Friday, February 28, 2014

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 3, Episode 15 “Last Call” (B+)

It’s only been three weeks since this show aired its last new episode, but it feels like much longer than that. As usual, it’s a delight to have this show back, and this is a typical instance of the show excelling in its most standard fashion. Opening with Finch posing as a 911 operator was a great reintroduction to the show, and it was good to see him positioning his newly reunited team to maximize efficiency. I enjoyed the fact that Finch questioned why he was the best fit for the role of sitting in front of a computer while others were out in the field. I’m glad that the show is confident enough in its characters to be able to skip over an entire scene of Reese knocking people out and instead just have Reese smile before Shaw walked in to find an entire bar full of men on the ground. Those two are a great duo, and it’s good to have Finch around to humanize the situation. My favorite moment of the episode was Reese seeing a brand-new suit and hanging it in the elevator to distract the bad guys with guns, followed closely by Shaw’s very logical comment that “there is no dead in team.” Fusco had his own part to play, and I like that he’s not taking the abuse lightly, referencing “Glasses” and volunteering information much more politely than usual. Now let’s get Root back in the mix to really ramp this show into gear for the last handful of episodes this season.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 7 “Raw Deal” (B+)

One of the things this show does best is something that it doesn’t get too much credit for, mainly because its primary storylines are always so terrific as it is. But these random little one-off plots that find Raylan doing what his job actually entails, which is chasing some obscure bad guy who is really just a nuisance. TC was just that, someone who wasn’t able to spell marshal correctly but then drained all of Raylan’s bank accounts and taught him how to always be caller seven. Unfortunately, that whole affair got quite murderous when henchman Kemp was brought in, played by Gary Basaraba, the third series regular from creator Graham Yost’s “Boomtown” to make an appearance on this show. Dale Dickey as an evangelical inmate who is actually in charge of the heroin ring was another strong casting choice, and Ava is making some pretty big waves inside the prison by refusing to accept the status quo. Let’s just hope that Boyd gets himself out the latest pickle that Danny’s trigger finger has caused for his operation. He was a great character, but I’m not too sorry to see Johnny go since he brought out the worst in Boyd. As if those Crowes weren’t out of control enough, Wendy is stepping it up in a major way, getting Allison suspended and now moving on to seducing Raylan, something that couldn’t possibly end well, no matter how it plays out. Hopefully his trip to see his daughter will set him straight.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 17 “Sister II” (B)

I didn’t think this episode was as solid as last week’s, but I do love having Linda Cardellini’s Abby around. I was even more excited to see that next week’s installment is titled “Sister III,” which means she’ll be sticking around for a little bit more. She’s such a fantastic counterpoint to Jess, though of course in this episode she concerned herself much more with twisting and manipulating Schmidt to her every whim. This isn’t the first time he’s been in a subservient position where he listed exclusively to what a powerful woman told him to do, though Abby is probably the most extreme person he’s been with, mainly because she’s so close to one of his best friends. His cooking moment was one thing, but asking Jess to borrow her glasses so that they could role-play as her and Nick, with him playing Jess, was quite extreme. Deciding to move in with Schmidt to rile Jess up even more after she put the effort in to find her an apartment was vicious, and that’s obviously not going to last too long. Nick trying to babysit Abby failed quite miserably, and watching him try to follow Jess’ script with very little success was amusing. Coach trying to help Winston to discover what he actually wanted to do was the most productive use of Coach in a while, and also a good way to emphasize the ridiculousness of Winston not remembering if he had turned the police academy test over to see if it had a back, only to be told that the test was on a computer.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 2, Episode 6 “Fly Away” (F)

Not that I necessarily mind, since it was getting awfully disturbing and unpleasant, but this show is really getting away from its cult activities and focusing on some soap opera drama instead. Instead of bringing the FBI with him when he was following up on what he believed to be reliable information from his good friend Ryan Hardy, the brilliant Mike opted to come alone so that he could manage to beat Luke to a pulp and not succeed in capturing his brother or his mother, leaving the FBI a few steps behind once again. Worrying about a mole is one thing, but not trusting anyone seems foolhardy. Lily’s escape plan to Venezuela never felt like it was going to work out, but drugging Joe to force him to go along with it was an incredibly bad idea. Now Lily has invested all of this murderous effort into trying to win his affection, and he’s completely done with her. It’s only a matter of time before Emma and Mandy go to war, but for now they’re hiding somewhere very close to where the entire FBI currently is, which of course means they’ll go undiscovered for a good long time. What’s going to happen now is that there will be two cults, and Joe will be too obsessed with trying to stay hidden to do anything, while Lily and Mark will wreak havoc on behalf of their murdered comrades. It could be interesting to watch, but I’m sure that, as always, it will be purely ridiculous. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but Jessica Stroup, one-time star of “90210,” is absolutely awful as Max and adds nothing to the show.

What I’m Watching: Almost Human

Almost Human: Season 1, Episode 12 “Beholder” (C+)

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost at the end of the season of this almost sure-to-be-cancelled show. I was so happy with how it was going and presenting the future at the start, and now I’ve all but lost hope. This episodes continued to deliver with a fresh idea about how technology plays into the criminal landscape in the future, showcasing a man so obsessed with perfection that he was willing to kill a number of people to steal a flawless feature from each of them. I didn’t find the villain of the hour all that compelling otherwise, and wasn’t too thrilled with the big twist, that the woman he had tried so desperately to be beautiful four was actually blind, meaning that his entire quest was for naught. It is intriguing to see Stahl’s status as a Chrome play into her investigation, and to see her talk her way into a private club for Chromes only. Kennex flirting with her and essentially asking her out at the end of the episode led to better disappointment, as her new Chrome date arrived at just that moment to pick her up. It’s been a long time since I was rooting for Kennex since I think he’s just too grumpy for his own good, and I’d more enjoy seeing him display even an ounce of personality that didn’t involve telling someone else to shut up. Dorian is holding his own well, but the rest of the characters on this show just aren’t quite cutting it.

Pilot Review: Growing Up Fisher

Growing Up Fisher (NBC)
Premiered February 23 at 10:30pm

With many of its most successful comedy series now off the air, and its attempts to revive its comedy block with shows starring Sean Hayes and Michael J. Fox proven unproductive thanks to their quick cancellations, NBC is in the search of its next great comedy. This show and “About a Boy” both premiered over the weekend, and their second episodes were supposed to air on Tuesday night, but NBC opted to show the pilots again instead. This show used to be known as “The Family Guide,” a great title thanks to its layered meaning referencing both protagonist Henry and the actual guide dog as the ones keeping the Fisher family on track. The always zany Parker Posey was replaced by the equally energetic Jenna Elfman, as the family’s matriarch, joining the very dependable J.K. Simmons, who gets the opportunity to play the blind father who managed to hide his lack of sight from his coworkers thanks to clever tricks and the loyal help of his son. This show is definitely individualistic, and is certainly much more bearable than “The Goldbergs” or other niche family comedies. It’s no “Modern Family,” however, endearing enough to provide substantial entertainment but not really able to rise to the level of a truly quality show based on its pilot alone. Simmons’ Mel Fisher is undeniably the reason to watch, and while it’s amusing to see his antics, it’s hard to take a show about a blind man who cuts down a tree and drives a car better than his question without batting an eye seriously.

How will it work as a series? I’m sure that there’s more than ample material to last this show a lifetime, especially with a title that doesn’t limit its “growing up” to any set period of time. Suspending disbelief about the antics of its characters might prove more difficult, and narrator Henry might prove to be too precocious and all-knowing for his own good.
How long will it last? The pilot actually did pretty well when it aired again in its regular time slot, and there may just be hope for this show after all. Its reviews weren’t as strong as those of “About a Boy,” but I suspect it will end up doing just fine and may actually have a shot at a second season.

Pilot grade: C+

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 7 (B+)

There’s something about watching Sean navigate Hollywood that has a real train wreck quality to it. Every time he is given an idea that he knows isn’t right, he starts to mull it over, and somehow talks himself into the idea that maybe lying to Beverly isn’t a problem if she doesn’t know about it. He was able to be on the right side of things for a while after Beverly slept with Matt and then when they got back together since he had only slept with one other person, but now he’s putting himself squarely in the wrong. I’m not sure either Sean or Beverly truly wants to stay in America, but of the two of them, Sean has definitely enjoyed the allure more (Jay Leno gift baskets notwithstanding). It may be fun to see this show change gears to have them and Matt both working on different new shows, and it could help to shake up the dynamics. Carol’s relationship with Castor seems to have taken a dark turn, one that bothers even her, which is hard to do, not that Beverly sharing her opinion on the subject helps. Matt running into Labia while he was out with his kids definitely threw him for a loop since she actually seemed normal and over him, but he did get some good news when he found out that temporary paralysis had knocked out his number one competition for that new pilot. There’s so much brewing for these characters that it’s hard to know which of their dreams will implode first.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 8 “Incidentals” (B)

Having celebrities guest star as themselves is always an interesting device, and if done well, it can work wonders. But sometimes there isn’t as much of a point, and aside from the fact that some show got some big name to drop by to film a scene, it’s far from noteworthy. That’s the case with Patti Lupone here, whose mere presence seems to encourage Hannah to talk even more than ever, not hesitating to pick up a phone call from her boyfriend during an interview. The call with that good news was what did it, however, and Lupone launched into a rant about how he might leave her for the allure of Broadway. I don’t think Hannah needed someone famous to tell her that, especially since that was Shoshannah’s first thought too. I did enjoy seeing Adam’s reaction to getting cast and then hearing him act out his part in the tub. The night in the hotel room was a bit off the rails as well, not quite as miserable as the beach house but still rather unkempt and uncontrolled. Jessa reuniting with her rehab friend was definitely a bad idea, and stealing cash from her own store can’t lead to good places. Ray dumping Marnie while she was eating pizza in front of him was an amusing end to the truly odd and unfulfilling relationship they had. I hope it’s not the last we’ll see of Ray since he has inarguably been one of the best things about this season.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 7 “Pushback” (B+)

The resolution of this whole Lucas-Dre conflict isn’t going to be easy if this installment was any indication. Marty continuing to advocate for Dre while Jeannie sets Lucas up with exactly what he needs to know to stall long enough to prevent a positive and quick deal is worrisome, since these two are self-destructive enough on their own, and working against each other to use two very powerful, hood rich people as puppets is infinitely more dangerous. It’s especially intriguing to see Jeannie throw herself wholly into her game, talking shop like she means it while seducing Lucas in the pool. Marty sucking up to Dre a few episodes ago hardly seems like a comparable amount of effort, though part of this is just Jeannie’s revenge for Marty picking a side and failing to see the big picture. Marty’s home life in this episode was even more chaotic, and it’s unfortunate to see him lash out at Roscoe for what he considers to be peculiar behavior, something that is only going to push him further away. It’s not as if Lex didn’t do as much as he cold to infuriate Marty, corrupting his son in a way that didn’t relate to his sexuality and demanding Cheetos, but Marty’s attitude just isn’t a good one. Seeing Lex change back into female clothing before walking into her house with her head down was somewhat of a wake-up call for Marty, but I still don’t think he’s there yet. His head is too much on work, and he’s in danger of losing his son as a result.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 7 “A Jailbird, Invalid, Martyr, Cutter, Retard, and Parasitic Twin” (B+)

Man, this show is getting really depressing. Hearing Fiona’s fate spelled out so explicitly for her was horrific, and the fact that she escaped jail time is hardly worth the status of being a felon with a tracker around her ankle. Though he’s doing a lot to help at home, Lip isn’t being particularly kind to her, and it’s not going to do her any favors with getting her life back on track. It’s also a shame that Sammi was treated so harshly by the Gallagher family, and it’s nice to see that she truly is a good person, helping the father she also wanted to try to preserve some dignity in what may or may not be his final days. The robbery of the bar did not come at a particular good time for Kev, and seems to have been the last draw in terms of him deciding that he needs to take charge of his life. One of the triplets being absorbed is a strange occurrence that produced mixed emotions in both parents, but ultimately I think they’ll still be happy to be having a litter of sorts. Ian is in rough shape, and you know it has to be bad if Mickey has to be the one to go get him. That he made a space for him in his bed, to the disgust of his bride who was a fun new introducer for the episode’s “previously on” segment is also a big deal. Debbie being officially broken up with by her twenty-year-old boyfriend is for the best in the long run, even if she can’t see it now, and at least Carl was able to find something positive in his classmates’ taunting, making some new friends aboard a different bus to school.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 11 “Claimed” (B+)

This episode was functioning on a number of different levels, and the mixture of the multiple plotlines worked well. Michonne talking about how she wished she had soy milk and trying to put Carl in a good mood took an even warmer turn when Carl found out that Michonne had a child, and they got to play their little game of clearing each room and then asking a question. Of course, things did turn much darker when Michonne discovered the room full of dead people. Rick got himself into a situation much like in the pilot episode, trapped for what felt like forever under a bed as someone else dozed off, only to be spotted when the guy who had been sleeping got strangled so that his friend got have the bed. Fortunately, he managed to get out alive and just in the nick of time to warn the unsuspecting Michonne and Carl to turn back. Michael Cudlitz’s Sergeant Abraham Ford is turning out to be quite an interesting guy, and his dedication to bringing the esteemed scientist Eugene to Washington to help find a cure for the zombie apocalypse is intriguing. With Glenn, Tara, and Rosita, he completes a very formidable team that needs to start working together if they’re going to survive and thrive. It can’t be long before they get reunited with other people from their previous lives, and let’s hope that Tara and Glenn will still be able to look each other in the eye once all is fully laid out on the table.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey (Season Finale)

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 8 (B+)

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the end of this season, which started just two months ago. Fortunately, the show got renewed for a fifth season back in November, and so we’ll have plenty more opportunities to revisit Downton. As is standard for the season ender, this episode was all about an outing, and a fresh setting in London proved to be very productive for telling a story. The big plot of the super-sized episode was a comic ploy to get back an incriminating letter that could have disgraced an important regal, and I enjoyed the fact that Bates’ forging and pickpocketing abilities both came in extremely handy. Edith was back already from Switzerland after the secret birth and, ignoring the advice of the two people who know the truth, she opted to have the baby brought to Downton so that it (she) could grow up with her real mother around. Tom’s late-night tour was a serious misstep, and Thomas’ apparent disdain for his former peer is going to help push Tom out of a life he never felt comfortable with but had been living in for a decent amount of time now. Mary protesting against the poker players being referred to as “Mary’s men” was hilarious, and I’m glad that the show is able to poke fun at that. I certainly hope that Mary gets over her stupid conscience and opts not to turn Bates in for his presumed crime of killing Anna’s attacker. It was great to see Paul Giamatti in a perfect role as Harold, whose every moment on screen was a scathing delight. Carson’s reaction to the American valet’s attempt to hawk food and his question about whether anything was “going on” with Daisy was great, and I heartily appreciated the season ending with Carson and Mrs. Hughes holding hands and walking into the ocean together.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Maggie Smith as Violet and Jim Carter as Carson

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pilot Review: About a Boy

About a Boy (NBC)
Premiered February 22 at 11pm

Assessing this pilot should begin with a look at its star, whose presence is loud, uninhibited, and a definitive factor in whether people will enjoy the show. David Walton has actually appeared in a bunch of shows in the past decade, not one of which made it to a second season. I first saw him in “100 Questions” and “Perfect Couples,” both on NBC in 2010, and my reviews of the pilots (I don’t remember much about either show) don’t include any real mention of his performance. He was, however, front and center in “Bent” opposite Amanda Peet, and that was a positive use of him. Many felt that he was excessive and irritating on “New Girl” as Jess’ pediatrician boyfriend, and now he’s back at NBC anchoring his own show all by himself. This adaptation of the popular 2002 film, which was based on a Nick Hornby novel, casts Walton in the role inhabited by Hugh Grant in the film. Grant gives off a much more likeable vibe, and so we’ll have to get to like Walton’s Will based on the merits of his nonchalant lifestyle and love for grilling meat. His relationship with precocious young Marcus is not one that’s meant to be taken literally, since Marcus could never be real, but it’s the backbone of a show that really just doesn’t work since it’s not trying very hard at all. Leslie Bibb’s Dakota is far too gullible and eager, but I did enjoy Minnie Driver’s vegan mother, who might be more compelling if she wasn’t so prone to crying. Recreating the talent show from the film led to an endearing if awkward ending, and while I think this show was fairly fun to watch, it’s far from good.

How will it work as a series? The jig is up regarding Marcus posing as Will’s son, and he might have done well by stepping in to save the day and Marcus’ reputation at school at the same time. Now he and Fiona can try to be friends, which will surely be a difficult path, but one that should provide some laughs along the way.
How long will it last? Premiering on a Saturday night isn’t exactly indicative of how the show will fare, but the numbers were pretty good, and given that it airs its second episode tomorrow, it might have a fighting chance at building momentum. Walton shouldn’t get his hopes of finally getting a second season up just yet, but it could happen.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 7 “Ways to Bury a Man” (B+)

This episode set things on a course that I didn’t expect, and I’m sure it will prove worthwhile even if it wouldn’t have been my idea for where the story should go. Lucas quickly deduced that Kai was the one responsible for Jason’s disappearance and presumable death, and rather than let it go so as not to draw attention to himself and the existence of a son, he’s decided that he is going to take down Kai no matter what it takes. I think it’s because, for how irritating and obnoxious Jason was, he symbolized a second chance that Lucas would have been lucky to get before having to spend more than a decade in prison, and he exhausted so much energy to save him from the henchmen who came to collect him. Rebecca is truly trapped now, and I was shocked that she had the guts to be so frank with Lucas to throw him off the scent when Kai was present. Enlisting Brock to help him take down Kai was the smartest move Lucas could have made, although clearly the legal system isn’t going to be effective enough, as proven by his outsourcing of a crucial job to Job and Sugar. Max’s asthma attack and hospitalization are very unfortunate developments, and to have Carrie be the present and responsible parent is especially devastating to Gordon, who continues to spiral downward and throw his life away. Let’s hope this crisis can help both parents start to get back on track.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 2, Episode 2 “Chapter 15” (B+)

This second installment did a good job of following up on the intensity of the premiere, and I managed to hold off watching it until this past Thursday, keeping to my weekly schedule (though the upcoming Oscars ceremony and many movies to watch also helped). It’s strange to see Frank installed without much ceremony in his own home as the Vice-President, having achieved his goal of climbing to the top. Bitterly describing the way in which Raymond Tusk called the President by his “given name” led him to a great undercutting, a time where we can actually root for him, which resulted in Tusk calling him Mr. Vice-President. Jackie is doing a great job of following in her potential predecessor’s footsteps, throwing one of her oldest friends and allies under the bus in order to secure her position. I enjoyed seeing John Scurti, best known as Lieutenant Ken Shea on “Rescue Me,” as unsuccessful whip contender Wes Buchwalter. Frank is doing a marvelous job of supporting Catherine without the President realizing, and it’s enjoyable to see that play out. The revelation that the soldier Frank was honoring had assaulted Claire was disconcerting, and I do wonder if he has some terrible retribution planned. I’m much more worried about Lucas trying to hack Frank’s phone records after Tom came to the office. Nothing good is going to come from that, and Frank is not going to go down without a fight and without taking the ill-fated young editor down with him.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pilot Review: The After

The After
Streaming on Amazon

There’s a lot to say about the fifth and last of Amazon’s five new pilots released for public voting to determine which of them will make it to series that I screened. The most notable thing is that it comes from Chris Carter, master of mythology and the occasional lone episode with “The X-Files,” who hasn’t had a show on since it went off the air over a decade ago. This show is big on premise but doesn’t pretend to boast strong writing or characters. Instead, its many personalities who get trapped together in an elevator and then stuck in an underground parking garage while sounds of doom echo from outside are representations of different types of people. Putting an older rich woman, an escaped convict claiming to be innocent, a by-the-book cop, a seedy lawyer, a prostitute, a mean Irishman, a clown, and a French actress together makes for an intriguing if not always intellectual stage, and it serves the purpose that it needs to for this show. What can be said very positively about this hour is that it stays suspenseful and involving for its entirety, which doesn’t suggest anything durable about the longevity it could have as a series. I liked it up until the final moments, since I found that showing a backwards-walking demon was a bit too literal for a pilot that had succeeded by demonstrating nothing more than uncertainty and chaos. The discovery that all the people in the group had the same birthday was a step in right direction, and the apocalyptic confirmation overdid it. I think this show could easily go downhill if commissioned, and I would have been much more enticed to see it without those closing minutes.

How would it work as a series? They all saw the demon, and they’re not in the house, so it could be messy until they managed to overpower the thugs and reclaim their rich digs. I like the casting of Adrian Pasdar as the smooth-talking lawyer, but otherwise the cast isn’t all that enticing. It really depends on how the concept plays out and if it remains just as enthralling and tense.
Will it make it to a series? I’m leaning towards yes, but I think just as many people hated it as loved it. Carter is a big draw, and this show could be compared to “Flash Forward” or “Terra Nova,” big event series that petered out quickly, and so if Amazon thinks it will be more of a long-lasting “Lost” or “Revolution,” they might just go for it.

Pilot grade: B-

Pilot Review: Mozart in the Jungle

Mozart in the Jungle
Streaming on Amazon

The fourth of Amazon’s five new pilots released for public voting to determine which of them will make it to series that I screened is by far the most eclectic and ambitious. Malcolm McDowell, well-trained in the art of chewing scenery, is a famed conductor being pushed out of his position and replaced by Gael Garcia Bernal’s young hotshot. McDowell has done television recently, appearing on “Heroes,” “Entourage,” and “Franklin and Bash” in key high-ranking roles, and this seems like an obvious choice for him. Bernal, on the other hand, is a true surprise, and it’s somewhat of a disappointment given that he’s been better at playing an unsung hero, like in Chile’s “No” from last year, than someone who knows that he’s incredible. The show features another plotline centered on oboist Hailey, played by Lola Kirke, younger sister of Jemima Kirke, currently starring on “Girls.” This Kirke is likeable enough, but most of her plotlines, including lavish music-oriented drinking games and attractive male dancers, leave much to be desired. Saffron Burrows’ Cynthia is much too haughty for her own good, and with Hailey the lone sympathetic character on the show, it’s hard to root for anyone. This feels a lot like “Smash,” which isn’t a good thing, and only occasionally delivers musically enough to make up for its poor writing and overreaching storylines. This one wants to be great, but it shoots too high and ends up being a true mess, one with a few redeeming qualities that just can’t save it.

How would it work as a series? I guess McDowell’s Thomas sticks around enough to continue to comment on how Bernal’s Gustavo is ruining the art, and inevitably there’s going to be a romance between Gustavo and Hailey, which is going to transform both of them in dynamic ways. If the writing improves and most of Hailey’s home life is no longer featured, this could improve.
Will it make it to a series? I think this one was generally better-received, and even if it was thought of as pretentious and excessive, that might be considered a good thing. Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman being behind it definitely helps its chances, though I’m not entirely convinced that it will make the cut.

Pilot grade: C

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pilot Review: Bosch

Streaming on Amazon

The third of Amazon’s five new pilots released for public voting to determine which of them will make it to series that I screened couldn’t be more different in nature than the first, but my thoughts on it are almost exactly the same. “The Rebels” is a comedy about a widow left with the football team her husband used to own, and “Bosch” is a drama about a gruff detective standing trial for killing a serial killer. I would equate the two shows’ stars, Natalie Zea and Titus Welliver, for their omnipresence on television and the reliable nature of their appearances. A few years ago, Welliver was splitting his time between “Lost,” “The Good Wife,” and “Sons of Anarchy,” turning in substantially different villainous performances on all three shows. Now, unfortunately, he’s finally been given the opportunity to lead a series, but it’s this excessively familiar, grim and uninviting series. While it’s not all that conventional for a cop to still be working while simultaneously being prosecuted for killing a suspect, it’s not that far outside the realm of possibility, and feels too much like all the shows where corrupt cops are put in the spotlight. This show doesn’t offer much in the way of originality, and enlists the help of many familiar TV faces – including Valerie Cruz, currently starring on “The Following,” Lance Reddick (“Fringe”), Amy Price-Francis (“The Cleaner”), Abraham Benrubi (“Men in Trees”), Jamie McShane (“Sons of Anarchy”), Eric Ladin (“The Killing”), Scott Wilson (“The Walking Dead”), and Annie Wersching (“24”), who wins a special award for having the most boring role of the entire group. This show has been done many times before, and Bosch’s bad attitude does nothing to make it stand apart.

How would it work as a series? Bosch has figured out how to continue working despite explicit instructions not to taking cases, and so he’ll have to keep pushing to make sure that he can defy orders as much as possible. He seems to have plenty of inner demons, and watching him unravel might eventually become interesting.
Will it make it to a series? I’m not sure. I’m not sure most feel quite as negatively about it as I do, but I don’t think it’s the revelation that Amazon was hoping for. At best, it’s a decent cop drama, but I don’t think that Amazon will want to invest too much in it.

Pilot grade: C

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pilot Review: Transparent

Streaming on Amazon

The second of Amazon’s five new pilots released for public voting to determine which of them will make it to series that I screened, I’m happy to report, is a resounding home run. Creator Jill Soloway, whose “Afternoon Delight” I saw and was disappointed by at Sundance last year, taps into her experience on “Six Feet Under” to make a relatable human drama. The casting on the show is excellent, highlighted by Jeffrey Tambor as Mort, a divorced father of three adult children who is transitioning to a woman and struggling to find a way to break the news to his family. Judith Light, who played matriarch Claire Meade on “Ugly Betty,” has a similar role here, eternally at odds with her ex-husband and never short on judgmental things to say about the rest of her family. Jay Duplass of “The Mindy Project” and the creative side of other projects, is son Josh, who blends his personal and professional lives in a questionable way, and Amy Landecker, who might be familiar as the sexy neighbor from “A Serious Man,” is the daughter whose married home life is threatened by a reunion with her college lesbian lover, Tammy, played by Gillian Vigman. And then there’s Gaby Hoffmann, who is usually cast as the oddball in fare like “Crystal Fairy” or “Girls,” as relatively normal daughter Ali. The plotting and characters on this show are superb, and the writing is strong as well. The pilot was full of interesting interactions, and I think this one has what it takes to go the distance.

How would it work as a series? Almost immediately, this feels like something that would fit right in on HBO as a dramatic comedy filled with introspection. There is a small family unit at the center of this show that can be expanded in infinite directions because of its members’ various connections, and I think it would make for great streaming television.
Will it make it to a series? I think so, yes. Most reviews I’ve read have been overwhelmingly positive, comparing this to “House of Cards” and marking Amazon’s first truly successful foray into the realm of original television programming. This seems like an indisputable creative win for the service.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: The Rebels

The Rebels
Streaming on Amazon

I didn’t watch any of Amazon’s first batch of original offerings when they were released last April, but some Presidents’ Day weekend boredom and curiosity prompted me to check out all five of the newest bunch. For those unfamiliar, Amazon chose five shows and made pilots for each of them, and will determine which to proceed with based on user feedback. The first of these shows that I watched was “The Rebels,” the story of a widow who finds herself charged with the ownership of a football team after the sudden death of her husband. It is immediately revealed that Julie has no clue what she is doing, referring to the uniforms as “costumes” and hiring her husband’s personal assistant to be the general manager. It’s a premise designed to be so ridiculous it might just work. The sight of a monkey with cocaine all over its face and a gun in its hand at a party is meant to imply that these football players are so terrible that their personal lives are just as messy as their professional ones, and Julie’s determined claim that they will win a championship seems unlikely at best. The real reason that I watched this is because I firmly believe that its star, Natalie Zea, is one of the most dependable actresses on television. I first loved her in “Dirty Sexy Money” as a troublemaking heiress, and have enjoyed her turns on “Hung,” “Californication,” and “Justified” most since. It’s great to give her a bona fide lead role, but I’m not sure this is the one that I’d want to define her.
How would it work as a series? After this outlandish start, there’s only one direction to go, and that’s up. Ironing the kinks out in both Julie’s family life and with the team might be entertaining, but this is relatively uncreative and unenlightened comedy which shouldn’t prove all that enthralling.
Will it make it to a series? Even without knowing how many shows Amazon plans to commission this time around, I suspect that this series won’t be one of them. Its TV-MA rating doesn’t quite feel right since there’s nothing truly edgy or memorable about its content, and it feels especially average.

Pilot grade: C-

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 2, Episode 5 “Reflection” (F)

For once, I think that the good guys may actually be winning. That’s not to suggest that Ryan is actually following protocol or exercising proper form in his solo pursuit of bad guys, or that the FBI isn’t wasting its time by monitoring Ryan and Max instead of the members of Joe’s cult. But the body count favors the good guys, since Ryan managed to take out the relatively personality-free Jamel, who we barely got to know, and then Giselle, who did a marvelous job of being so irritating by refusing to speak English that her departure is not an unwelcome occurrence. What those killings have done is manage to break the unflappable Luke, who now really wants to kill Ryan. At least the murderous Giselle didn’t bother to take out her killer instincts on Max, leaving her behind and unharmed so that Ryan didn’t actually feel overwhelming pain when he returned to the motel. Emma and Mark might have made for a good couple if not for Mark’s unfortunate case of haphephobia, and I hate to break it to her, but she’s also technically crazy because she’s a villainous member of a cult. After a shaky start, Lily turned into the best possible ally and playmate for Joe, which is a good thing for her since he didn’t seem like he was taking to her all that well. The FBI is far from hot on his trail, but that image of him hidden by a beard and hat – which shouldn’t make him that hard to identify – put them dangerously close to actually accomplishing something productive.

What I’m Watching: Almost Human

Almost Human: Season 1, Episode 11 “Disrupt” (C+)

After a generally decent episode last week, this one got half of it right and then sort of fizzled out by the end. A Smart House with a self-sufficient security system is an intriguing concept, and the opening with Sam’s cool malfunctioning and the rather bloody deaths of the two inhabitants of the house was definitely chilling. Cyberterrorists are a cool notion, but all they really did was cause a blackout. What it all led to wasn’t terribly compelling either, and soon it was all about the hackers and the fact that, for some reason, Stahl was the first choice to go undercover with Kennex by her side. I hardly think that a popped collar, British accent, and pink hair constitute as proper disguises, and that was backed up by the hacker who responded in the affirmative when they sarcastically responded, “Do we look like cops?” I wasn’t too thrilled to hear Karl Urban’s accent since I remember when Michelle Ryan spent an entire episode of “Bionic Woman” using her real British accent for no reason, and my only real problem is I don’t buy Kennex as having the patience to put on a fake accent. It ended up all just leading to a game of hacker-and-mouse, which didn’t result in anything too exciting. The news that Dorian is being implanted with someone else’s memories is interesting, though whatever Kennex and Rudy think they’re doing by trying to hide it from him is definitely not going to have positive consequences.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pilot Review: Star-Crossed

Star-Crossed (The CW)
Premiered February 17 at 8pm

I don’t spend much time watching the CW these days, but, every now and then, it’s pilot season and time to tune in again to show that’s definitely made for a demographic that doesn’t include me. The network has found plenty of success with its fantasy and genre series, renewing “Supernatural,” “Arrow,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and freshman series “The Originals” recently, giving a definitive thumbs-up to its current slate of programming. This seems like a great new entry to that oeuvre, a futuristic version of “Romeo and Juliet” where the lovers are literally star-crossed. The pilot doesn’t waste any time in establishing the connection between human Emery and alien Roman, who first met a decade ago when Roman and his people, the Atrians, arrived on Earth, and now are reunited during the first-ever integration effort involving seven Atrian teenagers attending a human high school. Predictably, it’s far from an easy transition, yet Emery and Roman have no qualms about treating each other kindly, as if no one else in the world exists. The episode-ending event involving Emery’s father shooting and killing Roman’s father might cause some problems, but I suspect it will only make their bond stronger, as the two of them stand alone against the impulses of their societies to go to war. This concept has been done before, and while it may not have been as soapy or featured such young, presumably attractive people, it’s the kind of show that’s going to entice me to tune in each week at all.

How will it work as a series? High school has enough ups and downs without factoring different species in, and so there will be plenty of that kind of drama as well as some human-alien clashing. This show feels much more like a romance ultimately than anything else, though I’m sure there’s going to be some action and sci-fi thrown in here and there.
How long will it last? The CW has much lower standards than other networks, and so this show might just have a shot. Launching during the Olympics isn’t the best idea, and this show fared pretty well, matching the numbers for “The Carrie Diaries” last year. I think it’s too soon to tell, but the CW’s recent endorsement of so many other shows suggests that maybe it doesn’t need others to join it.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 6 (B+)

With “Pucks” officially dead, it was hard to know where this show might next go, but a chance run-in with an agent who happened to really like “Lyman’s Boys” and wants to read their other pilot script, despite Beverly’s lack of desire to write another show, makes perfect sense as a logical next step. People just don’t want to laugh on Saturday nights, and as Myra put it, SNL isn’t always that funny. Beverly giving up and knitting before Sean finally threw in the towel and agreed to let the other kid actors split Stoke’s lines was entertaining, and I heartily enjoyed Matt’s tirade against British people, inappropriately directed right at Beverly and Sean. My favorite part of this episode was something I never thought I would say: the guest spot from Tracy Spiridakos, who is awful on “Revolution” as Charlie, as Morning’s sister-daughter Dawn. It just supports my theory that performers put in infinitely more effort on cable shows, but it’s most notable because the casting is dead-on since Spiridakos looks so much like Mircea Monroe. Her attitude towards her mother and her desire to have Matt say “How you doin’?” during sex was entertaining, and it was fantastic to see the fury it brought out in Morning, who rarely gets a chance to have a personality. Matt’s comment that they are just plowing through that family was great, and it demonstrates just how fabulous and clever this show continues to be. Unfortunately, Matt’s latest tryst seems to have cost him his relationship with Jamie, and so he might remain down in the dumps for some time to come.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 7 “Beach House” (B-)

There was clearly a lot of tension brewing between our four protagonists, and they didn’t need Adam or Ray or any other guy around to make it worse. Truth be told, it wasn’t really Elijah’s fault either since, duck comments aside, he was actually on pretty good behavior and at his most sympathetic. Hannah, on the other hand, deliberately decided to invite Elijah and his friends over after expressly hearing Marnie chastise Jemma for inviting strangers over since she didn’t want to overimpose on her hosts and wanted it just to be the four of them. I understand her frustration with Marnie wanting to micromanage the entire weekend to make sure it came out perfectly and therapeutically, but it’s hard to deny Hannah’s selfish impulse to disregard her wishes entirely and invite the boys to stay for dinner. When the inevitable explosion of emotion happened, it certainly was awkward, and, seated coordinated dancing at the end aside, I don’t think any of it was truly resolved. What bothered me most about the exchange was that I didn’t feel that anything Shoshanna said fit her character. She may have been drunk, sure, but I’ve never heard her swear almost at all, and to hear it constantly and so negatively just didn’t track. Hannah and Marnie played their roles more consistently, while Jemma didn’t contribute all that much. These friends are interesting, but seeing them in their natural habits may be more reliable in the future. A getaway like this can only be so useful.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 6 “Middlegame” (B+)

I liked this episode a lot, and I was particularly impressed with how the two newbies are being used. Caitlin made a big impression on Lukas and probably opened her mouth more than she should have, while Will bragged enough to truly irritate Clyde and then had the wisdom to vomit all over Jeannie’s feet, which was both disgusting and hilarious. Jeannie and Caitlin convincing Doug that there was a stigma about giving black people chocolates was typically ridiculous, and the subsequent death of Lukas’ dog, while hardly the most noteworthy occurrence at the party, was not a good outcome. Jeannie really managed to play her role well with Lukas, though unfortunately he was completely aware of just what was going on, leading to that final punch that’s going to cause serious unrest. Marty seemed truly taken aback and hurt by the way in which Dre was vetting him and essentially treating him like he might a client, highlighted by Omar Benson Miller’s appearance as Slim Walter, and Marty responded in the most self-destructive way possible, deciding to sabotage their partnership as revenge. The way in which Marty and Jeannie speak to each other is probably the most disconcerting, and Marty half-sarcastically pining for the days when Jeannie actually worked for him was extremely telling. At least Doug and Clyde are getting along well, which says something, and this new enlarged pod is going to have a lot of work to do in the coming days and weeks thanks to the events of the party.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 2, Episode 6 “Iron City” (B+)

This was a particularly dark and depressing episode, making the case for this show having transformed itself into a drama. Emmy voting has always classified it as such, but I’ve always found it to be more of a comedy. Watching Fiona break down in tears as she was being strip-searched in prison while a quiet Lip tried to cope with the sight of Liam restrained and in intensive care was pretty miserable and difficult to watch. It’s hard also to see the show address themes like Veronica’s own fears about their baby and how something like what happened to Liam could just as easily occur to their child, especially since they were both there while he got into the cocaine. It would have been unbearable to see Fiona in prison for much longer, and Mike showing up after Carl called him to do Fiona one last favor and put up the money for her bail was nice, even if it broke her heart all the more to have him remind her that he didn’t want to see her again. Sheila packing all of her new boyfriend’s nieces and nephews up with to-go lunches was sweet, and an enormous indicator of just how much she needs other people around her. Taking a cab to the reservation is bold, and let’s hope it doesn’t end up causing her too much hurt in the end. Frank’s predicament is pretty bleak, and I suspect that he’ll survive long enough to get himself a slightly more optimistic outlook on life.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 10 “Inmates” (B+)

After an entire episode devoted just to three of our main characters, this episode did a lot more to spread the wealth and cover more ground, showing how a handful of our favorite characters escaped the prison and how they’re faring on their journey through the treacherous landscape. Beth seems to be the best-equipped, though Daryl has lost all positivity, and the two of them being together isn’t as resounding or comforting as it might otherwise seem. Beth is certainly doing better than her sister, who raided a bus to check for recognizable walkers and then froze when they broke loose and nearly mowed her down. Tyreese had his hands full with trying to protect Judith, Lizzie, and Mika, and it’s a relief that Carol has returned. Let’s just hope that the actions that made her leave the prison in the first place don’t spill out into the open, and Tyreese and Carol can continue to keep the young girls safe without coming to blows with each other. Glenn’s lonely awakening at the prison was grim, and escaping the prison in full gear was formidable if less than promising. Meeting up with Tara, who broke the devastating news of Hershel’s death to him, makes for a new strong pair, though it looks like they’re going to have plenty to contend with, starting with Michael Cudlitz’s gang that showed up at the end of the episode. As long as they’re friendlier than the Governor, this new addition might not mean only bad things.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 7 (B+)

These end-of-season parties are always full of rich developments, and it’s always enjoyable to see them play out in a more relaxed context. I am heartily enjoying the fact that Mary’s suitors have now started carpooling, coming to Downton on numerous occasions with the intention of courting the former ice queen and then leaving after being rejected despite fond memories of pigs and offers to call off engagements. If only poor Edith was in a better situation, with her aunt’s plan to take her to Switzerland to learn French being so quickly revealed as a sham to Violet, who wasn’t as disapproving or lecture-oriented as one might expect, but still counseled against her plan to give her baby to a local farmer so that she could still have a relationship with her child. It was nice to see Alfred return and share a wonderful moment with Daisy thanks to William’s father’s gift basket and the fact that they could be friends since the whole love triangle with Ivy just never worked out. The news of Mr. Green’s death is deeply disconcerting given Bates’ highly publicized field trip, and let’s hope that Mary doesn’t go spilling the beans and that Anna doesn’t press her husband for too much incriminating information. Rose continues to try to buck societal trends, and having Mary counsel her about the error of her actions isn’t exactly a treat, though it probably is for the best. The best new semi-romance of the episode is undoubtedly that between Molesley and Baxter, a genuinely kindhearted couple who haven’t always had the best luck.

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 6 “Armies of One” (B+)

Brock really nailed it when he commented that big men with weapons keep coming to Banshee specifically to shoot Lucas. This latest interaction was particularly violent, but more notable because, for once, Lucas didn’t actually do anything wrong to merit this visit. That blame goes to Jason, who nearly got himself taken to pay for his actions despite Lucas’ major financial gift and still got himself strangled to death while having sex with Rebecca because Kai wants her all to himself. Lucas’ conversations and final standoff with Quentin were great, and his brutal decapitation is just the latest of ridiculous visuals to be seen on this show. Lucas is getting inside his head a lot after recent events, and it’s good that he has a relatively positive budding relationship with Siobhan to take his mind off of it sometimes. I love the way that Lucas sleeping with Siobhan and Rebecca trying to treat Jason like Kai treats his women were visually juxtaposed, so different yet neither truly real. Brock and Gordon teaming up to try to take down Lucas is worrisome, and Gordon’s mental state, and Deva’s death-defying drive, are not good signs either. Job’s news that Lucas didn’t actually steal diamonds doesn’t help anyone, and serves only as a reminder that even if Lucas solves one problem and gets rid of an enemy trying to put him in the ground, he still has a dozen more just waiting for the opportunity to knock him down a peg and put a bullet in him.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

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

House of Cards: Season 2, Episode 1 “Chapter 14” (B+)

I watched this show last year, but long after the entire season first premiered on Netflix. I decided that the only way to actually keep up with this show and stay sane was to pretend that it airs once a week and to review episodes one at a time. Since everything was released on a Friday, that’s where I’ll put it in the order of my reviews each week. I may of course watch ahead, but my reviews will follow that format. This highly-buzzed about premiere was certainly a strong and rather chilling immersion back into this world. There was something oddly cartoonish about a disguised Frank meeting Zoe in the Metro, but that just made Frank casually pushing Zoe in front of the train because she was asking too many questions all the more shocking and horrifying. Killing off a major character is a big thing, and Claire’s non-reaction and Frank’s quick response to the question of whether he had ever killed anyone were equally chilling. I don’t know where this leaves Lucas and Janine, though I hope for their sakes that they don’t continue pushing. Doug’s handling of Rachel is unsettling at best, though hopefully she shouldn’t be too much of a risk anymore now that Zoe is dead. Claire is playing dirty with Gillian, though hopefully her death threat to the baby means that she really just does want to bury the hatchet and move forward. I like the addition of Molly Parker as Frank’s potential replacement, and I’m eager to see how that plays out. Frank turning to the camera at the end of the episode and saying “Do you think I’d forgotten you?” was a great way to conclude the hour and heighten excitement for the season, followed by the final shot of Frank’s cufflinks, monogrammed with his initials.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 6 “Kill the Messenger” (B+)

This episode had a rather stark start, with Raylan walking into the bar and earning himself a punch to the face from Art, who wouldn’t even speak to him later in the episode, causing speculation to bubble and create curiosity in Tim and Rachel. I really like the relationship between Raylan and Rachel, and I’m glad she pushed him and called him out on making their dynamic seem overly professional. Allison getting startled by the dog at the Crowe home was eerie enough, but to be run off the road by Danny, who was barking madly like his dog, was downright frightening, and a sure sign that the Crowe brother is one true loose cannon. It was a pretty funny sight to see Carl think on his toes and claim that Danny didn’t actually kidnap him despite the fact that he was taped to a chair. After choosing the wrong ally to protect Ava, Boyd made the right decision to hire the Crowe family to beat him up and get his money back, and to help him kill Johnny once he realized that the man he sent in to get him was under duress. Ava is not doing well, but I do have to commend this show for giving her headphones-wearing lawyer the opportunity to make a case for him having a personality. All lawyer business aside, I would love to hear Boyd and Wendy have a conversation. My favorite interaction of the episode was definitely the sight of Allison and Raylan both seeing each other’s faces and asking just what happened.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 16 “Sister” (B+)

It’s great to see that yet another member of the Day family has been spectacularly cast. We’ve seen Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner a decent amount as her parents, and now we get Linda Cardellini, in all her anti-establishment glory, as her sister Abby. I enjoyed her initial interactions with the men in Jess’ life, and I’m glad to see her stick around for a bit and wreak plenty of havoc. I especially enjoyed Nick’s excitement about meeting her, which led to an equally pleasant meeting after Nick freaked out when he thought that Jess was embarrassed about him. Schmidt’s Bar Mitzvah crashing expedition didn’t go all that well, and it was moderately entertaining to see Jon Lovitz return as Rabbi Feiglin. The best part of that and any other Schmidt Jewish reference is Nick’s baffled response to any Jewish term. You’d think after so many years living with Schmidt he wouldn’t be so taken aback by a word like hamantaschen, but that does make his reaction hilarious every time. Wisnton and Bertie’s soup-centric dinner party was supremely awkward, mostly because of the fact that Coach and Cece’s one-night kiss came up as a topic of conversation since one of the two clearly couldn’t get over the reality that it led to nothing else. Watching them be physically awkward together as they tried to recreate the romance was amusing, mostly because they’re usually such put-together people who make their friends look uncool, and now they’re the ones who can’t seem to get the rhythm right.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 1, Episode 4 “Family Affair” (F)

It’s good to know that Joe isn’t absolutely intent on killing everyone who crosses his path, even if his newest acolyte is more than eager to murder at every opportunity. Leslie Bibb’s Jana turned out to be a major ally of Joe’s, which means that she and her family are safe, though, in another shocking and completely unbelievable connection, she does happen to be the ex-wife of one Agent Gina Mendez, who happens to be in charge of the investigation into the subway murders and Joe’s whole cult. The FBI’s discussion about the fact that Lily’s villainous tendencies came out of nowhere is further compounded by the fact that Mendez would have no clue that the woman with whom she shares children is actually a close personal friend of Joe’s. Mike continues to waste time telling Ryan and Max that they need to stop working the case, and arresting Ryan was an unnecessary move that led to nothing productive. It did mean that Max was tailing Giselle all by herself, who, fresh off her strangulation of poor David, who apparently knew who she was, was intent on outwitting all Hardy family members by using her superb karate skills to fend them off. After Ryan stumbled and forgot to say that he was a federal agent before Giselle managed to get away on the train, Max seems to have been clever enough to follow her, though I presume that can only end bloodily for her. Lily and her multilingual family is a whole separate level of far-fetched, and let’s home that at least Lily and Joe share a good and intriguing connection.

What I’m Watching: Almost Human

Almost Human: Season 1, Episode 10 “Perception” (B-)

This was a big improvement over recent episodes, though still not a complete home run. This installment took on a topic that is extremely future-facing yet not entirely removed from our current society. Genetic enhancements and modifications are an intriguing subject, and finding out that Stahl is a Chrome is interesting as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make her a compelling character, and this episode didn’t do anything to address her nervous romance with Kennex. He’s having plenty of problems of his own, of course, busy with flashbacks to the woman who betrayed him during the ambush in the pilot episode. The show had forgotten all about her, but clearly she has an important role to play. I’m actually in favor of the Syndicate being featured again because I think it has the most potential out of most of this show’s plotlines. It’s intriguing to see Maldonado meet Kennex at a bar to discuss the issues she’s noticed, in attire not so suited for business. It’s good to have her given a bit of a personality since, like many of the non-robots on this show, she’s rather stiff and unemotive. Kennex letting Dorian drive after he blacked out and crashed the car was fun, and keeping tabs on Kennex’s mental state is making Dorian a bit more serious, since he’s now the one who gets to take the high road since Kennex is not doing a good job of taking care of himself. Now let’s see just who was spying on Kennex and what’s to come as a result.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 5 (B+)

One thing we hadn’t before seen on this show was sex therapy, and it was rather awkward and uncomfortable, particularly because Sean and Beverly were the ones experiencing – or rather, enduring – it. Fortunately, Carol’s awful recommendation seems to have been just what they needed to get back on track, digging so deep into their sexual frustrations that they managed not to even think about it at all and were able to get past them. Unfortunately, the reigniting of their marriage is timed with the devastating destruction of their show, which performed so horribly on Saturday night that Castor threw it in the garbage, without much hesitation from Carol this time around. Given that our show has already been renewed for a fourth season, there will obviously be something to keep the happy couple in Los Angeles. While Carol had an exhausting evening sleeping (or not sleeping) with her new boss, Merc reared his ugly head again, in a better way than last week, as Matt discovered that he had taken all of Jamie’s paintings. Replacing them with frames that had angry messages for Matt wasn’t nice. I enjoyed Matt and Morning acting like children after Beverly told them they had to go do something private. Matt meeting the journalist who called him fat allowed him to have a relatively cathartic moment, though that reporter did get his revenge when his excessive sipping caused enormous panic in Castor, who probably thought that the straw was talking to him or something even more wacky. He’s a real nut, that one.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 3, Episode 6 “Free Snacks” (B+)

This was actually a pretty decent episode, even if it’s getting harder and harder to like any of these characters. Hannah scoring a big gig as a writer of advertorial content at GQ should have been a home run, but aside from her overenthusiasm for the free snacks, she didn’t really take it to heart because she let thoughts about the future get her stuck in her head. Freaking out about not being able to pursue her dreams because she might get trapped in a job that she didn’t actually want made her forget about the recent success she had just experienced and the fact that, at least for more than one day, a job is sometimes a job. In his latest HBO appearance, Michael Zegen, of “Rescue Me,” "How to Make It in America," and “Boardwalk Empire” fame, was Joe, the guy who clearly will start having a crush on her if she stays in her job for more than a few minutes. Adam as an actor is still an odd idea for me, but it was entertaining to see him fake crying to break the news about his new gig, which I look forward to seeing featured in the future. Ray and Marnie’s new relationship is immensely awkward but equally amusing, and it’s great to see the two of them square off and insult each other on a regular basis. Shoshannah’s new pursuit of love is extremely specific and awfully blunt, and I can’t imagine it’s going to provide her much satisfaction. Though we saw her for only a moment, Jessa is predictably terrible at her job, but at least she’s not getting herself into too much trouble.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 3, Episode 5 “Soldiers” (B+)

I’m happy to report that I enjoyed this episode much more than recent installments, and I think it might just be on its way back to somewhere good. Clyde coming in to Kaan and Associates to pitch a huge opportunity for poaching business wasn’t nearly as smooth or satisfying as he might have hoped, and Jeannie’s unfriendly but productive attitude overshadowed Marty’s objections to the notion of welcoming Clyde back into the fold. Doug, on the other hand, felt right at home as he was gloriously oversharing about his personal problems and then resolving them in a less than subtle manner. It’s nice in a nostalgic way that Clyde telling him that he has everything was what enabled him to get there at home and move on the separate issue of making sure Sarah also felt taken care of. Marty is definitely in over his head with his newfound friendship with and loyalty to Dre, and Jeannie can’t tell him enough that it’s going to come back to haunt him. Bringing Roscoe to Dre’s house and not allowing him to bring Lex wasn’t a smart move, and it’s clear that Roscoe is revolting against Marty’s selective parenting. Monica getting fired was big, and I do hope she ends up somewhere that pits her against Marty professionally again, or at least allows them to interact. Both Jeremiah and Clyde introduced fiery new women into the picture in this installment: Alice Hunter’s Chantelle and Eliza Coupe’s Marissa. I hope we see more of both of them.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 4, Episode 5 “There’s the Rub” (B+)

Things reached an irreversibly bad point on a few fronts in this hour, and it’s going to be hard to recover from them. Fiona’s relationship with Mike ended swiftly and decisively, and it was especially tragic that it happened in the middle of a perfectly pleasant evening at Mike’s parents’ home and right a sweet birthday surprise Mike had planned for Fiona. It’s good to see that Mike is at least professional about the end of his personal relationship, and that Fiona’s career at the company is far from over. Unfortunately, Robbie’s visit to the Gallagher home, which found Fiona making the first smart decision she’s made in relation to him, left a residual gift that ended up sending Liam to the hospital and Fiona to jail. Lip came home at a good time to bail out more than one of his siblings. Following Mandy’s clues to Ian and finding him blissfully working at a gay bar with no recognition of his surroundings was disturbing, and it seems to have really upset Deb. Carl’s not doing much better, mad that Frank is seeming more into his newfound relationship with Sammi than with him, firmly believing that he can right the parenting wrongs he did before and actually be a solid parent for once. How Joan’s new boyfriend got roped into building a sweat lodge to heal Frank is beyond me, but that’s just how this show works. It was fun to see Jimmy’s father Lloyd again, who most certainly has a very distinguishable type.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead (Mid-Season Premiere)

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 9 “After” (B)

There’s no way this episode could have topped the incredible and devastating drama of the fall finale, in which the Governor was finally killed after wreaking irreversible havoc on the tranquil life at the prison and killing one of the show’s most sentimental characters, Hershel. In typical fashion, this episode didn’t feature most of the show’s token players, leaving their fates up in the air as three of the most hardened survivors fought for their lives in the miserable aftermath of the prison standoff. Rick is in really bad shape, and this episode went to great lengths to showcase Carl as a bona fide adult, obsessed with beating his father and the walkers, triumphantly carving into the door a message about how the walker got his shoe but didn’t get him. That kind of mentality isn’t always present on this show, and while Carl continues to be a nuisance and Rick has become truly decrepit, it is useful to see them in this dynamic. It was jarring, however, to see Michonne immersed in seemingly idyllic life, holding her young son and chatting casually with two men. When that wonderful memory turned into a nightmare, it felt far more real, and things quickly got back to Michonne leading new jawless, armless walkers around and practicing her decapitation skills on a handful of walkers. Without the Governor, this season might not be as exciting, but the wandering nature of all its characters might just make it compelling and infinitely thrilling and tense again.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 6 (B+)

There was an awful lot of drama in this hour, and a lot of it had to do with some people who don’t often get to take center stage. Alfred returning to Downton so soon after his departure – though it always feels like ages could have gone by in between any two episodes of this show – was a bad idea from the start, and having him stop by despite Carson’s efforts to keep him away was entertaining, and managed to provoke quite a rivalry between Daisy and Ivy that won’t be productive for anyone. Thomas going in Bates’ stead with Robert to America is probably only going to encourage him to pry further into his sworn enemy’s business, and that’s not going to good. The telling way in which Bates looked at Anna’s true attacker is worrisome, and let’s hope he doesn’t get himself carted off to the gallows before the end of the season. Isobel taking care of Violet while she was sick in between insults about the food and the various nurses was entertaining, and it’s good to see that she came out of it okay and the two can now be even closer catty friends. Mary playing in the mud is not something I had ever expected to see, and it’s good to see her unwind for once. Edith’s trip to London was full of big news, and she’s sure to have a battle ahead of her in terms of the life she’s looking to lead. As usual, Rose continues to defy conventions and expectations of her, but it’s not as if anyone seems to care enough about what she’s doing for it to get her in trouble. Tom seems to have made a new friend, which is good, though let’s hope it doesn’t lead to the Grantham family trying to cast him out if he finds a new love.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Truth About Unicorns” (B+)

I was thinking for a while that this was an unusually slow episode, one that chose to delve into the complexity of the relationship between Lucas and Carrie and to focus only on them for the majority of the hour. But that, of course, was excellent subtle preparation for a startling and devastating finish to their time spent at the dream house, which literally went up in flames. Racine showing up and revealing that he wants Rabbit dead and that he was present at Lucas’ interrogation before his incarceration and before he was Lucas was shocking, but not as much as a bullet flying straight into his head and stopping that particular plotline in its tracks. Lucas taking off the assassin’s mask only to learn that she was the woman with groceries from earlier all but affirms his paranoia, and Rabbit’s parting visit with Carrie last week seems like anything but final. The scene in the field with the three characters burrowed was intense, and leave it to Carrie to be fearless and put herself right in the hunter’s bullseye to be able to take her down. Lucas got to have an unusual heart-to-heart with Sugar, and his defiant refusal to stand apart from society and be unable to have a normal family and life was a great way to end the episode. Now that they’re back in Banshee, both Lucas and Carrie have a lot of work to do to put their lives back together and try to stay alive in general.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15 “Corpse de Ballet” (B+)

He’s always eccentric, but he’s not always so promiscuous. In this installment, a sarcastic Watson got quite the hilarious shock when she offered coffee to Sherlock’s latest overnight guest without realizing that it was none other than Iris, the haughty dancer who was the prime suspect in the murder of another dancer. I didn’t recognize the actress who portrayed Iris as Aleksa Palladino, who portrayed Angela Darmody in the early seasons of “Boardwalk Empire.” Her lawyer was played by Scott Cohen, who was a big part of USA’s recently-axed “Necessary Roughness.” The case of the dancer cut in half was a rather violent thing to be featured on this show about death and killing, and learning that it was just a publicity stunt made its brutal nature all the more lamentable. Watson’s simultaneous search for a missing homeless person revealed something very surprising about her own past, which seemed to move Sherlock to enough emotion to rustle up a few blankets that weren’t being used, an enormous symbolic gesture on his part. The revelation that the woman Watson had interviewed was not the man’s sister but instead a stranger who, with her husband, was holding three homeless men prisoner in her basement and cashing their checks was extremely disturbing, and yet another piece of commendable and strong policework on Watson’s part. Sherlock may have his methods, which include spending the night with a suspect on occasion, but Watson is doing a pretty good job for herself at becoming a worthwhile detective.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What I'm Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 14 “iSpy” (B-)

This episode had some smile-inducing moments, but ultimately it wasn’t anything too clever. I was relatively pleased with this show at the start of its current season, but right now I’m not feeling as enthused. The characters have become less inviting, and I don’t think they’re being used properly. Showcasing Haley as a legitimately successful adult with surprising talent isn’t all that terrific, mainly because it only allows her to pout and express that her family doesn’t believe in her. Alex was put to decent use snooping, while Luke and his cousin Manny barely appeared at all. Gloria getting jealous that Jay was dreaming about another woman while muttering “baby, baby..” in his sleep was understandable if admittedly ridiculous, and I wasn’t too taken with his sappy explanation that it wasn’t actually a dream about his son but one about his dog. Mitchell trying desperately not to tell Cameron the secret he knew he would blab was among the less creative storylines that particular couple has endured, and its standout moment was both fathers’ use of a shiny gift to distract Cameron and Lily, respectively. Claire and Phil literally using a drone to spy on Luke was far-fetched, and seemed solely to be for the setup of Claire’s “The drone was justified!” remark at the end of the episode. There are better things that both parents could be doing, and I’d like to see this show get a bit of a boost soon, introducing some important developments in its characters’ lives that could help the show get to fresh territory and a whole new set of plotlines and jokes.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 3, Episode 14 “Provenance” (B+)

This was a welcome lighthearted episode after so much seriousness of late, and it was fun to see all of these characters embrace the excitement of their little caper. The music helped make it feel like “Ocean’s Eleven,” with Reese’s fake mustache serving as the unbeatable best disguise. I’m glad that Sarah Shahi is just as capable as her costar Jim Caviezel of being dryly sarcastic, and she’s even able to be social more than usual if called upon these days. Chatting up Elaine Tan’s Kelli was productive, not just because it gave her some insight into who she was, but also because it enabled her to recognize her minutes later when she discovered that Kelli was in fact the thief they were hunting. I enjoyed the casting of Henri Lubatti, veteran of “Sleeper Cell,” as the Interpol agent on her trail, who ended up not being able to prosecute her for all of her crimes, which worked out pretty well in the end. It was fun to see Shaw be impressed by the woman with a very similarly laid-out apartment and a slick style that didn’t include unnecessary small talk and just got right to business. For once, even Fusco got to play along and have a positive role in this episode’s happenings. Fusco joking about what their next heist would be was a fun finale, made all the more impactful and meaningful by Reese pointing out soberly but productively that there was one member of their team missing, represented by an untouched glass.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 5, Episode 5 “All Shot to Hell” (A-)

What an incredible show this is. To think that we’d seen an episode where Boyd was pretty much the good guy and Raylan was turning himself in despite finding a way to skate scot-free is marvelously unfathomable, yet here we are. In the latest bit of amazing casting that lasts just one episode we have Alan Tudyk of “Firefly” and “Suburgatory” fame as Elias Marcos, the assassin bold enough to stand up to a U.S. marshal and then decide to go in to a diner anyway to try to accomplish his mission before going out in a blaze of glory after firing round after round at two marshals. That Adam Arkin’s Theo Tonin was there and ended up getting arrested in the process is just terrific. This show has never provided its characters any safety, and seeing Jean getting blown away by big brother Danny after he threatened him was startling. Wendy was all set to leave town, and now she’s going to join her most intelligent brother and set up shop just to piss Raylan off. Boyd had quite the episode, killing Lee, who pleaded for his life in his final moments, having Deputy Mooney killed, disposing of Mara, and even gaining the upper hand in his first meeting with Daryl. But to learn that, on the eve of her release, Ava had been framed by the guard who hated her and already transferred to another prison is simply devastating. The most surprising moment, however, had to be Raylan’s decision to turn around and confess the truth to Art. I can barely wait until next week to see what comes next.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 15 “Exes” (B+)

Even though I found one of this episode’s guest stars to be relatively disappointing and awfully predictable, I still heartily enjoyed this episode because it had something positive going on all fronts, sparing just Cece, who barely even appeared. Caroline has always been an intriguing figure since you never knew if she was actually crazy and manipulative or if part of it was just that Nick is incapable of substantial positive human interaction. Yet this episode made it clear that she is nuts, and she had some great moments, particularly pretending to drop Berkley’s baby, that showcased her deranged nature. Adam Brody’s Berkley was useful only for Nick to be able to revel in the fact that, for once, he was right, while an unfortunately shocked Jess tried to stop it from happening. Schmidt’s new bachelor pad is quite luxurious and intense, and it’s only fair that his buddies would want to use it to score even though it isn’t actually their place. Seeing all three men almost have a great night was a blast, and the way in which it fell apart because they couldn’t keep their stories, spaces, or strawberries straight was quite entertaining. Winston’s weird romance from a few episode persists, and I enjoyed the fact that his night was the only one that wasn’t ruined by the presence of the two other guys. It would have been nice to see Schmidt have a win for once, especially after his miserable parking line, but that will come soon enough hopefully.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 1, Episode 13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.” (B-)

This was an interestingly sewn-together episode, mainly because I don’t quite know why it was structured in the way it was. In theory, hearing that announcement about the view every time might have been a cue to explain the passage of time that had to do with the super grenade, but that wasn’t it. Instead, it was just a bit more information each time to tell us how each player figured into what was essentially just a very normative instance of someone betraying the good guys for a payday. That someone was the Italian commander Russo, played by Carlo Rota, who, among other roles, portrayed Chloe’s husband Morris on “24.” Another alum of FOX’s thriller and “NCIS,” T.J. Ramini, was the ominous head of security for Cybertek, but the signature guest spot of the hour went to someone we hadn’t yet seen but who was bound to make an appearance eventually: none other than Stan Lee, who got to chastise Coulson for the things that Simmons said that he did as part of her elaborately-prepared back story. Mike not having orders to kill Skye but her getting shot at point blank-range twice anyway was unfortunate, mainly because there’s no way that she’s going to die, but instead it’s going to be a long journey until someone finds a miracle cure, or, more excitingly, it’s revealed that she has healing powers. Keeping a main character’s status at bay for such a long time isn’t all that interesting, and it’s a shame when this show could be featuring more action than sentiment.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Following

The Following: Season 2, Episode 3 “Trust Me” (F)

As with every episode of this show, I can’t negotiate the consistent gross incompetence of every law enforcement official on this show with the absolute brilliance of every Joe Carroll follower, able to deceive everyone around them even when their own collectives are far from organized. I suspected that Lily was actually a devotee of Joe’s, especially because she is played by Connie Nielsen, an unfortunate follow-up to her terrific work on “Boss,” though I didn’t predict that she was the twins’ mother. And that’s the problem – to think that a relatively public figure would actually be working with a cult and had managed to keep adult twin sons who happen to be fluent in French a secret is absolutely ridiculous. Gillian throwing a tantrum over not getting to kill Carlos was idiotic, and I can’t even begin to address the way in which she refuses to speak English yet understands it and is understood perfectly makes little sense. It also seems to me that Emma basically went underground for a year, complete with a very flashy new haircut, and only left her apartment once, which just happened to be when the building was raided and almost all of its inhabitants killed. While the FBI is busy tailing Ryan and accusing but not charging him, Joe is making a slow but serious comeback, assisted heavily by Mandy, who loves her new father so much that she was willing to kill her own mother, poor Carrie Preston, just for the pleasure of seeing what stabbing someone a whole bunch of times for no reason felt like.

What I’m Watching: Almost Human

Almost Human: Season 1, Episode 9 “Unbound” (C)

I think the only compliment I can give this show regarding this episode is its casting of Gina Carano. The actress, who appeared in “Fast and Furious 6” this past summer, is the perfect person to play a renegade police bot whose wiring got messed up and who turned out to be a killer soldier instead. It wasn’t her storyline that left all that much to be desired, but rather the way in which all the policework on this show plays out. I also knew that John Larroquette’s Dr. Nigel Vaughn was actually supporting the endeavors of Danica the whole time rather than trying to stop them, and therefore the eleventh hour twist of him disappearing after Kennex’s needle-stabbing didn’t work was far from satisfying. Maldonado’s only function seems to be to complain about how she can’t see anything, and that doesn’t speak too well to the reliability of non-robot technology in this show’s imagined future. Rudy as a character is a huge embarrassment, and the requirement for awkward comic relief from the tech guy was more than fulfilled during his first appearance on the show. When Kennex’s grumpy antics are the least irritating part of the episode, you know something is wrong. Dorian taking issue with the idea that the same person built him and Danica and that he might be subject to the same malfunctions as she had was a slightly redeeming notion, but there’s a self-contained nature to this show that makes its universe seem impossibly small.

What I’m Watching: New Girl (Superbowl Episodes)

New Girl: Season 3, Episode 14 “Prince” (B-)

I understand that there’s a certain monumental component to airing after the Superbowl that necessitates making even a show as relatively relatable as this more accessible to the average viewer. It’s always been seen as a way to attract people to a show they might not otherwise watch, though I’m not sure that would happen as a result of this episode. I’ll also note that I’ve never been a fan of Prince’s and have no connection whatsoever to him, and therefore most of the references and moments featuring him didn’t do much for me. As an instance of stunt casting, however, it was most effective as a way for Jess to slowly process how she felt about Nick and be able to say it back after her embarrassing finger guns moment. It was also entertaining to see Coach and Winston pull off their “Fire and Ice” move to get the bouncer to let them into the party, while Schmidt and Nick’s subsequent act was a miserable failure that left Schmidt outside while Nick Trojan horsed his way in. Schmidt buying a $2000 suit for the party and insulting Nick’s cargo pants was funny, and it’s good to see that Schmidt recognizes the value of his loft-dwelling friends. The best part of this uneven episode was the hinting of a reconciliation between Schmidt and Cece. It’s been building for a while now, and seeing Schmidt cozy up to her to avoid the bouncer chasing him and nonchalantly greeting her boobs was a welcome and intimate moment that will hopefully lead to more romance in the near future.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 3, Episode 4 (B)

This episode wasn’t particularly bad, but it also wasn’t the strongest showing the series has delivered. Castor got to go into entirely new territory in this episode, bordering on completely despicable behavior when the news broadcast about the earthquake in Peru got him all too excited, and then ultimately using Merc’s insults as a way to relieve his most recent stressor. His end-of-episode hug and additional unexpected gift to Carol will surely foreshadow something that she doesn’t seem to dread at all. Merc’s return was lackluster in many ways, though the best part of his being there was who he was meeting with. Seeing Carol, Andy, and Myra all rebuke him in different, distinctive manners was great, and Myra was particularly hilarious with her telling groans. We got to see a bit of Stoke being truly airheaded, particularly when he asked to confirm that he didn’t actually have to give any money, and a moment of bonding between Morning and Matt that led to another humorous reference to the fact that she’s much, much older than she looks, something we haven’t heard about in a long time. Matt’s gig on Jay Leno and the funnyman’s guest spot didn’t do too much, though it was another important dramatic reminder that sometimes Matt’s life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Beverly’s obsession with the gift bag and her subsequent disappointment was an unusual opportunity for her to be materialistic and to get away from work to do something just as irritating in many ways.