Friday, January 31, 2014

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 3 “Episode Three” (B+)

This was a rollercoaster of an episode, and surprisingly little of it had to do with Beverly and Sean’s relationship. In fact, their interactions with two of the offending parties were entirely work-related. I enjoyed Morning’s enthusiasm about her ability to skate, and her perspective on how making a woman the coach would be quite progressive. It seems like no one wants to work on “Pucks” these days, and it’s been so long since the production of the show has played a role in this show’s drama that I had all but forgotten how truly bad the series is supposed to be. I recognized Sam Palladio, Gunnar from “Nashville,” as Stoke, whose movie-inspired schedule changes got all of the uproar started, and I liked Matt’s reaction to him gesturing at him when he said fifty (LeBlanc, it turns out, is a few years younger than that in real life). Matt asking Beverly and Sean to be killed off so that he could do their old assistant’s pilot was a bad idea, and there’s no way that would work out anyway. Castor started things off poorly with his team by calling a 6am meeting he then forgot to attend, and he’s definitely certifiably crazy, which makes Carol seem sane by comparison. Carol coming to the defense of “Pucks” when Carol literally threw it in the trash was noble, but it seems that Beverly doesn’t know Carol well enough to place value on their friendship, which is going to spell trouble and likely doom for the show going forward.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 4 “Dead Inside” (B-)

It’s a bit bizarre to have David die, especially after he started becoming a more major part of the story last week. I hadn’t realized that he was portrayed by indie actor and director John Cameron Mitchell, who gave him a certain edge and made him an intriguing part of the show. His death serves as an intense catalyst for Hannah to let her selfishness show, and for Adam to demonstrate that he’s actually a relatively substantial person. His concern with Hannah’s focus on herself and her inability to even react to the news that someone she knew was dead was legitimate, and the most startling response from her was when she repurposed Caroline’s made-up story about a cousin with muscular dystrophy and told it to Adam as if it was about her. There are times at which Hannah seems less emotionally manipulative than others, but she was firing fully in this hour, trying to transform her e-book’s new fate into everyone else’s sympathy. It also meant seeing more of Laird, who I now put together is Jon Glaser, better known as the hilarious Councilman Jamm on “Parks and Recreation,” and who seemed to like Caroline and fit in with her more than most. On the Jessa front, we got to meet the supposedly dead Season, played by Melonie Diaz from “Fruitvale Station,” a plotline that didn’t seem to have much relevance. Marnie storming out on Ray after catching him watching the video was rather entertaining, and probably the episode’s strongest moment.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 3 “Boom” (B-)

There’s too much buildup in this season, and not nearly enough payoff yet to make it worthwhile. Things are imploding completely on all sides, and our main characters are making moves to try to stay on top. Julianne getting fired was a worrisome start for Jeannie, and the revelation that the Rainmaker was back in play was the nail in the coffin. In usual fashion, however, she didn’t panic, and instead figured out a way to get ahead of everything. It might be helpful if more than one person knew the truth about someone else’s conniving plan, and that would stop others from being bombarded by hearing about what was going on. Jeannie deciding to jump ship to her saved office space at Kahn and Associates is pretty monumental, though something tells me that it won’t go off as easily as she thinks. Where that leaves Doug is also a question, and Clyde is trapped eternally in servitude to Monica, who won’t let him go without trying to make his life a living hell first. I’m also not convinced that this organic food debate, something about which Marty and Jeannie don’t care at all, is all that interesting, and it seems like it will be a defining part of this season’s arc. No Roscoe in this episode didn’t help since he’s actually a very positive part of the show, and he helps to humanize these snake-like characters. Benita becoming a whistleblower should at least lead somewhat intriguing, if she goes through with it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 3 “Like Father, Like Daughter” (B+)

Things are really getting out of control, even for the Gallagher family. Fiona got the chance to see that her boyfriend’s family life isn’t perfect, but unfortunately that led to a very miserable decision on her part, which she easily could have prevented but chose not to. Robbie answering Mike’s phone when he was asleep the next morning and telling Fiona that it was going to happen again was even more worrisome. I can’t imagine that Mike is going to be willing to forgive her when he inevitably finds out, and it’s going to make her work situation extremely unpleasant. Lip is doing his very best to try to stay serious, but it’s proving to be much more difficult than he had anticipated, some of which is his own fault for not putting enough effort in and some of which is due to other forces altogether. Deb is continuing to get great advice on how to be slutty from her friends, and it’s a relief that her boyfriend is opting to keep things platonic for now and not sleep with a thirteen-year-old. Carl stealing dogs to sell them back to their owners is typically deranged, and of course it would result in a low rate of success. It’s great to see Emily Bergl as Frank’s oldest daughter, who bonded so much with him and even offered her liver up right away, but then tried to kiss him, which made for one physically awkward scene. Sheila restarting her love life is actually going well, even if listening to Deb’s undefined terms wasn’t the smartest idea.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

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

It didn’t take long for Bates to find out what happened to Anna, but let’s just be glad that Mrs. Hughes was sensible enough to tell him it was a stranger, not the man that he very much suspects it to be. It would be nice if things could go back to normal now, though I imagine that the trauma endured by Anna and Bates’ overzealous response will make that impossible. It seems like a neverending battle between Mary and Tom and Robert in terms of the proper way to do business, and this latest development suggests that maybe Mary might be able to have the upper hand on occasion. Thomas never misses the opportunity to seize on a new connection to success at Downton, and befriending the talented seamstress that most seem to like is definitely a smart move. Alfred going for his cooking class was exciting, but that dream fizzled out awfully quickly, which is a shame because everyone seemed so thrilled for him, and it would have been good to see the big lug find his true passion. Having him back at Downton won’t be a problem, of course, since he’s plenty humble, but it does mean bad news for the eternal punching bag that is Molesley, who is already down in the dumps and had to go beneath himself to accept a job that now isn’t even available. Violet hiring Isobel’s recommendation was an amusing storyline, and it’s always great to see those two esteemed ladies interact.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 3 “The Warrior Class” (B+)

This episode was all about the clash of cultures in Banshee, and it’s staggering just how many players there are. Kai stepping in to use one of the Indians’ baseball bats to productive use to protect his Pennsylvania Dutch family from the wrath of the Indians was a particularly explosive moment, and one that demonstrated how many layers there are to this town’s history. Rebecca can’t seem to escape her heritage, as her brother was the one missing whose Indian girlfriend was killed, and Nola also has a connection to the girl, linking those two strong-willed women again. This was the second time recently that we’ve seen the Banshee sheriff’s department march in somewhere they weren’t wanted, guns waving and meeting quite a lot of resistance. Fortunately, no one got shot or killed this time, and the man they were trying to rescue the last time was the one leading them in. If there’s one thing you can say about Lucas (and there are plenty), it’s that he’s fearless, and always up for a good fight. Taking on a man much bigger and stronger than him was bold, and he managed to choke him out and subdue him enough for them to be able to take him in. The arrival of the real Hood’s son wasn’t too well-timed, but Lucas played it completely cool. Sugar also made quite an impression with his knife and his stern talking-to, and let’s hope that the young man who wants a new identity is smart enough not to try to screw the man who’s more than capable of helping him in a big way.

Pilot Review: Rake

Rake (FOX)
Premiered January 23 at 9pm

I’ve been seeing that poster of Greg Kinnear holding a piece of meat to his face plastered all over New York City for weeks now. The series trailer did a good enough job of painting Kinnaer’s Keegan Deane as a soulless lawyer known for taking on and defending guilty clients. It’s a surprise that he only got punched in the face one time during the pilot, and that he managed to use that fish to productive effect after lugging it around with him for days on end. This show is based on a successful Australian series of the same name that also airs on DirecTV and is premiering its third season next month. It has nothing to do with leaves or the fall season, and instead focuses purely on Kinnear’s snake, who manages to owe everyone money and offend just about everyone else with something that he does. Having Peter Stormare guest star in the first episode as a serial killer was an interesting move, but of course it turned into something altogether: a massive takedown of a high-ranking police official who had manipulated his confessions in order to help boost his career. It’s hard to root for Keegan when he’s such a jerk, and he doesn’t appear to have too many redeeming qualities. Of the people in his life, there are familiar faces, like Miranda Otto as his ex-wife, John Ortiz as his good friend, Necar Zadegan from “24” as his wife and often opposing counsel, and Tara Summers in the typical role of the godsend assistant who essentially runs his practice. There’s not much creativity to be found in this show, and it doesn’t seem to posses nearly as interesting an angle as it thinks.

How will it work as a series? Now that he’s managed to piss off the entire police department, Keegan is sure to have an even tougher time getting any work and paying his mounting bills. What that should inspire is his decision to become even seedier and take on more bottom of the barrel case, which might prove entertaining if it’s not too irritating.
How long will it last? The numbers for the pilot weren’t great, which is less than inspiring for this show’s chances at a long life. Though the Australian series has done well, I’m not sure that critics will be rushing to save this one. FOX won’t shelve it right away, but I don’t see it making it all the way to May.

Pilot grade: C-

Monday, January 27, 2014

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 5, Episode 14 “You’ve Got Mold” (B+)

Julia and Joel telling Sydney and Victor about their separation makes it real in a way that this show has tried to avoid for such a long time, and it doesn’t look like there’s much hope of reconciliation anymore. The fact that Joel was open to the idea of going to get advice on how to tell the kids is something, but his failure to agree with Julia that it was only a trial separation all but confirms his abandonment of the marriage. That breakup comes at the same time that Julia’s parents have just gained some new residents, appropriate karma for Crosby and his bad attitude towards having Jasmine’s mother live with them. I suspect Jasmine and Jabar will do fine, but Crosby will likely have more than a few issues with having to live with his parents as an adult. Hopefully having more people in the house will help rather than hurt Zeek and Camille’s relationship also. Sarah working with Hank predictably didn’t turn out all that well, but thanks to some mature conversations he had with Max, he seems to have it figured out now, and was able to offer her a decent and uncharacteristic apology. Kristina’s mayor run was unsuccessful, but starting a school designed to cater to everyone should be an interesting next project. I’m not sure both Adam and Kristina can overcome the odds and build something from nothing, but I think watching her try to make a difference is going to be well worth it.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 6, Episode 12 “Farmers Market” (B)

I didn’t actually love this episode, which is a shame because I tend to be really enthusiastic about all of this show’s installments. Ann and Chris’ departure continues to be imminent but something that is still set to happen in the future, and having Ann commandeer the cheese and whine session felt out of place, since she so rarely goes into the office when she’s not needed there and when she’s not being pulled in by Leslie. It would make much more sense for her to have vented to Leslie, who might have been even more nauseating in terms of layering on the positivity. Chris accepting the fact that he has to try not to put a good spin on everything was a worthwhile development, and hopefully not one that will change his personality too much. The office club meant that Tom didn’t have his own plotline this week, and Ron’s best moment was his enthusiasm about Tom having put all of his records onto a rectangle. April encouraging Andy to take the kids’ party gig was risky, but it paid off quite well, and it’s good to see Andy among people of his intellectual level. April is going to make a fortune off of her childlike husband. Leslie and Ben battling over work boundaries was inevitable, and let’s hope that freezing their legs during a fountain standoff will be the last of it. And only in Pawnee would selling vegetables be turned into something obscene and would an after-hours farmer’s market be necessary.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 13 “Three Dinners” (C)

This episode did absolutely nothing for me, and represents an enormous disappointment for a show I at least find entertaining on a weekly basis. All of the plotlines were relatively simplistic and overly referential of grander ideas that weren’t necessary. Chazz Palminteri’s Shorty has never been a well thought-out character on this show, previously portrayed as being gay and coming on to Jay, and now utilized purely to show that Jay is not a terribly friendly, sympathetic guy. Their end-of-episode hug was overdone and out of character, and merely an excuse for Manny and Gloria to be able to comment on its unusual nature. Cam and Mitchell going out on a date to try not to talk about the wedding was predictably uneventful, but of course they had a proposal going on at the table right next to them, featuring Eddie McClintock of “Warehouse 13” in a throwaway role. His would-be fiancée enumerating the reasons for turning him down was an obvious way to flesh out unacknowledged aspects of Cam and Mitchell’s relationship, and far from a worthwhile device. On the Dunphy front, we didn’t see Alex or Luke at all in the episode, but instead we got to see Haley showcased as a responsible adult while her parents were putting in a whole lot of effort to show her that she needed to be more responsible. Claire and Phil getting serious isn’t all that fun, and painting Haley in that light definitely didn’t add up. Let’s see more sophistication and strong writing in the future from this show, please.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 3 “Good Intentions” (B+)

There’s something about not knowing who the bad guys are that makes the drama on this show all the more appealing. The best character in this episode, a difficult determination, was Amy Smart’s Allison. It seemed obvious that the man who threatened Raylan with a baseball bat wasn’t sent there by Monroe, but I love the fact that it didn’t even occur to Raylan that Allison could have been the one who sent him. That she didn’t bother to deny it and kept him thinking after it happened was completely awesome, and I think she’s the perfect match for Raylan, far more interesting than Winona ever was and much more dangerous too. Monroe is doing plenty of interesting things on the outside, namely nearly strangling his maid, who Raylan got to help him frame Wynn for a big theft in a way that will help to draw him out. Anything that means more of Xander Berkeley on this show is fine by me. Boyd is doing a great job of moving the pieces on his chess board and making sure that things are looking his way, and eliciting the identity of his new number one enemy was quite resourceful. Johnny has always been a great complicated character on this show, and I’m eager for his return. Dewey’s visit to Boyd to demand money back from him did not go as planned, and it’s obvious that having Daryl around is going to spell a whole lot of trouble for him that definitely won’t result in Dewey seeing a big payday.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 13 “Birthday” (C+)

I’ve been a staunch defender of this show, particularly its decision to have Nick and Jess start dating. So far this season, I’ve been relatively pleased if disappointed a few times. This episode, however, illustrates just what is wrong with it, and demands that things be rectified before it moves forward so that this can once again become one of the funniest sitcoms on television. The fact that Nick isn’t capable of thinking about other people is no big surprise. Planning a surprise party was a monumental enough move for him that he should hardly be expected to come up with other activities for the day in the time running up to the party. Yet that’s dwelled on for such a long time, and it’s where his character becomes all too literal, which is quickly tiring. In the meantime, Winston and Coach took the traditional Winston route and had their very own plotline, both striving to out-cake each other in a major cooking competition that results in a combined-cake draw. It didn’t have much of a purpose in my mind, and as a result seemed like an unnecessary focus for so long. It baffles me that Cece continues to be employed as a bartender, especially after her angry coworker listed off reasons for her to be fired and declared her to be unattractive to him, but I suppose that having Schmidt sit at the bar and explain to her how drinks were made was sweet. I’m almost positive that it will lead to them sleeping together again, and while that’s not what Cece wants now, I think it will be an excellent and awesome resolution.

Friday, January 24, 2014

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

The Following: Season 2, Episode 1 “Resurrection” (C-)

This show is back on a week when there aren’t all that many series airing new episodes, which is pretty much the only reason I watched it since season one didn’t impress me all that much as it got worse and worse as it went on. While there aren’t nearly as many glaring instances of law enforcement incompetence in this premiere as there were in a given episode of season one, I still couldn’t help feeling when I was watching the scene on the train that this just isn’t the type of show anyone needs to be watching. Its cult behavior, which is usually senseless, is just disturbing, and I don’t see any reasonable reward in terms of the quality of the show to make up for that off-putting aura. I’m also very irritated by the babyish nature of the criminals, who taunt each other and call them names, which contradicts the complexity of their carefully-orchestrated operations. The fact that Emma doesn’t know anything about what’s going on suggests an even greater level of disorganization which makes the FBI’s inability to track them more than questionable. There really is no escape for Ryan, who gets called back into things just because someone felt the need to say he couldn’t stop them. Working covertly on the case instead of cooperating with the FBI is pretty silly, and it’s going to impede process considerably. Unsurprisingly, Joe is very much alive, though he too doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Should I continue watching this show? I’m just not sure anymore.

Pilot Review: Looking

Looking (HBO)
Premiered January 19 at 10:30pm

It’s obvious that HBO is looking for a certain kind of show to air alongside “Girls.” The network just cancelled two of its freshmen comedy that hadn’t aired in a while – “Family Tree” and “Hello Ladies” - deeming those awkward British sitcoms not the right fit for its new brand of comedy. Instead, enter this drama that serves as the gay male companion to “Girls,” a look at a single twentysomething’s life in San Francisco. His problems are not that dissimilar to those of Hannah and her friends in New York City, but they have a different spin to them. This pilot isn’t nearly as complex of appealing as Lena Dunham’s first effort two years ago, but it does have some potential. Casting Jonathan Groff as the lead is an intriguing choice considering that the actor, whose talents have been put to good use on shows as diverse as “Glee” and “Boss,” just isn’t likeable. He can carry a show, but it’s hard to deem him anything but smug. He’s trying hard to play someone else here, and I’m just not sure how effective that really is. Of the supporting cast, it’s hard to pick out which, if any of them, stand out, since Groff’s Patrick and his dating mishaps were really the central focus of the pilot episode. I think this show could grow into something interesting, but for now, it’s merely a less relevant and edgy version of another show that HBO already has airing on the very same night.

How will it work as a series? The show’s title leaves things very open-ended, allowing its characters to change their desires and endgames as the story develops and as they may or may not find love going forward. It’s a format that should work, as long as its characters are fully fleshed-out and appealingly complicated.
How long will it last? Maybe not that long. Its debut was far from impressive, especially compared to its lead-in. HBO usually leaves its lower-profile shows waiting to know if they’ll be back, but I think the network might make a swifter executive decision to end this one after season one if the ratings don’t improve.

Pilot grade: C+

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 2 (B+)

It’s such a relief to me that, after an episode filled with unfortunate memories about infidelity, mostly on Beverly’s part, the happy couple managed to reunite successfully, thanks very much to Matt’s most appropriate gift ever: a new mattress. I love the history of this show, and the fact that both Beverly and Matt forgot that they had slept with each other when Sean was talking to them about what happened in the past. This show has never been overtly sexual, and the incorporation of the affairs is very subtly and comically done. It was also nice to see Matt have a positive interaction with Diane, cooking with her and then finding out that she’s actually going to get married. She’s never been a real romantic interest for him during the timeframe of the show, but it still represents a definitive moving on that’s sure to have an effect on him. Carol’s introduction to her new boss couldn’t have been better, and I’m extremely excited by how Chris Diamantopoulos’ character has been written. Caster Sotto is a truly determined and maniacal man, and he’s going to do truly interesting things to and with Carol. Merc was eccentric in many ways, but Caster has a commitment to his job and to doing good, impactful things that’s going to make for some intriguing developments. The brief session with his therapist was telling enough, and I’m thrilled to see what he’s going to bring to the network as the new man in charge.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 3 “She Said OK” (B)

This episode managed to do one thing more than anything else, and it was quite a feat. For once, Hannah seemed like the normal one. The casting of Gaby Hoffman, star of last year’s Sundance entry “Crystal Fairy,” as Adam’s sister Caroline, is completely brilliant. Leave it to him to also seem relatively normal and sociable when his wacked-out sister arrives in town. For the most part, she was odd and eccentric, but things took a very serious turn towards the end of the episode when she cut her wrist, which really upset Hannah. The birthday bash actually went pretty well, up until the point that Ray got himself punched in the face for being excessively belligerent about his song being cut off by the DJ. Ray going up to Shoshanna and blabbering on about his life before telling her that he didn’t want to be her friend came off very poorly, and for once it left her speechless. Jessa may be out of rehab but didn’t contribute in any way to this episode, though I’m sure she’ll have plenty to say in the future when her old habits start to resurface. Marnie’s video was very intriguing, and I’m always so torn about her, since she actually does have musical talent, but has such an awkwardly overconfident manner in which she performs and talks about her abilities. Her duet with Hannah would have been a lot better if it hadn’t been interrupted by a fight, but she did manage to throw a good party overall, thanks in part to the underwriting of the costs by Hannah’s parents.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 2 “Power” (B-)

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but this season just isn’t doing it for me. After last week’s opening with all the main players scattered, this installment united them by having Jeannie stop by to chat with Jeremiah and Clyde meet Doug for what should have been a longer session of drinks. But the cohesiveness still isn’t there. Marty, as usual, is all over the place, and he got to have a good time with another out-of-control woman who managed to throw him for a loop. Sarah informing Doug that she stopped her birth control because she wants to have a baby was a monumental revelation, and Benita’s reaction at work was horrifying at best. Monica went completely ballistic on Clyde and his coworkers, and things really got crazy when Christy stabbed Monica and then proclaimed, “We did it!” Before that, Clyde’s reputation as a rapist was not going well for him at all, and now that he’s not being such a jerk it feels like he may not even deserve that. Jeannie made a risky power play against John Carroll Lynch’s Gil with Julianne, and it seems to have paid off for the moment, which is good. Jeannie and Marty’s secret alliance may be the big story of this season, but I’m waiting for things to truly kick into gear, which just hasn’t happened yet. I did like the casting of Bex Taylor-Klaus, a.k.a. Bullet on “The Killing,” as the very sexually ambiguous Lex.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 2 “My Oldest Daughter” (B+)

The specific circumstances may have change, but all Gallaghers are slaves to their bad habits, hopeless to be able to stop them. Fiona is a particularly bad offender, sabotaging her relationship with her boyfriend and boss by making him feel needy and lying about that rather violent and unfortunate end to her day of adventure with the rental car. Fiona is primed to have it all right now, and she’s slowly but surely screwing it all up because it doesn’t feel right. Lip, as always, goes for the girls who don’t feel the same way, and having the tutor he insulted ask for his help in getting with another guy was particularly painful, though he managed to seek excitable and mildly unpleasant comfort elsewhere. Debs was smart to tell her twenty-year-old boyfriend that she’s only thirteen, and while they’ve only held hands so far, the nature of their relationship is quite worrisome. Carl testing his siblings’ blood types to determine if they’re a match for Frank is nice, but it’s yet another instance of him idolizing his excessively manipulative father. Apparently there’s another Gallagher girl out there, and I’m quite eager to see what she’s like. Speaking of extra siblings, Kev and Veronica really hit the jackpot with triplets, and their baby story was wild enough without four little people on the way. Kev inheriting the bar isn’t nearly as great as he might have hoped, and something tells me that the son Stan hated knew all along that what he was getting wasn’t worth anything good.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

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

The effects of Anna’s devastating rape last episode were felt throughout this hour, and it’s clear that it’s going to severely affect Bates, even though he doesn’t know what happened and shouldn’t find out because it would likely send him right back to prison and to the gallows, as Anna predicted. It’s nice to see that Mrs. Hughes is fully supportive of her and determined to keep her secret, and I hope that Carson notices that something is wrong and offers his own form of support without asking questions. I love how Mrs. Hughes handled Edna telling Tom that she was pregnant, accusing her of lying without being sure and having it pay off incredibly. Edna was always going to be trouble, and which I'm not positive that she's out of the picture it's completely, it's good to see that Tom has others watching out for him and aware that she's manipulative. The family seems to like Tony, though it’s probably for the best that this engagement is going to go through, since it would like have been just as long as her engagement to Matthew, which is not what anyone needs. Telling Mary that he never met Matthew but that he is dead and Tony is alive was perhaps his strongest selling point, and something Mary should truly consider. It's good to know that the kitchen staff is going to have some new opportunities for growth, and let's hope that they’re able to pull themselves away from the drama of their romantic interests for long enough to earn themselves some education.

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Thunder Man” (B+)

This show has so many layers and dynamics to it, best illustrated by Nola taking out the men who were harassing Rebecca and then chloroforming her so that Alex could exercise his latest leverage over Kai. I love that Kai headed straight for Lucas’ when she thought she was missing, and then Lucas went right there and demanded her back. His reaction to seeing Nola was priceless, and I also enjoyed his non-response to Kai pointing out that he had never asked him whether he actually robbed the truck. Kai definitely outdid Alex by pouring bloody animals parts into his hot tub, and that relationship is only going to get worse as time goes on. This episode featured two scenes that combined multiple events in a stellar show of editing, starting with the opening moments that reintroduced where all the characters are and then the end of the episode, where Carrie got herself into a pretty brutal fight in prison and Siobhan went ballistic on Breece in the motel room. I really like the relationship that Siobhan and Lucas have, including an occasionally acted-upon sexual tension and Lucas’ commitment to her not being thrown under the bus. It’s good to see Siobhan take care of her problem so swiftly, given that she had a miserable time last season with her house and doesn’t deserve any more misfortune. I’m not sure what effect it will have now that she’s in prison, but Gordon is seriously not doing well, and I dobut he’ll soon recover.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 5, Episode 13 “Jump Ball” (B+)

It's clear that things between Julia and Joel are only going to get worse, and watching Joel force himself to go to the Braverman boys poker night was uncomfortable. Telling Julia that he wants to move out was the last straw, and I just don't know if there's any coming back from there. Things seem to be fine among all the other couples, of course, which is somewhat of a relief. Amber seeking out her father to chew him out for being a bad influence in her life turned out to be much more productive and positive, and it was nice to see Seth framed as nothing but a good guy for once. I'm hopeful that Amber is going to get back on the right track soon, since watching her call in sick and then drive aronud while drinking and smoking is extremely worrisome. It's refreshing to see Zeek trying to cater to Camille's needs, though it seems her desire to continue traveling may prove more alienating than anything. Hank asking Adam for Max's doctor's number was a brave move, and while the "jump ball" analogy didn't exactly wow him, it's good to see him trying to come to grips with who he is, even if Crosby is not eager to accept him. It's agonizing to watch Drew proceed along in his extremely unhealthy relationship with Amy, who even his eggheaded roommate realizes is manipulating him. Seeing him decide not to go on the school trip was particularly worrisome, and let's hope he wakes up to the truth of his situation soon.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 6, Episode 11 “New Beginnings” (B+)

It could be argued that this show is very cyclical, in that its characters are easily able to reclaim their jobs after having to vacate them for an undefined amount of time. Yet this show manages to make the most of the second time around, enabling them to transform and not stay static. It makes sense that no one would be able to top Leslie in her job, and therefore Ron would be happy to offer it back to her at whatever point she asked. Making a big stink about the dog lookalikes was a typical move, and telling Tom that she knew best before ultimately sabotaging her own presentation to let him shine was a nice moment of growth for her. Ben getting pranked by Donna, April, and Andy was quite hilarious, as was the disturbing extent of the prank he had prepared for them. The fact that April respected him because of the fake blood was terrific. Ann and Chris' extended trip to the jewelry state was the least effective plotline of the episode, mainly because it's clear that they're leaving soon and might be better to have them interact with other characters before they leave. Whether they get married or not is immaterial, as this episode proves, because their relationship with each other is strong enough basely solely on their semi-similar quirks, which have been more than established. However much they’ve happened in the past, Ron’s moments of realization that his life is not as off the grid as he would like are always entertaining.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 12 “Under Pressure” (B-)

As has been the case recently, this episode was relatively funny but so staged in its construction. The school night setup was on par with this show’s usual plotlines, but so much of it felt rehearsed and extremely purposeful in an irritating way. Claire realizing that she’s just like Alex and getting up on the board to do the math of how much homework she had was the worst of the lot. Jay passing a flask to Phil and then bullying him into breaking into the teacher’s lounge to watch the game was saved only by the fact that it was bonding time for the two of them, which is a rare and welcome thing. Alex self-diagnosing herself and going to see a psychologist was an awfully one-sided plotline, but I did enjoy seeing John Benjamin Hickey from “The Big C” as her doctor, even though the role didn’t exactly give him much to do. There were two other notable guest stars in this episode, one of whom was Jane Krakowski, fresh off “30 Rock,” as Gloria’s nemesis who wanted to get her son the one spot to Washington, D.C. I was surprised to see Jesse Eisenberg appear on this show, let alone in such a small role, but he did manage to nail every one of his lines, particularly the one about remembering when Lily was in disposable diapers. Pairing odd couple Mitchell and Haley up is always a recipe for success, and their attempt to out-environmentalize Mitchell’s neighbor truly bombed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 3, Episode 13 “4C” (A-)

This episode felt like an entire movie, and I’m so impressed on a number of levels. In recent weeks, this show has focused on its auxiliary cast to demonstrate just how resilient it is in the wake of one of its main characters’ deaths. Yet this hour was all about the one who took a backseat to Shaw and Root recently, and who demonstrated his awesomeness by reluctantly helping to save someone’s life from multiple attackers. The fact that the machine rearranged Reese’s flight itinerary so that he would be there to help stop the threat was fantastic, and it makes this show so unbelievably interesting, even more so than ever before. Shaw going to see Hersh and drugging him to have a calm and productive conversation also helped to linked her back into things, and to show just how enthralling it is to have them working to prevent a national security threat and not something more individualized. I had the added benefit of watching this episode on a plane during my flight to Salt Lake City for the Sundance Film Festival, and that made its events all the more thrilling. This hour didn’t let up, keeping the action going as new assailants revealed themselves. It also gave Reese a trustworthy ally who didn’t turn out to be a bad guy, which was great, and they even got to see each other in Rome and leave the door for any future interaction. Reese battling another version of himself was cool, but nearly as satisfying as his request to join Finch on his plane ride home after being fitted for a new suit.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 2 “The Kids Aren’t All Right” (B+)

I’m continually astounded by this show’s ability to attract talented guest stars. What’s most impressive about this hour is that it only references any of last week’s plotlines in its final five minutes, when Michael Rappaport’s Daryl showed up to throw a serious wrench in his cousin Dewey’s newfound livelihood. Instead, this episode brought back one of the show’s best characters, Kaitlyn Dever’s Loretta, whose boyfriend got in with some bad guys. Steve Harris from “The Practice” had a superb and unexpected guest spot as one of two henchmen who didn’t want to be cops because they would have to fill out paperwork. Loretta also brought along the fabulous character of Amy Smart’s social worker, who was flirting out of control with Raylan before they quickly got together but seems to have more than a few tricks up her sleeve. It was great to see Xander Berkeley, from “24” and “Nikita,” as the obnoxious racist rich arrestee connected to Detroit whose car and home were repossessed by one Raylan Givens. I loved Raylan’s exchange with a top criminal, which included “Would you prefer I respond point by point or wait until the end” and “Just because I knew your daddy, don’t think I won’t have you killed right now.” Raylan has always existed in this odd in-between that straddles the world of cop and criminal, and it’s just as terrific now as it’s always been. Boyd has managed to stay out of jail after his latest infraction with the law, but he’s done a good job pissing some people off and is sure to feel the effects in coming episodes.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 12 “Basketsball” (B)

This episode had its moments, but I wasn’t particularly taken with any of its threads. I don’t quite understand why Coach is still around, and the fact that it took so much effort on Jess’ part to get him to notice her as a person is indicative of the fact that he just doesn’t fit into this show all that well. Sure, Winston sticks out like a sore thumb and barely ever gets to have any original thoughts of his own – a plotline in itself – but he’s not an overbearing presence. What Coach’s prickly nature and love of the game did do was provoke a sex standoff between Jess and Nick, which was mostly dorky and weird, but ended in a wonderfully sentimental scene where they had each donned the jerseys of their opponent teams in order to make the other happy. It was fun to see Bob Gunton, famous for his role as the warden in “Shawshank Redemption” and more recently seen as Evan’s steely father-in-law on “Royal Pains,” in an unusual part as the older man hired to replace a fired 45-year-old in Schmidt’s office who tried to steal his idea and then got himself knocked out of the game when Schmidt pulled out some good old (new) technology. Schmidt’s work life is wholly ridiculous, and it is entertaining to see a snapshot of it every now and then. I’d like to see more of Cece than just at the bar, and for this show to head in some great new directions.

What I’m Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 1, Episode 12 “Seeds” (B)

There was something fun about this episode at the start, with Fitz Simmons returning to their alma matter as celebrities and being so pompously excited about being popular while getting to throw their scientific nerd status in Ward’s face. Dylan Minnette, who I remember as Rex in one of the realities on NBC’s short-lived “Awake,” was the friendless student who Ward recommended Fitz get to know better, and it was good to see him experience some remorse when he realized that his ice-heavy creation was going to inflict some major damage on the world. The storm itself wasn’t all that fulfilling, especially since May effortlessly piloted her way into and out of it without any turbulence whatsoever. This episode did introduce a new villain for the show, who showed his lack of compassion and vile nature before revealing that he knew Coulson and had a taunting message from him from the Clairvoyant. Coulson and May’s secret trip to Mexico was quite productive, though this episode once again dropped a major dramatic bombshell that doesn’t quite jive with its usual lighthearted tone. Finding out that an entire village was massacred, in Coulson’s words, while protecting Skye is an alarming and unsettling discovery. The fact that she apparently had powers, something Coulson seems to have neglected to tell her, is far from intriguing, and I’d love to see them materialize at some point soon. Skye is a decent naïve ingénue, but it would be nice to see her take on a new role and more hands-on role in S.H.I.E.L.D. missions.

Pilot Review: Bitten

Bitten (Syfy)
Premiered January 13 at 9pm

There’s nothing like a classic werewolf show. Except that it’s exactly what one might expect from a show about a werewolf, which I suppose is a good thing if that kind of fare appeals. The first episode of this series, which is airing almost simultaneously two nights earlier in Canada on Space, felt a whole lot like any supernatural fish-out-of-water story, and did its best to infuse as much sex appeal and minor tweaks to make it seem vital and alluring. I was interested most because of star Laura Vandervoort, who managed to enliven both “Smallville” during her stint as cousin Supergirl and “V” as the daughter of the evil alien lizard queen. I had hoped that Vandervoort’s casting would mean that this show might have some redeeming factors, but that’s not the case. Her status as the “world’s only female werewolf,” per the series description, doesn’t make her seem all that special, and this episode layers on the many other wolves who reunite to investigate the “mutt” who is maiming and killing humans and threatening to expose them. Dating her best friend’s brother, who seems eternally curious about her many newfound relatives, is destined to be a bad idea. Whatever it was that made her leave home and move somewhere new is sure not to be quite as fascinating or monumental as the show is making it out to be. I could try for plenty of werewolf puns, but I’ll leave it at describing this show as lacking in any much-needed originality.

How will it work as a series? Elena has two worlds to navigate, her new life with her friends and boyfriend, and her home life with the rest of the wolves. How closely her new personal life will converge with that of the “mutt” remains to be seen, but I imagine that this show will mix that mythology with some weekly drama that is sure not to be nearly as substantial.
How long will it last? Airing simultaneously on tow different networks in two different countries suggests this show could do well even if it isn't a smash on both. Speaking to the American side, I think Syfy might go for it and give this show another season, but it's too early to tell.

Pilot grade: C-

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Final SAG Winner Predictions

While the nominees were exciting, the Golden Globe winners, with the exception of Amy Poehler, weren’t all that enthralling. Only two of the series choices are actually nominated here, and I suspect they’ll both win: “Breaking Bad” for actor and ensemble. Kerry Washington might pick up her first SAG trophy, while Alec Baldwin threatens to repeat for an agonizing eighth time. I’d like to see some creativity, like maybe a win for “Veep” for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series. I wouldn’t count it on though.

I may or may not tune in to part of the broadcast online before an evening screening at Sundance. Enjoy final predictions below (film here), and offer your thoughts in the comments!

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Kerry Washington (Scandal)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Breaking Bad

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Modern Family

Friday, January 17, 2014

What I’m Watching: Almost Human

Almost Human: Season 1, Episode 8 “You Are Here” (C+)

I’ll give this episode a partial markup for at least being future-facing in the development of its plot. A weapon designed to fire and without fail take down a target no matter what might be in its way is an innovative concept, and it’s certainly a dangerous one that would present enormous obstacles to law enforcement and crime prevention. A memory-wiping clinic is also an intriguing technological idea, and prompted the very superb idea of this episode’s would-be victim to go have her memories erased in order to convince those hunting her that she didn’t need to be killed if she couldn’t remember what she wasn’t supposed to know. Those two pieces aside, this episode’s plotting was rather basic and uncreative, which is a shame given that it was a true step up from recent episodes. What I didn’t like, however, was Kennex’s blistering frustration with the MX and his decision first to comically (not in a good way) cover the MX’s mouth and then shoot in it the face because it wouldn’t stop badgering him about how inferior Dorian was. That there are no consequences from Maldonado for something like that is both reprehensible and unbelievable, and detracts from this show’s credibility. It also doesn’t track that the MX would be so argumentative and negative when we’ve only seen them to be purely robotic and logic-oriented previously. I suppose the sexual tension between Kennex and Valerie is helpful to the show’s overall tone, but it seems a bit too drawn out and unrealized as of yet.

What I’m Watching: Episodes (Season Premiere)

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 1 (B+)

The news from about a month ago that this show would be returning for a fourth season was so welcome, especially because it hadn’t yet premiered its third season, which means that we have at least eighteen episodes of this fantastic series to look forward to in the future. This season opener was extremely consistent and satisfying, and it’s so great to have this show back on the air. Merc showing up at Matt’s house to confront him and talk to Jamie involved some amusing immaturity on Matt’s part and the staggering news that Jamie hired Matt’s ex-wife’s attorney to represent her. Matt’s eagerness to listen to the details of Beverly and Sean’s reconciliation was predictably overzealous and inappropriate, and it’s good to see that the once-happy couple is doing well again. Unfortunately, Beverly’s insistence on changing the sheets has revealed that she too had an indiscretion with a member of the Randolph family, and that could reset things completely in a very bad way. Sean helping Matt to write his letter to Diane was nice, and it’s a shame that Matt had to get pulled over while speeding with his kids in the car and couldn’t talk his way out of it with an autograph or photo. Carol telling Beverly to go first before interrupting her with own story was entertaining, but it looks like Carol, who managed to tell a dozen people that she was getting a job she ultimately didn’t get in the space of two minutes, is going to have far more woes than being a featured player in the filmed fight, and her job and those of her loyal lackeys may not be as secure as she thought. I’m so delighted to have this show back.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What I’m Watching: Girls (Season Premiere)

Girls: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “Females Only” and “Truth or Dare” (B)

I was conflicted about this show during its second season since I felt that a few of its plotlines took an unfortunate direction after things had already been interesting enough in the first season and the start of the show’s second year as well. Now, in the aftermath of Hannah’s breakdown and Marnie’s creative-differences-prompted breakup, things actually seem to be relatively on track for most of our characters. Hannah is receiving positive feedback about her writing and has managed to stay on track with the production of her work, which is good. But then there’s the incredible enigma of Adam, a character who has no trouble saying that he has no interest in spending time with his girlfriend’s friends and is usually prickly and antisocial around them, yet rises to the challenge when Marnie or Shoshanna, or even Jessa, need support. Aside from some hiking-related protest, Hannah is not going to initiate any change, and, remarkably, their partnership seems to be working despite his usually condescending attitude. Jessa managed to get kicked out of rehab, no small feat, taking some time beforehand to awaken Laura (played by Danielle Brooks, Taystee on “Orange is the New Black”) to some new sexual truths, and then completely manipulating Hannah into driving all the way to Vermont to pick her up from rehab. Having her back in New York should prove interesting if nothing else. Among the most entertaining moments of this two-part premiere was Hannah and Shoshanna’s tangential discussion about the pronunciation of Ryan Phillippe’s last name and other words of idiotic wisdom from Shoshanna.

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

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 1 “Wreckage” (B)

My feelings about this episode are just about the same as my feelings on the season two premiere: a lackluster attempt to kick things off again after nine months off the air. Season two, while not nearly as good as season one, ended on a high note, but it got off to a less satisfying start. In this episode, it’s all about things being different, with the pod broken up and only Doug and Jeannie, of all people, working together still at Galweather. It was fun to recognize Lauren Lapkus from “Orange is the New Black” as Benita, who serves as the new Doug for Doug’s best Clyde impression. Jean-Ralphio seems quite bored at the number one competition, and his plotline got most interesting when Monica revealed her inner demon and went ballistic on her team for not realizing that one of her top clients might be pulling out. Marty’s start-up is going okay, but being force-fed disgusting fish with his incompetent team in tow was hardly confidence-inspiring. Marty showing up at Jeannie’s home to take her in a limo to their big party and offering up a massively corrupt semi-legal workaround to make a boatload of money was a familiar self-destructive moment, and I hope that he and Jeannie can let their career ambitions drive them forward and help guide this show back to the snarky show about sharks that it used to be. The old pod can’t stay separate forever, and I’d vote to get them back together as soon as possible.

Pilot Review: True Detective

True Detective (HBO)
Premiered January 12 at 9pm

I’m not sure we should consider this a pilot since it’s actually the first installment of a miniseries which will in theory be finite, but that’s alright. This show represents the pairing of two actors famous for their lighter fare who on occasion have given being more serious a go. That’s resulted in some awards acclaim for Harrelson in the past and McConaughey this year, and seeing these two movie stars come to television demonstrates that this is a formidable and appealing project. Its scope, setting its main events in the mid-1990s and its interview segments in the present day, is grand, and this is certainly an epic story. Yet there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel cohesive, as it wallows in its darkness and the grim nature of its plotline. The crime committed is a grisly, disturbing one, and it seems abundantly clear that things will only get more gruesome from here. Cohle’s radical views and antisocial mannerisms may him an intriguing character, yet it’s understandably hard to connect with him. Hart is just as generally impolite without the appeal of a wild outlook on life, and as a result neither of these characters are effective anchors for the show. McConaughey definitely gives his performance his all, and Harrelson is committed as well, though there are from far their most magnetic roles. There is definitely something brewing here, but the pacing of this opening installment doesn’t suggest that this show will be nearly as compelling or involving as its premise and cast might suggest.

How will it work as a series? We’ve seen them at the beginning of their partnership and at the end, and while it’s clear already that they have some personality differences, it’s likely that the case itself is going to take a magnificent toll on their dynamic, while should prove interesting and engaging.
How long will it last? HBO does like miniseries, so it’s not likely that this show will be commissioned for anything other than its original order of eight episodes. That said, the premiere numbers were extremely high, and HBO is closing down some of its regular series and might look to re-up and redesign this one to keep viewers coming back.

Pilot review: B-

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 5, Episode 12 “We, the Juries” (B)

This show is always fun, but I think this episode was a bit too light. It’s now the umpteenth time that Lockhart Gardner and Florrick Agos have faced off in court, though in this instance that was because they were supposed to represent co-defendants but instead ended up pitting the two of them against each other to try to get a better deal for the one they were representing. Victor Garber as an exasperated judge tiring of having to accept one lawyering team’s objection to something their codefendants had done and incessantly sending out and recalling one of two juries was amusing, but it spoke to just how over-the-top this episode was. On a more serious note, Alicia got a glimpse of just how detached from humanity and civility Will has become when he blatantly lied and said that he hadn’t witnessed with her evidence of jury tampering. The concurrent development of Peter’s ballot-stuffing case was unproductively timed, and Will’s chance to exercise revenge on Peter for Alicia’s departure and the rescinding of Diane’s judgeship seems too appealing. Peter is in trouble, and Alicia was clearly upset about it enough to get flustered and emotional in front of him. I’m not sure he’ll survive another scandal. Fortunately, the one piece of good news is that, while Kalinda proved to be seedy once again, Cary was smart enough to give her information that would prove useful to him if used maliciously. Both could use having a friend elsewhere for non-treacherous purposes, and it’s good to see them reunited in that way.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The competition: Arrested Development, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep

For your information: Three of last year’s nominees aren’t back this time around, replaced by returning nominee “Arrested Development,” nominated in 2004 and 2005, and “Veep,” which was snubbed for its first season last year. This is the seventh consecutive nomination for for “30 Rock,” the fourth for “Modern Family,” and the third for “The Big Bang Theory.” “Modern Family” won the past three years, and “30 Rock” has won once before. All of these shows have two cast members nominated except for “Arrested Development” and “Veep,” each of which have one.

Who should win: “Veep”

Who will win: It will probably be Modern Family again, but wouldn’t it be great if it was “Veep”?

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

The competition: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland

For your information: “Downton Abbey” won last year after “Boardwalk Empire” won this race the previous two years. This is the third consecutive nomination for “Breaking Bad,” the second consecutive nod for “Homeland,” and the second time “Game of Thrones” has been nominated, which last happened in 2011. “Breaking Bad” has two actors nominated and all the other shows have exactly one.

Who should win: “Breaking Bad” or “Downton Abbey” this year

Who will win: This is the time to reward Breaking Bad, though “Game of Thrones” could upset.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Mayim Bialik’s nerdy scientist (The Big Bang Theory), Julie Bowen’s neurotic mother (Modern Family), Edie Falco’s pill-popping nurse (Nurse Jackie), Tina Fey’s nerdy TV writer (30 Rock), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ sarcastic vice-president (Veep).

For your information: Fey has won this award four times, most recently last year, and has been nominated six times in a row. This is Falco’s fifth consecutive nomination, and she won three individual SAG Awards for her role on “The Sopranos.” Bowen was nominated two years ago. Louis-Dreyfus has been nominated seven times before for two other TV roles, and won twice for “Seinfeld.” This is the first nomination for Bialik. All but Falco are also nominated as part of their ensemble casts. The Golden Globe winner in the corresponding category, Amy Poehler, isn’t nominated here.

Who should win: Louis-Dreyfus

Who will win: It will probably be Fey again unless Louis-Dreyfus, who wasn’t nominated last year, can beat her.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Alec Baldwin’s TV executive (30 Rock), Ty Burrell’s goofy dad (Modern Family), Jason Bateman’s frazzled father (Arrested Development), Don Cheadle’s soulless management consultant (House of Lies), and Jim Parsons’ stuck-up scientist (The Big Bang Theory).

For your information: Astonishingly and irritatingly, Baldwin has won this award a staggering seven times in a row. I was convinced he wouldn’t be nominated again since his show aired just a handful of episodes in 2013, but alas he is and will almost surely win again. This is the fourth consecutive nomination for Burrell and the second for Parsons. Bateman was nominated for this role back in 2005, and Cheadle has three past film nominations. Everyone but Cheadle is nominated as a member of his ensemble cast. The Golden Globe winner in the corresponding category, Andy Samberg, isn’t nominated here.

Who should win: Burrell or Parsons

Who will win: There’s no way they’ll be able to resist giving Baldwin an eighth and final trophy.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Claire Danes’ eccentric CIA agent (Homeland), Anna Gunn’s traumatized wife (Breaking Bad), Jessica Lange’s witch (American Horror Story: Coven), Maggie Smith’s wise-cracking countess (Downton Abbey), and Kerry Washington’s fixer (Scandal).

For your information: Danes won this award last year, and Lange won two years ago for playing a different role on the first season of FX’s spooky horror series. Smith was nominated for this same part last year in this race and the year before in the miniseries race. Gunn and Washington are both first-time nominees. Danes, Gunn, and Smith are also nominated as part of their ensemble casts..

Who should win: Smith or Gunn

Who will win: My bet is Washington, but it could also be Gunn or Danes again.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Steve Buscemi’s Atlantic City gangster (Boardwalk Empire), Bryan Cranston’s meth cooker (Breaking Bad), Jeff Daniels’ temperamental news anchor (The Newsroom), Peter Dinklage’s talkative heir (Game of Thrones), and Kevin Spacey’s corrupt politician (House of Cards).

For your information: Cranston won last year, and Buscemi won the two years before that. Daniels is back with his second nomination after winning the Emmy earlier this year for his show’s first season, while past Emmy winner Peter Dinklage is nominated here for the first time (and the only supporting performance recognized this year). Spacey has one previous TV nomination, for “Recount,” in addition to two film nominations, one of which he won. Buscemi, Cranston, and Dinklage are also nominated as part of their ensemble casts.

Who should win: Based on this past season, Cranston or Dinklage.

Who will win: I think it’s a battle between Cranston and Spacey, and I’ll give the edge to the former.

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Season Premiere)

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 1 “Simple Pleasures” (B+)

It’s a treat to have this show back, eternally to take things to a whole new depraved level. In this season, we’re going to have the added issues of Frank trying to ingest alcohol rectally, Debbie wearing Fiona’s clothes and acting like her, Carl learning how to masturbate, and Lip having to actually apply himself in college. The last one is far from a problem, though it’s going to be tough, and it will be good to see Lip develop in a world far from his home. We didn’t see any of Ian in this hour short of Mickey punching a photo of him, and I hope that army life won’t prove too miserable. I heartily enjoyed Mickey’s sympathy for the plight of underpaid prostitutes such as his wife. Kev having to bury Stan is going to be difficult, though the shocking news that Veronica is pregnant after they spend so long getting her mother pregnant is sure to keep him happy for a while until the financial reality sets in. Sheila is as odd as ever, coming over every day to clean the Gallagher home with no one having asked her, but it was sad to see her sitting alone at her dining room table. Fiona seems to be in a healthy, productive relationship for once, but the fact that all of her coworkers know about it may prove more stressful than having to select the details of the 401K for which she’s newly eligible. This is sure to be an enthralling season.

Monday, January 13, 2014

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 2 (B+)

I made the mistake last week of only watching part of the premiere, and so this review will tackle the second hour or so of episode one and the entirety of episode two (they air differently in England, which makes it confusing). As things progress, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Mary, mistress of riding side-saddle, is going to make a name for herself and not let her father keep her down, with the hearty encouragement of Tom and Violet at every turn. Robert seems increasingly irritable, not eager to entertain a visiting opera singer and content to shut down the hopes and dreams of both of his living daughters by demeaning their opinions and avoiding getting to know their new men, respectively. Gregson managed to win the hour by gifting his winnings back to their original owners, and maybe that means Edith could actually have happiness for once after all. Rose made a major misstep by going into town and getting to know a member of the help who then sought her out at Downton, but that appears to be rectified for the moment. Anna, on the other hand, suffered a truly miserable and heinous fate, a dark occurrence which hasn’t yet been felt on this show. I trust Mrs. Hughes to be diligent in taking care of Anna and helping her to hide the truth from Bates, but that should prove difficult, especially since Bates got so angry about Anna playing around with her future assailant. It’s about time Mrs. Patmore suffered a heart attack, and I’m glad to see that she appears to be okay, with a prescription for a less stress as her medicine going forward. Edna is proving to be nothing but trouble, and let’s hope Tom doesn’t self-destruct his new status by engaging in an all-too-public affair with her. Molesley is a great source of comic relief, and it’s good to see him popping up a lot lately, even if it is for jobs that seem horribly embarrassing, at least according to his and Carson’s standards. The funniest moment of the episode was Violet calling Mary out for trying to use her as an excuse not to dance, a wonderful reminder that, however small her role may be, Maggie Smith knocks every scene she has out of the park.

Pilot Review: Helix

Helix (Syfy)
Premiered January 10 at 10pm

I like to make an effort to watch every new pilot, and not to give up on them midway through since all series premieres deserve the opportunity to either wrap up their arcs and launch in a new direction or end on a fantastic cliffhanger that makes watching the rest of the show vital. Unfortunately, Syfy’s newest show does neither of those things, and the only sentiment I’m left with is the hope that I don’t get trapped in another hour of this universe. The notion of a contagion breaking out is something that has been done before – the season one episode of “The X-Files” called “Ice,” featuring guest stars Felicity Huffman and Xander Berkeley, is a prime example. But here there’s just lots of talk about monkeys and mutating viruses that we’ve never seen before, and it gets tiresome very quickly. Billy Campbell, who previously anchored “The 4400,” is an actor whose relaxed demeanor works well in certain contexts, like on “The Killing,” but here it doesn’t do much to engage, instead making this show feel even more sterile. Hiroyuki Sanada, who I remember so well from his small role in the underseen “The City of Your Final Destination,” is laden with an uncreative part, and none of the other actors are all too memorable. This show sets itself up as a haunted-house thriller, but even just in this two-hour starter, there are no real consequences for our characters save eerie predictions about what their findings mean. This pilot was far from involving, and its combination of glacial plotting and disgusting face-eating visuals make it a miserable combination of dull and off-putting.
How will it work as a series? This pilot didn’t seem to be introducing a series, since I can’t imagine where this premise goes after a few installments and how there’s no finite end point in view. Eventually, characters will have to start dying and some of the outside world will get in, which should provide chaotic but unlikely any more engaging than what’s happened already.
How long will it last? I haven’t been able to find ratings statistics just yet, but just based on this premise alone, I think this show doesn’t quite fit under the banner of what’s proven successful on Syfy. Though it will undoubtedly appeal more to the network’s regular viewers than most, I wouldn’t count on it lasting more than a season.

Pilot grade: D-

What I’m Watching: Banshee (Season Premiere)

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 1 “Little Fish” (B+)

I was extremely excited for my #1 new show of 2013 to premiere its second season, and the opener did not disappoint. The arrival of Zeljko Ivanek’s Agent Racine meant a lot of recounting what had happened and some angry judgments about character. Unlike on other shows, the flashbacks used here were extremely productive and supportive, and Racine’s dogged pursuit of Rabbit helps to reframe the show in a different context, introducing Julian Sands as Rabbit’s priest brother and adding that as a dimension to the story. The best part of the episode, for me, was the heist which Job, Carrie, and Lucas opted to do shortly after being under intense federal scrutiny. The mere fact that it happened was awesome enough, but that Lucas thought it wise to go back for the loot while Carrie precisely counted down her turn timing was just fantastic. That sequence felt like it could have been out of one of the “Fast and the Furious” films, albeit in a much less loud context. As if Lucas didn’t have enough enemies in the squirrel-crushing Rabbit, determined Racine, and still-jealous Brock, he and his heist crew got themselves shot at by another assassin, the impressive Nola Longshadow, who is clever enough to sit next to Lucas at a bar and get inside his home during their first meeting. Rebecca’s rejection of her heritage and subsequent viewing of her uncle’s pleasure session suggest that there’s plenty more interesting on the Kai front this season in addition to his clashes with the reservation. This season is going to be furiously interesting, and I can’t wait for it all to play out.

Pilot Review: Enlisted

Enlisted (FOX)
Premiered January 10 at 9:30pm

I listed this show as one of the least promising new shows when I first saw the trailer back in May. No matter what funny moments might be contained in it, the premise is too ridiculous and off-kilter to sustain. That turned out to be completely true, as Geoff Stults’ Sergeant Pete Hill chit-chatted his way through a military attack in Afghanistan and then punched a superior officer in the face to get himself sent to Florida. His brother Randy’s presence there makes sense, and Parker Young from “Suburgatory” is the perfect person to play the part. Chris Lowell’s Derrick, on the other hand, is much less substantial as a human being – and that’s saying something – content to be irritable all the time and be a force for negativity for all those around. I liked Stults in his last FOX series, “The Finder,” and I wish that was still going instead of this. Lowell and Young have also had better parts in the past. I imagine many of those in the military might be offended by this show since it makes so much of what is done unserious, though it’s also likely so far off and ridiculous that it’s not much of a risk. Comedies set in war have been done before, and this show is just too simplistic and lackluster to cut it, aiming for the lowest common denominator. FOX has been doing well recently with a slate of comedies, but this one is hardly one of its best.

How will it work as a series? Pete will probably take some time to recognize that his new position is permanent, and once he gets over the requisite attempts to get back to war, this “brotherhood” will get even closer and may even make to do something more impressive than rescuing a cat in the middle of War Games.
How long will it last? I guess I’m on the more negative side of the reviews for this show, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stick around for a while given its unfortunate premiere numbers. A Friday night time slot was never promising, and I suspect this show won’t even make it to the spring.

Pilot grade: D-

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Final Golden Globe Winner Predictions

The Golden Globes are tonight, and I’m excited to watch! I'll be tweeting during tonight's show, so follow @movieswithabe!This slate of contenders is infinitely more interesting than the SAG list for next week, and I’m hoping we’ll get some great winners.

This is sure to be a wild and unpredictable ride, especially with “Homeland” out of the running after its three wins next year. That clears the path for first-time prizewinners in all of the drama categories. Whether it will all be “Breaking Bad” or might instead be some more creative choices is hard to tell, and it’s important to remember that, despite three previous bids for Bryan Cranston and one for Best TV Series – Drama, the big-time Emmy winner has never won a Golden Globe. I’m pulling so much for Tatiana Maslany, and I really hope she wins. On the comedy side, I’d love to see “Parks and Recreation” win the top prize with no buzzworthy frontrunner, but that’s probably too optimistic. My “No guts, no glory” prediction, without having seen any of them, is “Top of the Lake” to eclipse “American Horror Story: Coven” and “Behind the Candelabra” for the Best Mini-Series or TV Movie award. Let’s hope for some fun winners - check out @movieswithabe on Twitter tonight for live reactions!. Please visit for film predictions.

Best Television Series - Drama
Breaking Bad

Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Parks and Recreation

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Behind the Candelabra

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Michael J. Fox (The Michael J. Fox Show)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Coven)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Monica Potter (Parenthood)

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13 “All in the Family” (B)

It was obvious that Bell and Sherlock would eventually come to terms again, and the stuff in between wasn’t nearly as compelling as it should have been, or as everything before that was. Opening the episode with Sherlock insisting that a suspect give him his (prosthetic) leg was purely amusing, and, after that, this was a big mob episode, once which managed to involved a seasoned police commissioner most definitely on the take. The episode smartly wove two fun guest stars into its plotline, Paul Sorvino and Vincent Curatola, both who are requisitely Italian and able to convincingly portray mafia members. Watson revealing her unexpected enthusiasm about mafia history was somewhat entertaining, though most of her moments in this episode had much more to do with being a blameless go-between for Sherlock and Bell and complaining about needing to find a new pizza place that would deliver more quickly. Sherlock volunteering his services at Bell’s new place of work seemed awfully infantile, and though he and Watson did help to take down a massively corrupt man in partnership with Bell, it was quite convenient that Bell’s boss happened to be the bad guy. Bell transferring back to Gregson’s division at the end of the episode is welcome news, since now he can get back to providing some of the muscle – maybe not in the same physical sense – to back up Sherlock and Watson’s keen detective work. One note of contention for this episode: Sherlock said “Watson and I’s” at one point, which I’m more than certain is incorrect, especially for a Brit.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 5, Episode 12 “Stay a Little Longer” (B+)

I’m sad to say that the two most effective plotlines in this hour had to do with breakups, one which is set in stone and the other which looks all but inevitable at this point. Ryan stopping by to see Amber was predictably awkward, and it’s a good thing that Zeek intervened to try to help them achieve some sort of closure before he shipped out and they didn’t have the opportunity to say what they needed to each other. Julia confessing her kiss with Ed to Joel, while the right thing to do, came much too late, and learning that he doesn’t want to see a marriage counselor because the problem is Julia is devastating. Pete telling Joel that she doesn’t care what’s going on in his personal life is much worse than the initial threat of her being a romantic interest for Joel, and it’s going to make things infinitely harder. Max losing his friend at school is sad, and it’s nice to see his parents try to pump him up for the big basketball game and help fix things. Sarah getting the gig that Hank went for was relatively entertaining, mainly because Hank had no interest in concealing his feelings of contempt for the outcome and Sarah realized that she was in way over her head. I was least impressed with the storyline of Oliver coming to stay with Crosby and Jasmine. While it produced a few entertaining moments, it was far too simplistic and not worthy of this show, which usually has such high-caliber plotting.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation (100th Episode)

Parks and Recreation: Season 6, Episode 10 “Second Chunce” (B+)

Every episode of this show is entertaining, and so it’s no surprise that the series’ 100th outing should prove fully enjoyable. Though we didn’t get to see any of Jamm, we did get another nemesis – Henry Winkler’s fantastic Dr. Saperstein – wreaking unintentional havoc on the emotions of Chris and Ann and purposeful havoc on Tom’s life as he usurped his business from him and sent him reeling while looking for the next big idea. Knowing that both Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones are scheduled to leave the show is sad, but it looks like they’ll head out on a high note, both being equally obsessive and actually quite a good fit for each other. Tom enlisting his brain trust was predictably ineffective, but I’m glad that he came up with a perfect idea after all of it, which even Ron approved. Seeing Jean-Ralphio interact with his dad and then Dr. Saperstein offering up his children for adoption was funny, since we rarely get to see behind the curtain of what living with Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa is actually like. Leslie’s been leaving from office for ages, and this was a fitting goodbye, a desperate and pitiful attempt to remain relevant by vying to take down Dexhart and being discouraged by everyone around her except for Lenny. Ben hiring Jennifer Barkley (played by the magnificent and undervalued Kathryn Hahn) to advise Leslie for a pretty penny was almost the best gift he could have gotten her, short of taking her on a romantic trip to Paris. I don’t know what’s next for Leslie, and I can’t wait to find out.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pilot Review: Chicago P.D.

Chicago P.D. (NBC)
Premiered January 8 at 10pm

I honesty can’t remember a thing about the pilot of “Chicago Fire,” which premiered in October of 2012, except for that it involved David Eigenberg, Steve from “Sex and the City,” as a firefighter about to lose his house. That’s the last time I thought about Dick Wolf and his grand TV universe. It seems to be the thing to do these days to have shows unnecessarily spin off other shows, and I’d much rather that a return to Chicago law enforcement would instead mean more new episodes of “The Chicago Code” with Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals. Instead, we get this very run-of-the-mill show that’s trying hard to be edgy by having its main character, played by the insanely deep-voiced Jason Beghe, much better as a madman intellectual on “Californication,” prove his toughness by bending the rules and using violence to intimidate criminals into submission. The cast has a few familiar TV faces, including Sophia Bush from “One Tree Hill,” Elias Koteas from “The Killing,” Jon Seda from “Treme,” and Melissa Sagemiller from “Sleeper Cell,” though her guest credit made it less than surprising when she got her face blown off when she made the mistake of opening a door during a bust. Ending the episode with the kidnapping of one of the detective’s children signals dark themes ahead, which I suppose could be compelling if it’s not too depressing. This pilot didn’t offer anything new for me, and I hardly think it’s worth checking in for a second round.

How will it work as a series? Dick Wolf has successfully compiled many seasons of different “Law and Order” shows, and so coming up with a new case each week and drama for his characters shouldn’t be a problem at all. This is the kind of procedural that has worked wonders on NBC for two decades now, and so I think it will do just fine for those who love Chicago and cop shows.
How long will it last? Probably a good long time. NBC relishes good ratings, and this show managed to get them, keeping most of the people watching “Law and Order: SVU” glued to their screens. This is a definite win for NBC, and aside from “The Blacklist,” it’s their biggest surefire hit this season.


Friday, January 10, 2014

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 11 “And One to Grow On” (B)

This episode actually had some pretty funny plotlines, though the way they were all set up left something to be desired. Phil tricking Luke into taking a ballroom dancing class when he thought he was headed to autopsy camp is somewhat in line with his character’s usual motivations, but it turned into a series of double entendres about Luke practicing his dancing when most boys his age might be busy doing other things. Haley having eighteen unpaid parking tickets, a believable fact, led to Phil being carted off to jail ever so briefly, something that could have been a whole lot more hilarious. Claire not wanting to drive with Alex because she was too cautious a driver made some sense, though, however clever it was, Haley’s quickly-constructed lies about her parents’ true motives didn’t exactly resonate as something she would be capable of thinking up. Cameron and Mitchell trying to reunite two best friends to get their ideal date back wasn’t all that productive or amusing, and I have a hard time believing that the concierge would give their date away without even consulting them when they stepped out of the room for a moment to think it over. Jay wanting his son to be able to recognize him wasn’t too involving, and Manny has had more than enough overeager crushes for one lifetime. I was much more enthralled with Phil’s absolutely preposterous system for hiding cash in the house, and it was fun to watch Claire try to think like him only to realize that there’s little method to his madness.

Pilot Review: Killer Women

Killer Women (ABC)
Premiered January 8 at 10pm

Sometimes a show is all about its star. “Intelligence,” which also premiered Tuesday night, was exciting mainly because of Josh Holloway’s involvement, and the main reason to watch this show, regardless of what it was about, is Tricia Helfer. She went from being a Canadian model to a genuinely talented actress after playing Number Six on “Battlestar Galactica,” and I started watching “Burn Notice” purely because she was guest-starring in its second season. Unfortunately, this show is much more like Helfer’s last starring television role, NBC’s short-lived “The Firm,” but it has far less potential. To begin with, Helfer’s Southern accent is highly lamentable, and the show’s premise is as uncreative as can be. Being a female Texas Ranger isn’t much different for the purposes of a TV series than any woman in a job traditionally assigned to a man, and this show certainly doesn’t have anything new to offer in that department. We know that Helfer’s Molly is capable of driving recklessly to run a suspect off the road and can perceive a number of things about a case that not one other officer or detective can. Having Nadine Velazquez, my least favorite part of “Major Crimes,” guest star in the first episode doesn’t exactly recommend it, and the show’s entire cast is lackluster. Another BSG alum, Michael Trucco, has a relatively insignificant role, and Jeffrey Nordling is cast in a typically slimy part. I’m not a fan of this show’s “fade-to-red” technique that closes out each scene before a commercial break, and this feels like an action-infused version of “Dallas,” which is not a compliment. With a title like “Killer Women,” I’m not sure it ever could have been great, but I would have hoped for better.

How will it work as a series? Confessing to a random suspect that she was physically abused by her husband suggests that Molly is tough, and that she’s ready to overcome anything. Plenty of sexual discrimination and obnoxious Texas residents are sure to cross her path, and I imagine she’ll butt heads with every one of them and come out the smartest person in the room, which should get tiring quickly.
How long will it last? This show’s debut has been described by some as “DOA,” and I have a feeling that it will be the first show cancelled in 2014. ABC has had its share of disappointments recently, and underperforming compared to “Lucky 7” is a sure sign that, no matter how long this show manages to live, it won’t make it to season two.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 3, Episode 12 “Aletheia” (B+)

This show has really been operating at high intensity this season, and it’s incredible just to think about all the players and layers involved in the dynamics of this episode. Finch and Arthur being in the vault with Collier and his men inside the bank and Hersh ready outside to storm the place while Control was torturing Root demonstrated just how much is going on on this show and how well it’s handled. That doesn’t even account for the show’s usual protagonist, Reese, who was busy ranting angrily at Fusco, who was doing a pretty solid job of trying to bring him back from the edge. Root coming to the rescue was pretty awesome, and there’s really nothing I love more than Morse code being put to good effect. Root communicating with the machine because Control slipped up and brought her phone into the room to torment Root was a magnificent way of gaining control in the situation, especially since Control found a truly vicious way to torture the usually unflappable Root. Arthur destroying his machine and then receiving a message from Finch’s was great, and it was good to have him here for a few episodes to help humanize Finch, who also got a few flashbacks to show the progression of his father’s condition and the invention of the machine. As if there weren’t enough players involved in this hour, the woman posing as the bank manager who managed to get close enough to Finch and Arthur met with someone at the very top: Greer, who we haven’t seen in a while who is definitely pulling strings most of these characters didn’t even know existed.

Pilot Review: Intelligence

Intelligence (CBS)
Premiered January 7 at 9pm

When I first saw the trailer for this series last spring, it was one of the shows about which I was most excited. More than anything, it had to do with Josh Holloway, an actor who played con man Sawyer on “Lost” and was relatively irritating for the first few seasons before transforming completely into someone else in the show’s fifth season. The idea of Holloway as a cool-as-ice action hero is definitely appealing, and he seemed well-suited to this role. Unfortunately, it’s not properly suited to him, providing him with less than ample opportunity to utilize the sarcasm that did so well for him on his previous show and instead making him into a gruff and rather dull protagonist. He’s joined by Meghan Ory, best known as Red Riding Hood on “Once Upon a Time,” who also doesn’t get a particularly dynamic role. Marg Helgenberger isn’t much more enthusiastic than she was on “CSI,” though she’s more than capable for this kind of role, and it’s unfortunate to see an actor like James Martinez, who was so terrific as Jorge on Starz’s short-lived “Gravity,” relegated to an uninvolved supporting part here. John Billingsley, on the other hand, is perfectly cast as the eccentric and quick-thinking Dr. Cassidy. This show wants to be a sleeker version of “Chuck,” but it rarely includes the appropriate amount of action to be substantially exciting. Gabriel’s ability to reconstruct a crime scene isn’t all that innovative, and this show’s technology as a whole is less than impressive. Incorporating real-life events like the terror attacks in Mumbai and inserting Gabriel’s wife is intriguing, and while I am somewhat curious to see where that leads, ending with the obligatory shot of her eyes blinking open in a hospital bed is eyeroll-inducing at best. This show isn’t nearly as smart as it thinks it is, which is a disappointment.

How will it work as a series? For an odd couple, Gabriel and Riley actually work pretty well together, though she might be able to teach him not to slowly draw his gun when he’s facing bad guys and instead use his abilities to his advantage against his opponents. The search for his wife will likely be the show’s best plotline, provided it pays off in the end.
How long will it last? It’s hard to tell. The pilot did pretty well, actually, but CBS demands extraordinary things from its shows, which spells bad news for a series like this that could run out of steam quickly. I think CBS will try it out for the rest of the season, but that should be it.