any kind of subtlety, always ready to overplay her hand immediately. I thought Rusty was more irritating than useful in season one, and now I feel that he’s much more positively ingrained into the storyline, but he’s still not an overly compelling part. It’s more worthwhile to see both Raydor and Provenza step in to defend Rusty when Rios doesn’t have the courtesy to treat him with any decency. I know he’s busy being terrible on “Revolution,” but I’d love to see Billy Burke return with another quality performance as Phillip Stroh, though I suspect they’ll be plenty of time left in the Rusty trial saga so he shouldn’t rush back just yet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What I’m Watching: Family Tree

Family Tree: Season 1, Episode 5 “Welcome to America” (B+)

I wasn’t sure about this episode after last week’s awkward half-hour, but this one ended up being relatively entertaining while still remaining plenty uncomfortable. We actually found out just as much about Tom in this installment as we did his American relatives (more, in the case of North Carolinian cousin Dave), highlighted by his fear of cats brought on by something Bea told him when he was a child. Him being given English muffins and asked if his school was like Hogwarts was amusing, and I do wonder how Pete will go over when he arrives since he’s likely to react much more strongly to these mistaken English stereotypes. I like that there was a way for Christopher Guest regular Fred Willard to make an appearance, popping over as the next door neighbor and making quite an impression on Tom when they shared a late-night hot tub together. To me, the most amusing part of the episode was that Tom got a call in the middle of the night on Skype from Monk, who revealed that Bea had lost her job at the bank and was depressed but insisted that she was sleeping. It’s hard not to enjoy the incomparable eccentricities the Chadwick family members have, which sometimes aren’t even outrageous, but more subtle, like Al’s pronunciation of the Native American terms he learned at camp. The female cousins’ discussion of their standards for cheese was also great, and my favorite arguments were “it depends on what mood I’m in” and “cheese is cheese.”

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 2, Episode 9 “Running” (B+)

There are a few things more startling than physically walking through a glass door, and, as confirmed by the reactions of her staff members, Selina didn’t come out of it looking good at all. Mike’s go-to excuse of her being on a call with the Australian ambassador was far from convincing, and telling the truth later wasn’t exactly a winning strategy. Dan getting a call from Selina to put together a hip playlist to rival the one that Dan himself quite backstabbingly put together for Chung was worrisome, and it was even more problematic for Amy and Dan to run into each other at a Chung event, indicating that Selina’s two most intelligent advisers are both thinking of jumping ship and latching on to the same enemy of their current boss. I think that Kevin Dunn continues to be the guest star of the season as Ben, consistently devastated by every situation and eager to take his fury out on Jonah, which is never a bad thing. Talking in double negatives with Sue was a great added bonus this episode as well, a rare and unlikely brief interaction that paid off. Selina’s medication-induced aura was bound to have repercussions, but it was fun to see her excitedly offer to buy Mike’s boat and then request an invitation to Gary’s parents’ anniversary party. That kindness, of course, made her brutal and cruel takedowns of both of them, particularly Gary, at the end of the episode, all the more awkward and miserable for the receiving party.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 6, Episode 12 “The Quality of Mercy” (B+)

This was a very involving episode, but it doesn’t feel like there’s just one installment left before the end of the season. Ted and Peggy running around giggling with each other was an incredibly obvious expression of the affair they both decided at different points that they couldn’t have, and it was difficult to watch them both react with dismay at Don’s effortless takedown of their short-lived romance. Sending an updated budget to St. Joseph’s during their casting process and then invoking Frank’s name to get them to calm down was cruel on Don’s part, and while there’s no debating his effectiveness, his humanity is much less certain. That’s doubly true when it comes to going with Sunkist over Ocean Spray despite his promise to Ted. Ken wanting to give up Chevy is no surprise, and Pete makes sense as a successor. Pete’s reaction to learning from Duck that Bob is just like Don was startling, and it’s intriguing to see how he ultimately handled the situation. I liked Bob well enough when he was a coffee-getting nice guy, but I suppose everyone deserves a little mystery in their back story. Sally’s decision to go to boarding school to get away from both her parents isn’t a shock, and what an impression she made on her first night. Betty giving Sally a cigarette so that she wouldn’t do it behind her back was one kind of parenting tactic, and I’m sure Sally will have plenty of misadventures away from home in the near future.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 3, Episode 4 “Head Shots” (B+)

Linden certainly isn’t doing much to get people to like her, as evidenced by how she speaks to Skinner and her particularly harsh comment to Carl. It’s interesting to see Holder in the position of defending her to others, while she buries herself even deeper in the investigation. Her meetings with Kallie’s mom are getting even more miserable, and kudos to her for not backing down when she tried to dismiss her rather than acknowledge that something is seriously wrong and that her daughter is in serious trouble. I hadn’t recognized Jewel Staite of “Firefly” fame before this episode, but it’s good to see her around, and I hope that she’ll have a more major part to play throughout the rest of the season. I was extremely concerned for the well-being of Hill after he baited Seward to get a rise out of him, but what resulted instead was one biting comment from Seward about how he knows that Hill is guilty and an unexpected and rare moment of laughter shared between the two of them. As if the detectives weren’t obsessed with bringing work home, it’s staggering to see how Becker lives his home life and how his wife describes his demeanor and habits to Henderson, who isn’t all that much less involved. Seeing Joe Mills at the end of the episode was a predictable if still haunting way to end, and I’m sure this show is only going to continue to get darker as it delves into this gloomy mystery.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies

Falling Skies: Season 3, Episode 3 “Badlands” (C)

After last week’s promising start, this episode is a stern reminder of just how much this show can miss the mark. I watched a portion of the episode and then took a break for a few hours, only to realize that I wasn’t even a third of the way in, despite the fact that Grace’s demise and the rest of the episode’s events already felt impossibly endless. Grace getting her head impaled by a stake was treated as an awfully minor and simple injury by an unconvincingly caring Pope, and her ultimate death was far from surprising given the extent of her wound. Most disappointingly, this episode didn’t feature a single appearance by the new alien allies we met last episode, and instead only offered glimpses of Tom and Ann’s most definitely alien baby and an unexpected human enemy who turned out to be quite gruff. The notion of the President being alive is an enticing one – and not dissimilar from another sci-fi show which just aired its season finale – yet I assume it will take far too long for Benjamin Hathaway to surface. This predictable attack is sure to get in the way of Hal’s misguided admission of unknowing guilt which will surely get him ostracized from the camp, though ideally they’ll feed him false information to get Karen on the wrong track. The idea of that memorial tree is a good one, but this show doesn’t have the dramatic impact it needs to make that kind of emotional plotline work. I'm not sure I'll have the patience to finish the next episode.

What I’m Watching: True Blood (Season Premiere)

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 1 “Who Are You, Really?” (B+)

We didn’t even have a week off between the not-so-grand finale of one HBO fantasy epic and the premiere of another. Now in its sixth season, this show still has a distinct appeal, and it’s not yet clear where this season will be headed. With all of the outrageous vampire intoxication business finished, it looks like this world is headed for all-out war between humans and vampires. I like that Bill’s new state is far more complicated than mere furious possession by Lilith, and that Jessica finds herself drawn to be with him aside from the strong pull he has on her as her maker. Sookie rescinding Eric’s invitation to her home after he signed the deed back over to her was also an important step, and Pam is only going to continue to be alienated by Eric’s investment in Nora, which will in turn frustrate Tara. Two prominent new cast members should definitely prove to be formidable additions to this show’s already diverse ensemble. Rutger Hauer is a great choice to portray Worlow, who made a mesmerizing impression in one haunting extended scene which might leave Jason more than a little wounded. Arliss Howard’s Governor seems extremely duplicitous, and I’m intrigued to see how he figures into the silent funding of the Tru Blood factory and his execution of the vampire curfew. Luna’s death and Alcide’s V trip are minor subplots that may or may not lead somewhere since neither Sam nor Alcide is terribly connected to the main storyline at the moment, while Andy’s breed of quickly-grown children is a predictably humorous and somewhat creepy diversion from the more serious primary plot.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Round Two: Graceland

Graceland: Season 1, Episode 2 “Guadalajara Dog” (B-)

In its second installment, this show reaffirms its status as a USA summer offering, fully capable of delivering light dramatic entertainment. It’s not as easy to get attached to these characters as it has been some of the network’s previous charismatic protagonists, but that’s not to suggest that both Aaron Tveit’s Mike and Daniel Sunjata’s Briggs don’t possess their fair share of charm. Mike continues to cement his role as the incredibly resourceful and knowledgeable newbie with demonstrations of intellect like his cop-shooting course, which salvaged an operation Briggs has all but abandoned. Of course, Mike getting close to Briggs seems to have backfired, though Briggs suspecting Mike of turning on him so early suggests that what will surely be exposed as false information will only lead to Briggs trusting Mike more going forward. Mike does seem to be loyal to his superiors and intent on watching Briggs as he was tasked to do, but I’m sure that their experiences together will shift his perspective and he’ll soon be an unintentional ally of his current target. These episodes are certainly packed with many high-stakes situation, though they do seem to be mostly focused on Mike and Briggs, while the rest of the cast doesn’t get the opportunity to take the spotlight. Trying far-out food isn’t quite enough for a supporting player to stand out, and I think this show could be well-served by engaging Mike’s attention in affairs involving all of those around him and not just the man he’s supposed to be watching closely.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 2 “Forget Me Not” (B+)

It’s uncomfortable to see Michael surveying his friends, mainly because they’ve sprung into action to help him without any idea that he’s keenly aware of what’s going on and content to leave them in the dark. He made up for that deception somewhat by stopping Sam, Jesse, and Carlos from heading straight into a trap, but none of them were terribly happy to see him, and the damage appears to be done. Splicing in flashbacks to the very Irish first union of Michael and Fiona made Michael’s use of a warning signal all the more dramatic and Fiona’s ultimate rejection of Michael all the more heartbreaking. Without Fiona to pine for, what will motivate Michael? His mother was also inconsolably furious at him, and it’s going to be difficult for Michael to cope with those he cares about hating him so much, which should make it easier for him to get deeper and deeper in his cover and possibly lose himself in the process. Unlike Max or Pearce, Strong doesn’t care about Michael as a person, and is intent on punishing him for his desolate reputation by forcing him to sacrifice everything that is important to him for the sake of the mission. That will make this year a darker one than ever before, as evidenced by the quick and brutal elimination of Gamble and Michael’s new role as an assassin. I think it will be an extremely effective way to end this saga, and I’m eager to see how this final season plays out.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains (Season Premiere)

Royal Pains: Season 5, Episode 1 “Hankwatch” (B+)

Since we last checked in with the Hamptons, HankMed has certainly changed. Watching Divya dispel the legion of Hank substitutes was quite impressive, as was the code-violating medical center Evan built in his Boris-given home. Hank recovering and not being able to drive puts everyone else on edge but it also frames the show in a different way, since Hank is always the nonchalant, reasonable one who has to talk other people out of doing things they shouldn’t. Asking Jeremiah to write him a prescription crossed a major line, and it’s a sure sign that Hank is far from true recovery. Of course, HankMed has more than enough obstacles to prevent its productivity, starting with Divya’s pregnancy and the fact that an actress like Frances Conroy wouldn’t be wasted in a bit part and instead seems intent on taking down the kindly doctor who was nice enough to help her. Evan not wanting to move out is completely in keeping with the tradition of his relationship with both Hank and Paige, and it’s a good thing that he decided to move into the castle across the street to create some semblance of distance so that Paige won’t think that he’ll never leave his brother. Jeremiah’s Icelandic beard and online girlfriend make him look and seem different, but it’s clear that he’s not over Divya and that his feelings for her will continue to hamper his career, particularly now that she’s presumably pregnant with Rafa’s baby. While I’ve ditched other USA shows because they weren’t as gripping as other fare, I think this one has a good summer appeal that should keep it on my watch list in its fifth season.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 3 “Death Came in Like Thunder” (B+)

This episode featured guest appearances by three actors that I might describe as TV royalty, as in people you’d recognize from their frequent and assorted TV appearances but whose names you likely wouldn’t know. Xander Berkeley, of “24” and “Nikita” fame, was nearly unrecognizable as the green-card matchmaker who did just about everything to make himself look guilty. The two surviving Vayas brothers were portrayed by Henri Lubatti, who was terrific on “Sleeper Cell,” and Brad William Henke, most recently seen on “Justified.” This multicultural business battle was very interesting to watch, and, as always, the road to the truth was filled with compelling twists and turns. Branch is getting himself in over his head with Jacob Nighthorse, and Branch’s conversation with Walt about his information was yet another instance of Walt rightfully lecturing to Branch about the ethics of the office. Ferg apologizing awkwardly to Walt about his presence at the campaign event was also interesting since we don’t usually see Ferg’s more serious side. Cady’s trip to Denver proved expectedly unproductive, but it did result in a shocking revelation, all but confirmed by Detective Fales’ prime suspect himself: Henry was the one who hunted down and killed the murderer of Walt’s wife. We’ve only ever seen Henry be there for Walt, and, though he disapproves of what Henry did for legal reasons, I have no doubt that Walt will step up and make sure that he does whatever it takes to ensure that his friend doesn’t go to jail for killing a bad guy.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pilot Review: King and Maxwell

King and Maxwell (TNT)
Premiered June 10 at 10pm

It’s always a gamble when you sit down to watch a show that has two people’s last names in the title, both of which tell you absolutely nothing about the show. TNT has done this before, with two of its most successful efforts, no less – “Rizzoli and Isles” and “Franklin and Bash.” Here we have a show designed to pair with “Major Crimes,” one of the network’s biggest hits and a successful example of how to spin off a show when its star is leaving while keeping most of the ensemble. Transplanted from the original which spun off that show is Jon Tenney, who trades his FBI badge and gentlemanly nature for a Secret Service past and a private investigator present. Joining him is Rebecca Romjin, whose most recent TV stint was the CW’s miserable “Eastwick.” Theoretically, the two might make a good pair, but this show is lifeless. Tenney isn’t as charming as he thinks he is, and Romjin is far from charismatic, a shame considering her fine work in “Ugly Betty” and her irritating but still slightly endearing turns in “Eastwick” and “Pepper Dennis.” The strangest cast member is Ryan Hurst, last seen as the bearded, muted Opie on “Sons of Anarchy” and here cast as a kindly, socially awkward savant. I’m not sure what his role in the show going forward will be, but the series as a whole has an odd tone, switching behind light-hearted comedy and serious intrigue. I’m not impressed, and I’ve already forgotten most of the pilot. This show just isn’t worth it.

How will it work as a series? That’s not clear, since Hurst’s vindicated serial killer suspect Edgar Roy is a series regular, and King and Maxwell are being targeted by the FBI for their sometimes less-than-legal actions. This show might actually prove to be disappointingly formulaic if Edgar ends up being the behind-the-scenes man while King and Maxwell go on the road together to pursue moderately interesting cases.
How long will it last? TNT got rid of the last show in this timeslot, “Monday Mornings,” and this show fared much better in its debut airing. It didn’t match the numbers of “Major Crimes,” but it’s probably going to go in the successful category and shouldn’t have much trouble earning a second-season pickup.

Pilot grade: C-

Friday, June 14, 2013

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

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 1 “Final Cut” (B+)

I wasn’t all that excited about this show’s second season premiere mainly because I had forgotten how clever and entertaining this show is, even without taking its ensemble into consideration. What was strongest about this episode was its focus on the celebrity culture of Los Angeles, utilizing its filmmaker as the ultimate example of someone who literally marries the same woman over and over and then cheats on her when she is pregnant with his child. Provenza chiming in with his thoughts on ex-wives was amusing, and I liked seeing his friendship with Flynn spotlighted by Flynn’s rather ridiculous-looking walking routine. Even Rusty was in good form in the hour, being irritating as always but showing some depth by agreeing to testify in the end with the condition that both Raydor and Provenza not be present. I’m not too impressed with new cast member Nadine Velazquez as Deputy D.A. Emma Rios, since, like Sykes in season one, she doesn’t seem to possess much intelligence and, also like Sykes, contrasts the strong female character of Raydor and Brenda before her by appearing less than capable. All in all, I’m very pleased to have this ensemble back, and while some of the supporting players, like Tau and Sanchez, didn’t get the opportunity to shine in this episode, I think there’s plenty of time for that over the course of this show’s much-expanded second season, which will feature a whopping nineteen episodes, up considerably from the show’s first season total of ten episodes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What I’m Watching: Family Tree

Family Tree: Season 1, Episode 4 “Country Life” (B-)

This episode was a bit erratic for me, which is saying something considering how this entire show has been thus far. Journeying out to the country to visit some distant relatives who might not actually be nearly as distant as they’re supposed to be (and I don’t trust Tom’s calculations of how the genealogy he thinks he understands connects one bit) could be fun, but it was just a little too weird and unfulfilling in this hour. There was too much of a spotlight on Luba, whose stories about Moldovan customs were far from entertaining and just off-putting. Bea didn’t get a chance to do much with Monk, which was a shame, and instead it was all about Tom nearly having to perform a crude neutering while Pete spent the entirety of the episode doing his best to initiate a cross-breeding of his own at his work. I like the fact that this show is offbeat, but this episode just wasn’t on the same page as the rest. Tom Skyping with his American cousins, one of whom looks an awful lot like Ed Begley Jr., a trusted Christopher Guest regular, was a bright spot, since it foreshadows a trip by Tom to the United States, which might prove just a bit more worthwhile than this particular voyage to the countryside. On a positive note, it was fun to see Keith bond with his cousin about their love for similar TV shows after an uncertain start to their conversation while their children were outside getting their hands dirty.

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 2, Episode 8 “First Response” (B+)

It should come as no surprise that Allison Janney fits into this show’s universe so well. The Aaron Sorkin regular is well-equipped to handle the fast-paced and highly sarcastic dialogue rattled off on this show. What I actually enjoyed most about this particular event was Amy getting angry and yelling at the cameraman, who in turn swore back at her. Jonah dropping by in the middle of the interview was terrific, and his complete obliviousness continues to be among his most entertaining traits. Catherine and Andrew also had crucial roles to play in this very staged family portrait interview. Gary writing a sign to tell both Selina and Andrew that Catherine was a vegetarian was hilarious, and her continued emphasis of vegetables prior to this was great. Andrew’s impressive ability to make any situation worse and his attempt to insult Selina’s lack of knowledge of the CIA spy as a way of deferring his guilt related to his e-mail was low. But, somehow, and not likely due to Dan’s aggressive pep talk, Selina managed to come out ahead and deliver a rather stirring and honest confession which might have consequences in the episodes to come but at least managed to show her old classmate that she has what it takes to make the right call sometimes. Selina has had a few momentous successes in this season, and it’s really because of other things, like her weakness for Andrew, that she can’t always stay on top and has to be relegated to her often irritating office.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 6, Episode 11 “Favors” (B+)

It’s so interesting how something that begins as a favor for Don’s friend Dr. Rosen quickly turns into a grand romantic gesture that reunites him with his mistress Sylvia. It’s rare to see Don get so passionate about something and actually devote energy to trying to get it accomplished. His position paved the way for Ted to burst into his office and actually speak his mind, something that occurs almost as rarely as Don asking for something, and to leave with the upper hand. Throwing Sally into the mix and having her catch Don with Sylvia after her initial attraction to Sylvia’s son was an enormous opportunity for Sally to see what her father is really like, and to see Don caught in a situation he knows he simply can’t talk his way out of, with Megan clueless as usual. One of the early scenes of the episode presented an unexpected reunion between Peggy and Pete after Pete’s mother visited the office, and a potent moment of jealousy from Ted as he saw the two of them laughing together. It’s strange to remember how they first interacted at the beginning of the show, and to see where they are now. I guess Bob’s relationship with Joan isn’t entirely genuine, and it’s difficult to imagine that, whatever feelings he might possess, Pete would ever think of engaging in a romance with Bob. This show is full of drama, and this office really is a revolving door of sexual encounters and mistakes.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 3, Episode 3 “Seventeen” (B+)

As this show launches deeper into its new mystery, the part I’m enjoying most is the partnership between Holder and Carl. Holder and Linden were always an odd pair, but their dynamic, particularly the “Dial 1-900-LINDEN” bit, was surprisingly endearing. Carl, played by the always terrific Gregg Henry, is a fantastic foil for Holder, able to play a creep convincingly while still helping to push the investigation along and show himself to be reasonably interested in getting to the truth and serving justice. Holder’s rapport with his new CI needs work, of course, as Bullet doesn’t seem keen to the idea of working with the lawman who just wants to help her find her friend. Things are looking increasingly grim for Kallie, and it’s difficult to watch Danette discuss her situation with such detachment and cruelty. For Linden to call someone else the mother of the year is really saying something. Linden is burrowing herself back into police work, and finding out that Adrian just wants to see her father is an intriguing development. I was very concerned about what the continually terrifying Seward was going to do to Becker, especially after his disturbing story, and injuring himself severely in the neck is still plenty unsettling. The slow burn still exists in a major way on this show, and I hope that it won’t take nearly as long as it did in the first two seasons for the plot to unfurl as it heads in what might be its most simultaneously appealing and unnerving direction yet.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I’m Watching: Falling Skies (Season Premiere)

Falling Skies: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “On Thin Ice” and “Collateral Damage” (B)

I debated whether to tune into this show after being sincerely disappointed by it during its first two seasons. I’m glad I did since there were a few terrific plot developments which I think are truly exciting, and, unlike, say, “Revolution,” this show is actually doing a decent job of living up to its potential story-wise even if the writing is reliably miserable. The seemingly infinite explicit references to “the past seven months” were obvious and tiresome, but the fact that there is now an alien, played by none other than Doug Jones, a very talented actor who likes playing creative creatures, is riding side-by-side with Tom in battle is simply fantastic. The presidency suits Tom, and having him be above Weaver also makes sense. I don’t see the logic in killing off Terry O’Quinn’s character, but I suppose it was only a recurring arc from the start. Hal being in a wheelchair is a major thing, especially considering he can actually walk, but only when he’s compelled to do so in the middle of the night when Karen beckons him. I’m far less impressed by Matt blowing up buildings instead of doing his homework and having trouble accepting Ann as his mother, and I’d love to see a whole lot less of Pope. The superhuman baby Ann has given birth to seems like a handful, and the technology used to take off the harnesses is cool. This show could be headed for greatness this season, if only the dialogue would improve and the writers would focus on the sci-fi elements that are most compelling.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Season Finale)

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 10 “Mhysa” (B+)

This was a perfectly competent finale, but there’s so much going on on this show that it was understandably impossible to cover everything to a satisfactory level. It feels like this season is over way too soon, mainly because the third book of the series is being adapted into both the third and fourth seasons, meaning that there exists so much material for season four. After the shocking events of last episode, this installment returned to focus on the Lannisters, providing a perfect tease of what’s to come for each of the siblings, as Shae managed to resist Lord Varys’ efforts to get rid of her, Jamie was briefly reunited in an unspoken scene with Cersei, and, most memorably, Tywin sent Joffrey to bed after Tyrion riled him up when he announced his plan to have Robb’s head served to Sansa at his wedding, an event which I guess is still to come. The fiercest remaining Stark made quite an impression with her act of vengeance for her brother, and it looks like Jon is going to survive his tearful encounter with Ygritte. I’m glad to see Davos proving his worth and surviving, and I wonder just how much Stannis will continue to be a player in the struggle for power. Though she only appeared in the episode’s closing moments, Daenerys appears to be doing quite well, and I certainly hope that these plotlines will all start to converge in season four. This was a good year, but I’m ready for more, and not having it for a number of months is going to be severely disappointing.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pilot Review: Graceland

Graceland (USA)
Premiered June 7 at 10pm

There’s nothing quite like a summer show that really reminds you that it’s summer. Setting a series in California helps with that, but featuring federal agents living in a home on the beach and surfing half the day truly achieves the effect. This show fits the USA bill of “Characters Welcome” perfectly, bringing together a host of colorful, clashing personalities who, each week, get to play someone new as they go undercover. This pilot takes the familiar approach of the young, na├»ve wunderkind who is actually much quicker on his feet than he looks and uses his smarts to earn the trust and respect of those who can be considered veterans in the business. Aaron Tveit, who most moviegoers will recognize as scene-stealer Enjolras from “Les Miserables” is a fine choice to play newbie Mike Warren, and he’s surrounded by a dependable cast of recognizable TV faces, including Vanessa Ferlito (“24”), Brandon Jay McLaren (“The Killing”), Scottie Thompson (“NCIS”), Clayne Crawford (“Rectify”), and, the most charismatic of all, Daniel Sunjata in the best possible follow-up role to “Rescue Me.” This show is light entertainment that fits in so well with USA’s brand, and the added twist of Mike serving as an internal affairs mole to keep an eye on Sunjata’s Briggs should liven things up considerably. This is far from essential viewing, but, at the start of the summer, this is just the kind of fare that’s well worth watching.

How will it work as a series? It seems like both Mike and Briggs are technically leads, but there’s plenty of room for accommodation for the supporting cast members to step up and take the spotlight. That should help to balance the quieter demeanor of Mike and the showier style of Briggs, and to keep things exciting by shifting around the specificity and field of the cases.
How long will it last? After a strong start following the final season premiere of “Burn Notice,” this show should have no trouble getting renewed after a lot of promotion from its network that started a while ago. This show feels like it belongs in USA’s lineup, and I suspect that few will disagree.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice (Season Premiere)

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 1 “New Deal” (B+)

As is always the case with this show, a new season brings a new cycle of Michael getting in over his head while blindly following someone who is more than likely to betray him. Things are different now, however, since this show is wrapping up its seven-season run shortly, and Michael is in for his last hurrah. Not having Fiona, Sam, and Jesse by his side changes the situation dramatically, and watching them all spring into action when they realized he was in trouble without a way to get in touch with him was an unusual experience. It didn’t take long for Michael’s cover identity to be exposed as a lie, which is very worrisome since this is the best situation he has been in almost since the start of the show. It makes more sense now how Michael got here, as we see the flashback to him being told that he’s worthless but perfect for exactly one job. Recurring this season are not one but two “Heroes” alumni: Jack Coleman as Michael’s new handler, and Adrian Pasdar as his mark, who didn’t get the message that Michael is actually working for the CIA and seems to implicitly trust him. Fiona having a new boyfriend is an enormous deal, and we’ll have to see where that leads as Michael continues to get himself into hot water and requires the help of his friends to bail him out. Madeline being manipulated into giving up Michael’s status is sure to damage her well-being, and this is without a doubt going to be an intense swan song for her and everyone else on the show.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 2 “Carcasses” (B+)

This episode was especially compelling because of how it spotlighted the different personalities in this sheriff’s department and how they all work together when facing the same case. The late-night raid of the truck stop gave even Ferg the opportunity to come face-to-face with some seedy characters, and for the styles of Branch, Vic, and Walt to come together and clash. Branch’s simultaneous search for a disappeared Cady was a haunting subplot, and discovering that she went to find out more – and possibly tell more too – about her mother’s death was both logical and intriguing, since it means that there’s more to be discovered there. I still like the relationship between Vic and Walt most, highlighted in this hour by Vic’s confirmation that Walt had purchased her a new cell phone but still refused to buy himself one since he could just borrow hers. This episode’s guest characters were extremely interesting, with both women suffering severely from trying to cope with their situations, as Holly came off like a maniac in Henry’s bar and Brandi actually almost killed her husband in the middle of a PTSD-induced nightmare. The motive of the true killer, however, made even more sense, though it seems that the dead man of the hour was about the most detestable degenerate this show has conjured up, worse than last week’s serial killer. There’s a certain mood to this show that I think is great, and while it doesn’t feel like it should be a summer show, it’s just right for this season.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pilot Review: Mistresses

Mistresses (ABC)
Premiered June 3 at 10pm

It’s officially summer according to the TV world, which means that the broadcast networks are churning out shows that they didn’t deem worthy of being showcased in their regular lineups between September and May. This show fits that bill perfectly, an adaptation of a moderately successful British series which has no true potential and feels even more like a soap opera than most other ABC fare these days, which is saying something. The cast is made up of two familiar TV faces – Alyssa Milano of “Charmed” and Yunjin Kim of “Lost” (admittedly an odd combination) – and two lesser-known supporting players, Rochelle Aytes and Jes Macallan. This show doesn’t exactly do much for the image of women on television. While “Desperate Housewives” empowered its main characters with rich plotlines and lives, this show essentially demotes them all to the role implied in the show’s title, sleeping with men in their lives who are married or in committed relationships. The show’s stance on sexuality and promiscuity is so blatant that it becomes obvious, as Kim’s therapist meets the son of the late man she was having an affair with, only to eventually and quite obviously become the object of his inappropriate affection. Milano’s Savi and Macallan’s Josslyn have mind-numbingly uncreative storylines, and at least Aytes’ April has a sweet-natured if infuriatingly childish romance going. I’m far removed from this show’s target audience, but even with a poor premise, I would have thought that this could have been done at least a bit better.

How will it work as a series? I suspect that most of the extramarital relationships currently going on won’t last long, but the show’s title seems to doom its characters to a life of infidelity, one that will likely be cyclical and predictable. The show is racy, I’ll give it that, but it doesn’t match that with quality characters or storylines.
How long will it last? It would be shocking to me if this show actually managed to exist outside of its thirteen-episode order, but the pilot’s ratings were more impressive than most summer series. They weren’t excellent, however, and I suspect they’ll drop substantially in the coming weeks. Thirteen episodes feels about right for this forgettable series, though one is more than enough for me.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: Revolution (Season Finale)

Revolution: Season 1, Episode 20 “The Dark Tower” (D-)

I think I’d appreciate this show’s strong moments more if they weren’t submerged in idiotic plotlines and populated by truly irritating characters. The notion of the President being hidden in Guantanamo Bay and ready to resume his post following Randall’s act of annihilation is utterly fascinating, and that’s exactly what this show should have focused on from the beginning. Learning why Miles tried to kill Monroe, which boils down to Monroe being way too trigger-happy and ready to murder innocent women and children, was infinitely less interesting, and Nora’s death, while dramatic, was the first real sign of any true consequences we’ve seen since Danny invited helicopters to shoot him after his heroic action. Through the end of the season, Tom remained an ever-changing, inconsistent character, demonstrating his ruthlessness by killing a disloyal underling after making him think he was free and taking back a promise he made to his son only moments earlier. Jason wanting to save Rachel is pointless since Charlie won’t soon forgive her for Nora’s death, and it’s all moot now that Randall screwed everyone ever and wasn’t even willing to stick around to see what the aftermath would be. Aaron wins the award for the most hapless punching bag on this show, responsible for the complex code that made the Tower run but still subject to verbal beatings from everyone around him, always telling him that now is not the time for one of his useless complaints. I’m not sure what Monroe’s role in all this is now that Miles inexplicably let him go, and the same goes for the more minor character of President Kelly Foster, whose call to ready the choppers to take out Philadelphia may be futile. I really hope that season two starts off with a better sense of how to tell this story, and I’d love to see this show resemble the kind of post-apocalyptic thriller it’s never been.

Season grade: C-
Season MVP: I suppose Giancarlo Esposito, but hardly

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What I’m Watching: Defiance

Defiance: Season 1, Episode 7 “Good Bye Blue Sky” (C)

I thought about stopping this episode midway through and simply skipping to the next in my line of shows that I watch each week, but figured that I didn’t dislike it enough to depart from it so unceremoniously. I am, however, losing interest fast, and the gradual return of many summer shows is making me think that I may just ditch it altogether. This episode opted to give Sukar a major showcase, as well as one of my least favorite characters, Irisa. I do think that, objectively, Sukar is interesting, but I don’t love this show’s combination of religious supernatural elements with its much more scientific reasoning. A deity-driven resurrection and nanites don’t quite go together well, and I found that entire plotline, and its rather basic explanation, disappointing. Nolan killing him despite his invulnerability and his subsequent resumption of his father figure duties to an angry Irisa didn’t make all that much sense, and that’s one relationship that seems like a bit of a stretch considering their cultural differences. I was more intrigued by the two of the subplots, which were somewhat more believable. Nicky stopping by Rafe’s home to trick him into confessing to a murder he didn’t commit was interesting for the aggression it produced in both of them, and I’m more than a little worried about the hallucinating, murder-prone Quentin. Stahma coming to Kenya to ask her about pleasing a human woman had an unexpected ending which, more than anything, demonstrated Stahma’s independence and Kenya’s skill in her chosen profession.

Take Three: Family Tree

Family Tree: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Austerity Games” (B+)

Though this is undeniably an offbeat, odd show, it’s growing on me. This episode had a fun if irreconcilably awkward spotlight on Bea, who hasn’t had the chance to shine as much as her more put-together brother. Interviewing for a five-year-old’s birthday party was obviously not going to work out well, but the Greek wedding she performed at bombed about as much as that gig would have. Her inappropriate monkey saying that Tom would be dead first because he has less to live for and then agreeing with her that they needed a drink after reflecting on how she doesn’t feel a family connection like the Greeks underscored this quirky show with an interesting dramatic subtext. I love this show’s use of black-and-white photos and video footage to caption some of the historical information Tom learns about, and I also enjoy seeing Keith laugh while watching his TV shows. Everything Tom uncovers is so magnificently bizarre, like the Chadwick Chuck, which was deemed illegal because no one else could do it, and his potential American heritage, and it fits completely with this show’s tone. Learning that Tom and Bea’s grandparents died in a freak hot air balloon accident was intriguing, and I found Tom’s descriptive definition of a black hole to signify the emptiness he felt after his break-up quite compelling. It’s good that this show’s episode order is short since eight episodes will likely be just enough to tell this first and potentially only chapter of this eccentric story.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 2, Episode 7 “Shutdown” (B+)

A government shutdown is a big thing, but I like that, in this case, it came down just to garbage, furloughs, and a man in Minnesota being eaten by a bear. Sue and Dan were interesting but somewhat logical choices for Selina to furlough at the beginning of the episode, and I enjoyed seeing what both of them did with their time off before they were dragged back into Selina’s world. Dan’s first business meeting was horribly unproductive, and getting burned so badly after his lunch companion didn’t even eat his lobster was unfortunate. Chung, on the other hand, was surprisingly receptive to the prospect of working with Dan in the future, and asking Amy where Selina was going was an intriguing hint of mutiny. Always the loyal servant, the hapless Gary bringing Jonah along to help him sift through the trash that he had ill-advisedly hired a government contractor was fun, and I like how Selina reacted so concernedly when both Gary and Jonah mentioned her trash to her. His unintentional blackmail aside, Jonah attempting to get his passport renewal fast-tracked so that he could go to London was a stupid idea, and it’s a miracle it worked. Selina talking to Amy about her sex life with Andrew was awkward and amusing, but the best conversation of the episode took place between Selina and David Rasche’s Speaker of the House, who wasted little time in telling Selina that he didn’t care about pleasing her and spent longer discussing how uncomfortable the chairs in his office were.

What I’m Watching: The Killing (Season Premiere)

The Killing: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “The Jungle” and “That You Fear the Most” (B+)

I’ll be honest – when I heard that this show had been resurrected by AMC after being cancelled following the end of season two, I wasn’t all that excited. I think there are a handful of other shows that deserve that fate after a bout of false hope much more than this series, which I felt was highly overrated in season one. That said, I did like season two more, and I admire the notion of starting from scratch, picking up the show later on with only the two leads still there and everything else completely now. Among the new faces are some reliable TV faces: Gregg Henry (“The Riches”) as Holder’s new partner, Hugh Dillon (“Flashpoint”) as the chief prison guard, and Aaron Douglas (“Battlestar Galactica”) as a prison guard. Most notably, Peter Sarsgaard is a perfect choice to play the deeply disturbing and infinitely compelling death row inmate who may in fact be responsible for a whole lot more murders than Linden initially helped get him convicted for. I’m sure an Emmy nomination is in his future, if not a win. It’s great to see Holder continuing his healthy lifestyle, giving speeches about why he doesn’t eat donuts because they’re processed, and to see Linden initially so happy in her new life, only to have that ripped away as she self-destructively buried herself in another case. Bullet is an interesting new character as well, and this slow-moving show is definitely covering a lot of territory, likely to create what I am confident will be its most watchable season yet.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What I’m Watching: Mad Men

Mad Men: Season 6, Episode 10 “A Tale of Two Cities” (B+)

This was yet another episode full of hallucinations, but there was much more to it, as the new firm that might actually have a name that doesn’t contain seven monikers in it was showcased in extremely intriguing chunks. This episode was a fabulous showcase for Harry Hamlin as Jim Cutler, someone who has played a minor role in episodes before this and now had the opportunity to take center stage. His argument with Ginsberg was one of the episode’s best moments, and I’m glad that he chose to promote Bob rather than fire him. Ted is also proving to be a strong proponent of integrating the two firms, which of course worked against Peggy when she tried to help Joan run with her idea. This episode served as a reminder of how seedy and irritating Pete can be, and Peggy backing Joan up was impressive, especially after she articulated just how unsupported she felt by Joan when she previously worked at the firm. Keeping only Sterling and Cooper’s names in the firm’s names was an interesting suggestion, and I loved Cooper’s response to Roger congratulating him. Don came awfully close to losing it out in California, and that final shot of Pete sitting down and smoking framed this episode in a hypnotic, drug-induced lens. While Don didn’t do much but get drunk and then nearly die in a pool, Roger showed that he still has what it takes by insulting his prospective client and remaining relevant and interesting, if not quite enough to gain their business.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 9 “The Rains of Castamere” (B+)

I suppose it’s only fitting that Ned Stark’s name should be invoked before what constitutes the most shocking death in this show since Ned himself occurred. Seeing such a festive occasion interrupted first with the stabbing of Robb’s pregnant wife and then the murder of both Robb and his mother was extremely difficult, because it’s hard to imagine that these characters are not invincible. Having Arya miss a reunion with her family by just a few moments was equally devastating, though it’s good that she didn’t have to see her mother about to be executed as well. Bran and Jon were so close to each other as well, and Bran managed quite a neat trick by controlling the beasts around him to help ensure the safety of his company. It was refreshing to see Jon finally overcome his captors, though the look on Ygritte’s face as she ran away without him was haunting. All this focus on the Stark family, an unusual thing, meant that we didn’t see any of the Lannisters at all, which is slightly disappointing given that we have only one episode left this season, and that means there are only so many developments that occur, the loudest and biggest of which is sure to be the royal wedding. As one more player was taken out of the equation, Daenerys managed to solidify her status and path towards power as her latest gamble worked and, much to the chagrin of her closest advisors, also confirms the loyalty of her newest ally.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black (Season Finale)

Orphan Black: Season 1, Episode 10 “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” (B)

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that, after a thrilling season, this season finale is a bit of a disappointment. That’s mainly because every installment was full of major developments and shocking revelations, and therefore the finale is almost inconsequential in comparison. That shouldn’t diminish the impact of some of the important moments, namely Dr. Leekie showing up casually to present deals to Allison and Cosima now that they have become self-aware. Sarah meeting yet another version of herself pulling the strings was expected but still momentous, and Donnie revealing himself to be Allison’s monitor confirmed Allison’s long-existent paranoia. Aynsley’s death was rather dramatic, but I think it served to show that Allison really is losing her grip on reality. As Cosima managed to get close with Delphine by actually being honest with her and reveling in scientific discovery, she’s suffering from something that looks like it’s getting worse by the minute. Helena killing Amelia was brutal, but more so for the devastation it caused in Sarah, who had no trouble taking out the sister who couldn’t bring herself to kill her. Amelia’s cautionary words about Mrs. S are disconcerting, and I’m curious to see what her role is because she’s seemed like Sarah’s only ally up until now. The anger in Art’s eyes when he was questioning Sarah was palpable, and I’m interested to see how he fits in next season. This was still a terrific first season, and I can’t wait to see what happens in season two.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Tatiana Maslany

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2012-2013 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s ineligible nominees: Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live)

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)
Bialik was a bit late to the party, earning her first nomination for her show’s fifth season. The show continues to be a hit, and unless, and even if, voters have grown tired of it, she’ll likely be back since this category likes dependable supporting players who do a great job of standing out from or blending in to the ensemble. Bialik’s character is quirky enough that she should be back.

Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Bowen is in good shape right now, winning this category twice in a row after earning her first nomination the year before. Recently, Bowen has tended to get better plotlines than costar Vergara, which suggests that she’s a safer bet in this category since she’s asked to do more. Her two wins indicate that people do like her, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
Despite the quality of her storylines, Vergara has dominated the awards circuit in the past few years, never winning but earning three Golden Globe nominations and three SAG nominations to Bowen’s long SAG nod. I don’t expect it to come down to one or the other being nominated anytime soon, but Vergara’s character has been less creative recently, so a snub is always possible if extremely unlikely.

Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie)
Wever was nominated for the first time last year for her show’s fourth season, joining lead actress Edie Falco, who has been nominated since the show’s debut. It’s not as if one of Showtime’s more senior series is gaining popularity, but there’s no reason that Wever would necessarily be booted so soon after being welcomed into the race for the first time.

Past nominees:
Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
Krakowski was nominated for her show’s third, fourth, and fifth seasons before being snubbed last year. Now, her show is over, and it’s likely that it will be celebrated with many nominations for its final year. Krakowski’s storylines were wild and wacky, but that’s nothing new. She’s on the fence, and could easily get nominated if voters want to commemorate one of their favorite comedies.

Jessica Walter (Arrested Development)
Walter earned four Emmy nominations for four different roles between 1975 and 2005, and the most recent was for the second season of her once-cancelled returning show. Before she was snubbed for seasons one and three, she’s not a sure thing, but it would be hard to believe that one of the most beloved elements of this show wouldn’t be recognized after such a long time off the air.

Betty White (Hot in Cleveland)
Now 91, White is a force to be reckoned with. White earned four nominations in the past four years, all for different series. She was nominated for this TVLand show back in 2011 and as a host of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” last year. SAG voters gave her a trophy twice in a row and nominated her last year, but I think that Emmy voters are done recognizing her for this particular role. I would never count her out though, since she could easily be back.

Other possibilities:
Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development)
I almost wrote about de Rossi as if she was a past nominee before realizing that she never did get nominated for the first three years of the FOX comedy. Now that it’s back, I think it may go into overdrive and voters will want to honor as much as they can about it, so she’s fairly likely to contend, unless voters just aren’t that into her.

Allison Williams (Girls)
I’m not convinced that anyone aside from Lena Dunham can earn an acting nomination for HBO’s boundary-pushing series, but Williams has had a standout role this year, one that forces her to put herself on the line and truly embarrass herself on many occasions. Whether that will translate to a nomination is another question, and costars Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, or Alex Karpovsky could also take some of the buzz.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Now that the 2012-2013 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Voters still love his show, and Burrell is one of its most endearing parts. He has three consecutive nominations and won on his second try. Even if the show suffers a blacklash from voters, which is highly unlikely, Burrell should still be included because he’s one of its best working parts. His performance in the season finale helps too.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
I think most have just accepted the fact that Ferguson, who is, admittedly, often as funny as his other male costars, will be nominated along with them. Ferguson is three for three and should be back this year as well. Emmy voters don’t tend to get over their obsessions until something bigger comes along, and though the return of a certain once-cancelled show may be that this year, I don’t think it’s enough to knock this popular comedy and its stars out of the way.

Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Greenfield earned a nomination last year for his scene-stealing supporting performance as Schmidt, and picked up a corresponding Golden Globe nomination this past year too. Greenfield benefits from being on a different show than most of the other nominees in this category, and now his main competition, Jake Johnson, is officially going lead. Greenfield will be back unless voters suddenly find his character irritating, which is unlikely.

Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live)
Hader is the first actor from his show to receive a nomination in this category recently, and history is on his side. He’s coming off his last year, which means voters will want to honor his entire body of work, and when costars Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig have been nominated in the past, they’ve been recognized all the way through to their final seasons on the show. He’s a good bet to return.

Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)
O’Neill has now been nominated twice after being the only adult cast member snubbed for the show’s first season. While he hasn’t won like Burrell or Stonestreet, he is the family’s glue as its patriarch, and overdue respect for O’Neill is likely to keep him in the race even if voters lose confidence, which I don’t think they will, in their current favorite comedy.

Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
This show’s most flamboyant player has been nominated three times and won this award twice, in 2012 and 2010. There’s no way he won’t be back since he’s the showiest cast member and has proven himself more than committed to the role of Cameron. He and Burrell are probably safe, and one of them may win again.

Past nominees:
Will Arnett (Arrested Development)
I’ve written in previous musings posts for other categories that I don’t know how Netflix shows will fare this year. That said, this once-cancelled show is sure to be a hit, and even if it doesn’t crack the top categories, some of the actors are sure to be nominated. Arnett wasn’t recognized until season three, when he was the only performer nominated from his show. Since then, however, Arnett has netted four guest acting nominations for “30 Rock,” making him a serious threat to reenter this race.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
After four consecutive nominations, this extremely popular actor was left off the list in 2011. He did win an Emmy in 2010 for guest-starring on “Glee,” which means that he’s not overdue for a win. Most crucially, however, Harris’ show isn’t yet off the air. Next year is when voters might remember him again and want to honor his departing series as a tribute to what will then be nine years on the air.

Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development)
As his show returns from once-cancelled days, Tambor is its most probable contender. He was the only performer to earn an acting nomination for the show’s first season, and then returned for season two before being replaced by Arnett for season three. Tambor has four previous nominations in this race for “The Larry Sanders Show,” so I suspect he’ll have no trouble sneaking back in to earn his seventh career nomination.

Other possibilities:
John Krasinski (The Office) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)
For the past three years, I’ve compared Offerman to Krasinski: an incredible supporting player whose show has done fairly well on occasion with Emmy voters yet who seems never to be recognized for his accomplishments. After nine seasons of his show, could Krasinski finally make the cut? And after only five, can Offerman prevent himself from suffering the same fate? Doubtful on both counts, but it’s always possible.

Emmy Musings: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Now that the 2012-2013 TV season is almost over, it’s hardly too early to start thinking about the Emmy nominations, which will be announced in July. Consider these preliminary thoughts rather than official predictions – look for those at the beginning of July. As always, chime in with your reactions and predictions in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I left any strong contenders off the list!

Last year’s eligible nominees:
Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
This actress has now earned ten Emmy nominations, including three for her current role, and a win on her first try back in 1995 for “Cybill.” Through all the twists and turns this season, Baranski’s character has taken a compelling journey, and she has responded capably to the challenge. Expect her to be back since she’s an Emmy veteran and she’s one of the best parts of her pretty impressive show with minimal effort.

Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)
Froggatt benefited from enormous enthusiasm for her show last year, and, though she’s probably the most kindhearted and likeable person on a show with many great characters, I don’t think she’ll be able to follow up on her nomination with another bid. This category is not as crowded as the corresponding male race, but Froggatt can’t compare to costar Maggie Smith, and I’m not sure voters will remember to include her again.

Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)
Gunn finally got nominated last year for her show’s fourth season, and I think she’s here to stay. She’s had a juicy role in the first half of the show’s fifth and final season, and, like her costars, I think she’ll benefit enormously from the fact that her show is hitting the airwaves for the last time right around the time that Emmy nominations are set to come out.

Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
She was ignored for seasons one and two, but after three consecutive nominations, Hendricks is a sure thing in this race. While two of her costars, one a former nominee and the other a new addition to this race, might earn nominations this year, they both used to be in the lead race, while Hendricks has always been a dependable background anchor for the show, and continues to be. Count her in.

Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)
Panjabi won for the first season of CBS’ law show, and she’s been back twice since then. There’s nothing to suggest that the show’s most curious character wouldn’t be nominated again, especially since she has this year had some new additions to her plotline, including a new employee with whom she didn’t always see eye to eye. Panjabi has always stood out on this show, and that hasn’t changed, which suggests she’ll stick around.

Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Smith, who is a two-time Oscar winner, won the Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie race two years ago for her performance as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, and, last year, took this award home. Smith doesn’t always have much to do, but when she does, she steals the show without even trying. Expect her to return as a nominee and probably to win again too.

Past nominees:
January Jones (Mad Men)
Jones has only ever been nominated once – for the show’s third season in the lead actress category. She fits much better in this race, mostly because she only appears every few episodes, but she has had some standout episodes, most recently last week’s hour, and it’s entirely feasible that she’d be recognized again for playing a wholly transformed and deeply intriguing Betty Draper.

Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire)
Macdonald was a nominee for her show’s first season and then found herself snubbed last year for the show’s second season. Her work in season three was even better, but that doesn’t mean that Emmy voters will take notice of her after not nominating her last year. The show is still critically respected, and that helps her, but I don’t think it’s enough to get her back into the race.

New contenders:
Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill (The Newsroom)
If there’s anyone who deserves a nomination for Aaron Sorkin’s latest ensemble drama, it’s these two. Mortimer and Pill are excellent as devoted employees of a news network who often babble on with Sorkian dialogue and do a tremendous job of making it sound both comprehensible and crazy at the same time. I don’t know if both of them can get in, but it would be great considering they’re both reliable supporting players and these are fabulous roles.

Hayden Panettiere (Nashville)
As the cheerleader in “Heroes,” Panettiere wasn’t part of the Emmy craze that followed that show for its first season, but now she’s starring alongside Connie Britton, whose two nominations for two different roles in two years makes her a strong bet to return this year too. I’m not convinced that Panettiere’s country star belongs in this race, though this is where Golden Globe voters put her, and, if she can muster enough support, likely where Emmy voters will too.

Abigail Spencer (Rectify)
She should have been nominated a few years ago for her guest spot on “Mad Men,” but now Spencer truly steals the show on the Sundance Channel’s new series. Going against her is the fact that her show is on a network most people don’t know and her show aired only six episodes, but she might just be able to break through and earn a groundbreaking nomination for a small but superb performance.

Other possibilities:
Morena Baccarin (Homeland)
She was a possibility last year and now her chances are even better, considering Baccarin stood out in season two of Showtime’s smash hit as the wife of the returned prisoner of war growing ever more distant from her husband. Baccarin doesn’t command the screen like costars Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, but love for a show can often trickle down to the supporting players, which gives her an edge against some of her competitors.

Monica Potter (Parenthood)
It’s astonishing that, in three years, NBC’s family drama has only ever earned one Emmy nomination, for guest star Jason Ritter. That may change this year following Potter’s committed performance as a cancer-stricken wife and mother, who stole many of the show’s scenes and helped to make her character endearing and compelling. History is not on the side of her show, but her role may help her overcome the odds.