Monday, March 31, 2014

Pilot Review: Surviving Jack

Surviving Jack (FOX)
Premiered March 27 at 9:30pm

I knew that I wasn’t going to like this show back when the trailer first premiered as part FOX’s upfront presentation last May and I grouped it with “The Goldbergs” as an irritating throwback to a previous decade with all-too-familiar family tropes. It’s been almost a year since then, and so I’ve had time to forget all about how unpromising this show looked. Unfortunately, the episode itself didn’t dispel any of those notions, and instead I can catalog it into the category of those series that I have absolutely no interest in returning to for another outing. The big deal about this show is that it’s Christopher Meloni’s return to television following his exit from “Law and Order: SVU,” a brief and memorable stint on “True Blood” notwithstanding. He does have a plum role in many ways here, the chance to play a hard-nosed father intent on parenting the way he wants to, which doesn’t necessarily take into account humanity or anyone else’s opinion. This episode contained plenty of familiar moments of questionable parenting and teenage angst, and setting it in the 1990s only serves to make it even more unbearable. Meloni is fine and has fun with the part, but it doesn’t exactly demand much of him. It’s disappointing to see Rachael Harris, who is quite often better than her material, relegated to the boring archetype of the mother who goes back to work (or in this case, school) and has to let her spouse start being the parent. The kids leave much to be desired as well. I don’t have much in the way of nice things to say about this show.

How will it work as a series? People do seem to love “The Goldbergs,” so maybe this is exactly what parents want to be watching these days. Charting a young man’s growth during his teen years is ripe for endless plotlines, and adding in the 90s limits the scope to a more focused but still equally fruitful pool of ideas. If viewers endorse this show, it could go on forever.
How long will it last? That’s not much of a concern, however. Multiple articles about the pilot ratings describe it as “soft,” which is never a good thing. It’s not entirely damning, but the show needed to open bigger to make an impact given that FOX already has a successful slate of young comedies. I think this show might last the season, but that’s it.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: The Red Road

The Red Road: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Great Snake Battle” (B+)

With just one episode to go, I think we’re finally on the right track here. Philip made a very deliberate play to get his father framed for the murder of the college kid, though unfortunately that didn’t work out so well given that he was fully prepared for the presence of two cops who didn’t know what hit them. Getting accused of being a dirty cop was obviously too much for Harold to take, and coming clean to his father-in-law to ensure that Jeannie would be fully protected from whatever fallout there was from Philip’s threats was brave and smart (though a little too late to be truly redemptive). It’s a bad time for that news given that Jeannie was on the upswing, cooking Harold a celebratory breakfast and telling him that she just wanted to be told the truth. Being furious at Harold for lying to her was understandable, though Harold reacted even more poorly because he’s gone so far to protect her. He did unknowingly make her think that she’s crazy by lying about Philip being at the house, and so he’s far from innocent in this situation. Philip continues to be a compelling character, telling Junior the story of how he accidentally killed another kid when he was younger. Now he’s going to have to act fast to escape Mike’s ghost and his final calls to two important people in his life as well as the wrath of Harold, who is not happy to see a guilty man go free.

Round Two: Doll and Em

Doll and Em: Season 1, Episode 3 and 4 (B+)

Technically, this is actually round three and four, but, because of how HBO is airing the installments of this British series, I’m looking at these two together as one whole. I was pleasantly surprised to find some sense of continuity in between episodes, namely that the injury Doll sustained as a result of her awful attempt to justify her handicapped parking spot lasted into the next episode. Doll starring in the funeral scene with Em definitely made things much more awkward than they needed to be, namely because she happened to be amazing at crying while it was not one of Em’s strong suits. Em was understandably upset with Doll milking her success and stealing some of the spotlight, and Doll didn’t help matters by calling up MasterCard pretending to be Em and describing her abilities in a less than complimentary manner. Doll going in first to see Em’s casting agent was immensely uncomfortable, and Em having to be Doll’s chauffeur was also unfortunate. Doll has absolutely no self-awareness, and Em much more often has to be the outwardly vindictive one, letting Doll know that she has to treat him with a sort of respect that she isn’t necessarily expected to show to her. We got to see much more of the filming process than ever before, showcasing Em’s actual skills while she parodies herself and her hatred of her hat and inability to cry. In a subtle and far from memorable guest spot, we had John Cusack, who was much more interested in socializing with Doll than with Em. I did enjoy the writer’s dislike of the comparisons to “The Godfather” that everyone kept making.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 18 “Las Vegas” (C+)

This was a very carefully choreographed episode, one which had a revolving door of set pieces and whose humor was structured almost entirely around its physical setting. I wasn’t too enthralled by any of this episode’s plotlines, and felt the absence of any children. The adults on this show are more than competent of carrying an episode, yet this installment didn’t emphasize any of the show’s creativity or depth. Instead, we got a rather basic and lazy storyline that involved Gloria trying to block Jay from seeing the female version of Barkley, while he couldn’t be any less interested because he was so busy trying to be as fancy as possible despite increasing numbers of floors. While it was fun to have Stephen Merchant and Patton Oswalt, two great comedic talents, on the show, they had truly odd roles as on-call butlers and shavers for the guests of the premium floors. Phil auditioning for a secret society of magicians was among his sillier plotlines, and it’s hard to believe that he would put so much effort into a trick that would be perceived as completely ordinary, and that he would be seen as credible only because of the coincidental presence of Gloria dressed in the maid’s clothes. Fred Armisen’s guest spot was disappointing especially in comparison to his recent appearance on “House of Lies,” and he was really just there to make Cam and Mitchell realize that they don’t always want the same things. This episode ultimately just got too staged and confusing.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 3, Episode 18 “Allegiance” (B+)

It was nice to have our starring players back at the forefront of things in this episode, with Root relegated to an appropriate supporting plotline. There’s something terrific about the way that Reese and Shaw think about a concept like blasting into the U.N., not all fazed by the sheer immensity of it and instead excited by the challenge. Reese even got to catapult someone out a window just to show that he was having a good time. Most refreshingly, Lionel wasn’t portrayed as a total buffoon, still permitted to blow the firetruck horn like a child and spill falafel on his tie, but actually given the chance to kick some ass and get a few good one-liners in while doing it. The notable guest stars of the hour were Nazneen Contractor of “24” as Maria, Haaz Sleiman of “The Visitor” and “Covert Affairs” as Omar, and, in the first other role I’ve seen him in, Michael Gill from “House of Cards” playing a similarly high-ranking governmental part. I enjoyed the fact that Root was operating separately from the main crew but also contributing by calling Finch to give him little hints that the machine told her out of context. Watching her tail Greer as he systematically cut all of the ways in which the machine could track him was enthralling, and I like that Root brought Bear with her so that she didn’t lose his scent. Her conversation may have ended in defeat for the moment, but I think she’ll gain the upper hand in their next meeting.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 11 “The Toll” (B+)

This episode changed the direction of many things on this show in big ways, and it’s going to be hard to recover from an installment that doesn’t feel like it should be followed by two more hours this season. Art and Allison bonding over their shared frustrations with Raylan was fun, and it was a deceptively calm beginning to an unexpectedly violent plotline which found Art faithfully defending Allison only to realize that she had blood all over her, which turned out to be his. That final haunting shot of Raylan visiting Art at the hospital says it all, and this hour certainly gave him a lot to think about. Calling the interim chief out on making him a right-hand man was entertaining, and while it’s not too surprising to learn that Art’s choice to be his replacement was Rachel, it’s definitely going to change things. Daryl surrendering to ensure that Raylan wouldn’t outright kill him was probably smart, though having Kendal implicate himself in Art’s shooting demonstrates his pitiful nature. While Ava was busy amassing a loyal following in prison, Boyd managed to gain the upper hand in a tricky situation by returning to his roots and putting a bomb in a cigarette. I’ve always said that these criminals are fantastic creatures, and that’s never been truer. With the Crowe family almost out of the picture, Mary Steenburgen’s Katherine Hale seems like a perfect nemesis for the law, even if she hasn’t yet gotten under Raylan’s skin, just Vasquez’s.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 20 “Mars Landing” (B)

This episode was sort of all over the place, but it was mostly enjoyable. Nick and Jess were bound to come across obstacles in their relationship, and who would have thought that they would have their biggest fight after moving in together after a night of heavy drinking while trying to put together a children’s toy? Their argument once again illustrates the enormous difference in the worldviews that the two of them have, with Jess espousing a romanticized view of parenthood and horses and Nick on a completely separate plane. Among his most hilarious ideas were wanting his kid to beg to go to school, science being more of a belief than anything else, and talking about being an intergalactic truck driver. Their breakup seems to have been negated by Schmidt living in Jess’ room, but I’m sure there’s plenty of heartbreak and subsequent awkwardness to come. It’s weird just how okay Schmidt is with the idea of Cece dating someone, and her sending drunken nonsensical texts to him was most funny because of its sheer randomness. It is amusing to watch the boys make jokes about his age, and it seems that he’s not going anywhere so soon. The guys’ own romantic conquests aren’t going too well, and all they ended up doing was breaking the girls’ stuff and probably throwing out their backs, on Winston’s part anyway. Picking up that heavy furniture on his back while the building was on fire was an inspired, if certainly ill-fated, gesture.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 2, Episode 10 “Teacher’s Pet” (F)

It turns out that last week’s big shocker is going to be more of a slow burn reveal, as, inexplicably, Claire decides that she should leave witness protection and go back to New York so that she can try to stage a run-in with Joe or something else moronic. Meanwhile, Ryan, expert at subtlety that he is, opted to play his hand right away, answering Janna’s phone as soon as Joe called to tell him that they were on to him and intended fully to attempt to track his location over the phone. Having Carrie report that Dr. Strauss had been arrested and was cooperating was at least moderately clever, but it didn’t seem to have much of an effect. At the very least, this show can be commended for getting back to its roots, which mainly involves Joe’s followers committing random acts of heinous violence and terrifying murder just for the fun of it. Joe strangling a cat during his speech to his followers was especially campy, and protecting Mandy from the wrath of Emma seems pointless since she’s a prime candidate to go crying to the FBI and mess everything up. Ryan’s choice ridiculous moment in this hour was his reaction to the quick demise of Mallory, who was portrayed by Emily Kinney of “The Walking Dead” and made the mistake of committing her food-related atrocity at place she used to work. When Patrick slit her throat, Ryan’s “Nooooo!” was one of horror, followed up by a very “Monty Python”-esque effort to convince Mallory that it was only a flesh wound.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 10 “Comeuppance” (C+)

I can’t say that I’m on board with the way this episode ended. This show took a dark turn with its latest twist, one that is sure to make Marty and Jeannie really think about what it is that they do to people. This whole DollaHyde mess could have been neatly sewn up by Jeannie selling Dre and Lucas out to her friend in order to land the major contract that would have changed their business in a big way. But instead, a drive-by shooting that seemed to last forever killed Lucas and may well have killed Dre too, so that this chapter of their lives literally ends with its participants all dead. Not much in the way of positive developments really happened in this hour for any of our characters. Clyde is seeming more and more like a crazy person because of his vindictive drive to take down Monica, and turning Fred Armisen’s Vincent against her was a short-term solution that faded quickly. Marissa also clearly does have a serious drug problem, and Clyde is well on his way to developing a habit too. Doug actually had a pretty easy time getting Caitlin to agree to come out with him after her breakup, but he blew his chances completely when he revealed his jealousy at her having slept with Will. Marty realizing that Jeannie slept with Lucas was almost a non-issue because he treated it so casually, as if it made his behavior more acceptable because she had judged him, but none of it matters anyway because of the awful way that everything turned out.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What I’m Watching: Girls (Season Finale)

Girls: Season 3, Episode 12 “Two Plane Rides” (B+)

For a season that was an entirely uneven and didn’t really have a great episode, I’m pleased to report that this finale is in fact the strongest installment of the year. It’s a crucial episode for all involved, and includes some major turning points that are going to leave the characters in drastically different places when the show returns for season four. Hannah running into Caroline, who was living with Laird and pregnant with his baby, was a reminder that the world isn’t Hannah-centric even if the show is, and that supporting players get to have their own lives that might move remarkably fast too. Hannah getting into the Iowa grad program is completely random, but a sign that she might just be turning into an adult. That victory enabled her and Marnie to move right past their rift, while Marnie made the bad choice of deciding to tell Shoshanna that she was sleeping with Ray right after she found out that she wasn’t graduating because she failed a class. Surprisingly, Shoshanna didn’t yell at Ray but instead pleaded for him to take her back, which he doesn’t seem ready to do. Marnie giving Desi the guitar pick was monumentally inappropriate, and seeing Clementine in the same color dress and hairstyle at the bar was both crazy and hilarious. Jemma was off in her own world helping an old woman kill herself, and aside from saving her life, I’m not sure what the 911 call did other than wake her up to the fact that her own life is completely off track. Adam really was great in the play, and it’s a shame that he blames Hannah for what he feels was a bad performance, and now their relationship is in serious jeopardy. If only this entire season could have been as layered and productive.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Adam Driver as Adam

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 10 “Liver, I Hardly Know Her” (B+)

Frank really is like a cockroach who won’t die, unable to be killed despite being on at death’s door for most of this season. Sammi did learn quite easily about how it would be possible to buy a liver for $25,000 for a foreign doctor working currently as a cab driver, and it’s no surprise that it was a scam. It turns out it’s quite a productive way to get a kidney, and, shockingly enough, it was the removal of one of Frank’s vital organs that bumped him to the top of the list so that he might benefit from another. The Gallaghers, including Ian and Debbie, rushing to the hospital to be there for his wedding slash funeral for once actually seemed like a family. The other families on this show aren’t doing too well, as Kev chose the wrong time to cross Mickey and accidentally set off a gun in his home with his two twin daughters around, scaring Veronica enough to get him in serious trouble. Mickey isn’t happy with how Mandy is living her life, but it’s Ian who nearly got himself beaten up by her abusive boyfriend. Sheila is certainly not equipped to handle all of the drama surrounding Frank’s recoveries and relapses. Bonnie’s home life is even more lamentable than the Gallagher family’s, but at least she and Carl have found each other. And then there’s Fiona, who spent the night at Robbie’s house and did ecstasy. Fortunately, she’s smart enough to face up to this mistake, and she might even be able to talk herself out of a major penalty.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 15 “Us” (B+)

Every once in a while, it’s okay for there to be a glimmer of hope. Some of these characters do deserve a happy ending, and it’s gratifying to see that things are actually looking up for the moment. Tara’s loyalty to Glenn was touching, and it seemed like they were both ready to abandon Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita as soon as Glenn saw Maggie’s message written in blood to go to Terminus. Fortunately, they didn’t spend much time apart, which is good since Eugene is set to change the course of things on this show, even if knowing what caused the zombie outbreak doesn’t end up being an instant solution. Bringing Maggie and crew to the rescue when it all looked bleak to Glenn and Tara was great, and though they’re not the most outwardly romantic or sentimental of people, it’s good to have them back together so that they can focus on staying alive and helping Eugene get where he needs to go. The arrival to Terminus was optimistic but eerie, with signs assuring that they would be greeted and then one lone woman there to say hello and welcome them. Next week is the season finale, so we’ll surely find out more before the show ends on what is guaranteed to be a major cliffhanger. Daryl is doing well at keeping himself alive despite the best efforts of one of his new clan’s members, and Joe seems to like him, which is a good thing. This “claim” system definitely isn’t foolproof, but I guess it is a realistic representation of what the future at its basest might look like.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 5, Episode 15 “Dramatics, Your Honor” (B-)

I’m in shock about how this episode ended, and not in a good way. Killing off a character is a big deal, and can be productive if it comes about in an organic way. There was no reason that Will needed to die now, and to have him gunned down by a nervous client during a trial just doesn’t feel right. This has been a great season of growth for Will as a character, and to kill him off is a real disappointment, especially since he died pretty much offscreen and it all happened so quickly. To have Kalinda declare her unlikely intentions to leave and Cary confess to Alicia his relationship with Kalinda is almost inconsequential now, since there will be much more important things to deal with in the near future. Matthew Goode’s Finn Polmar might also experience a crisis of conscience given the role he played in precipitating Will’s death by antagonizing his client. Will’s death also throws a serious wrench in Nelson’s case, though Alicia did a good job of ensuring that, with Cary’s help, she didn’t say anything that might incriminate her, Eli, or Peter. I’m concerned that this show is going to transform into something dramatically different now that, for the first time in its history, a major character has been lost. I’m hopeful that the show can pull it off and get ready for an equally strong sixth season, for which it was recently renewed by CBS. The show has been at a creative peak, and let’s hope it stays there despite this questionable development.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 2, Episode 6 “Chapter 19” (B+)

Each installment of this show feels very much like how I used to describe HBO series and how they were much more like standalone movies than hours of television. That’s why I’m pleased that I chose to go this route, watching one episode a week rather than marathoning through the series in one day. The energy crisis was front and center in this episode, which helped to hasten Frank’s efforts to discredit Raymond and get him booted from the President’s circle of trust permanently. I’m inclined to think that Frank engineered the blackout right before his pitch himself, though I think that’s a bit too godlike, even for him. Literally tossing him a baseball to signify that the ball was in Raymond’s court was appropriately overdramatic for Frank. Meeting with Tom to intimidate him into canning the story that Lucas wanted him to write was bold but apparently effective, and sending the FBI to talk to Janine was equally fearsome. Things are looking increasingly bad for poor Lucas. Doug is exhibiting enormous self-control with Rachel, though that situation is not headed anywhere good either. Claire knows exactly what to do to get what she wants, and Christina’s fate is not looking promising. Jackie and Remy sleeping together was an intriguing development, and I think that those two may just be the show’s most interesting characters, always on the sidelines and in second position but much more crucial than their stations should indicate. Big things are definitely in both their futures, independent certainly of Raymond and maybe even of Frank.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 5, Episode 18 “The Offer” (B+)

I’m not sure there’s ever been a more fitting description of the Braverman family as Hank comparing them to Starbucks. This episode was full of mostly positive developments, even though some of them involved miserable moments. As the house went on the market and attracted an unexpectedly eager buyer, Camille and Zeek finally saw eye to eye, remembering pleasant times that made up a happy life together. It’s still going to be a challenge, but it’s nice to see them on the same page for the first time in a while. Sarah’s nervousness over how the job would turn out could have been made worse by Hank’s behavior, but instead he proved to be quite supportive, and they seem to have found a happy medium somewhere in between the differing feelings they have for one another. Drew’s situation has turned much less comical, and at least he has Amber looking out for him to try to get him back on track. Drew is becoming much more musical lately, and it’s all the more worthwhile given his role in one of the best films I saw at Sundance this year, “Rudderless,” which involves plenty of music. Max wasn’t in great shape in this hour, but the aftermath of his meltdown in which he articulated that he thinks he’s a freak because someone peed in his canteen and people don’t like him even though he’s supposed to be smart was highlighted by the loving nature of Kristina unbuckling her seatbelt to come hug him in the backseat. Joel getting Victor a phone was definitely not a productive solution for his newfound anxiety, and it was unfortunate that Sydney lashed out and blamed their parents’ problems on his arrival. Joel had his own great parenting moment at the end of the episode, signifying some hope in a bleak situation.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Red Road

The Red Road: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Bad Weapons” (B)

This episode redefined the relationship between Harold and Philip as one of absolute necessity, where both parties made perfectly clear that they did not like each other. Philip taunting Harold over the phone was a particularly bad moment, and he had no trouble punching Harold in the face when he showed up only shortly afterwards to warn him that the DEA was right behind him, ready to arrest Philip. Harold is clearly in over his head, since other law enforcement agencies are on to the fact that he should not have let Mike go when he arrested him, and I don’t know if Mike’s death is actually going to change his circumstances all that much. Mike unfortunately brought his fate upon himself by bragging about how he killed the missing college student. Philip telling him to empty the bullets out of the gun before he handed it over and then was promptly choked out was cold, and you can tell that he knows what he’s doing, making sure not to acknowledge or say anything when Junior was telling him what he knew about Mike’s actions and asking for clarification on every point. Jean made it back home okay to a relatively normal home, and Rachel is definitely in better shape now that she’s not head over heels in love with Junior, trying to take her life back and ensure that she isn’t destroyed by him. It’s Harold who’s unraveling, unable to accept the news of Jean’s condition. Things are only going to get worse in the season’s final two episodes.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 6, Episode 17 “Galentine’s Day” (B+)

So this show actually aired an episode with this exact same title way back in season two, but rather than repeating itself, I think this installment demonstrates that this show really is still functioning at a very high creative level. With Rashida Jones’ departure from the series, there is a void left for Leslie’s best friend, and thanks to the extensive criteria she has for a replacement and her inability to be with Ben without jumping his bones, it makes sense that she would need to audition new best friends. Bringing Ethel Beavers, some random woman, and Shauna Malwee-Tweep to an off-season Galentine’s Day brunch was entertaining, and of course resulted in April and Ann realizing that she was up to something and Shauna remaining by default as the only option for her best friend. I like that both Donna and Jerry have been given more screen time (and a place in the opening credits), with both becoming more significant players. Ben acknowledging that he likes Jerry was unsurprisingly met with skepticism and resistance, though, for once, he did do something great by helping them to take down the tent monopoly. Ron taking Andy to the dentist after he hurt his tooth was quite enjoyable, and it’s equally great to see Ron in parental mode as it is to see Andy letting his inner child come out. Ron calling Diane to offer to bring home ice cream for all the kids in his life was an especially sweet note on which to end.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pilot Review: Doll and Em

Doll and Em (HBO)
Premiered March 19 at 10pm

HBO does love its imported British comedies. This one follows “Life’s Too Short” as a mockumentary series starring a fictionalized version of a real-life British actor of mediocre fame. Warwick Davis is out, and instead we get the lovely Emily Mortimer, who currently stars in another HBO show returning this summer, “The Newsroom,” and has also appear in such films as “Match Point” and “Harry Brown.” Like any good British show of this sort, a sidekick is needed, and that’s Dolly “Doll” Wells, a less-known British actress who is Em’s best friend and ends up working as her live-in assistant. Predictably, much awkwardness and discomfort ensues. Sky Living is airing the show one episode at a time, showing the season finale this coming Tuesday, while HBO will air two episodes per week. Getting a double-dose of this half-hour effort is enjoyable, and it permits complete immersion into a show that feels perfectly familiar and about as enjoyable as “Life’s Too Short,” “Hello Ladies,” and “Family Tree.” Em doesn’t do anything to make herself terribly likeable, while makes her a more worthwhile and interesting character, whereas Doll is more blatantly obnoxious and antagonistic. The hot tub scene in the second episode in which Em didn’t take Doll’s hint about leaving to let her be alone with Jonathan Cake’s Buddy showcased the unstable nature of their dynamic, and Doll’s befriending of Susan Sarandon after she made her son cry was equally enlightening. This show may not be the best thing that’s ever been created, but it will certainly be fun while it lasts.

How will it work as a series? Ordering just six episodes means that there isn’t much that needs to be done in terms of longevity. These first two episodes have already introduced some unexpected aspects into Doll and Em’s friendship while framing their relationship in understandable terms, and I think that the remaining four installments should prove plenty entertaining.
How long will it last? I doubt much will come of this show, mainly because it’s not entirely memorable despite being perfectly pleasant and creative. Six episodes is probably a good life span, especially considering the similar “Life’s Too Short” didn’t last long even in its native country. I think one season is likely for this show.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: The 100

The 100 (The CW)
Premiered March 19 at 9pm

There’s something objectively appealing about the premise of this CW series. Set in the future where the remaining human populace who survived a nuclear war live in a space station, this show has the promise of being able to approach Earth from a fresh angle, returning to it as an emblem of salvation. Sending 100 young criminals to the surface to test out whether it is safe to be there while debating the merits of exterminating some of the adults still aboard the space station to prolong the lives of the others is a bit more of a stretch, mainly because it involves depicting rebellious teenagers who, for the first time, truly feel free. The show has its own token dialogue, like the use of the word “floated” to describe someone being jettisoned into space as a form of execution. Following the adventures on the ground and the happenings on the space station leads to two fragmented worlds, each of which has different problems. On the ground, cries of rebellion are too fervent while Wells is a stand-in for his father and Clarke a too potent symbol of purity and righteousness. On board, Henry Ian Cusick’s Councillor Kane is too blatantly trying to garner power, while Kelly Hu’s Cece and Paige Taylor’s Abby air their blasphemous views far too publicly to have survived this long. Isaiah Washington is back on TV in his first regular role since “Grey’s Anatomy” in what’s sure to be a meaty part as the Chancellor, who is clearly less evil than Kane but still has a pretty awful reputation. This show fits in very well with the CW’s target audience, and is reminiscent of “Terra Nova” in its later episodes involved excessive adolescent drama. Like fellow CW newbie “Star-Crossed,” this one might have been good on paper, but it just doesn’t deliver.

How will it work as a series? Ending the episode by following up a triumphant accomplishment with a tragic and frightening death signifies that radiation is the least of the hundred’s worries, which should at least make their time on the ground more worthwhile than just petty popularity arguments. Eventually, things will have to progress, and I don’t see this show sustaining itself for too long, as series with similar concepts have proven when they peter out after a few episodes.
How long will it last? Possibly a while. This premiere was a ratings success for the CW, besting lead-in “Arrow” that night and equaling the debut of “The Tomorrow People” this past fall. I won’t be following too closely, but I think this one might just survive.

Pilot grade: C-

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 3, Episode 17 “/” (B+)

I love this show, and episodes like this especially. We got the chance to see Root in full mission mode, redefining herself as one of the good guys, a perfect blend of skill and non-emotion to go along with Reese and Shaw. That this show is able to execute an entire episode that puts its main characters into supporting roles, which it’s done now a few times this season, is just spectacular. Root’s personal connection to this particular number allowed her to exude some unexpected emotion, which was a nice and rare thing to see. It’s strange to think that, at the start of season two, Finch was terrorized by Root as she held him captive and forced him to do things, and now she’s trying to convince him that she can be trusted and that they’re on the same side. Her excitement at what the machine tells her and how it does it is wonderful, and it only enhances her suave operating nature. Getting her ear patched up so that she could once again hear the machine was a victorious moment, and she used it to probably regain the upper hand. Collier and his group are rather persistent nemeses for Finch’s crew and for Root, and Greer is showing himself quite a bit these days, which suggests that, by the season finale, things will escalate to an explosive point. Given how last season ended and reshaped the show, I’m eager to see how this season finishes off and where it heads for season four.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 10 “Weight” (B+)

There’s something incredible about this show’s depiction of criminals. Last week, a simple thug went out quoting Shakespeare, and in this installment, the temperamental Danny tried to replay his 21-foot trick, something Raylan didn’t buy, then ran at him with a knife, only to fall in a ditch and stab himself in the neck. Raylan’s reaction to the whole thing made it even more bizarrely fantastic. It’s becoming ever clearer that Danny was not the most fearsome Crowe, a dishonor that belongs to his brother Daryl, who remains smart yet still lets his anger get the best of him. Smacking his sister around isn’t something that’s likely to go unpunished, but sharing a blood pact with his nephew might create a confusing alliance. I like that Kendal ran to Allison’s, though I, like Raylan, am concerned about her well-being now. As expected, Dewey tried to make the most of his situation and didn’t end up quite getting what he wanted. Fortunately, his escapades resulted in the return of one of this show’s most fabulous characters, Dickie Bennett, portrayed by Emmy winner Jeremy Davies, whose description of how Raylan could follow the map of Kentucky was one for the books. Ava is really letting prison change her, cutting Boyd off and taking out her number one competition in prison, partially out of cunning plotting and partly out of necessitated self-defense. On the guest star front this week was Mary Steenburgen, a big get whose relationship with Wynn is extremely intriguing. I expect we’ll see a lot more of her in the season’s final three episodes.

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 2, Episode 9 “Unmasked” (F-)

This episode exemplifies the most serious problem this show faces, and it has little to do with all of the ridiculous exaggerations and preposterous elements I’ll still critique in this review. At even the mere suggestion that she might have been corrupted by Joe, Jana flipped and immediately proceeded to stab Gina. To constantly believe that the FBI is always half a step behind the cult members just isn’t possible given that their deranged and psychotic natures would prohibit them from being able to execute a foolproof plan without letting their predilections get ahead of them. Ear-cutter Lance staying behind at the bookstore also seemed far-fetched, and he immediately gave himself away when he acted, for lack of a better word, crazy. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old-fashioned public group stabbing session, and for the amount of screen time she’s had so far, Carrie has been pretty dramatically terrorized for most of it. As if Ryan’s behavior wasn’t irresponsible enough, getting involved with Carrie probably isn’t a great idea. Moreover, though I thought that Mike was headed to find a captive Lily and make her pay for what she did to his father (this show seems to have forgotten about her altogether), he instead came to see Claire, who is very much alive and likely to cause plenty of problems in the near future. I never believed she was dead since the show refused to show her death on screen, but I thought Natalie Zea had safely abandoned this show, which apparently is not the case. I am relived that Joe managed to dispose of both Julia and Micah so efficiently and comically, and now he’s got a whole new horde of lemmings to use as he sees fit.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What I’m Watching: Episodes (Season Finale)

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 9 (B+)

Whereas it felt like barely any time had passed last year when the finale aired, much has happened in the past nine episodes. Things didn’t pan out quite as they were expected to, but the surprises make the notion of a fourth season, for which the show was renewed a while back, very enticing. It took such effort for Sean and Beverly to finally get out the door and head back to London, dodging multiple people trying to get them to make a new show, answering a house phone they didn’t even know they had, and hanging up on Les Moonves. Seeing them walking around in the rain in London felt like a dream, and unfortunately they’re going to wake up soon to discover that they need to come back to America for something they never thought would happen. Elliott was quick to can Castor as soon as he realized that he was just crazy – I enjoyed his attempt to be like zombies and never tell anyone if a show was on – and he was just as quick to get revenge on Matt and his rival NBC that he decided to uncancel “Pucks” by picking it up for a few more episodes. I sort of liked the idea of Sean and Beverly working on a new, better show, with Susan Sarandon or with a teacup, and now they’ll just be back to the old miserable but reliable fare of an awful show. Who knew Merc could do so much damage just by trying to be too present in his former colleagues’ lives? This season was an undeniable blast, and I can’t wait for season four.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol

Pilot Review: Crisis

Crisis (NBC)
Premiered March 16 at 10pm

I had absolutely no idea what this show was about before I watched the pilot, which I’d normally say would be a completely great thing. I assumed that the crisis its title referred to involved a government conspiracy or alien invasion. The latter suspicion probably stems from the short-lived NBC series “The Event,” which saw a plane disappear moments away from hitting the White House at the end of its pilot and then devolved into extraterrestrial nonsense after that. This show, on the other hand, goes for an equally lofty concept that doesn’t involve anything alien or supernatural. It is curious to me to feature a whole class worth of kids being taken hostage by armed militants for the purposes of ransoming them and forcing their parents to commit illegal acts, since I would think that would be an objectionable and disturbing plot for many real-life parents. There is something dramatically appealing about the premise here, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The pilot pulls a few fast twists, indicating that certain people are in on the conspiracy while shocking with the revelation that other supposed bad guys aren’t actually willful participants. Like CBS’ “Hostages,” which I quit a few episodes in, I’m not sure how long this one can last without becoming old, though pacing it only a few hours per episode might help. Among the cast, Gillian Anderson of “The X-Files” fame is certainly the standout, with a meaty, high-powered role, while Dermot Mulroney and Rachael Taylor less satisfactorily inhabit their choice parts. The dialogue isn’t as bad as it could be, I suppose, but this certainly isn’t expertly-crafted television, rather a cool concept that could easily go off course.

How will it work as a series? Subsequent episodes will have to match the pacing of the first installment, which is actually decent but involves a lot of intricacies which might prove faulty upon further examination. Having too broad a scope cold also prove problematic, and so certain characters – villains, kids, and parents – will need to stand out and be strongest.
How long will it last? It’s hard to tell. Whether it could logically last more than one season is one thing, but the ratings for the pilot were slightly better than those of its lead-in “Believe.” That doesn’t mean anything too promising since I think NBC could easily can both, but for now, it’s gotten a stay of execution and will likely manage to tie up its current mystery before being decommissioned.

Pilot grade: C+

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 9 “Zhang” (C+)

This episode did not impress me, mainly because, after a week off last week to focus on Clyde’s big comeback and the landing of that whale, this installment circled back to what appears to be the theme of the season, which is that Marty backed the wrong horse and should have gone with Lucas over Dre. Having a documentary film crew follow Marty and his pod around while they took a lengthy tour through Lucas’ old neighborhood was not nearly as hard-hitting as it could have been, and instead seemed like a waste of time to find Dre trying to make a deal with a local drug kingpin instead of being in China consulting with his investor as he had said he’d been. Marty has been blindly following his instincts throughout this whole process, and, almost the entire time, Jeannie has been telling him that he needed to have a fuller view of what was going on instead of being so narrow-minded. It’s no surprise that things are imploding, and there isn’t really any way out. Marty bringing Monica as a client and having her work with the three newbies is entertaining, but I’m not sure where it’s going to lead. It’s difficult to watch Roscoe and Lex’s relationship start to dissolve, though it’s quite clear that Lex isn’t into sharing Roscoe with other people and supporting what his significant other enjoys. Maybe now Marty can be a good father and provide Roscoe the guidance and judgment-free advice he needs.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 11 “I Saw You” (B-)

This certainly doesn’t feel like the second-to-last episode of a season, though it does contain a few monumental events that have been a long time coming now. Why Patti LuPone had to guest star again, this time with the opportunity to excitedly chat with Elijah so that she could again refuse to answer any of Hannah’s product-related questions is a mystery, and, like last time, it added very little to the show. Hannah has as much as quit before, and this time she just rehashed what she has already said and managed to piss everyone off enough to inspire Janice to fire her in the middle of the meeting. Declaring her pride at now being able to collect unemployment didn’t go over well even in a group of actors. Adam and Hannah’s relationship seems even more strained than ever, but they’re making it work somehow. Marnie and Desi pulled off a great feat together which impressed their friends, but meeting his girlfriend – played by Natalie Morales – after their successful performance was too much for her to take, coupled with Jessa’s instant ability to be hired when she stopped by the gallery. Given how Ray was talking about her, they really should give it another shot, but their sounds made Hannah curious, which now means the latest rift in their friendship, which should send them into the season finale with plenty of strong feelings and ready to explode at each other. We’ll see how things end up looking and where the show is headed for its fourth season.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Legend of Bonnie and Carl” (B+)

This episode was full of romance for nearly every Gallagher character, though it’s hard to find a healthy relationship among any of them. Lip’s go-to babysitter has taken it upon herself to program his life so that he can be on a schedule she finds fitting, which often includes sex act breaks, but also made for the perfect opportunity for Mandy’s giant, furious boyfriend to track Lip down after he found out that she lied about being at his house. Domestic violence is a topic more serious than this show usually likes to address, so let’s hope Mandy is able to escape her relationship soon. Mickey is doing a relatively good job of steering clear of his newborn child, though being with Ian may ultimately cost him. For the time being, he was just an irritating unexplained houseguest at the Gallagher home, the latest in a neverending series of random long-term visitors. Opting to take Mandy’s violent advice over Sammi’s overexuberant counseling wasn’t a great idea for Debs, who may be in over her head with a similarly deranged foe. Sheila skipped right past the anger phase as soon as she got home and went right to completely deranged, hoping to marry Frank before he dies, a certainty which seems to get further and further away each hour. Fiona’s situation continues to be immensely heartbreaking to watch, particularly her visit to her old office, and let’s hope she catches a real break soon. The best part of the episode was inarguably Carl misspelling his own last name to do right by his dad and get back into detention to be with the girl of his dreams. They’ve escalated to armed robbery rather quickly, but hopefully they’ll be able to have some fun before they get arrested.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 14 “The Grove” (C+)

I’ve written enough about how I’m not too taken with this show’s segmented format, and so I’ll skip all my thoughts on the absence of most of this show’s characters in this hour. I did take issue, however, with this episode’s themes and morals, since it was mainly just depressing and creepy without much plot-driving value. Lizzie and Myka weren’t this show’s most annoying kids – an honor usually reserved for Carl – but they also weren’t its best assets. Feeding the walkers at the prison was one thing, but insisting on the zombified state as just another form of living was a dangerous place for Lizzie to be. I didn’t expect the horrific sight that was her holding a bloody knife over the dead body of her younger sister, who she was eagerly awaiting returning to the world in her new and improved form. Judith might as well have been baby Dexter sitting on the blanket looking up at the violence around her. Carol having to kill Lizzie to ensure that she didn’t hurt anyone else wasn’t pleasant, and then she decided that the best thing to do was to try to alienate her one last ally. Fortunately, Tyreese had the good sense to forgive her and move past it, and maybe someone can finally make it to Terminus now and be reunited with other members of the ragtag group formerly holed up at the prison. With only two episodes left in this season, this show needs to kick into high gear pretty soon.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 5, Episode 14 “A Few Words” (B-)

This episode was disappointing on a few levels, which is a rarity for this show. Alicia making a big speech in which she referenced some very important moments from when she first tried to reenter the legal world was a perfect opportunity to flash back to a time when Alicia and Will actually liked each other but hadn’t yet fallen for each other, and this episode definitely seized on that opportunity. Yet, as tends to be the case with flashbacks where the same actors are playing their characters’ younger selves, it didn’t feel entirely authentic, aside from that one oft-replayed, sweeping second where Will blocked the elevator doors to say hi to old his classmate. The two of them sitting next to each other in the cafĂ© and finally hashing it out also left something to be desired, and it didn’t have the same impact it should have. In terms of guest stars, Jill Hennessy’s Rayna Hecht feels like a less enticing version of Maddie Hayward, a powerful woman intrigued by Alicia but ultimately interested in blazing her own trail. It was good to see Elsbeth again, rightfully ranting at an anti-Semitic bear (an obvious parody of the real-life Anti-Semitic Elmo). She’s got a lot on her plate now, with a new partner and a major client in the form of Will, who is going to have to decide just how much he hates Peter and whether he wants to throw him under the bus or not. I think things should fall into place once everyone returns to Chicago, and I’m optimistic about future episodes.

What I’m Watching: Banshee (Season Finale)

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 10 “Bullets and Tears” (B+)

The mark of any good finale that ties up a major storyline is a flashback to a point well in the past where things were far more idyllic. Seeing Rabbit, Olek, Carrie, and Lucas toast together and discuss the impending diamond job with smiles on their faces was strange, and getting to watch Carrie meet Job for the first time was entertaining. Learning that Rabbit called the police on them was enlightening, as was the fact that Racine, who we got to see again, knew about it and used it to try to break Rabbit. The siege on the church looked like it was going to end badly when the Priest’s henchmen all pulled machine guns, and Lucas was ready to sacrifice himself once again so that Carrie could get away, but fortunately Job and Fat Au were on hand to come to the rescue. The music in that extended sequence was great, and the final scene with Rabbit, full of quotes like “Eternity can wait a bit longer” didn’t disappoint. Carrie leaving to let Lucas be there to finish the job was important, and hopefully this chapter can be fully behind them. It does appear that Deva overheard all three of her parents arguing in the yard, and that’s a whole new hurdle for Lucas to overcome in season three. Rebecca brutally murdering Alex was unexpected, and though I didn’t quite understand why Alex became such a tough guy over the last two episodes, it’s good to see him taken out of the equation. Unfortunately, Kai has just been released from jail and he won’t have much time to rest before Chayton, who snapped someone’s neck for fun in New Orleans, returns to Banshee to wreak havoc on anything in his path. Rebecca and Kai getting closer is no surprise, and it’s all dangerous, disturbing territory there. I’m not sure how I feel about Emmett and his wife getting gunned down on their way to serenity in Florida, since all it does is suggest that this world really is a dark, evil place where even the most innocent can’t escape a horrific fate. This season as a whole was nonetheless extremely strong, and season three can’t come soon enough.

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 2, Episode 5 “Chapter 18” (B+)

Though he used the private site of his ancestor’s death to conduct an illicit secret meeting, this Civil War tribute did ring true for Frank. A main reason for his drive to succeed and take over the world is that he has a deep sense of patriotism, and asking Augustus to be the one to break ground is extremely telling. Whoever did their research and found his ancestor actually got him the best gift he could have asked for, though he was too dumbfounded upon receipt to realize just how great it was. Feng is quite a formidable nemesis, evidenced most by his treatment of Doug, who he called an alcoholic and an errand boy. By, as usual, manipulating events and lying through his teeth about them, Frank managed to accomplish half of what he wanted and get the President to hang up on him and Raymond, the latter of whom was devastated since it was the first time he had done that in twenty years. Claire is doing a fantastic job of following up on her on-air confession about her rape, bringing in the First Lady to force the army to actually reform its practices. As if Connor wasn’t sharp enough, now we have Seth Grayson, so determined to get a job he wants that he would act preemptively on Claire’s behalf to ensure that she can’t be hurt by evidence of her abortions. Gavin’s handler treating him like a dog was rather uncomfortable, and it’s a shame that Gavin couldn’t get out a better warning before Lucas got himself so swiftly arrested and headed for a dark hole where no one will listen to his story.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18 “The Hound of the Cancer Cells” (B)

This was a fine episode, though the case wasn’t as enticing or involving as it could have been given the premise. Every time I see him in a role, I flip-flop on how I feel about Mather Zickel, who I found unbelievably irritating in “The Cape” but enjoyed more in “House of Lies” and “Masters of Sex.” Here, he wasn’t too showy and ended up being rather hard to read. There were also two notable guest stars: Shiri Appleby from “Roswell” and “Life Unexpected,” and Ron Canada from “Weeds” and “The West Wing.” I don’t think I bought Appleby as a Mossad agent, but it was worth it to see Sherlock and Watson bail as soon as they realized that everyone else in the room had a concealed weapon. Canada’s Manny Rose got a more effective plotline, as he got the chance to bond with Detective Bell and to make him think back to his roots and to the real reason that he’s doing what he’s doing these days. Earlier in this season, it was hard to imagine Bell and Sherlock being friends again or even speaking to each other in a normal way. Sherlock’s resistance to go to Bell’s party wasn’t surprising, even unrelated to the fact that he didn’t wanted to be tempted by things that might threaten to ruin his sobriety. The two of them ended up having a great moment together, and it was nice to see them both try to escape from society and enjoy a coffee.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 5, Episode 17 “Limbo” (B+)

For a family with such colorful personalities, it’s not often that we get to see the Braverman family really explode. That’s the beauty of this show, and what makes all the talking over someone else that occurs before and during the Braverman baptism dinner so fantastic. Some of it is outright entertaining, like Adam being offended that he was a replacement choice to be godfather and Kristina pointing out to Sarah that her kids are very obviously stoned. Even Kristina being pissed at Sarah about how she spoke to Max and Sarah being just as defiantly angry back wasn’t all that serious, which is good. It was such a relief to see Drew and Amber get in a cab to go to the dinner, and that their antics can remain entertaining without having adverse consequences. Natalie sleeping with Drew’s roommate wasn’t a terribly noble or sensitive move, but she did bring up a decent point about how he shut her out for a few weeks when Amy was around. Renee pushing for a baptism could have made things very uncomfortable, but instead it just presented a positive opportunity for both grandmothers to host something and for Zeek to have a rather hilarious conversation with the pastor. Crosby asking Joel not to be the godfather was awkward, and Julia’s reaction was almost as devastating as Sydney’s. Fortunately, Zeek stepped up to a role that he is actually made for, and Joel showing up to the baptism was a big step in what will still be a difficult journey.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Take Three: The Red Road

The Red Road: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” (B)

This show is continuing along at pretty much the same pace and level of quality, providing a handful of intriguing moments each episode but not quite driving them home to a satisfying point. The robbery of the nursing home at the start of the episode included that unexpected interaction between Junior and a resident which he managed to pass off as a dream, but then Mike got himself pulled up and picked up by Harold with a lot of the drugs in his car. Philip showing up to tell Harold that he had to let Mike off with a warning was a stark moment indicative of the nature of their partnership, and it’s obvious that Harold isn’t willing to let him get away with anything he wants. Tailing their connection to the nursing home and leaving the note saying “I know” on the missing poster of the dead college kid was risky, but Harold is ultimately all about justice. As long as he can convince Jeannie that she didn’t hit someone and she shouldn’t go back to the police, things might just be okay. But of course they’re never that simple. Rachel seemed like she was into Junior’s bad boy nature, but that faded quickly after their serene night in the hotel together turned into an all-too-normal morning of unforgivable comments. Rachel listening to Brian’s thoughts about ghosts and death was rather haunting, representing the creepy vibe that this show has. Lisa Bonet’s Sky Van Der Veen is quite an interesting addition to the show, and her conversations with Philip were among the episode’s best moments.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 6, Episode 16 “New Slogan” (B+)

In the neverending saga that is the integration of Pawnee and Eagleton, it makes sense that the new town would need a slogan, a predictably challenging task given the fact that the populations of the towns still don’t see eye-to-eye. Creating a poll to vote on the slogan did have the adverse side effect of actually gathering public opinion. Leslie is no stranger to the talk shows in Pawnee, and she actually did okay with Perd Hapley and Joan Callamezzo, but it was Crazy Ira and the Douche who created the biggest problems for her. Ben’s suggestion to let Jerry handle the meeting turned out great, though Leslie was about to convulse at the idea of leaving one grammatical mistake and adding two more instead of correcting it. That the sign got installed with no mistakes but facing the wrong direction is an accomplishment, and I enjoyed seeing the confused passengers stop to ask if they were leaving or entering because they had been driving around for hours. Donna and April going to show Tom places for his new restaurant but sabotaging their own efforts because they didn’t want him to go far was fun, and I really can’t wait to see how much of a blast Tom’s Bistro will be. Andy seeing Duke Silver and at first thinking that Ron had a twin brother was hilarious, but what I loved most was Andy’s list of confessions designed to make Ron feel like he could trust him. The best confession was definitely Andy’s admission that he doesn’t know what the other 98% is in 2% milk.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 17 “Other People’s Children” (B)

This was a relatively simplistic episode, but it was still pretty enjoyable. I liked the grouping of Cam, Mitch, Manny, and Alex as the intellectual members of the family, and while it did become obvious quickly how it was going to pan out, there were some funny moments. Cam planning to touch a painting to get kicked out of the museum only to be warned and told he didn’t have to leave was probably the most amusing part. Jay bonding with Luke and teaching him how to be a productive, hands-on member of society was nice, and it was rare to see him relate to Phil on a fatherly level, opting to let Phil have the pleasure of giving his son his first beer. Phil was busy filming the worst’s most extensive love tribute video with someone who might be a better fit than Luke in terms of their similarities. Andy has turned out to be a worthwhile character, and the way in which he messed with Haley’s head in this episode was great. Hearing her confusedly yell at her date was fantastic, and it’s always good to see her almost become a more mature person. Claire going flower girl shopping with Lily and Gloria was an interesting, ill-fated idea from the start, and, as tends to be the case with this show, it was really all about presenting a ridiculous visual, which in this instance was the sight of Claire running in a wedding dress being held up by Gloria in pursuit of Princess Lily.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 9 “Wrong Roads” (A-)

Who didn’t appear in this episode and hasn’t stopped by this show? The number of talented actors snatched up for one-episode guest spots on this show astounds me. Here we have Eric Roberts as a DEA agent who was Hot Rod’s handler and a great partner for Raylan, which pretty much guaranteed him a death sentence, and Muse Watson, who played the famed Charles Westmoreland on “Prison Break,” as Elmont Swain, the man who thought he was getting a free pass and a payday from Boyd only to be strangled in a car on his way out of town. The dialogue on this show is exceptional, and the fact that Roscoe went out talking about King Lear is simply incredible. Roscoe and Jay did a great job getting away from poor Agent Henkins, which then led to one of the best moments this show has ever offered. Raylan and Roberts’ Agent Miller walking in to find Roscoe and Jay pointing guns at the quartet of Wynn, Picker, Daryl, and Boyd was amazing in a way that I can’t even describe, and of course it doesn’t mean much in the long run aside from Roscoe’s death, but it was still fantastic. Daryl was holding his own negotiating with Boyd, but that turned very sour when Boyd offered Roscoe and Jay 10% to kill Daryl, something that didn’t go over well with one of the more intelligent Crowes. I love every interaction that Kendal and Wendy have, and I sure hope that Wendy doesn’t fall victim to the temper of one of her brothers and that she does make it out okay with her very mature, drink-mixing son. The most startling part of the episode was, of course, saved for last, as Miller made the impulsive decision to go after the directions-challenged Crowe boys. Danny was ready to shoot a federal agent, but instead it was Dewey who impulsively decided to run him over and keep on driving, leave Danny in the dust and a whole world of trouble coming soon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 19 “Fired Up” (B)

In the aftermath of Jess’ sister leaving, we have an installment that works okay on a few levels but doesn’t really wow on any of them. The strongest plotline was Jess hiring Coach as, you guessed it, a coach, and then being motivated by him to ask her boss if she could be promoted to vice principal, which in turn led to her having to fire her friend. Though the job theoretically requires a lot of paperwork and an ability to be cutthroat, Jess is well-suited to it because she thinks creatively, and I think it will ultimately be a positive step for her. Though he’s as fearsome as ever when he’s yelling at children, Coach is also a terrific fit for his new position, and his team seems to love him. Schmidt ending up with all of this stuff that he can’t store anywhere except for the store didn’t lead anywhere too fantastic, especially considering the fact that he got sued almost right away by a hapless walk-in who may or may not have purposely tripped over the lamp. Nick as a lawyer wasn’t nearly as entertaining as it should have been, but I did enjoy Winston’s casual attitude and his giving of a baseball card to the opposing counsel on the way out. Dating a foreign 20-year-old is at least an interesting next relationship move for Cece, but I don’t think it was worth the overbearing behavior of her boss Mike, who is usually justified in his abuse of Cece and her skill-free labor but here went a bit too far in his flirtation with the underage customer.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 1, Episode 15 “Yes Men” (C+)

I’m not sure why this Asgardian episode was necessary since this show has been able to more than manage its weekly allotment of weird and unexplained phenomena without having to resort to pulling in the second tier characters from the Avengers universe. I didn’t remember Lady Sif from “Thor” at all (I never even saw the second film, for no particular reason other than that it wasn’t at the top of my list). Her purpose here was just to give the S.H.I.E.L.D. team a bit of home court advantage, with an alien on their side whose only truly superhuman feat was not dying when she was blown out of an airlock. Lorelei definitely seemed like she was going to be the victor considering her ability to reduce men to her eternally loyal servants, and Sif really just got lucky in being able to subdue her long enough to put the collar back on her. It would seem logical that Ward would realize that he was actually the most dangerous weapon he could use when approaching Lorelei, and instead he fell helpless under her spell and ended up nearly killing May before the spell conveniently wore off and he snapped out of it. Fitz was more entertaining as the excitedly devoted servant for the wonderful Lorelei, but I found the entire plot tiring, best summed up by lines like “I wanted gold, you bring me paper!” May and Ward fighting was also a bit excessively dramatic, and didn’t lead anywhere terribly compelling. As Coulson and a newly conscious Skye team up to hunt for answers together, we get a revelation that to me makes no sense: May is keeping tabs on Coulson for someone higher up. Let’s see how that gets explained.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pilot Review: Believe

Believe (NBC)
Premiered March 10 at 10pm

It seems to be that a lot of the midseason pilots this year have grand premises that might make for an action-packed first installment but not pan out to an altogether exciting series. This episode is rather productive, even if the drama contained within it isn’t that compelling. This show reminds me a lot of two previous series that some liked but I never found to be all that terrific – “Heroes” and “Touch.” At its center is the token kid, Bo, who possesses incredible powers to unite people and make them feel emotion, seemingly immune to the horrors of the world around her. Bo’s surroundings definitely don’t suit her, since she’s an angel living in a horrific and violent world. The assassin pursuing her snaps the necks of both her parents in the opening scene, and then charges guns blazing after and those sworn to protect her. But she has this calming power, and makes even the hardest of hearts break for just a moment when they meet her. It’s endearing on a level, but it’s a bit too sappy, and everything else about the show works even less well. What I can’t comprehend most is why her new protector, Tate, has to be such an uncooperative, irritating character. The big revelation that he is her father explains some of that, but given that the show is an original production, there’s no reason for him to be so annoying. Assassin Moore possesses some of the same qualities, which makes it hard to root for either one of them. Delroy Lindo and especially Kyle MacLachlan are well-suited for their parts, but neither role is terribly well-written. This is a well-intentioned show that aims much too broadly and misses the mark.

How long will it last? They’re on the run, moving from city to city. That means that it could go on forever, though I also suspect that the bad guys are going to close in every single episode and threaten to reveal Bo’s location, which could become quickly tiring, especially considering the quality of the writing.
How long will it last? It’s hard to tell since it premiered at a different time than it will usually air. Its debut wasn’t nearly as strong as that of ABC’s “Resurrection,” which it will be going up against starting this Sunday. I suspect that it will air the rest of the season and that will be it.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Messenger” (F)

I have to take issue with the serious troubling policework in this episode, though that’s hardly something new for this show. That Ryan had tried to interview Dr. Arthur Strauss earlier and he had politely declined should in no way indicate that on Ryan’s next visit he suddenly becomes suspect number one and acts like it, inviting intrepid reporter Carrie Cooke into his home with the intention of carving her and Ryan up just for fun with the help of his live-in apprentice. How did he go from not being scrutinized at all to a fully prepared and willing killer? It wasn’t a great role for the usually terrific Gregg Henry, from “The Riches,” “Hung,” and much more, though he did his best, and I was more intrigued by Sprague Grayden of “Jericho,” who made Carrie as interesting as possible despite the overzealous writing of her character. Fortunately for Carrie and Ryan, Arthur was too busy talking about cutting out eyes to think about backup, so they made it out okay. Charles S. Dutton is quite the actor to play the FBI director, who opted to hire Ryan off the books, a decision that never proves intelligent when the one doing the hiring gets taken out. Meanwhile, happenings at Micah’s cult are absolutely ludicrous, and I really think that Joe is backing the wrong horse by trying to control the delusional Micah instead of allying himself with the actually coherent Julia. My big takeaway from the ridiculousness in the woods was that there is only pre-life, which has something to do with Neptune and eating sins. Because that all makes a whole lot of sense. And FOX has opted to renew this show for a third season, another puzzling occurrence.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 8 (B+)

It’s becoming ever clearer how things are going to end up looking on this show, and it actually makes a lot of sense. Carol giving Castor the other script from Sean and Beverly when he was desperate and depressed was an expected move, and him suggesting to Elliot that they go straight to series without even ordering a pilot is definitely a vote of overconfidence that is going to end up backfiring for all involved. I liked the fact that Carol went ballistic on Beverly and assumed that she was involved in Sean’s secret meetings with other networks, which then resulted in Beverly making Carol choose whether she’s her friend or a blood-sucking network vampire. The story about Matt checking into rehab was especially ill-timed after Matt was already being asked to read for NBC for a gig he thought that he deserved based on his history with the Peacock. Matt’s relationship with his parents is certainly a rocky one, and having Sean and Beverly there to experience the discomfort amplified its awkwardness. That it was actually Dawn who called in the tip about him and not his parents didn’t seem to faze Matt, which made his actions seem less than kindhearted. Filming the last scene of “Pucks” was surprisingly unceremonious, and an odd ode to this dreadful show we’ve heard so much about and see so little of over the years. Morning barely acknowledging Sean and Beverly while stealing wardrobe or her next role was an entertaining goodbye to another character I suspect won’t be gone for long.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 10 “Role-Play” (B-)

Sometimes I just don’t understand where this show is going. I think that, especially in its first year, this show did a superb job of really digging into its characters and understanding just how much of a tough time they’re having with life. Since then, however, and in this season particularly, the show has taken unfortunate turns that have left its characters in miserable places, and I just don’t find it as compelling as I used to. I guess it makes sense that Adam would want to show off his acting talents to Hannah by inviting her to come watch him at rehearsal, but I can’t imagine that he would actually think it would be acceptable to have someone in the audience when there is no one else watching and the director reacted so poorly. Telling Hannah that he fell in love with her and that means that he doesn’t need sex in the same way is actually a logical, sensible statement, but obviously Hannah isn’t interested in hearing any of that. Her attempt to role-play failed miserably, and seems to have inadvertently messed up her relationship in a big way, indicative of much larger problems. Shoshannah calling Dot, portrayed by Felicity Jones, to come talk her father off the ledge was probably a smart and healthy move in the long run, but all it seems to have done so far is alienate Jessa. Marnie is having a wonderful time with the seemingly angelic Desi, but working as a purposely overqualified assistant for Soojin is going to deal her already struggling self-esteem a serious blow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 8 “Brinkmanship” (B)

Let’s forget all about the hood rich guys who have been warring with each other for most of the season, and get back instead to Clyde’s big whale that might finally earn him enough brownie points to merit Marty’s forgiveness. It was definitely good to see more of Eliza Coupe’s Marissa, who excelled during their meeting at making her position known using her most explicit sarcasm. The other notable guest star and familiar TV face this week was Balthazar Getty of “Brothers and Sisters” and “Alias” fame, in a role that didn’t amount to much until he got the chance to tell Marty that he saw exactly what kind of person he was. Marty wasn’t doing too well himself, and calling Monica over to have sex indicated that he might really be losing it. Surprisingly, their interaction was actually probably their best and healthiest in a while, as exemplified by their forward-facing sex and their actual human conversation. Doug’s relationship, on the other hand, took a serious nosedive, though it really seems to be what he wanted given how much he pushed Sarah away and tried to flirt with Caitlin. Even though they’re now on a break of sorts, doing anything with her is not going to be good for him, and she’ll certainly suspect it since she had the chance to meet her and realize how Doug acts around her. I enjoyed Doug’s thoughts on Tufts’ medical school, and the accidental airing of his private problems in a very public space was darkly entertaining in its own way as well.

Pilot Review: Resurrection

Resurrection (ABC)
Premiered March 9 at 9pm

This show’s title pretty much sums up its premise: people who died come back to life. Where it goes from there isn’t clear, and this pilot doesn’t exactly provide many answers. A young boy who barely speaks appears in China, and though he doesn’t really communicate, he is able to direct Omar Epps’ J. Martin Bellamy to his house in Missouri, where his parents are shocked to discover that he is back in their lives after perishing in a drowning accident thirty-two years earlier. Rather than have a broad scope of people coming back, it appears that the miraculous resurrections are contained to just one extended family, or at least to the small town of Arcadia, Missouri. This little universe contains a handful of familiar faces in the cast, including Kurtwood Smith as a very different kind of father from the one he played on “That 70s Show,” Frances Fisher, Matt Craven, Nicholas Gonzalez, and Samaire Armstrong. It’s not clear if there is something disturbing and malicious about the returns of these family members, especially since the man that Jacob is running from is actually just another one of the resurrected people. There is definitely something creepy about Jacob running down towards the river and about him in general, and not knowing whether he’s just back as if he never died or there’s something more sinister going on makes this show both off-putting and overly sappy, an odd mix to be sure.

How will it work as a series? I suspect we might get one or two new undead people per episode, and there’s obviously going to be some difficulty reconnecting and establishing and confirming the fact that these people really are back. Bellamy’s presence adds an obnoxious dimension of adoption services and reality to it that might not be productive, depending on what’s actually going on in this muddled universe.
How long will it last? It certainly doesn’t feel like a long-running show to me, but anything is possible, as this show likes to suggest. The powerhouse premiere fared quite well and was a strong showing for ABC on a night that’s been a challenge in recent years, so right now the network is probably enthusiastic. I don’t think it will last, but right now the future looks bright.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 8 “Hope Springs Paternal” (B+)

As has been the trend recently, this show continues to shift gears into dramatic territory, with a heartbroken Fiona wandering her house and lamenting the absence of every member of her family. Getting drunk and burning dinner was not a productive follow-up to her stint in jail, but Lip punishing her for it was especially harsh. It’s not as if his circumstances were much better, since Liam and Carl ended up right in the middle of some pretty adult games in Lip’s hallway while he studied the whole night. The excitement and the middle-of-the-night intrigue he witnessed seemed to have motivated Carl to try hard in school so that he too can go to college and get crazy drunk every night. I’m not sure which direction Frank’s epic speech moved him in, but it was pretty terrific to see a burst of life and energy in Frank again as he woke up to tell bullies that how they were being treated was a favor to them. It’s a true Gallagher attitude, and the most lucid we’ve seen him in a long time. I loved seeing Sammi and Debs bond, though it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Sammi really is a Gallagher too, embroiled in housing cons and so loyal to her family that she doesn’t care who else she has to screw over. Kev having to give up one of the babies to his mother-in-law was hard to watch, and I do hope he doesn’t get too entrenched in this gun obsession. Though Ian is still not in great shape, it was surprisingly endearing to see Mickey actually acknowledging his feelings for Ian and letting his guard down in friendly territory.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 13 “Alone” (B)

This episode was a notable improvement over last week’s episode, even if it still didn’t move at an enlivening pace. Featuring multiple plotlines really is key, and allowed viewers to latch onto the hope contained within them and with the idea that they might soon intersect. I’m still not into the idea of Daryl and Beth as a romantic item, with their piggybacks and hand-holding that are deeply suggestive but not firmly indicative of anything concrete just yet. Why Beth drove off is a mystery, and now Daryl is going to have to contend with being one of Joe’s crew, which might not be a great thing considering what we saw him to do to his friends back in the house with Rick a few episodes ago. It was good to meet Bob, who we’ve seen a couple of times but got reintroduced via the opening segment in which he was first found by Glenn and Daryl and brought to the prison. Giving him a romance with Sasha was sweet, and it’s good to see the two of them sticking firmly behind Maggie after initially not supporting her only to have her run off. Maggie is a shadow of her former self, gutting walkers so that she can leave notes for her husband to be able to find her. It is affirming, however, to see an exhausted Glenn approach a map with the destination of Terminus circled, indicating that he may in fact be headed for the same place as Maggie and they might be reunited in the end after all.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 5, Episode 13 “Parallel Construction, Bitches” (B+)

It’s been two whole months since this show has aired a new episode, and it’s great to have it back. The complexity of its many layers is best exemplified by the two monitors’ use of multiple warrants to be able to listen to the conversation between Alicia and Eli having to do with Peter and Will. As usual, this episode utilized a handful of familiar guest stars, including the return of Wallace Shawn as Charles Lester, the personal lawyer for one Lemond Bishop, whose illegitimate business threatened to get him into real trouble. Giving Alicia, Cary, Clarke, and Robin four different times that they would be transporting cocaine (or rather, pancake batter) was a very smart ploy that ultimately just led to more confusion. Jack Davenport got a rare chance to go back to his “Swingtown” roots and play a good guy rather than the seedy director he portrayed on “Smash” as the AUSA who resigned when the wiretap situation got sticky. Two other familiar TV faces, Matthew Rauch of “Banshee” and Eric Bogosian of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” were on hand to play governmental roles, and Bogosian’s Office of Public Integrity agent is sure to stick around for a while to make Peter’s life miserable. Marilyn’s betrayal was swift but clearly motivated by Eli’s calculated dismissal of her and Peter’s ignoring of her. Will, on the other hand, seems less willing to take down his sworn enemy, but I imagine he’s still going to find some way to make Peter pay for Alicia’s sins.

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 9 “Homecoming” (B+)

With just one more episode left after this in the season, this hour was the perfect ramp-up for the finale that delivered considerably in its own right. Opening with Job entering the church and being discovered by Julian Sands’ priest, who also happens to be Rabbit’s brother, was a formidable reminder that he’s still an ever-present threat, and despite Job’s impressive abilities, he didn’t manage to get away unscathed. Lucas and Carrie dropping everything to come help Job and take down Rabbit or die trying meant just as much for both of them, since Siobhan had finally gotten Lucas to open up and Carrie was back in Gordon’s house telling him everything about her childhood so that he could trust her again. Revealing on her front lawn that Lucas is Deva’s father was bold, but Carrie doesn’t have much left, and so better to let the truth come out now so that she can try to move forward. The hospital shoot-out was intense, and it’s evident that Rabbit and his brother are going to come full force to Banshee now given that they feel they’ve been attacked. Alex has suddenly become cocky, something that doesn’t suit him, and the true power player is being revealed. Clay took out Sharp and was on his way to do the same to Juliet, but Rebecca stepped in and made it clear that she’s not going anywhere. Kai is going to need an ally on the outside given how he’s doing in prison and how he broke down when his mother came to visit him.