Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Golem “(B+)

This show is moving fast as some of its primary characters start to lose a grip on reality and others end up much closer to each other than they should ever have been. Ezra driving at night and hitting someone (or rather, something) was an eerie start, and, as if seeing him talking with a wired Mickey wasn’t worrisome enough, watching as Mickey was transformed into the golem in front of his eyes was downright terrifying. The revelation that he has a brain tumor doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his behavior lately, but it is sure to have a profound impact on Ray’s daily life, and will severely decrease Mickey’s worth since his number one target is hardly in top physical condition. Only on this show would a girl showing up insistent on sex result in him turning music up to cover her screams while she had fun trying to get out of the handcuff she had so cleverly attached to the toilet, and it was intriguing to see Lena and Ashley interact, though their time on screen together was all too brief. Abby finding the handcuff and Ashley’s initials in blood on the mirror at Ray’s apartment was not a positive development, and catching Ray crying and asking him who he is indicate that she really has no idea who she’s married to. Her presence, however, suggests that she wants to know, and maybe she can be useful to Ray if he’s more honest with her. It’s a shame that Terry’s romance seems to be close to ending given his latest discovery, and I’m concerned about how Ray is going to react when he finds out just how much time his daughter is spending with Marvin, especially considering the disturbing information he and Avi found in his dead mother’s basement.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 3, Episode 10 “Six Minutes” (B)

It’s interesting to see just how focused this show can be on a single subject, forgetting temporarily everything else that’s going on like the recently deceased Bullet and the still-missing Kallie to showcase Ray in his final hours as he prepares for his execution. Peter Sarsgaard delivered a masterful performance throughout this season, and what was most compelling about it was that Ray did nothing at any point to make himself likeable. He was most sympathetic when it became clearer that he wasn’t guilty of killing his wife, but it was mainly due to the fact that his execution was fast becoming a painful inevitability and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Linden almost getting him a stay of execution was a sign of hope, but the fact that even she doubted whether or not he deserved it showed just how unlikely it was to occur, Becker was especially cruel in his treatment of Seward in his final moments, denying him the chance to see his son when he was right in the other room. Linden listening to the horrible sound of Ray gasping for air before he ultimately died was awful, and it’s hard to believe that he’s actually gone. On that dark, depressing note, this show can finish out what’s been a creative but draining season with Holder struggling to keep it together while Linden has to face the consequences of what she’s done in the past and in the present and what she isn’t able to undo.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 7 “In the Evening” (B)

This episode featured some intriguing shifts of power in the wake of the developments from last week, namely the death of Governor Burrell and the poisoning of Nora. Sarah sweeping the Governor’s death under the rug and taking steps to make it seem like he’s still alive is extremely worrisome, especially since her hatred of vampires knows no bounds. Having Jason arrested demonstrated just how cutthroat she is, and she’s going to be vampirekind’s most formidable enemy yet, maybe aside from Marnie. Eric treating Bill like God is an odd sight, and this show always has to be just as disgusting as it is sexy (the end of last week’s episode is the best proof), culminating in a nauseating and visually scarring death for Nora in Eric’s arms. Willa is definitely an excellent ally for Eric, though it seems she’s going to be caught up with other things in gen pop. Pam showing her therapist a good time is an interesting but not unexpected tactic, and I eagerly await the inevitable revolt that’s coming from inside the facility. It’s hard to follow just what Warlow is up to these days and what side he’s on, and Terry’s death at the middle of it all just confounds things. Bill stopping by to apologize to Arlene and shake Andy’s hand was odd, and it’s hard to know what’s coming next. Let’s hope that at the very least Alcide finally wakes up to the reality of what’s going on around him and determines that, however tangential to the main storyline they may be, two innocent humans need not die as punishment for interfering with werewolf business.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 5 “This Little Piggy” (B-)

Cable shows tend to be better equipped to deliver solid programming every hour of a season than broadcast networks because the season is shorter. As a result, filler installments seem far from productive or necessary, and disappointing given what else could be covered. This season is unquestionably about Dexter and Deb getting closer to each other, and the final scene on the boat with Vogel is therefore important and powerful. But everything leading up to it took much too long, and there’s no time for this in the final season of a great show like this. The Brain Surgeon was never going to be this season’s big villain, and Vogel is becoming less of a compelling character as she gets more manipulative of those around her, whether it’s moderating a sibling therapy session or trying to sedate her captor by shocking him into submission. I want Dexter’s romance with Bethany Joy Lenz’s Cassie to kick into gear, especially since Jamie is very close to getting fed up with Dexter’s attitude and quitting her very vital job as Harrison’s nanny. Quinn’s quest for the sergeant job would be more compelling if Angie was someone we’d known for longer and if Matthews wasn’t so obviously playing politics. I’ve never heard a more foreboding food order, and, for all of the vile things that he’s done and said over the years, Masuka doesn’t deserve to be taken for a ride by this mysterious new daughter of his. I’m sure there’s more to the story, and I hope it doesn’t end with him getting irreconcilably hurt.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 7 “Intuition” (B+)

I’m not sure I could have dreamed up a better choice to play Ryan’s father than James Remar. The actor has been playing the dead father of serial killer Dexter Morgan on “Dexter” for the past eight years, haunting him with his outlook on life and his perception of his son’s situation, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen here. He appeared first in two troubling dreams, telling Ryan that he knew his darkest secrets, including Wilfred, and then staging an intervention with Kristen, Jenna, and Uncle Larry to get Ryan back in track. He was absent for the rest of the episode as it took a deceptive turn before that devastating finale. Wilfred quoting Martin Luther King was familiar but funny, and Wilfred’s black-and-white photos of people sitting on the toilet were both peculiar and a bit disturbing. Wilfred trying to convince Ryan that his neighbor murdered his wife when in fact it was Wilfred who set it up so that he would kill another dog was expected, and I enjoyed Wilfred’s short rant about how Scooby-Doo is the most racist character even invented. And then, as it does so well, this show got seriously dark at the end of the episode when Ryan ran into his father at the supermarket. It’s never easy to discern what’s real and what’s not on this show, but I suspect that this will be real enough for his father to show up in Ryan’s life again and start to question his mental state.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 7 “Psychological Warfare” (B-)

To me, this episode was a very unnecessary and disappointing hour for a few reasons. Mainly, this show is all about action, and this episode contained almost none of it, save for some creative driving by Fiona, which is hardly a rarity. The story has been driving this show forward this season almost more than ever before, and to stall with a test of Michael’s integrity and fortitude, two things we already know he possesses, is a waste of time. Starting out with Michael telling Fiona that he slept with Sonya was most significant because it reminded Fiona that she does still care about Michael, and that he’s in over his head. Sonya trying to rescue him is a big deal, even if she just wanted to test him to see if he’d come back on his own. I’m not too surprised by the casting of John Pyper-Ferguson as James, the man in charge, considering he fit that role very well recently on “Alphas.” Michael flashing back to his training with Larry and his childhood with his abusive father is worthwhile because it provides some important information about his background, but, at this point, I’m much more interested in what becomes of Michael in the future. Crediting his father with being the only reason he survived is well worth it if it turns out that his father has been the one pulling the strings all along and making Michael miserable, or if he’s the head of this terrorist network. If not, I think we need to get back to basics and to what makes this show work so well – Michael and crew carrying out missions.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Take Three: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 3 “Rio” (B+)

This episode gives us a much better picture of Charlotte, who gets brought back into the main storyline after we see her treated like a pariah at her husband’s funeral when the killer names her late husband as one of the men to split the ransom. Marco’s visit to Charlotte’s home was particularly interesting, and their kiss was an enormous and disarming surprise, especially considering how much we saw of his family throughout the episode. Marco’s son’s reaction to Sonya was hilariously awkward, while his wife was predictably adamant about the attractiveness of his colleague. No one could be more awkward than Sonya, of course, evidenced most by her unsubtle proclamation to her one-night stand that they couldn’t have sex while she was at work. Sonya and Marco’s dynamic is the best thing this show has going for it, with great moments in this episode like Sonya not letting Marco break into the trailer because it’s illegal, Sonya calling him out on sighing a lot and him replying that it’s because she reported him for letting the ambulance pass, and Sonya not comprehending why someone would get flowers for someone else or give someone credit when they weren’t involved in purchasing them. Daniel’s visit to Juarez was rather intense, followed by an amusing and less stressful stay at Adriana’s home with her flirtatious female relatives. While the investigation continues, the killer seems to have his own sinister plans for poor Maria, who is likely to die in the scorching sun while all of El Paso watches live.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 5, Episode 6 “Can of Worms” (B+)

There’s nothing quite as dramatic as someone being impaled by an umbrella, even on a show with regularly-occurring outrageous cases as this one. It was a particularly poor coincidence for Evan in the middle of his campaign rally as his number one heckler was the victim, but, all in all, things turned out just fine. The eccentric Michael Chernus, who has appeared in “The Big C” and “Mercy,” among other projects, was a great choice to play Pat, who hilariously told Hank that he needed to finish his follow-up quickly so that he could continue making his inspired “Against the Lawson” stickers. Hank’s bantering with another Hamptonite was just as entertaining, and that was the trainer slash boyfriend who tried too hard to motivate his girlfriend, Skinny Minnie, and wanted to compete with Hank for who knew more about how to take care of her, medical degree aside. Playing the kindly Minnie was an actress known for playing a much pricklier personality, Mrs. Ari on “Entourage,” Perrey Reeves. Another gruff guest star, Bob Gunton, was nicer than usual as the General, who this time tried to encourage Evan to keep on going with his campaign even though Paige had actually wanted him to scare him out of the race. I’m glad that Paige spoke up to Evan and they found a happy medium, and it looks like Paige is now going to be rather directly involved in the latest Lawson family caper related to Boris and his duplicitous family members.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs

Covert Affairs: Season 4, Episode 2 “Dig for Fire” (B-)

I was less enamored with this hour than I was with last week’s, and I suspect that this will be the latest USA show that I’ll say goodbye to, sometime in the near future. I haven’t lost interest completely, but this show is taking some rather major turns that aren’t entirely valid or certifiable. Arthur coming to talk to Annie about what’s really going on doesn’t make too much sense given that they never had as close of a relationship as she did with Joan, and to deceive his wife but trust her protégé isn’t terribly logical. Arthur has worked much more directly with Auggie in the past, and he’s hardly in a position to judge Auggie for being protective of the woman he cares about who he also happens to work with in a professional setting. If Joan was smart enough to discern that Arthur’s affair was fake, I imagine it would have shown up on the polygraph she took even if Arthur didn’t read her in until after she had already taken it. Seth so outwardly courting Joan after Arthur’s affair was made public felt wildly inappropriate, and telling her about her potential promotion to Arthur’s post – a ridiculous idea in itself – made his presence seem a bit more legitimate. But setting him up as a big bad guy who ultimately fell off a bridge after turning into the Terminator was far-fetched. There’s something intriguing about Annie getting in with Henry while spying for Arthur, but I’m not sure it’s a solid long-term plan for the show’s storyline.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What I’m Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 7 “Rules of Engagement” (B+)

It was only a matter of time before Jack crossed professional paths with Sharon. Of course, in this case, it was at her suggestion, though the way in which she plotted it was highly deceptive and rather unkind, which is a shame. It’s not as if Jack has created the best impression despite his current efforts to atone for the absent father he used to be, but he still didn’t quite deserve to be brought in as the public defender only to have his client throw him out because Sharon revealed that he was actually her husband. Sanchez always gets particularly passionate about cases involving gangs, and the idiotic Ruiz failing to comprehend the complexity of the situation didn’t help matters. Him lashing out at her has been coming for a long time now, and her continued verbalized bafflement at how Sharon has a relationship with multiple people in her professional life is only serving to make her more of a pariah. On the subject of Rusty, his strong desire not to have dinner with Chris’ family was rather entertaining, particularly because of the reactions it brought from those he asked to make excuses for him. Jack snapping at him when he picked a bad time to bring it up was unfortunate, but I’m sure he’ll be able to get over it. I enjoyed the fact that Assistant Chief Taylor participated in Flynn’s game of naming coincidences to get the bottom of who exactly was involved and in what way.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Genoa Tip” (B+)

After an uncertain start next week, this episode fully delivered on this show’s potential. There was no need for artificial drama because the real thing was plentifully present, as seemingly humorous situations got serious fast. The best example is Neal’s involvement with Occupy Wall Street, which was mocked by Mackenzie at a meeting before Neal got himself arrested during an unexpectedly explosive protest. Will heading straight to the police station to deliver an impassioned rant was formidable, and it’s great to see that he still has a good speech in him when the moment calls for it. Watching the crew pull up footage of his reporting during the 9/11 attacks was extremely emotional, and I liked the reactions of Sloane and Elliott to his not covering the anniversary special. Sloane is proving to be quite a good friend to Maggie, who could really use it, and I enjoyed their impromptu trip to Queens. Lisa’s takedown of Maggie was harsh, and it seems like a good thing that Maggie and Gary are going to Africa, even if we know that won’t turn out well. Jim is catching on to the competitiveness of his new job, and he’s sure to soon be entranced by his main competitor. Don’s investment in the death penalty case was powerful, and it’s rare to see the impatient producer become so passionate about something. Jerry is also making considerable progress in his breaking story, which I think is going to be what blows this whole season wide open.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 4 “Black Cadillac” (B+)

Why this show, which unsurprisingly has been renewed for a second season by Showtime, works so well can be easily evidenced by that scene where Ray walks into the hotel room like he owns the place and promptly taking all of his cameras without paying any attention to the two angry people inside the room. That impossible smoothness made the woman scratching Ray in the face all the more jarring, and seeing the guy who initially gave Ray a hard time – and got a rise from Abby – apologize to him without him even saying anything emphasized just how intimidating Ray can be. Stu doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but his son was even more awful than his father, prompting a reaction similar to the one Ray had when Stu wronged him. Unlike Conor, Bridget had a fantastic experience touring the school, and it was intoxicating to watch her get excited by the idea of starting over where no one knows her. It was disarming to see Ray sitting in class hearing about what his children will be learning about at the school, next to Abby, who had stars in her eyes and couldn’t find a bad thing to say about the place. Mickey’s trip with his two sons was very enlightening and entertaining, and I love that Daryll and Bunchy are both such childlike characters. His bathroom check-in was a firm reminder that Mickey really is untouchable to Ray, but the same won’t necessarily be true when Mickey inevitably has to give up the son who has nothing but contempt for him.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 3, Episode 9 “Reckoning” (B+)

When characters like Linden and Holder have harrowing, devastating realizations or experiences, it’s all the more powerful since they don’t let their emotions show most of the time and are rarely sentimental. As soon as Linden figured out that it was Bullet in the trunk of the cab, it was heart-wrenching to watch an unsuspecting Holder continue his search only to be horrified by what he discovered as soon as Linden ran into the room. While Linden turned out to be just as good a friend to him as he had been to her when she nearly got killed by Pastor Mike, he lashed out in a big way at both Caroline and Carl, hurting them both probably equally, one emotionally and the other physically. It would be difficult to watch him slip back into addiction, but that would hardly be surprising given the guilt that he’s feeling after not trusting that Bullet was a reliable source and getting her killed in the process. It’s interesting to see Linden check in with Danette to see how she’s doing, now that both of them have become drawn into the search for Kallie that’s gone on for such a long time now. Watching Linden panic as she deduced that Joe couldn’t possibly have killed Ray’s wife indicated that she can’t be satisfied, yet she knows that she can’t second-guess everything forever. There’s something very disconcerting going on with Becker and his family, and Ray’s impending execution is far from the darkest element of the entire prison plotline.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What I’m Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 6 “Don’t You Feel Me” (B)

Sometimes, I feel like this show is bit too bloodthirsty, valuing shock value over the longevity of extremely compelling characters. It happened before when Russell staked Roman, and now Bill walked in daylight, forced all of Governor Burrell’s guards to shoot each other, and then ripped off his head before he could have a chance to do anything more this season. It’s a shame considering how complex a character he was, but at least we’ll still have Willa, who proved quite helpful in getting Eric out and maybe saving Nora’s life, and Sarah, who is just as formidable an enemy as Governor Burrell if what she did to Jessica to get back at Jason is any indication. Eric’s discovery that all of the new TruBlood will be contaminated with the Hep V virus is extremely worrisome, and it’s hard to decide who to root for in this case since Bill is far from a good guy at this point but we don’t exactly want the humans to win either. That leaves Warlow as the show’s most productive protagonist, since he’s now being framed in an entirely different light. Sookie’s stripper act at the end of the episode was beyond weird and off-putting, and it only reinforces the fact that, despite the greater purpose she might serve in this show’s world, she’s hardly the show’s main character anymore, and for good reason. It’s a shame that, even after Arlene and Holly came up with the perfect plan to save him from himself, Terry couldn’t be protected from an act he had commissioned during his depression. How this will affect everything else, I’m not so sure, but non-vampire matters like the four-named fairy and Sam’s new romance haven’t proved terribly relevant to the main plot.

What I’m Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 4 “Scar Tissue” (B+)

It’s very interesting to watch Vogel dissect and analyze Deb, forcing Dexter to stay away from her and encouraging Deb to confront her fears and face her demons head-on. It would be far too easy if Vogel was actually likeable, and this makes it much more compelling to watch Dexter struggle with the idea of not having his sister in his life. Dexter was clearly hurt when he saw the notes that Vogel had been keeping on him, but it didn’t compare to how Yates stopped in his tracks when he heard Vogel’s voice on the phone. It’s never good when one of Dexter’s victims escapes his clutches, but I suspect that Yates is going to focus much more on getting revenge on Vogel than on Dexter. We met two very intriguing females in this hour, both played by actresses famous for one particular TV role. Bethany Joy Lenz of “One Tree Hill” was alluring and completely mysterious as Jamie’s friend and Dexter’s neighbor who he was surprised to find in his apartment, and Madison Burge of “Friday Night Lights” is going to shake Masuka’s life up in a major way. He could not have been horrified to discover that the hot girl asking about him might be his daughter, and it’s going to be fun to watch him try to mature for her. While Quinn continues to mess up with Jamie and fail to impress Batista and Matthews, Deb had a far more productive therapy session with her boss about being haunting by dead dads. Most startling of all, of course, was Deb telling Dexter that Harry only got it half right when he killed himself before she turned the wheel to make them drive off the road. Deb coming up with an unconscious Dexter in her arms at the end of the episode was unsettling, since our complicated hero has never been so close to death, and certainly not at the hands of the person he cares most about in the world.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 6 “Delusion” (B+)

It’s easy to forget sometimes that Wilfred is actually Jenna’s dog and not Ryan’s, and episodes like this help to remind of that in an entertaining if disastrous way. It’s just like Drew to throw Jenna a surprise party last-minute with only things that he likes and invite her by accident, while the well-meaning Ryan decided that he wanted to make more of an effort and do something sincere for her. Drew not liking tacos because he doesn’t speak Spanish is pretty hilarious, and exactly the kind of thing that makes him a worthwhile character when someone else in his place might be far less endearing. Kristen’s hour-long nap couldn’t derail his plans, but Wilfred’s sudden desire to have Ryan write his biography definitely did, and Wilfred putting his shock collar on Ryan’s neck to force him to write his book instead of plan the party really ruined everything. All hope seemed lost when Jenna suggested that Ryan read the book to the kids at her party, but, against all odds, Wilfred actually wrote a good version which managed to charm and delight everyone. After his moment of bonding with Jenna while she was smoking by her car, Ryan even managed to get his hug. And that’s when this show did what it does so well and abruptly changed the tone without any warning. Watching Ryan go down into the basement and start smoking alone while people were hauntingly singing “Happy birthday” in the background was eerie, and it’s a devastating reminder of just how alone Ryan is, regardless of what Wilfred actually is.

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 6 “All or Nothing” (B+)

This episode’s final moments confirm what this entire episode was all about, which is that Michael is finally moving on from his relationship with Fiona and getting in over his head in something that, for once, he’s not fully controlling. That’s not to suggest that Michael hasn’t been led astray by people he both trusted and cared about in the past, but rather that he never lets his guard down and allows himself to fall for someone other than Fiona. Sonya is very much like Michael in a lot of ways, and Michael has never offered a more significant word of wisdom, which is that it’s hard sometimes to know why you’re doing something, as in his feelings for Sonya aren’t entirely manufactured. Prior to that moment of passion at the end of the episode, Michael and Fiona were on fire together, having a blast pretending to be hackers and then experiencing a life-and-death situation while casually climbing down from the roof. Guest-starring in this hour as the man in charge was the charismatic Charles Mesure, who was on “V” and also appeared on “Desperate Housewives.” Sam and Jesse did a great job helping Barry track down his ex-girlfriend as payment for his help, even if what they found was rather disheartening. It’s good that the show continues to incorporate its most frequent guests from years past, and I hope we see at least a few other familiar faces before the show signs off for good in just seven short weeks.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Round Two: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 1, Episode 2 “Calaca” (B+)

In its second episode, this show demonstrates that it’s definitely worth watching by digging deep into its characters and presenting multiple supporting threads to enhance the main drama. Charlotte discovering that the padlocked door led to a tunnel that goes to Mexico was pretty startling, almost as much as the fact that her reaction was to order it bordered up rather than to look into how it was being used. Returning the money given to her showed just how much she isn’t interested in being told what to do, which is going to make her an even more formidable character when she inevitably gets curious and wants in. The latest crew of Mexicans attempting to illegally cross the border had a far from pleasant journey, and seeing them all dead after being baited with poisoned water was very disturbing, though not quite as much as the unknown fate of the one dissenting voice who doesn’t appear to have gotten away clean. The way the two protagonists’ home lives contrast is fascinating, as Sonya bluntly picks up a stranger in a bar and then kicks him out in the middle of the night and Marco returns home to his caring wife, played by Catalina Sandino Moreno, who almost a decade ago broke out with an Oscar-nominated turn in a film about crossing the border, “Maria Full of Grace.” I’m continually impressed also with the relationship between Sonya and Hank, and I’m definitely ready to sit down and watch this show every week.

What I’m Watching: Royal Pains

Royal Pains: Season 5, Episode 5 “Vertigo” (B)

In this hour, we got some human drama and some other heightened drama as the show took a step away from Jeremiah and Divya’s non-romance and Hank’s nefarious plan to assist Boris in punishing Milos for his murderous act. Instead, Evan got to campaign in the sun without quite enough sunscreen to get signatures for the election, which proved especially difficult because of residency issues, lack of interest, and general happiness with the status quo. It’s just like him to find a source of inspiration as he was about to give up, and though it’s going to be a fierce uphill battle, I think he’s going to want to stick it out. Paige had a chance to demonstrate that she could be good at her job when her boss passed off an emotional assignment, but finding another valuable antique that made it so that Blythe didn’t have to sell the painting hardly seems like exemplary workmanship (great customer service, on the other hand). Blythe is an interesting character who it seems will have a larger role to play this season, interacting frequently with others in Evan’s life as well. Brad Beyer’s cop dad is also showing up regularly, and it’s a good thing since his condition appears to be worsening. The hostage situation on the boat was a bit jarring and unusual for this lighthearted show, but it was resolved quickly enough and more useful for the symptoms it showed in Don. Hank sure knows how to be there for a client and go above and beyond.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I’m Watching: Covert Affairs (Season Premiere)

Covert Affairs: Season 4, Episode 1 “Vamos” (B)

Since this show last aired, I’ve given up on two other USA series that I’d argue I might have liked more than I liked this one simply because they weren’t enthralling me as much as other series airing at that time were. That said, this show is back at exactly the time of year that USA really got famous for programming right: the summer. It’s also the only show I’m currently watching on Tuesday night, which increases the likelihood of me continuing to watch and review it even more. I was extremely disappointed to see the show’s signature opening credits sequence tossed in favor of a boring title card, and I didn’t even realize that Hill Harper, formerly of “CSI: NY,” had become a series regular. He’s definitely an interesting addition to the mix, and should help keep both Annie and Auggie on their toes. Their newfound romance isn’t a deterrent to the show, though it definitely decreases their professionalism considerably. The more problematic relationship is, of course, that between Arthur and his political ally portrayed by Michelle Ryan, who many will remember as the ill-equipped star of the failed “Bionic Woman” reboot NBC attempted a few years ago. It seems abundantly clear that Arthur and Teresa are not engaged in a sexual affair but instead in something far more devious. His abrupt resignation is sure to shock Joan into a state that will make it very hard for her to ever forgive him, and it’s going to send Annie and Auggie really as their lives and missions are altogether redefined, which should make for a fun and engaging season.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Great Spirit” (B+)

Wyoming seems like such a distant, different place, and this show does a great job of establishing the world out there and the way things work, with the many facets of society fully featured and detailed. The idea of an illegal rodeo springing up is certainly an interesting one, and, as always, Walt has plenty of connections to suspicious people with a hand in unsavory business. Branch in particular is seeing his worlds collide after Walt punished him for being conveniently under the weather by making him go evict an old classmate of his. Offering to lend him the money he needed to make the payment to keep the keys to his home wasn’t an altogether terrible idea, but it was an unwise choice given what Walt has tasked him specifically to do. His second visit was much more effective, uncomfortable and unsettling as it was, and it’s good to see Branch step up to the plate when he needs to do, with some formidable and well-timed assistance from Vic. I liked how Walt opted to get a confession out of the killer by tying him to a rope attached to the horse so that he would meet the same fate of his victim if he didn’t own up to his actions. Detective Fales’ return to Wyoming is not a good thing for anyone, and it’s disconcerting to see Henry getting jittery knowing that he could easily be headed straight to jail soon. Even more worrisome is the sight, conveyed via flashback, of Walt covered in blood as he stumbled into Henry’s motel room. This can’t all end well.

What I'm Watching: Major Crimes

Major Crimes: Season 2, Episode 6 "Boys Will Be Boys" (B+)

Before this episode took an unfortunate if not unexpected turn, I was thinking that this was a prime instance of why the Primary Homicide Division was renamed Major Crimes, dealing with a very foreboding missing persons case rather than an outright murder from the outset. The revelation that Michelle was actually a boy at birth was a catalyst for an involving and disturbing hour. It seemed obvious that Michelle's bully couldn't be the killer and that one of her family members was likely responsible, and finding out exactly who committed the awful crime was far from pleasant. Playing Michelle’s unhappy parents were two familiar TV faces: Craig Sheffer, who portrayed the kindly Keith on “One Tree Hill,” as Michelle’s supportive father, and Gail O’Grady, who has starred on “Hidden Palms” and “NYPD Blue,” among others, as her disapproving mother. It’s never a good thing when all the family members can be considered suspects, and it was especially jarring to see Rusty brought into it when he locked eyes with the initial number one suspect in the station. Meanwhile, Rusty’s non-relationship with Chris actually seems to be progressing pretty well, as evidenced by their double date with Sharon and Jack, which also counts as a major victory for Jack, who swooped in at just the right moment to distract Sharon from an extremely unsettling and horrifying end to her case with an offer of an escape from that world. Maybe they’re not as far from getting back together as it initially seemed.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

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

The Newsroom: Season 2, Episode 1 “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” (B)

I and many others who found this show’s first season extremely compelling were greatly anticipating this second season starter. With all that hype comes a certain inevitable disappointment, one which isn’t all that much of a letdown but doesn’t quite deliver as much as it could have. This show has started at a future moment and then flashed back before, but it creates an unnecessary sense of heightened drama that the show doesn’t need. I think that’s doubly true of moments like the one with the malfunctioning video where artificial suspense was created when the show is already more than compelling enough on its own. The news itself is plenty interested, and I like the professional developments of Will being taken off the 9/11 tenth anniversary report because of his Taliban comment and Neil getting into Occupy Wall Street on the horizontal ground floor from the beginning. The human drama isn’t bad either, like Mackenzie adamantly refusing to have Will pay for her drink only to demand money for her cab home and her cab the next morning from him once she realized that she forgot her wallet, and Don leaving Maggie after a solid two-week stint as a good boyfriend because he saw her confession of affection for Jim on YouTube. Jim is going to have a miserable time covering the Romney bus, but that should certainly prove entertaining, and he’ll likely have the opportunity to meet someone there while Don and Sloane finally cozy up to each other after their awkward run-in during this hour. This should be a fun season, and I’m sure it will only get better from here on out.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Take Three: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 1, Episode 3 "Twerk" (B+)

one of the reasons I like this show is the way that it commits to making its more minor characters undeniably interesting. Lena hasn't quite gotten there yet (she's close), but Avi, Terry, and Ezra definitely fit that bill. Avi has exactly the right disposition for a henchman, and the way that Steven Bauer is shot and featured in scenes is just terrific. I was thrilled to see Eddie Marsan cast in this show even if it's not his typical role, and watching Terry awkwardly ask out Frances was absolutely fantastic. Brooke Smith is a perfect choice to play Frances, and I loved how Terry asked her out and the smile that lit up his face after she said yes. And Ezra, constantly invoking his Yiddish and freaking out about something, is a riot. Then there's Abby, the unquestionable standout of this hour, who donated Ray's clothes to charity only to pick them up and leave a formidable cash donation in exchange for her seller's remorse. She's truly a formidable fit for Ray. The title character is also rather remarkable, storming into his neighbor's house to unplug his speakers and ending up with a client in the process, one who might feel his wrath if he ever learns what he's asking Ray's daughter to send him. Mickey accompanying Bunchy to his support group meeting was predictably unfortunate, but it was a nice showcase for Jon Voight to demonstrate that he's superb in this role and well-suited for a supporting television part.

What I'm Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 3, Episode 8 "Try" (B+)

This episode had an eerie, fatalistic feel as it followed the slow, troublesome ride directed by Pastor Mike. Linden isn't exactly known for her bedside manner, yet her disposition worked to her advantage in this case. She was extremely blunt and honest about her personal life, particularly how she lost her son, a fact she shared with him and then corrected in order to prove just how truthful she was being with him. Broadcasting the conversation was a bold move, and Holder's reactions while listening to her demonstrated just how loyal he is to her. When he discovered that it was on, it seemed like things were over, and it was the first time that Linden actually seemed afraid of something, even with all the nefarious things she faced at the casino last season. Holder bringing her Chinese food when she was at home recuperating from her ordeal was touching, and it's emblematic of their relationship, which is extremely unique and entertaining. Bullet lying to Holder was damaging enough to the trust that had been created between them that it's likely to going to cost Bullet severely, since she appears to be right in the crosshairs of the killer. Seward is being more compelling as he deals with the fact that his death is growing ever near and it doesn't seem like he'll be able to get out of it. Seward isn't the only one miserable in the prison, as Becker's wife indicates that there's more wrong with her marriage than meets the eye.

What I'm Watching: True Blood

True Blood: Season 6, Episode 5 "Fuck the Pain Away" (B+)

Things are not looking good for any of our protagonists, and I suspect they're only going to get worse as the season continues. It did not take very long for the vampires Bill saw being burned in his premonition to end up incarcerated together in the very facility where that vision took place. The experiments being conducted on the vampires are much more gruesome than just about anything that we've seen the vampires do to the humans. The most captivating part of the entire facility was Pruitt Taylor Vince's therapist and the way in which he baited Pam into answering his questions honestly by offering her a human to feed on. There's something completely unique about Pam and the way that she just doesn't care about anything or anyone at all, except, of course, Eric. Sarah was especially cunning in pitting Eric and Pam against each other in a battle to the death for the Governor to watch, and it's not going to end well, even if both of them survive. Sarah was quite blunt about her desire to engage in sinful relations with Jason, and having Jess show up was about the worst thing that could have happened for the poor bloodthirsty vampire. Willa's cold welcome at the facility doesn't foreshadow a bright future for her either. Conversely, it looks like everything that Sookie thought about Warlow and her parents wasn't quite true, and Lafayette channeling her father hasn't left her in a very good place at all. Obviously the show's primary protagonist can't die, but watching her about to be drowned isn't exactly promising.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What I'm Watching: Dexter

Dexter: Season 8, Episode 3 "What's Eating Dexter Morgan?" (B+)

With Dr. Vogel's help, Dexter is getting a much better on his identity and his place in the world while Deb rapidly loses her grip on where and how she fits in to everything. Hearing Dr. Vogel react to the way that Dexter talks about Deb is particularly interesting, since she's so continually fascinated by the fact that his apparent emotions for her contradict his status as a psychopath. It was jarring, therefore, to see her shocked reaction when Dexter decided to restrain Deb when he left his apartment. Deb wandering into the police station in a disoriented state was a bad idea to begin with, and when Quinn became the cool and collected one in the situation, it was obvious that something was wrong. She didn't waste much time in confessing to her murderous transgression, and Quinn calling Dexter really did make her world seem inescapable, as the one person she didn't want to see showed up right away. Quinn being so invested in helping his good friend and former girlfriend Deb is not helping his relationship with Jamie at all, and Batista made things even worse by revaling Quinn's excuse about a case in the middle of the night. Dexter meeting and analyzing the cannibal was very compelling, since he, unlike so many of Dexter's other victims, was eager to talk and befriend Dexter rather than shy away from the limelight. Seeing the fear in the cannibal's eyes as Dexter killed him is a firm reminder that, sympathetic as he may be, Dexter is still a killer above all.

Emmy Nominees: Best Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/6, picking “Arrested Development” over “Louie”

Two things I was fairly certain would happen didn’t this year. I had presumed that Louie wouldn’t ever make the top race because it didn’t appeal to everyone, but I guess that’s not the case. Even more surprising, the impossibly-anticipated “Arrested Development” failed to make the cut, earning one measly acting nomination for star Jason Bateman. After that, the list is exactly the same as it was last year. 30 Rock is nominated for the last time, while Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory are back again. “30 Rock” earned thirteen nominations, the same tally as the last two years, while “Modern Family” is down to twelve from fourteen, “The Big Bang Theory” is up to eight from a three-year run of five, and “Louie” is up to six from three last year. Rounding out the category are last year’s two breakthroughs, Girls and Veep. The former stayed steady at five nominations, while the latter netted two additional acting nominations to increase its tally from three to five. I wish that “Parks and Recreation” were here since it’s easily the best comedy on TV, but I suppose it’s not a bad list. “Episodes” and “Enlightened” were awarded small victories in other categories, while the still-fun “New Girl” was shut out entirely.

Who should win? I don’t watch “Louie” or “The Big Bang Theory,” so I’ll say “Veep,” no contest, for the moment
Who will win? “30 Rock” or “Modern Family” – take your pick

Emmy Nominees: Best Drama Series

My predictions: 4/5, picking “Boardwalk Empire” over “House of Cards”

Precursors are a tricky thing. Game of Thrones got snubbed by both Golden Globe and SAG voters this year, while “Boardwalk Empire” made the cut. Since I thought that this most recent season of “Boardwalk Empire” was the best yet, it’s disappointing to see it dropped from almost all categories this year. Fortunately, the rest of the shows are still quite great, even if there’s no room for “The Newsroom.” “Game of Thrones” also managed a series best, earning sixteen nominations this year. I’ve only seen the first two episodes of House of Cards, which did quite well and blew the other buzzworthy Netflix show out of the water with its nomination total (nine versus three). Breaking Bad matched its series high count from last year with thirteen, and Homeland got up to eleven nominations, from nine last year. Mad Men netted its lowest-ever tally of twelve, which still isn’t bad. And, rounding out the list, we have Downton Abbey, which managed to get twelve nominations, down from sixteen last year, and still pop up in every major race except the guest categories.

Who should win? “Homeland,” but they’re all great
Who will win? Either “Homeland” again, “Breaking Bad,” or “House of Cards”

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Episodes” and “Louie”

The nominees: Episode 209 (Episodes), Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 1 (Louie), Finale (The Office), Hogcock! (30 Rock), Last Lunch (30 Rock)

After last year marked an exceptionally creative year of this category that omitted both “Modern Family” and 30 Rock, I erroneously picked the former to return with dual nominations in this category rather than the latter. It doesn’t make sense to me that these two episodes were able to be nominated here individually while they constitute one episode in the directing race. The finale was fine, but I’m over the show. It makes sense that Louie, which won last year, is here for its one submitted episode, but I’m surprised that “Girls” didn’t make an appearance. I was going to take Episodes out of my predictions, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Seeing the series finale of The Office recognized here is heartwarming since it was a very well-written ode to what was always best about the show. On the negative side, so much for “Parks and Recreation,” which got two nominations in this category last year, and “Community,” which got one, showing up.

Who should win? “Finale”
Who will win? “Last Lunch”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Girls” and “Louie” correctly

The nominees: On All Fours (Girls), Diva (Glee), New Year’s Eve (Louie), Arrested (Modern Family), Hogcock/Last Lunch (30 Rock)

I correctly guessed that the lone submitted episode from Louie and the most memorable installment of the year from Girls would be recognized. I figured the more dramatic season finale of Modern Family would be honored, but this comedic half-hour was great too. I’m surprised that “Arrested Development” didn’t make the cut, while the series finale of “The Office” was recognized for writing and not for directing. I thought that the school shooting episode of Glee might make the cut, but another installment which I haven’t seen did instead (more on that closer to the big night). And, it’s no surprise that, after a year off, 30 Rock earned its final nomination in this category for its hour-long finale, which puzzlingly netted two separate nominations for writing.

Who should win? “On All Fours”
Who will win? “Arrested” or “Hogcock/Last Lunch”

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing for a Drama Series

My predictions: 1/5, picking only “Downton Abbey”

The nominees: Dead Freight (Breaking Bad), Say My Name (Breaking Bad), Episode 4 (Downton Abbey), The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones), Q and A (Homeland)

This is truly surprising. For the first time since it started, “Mad Men” received zero nominations in this category, a race where it had always had at least two scripts recognized, and, for three years in a row, took home the prize. Instead, Breaking Bad makes its first appearance in the category as the AMC representation with two nominated episodes, both undeniably terrific hours. Both Downton Abbey and Homeland have great episodes nominated, and I had predicted that this year’s most memorable Game of Thrones episode would be cited for its directing instead. Among the many episodes omitted from this race is the pilot for “The Newsroom,” which was embraced far from warmly by Emmy voters.

Who should win? All great choices – maybe “Say My Name” or “Q and A”
Who will win? “Q and A”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing for a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/5, picking the wrong “Homeland” episode and missing “House of Cards”

The nominees: Margate Sands (Boardwalk Empire), Gliding Over All (Breaking Bad), Episode 4 (Downton Abbey), Q and A (Homeland), Chapter 1 (House of Cards)

For the second year in a row, the season finales of Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad made the cut over a handful of other episodes from both shows. The lone submitted installment of Downton Abbey is here, and I picked the wrong episode of Homeland. I liked the pilot of House of Cards but don’t think it was better than, say, any given episode of “Mad Men” or “Game of Thrones” or the pilot of “The Newsroom.”

Who should win? Gliding Over All
Who will win? Last year, it was “Boardwalk Empire” that took it. I think “Gliding Over All” will win this year, but who knows?

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Sarah Jessica Parker and Elizabeth Banks over Jones and Shannon

I did much better than last year in this race, foreseeing repeat nominations for Melissa McCarthy (Saturday Night Live), former nominee Elaine Stritch (30 Rock), and former series regular and current host Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live). I guess Sarah Jessica Parker didn’t go over well on “Glee,” paving the way for a repeat nomination for Dot-Marie Jones (Glee) instead. I haven’t yet Melissa Leo (Louie), but that was expected, and I’m thrilled about the inclusion of Molly Shannon (Enlightened), another superb element of a unique show gone too soon. More analysis to follow when I’ve seen all of the nominees.

Who should win? I’ve just seen two of these, so no comment yet.
Who will win? Probably Stritch, but maybe McCarthy

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/6

I’ll admit that I’ve seen just two of these performances this year, so I plenty of catching up to do. With Will Arnett mysteriously omitted, Bobby Cannavale (Nurse Jackie) is the lone returning nominee, and he’s also nominated in the drama supporting race this year. Will Forte (30 Rock) is a great choice to represent his show, and I’m surprised that Nathan Lane (Modern Family), also nominated in the drama guest actor race, made the cut over Matthew Broderick. Hosting a variety series is a surefire way to a nomination, as returning nominee Justin Timberlake (Saturday Night Live) and Louis C.K. (Saturday Night Live), netting another staggering total for individual nominations, prove. Rounding out the race is Bob Newhart (The Big Bang Theory), who should have been on my radar as an obvious choice.

Who should win? No comment just yet
Who will win? Newhart or C.K.

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/6, but the other four were my alternates!

Here’s a major shocker: Shirley MacLaine didn’t get nominated, since apparently the “Downton Abbey” love is reserved for series regular. Emmy favorite Stockard Channing also didn’t make the cut, and last year’s nominees Julia Ormond (Mad Men) and Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife) were swapped out for new nominees. I can’t comprehend how, year after year, Joan Cusack (Shameless) continues to be considered a guest star on a terrific show that should really be deemed a comedy and nominated so much more than it is. She is good, though, and so are her fellow nominees. I haven’t seen Margo Martindale (The Americans) yet, but I’m sure she’s great, and I’m so excited about Carrie Preston (The Good Wife) being included. Linda Cardellini (Mad Men) is a strong choice, and Jane Fonda (The Newsroom) was good too, though so many of her costars deserve to be here more than her. Rounding out the category is Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones), another fun choice.

Who should win? I need to watch Martindale, but at this point Preston or Rigg
Who will win? I’d normally say Rigg, but Martindale may be a smarter choice.

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/6, picking only Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane

I suppose it was too much to hope that any one of the excellent guest stars on an FX show this year would actually be recognized. I don’t watch “Scandal” anymore, so I can’t comment at the moment on Dan Bucatinsky’s nomination. In fact, the other five are all good choices - Michael J. Fox (The Good Wife) was as good as ever, Nathan Lane (The Good Wife) deserves this nod much more than the one in the comedy guest race, Robert Morse (Mad Men) is terrific in small doses, Harry Hamlin (Mad Men) was fantastic all season, and Rupert Friend (Homeland) was great too. So I’m disappointed by the omissions, but the category is actually rather strong.

Who should win? Hamlin, though Friend or Lane would be good too
Who will win? I think Lane or Hamlin will take it.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/7, missing Chlumsky, Krakowski, and Lynch

Here we have an interesting result: since “Arrested Development” apparently didn’t go over well with voters, we have the four eligible nominees from last year - Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), and Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) – and an interesting bit of nostalgia and one great surprise inclusion along with it. Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) and Jane Lynch (Glee) were both last nominated two years ago. It makes sense that Krakowski would be recognized for her show’s swan song, but Lynch just feels tacked on to the other six, considering that her show is well past its prime and earned just one other major nomination. I couldn’t be more excited about Anna Chlumsky (Veep), one of the best parts of her show whose comedic skills I thought would be too subtle for voters. Yay!

Who should win? Chlumsky
Who will win? Uncertain. Probably Bowen again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 2/6, picking only Burrell and Hade

I bet on all the wrong horses in this race. That said, there were some pretty big surprises afoot. Who would have expected last year’s winner, Eric Stonestreet, to be snubbed when his other three costars - Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), and Ed O’Neill (Modern Family) – all made the cut? And who thought Max Greenfield would be omitted along with anything else from his show? And to presume that Jason Bateman would be the lone acting nominee from “Arrested Development,” leaving Jeffrey Tambor and Will Arnett out in the cold? Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) somehow got to stick around, and joining him were two unexpected but possible nominees. Adam Driver (Girls) is an interesting choice since his character was so detestable this season, and then there’s the wonderful Tony Hale (Veep), a truly terrific choice. So much for Nick Offerman, but I’m relatively happy.

Who should win? Hale
Who will win? No idea with this crew! Probably Burrell, but I’d love if it was Hale.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Archie Panjabi and Monica Potter over Baccarin and Clarke

Apparently, to Emmy voters, “Parenthood” still doesn’t exist, as they’ve forgotten all about it, shutting it out this year after one guest acting nod last year and snubbing the talented Monica Potter. The new additions - Morena Baccarin (Homeland) and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) – are certainly deserving, though both are from returning shows and have had equally compelling opportunities to be nominated in the past. I think Archie Panjabi’s snub is due to the bad reaction to her plotline this year, and Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) is now the lone series regular from that show to be nominated when, just two years ago, the series had five acting nominees in the main races. Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), and, of course, Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) are all back as expected. So much for new faces like Kate Mara, Abigail Spencer, Alison Pill, Emily Mortimer, or Hayden Panettiere.

Who should win? All great choices. Depends on the episode.
Who will win? Smith

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Sam Waterston and Corey Stoll over Banks and Carter

This category is actually pretty great, though it’s surprising that Corey Stoll got left out considering how well his show did, and a shame that Sam Waterston didn’t make the cut, though not shocking given how poorly his show performed. I’m most pleased by the unexpected inclusion of Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), also a returning nominee in the comedy guest actor race, since his show was omitted from most of the categories where it was formerly nominated. He’s a great actor, though, and it was a great role. Also joining the category is Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad), who really was terrific this past season, and a great partner to two-time winner Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad). I didn’t think that Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) would be back, and, overall, love for his show was down. It’s a good thing that Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) got nominated after being snubbed last year, and his show did even better than last year overall. Rounding out the list is Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), who, for the first time, is not the only acting nominee from his show. There are plenty of others I would have included here, but this is a decent list.

Who should win? Anyone but Carter or Paul, really
Who will win? Probably Paul again, but maybe Cannavale

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/6, picking Zooey Deschanel over Dern

I was really excited when I heard Laura Dern (Enlightened) announced as the first nominee. It’s a small way to commemorate her great show, but it’s something! It’s too bad that it was at the expense of Zooey Deschanel and “New Girl,” which found itself completely shut out this year, which is bizarre and unfortunate. The rest of the list was expected, knocking out Melissa McCarthy to keep in Lena Dunham (Girls), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation). Still a good list!

Who should win? Poehler, Dern, or Louis-Dreyus
Who will win? Probably Louis-Dreyfus again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/6, picking Jon Cryer over Bateman

I’m both happy and surprised with my misstep here: Jon Cryer is finally not nominated, and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) is. He is, however, the lone nominee from his show, since the other four I predicted were snubbed. It’s beyond interesting to see that. The rest of the category is strong, welcoming back Matt LeBlanc (Episodes) after a year off the air for a year, and permitting Don Cheadle (House of Lies) the chance to stick around for his efforts on his show. Louis C.K. (Louie) finally netted his show a Best Comedy Series nomination, while Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) saw strong showings for their series as well. No Jake Johnson or Adam Scott, but oh well.

Who should win? I’d go with LeBlanc or Cheadle
Who will win? I assume it will be Baldwin, Bateman, or C.K.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/7, missing Britton, Farmiga, and Washington

This category contains perhaps the most shocking snub of all – one that didn’t even seem to be remotely on the horizon: Julianna Margulies. Without her, the series still managed five nominations, four of them for acting, but it’s jarring to see an actress on a show that’s still hot and just as good as it ever was omitted. Instead, we get three freshman series stars - Connie Britton (Nashville), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), and Robin Wright (House of Cards) – but not two of the more buzzed-about first-time contenders – Keri Russell and Tatiana Maslany – as well as Kerry Washington (Scandal), who missed the cut last year. Joining them are returning nominees Claire Danes (Homeland), Michele Dockery (Downton Abbey), and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men). It’s a crowded category, and while Danes is still probably the frontrunner, it may not be that simple.

Who should win? Danes, though I haven’t watched much of Farmiga and Wright’s work yet
Who will win? Danes

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 5/6, picking Steve Buscemi over Bonneville

As soon as I heard Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) announced as the first nominee, I knew that my prediction for subdued enthusiasm for that show wouldn’t come true. The casualty for his unnecessary inclusion is that Steve Buscemi got snubbed for the best year of that show, which is a real shame. Two newbies, Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), made the cut, with the latter show edging out the former considerably with a handful of nominations, while Daniels was one of the only things about his show recognized. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), and Damian Lewis (Homeland) were back with just about as much force as ever. This is one competitive category.

Who should win? I’ve only seen two episodes of Spacey’s show yet (I’ll catch up soon), but so far I’d say Cranston, Hamm, or Lewis
Who will win? Spacey

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Emmy Predictions: Best Comedy Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep

The competition: Count out one of these shows for sure – “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – since it didn’t air this past year. Modern Family is too beloved to be snubbed, and 30 Rock is a lock for its final year. The Big Bang Theory is still on top and should make the cut, while Girls might be on thin ice but shouldn’t have a problem being nominated since it’s still hot. Veep might as well be nominated again since season two was great, and that leaves just one spot, which should go to the resurrected Arrested Development. It would be wonderful to see former nominee Parks and Recreation nominated again or the second and final season of Enlightened recognized, but I wouldn’t count on either of those happening. New Girl, Louie, and Episodes have all gotten Emmy love elsewhere, and they could break into the top race this year. There could also be farewell recognition for The Office or a late-breaking show of enthusiasm for Community.

The predicted nominees: Arrested Development, The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep

The predicted winner: Modern Family

Next up: That’s it! Nominations will be announced on Thursday morning.

Emmy Predictions: Best Drama Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Mad Men

The competition: Here’s the problem with this race – there’s nothing to suggest that any of the six nominees from last year won’t be back again. I personally believe that Boardwalk Empire had its best season yet, so, while that might be the likeliest to be omitted, I doubt it. Both Game of Thrones and Mad Men should be safe despite their surprise snubs from the top Golden Globe list this past year. Downton Abbey should be invincible, and I think most loved the second season of the red-hot Homeland. The safest best in my mind is Breaking Bad, which has extreme momentum given that its final season is slated to premiere in just a few weeks. Fighting to break into the top six are three newbies with definite challenges: The Newsroom is beloved by many but seen as pretentious by others, House of Cards airs on Netflix, an untested format, and The Americans is an FX series. While the network has won a handful of Emmys in the past decade, “Damages” is still its only nominee ever in this race. Past nominee The Good Wife could make a comeback, but I doubt it.

The predicted nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Mad Men

The predicted winner: Homeland

Next up: Best Comedy Series

Emmy Predictions: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Community, Girls, Louie, Parks and Recreation, Parks and Recreation

The competition: This race isn’t actually packed too tightly. Going off last year’s slate, I think that Daddy’s Girlfriend: Part1 (Louie) and On All Fours (Girls) are very good bets. Basic Human Anatomy (Community) and Leslie and Ben (Parks and Recreation) are possibilities too, but hardly as strong as their shows’ offerings last year. I think this category will likely be populated by episodes of shows previously nominated in this race: Blockheads (Arrested Development), Episode 209 (Episodes), Mystery Date (Modern Family), The Future Dunphys (Modern Family), Finale (The Office), Hogcock (30 Rock), and Last Lunch (30 Rock). Watch out for either Virgins or Quick Hardening Caulk from “New Girl” as well.

The predicted nominees: Episode 209 (Episodes), On All Fours (Girls), Daddy’s Girlfriend: Part 1 (Louie), Mystery Date (Modern Family), Last Lunch (30 Rock)

The predicted winner:

Next up: Best Drama Series

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Emmy Predictions: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Louie, Modern Family, Modern Family, New Girl

The competition: Smart money suggests that New Year’s Eve (Louie) and Off the Hook (Arrested Development) will be nominated given that they’re the only submitted episodes from their respective shows. Any of the “Modern Family” episodes, like Arrested, Schooled, Party Crasher, or especially Goodnight, Gracie could be nominated. The series finales of both “The Office” and “30 Rock” have a good shot, but they’ll have to contend with On All Fours and One Man’s Trash, two appealing installments of “Girls.” Also in the running are Episode 209 of “Episodes” and Shooting Star (Glee), as well as a number of other possibilities.

The predicted nominees: Off the Hook (Arrested Development), One Man’s Trash (Girls), New Year’s Eve (Louie), Goodnight, Gracie (Modern Family), Finale (The Office)

The predicted winner: Goodnight, Gracie

Next up: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

Emmy Predictions: Best Writing for a Drama Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Downton Abbey, Homeland, Mad Men, Mad Men, Mad Men

The competition: Last year is a good framework for this year, just as it is in the directing category. I think that “Homeland” is the most vulnerable one here, though New Car Smell could make the cut. Episode 4 is the “Downton Abbey” submission, and I think that For Immediate Release is actually the frontrunner for “Mad Men” episodes, followed closely by The Collaborators and The Flood. Of the pilots, “The Newsroom” definitely has an edge over “The Americans” and “House of Cards.” Red Team, Blue Team is far from the strongest submission “The Good Wife” could have presented, and I’m not optimistic about the prospects in this category of shows more suited for directing acclaim, like “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones.”

The predicted nominees: Episode 4 (Downton Abbey), The Collaborators (Mad Men), The Flood (Mad Men), For Immediate Release (Mad Men), We Just Decided To (The Newsroom)

\ The predicted winner: The Collaborators

Next up: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

Emmy Predictions: Best Directing for a Drama Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Homeland, Mad Men

The competition: I think it’s very likely that the five shows nominated last year in this race might again have exactly one installment recognized in this race. Bone For Tuna or Margate Sands are the obvious choices for “Boardwalk Empire,” Gliding Over All probably overshadows all other submitted installments of “Breaking Bad,” and New Car Smell or Q and A is on tap for “Homeland.” Picking an episode of “Mad Men” is trickier, and I think The Collaborators will probably edge out The Doorway and The Flood. “Downton Abbey” won’t make voters choose since only Episode 4 is submitted, which is easy. Vying for a slot in this race are the pilot episodes of “The Americans,” “House of Cards,” and “The Newsroom.” I would say that The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones) is a lock, but given the fact that “Blackwater” was snubbed last year, I’m not so sure.

The predicted nominees: Margate Sands (Boardwalk Empire), Gliding Over All (Breaking Bad), Episode 4 (Downton Abbey), New Car Smell (Homeland), The Collaborators (Mad Men)

The predicted winner: Margate Sands

Next up: Best Writing for a Drama Series

Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Elizabeth Banks, Kathy Bates, Margaret Cho, Dot-Marie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph

The competition: From among last year’s nominees, count on Melissa McCarthy (Saturday Night Live) and Elizabeth Banks (Modern Family) returning. I’m not so sure about Dot-Marie Jones (Glee), who I think will be replaced by Sarah Jessica Parker (Glee). Past nominee Elaine Stritch (30 Rock) is likely to be back for her show’s final year, and she could be joined by a handful of costars: Octavia Spencer, Megan Mullally or Chloe Grace Moretz. Both Melissa Leo (Louie) and Parker Posey (Louie) could be nominated, as could Isla Fisher (Arrested Development) and Liza Minnelli (Arrested Development). Watch out for a nominee from last year now found in a new category: Kristen Wiig, nominated for the past few years in the supporting race.

The predicted nominees: Elizabeth Banks, Melissa Leo, Melissa McCarthy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Elaine Stritch, Kristen Wiig

The predicted winner: Parker

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

Monday, July 15, 2013

Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Will Arnett, Bobby Cannavale, Jimmy Fallon, Michael J. Fox, Jon Hamm, Greg Kinnear

The competition: Expect to see a handful of familiar faces in this category. Will Arnett (30 Rock) is all but guaranteed this year, and the other eligible returning nominee, Bobby Cannavale (Nurse Jackie), is a decent bet too. I’d suggest looking through recent Emmy archives to find the other nominees, which might include Justin Timberlake (Saturday Night Live), Fred Willard (Modern Family), Mike O’Malley (Glee), and Nathan Lane (Modern Family). New roles this year that are likely to garner attention are Louis C.K. (Saturday Night Live) and Matthew Broderick (Modern Family), and also maybe Martin Short (Saturday Night Live), Rob Reiner (New Girl), and Patrick Wilson (Girls). I’d love to see Patton Oswalt (Parks and Recreation) follow Michael J. Fox as a double guest acting nominee, but I doubt that’s likely to happen.

The predicted nominees: Will Arnett, Matthew Broderick, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Justin Timberlake, Fred Willard

The predicted winner: C.K.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Joan Cusack, Loretta Devine, Julia Ormond, Martha Plimpton, Jean Smart, Uma Thurman

The competition: It’s reasonable to assume that two of last year’s three eligible nominees will be back, because their roles were just as juicy this season: Julia Ormond (Mad Men) and victor Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife). I’m not so sure about two-time nominee and inarguable series regular Joan Cusack (Shameless), mostly due to costars of the other two returning nominees. Linda Cardellini (Mad Men) and Stockard Channing (The Good Wife) are at the head of the pack, with Carrie Preston (The Good Wife), Jess Weixler (The Good Wife), Maura Tierney (The Good Wife), and Allison Brie (Mad Men) also possible. Acting legends Shirley MacLaine (Downton Abbey) and Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones) are no-brainers, while Jane Fonda (The Newsroom) might find herself left off the list if voters aren’t as impressed with her show. Recent Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans) has a decent shot, as does Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad).

The predicted nominees: Linda Cardellini, Stockard Channing, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Ormond, Martha Plimpton, Diana Rigg

The predicted winner: MacLaine

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 18th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Dylan Baker, Jeremy Davies, Ben Feldman, Michael J. Fox, Mark Margolis, Jason Ritter

The competition: Of last year’s nominees, Davies and Margolis did not appear on their shows this year, and Feldman has been promoted to the supporting category, where he is almost guaranteed not to be nominated. Of the remaining three, I suspect that Michael J. Fox (The Good Wife), who had storylines just as juicy as always this season will return. I’m not as confident about Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), who will likely be overshadowed by a more frequent recurring guest on his show, Nathan Lane (The Good Wife). Matthew Perry (The Good Wife) is a possibility too, though his snub last year doesn’t bode well. The same reasoning applies to Jason Ritter (Parenthood), who may find himself missing from the list thanks to costar and fellow Sarah Braverman love interest Ray Romano (Parenthood). On the “Mad Men” front, less front-and-center partners Harry Hamlin (Mad Men) and Robert Morse are possibilities. I think, however, that the remainder of the slate belongs to two FX shows. Among the plethora of “Justified” contenders, Mike O’Malley leads the pack, but watch out for Jim Beaver, Patton Oswalt, Raymond J. Barry, or Ron Eldard. Though it doesn’t have a positive Emmy history, I think two past Emmy faces, Jimmy Smits (Sons of Anarchy) and Walton Goggins (Sons of Anarchy) should help it break into the race.

The predicted nominees: Michael J. Fox, Walton Goggins, Nathan Lane, Mike O’Malley, Ray Romano, Jimmy Smits

The predicted winner: O’Malley

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: Wilfred

Wilfred: Season 3, Episode 5 “Shame” (B+)

There’s something very comfortably familiar about the things that happen on this show. Because we never see Ryan doing any actual work, and usually distracted by Wilfred if he actually makes an effort, it makes sense that he would need some money in order to make ends meet. Along those lines, Wilfred expressing his opinions about what qualities a roommate should meet and sabotaging Ryan’s attempts to find work that would help him pay the bills should come as no surprise. This series has utilized a handful of familiar TV comedy stars, and Kristen Schaal, who most people likely know from “Flight of the Conchords” or “30 Rock,” is an obvious and extremely fitting choice to portray Anne, Ryan’s roommate who has no self-awareness at all and who essentially operates a porn site for those who like to watch her eat. While it’s hard to keep Wilfred’s character fully consistent since there’s so much about him that defies logic or reason, watching him lap up the smell and presence of garbage and body odor around Anne was fun. Additionally, the fact that Ryan’s world is so individually contained helps to make Ryan’s plight all the more agonizing and captivating to watch, exemplified by the fact that Jenna only speaks to Ryan about Anne’s existence rather than the two of them actually interacting, a rare occurrence on this show. To think what might have happened if Ryan had gone with his original choice and found a roommate who didn’t make him seem completely normal.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What I’m Watching: Burn Notice

Burn Notice: Season 7, Episode 5 “Exit Plan” (B+)

This show hasn’t wasted any time in the wake of Burke’s death, and while it would have been worthwhile to see more of him before his demise, this was an altogether enthralling episode. This show has done episodes like this where the main characters are boxed in and need to figure a way out, yet it continues to be thrilling every time. Alona Tal’s Sonya is a formidable addition, initially questioning the true motivations of Michael and company, but ultimately more of a wild card for them. It’s impossible to know what Michael will ultimately do with Sonya, and hearing him talk about Burke as if he truly cared about him is very interesting. The rumors about Sonya make her seem entirely duplicitous, and having her around is going to make things much more exciting going forward. Colonel Oksana was a worrisome but fitting nemesis for Michael and Sonya, and, if history repeats itself on this show, she’ll be back again to try to exact revenge. One of my favorite things about this show is when they try to fake the presence of reinforcements. In this case, Jesse and Sam did a marvelous job of setting the stage and even sending Sam out to his staged execution to sell it. Sonya’s triumphant announcement of the fact that they were already in a plane was perhaps unwise but well worth it considering the impressiveness of their feat. There’s still half a season to come, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Pilot Review: The Bridge

The Bridge (FX)
Premiered July 10 at 10pm

When a new show premieres on FX, it’s worth taking note. I haven’t loved all of the network’s offerings, and some have taken a bit of time to grow on me. Like so many shows before it, this is a remake of a show that aired previously in another country. It’s actually quite reminiscent of another current show that is based on a Danish series, “The Killing.” This dark, moody drama seems isolated in its caseload yet is sure to have other occasional threads as it explores the dynamic of its two unlikely partners. The notion of a crime series, especially one that is not a procedural, which features an American cop and a Mexican cop working together to take down a killer operating on both sides of the border is definitely intriguing, and this show isn’t for the faint of heart, showing a severed body that turns out to be the top half of one woman and the bottom half of another. In terms of casting, I think Demian Bichir is a great choice. He was so fantastic on “Weeds” and here gets to be funny and charming, bringing snacks to his first visit to the El Paso police station and cracking jokes while holding on for dear life on car rides. While I did like Diane Kruger in “Inglourious Basterds,” the idea of casting a non-American actress in a role that needs to be one hundred percent American feels inauthentic. Ted Levine and Annabeth Gish are both proven supporting TV players, and I’m already pleased with what I’ve seen of both of them. I think that Gish’s Charlotte will have a much bigger role to play that should breath some life and creativity into what could be a depressing and dull primary case. I haven’t yet made up on my mind on this one, but I’m willing to come back to see how episode two feels.

How will it work as a series? It looks like Bichir’s Marco and Kruger’s Sonya will be teamed up as they investigate the disappearances of these many women and are taunted by whoever it is trying to bring about a twisted, violent sense of justice. That should make for a compelling if gloomy look at international cooperation and conflicting personalities.
How long will it last? FX tends to invest in its programs, and I think that this is one that it will try hard to make sure sticks. The ratings for the pilot were great, and the show has been receiving positive reviews as well. I suspect that a second season pickup will be coming in the next few weeks.

Pilot grade: B