Sunday, August 31, 2014

What I’m Watching: Married

Married: Season 1, Episode 7 “Waffles and Pizza” (B+)

It’s not too surprising to learn that Russ and Lina have to move every few years, and I enjoyed the fact that Russ knew exactly what he had to hide when they found out about the unannounced open house. It’s understandable that Lina would want to be able to settle down somewhere, but Russ was right in his analysis of Lina’s craziness as she tried to persuade A.J.’s new girlfriend to break things off with her husband so that she could be with him and, most importantly, vacate her home. Cynthia wasn’t a particularly stable person, and it was obvious from the start that she and A.J. were not going to end up together. Russ’ discomfort at encouraging the breakup of a happy marriage was entertaining, as was his reaction each time to Lina talking about something that sounded a whole lot like their marriage. I had expected that we would see a continuation of Jess’ bar outing which may well have resulted in infidelity, but instead it was an entirely new plotline which didn’t cast her in the most satisfied light. That never seems to be her fate; instead, she had to deal with being asked for cocaine by the boss she thought was ready to give her a promotion. That she managed to make a statement and turn the situation to her advantage by getting the promotion she wanted in the first place was impressive, and it’s nice to see her score a rare win every once in a while.

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 2, Episode 8 “Goliath” (B+)

There’s a sense that things are coming together more than ever before, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s hard to remember what side of the law some of our favorite characters are on these days, particularly with Robles being taken in by Mexican police who wanted to know where Galvan has hiding. That he was ready to leave Marco in charge while he was away before the unsuccessful raid on Galvan’s location says a lot, though I think that would have presented more challenges than advantages. Agent McKenzie poisoning Sonya against Marco by telling her about his past with Galvan was very counterproductive since now she has pushed him away just as she needs him most. The Chopper is a fearsome American counterpart for Eleanor, and things don’t look good for Sonya, though her being one of the leads on the show suggests that she’ll make it through okay. Daniel continues to make poor life decisions, going after Sebastian at his son’s school. Sebastian calling the police represents just how little he considers Daniel to be a threat. I like that Adriana went to Marco for help to get him out of jail since it’s good to see these connections. Eleanor and Cesar make for a great odd couple, and I’m intrigued to learn more about Eleanor’s prospective buyer. It’s strange to see Eleanor in such a standard business setting because of how we met her, but it also underlines the fact that, when she wants to, she’s perfectly capable of blending in and flying under the radar.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I’m Watching: Tyrant (Season Finale)

Tyrant: Season 1, Episode 10 “Gone Fishing” (C+)

This finale was definitely a tense one, but I’m not entirely convinced by the way everything played out and certainly not reassured by what might come next in the second season for which the show has yet to be renewed. As Bassam grew more irritable and frantic, Jamal actually calmed down, enjoying a day out at sea with his brother and seeming like he genuinely wanted to sail off and abandon his country and his every responsibility. Bassam’s overconfident preemptive apology for arrested his brother was in fact premature, and it seems that everyone in the State Department was far too certain of what proved to be a failure in turning Jamal against Tariq. Now, Bassam has gone from mere adviser to political prisoner who will apparently face execution – that’s where the notion of a second season doesn’t become apparent since that doesn’t seem like a meaty enough premise which would be hopelessly drawn out. Just as worrisome is that petty theft was responsible for stranding the entire Al-Fayeed family in the country, confined to the embassy, which I think is somewhat less exciting that an actual move by Jamal and Tariq would have been. Either way, things are not looking good for everyone involved, and I’m iffy on whether I’d return for a second season. This show was better than I expected, but I’m not sure I thought it had much potential to start off with, so that’s not saying too much. I’d still like to nominate Ashraf Barhom as the cast’s strongest member, doing a great job of playing a very exaggerated character.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Ashraf Barhom as Jamal

Friday, August 29, 2014

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 2, Episode 7 “Asterion” (D)

Talk about a nosedive. This show just isn’t recognizable anymore, and these extensive time jumps didn’t particularly help matters. I’m not sure what the rush is since is still the middle of the season and there seems to be no reason to run all the way ahead. I can see the effect this show is going for, making its events seem and feel all the more dated, which should be productive and emphatic but comes off instead as off-putting and grim. Seeing Bill come up behind Virginia for a moment of forbidden romance at the wedding before he started berating her by pretending to quote her apologizing for her past lovers was pretty miserable, and it’s hard to understand the man he has become. The fast-forwarding did manage to portray Libby in a more positive and human light, though I’m at a loss as to why she was standing around in her undergarments while having a big fight with her husband. It’s good to see Ann Dowd back at least as Bill’s mother, though I’m not too convinced by the pretext of it and the extreme drama of having Bill invite her back into his life. All of a sudden, Austin is back in the picture, united with a new bride who’s perfect for him after an introduction only a few minutes earlier (in the time of our show), and now he’s become a slightly better person. Virginia, on the other hand, is a perpetual punching bag, condemned by all parties for her inability to truly focus on her relationships. I’m not sure how much more of this show I can take and may choose to abandon it midseason.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Leftovers

The Leftovers: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Garveys at Their Best” (A-)

This episode was enormously effective, flashing back to before the rapture to showcase all of our favorite characters – excluding Meg and Dean – and to see what they were up to in their more normal lives. It’s most eerie to see both Laurie and Kevin Sr. interacting with people in a usual way. What’s very clear, of course, is that few of these people were actually happy, evidenced most in Laurie’s negative reaction to Kevin smoking and his desire to save the deer and Nora’s inability to retrieve a simple phone call while her husband sat completely distracted on his phone at the table with his kids. Seeing Jill happy with her brother at home was a real surprise, and Matt too seemed so full of positive energy with his non-comatose wife around. This episode managed to still incorporate a good degree of foreboding eeriness, particularly revolving around the deer and Patti’s prophetic visions of something bad on the way. What was most mesmerizing was the rapture event itself, since it seemed by the tail end of the episode that there wouldn’t be time left and this had to be a few years before the big day. Instead, it struck at the most devastating time possible, literally severing the link between Tom and Jill, disappearing Kevin’s adulterous mistake into thin air, removing Nora’s entire crazy family in an instant, and, most powerful of all, removing the baby in the sonogram Laurie was looking at. What a heart-wrenching hour which makes me incredibly excited and anxious for the finale.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 2, Episode 7 “Walk This Way” (B+)

What an explosive episode featuring, more than anything, a whole lot said that can’t be taken back. Most shocking was the confrontation between Terry and Ray since they never really come to blows, physical or verbal, and when they have in the past it’s never a good thing. Ray telling Terry that no one wanted him was hurtful, and Frances was right to come to his defense regardless of the veracity of his claims, and telling Ray that she knows exactly what she saw was a questionable move but one which will certainly protect her since Ray knows that Terry would never forgive him for offing her. Mickey giving Conor the car was the second biggest mistake of the hour, as evidenced by Daryl’s complete meltdown after he went ballistic on the car that Mickey shouldn’t have given to his grandson. Ryan O’Nan’s Stan seemed like a good friend for Bunchy, but kissing him definitely was not the right move given his negative reaction. Marvin’s business friend talking to Ray closed in the walls of all the worlds on this show, and while Ray trying to keep Bridget away from Marvin really is for her own good, he’s only pushing her closer by telling her not to see him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Abby tried to divorce Ray soon, but he won’t take that lying down. I enjoyed Ray’s visit to Steve Knight’s house and his interaction with Bob, particularly the fact that he ended up having to give him a ride home. Ending the episode with Ray calling Kate, Ashley waving to Bob, and Ray dancing with Conor was very productive and powerful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Last Ship (Season Finale)

The Last Ship: Season 1, Episode 10 “No Place Like Home” (B+)

Now this is what I’m talking about, even if this wasn’t a perfect episode and I could have predicted many of its developments. That said, this is exactly the excitement level and proper use of the outside world that I think could have “powered” the show until now (pun intended for those who watched). Hearing a specific hail acknowledging the continued mission of the Nathan James and then seeing a purportedly friendly face upon arriving into port made it seem like things might actually be okay. It was great to see Titus Welliver’s rebel leader again, and though his actions may be murderous, his intentions may not be all that bad given what Alfre Woodard’s Mrs. Granderson is up to. Rachel’s realization that they were making people sicker instead of curing them was worrisome, and Mrs. Granderson not even trying to deny it made matters even more disconcerting. It wasn’t too hard for Tom to find his family once he was on land, but unfortunately he didn’t make it in time for his wife, which is sad but helps to add a certain level of drama and weight to everything since a glowing reunion would have been too neat and perfect. Discovering that the city is powering itself with the bodies of those who have died is disturbing, and I’m curious now to see how the show will be transformed if the ship stays on land or if they venture out to seek a better society. I’m of course hoping they don’t go far, since this kind of dystopian society is the reason I signed up for this show. I have some doubts that’s how things will go, but I’m much more inclined to check in for the season two premiere now.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Eric Dane as Tom and Rhona Mitra as Rachel

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

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 10 “Thank You”

If I had to describe this finale in one word, it would be rushed, due mainly to the plethora of time jumps in the final few minutes that didn’t really have much of a point. But that’s not quite doing it justice, because there’s little about this finale that’s actually satisfying. The usual trope that a penultimate episode is better than the final hour is true here to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that was a perfect and fantastic installment. This episode contains just one bit of “action,” which was a rather ridiculous speedy execution by Eric and Pam of all their Yakuza pals which seems like it could have happened a few episodes ago. What took the focus of the hour was a spur-of-the-moment human-vampire wedding laced with awkward comedy since everyone there had a reason to feel uncomfortable. There’s nothing quite as generous as demanding a timely wedding because you’re on a clock to voluntarily meet the true death, but I suppose that Bill has done as right as possible by Jessica considering the nature of their first meeting. I am very pleased by how her character turned out given how things could have gone. No one else’s fate was too important, which is somewhat interesting with a large ensemble like this. Sookie proved to be terribly annoying right up until the end, taking a painfully long time to not use her light to kill Bill but to stake him instead. The flash-forward to everyone with kids and pregnant felt a bit too neat and happy, not quite right for this show. TV billionaires Eric and Pam seemed far too sterile, but then there was a dark ending to it all right before the final picnic scene. It’s strange to end on a shot of Sarah Newlin, who was a fantastic character who has pretty much just been tied up and abused for the past few episodes, completely miserable and hallucinating her dead gay vampire ex-husband. It’s a bizarre way to end, but I guess I couldn’t have expected anything different from this show. I just wish it been more even, emphatic, and exciting after so many years.

Series finale: B
Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica/Ashley Hinshaw as Brigitte
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Deborah Ann Woll as Jessica
Best Season: Season 1/2
Best Episode: You’ll be the Death of Me (Season 1 Finale)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 4, Episode 4 “Reckoning” (B)

This was a decent episode, but I didn’t find it to be terribly consistent with the hours that preceded it. That’s mainly true regarding Ruth, who I’ve always found to be a great character but who here aired her thoughts about Jesus Christ and eternal damnation for those who don’t believe a bit too publicly and arrogantly. Sure, she reached out to Naomi and invited her to come to services after to apologize, but it didn’t fit with her character that she would start out being so embarrassed by her loud, rude comments. Meanwhile, Durant was more polite than ever before, generously opening up his home to Eva, offering to give her money and returning to take sexual favors as payment, saying instead that they were friends. I’m not sure that’s the case, but Durant does have just as many allies as he has enemies. Cullen, meanwhile, is continuing his annual return to prominence, seen as the most competent man around by just about everyone, even able to make the most of an ill-advised run in with Indians. Campbell seems determined to show Mickey who’s boss, and I don’t think that he’s a problem that will go away so easily. Speaking of such things, the Swede doesn’t seem ready to be out of the picture just yet, sticking to his story and going head to head with Aaron ready to keep up the charade for as long as possible and ensure that his religious zeal continues to influence the Mormon people.

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 4, Episode 4 “Dream Baby Dream” (B-)

I think that this show is the darkest show on television. Recently, I’ve considered that maybe it was “The Bridge” or “The Leftovers,” which live in miserable places, but I think this series takes the cake. Watching what goes on in military school is so immensely disturbing, as an already distraught Kyle is forced to watch a violent slapping game and then be its victim when he refuses to take part, and then to be locked in his room by his sympathetic headmistress when he tells her that he found a gun and a suicide note on his desk. Since we saw his sister, it’s hard to know what’s real, but I do think he’s very much in danger. It’s not as if Linden and Holder are going to help him much now either since their situation has imploded in a terrible way. Carl’s source put the whole thing together for him, and, while he does deserve some credit for asking Skinner’s wife the uncomfortable question about him liking young girls, he pretty much had it handed to him. The sight of all the bodies lined up by the water was a horrifying sight, but not as disconcerting as the car with Skinner in it slowly being raised from the water, somewhat reminiscent of the show’s own watery beginnings when Rosie was a much more innocent victim. With Linden having family problems and Holder falling back into bad drug habits, is there any way that the two of them make it through this and manage to protect Kyle and solve that case in the process? I’m not optimistic.

Emmy Awards: The Morning After

I didn’t get a chance to post reactions after the show last night, so here goes. I miss the days that awards shows used to have clips galore and really get excited about the shows or movies or whatever that were nominated. In an effort to keep the show to a strict three hours, there wasn’t a single montage, and even the tribute to Robin Williams was unexpectedly short. They asked comedy stars what the best direction they got was, but that was the only time that the nominees were announced in a creative way. The funniest part was inarguably the Billy Eichner and Seth Meyers clip featuring a laugh-out-loud moment when a woman answered unintelligibly about the name of the awards show. Weird Al’s main title theme music with words bit was fun, but hardly as funny as it should have been.

And then, there were the winners. I correctly predicted a dismal four wins, three of which were in top categories – “Breaking Bad” for Best Drama Series, “Fargo” for Best Miniseries, and “The Normal Heart” for Best TV Movie – and the fourth of which was Allison Janney for “Mom.” I’m more disappointed in the winners than in my predictions, namely because Janney was the only series winner who hadn’t won before for her show, and she already has five Emmys. Giving Cranston his fourth trophy, Margulies her second (for this role), Paul his third, Gunn her second, Parsons his fourth, Louis-Dreyfus her third, and Burrell his second suggests that there is nothing creative or new about the Emmys. It doesn’t matter that other actors had better submissions since clearly the favorites always win. Somewhat along the same lines, the miniseries and TV movie acting prizes went to stars of projects that have been nominated before, “Sherlock” and “American Horror Story.” I’m not arguing that they’re not deserving, and it’s more exciting to see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman take home Emmys even if they couldn’t be there to accept them, but it’s strange that these standalone categories still have repeat nominees. “Fargo” was probably the best thing on television this past year, but “True Detective” will be back in the same format next year, so why are they in different categories? That’s a whole separate mess.

As always, I conclude that I like the nominations process more, predicting the nominees, watching the announcement, and then screening all the episodes submitted. Maybe it doesn’t matter to voters which episodes were picked, but that’s still what gets me most excited about the Emmys.

In more satisfying news (for me, at least), the 8th Annual AFT Awards, my own choices for the best in television this past season, will begin in September when I take some time off to get married! Stay tuned, and then get ready for what’s sure to be an exciting pilot season! Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Final Emmy Winner Predictions

For some unknown reason, the Emmy Awards air tonight (Monday) as opposed to last night (Sunday). I prefer keeping the ceremony on the weekend, but I suppose it’s all the same. I’m already 2/4, correctly predicting Allison Janney and Uzo Aduba but missing Joe Morton and Jimmy Fallon in favor of David Morse and Bob Newhart. Now, the questions are whether “Breaking Bad” will be edged out by “True Detective,” and if “Modern Family” can be finally be taken down by “Orange is the New Black.” Plenty of these categories will be extremely competitive, and I’m honestly not sure what’s going to happen. I’m hopeful that it won’t just be a boring repeat of the past but rather that there will be a lot of creativity and first-time wins this year. I’m excited for the show, and will post some brief reactions either immediately afterwards or the next morning. Enjoy the show, and leave your thoughts in the comments! For detailed predictions in all applicable categories, click on the hyperlinked category name.

No guts, no glory:
William H. Macy for Best Comedy Actor

Breaking Bad

Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)

Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Josh Charles (The Good Wife)

Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)

Felina (Breaking Bad)

The Secret Fate of All Life (True Detective)

Orange is the New Black

Ricky Gervais (Derek)

Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Allison Janney (Mom)

Lesbian Request Denied (Orange is the New Black)

Special Relationship (Veep)


The Normal Heart

Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)

Matthew Bomer (The Normal Heart)

Allison Tolman (Fargo)

Fargo (The Crocodile Dilemma)

The Normal Heart

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

The Voice

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 2, Episode 12 “It Was the Change” (B+)

Now this was a pretty packed episode and a fitting penultimate hour for the season (though the finale is 92 minutes, which is sure to be an experience in itself). Even if she is fated to be transferred to another prison, it’s good to see Piper get one last chance to dig into the prison and realize that things are actually awry, mainly the plumbing issue and the files she got caught redhanded with by Caputo. She may even have found her meal ticket if the files in her hands are damning enough to serve as blackmail. During the storm, it was fun to see certain characters deal with the situation, like the gullible Pennsatucky and Boo, while it was much more serious and less entertaining for others. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for Figueroa when she saw her husband kissing another man after she ignored Caputo’s many calls and treated everyone at the prison so terribly. More flashbacks to Vee’s past reveal that she was above nothing including sleeping with her son and then having him killed immediately after by her cop friend because she thought he was competing with her in business. Red not strangling her made her the better person, but then Vee had to come back after alleging a truce to wail on her. I certainly hope this isn’t the end for Red, but especially with Taystee realizing that she can’t hate Poussey, I don’t see how the tables can’t turn on Vee in what’s sure to be a very transformative and memorable finale.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 1, Episode 6 “PTSD” (B+)

Now here’s a fun episode, with Jimmy and Gretchen engaging in an immature competition to get even sexually speaking after Gretchen dared Jimmy to get a naked picture of his celebrity interview. To be fair, Megan, played by Ginger Gonzaga from “Mixology,” seemed pretty into the idea of Jimmy as soon as he touched her foot, and it didn’t take too much convincing for them to sleep together, though it did devastate Edgar, whose continual waking up with a knife does seem more than a bit concerning. Gretchen, on the other hand, easily hooked up with an ex – Venti the barista – while Jimmy had trouble finding an ex who still liked him. He did leave quite an impression on his newly married ex, however, which I suspect will come up again soon just as he and Gretchen have endearingly agreed to be exclusive. Lindsay did a number on her new friend, which seemed like quite the necessary break from her normal life with her boring husband. I like how Edgar and Lindsay, who could both be terrible characters, are being used, and I liked Lindsay’s history confusion throughout this episode. Ending with the montage of how toxic Jimmy and Gretchen really are, highlighted by Megan furious about the nature of Jimmy’s piece and Venti being fired for leaving during work to have sex with Gretchen, was fun and very appropriate for this non-couple gradually becoming a couple who delight in ruining the lives of other people for their pure enjoyment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What I’m Watching: Married

Married: Season 1, Episode 6 “Invisible Woman” (B+)

I like how all of this show’s episodes are framed, in this case by Russ’ disappointment by perceived as invisible when a girl changed in front of him and his daughter at the pool. This installment was all about Russ’ weird tics and fantasies, unable to concentrate on getting the job done, so to speak, because a father was helping his child study for a math test by preparing her with all the wrong information. Lina sending Russ back to the doctor’s office to intimidate the receptionist was funny, but not as much as her initial unwillingness to play along in his phone sex. She managed to get on board, of course, even when he started using the very illogical line about putting a baby inside her. Their closing grocery lettuce bit was pretty amusing too. It was interesting to see how excited Jess gets by the prospect of Shep going back to work and to watch that implode as the eager young actress ends up pulling out to move to Iowa and have a baby. Demanding that he counsel her to get an abortion and continue her career climb wasn’t exactly reasonable, but it makes sense that Jess would be upset that things are going to return right away to the status quo of Shep sitting at home without much motivation in life. Ending the episode with a shot of her being asked if she was alone in a bar was more serious than usual, and let’s hope it doesn’t mess up her marriage in an irreversible way.

What I’m Watching: Rectify (Season Finale)

Rectify: Season 2, Episode 10 “Unhinged” (B+)

There were a number of times this season that I thought I was going to give up on this show, mainly because of what I would most accurately describe as glacial placing. It turns out that everything that happened this season was leading up to Daniel reexamining his life and realizing that maybe people weren’t wrong about him after all, and that he would be better off starting fresh somewhere where no one knows what he’s done. That deposition was tough to watch, especially when he asked Foulkes if he would let him go home this time. It’s good that what Ted confronted Daniel about with Janet in earshot didn’t get spoken aloud, and instead Daniel gracefully made his exit. This is hardly a finale full of closure, and it’s a good thing that this show was renewed for a third season earlier this week so that we don’t have to keep wondering about whether Daniel actually did it and know that we’ll never have the answer (though it’s still possible the show will never address it with certainty). It seems like all forces except for Tawney, Janet, Amantha, and John are rallying against Daniel, which is a shame. It’s good that Tawney’s moving on, while Amantha’s decision to dump John isn’t necessarily the best plan. Daniel is a fascinating character, to be sure, and so is Tawney. This show is full of great personalities, and I think that it just needs to be a bit more consistently enthralling in season two to keep my attention.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Adelaide Clemens as Tawney / Abigail Spencer as Amantha

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 2, Episode 7 “Lamia” (B+)

While nearly all of the other shows I watch are nearing the end of their respective seasons, it’s nice to have a show like this that’s just getting into the meat of its events and building up its story to rev up for an intense second half of the season. This episode, more than any before it, brought all of its characters together in a clear and defined way while also examining the nature of what it means to be a good guy, which it could be argued that none of our characters are. This was the most normal that we’ve seen Eleanor be as of yet, but she sure didn’t react well to the idiocy of Ray. First and foremost, however, she’s an employee, and therefore she doesn’t let her twisted murderous tendencies get the best of her when she has a job to do. It’s devastating to see Adriana affected very personally by what she’s doing, and I suspect that won’t be the last of such suffering. Agent McKenzie cut right to the chase with Charlotte, whose life is now on the line since she so quickly decided to become an informant, albeit not on her own terms. Watching Marco present to the class was very powerful, although this episode’s most dramatic moment was Sonya finding out that Hank shot her sister’s killer when he was unarmed. There’s a lot going on here and adding such personal trauma in the midst of a draining separate investigation can’t possibly make anything better.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What I’m Watching: Tyrant

Tyrant: Season 1, Episode 9 “Gaslight” (C)

Essentially, all that’s happening here is that Jamal is being made to look like a fool and playing exactly into the untruths that Bassam and John are feeding him. Its over-the-top nature was best evidenced by Tariq’s immediate response of “Don’t believe them, I’m being set up” after Jamal had the plane shot down and then had Tariq taken into custody. Bassam definitely didn’t take Leila into account, and she’s at her fiercest when she’s actually on her husband’s side and trying to make sure that he asserts himself so that others don’t take advantage of him. That’s exactly what Bassam is trying to do, and there’s no way that this transition goes smoothly. Molly is doing her very best to blow the whole thing, acting miserable during dinner and feigning American dislike for fancy food, and then snapping at her sister and her children to ensure that they get out of Abuddin as quickly as possible. Hearing her yell at John and Lea for allowing Bassam to go ahead with his plan demonstrated just how much she’s not happy with it, and she’s doing an excellent job of raising red flags and tipping others off to the fact that something’s going on. This show has yet to renewed for a second season – fellow FX freshman “The Strain” was a few days ago – but either way I’m still curious to see how the finale will set up what would surely be a very different and likely much darker second season.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of major spoilers for listed episodes.

DVD A - "The Proton Transmogrification" and "The Status Quo Combustion"
DVD B - "The Scavenger Vortex" and "The Romance Resonance"
DVD C - "The Convention Conundrum" and "The Locomotive Manipulation"

I don’t watch this show regularly, but I always look forward to watching the submitted episodes in advance of Emmy night. I enjoyed all of these episodes just as I expected too. DVD A contains two rather dramatic episodes, featuring Sheldon’s difficulty in dealing with the death of an old friend and an uncertain future in the season finale. DVD B includes a scavenger hunt and Sheldon being even more insufferable than usual after a major breakthrough. DVD C features a Comic-Con deliberation and a miserable train ride with an all-too-excited Sheldon. They’re all fun pairings, and I think voters will enjoy them just as much as they always do.

DVD A - "Back" and "Elevator 6"
DVD B - "Pamela 2" and "Pamela 3"
DVD C - "In the Woods 1" and "In the Woods 2"

This show is back for a second nomination, and it’s always one of the most alluring, peculiar experiences to watch this show around Emmy time each year. Mainly, it’s hard to digest this show as a comedy. There’s definitely something interesting about it, but I’m not sure it’s overall more funny than deeply haunting. DVD A features a relatively light introduction to the season and then an intense episode following Louie trying to save his family from a hurricane. DVD B contains the last two episodes of the season in which Louie tries to woo Pamela. DVD C is especially harrowing, with flashbacks to Louie’s difficult past prompted by him catching his daughter smoking marijuana. I just don’t see how this show wins Best Comedy Series even if some consider it to be the best series.

DVD A - "First Days" and "The Wedding, Part 2"
DVD B - "Three Dinners" and "Las Vegas"
DVD C - "Old Man and the Tree" and "Under Pressure"

This show has won this award for four years running, and no one would be surprised if it took home a fifth. That said, I think this is the year that it might actually be unseated. The only episode of these six that I actually liked was the season’s second episode, “First Days.” The rest are all not the best the show has to offer, and at worst overly choreographed. I think this is it for this show and, barring a vote split, this show won’t take home the Emmy again.

DVD A - "Tit Punch" and "The Chickening"
DVD B - "WAC Pack" and "xxxxsgiving"
DVD C - "Tall Men With Feelings" and "Can't Fix Crazy"

This Netflix show scored a bunch of major nominations, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it won this award. It is worth pointing out that while shows like “Nurse Jackie,” “Entourage,” and “Desperate Housewives” have been nominated in the past, none of them have won, but maybe this show can change that. Interestingly, these submissions don’t include the pilot, but skew more towards the end of the season and some dramatic plotlines. It’s just hard to know if voters will like this show or not enough to hand it the Best Comedy Series prize.

DVD A - "Minimum Viable Product" and "The Cap Table"
DVD B - "Signaling Risk" and "Third Party Insourcing"
DVD C - "Proof of Concept" and "Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency"

Good for this show for making it into this race. It’s an odd, eccentric series that will likely only get better with time. With only seven episodes to choose from, these submissions leave out the third and fourth episodes. DVD A is the weakest since it contains the show’s first two episodes when it was still finding its footing. DVD B is when I got hooked, featuring the logo debacle and the Carver. DVD C includes the final two episodes of the season which are clever and satisfying. The main thing stopping this show from a win is the historical statistic – which I haven’t been able to confirm for all history but at least for the past thirty or so years – that no show without any acting nominees has taken home this award.

DVD A - "Some New Beginnings" and "The Choice"
DVD B - "Alicia" and "Fishing"
DVD C - "Special Relationship" and "Debate"

It’s great to see this show, which is now considered a bona fide hit, nominated for its very entertaining third season. The presidential campaign turned out to be quite a strong source of comedy in season three, and, interestingly, this show opted not to submit its hilarious final two episodes, instead picking episodes mostly from the beginning of the season. Each tape has Selina fighting hard against her opponents, and I think all of them would easily impress voters, and maybe this show could finally unseat “Modern Family.”

What should win (based on entire season): “Veep” or “Orange is the New Black”
What should win (based on individual episodes): “Veep”
What will win: Can anything beat “Modern Family”? I say yes, but I can’t decide between “Veep” and “Orange is the New Black.” I’ll opt timidly for the latter.

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of major spoilers for listed episodes.

DVD A - "Confessions" and "Rabid Dog"
DVD B - "To'hajiilee" and "Ozymandias"
DVD C - "Granite State" and "Felina"

I predicted this show to win three times before, and last year, it finally did. Were it not for “True Detective,” this show would have it in the bag, and it still might. Having aired almost a full year ago shouldn’t do it much of a disservice, and it has the advantage of being able to submit three-quarters of its final half-season. The first two episodes are left out so that the hours in which things get even more intense (full measures, so to speak), and it’s quite a selection. Each DVD is composed of consecutive episodes, and I think the world is obsessed enough with this departed show that any viewer will find this show to be worth voting for enthusiastically.

DVD A - "Episode 4.1" (two hours)
DVD B - "Episode 4.2" and "Episode 4.3"
DVD C - "Episode 4.8" (two hours)

This show is here for its third eligible time after winning the Best Miniseries award for season one. Its submitted episodes are the first three installments of the season and the last one. This show always goes all out at the beginning and end of its seasons, and so that should serve it well. I don’t think this show is nearly as hot as it used to be, and I think its end would have to be announced before this show took home this award.

DVD A - "The Lion and the Rose" and "Breaker of Chains"
DVD B - "First of His Name" and "The Laws and God and Man"
DVD C - "The Watchers on the Wall" and "The Children"

This is the fourth nomination for this show, which continues to go strong and earn positive mentions from critics and viewers alike. Its episode selections are the most deliberate of any of the shows in this category. DVD A is from the start of the season when a major regal event occurs, DVD B checks in a few episodes later midway through Tyrion’s trial, and DVD C features the eventful closing developments of the season. This show has a better shot than last year, but I’m not sure it can eclipse the other series in this race.

DVD A - "Chapter 14" and "Chapter 15"
DVD B - "Chapter 16" and "Chapter 17"
DVD C - "Chapter 22" and "Chapter 26"

This show returns for its second season after being nominated last year. What’s interesting about the episodes submitted are that they largely favor the beginning of the season, with the third DVD choosing a particularly strong episode that spells distress for Adam and Freddy, among others, and the game-changing season finale. The first four episodes of the season, on the first two DVDs, are all strong, and this show might have had a shot if this wasn’t a two-show race.

DVD A - "Time Zones" and "A Day's Work"
DVD B - "Field Trip" and "The Monolith"
DVD C - "The Strategy" and "Waterloo"

With just seven episodes to select from this year, only one installment – the fifth, “The Runaways” – had to be left out. Though this show is still good, it’s not as excellent as it used to be, and Emmy voters are definitely aware of that. This show took home this trophy four years in a row and has been nominated twice since this then. Submitting consecutive episodes on each tape at least preserves plot continuity, but this show doesn’t have a shot this year.

DVD A - "The Long Bright Dark" and "Seeing Things"
DVD B - "The Locked Room" and "Who Goes There"
DVD C - "Secret Fate of All Life" and "After You've Gone"

This was the one show in this category that I hadn’t watched after deciding that the pilot was too slow-paced, and I watched the whole thing to be as well-prepared as possible for my Emmy predictions. It turns out that this series was quite good, and got better as it built from the premiere. I don’t understand why it’s here when “Fargo” and “American Horror Story” are considered miniseries, but that’s a bigger conversation. Very interestingly, this show omits its finale from its selections as well as the sixth episode, “Haunted House.” I was hooked by the end of episode two, so I think that each of these tapes should do pretty well to convince voters of the show’s quality. Now, can it beat “Breaking Bad”?

What should win (based on entire season): “Breaking Bad”
What should win (based on individual episodes): “Breaking Bad” or “True Detective”
What will win: It could be either a departing immensely popular show – “Breaking Bad” - or a hot new one – “True Detective.” I’ll put my money on the former to repeat.

Next up: Best Comedy Series

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 2, Episode 6 “Blackbird” (C-)

This show is rapidly decreasing in quality, to the point that I’m considering giving up on this once-great show since it’s become simply unrecognizable. For Bill to ruin yet another top gig at a hospital where he was so warmly welcomed just a few weeks (and more importantly, episodes) ago is preposterous, and he can’t be such an innovative sex pioneer while he’s incapable of reading situations around him and not constantly getting into hot water. Courtney B. Vance’s Dr. Hendricks was more than a bit antagonistic, but RenĂ©e Elise Goldsberry’s Morgan Hogue was just trying to write her story and stay true to the facts as Bill tried to suppress her story and intimidate her editor. Bill’s emotional reaction to meeting Virginia’s “beau” was overwrought, and he really should try spending time with the woman he’s actually married to instead of obsessing over Virginia. Libby has become a caricature, stalking the nanny who she makes rules for in terms of who she can spend time with. The revelation that her “rough” boyfriend is actually her brother is puzzling at best, since that was the one element of this poor plotline that actually made sense. Virginia’s commitment to Lilian was admirable even though it was clear that Lilian wanted to give up, and she didn’t spare Virginia any heartache by going out like she did after their all too predictable kiss. Speaking of such moves, it didn’t take long for Gene to figure out that Betty and Helen were sleeping together thanks to the genius of Al, and that plotline managed to implode just as incredibly as Bill and Virginia’s did last season.

What I’m Watching: The Leftovers

The Leftovers: Season 1, Episode 8 “Cairo” (B+)

This show really has a hypnotic take on the loss of time. Matt missed a few days when he was trying to get together the money necessary to keep the church, and now for the second or third time Kevin has woken up without any memory of what happened the night before. It turns out that this time was especially bad, and this show has a mesmerizing way of showing how Kevin deals with that, particularly the moment in which he saw all of his shirts hanging up on the trees. It’s a shame that his humanity in preventing Dean from murdering Patti ended up resulting in such a disturbing conversation and then Patti’s suicide made to look Kevin fully guilty of killing her. It seems that in her absence Laurie has taken the reins of the Guilty Remnant full force, smacking and silencing bad devotee Meg and ensuring that the next disturbing step of their plan goes through even with Patti out of the picture. Jill shares her father’s ability to be self-destructive, acting in an overly hostile manner towards Nora and then breaking into her house, at the same time pushing away her good friend and going to see her mother of all people. To her credit, Nora performed admirably opposite such aggressive behavior, and she also managed to get in a few verbal blows when Laurie and Meg stopped by to see Matt. As if it was possible, I presume that things are only going to get worse in the final two episodes of the season.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 2, Episode 6 “Viagra” (B+)

This was an episode all about relationships, and it’s very hard to find a healthy one among them. Ray’s trip to see Ashley and his meeting with Steve Knight, played by Eion Bailey of “Covert Affairs” and “Once Upon a Time,” seemed to really trigger in him some guilt about the kind of husband he has been recently. Unfortunately, his impromptu date night coincided with Abby’s actualization of her adulterous thoughts and her extremely passionate night with Brian Geraghty’s cop. Rather than wait for his wife to come home and try to make things right, Ray decided to slip back into old habits, inviting Ashley over to try that particular brand of crazy again. Bunchy, on the other hand, is venturing into new territory, and popping a Viagra wasn’t exactly the best idea, especially considering that his new flame likely would have understood if he had performance issues. Terry made a big gesture to Frances, and while I don’t see them moving to Ireland any time soon, it was still impressive to see him try to change his life in an impactful life. It doesn’t seem like the time for Ray to let him go either, though extracting $100,000 a month from Steve Knight is definitely a good business model. Videotaping Cochrane in the act of having sex with his number two’s wife is a risky move, and I’m hoping it won’t cause Ray more trouble than it’s worth. That’s double true given what Mickey is up to, letting his imaginative side get the best of him and putting to paper things that are much better left unwritten. At least it’s a blast to watch him work with Shorty. Ending on Connor’s unceremonious announcement of his birthday was disconcerting at best.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Last Ship

The Last Ship: Season 1, Episode 9 “Trials” (C+)

What’s that, a sign of human life outside of the seas? It only took nine episodes, and we still got to see very little of Tom’s family on the outside aside from learning that they are true survivors and trying constantly to get in touch with him because they believe, as does this show, that only Tom can save the world. I liked seeing Titus Welliver as the man who executed the infected woman he saw on the outside, and I hope that we’ll see him again in the finale. While this was a pretty bleak episode, as tends to be the case things took a major turn and suddenly everyone was smiling and all looked good again. There were some dramatic interludes to be sure, namely Master Chief Jeter freaking out violently and Tex confessing his joy in being able to find love again due to Rachel. Fortunately, she did manage to find a cure, so that’s something, and the question now becomes how valuable a commodity that is, and whether it will be publicized in a regrettable manner or if the ship’s leadership can figure out the proper way to disseminate it. The revelation of Kara’s pregnancy isn’t all that enticing to me since I’ve never been particularly compelled by Kara and Danny as a couple, particularly because I can’t imagine that any ship captain would actually allow his enlisted underlings to continue such a forbidden relationship. I’d love to see this show do something to surprise me in the season finale and convince me that maybe I should check back in for season two.

What I’m Watching: True Blood (Penultimate Episode)

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 9 “Love is to Die” (B)

In many ways, this second-to-last episode really does feel like things are actually nearing the end, but in some senses it’s also still a big mess. That’s mainly true of this cure and the continued adventures of Sarah the basement-dweller. I’m not sure exactly what the Yakuza and Pam have planned with her hair dye job, but it seems like that may have all been ruined by none other than the girl who always gets in the way, Sookie Stackhouse. Bill releasing Jessica was dramatic but expected, and now he has no one depending upon him but Sookie. I don’t quite understand this vampiric wish to meet the natural death when circumstances get tough since it seems like hundreds of years of being alive would have presented many challenging situations, and Eric certainly doesn’t feel the same way Bill does (nor does Pam, for that matter). Let’s hope that Sarah plays into things in some positive and major way since she hasn’t been used all too well in the second half of this season. Sam leaving town with Nicole is almost inconsequential since he hasn’t had much relevance in a while, and he’s simply a tangential checkmark. While I thought that Hoyt was headed back to Alaska, it looks like he’s here to stay, and it’s wonderful that he and Jessica have been reunited. I was equally happy with Brigitte and Jason bonding, and with her being cheered up by the notion of teaching him how to not have sex with someone. Interposing that conversation with Hoyt and Jessica reconnecting sexually was very effective. Now, let’s hope for something satisfying and impactful in the series finale.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 4, Episode 3 “Chicken Hill” (B+)

I like when this show opens with Louise narrating her stories for the newspaper since it gives it a very historical feel, and also since Louise is one of this show’s best characters who has been tremendously underused this season. It was expected that Cullen’s transition back to life in Cheyenne would be a difficult one, though he’s certainly charging ahead more diplomatically and calmly than he might have at the start of the show. To his credit, Governor Campbell is playing a smart game trying to get to know Cullen and to understand who he is. Realizing that the methane gas was going to explode was a boon for the returning Southerner, but Campbell had already made his play to pay for Naomi’s food and ensure that the Bohannons are indebted to him in some way. Cullen and Psalms get along well enough, but I think it’s going to take a bit longer for Cullen dining with his African-American comrades to seem normal for any of them. It was nice to see Ezra run to hug Cullen and to see Ruth so relieved by his return, even if she wasn’t sure how she felt initially. Eva was far from happy to see him, blaming him for Elam’s departure and disappearance, and she’s carrying plenty of baggage at the moment. The way her face went from being so proud of herself to so devastated by being conned was incredible, and I’m glad to see that she’s trying to be proactive about her loss instead of continuing to wallow in self-pity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order by show. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, Episodes (Episode 305)
Louis C.K., Louie (So Did the Fat Lady)
Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black (I Wasn’t Ready)
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley (Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency)
Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche, Veep (Special Relationship)

This category includes just one show not nominated for Best Comedy Series, but fortunately, these are all pretty funny installments. C.K. is on his fourth consecutive nomination, and he won in 2012 for an episode of his current series. Crane and Klarik has been nominated three times now for penning their series. Pilots don’t always win this category as much as they do the directing prize, but I wouldn’t count out “I Wasn’t Ready.” It’s also possible that a great season one finale, “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency,” could prevail. But watch out also for “Special Relationship,” the first “Veep” episode nominated for writing.

What should win: All fine choices, truthfully.
What will win: It’s hard to know. I’ll pick “Special Relationship” but it could be any of them.

Next up: Best Drama Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order by show. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Iain B. MacDonald, Episodes (Episode 309)
Paris Barclay, Glee (100)
Louis C.K., Louie (Elevator, Part 6)
Gail Mancuso, Modern Family (Vegas)
Jodie Foster, Orange is the New Black (Lesbian Request Denied)
Mike Judge, Silicon Valley (Minimal Viable Product)

Three of these nominees are returning from last year – Barclay, C.K., and Mancuso – each earning their third bids for directing their current shows. “Modern Family” has won this award three years in a row, and last year Mancuso took home the trophy. Five times in the past ten years, this award has gone to a pilot, which bodes well for “Silicon Valley,” though watch out for another freshman series, “Orange is the New Black.” Its third episode was helmed by a celebrity director, an occurrence much more often seen in the corresponding drama category. This is the first time that “Episodes” has been nominated in this category, for its third season finale, and it’s the only show recognized not nominated for Best Comedy Series (hardly a damning statistic) aside from “Glee,” which earns its fourth nomination in this category, which it won in 2010 for its pilot.

Pertaining to these specific episodes, I really didn’t like “Vegas,” which felt much too choreographed. Can “Modern Family” be dethroned in this race? “Lesbian Request Denied” is a strong episode, as is “Episode 309,” which wraps up a terrific season with unexpected developments. I didn’t yet love “Silicon Valley” based on its pilot, so I’m not sure voters will either. “100” is an episode that recalls much of the show’s former greatness, and so it might impress voters even though the show isn’t nominated in any other major category. “Elevator, Part 6” is a peculiar but fascinating episode of television, which mainly follows Louie as he tries to save his family from a hurricane. It’s hard to know how these vastly different episodes will be considered next to each other.

What should win: “Episode 309”
What will win: It might be C.K. or Mancuso again, but I’ll bet on Foster for “Lesbian Request Denied.”

Next up: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Writing for a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order by show. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad (Felina)
Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad (Ozymandias)
David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones (The Children)
Beau Willimon, House of Cards (Chapter 14)
Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective (The Secret Fate of All Life)

Most of these nominees are new this year, with the exception of Gilligan, who was nominated for an episode of “The X-Files” back in 1997, and Benioff and Weiss, who were recognized for season one and three episodes of their show. “Breaking Bad” has two episodes nominated for the second year in a row, one of which is the series finale. The season finale of “Game of Thrones” and the season finale of “House of Cards” are represented, as is the fifth episode of “True Detective,” which I found to be the best installment of that show.

What should win: “The Secret Fate of All Life” or “Ozymandias”
What will win: It could be either episode of “Breaking Bad,” but I’ll bet on ”The Secret Fate of All Life.”

Next up: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Directing for a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order by show. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Timothy Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire (Farewell Daddy Blues)
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad (Felina)
David Evans, Downton Abbey (Episode 1)
Neil Marshall, Game of Thrones (The Watchers on the Wall)
Carl Franklin, House of Cards (Chapter 14)
Cary Fukunaga, True Detective (Who Goes There)

For the third year in a row, we have the season finales of both “Boardwalk Empire” and “Breaking Bad.” The latter is also the series finale of that show. The eventful season premieres of both “Downton Abbey” and “House of Cards” are also here. The penultimate installment of “Game of Thrones,” which follows just one plotline, is recognized, as is the fourth episode of “True Detective,” which sees Rust going undercover for the duration of the hour. This is Van Patten’s eight nomination, and he won two years ago for “Boardwalk Empire.” This is Gilligan’s third nomination. The rest are all first-timers. All of these shows are nominated for Best Drama Series. The pilot of “House of Cards” won last year.

What should win: “Felina” or “Chapter 14”
What will win: It seems to me like “Felina” is a lock to win this.

Next up: Best Writing for a Drama Series

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Killing

The Killing: Season 4, Episode 3 “The Good Soldier” (B)

This was this season’s most solid episode so far, not that it says much. As usual, we didn’t really get any closer to the truth, but rather managed to rule out a few potential suspects, namely Kyle and that. Linden had a truly sterling police moment, grabbing Kyle and forcing him to march through his house and painfully re-experience the murder of his entire family, and I’m not sure what it got her was merited by her means. Fortunately, Margaret is developing a major soft spot for her orphan pupil, inviting him after hours for dinner, piano playing, and dessert. It’s interesting to learn that she lost someone and that’s why she’s sympathetic to his situation despite her generally steely nature. It’s understandable that Caroline would be concerned about Holder since his head just isn’t in the right place, but I wasn’t prepared for his complete meltdown. I enjoyed hearing him talk about natural birth and reminding of his hippie nature, but his sister wasn’t taking any of it lightly. Swearing at his nephew and then relapsing and doing drugs were very unfortunate consequences, and it’s going to be tough for him to bounce back. Nothing is looking too good right now, which is just about right for this show, which is sometimes compelling based on the drama and sheer miserable nature and attitude of everyone within its universe. Carl was way too close to finding out the truth and Linden got him off the scent, but she threw away the longevity of that when she threw the phone in the water, which wasn’t a very forward-thinking play.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 2, Episode 11 “Take a Break from Your Values” (B+)

It’s hard to get attached to anything with the way that things move on this show, with one miserable development after another. It’s also hard to trust in how people have been presented since their backstories usually reveal that they’re far from what they seem. Many have mellowed in prison, like Gloria and Rosa, and that’s the case with our resident nun, who apparently had a big ego and used her status as a religious figure to propel her book to bestseller status. Seeing how she took charge of Soso’s hunger strike to advocate for actual issues was impressive, but unfortunately it also came with a serious mental break on her part, resulting in a tragic scene of her shouting that she didn’t give her consent to be force fed in medical. It wasn’t much of a surprise that an obnoxious offer of pizza was all it took to get Pennsatucky’s old minions to break their strike and delight in the joy of food. Pennsatucky is realizing that her role as Healy’s number two isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and I’d say that his first Safe Place session went pretty poorly. Vee continues to make sure that she alienates all of her potential friends, telling Taystee that she will be accountable for whatever trouble Poussey causes and rejecting Boo’s offer of friendship categorically. It’s also sad to see how Vee has corrupted Crazy Eyes and is now using her to spy on poor Poussey. The guards really do seem hapless practicing drills with their new ammo, and Figueroa was quick to shut down all semblance of free will among the prisoners when she saw it at work. Larry and Polly seem like they’re going to give it a go, which should prove interesting. Piper, on the other hand, was just about to reconcile with Alex, and now she’s going to be transferred to Virginia. Something tells me that can’t go through, but I’m sure she’ll endure plenty of agony and uncertainty before it’s countermanded.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 1, Episode 5 “Sunday Funday” (B)

This wasn’t that intelligent an episode, but it was still pretty enjoyable. The concept of “Sunday Funday” is hardly original to this show, though it turned out to be highly entertaining. Framing the day with the news that Tye invited Gretchen to come with him via private jet to the Tribeca Film Festival made for an admittedly awkward day, mainly because Lindsay spilled the beans to Jimmy right away so that he could talk to her and convince her that he actually cares about her despite the nature of their arrangement. Of course it wouldn’t come about naturally for him, and he would need to realize that choosing between Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins might be just as difficult as picking eggs or pancakes for the rest of your life. The resolution was simple: Gretchen said to Jimmy that he just had to tell her if he didn’t want her to go, and he did. Seeing them walk away holding hands was a delight, and it’s very reassuring to know that they can actually function as a couple. It was a nice surprise to see Thomas Middleditch from “Silicon Valley” in a far more energetic role than usual as the hipster who stole Edgar’s Sunday Funday itinerary and copied it. After he seemed so cool, it was nice for Edgar to gain the upper hand and feel superior once he saw just how trivial his counterpart’s problems were and that he had been able to rise above seeing friends die in war.

What I’m Watching: Married

Married: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Playdate” (B+)

This episode’s opening scene was another hilarious intro to this show, featuring Russ telling his daughter’s teacher about the extramarital permission granted to him by Lina. We haven’t seen much of the two of them as parents, and this episode gave them an opportunity to realize that they didn’t actually have any friends, which might explain why their daughter was a loner. The playdate turned out to be quite entertaining, thanks in part to the nature of the two parents. It was a pleasure to see two very familiar TV faces who have contributed to a number of shows as guest stars. Michaela Watkins, who was most recently a cast member on “Trophy Wife,” was a perfect fully crazy nut obsessed with plattered food dishes and vicariously enjoying stolen wine through Lina while breaking into her neighbor’s sauna. Patrick Fischler, who has appeared on “Mad Men,” “Californication,” and “Lost,” didn’t have as big a part, but was still great as the disgruntled husband robbed of his every pleasure by his wife and constantly policing his son’s porn usage. I like that Russ was so enthralled by the fact that the house they were in was a famous porn house, and that he befriended the son rather than the father. A.J.’s latest situation was pretty ridiculous, and it was fun to watch Jess try to resolve it. I love that Paul Reiser’s Shep was the one who ultimately managed to resolve it, even though it meant he didn’t make it in time for brunch food much to his very vocal chagrin.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What I’m Watching: Rectify

Rectify: Season 2, Episode 9 “Until You’re Blue” (A-)

What an intense and utterly devastating episode. We saw more of Ted Sr. than ever before, and I hadn’t noticed just how much he sounds like his son in terms of his manner of speaking. It was evident in the way that he looked at Daniel that he was seeing him in a new and unfortunate light but, to his credit, he didn’t react the way the Senator had expected him to, and instead marched right back to Foulkes and called him a vulture for preying on their family in what could only be considered a private matter. The notion of Daniel being banished from his home and forced to live in one small county far from his family is a dismal one, though he doesn’t seem to think it’s so awful. Flashing back to the priest reading Amantha’s letter to Daniel was very effective, and it was great to see more of their relationship when he stopped by her beloved workplace. Daniel’s conversation with Janet about the passage of time was mesmerizing, and she took the initial news well even if she didn’t quite grasp its magnitude. The emotional center of this episode, of course, revolved around Tawney and her losing the baby. At first, Teddy was relatively sweet, but then that kindness and empathy turned into complete cruelty, as he berated her for looking into school options to put her life back together by calling himself her hero and accusing her of wanting to run off and be with Daniel. The fact that she did call him is understandable because she needed someone to hold her up, which he did during their closing dance, while Teddy went and did something stupid and got into what appears to have been a very violent fight. Next is the finale, which should prove intense, and we’ll soon find out if this show will be back again for a third round and where Daniel might be during that time.

What I’m Watching: The Bridge

The Bridge: Season 2, Episode 6 “Harvest of Souls” (B+)

It’s interesting that we’re seeing less and less of this season’s big villain, Eleanor, as it goes on since our primary characters are plenty intriguing enough. The most devastating development was the abduction and murder of Aberlardo. He, almost more than Marco, was an emblem of justice from south of the border on this show, and his calm but sad response to be forced into a car was representative of his attitude towards the law and towards justice. While Sonya and Marco will definitely be in the crosshairs now, it means worse things for Eva, though she clearly has decided it’s time to take care of herself, bludgeoning Steven and Bob’s captive to death once she realized who he was. Sonya and Marco came a bit too close to comfort with violence at the end of the episode in a way that seems to have rattled and shocked Sonya, since she shot someone in Juarez and also witnessed Marco execute those who were left alive to ensure that they wouldn’t be implicated. For all the rule-breaking that Sonya and Marco do, Daniel takes the cake for showing up at the office after his story was published in a less than incendiary and much-edited manner. As he pointed out, peeing into a cup in front of all of his coworkers isn’t something that could (necessarily) get him fired, but pouring it out on the floor probably could. I suspect that his being dismissed will only prompt Adriana to press on harder, which is worrisome given the fact that Sebastian requested dirt to be found on her rather than Daniel since he didn’t consider her alcoholic colleague to be nearly as much of a threat.

What I’m Watching: Wilfred (Series Finale)

Wilfred: Season 4, Episodes 9 and 10 “Resistance” and “Happiness”

There was never going to be a way that this show ended on a satisfying or gratifying note. Watching this show for nearly fifty episodes wasn’t meant to provide any sense of comfort or answers, two of the things that Ryan searched so much for over the course of his time with Wilfred. It was brave to kill Wilfred off during the penultimate installment, since his death meant a certain return to the suicidal loneliness Ryan had experienced before he met his neighbor’s dog. At least he had his romance with Jenna, which was pretty wonderful, but then Drew returned to screw it all up, consoling her and buying her a new dog at just the right time while Ryan had been respectful and taken her cue to stay away. I’m not sure that Ryan and Jenna were ever meant to be, but certainly there’s a more fitting fate than sitting on a couch hearing about how Kristen enjoys ending life more than starting it in her new career. There was that magnificent moment in which Ryan realized what he needed to be happy and immediately ran towards Wilfred, fully cognizant now that he’s all in his head. Flashing back to a few memories where Wilfred is now a dog was disturbing but enlightening, and it seems that Wilfred’s face was merely conjured from a memory of one of his mom’s cult friends during childhood. It’s far from a dynamite ending, but I’m not sure what we could have expected. This series has been consistent throughout, offering generally strong installments with a few lesser ones peppered in each season, all to create a cohesive whole of what might be TV’s most bizarre and depressing comedy. This was definitely a unique experience for American television.

Series finale: B
Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Elijah Wood as Ryan
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Elijah Wood as Ryan
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: TBD

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Uzo Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Orange is the New Black (Lesbian Request Denied)
This is a great nomination, and Aduba easily has the showiest role of the three actresses from her show in this category. In her submitted episode, the show’s third, she is in full-on crazy mode, thinking that she and Piper are girlfriends and urinating on Piper’s floor. Aduba is an unknown actress but this role is undeniably fantastic, so I think she could well win this.

Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset, Orange is the New Black (Lesbian Request Denied)
Cox’s nomination is monumental since she’s the first openly transgender person to be recognized for acting, but it’s worth pointing out that her performance is actually quite good and deserves recognition on its own merit. In her submitted episode, the show’s third, flashbacks to how she got to prison, which involve her gender reassignment, effectively turn her into a very endearing character. Her performance is quieter than costar Aduba in the same episode, which may affect some votes.

Joan Cusack as Sheila Jackson, Shameless (Liver, I Hardly Knew Her)
I guess it’s no surprise that Cusack, who was nominated three years in a row as a “guest” on a “drama series,” would survive the show’s official switch from drama to comedy. Truth be told, Cusack is actually a better fit in this race than in the corresponding drama one, as evidenced by her dedicated, frenzied performance as Sheila, who in her submitted episode tries to save Frank with a black market liver transplant and then stages a last-minute wedding. She’s in good company with other crazy ladies, so I’m not sure she’ll stand out in this bunch.

Tina Fey as Various Characters, Saturday Night Live (Host: Tina Fey)
Fey has been nominated three times before for returning to her alma mater to host, and won back in 2009. Fey, who is extremely at home and at ease when she’s in front of the crowd on stage, starts off by talking about her least popular characters, and it’s refreshing to see that there’s not even a mention of Sarah Palin, demonstrating her ability to keep up with the times and energy to be newly creative. She could easily win again.

Natasha Lyonne as Nicky Nichols, Orange is the New Black (WAC Pack)
I’m very glad to see Lyonne here, recognized with her first-ever Emmy nomination. Though I consider her to be a supporting cast member, I guess Emmy voters see her as a guest. Her submitted episode, the show’s sixth, features flashbacks to her drug addict past, which, while effective, don’t paint as much of a picture of the affable, promiscuous character she usually is. I can’t imagine her getting votes over her costars in this category.

Melissa McCarthy as Various Characters, Saturday Night Live (Host: Melissa McCarthy)
McCarthy is on her third nominations both in this category and in the lead actress race for “Mike and Molly.” She’s relatively entertaining hosting for the third time, but each of her characters is pretty much a deviation of the same mold: very loud, physical, and violently-inclined. It doesn’t suggest much effort or range on her part, so I don’t see voters being impressed enough to give her an Emmy.

Who should win (based on entire season): N/A
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Aduba
Who will win: I’m going with Aduba, though it could easily be Fey or Cusack too.

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Steve Buscemi as Marty, Portlandia (Celery)
Buscemi was nominated in this category in 2008 for a small guest spot on “30 Rock.” I’m pleased to report that this nominated is far more deserved since it gives him the opportunity to be at his best, perfectly embodying someone in charge of celery trying to figure out how to get back on top by properly marketing his product. It’s hard to describe just how well Steve inhabits Marty, and he makes this otherwise forgettable, strange character well worth remembering.

Louis C.K. as Various Characters, Saturday Night Live (Host: Louis C.K.)
C.K. was nominated for hosting last year, and now he’s back for a second round that demonstrates that he’s really comfortable being around the rest of the cast and up for pretty much anything during the skits, not afraid to try new things and expand his repertoire. C.K. delivers a great extended opening monologue and then is very present in all the skits. I think he’ll win for “Louie” this year, and so I’m not sure he’ll win here, but I’d be happy if he did.

Gary Cole as Kent Davison, Veep (Crate)
I’m so thrilled that Cole is recognized here for a truly terrific and eternally sarcastic performance. I was so happy that he got nominated, and I’d love to see him win for the episode in which he conceives of the crate for Selina to stand on before delivering some life-changing news at the end of the episode. I’m enthusiastic about this show’s chances, and I think Cole might actually be able to win.

Jimmy Fallon as Various Characters, Saturday Night Live (Host: Jimmy Fallon)
Fallon was nominated for this hosting gig back in 2012 and ended up winning. Now, the actor is the host of The Tonight Show, which is a really big deal. He’s clearly comfortable hosting a show he used to be on, but he’s also visibly laughing during terrible impression of Jim Parsons while Justin Timberlake is doing an impression of him, which is difficult to unpack. I think it speaks to his popularity, and the fact that he’d probably win even if he didn’t do much in his guest spot. He’s not terrible, he’s just certainly not the best in this category.

Nathan Lane as Pepper Saltzman, Modern Family (The Wedding, Part 2)
This is Lane’s third nomination for this role and his second consecutive mention. In his submitted episode, Pepper deals with unforeseen developments during Cam and Mitchell’s weddings. His antics are familiar and expected, and while he’s somewhat entertaining, it’s hardly an award-worthy role. I doubt he’ll stand out in this bunch anyway.

Bob Newhart as Arthur Jeffries, The Big Bang Theory (The Proton Transmogrification)
Newhart won his first Emmy last year at the age of 84, and now he’s back after his character passes away and reappears to Sheldon as his Obi-Wan on Star Wars day. It’s a very funny, sentimental role, and I see no reason why he wouldn’t win again since it’s a genuinely entertaining and strong performance.

Who should win (based on entire season): N/A
Who will win (based on individual episodes): Buscemi or Cole, though C.K. and Newhart are great too
Who will win: I’d pick Newhart to edge out Fallon.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Kate Burton as Vice President Sally Langston, Scandal (A Door Marked Exit)
Burton was previously nominated in this category in 2006 and 2007 for “Grey’s Anatomy.” Now, she’s back as the heavily Christian, Southern Vice-President of the United States, who is having a tough time in her submitted episode after making a deadly mistake. She’s certainly committed to this performance, but it’s a pretty over-the-top, deranged turn that I don’t expect will win over enough voters.

Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing, The Newsroom (Red Team III)
Fonda is back after being nominated for this role last year. I wrote in my review of this episode that Fonda “stopped by to chew some scenery,” which is definitely true of her emphatic and entertaining scene. Big-name actors have won this award with less, and so Fonda is definitely in the running if voters want to honor her.

Allison Janney as Margaret Scully, Masters of Sex (Brave New World)
Janney is no stranger to the Emmy Awards, having taken home four trophies out of six previous nominations. She’s also recognized this year as a nominee for her work in “Mom.” She has a dynamite submission in this category, as her relatively repressed character finally steps out of her shell as she is told that she’s not the right fit for a sex study but finds fulfillment elsewhere. I think she’s the firm frontrunner.

Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, House of Cards (Chapter 14)
Mara was snubbed last year in the supporting race for her performance as a nosy journalist who realized she had to sleep her way to a good story, and it’s fitting that she’s recognized for the one episode in which she did appear this season. While it would be great to see her rewarded with a win, overdue nominations based on lesser material like this rarely ever result in deserved victory.

Margo Martindale as Claudia, The Americans (Behind the Red Door)
Martindale won an Emmy in 2011 for her work on “Justified” and was nominated for this role last year. This is one show I’ve checked into only to see Martindale’s performance come Emmy time, and while she’s certainly good, I think seeing more of her role might be necessary to fully appreciate her talent. Her submitted episode finds her acting scared, which we’re told is rare but don’t have the opportunity to truly understand or know based on her very limited screen time.

Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, Game of Thrones (The Lion and the Rose)
This is Rigg’s seventh career Emmy nomination and her second for this role. She has won once before, for her performance in “Rebecca” in 1997. Rigg has a fabulous recurring role on her show, though her submitted episode, which features the Purple Wedding, doesn’t give her too much screen time. She does make the most of her scenes with Tywin and Sansa, but it’s not enough for a win.

Who should win (based on entire season): N/A
Who will win (based on individual episodes): Janney or Mara
Who will win: I think Janney has this in the bag.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are pictured and listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Dylan Baker as Colin Sweeney, The Good Wife (Tying the Knot)
This is Baker’s third nomination for this role – he has been recognized every other year since this show began. Baker’s character at this point has become rather repetitive, constantly on trial for murdering his wife, but I don’t think that’s much of an issue since he still manages to chew plenty of scenery. He’s the only actor from his show nominated in this category for the first time, but I still don’t think that will enable him to score the win.

Beau Bridges as Barton Scully, Masters of Sex (Manhigh)
This is Bridges’ fourteenth Emmy nomination. He has won three times, last in 1997, and this is his third nomination in this category in the past five years (each time for a different role). Bridges submitted the season finale, in which his character decides that he needs to take extreme measures to deal with his sexual orientation. Bridges was great throughout the season, but this episode may be a bit too somber for voters not familiar with the show. He may still win, though, so don’t count him out completely.

Reg E. Cathey as Freddy, House of Cards (Chapter 22)
It’s refreshing to see a hard-working actor like Cathey receive his first major awards nomination for a great recurring role that feels very natural. His submitted instalment was the obvious choice, the hour in which all of the attention his restaurant has gotten as a result of the profile that was written implodes and leaves him out in the cold. It’s a heartfelt, honest performance, and maybe Cathey could follow in the recent trend of lesser-known actors beating big names in this race.

Paul Giamatti as Harold Levinson, Downton Abbey (Downton Abbey)
I remember being excited when I heard that Giamatti was joining the cast of this show for season four, but then we only saw him in the finale for a few minutes. Still, I wrote in my review of the episode that his “every moment on screen was a scathing delight,” so I guess the episode left a good impression. He’s a respected actor who won an Emmy for his last historical venture, “John Adams,” so he might earn another trophy this year.

Robert Morse as Bertram Cooper, Mad Men (For Immediate Release)
Morse is a sporadic returning nominee, recognized for the first, third, fourth, sixth, and now seventh season of his show. He won an Emmy back in 1993 for his work on “American Playhouse.” It’s true that no “Mad Men” actor has ever won an Emmy despite a grand total of 31 nominations prior to this year, but I do think that Morse could be the first. In his final episode, Morse gets the chance to sing and dance in an odd but fitting farewell for his character. There’s stiff competition, but what better way to ensure that his series finally has an acting win?

Joe Morton as Eli Pope, Scandal (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner)
This is Morton’s first Emmy nomination. He submitted the second episode of the season in which his character, Olivia Pope’s father, reconnects with his daughter as his dark past is revealed. It’s a meaty role to be sure, and Morton gives it his all, making Eli an intimidating and rather detestable father figure. He’s an underrewarded actor who has been working for a long time, so maybe he’ll win. Costar Dan Bucatinsky winning this award last year certainly helps.

Who should win (based on entire season): N/A
Who will win (based on individual episodes): Cathey
Who will win: My bet would be Morse, but it might also be Bridges or, honestly, any of these actors.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pilot Review: Legends

Legends (TNT)
Premiered August 13 at 9pm

I’m sure at one point the idea of an undercover agent who could easily assume any identity was novel. But at this point there have been far too many shows about supposedly unique operatives with exceptional abilities for this concept to be considered fresh. I think many were and are excited by the prospect of Sean Bean, who heroically anchored the first season of “Game of Thrones,” returning to television. Yet there’s something about his character that feels hopelessly recycled, and his convincing stutter just doesn’t convey the sense that he’s a true chameleon who could convince anyone that he was someone entirely fictitious. He expresses a certain smugness when he shifts back into his natural British accent that makes it all but guaranteed that he can be the anti-hero he needs to be, just likeable enough to be a good guy but far from endearing otherwise. As usual, there’s a love interest mixed in there to complicate the work situation, though Ali Larter’s unfortunately-named Crystal McGuire does show up to save the day pretty handily, even though she fell for the “make it look real for the camera” routine. This is a deep-seated conspiracy series, with Martin now searching for answers about the death of his coworker and his own personal Deep Throat. There isn’t much about this show that stands out as original, and so unless you’re a spy show junkie, I’m not sure what this show has to offer in the way of flashy newness or unique appeal.

How will it work as a series? Martin will work with his team to take down episodic villains while all the while pursuing the truth behind his own lost identity. Other spy shows have it before, so it shouldn’t prove too challenging. Whether it’s watchable television is another question altogether.
How long will it last? The show was launched early in a few formats, and so the numbers didn’t exactly represent the “BOOM” that TNT has been going for with some of its recent programming. This show may pick up steam, and I think TNT will want to stick with it.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Tyrant

Tyrant: Season 1, Episode 8 “Meet the New Boss” (B-)

Bassam has undergone a very radical and dramatic transformation that isn’t too easy to buy as genuine based on what we knew about his character from the start. Sure, he executed someone to satisfy – or was it to spite – his father as a child, but his every instinct since arriving in Abuddin has been to help spare others any sort of violence or undue suffering. Watching his brother and learning about what he did wouldn’t realistically shape him into another version of him, but instead inspire him to become something completely different. It seems, however, that somehow all of the power has gone to his head, and Bassam has gone from negotiating for free elections to helping his brother kill his enemy to working with American leaders to take down his brother and steal his position. There’s no way that Jamal gets away from all of this with immunity, but it’s interesting that Bassam asked for that, since he knows full well that his brother is guilty of plenty. Bassam wasn’t being too bright in treating his wife and family in absolute terms with no flexibility, and wouldn’t have raised any suspicion had he been kinder and more open to their perspectives instead of shipping them off to the United States at the earliest possible moment. Nusrat is a formidable foe for Jamal, determined not to be taken advantage of without making him feel bad about it, hating her husband for the horrific actions of his father, a veritable theme for this show.