Sunday, November 30, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Affair


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 7 (A-)

This show caught me off guard by having its characters put all their cards on the table just seven episodes into its first season. That’s doubly true for Noah, since he had the situation all figured out, with money borrowed from a friend and his life back in the city seemingly idyllic. But that’s the crucial and fascinating thing about this show: Noah and Allison are equals, both married and complicit, neither a better person than the other. What was just as interesting as the ways in which their secrets were spilled was how each spouse reacted. Helen guessed right away that it was Allison, and was furious both at his infidelity and his reasoning that it wasn’t a big deal. Cole, on the other hand, didn’t care to know who it was and seemed to want to forget about it entirely, and when he did find out Noah’s identity, he seemed disappointed and flummoxed rather than enraged. Cole’s mother also seemed ready to let it go as long as her son didn’t find out, and expressed judgment rather than fury. It was incredibly bold – and stupid – for Allison to go into Helen’s shop, and Helen’s reaction was one of uncertainty, seemingly indicating that it came before Noah’s spontaneous confession. While all the secrecy was going on, it was easy to return to normal life, and Noah’s family managed to head back to the city pretty quickly. But now that it’s all out in the open, nothing will be the same and it’s going to be tough to put the pieces back together. While regrettable for our characters, it will definitely make this show immensely watchable.

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 9 “There’s Something Else Going On” (B+)

This show has transformed itself from a slow-burn thriller set on American soil to something much more intense and gritty, right in the middle of the action and in very dangerous territory. This was an installment built on suspense, first with the reveal of the kid wearing the suicide vest in the van with Saul as a red herring to create calm just in time for a devastating explosion that I can’t imagine has claimed the lives of heroic protagonists. My one bone of contention with how this all played out is that Dennis came clean with his wife only because he realized that all of the marines had been deployed. In no case should an embassy be left completely unprotected, and you’d think that these highly-trained soldiers might suspect a diversion as a distinct possibility. I was surprised that Carrie didn’t try to feed misinformation to Dennis and instead confronted him head-on about being a traitor, but subtlety has never really been in her wheelhouse. Dennis picked the right moment to be caught as a spy since circumstances will be so bad that he likely won’t face any consequences for what he’s done, unless the terrorist attack on the embassy doesn’t manage to cripple it entirely. Tasneem seems to have picked up on a secret communication of her own just as easily as Khan did, though that may not prove consequential either. Let’s just hope Carrie and Saul survived the explosions that hit their convoy and that they can rally to create a plan that might be able to get them and their countrymen out of Pakistan alive.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 3, Episode 3 “Main Justice” (A-)

This show is on fire, making up for a lagging second season with a final slate of rich, funny, and intense episodes. Starting with the more serious, the situation with Neal’s source is no laughing matter, as Will has now been served with a subpoena and could face imprisonment for failing to cooperate, Neal has apparently fled the country, and the source, played by Clea Duvall, has told Mackenzie in no uncertain terms that she will break the story herself if ACN doesn’t air it within a few days. That’s plenty of pressure, and all quips about the fish and the loser table aside, Mary McCormack’s FBI agent is doing her best to keep Mackenzie as up to date as possible to protect the people she cares about, but it may not be enough if they’re not willing to do what’s necessary. Charlie is trying to save the network, but selling it to B.J. Novak’s egomaniacal billionaire who has truly terrible items definitely isn’t an optimistic solution. After their waffles-centered war of non-affection, Don and Sloan may be in trouble with an overeager new HR rep who was far from amused by Gary’s womanizing antics and has his sights set on breaking up this happy non-couple. Jim and Hallie are experiencing some trouble in paradise, highlighted by their entertaining back-and-forth about going to sleep angry and Maggie’s on-the-nose analysis of Jim’s wrongdoing in the situation. There’s no real topping the sheer depressing nature of the outlook on the future presented by the unfortunate representative of the EPA, a truly awe-inspiring and unmatchable scene.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 7 “Crossed” (B+)

I can hardly believe it – by my count, we saw every major character from this show in this episode. This is the first time in a while that everyone has been seen and that the plot has been able to proceed forward in a way that doesn’t omit half of the show’s storylines. It worked pretty well here, since we got to see how the D.C.-bound team was functioning now that their mission has been cancelled and catch up with things at the church and the hospital at the same time. Up until this point, much of the mission on the road had been about Abraham and Eugene, and spotlighting Tara and Rosita should prove educational and informative. Gabriel is definitely up to no good, and I do hope he’s not connected to something far more sinister that could bring harm to those left to defend the church. Working with Noah to create a distraction to entrap several of the police officers proved effective, and I’m intrigued to see how this will all play out since Dawn and her crew make for a very different enemy than the Governor or the cannibals. Sasha even managed to bond with Bob about a fellow cop, though it all turned out to be a ruse to catch Sasha off guard and allow Bob to make a run for it to get back in Dawn’s good graces by warning her of the impending attack. Let’s hope Beth’s inside man status helps the good guys survive this one.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 10 “The Trial” (C)

I can understand that it’s relatively entertaining to think of Alicia having written a note in which she threatened to “knife” one of Grace’s teachers, but there’s no way that it makes any logical sense in actuality. Even if Alicia had thought it would be funny to pen such a letter as a joke, mentioning Grace’s teachers by name seems to be too far a stupid move. Much of the campaign continues to feel forced, including Prady’s insistence on playing nice when he does everything possible to subvert that and then feign innocence. Alicia’s attempts not to have an affair with Finn aren’t going well, and that’s going to backfire in a serious way even if nothing happens. There is far too much direct communication between Cary, Kalinda, and Lemond Bishop, and you’d think that someone would have made a deal with the state’s attorney’s office by this point that could both put Bishop in jail and guarantee the safety of the witness who took him down. The judge’s impatience related to scoring tickets for a big anniversary date with his wife made some sense even if it was silly and unprofessional, but there were two major threads introduced that felt completely random – Renee Elise Goldsberry’s Geneva Pine having an affair with John Ventimiglia’s Detective Gary Prima and Zak Orth’s partially deaf juror. It all got us to Cary entering a shocking plea of guilty. I can’t imagine that this show would send Cary off to years in prison, but things are not looking up right now.

What I’m Watching: Hello Ladies (Series Finale)

Hello Ladies: The Movie

For a network that loves British comedies, HBO cancels an awful lot of them. Fortunately, some are deemed to be worthy of a wrap-up special that revisits the characters one last time and manages to provide some resolution to any threads the show left hanging. I’m still waiting on this treatment for “Family Tree,” but after “Life’s Too Short” got its special, I’m delighted to see that “Hello Ladies,” which I thought was right up HBO’s alley, back for one last hurrah. I smiled through the early parts of the episode before remembering just how painfully awkward this show can be. It hit me when Stuart was prodding Nicole Kidman and pretending that they were friends, particularly when Jessica decided that it would be wise to say that Nicole and Stuart had dated. The visit of an ex-girlfriend was the perfect impetus for Stuart to ask Jessica to pretend to be his model girlfriend. It was a shock earlier in the movie to see Stuart actually score with a model who was totally into kissing him, and her last-minute change of plans set events in terrific motion for what proved to be an exciting if not entirely magical night of romance thanks to a few hiccups. It was great to see them finally get together, only to have Stuart ask Jessica to move out when she didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Ending the movie with Jessica realizing that she and Stuart were good for each other, at least 79% percent of the time, was wonderful, and I especially enjoyed Jessica’s hastily listed reasons for being better than Stuart. Though Kives managed to remain a character perpetually on the verge of having a purpose or a plotline to call his own, it was fantastic to see Wade finally meet a girl, in the form of Allison Tolman of “Fargo,” no less! This was a triumphant conclusion that allowed Stuart to grow as a person, to stand up to shallow idiocy, and to defend the honor of his friends even if it meant blowing his chances with a model. This was the finale that this show deserved, a defining peak of an all too short-lived run.

A-

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels (Season Finale)


Hell on Wheels: Season 4, Episode 13 “Further West” (B)

Now, this was definitely a finale, but it’s one that scatters its characters all over the place with little hope of things being sorted out even by a few episodes into next season, which has already been announced as this show’s last (split over two years, of course). As expected, Ruth’s death was completely forgotten in this hour, not alluded to in the “previously on” segment and not cited by any of the residents of Cheyenne as the reason for the transformational decisions they make. Cullen managed to cut himself loose and go searching for his family, which proved unsuccessful and resulted only in him being there for a less than heartwarming passing of someone with whom he shared a mutual lack of affection. It didn’t take long for him to find himself back on the railroad, and I think that having him in California should present plenty of new opportunities for the future. The Mormon construction project made a comeback as we saw Brigham and the Swede for the first time in a while, competing against religious discrimination in their enterprise. Back in Cheyenne, Campbell managed to make his position permanent as he dispersed the negative elements in the town. Attempting to buy off Louise didn’t work well, though expelling Mickey and his cousin seems to have done the trick. Eva going with them as a partner in Mickey’s operation is a great resolution, and let’s hope that they get into less trouble wherever they end up next. Durant and Campbell literally rolling in the mud as others looked on was quite a sight, and it seems like that provided a resolution fitting for both parties. It’s hard to know how the show’s final season is going to play out, but as long as it’s a bit more consistent than this year, I think I’ll be happy.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Anson Mount as Cullen

Golden Globe Musings: Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
The Big Bang Theory
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Girls
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation


Returning nominees:
Episodes

New contenders:
Silicon Valley
Transparent

Potential first-time nominees:
Louie
Orange is the New Black
Veep

Though it won last year, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” shouldn’t be considered a slam dunk for a nomination this year. Golden Globe voters have dismissed shows immediately after their first nominations and wins in the past many times, so there’s no reason this year shouldn’t be any different. I’m hopeful that “Episodes” could return after a year off the air and worried that “Parks and Recreation” might not. I’m not sure why Globe voters would finally wake up to “Louie” and “Veep” existing right now, and I think they might be more open to new shows “Silicon Valley” and “Transparent,” and “Orange is the New Black,” rightfully recognized in this category now.

Current predictions:
The Big Bang Theory
Episodes
Modern Family
Orange is the New Black
Transparent

Golden Globe Musings: Best TV Series – Drama


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Masters of Sex


New contenders:
The Affair
The Knick
The Leftovers
Turn

Past nominees:
Boardwalk Empire
Game of Thrones
Homeland
Mad Men

Last year’s list isn’t likely to repeat since “The Good Wife” and “Masters of Sex” have lost some steam and “Breaking Bad” is long since over. If eligible, “True Detective” will surely take a spot, and I think that “The Leftovers” may actually be likeliest to snag another open spot. Any of the Emmy-winning shows listed under “past nominees” might make a return to the race as well.

Current predictions:
The Affair
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
The Leftovers


Golden Globe Musings: Best Limited Series or TV Movie


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake

The White Queen

This newly renamed category is going to be extremely competitive this year, with Fargo and True Detective duking it out for top honors. The Normal Heart will join them, and the other two nominees will likely be returning favorites American Horror Story: Freak Show or Sherlock: His Last Vow, or new and popular choices The Missing or Olive Kitteridge.

Current predictions:
Fargo
The Missing
The Normal Heart
Olive Kitteridge
True Detective


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a TV Series


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Jacqueline Bissett (Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer (The White Queen)
Hayden Panettiere (Nashville)
Monica Potter (Parenthood)
Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)

Don’t count on any of these nominees returning. Bissett and McTeer aren’t eligible, and I can’t imagine Panettiere being recognized again. Potter’s plotline that got her here is over, not that it means she should be discounted, and Vergara might make it in just because people are checking off her picture without actually watching the show anymore. Look to the three Emmy categories that feed this one for potential nominees like Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Allison Janney (Mom), and Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black). New contenders include Ann Dowd (The Leftovers), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), Janet McTeer (The Honourable Woman), and Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), who was theoretically eligible last year too.

Current predictions:
Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black)
Ann Dowd (The Leftovers)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black)
Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a TV Series


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
Rob Lowe (Behind the Candelabra)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Corey Stoll (House of Cards)
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

I never particularly enjoy predicting this category since it pulls from so many different areas – comedy, drama, TV movies, and what’s now known as “limited series.” Only comedy actors have managed repeat nominations in recent years, and just one of last year’s nominees – Voight – is even eligible for that feat. Though it’s rare, this category might be entirely populated this year by nominees from limited series and TV movies: I could easily see Colin Hanks (Fargo), Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart), Alfred Molina (The Normal Heart), and Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart) showing up, though probably not all of them. The man who beat them all for the Emmy, Martin Freeman (Sherlock: His Last Vow) is a possibility, but given that his show hasn’t been nominated much in the past, I think he’s a likelier possibility in the lead actor race. New contenders include Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge) and Stephen Rea (The Honourable Woman). Past winner Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) might return to represent regular series.

Current predictions:
Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)
Colin Hanks (Fargo)
Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge)
Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart)
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Helena Bonham Carter (Burton and Taylor)
Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen)
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Coven)
Helen Mirren (Phil Spector)
Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake)

I’ve seen far fewer of the contenders in this race than I have the corresponding best actor field, but I am thrilled to report that Allison Tolman (Fargo) is being considered in this category rather than the supporting race. She’ll likely be joined by Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show), earning her fourth consecutive nomination. Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge) seems like a solid bet, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman) is sure to appeal to this particular group of voters. Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful) should round out the list, though it’s always possible that she or one of the other theoretical nominees could be bumped off by Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Freak Show).

Current predictions:
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman)
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)
Allison Tolman (Fargo)
Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra)
Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge)
Idris Elba (Luther)
Al Pacino (Phil Spector)

I wouldn’t usually predict this category, but I feel like, for once, I’ve actually seen most of the probable nominees. That’s because they’re primarily from two projects, though Emmy nominations in different races won’t necessarily translate to all four being recognized here: Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) and Woody Harrelson (True Detective), removed from the more competitive drama series categories, and Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo) and Martin Freeman (Fargo). The likeliest to join them are Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart) or Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: His Last Vow), and that’s not even considering contenders from the second half of the year.

Current predictions:
Martin Freeman (Fargo)
Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Lena Dunham (Girls)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

New contenders:
Cristela Alonzo (Cristela)
Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback)
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

This may be the least interesting race this year since all five nominees are all but guaranteed to repeat, with one new face – Schilling, transplanted from drama last year, which likely means that Emmy voters influence their Golden Globe counterparts into unceremoniously ditching Deschanel. I don’t see either Alonzo or Rodriguez having enough support to bump someone else, but maybe I’m underestimating some completely random contender who may have a shot at surprising.

Current predictions:
Lena Dunham (Girls)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Jason Bateman (Arrested Development)
Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Michael J. Fox (The Michael J. Fox Show)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Returning nominees:
Louis C.K. (Louie)
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)

New contenders:
Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
Ricky Gervais (Derek)
Tom Middleditch (Silicon Valley)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

This category shouldn’t be too difficult since two nominees from last year – Bateman and Fox – aren’t eligible this year, while C.K. and LeBlanc, who sat last year out because their shows didn’t air, could easily just take their places. But watch out for Tambor, who will need voter enthusiasm for Amazon projects but shouldn’t have too much trouble meriting a nomination given his reputation and the strong reception the show has received, and Gervais, a past winner in this category and also the star of a streaming comedy. Likeliest to lose out on a spot to make room for them are Cheadle or last year’s winner Samberg.

Current predictions:
Louis C.K. (Louie)
Ricky Gervais (Derek)
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a TV Series – Drama


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)
Kerry Washington (Scandal)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Past nominees:
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

New contenders:
Halle Berry (Extant)
Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)
Anna Gunn (Gracepoint)
Katherine Heigl (State of Affairs)
Tea Leoni (Madam Secretary)
Debra Messing (The Mysteries of Laura)
Ruth Wilson (The Affair)

Potential first-time nominees:
Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex)

This category has undergone a lot of change in recent years. A maximum of two nominees have been preserved each year. All five of last year’s nominees could be back again, though Schilling will now compete in the comedy race, leaving one slot open. Emmy nominee Caplan, Berry, Davis, or Wilson will be competing most strongly for the spot, and two-time winner Danes might be welcomed back after the critical resurgence of her show. I do think that all four eligible nominees from last year are very likely to repeat.

Current predictions:
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Kerry Washington (Scandal)
Ruth Wilson (The Affair)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a TV Series – Drama


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
James Spader (The Blacklist

New contenders:
Clive Owen (The Knick)
Justin Theroux (The Leftovers)
Dominic West (The Affair)

Past nominees:
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)
Jon Hamm (Mad Men)

I said last year that this list might not change from the year before, and then Bryan Cranston ended up being the only nominee to return. Now he’s the only one who can’t contend again, though I suspect that the other four nominees – all from freshman series last year – are quite vulnerable since their shows have lost steam, and they may be replaced by nominees from past years or freshman series stars. Spacey is the only one who’s safe since the buzz on his show in season two was still very strong. “True Detective” isn’t considered at drama at the Globes, so count out Emmy nominees Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

Current predictions:
Clive Owen (The Knick)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Justin Theroux (The Leftovers)
Dominic West (The Affair)

Monday, November 24, 2014

What I'm Watching: Transparent (Season Finale)

Transparent: Season 1, Episode 10 “Why Do We Cover the Mirrors?” (B+)

When I watch a season finale with a major bombshell or two, I usually go ahead and take a look at reactions by others to the episode. It always feels strange, however, to come to the conclusion of a season of a streamed show where I’m quite literally the only one getting here at this point, and likely one of the few who actually watched it on a weekly basis. Nonetheless, this is a very fitting finale for this show’s first season, using the life cycle occasion of a shiva to bring the family together for some bumpy bonding. Alli’s discovery of the real reason for her not having a bat mitzvah prompted the first harsh scene we’ve seen from Maura, since every flashback to Mort showed him being timid and all we’ve seen of Maura is her struggling to fit in. Something seemed to snap in her when Alli yelled at her, and it wasn’t pleasant to watch. Sarah asking Tammy if she wanting to get married right after cheating on her with Len doesn’t bode well for the future health of their relationship, and Tammy doesn’t seem to have a clue that she and Sarah aren’t on the same page. I loved how the scene with Alli and Rabbi Raquel was filmed using the mirrors when the express point of what they were doing was covering them. After Josh destroyed his potential with Raquel by incorrectly guessing just a few of the endless number of women who could have tarnished his reputation, he got a big shock that might on another show seem out of place: he has a son, a devout Christian from Kansas who loves sushi. Ending grace with Maura letting out “Oy gevalt!” was a great way to finish off a truly transformative and unique first season.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Jeffrey Tambor

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 4 “Bella” (B)

There’s no denying that this episode managed to be interesting over the course of the hour, but after last week’s “maths” obsession, this show could use a normal episode that just finds someone murdering someone else without much intelligence involved. Sherlock was back to his old self, doubting the existence of true artificial intelligence and then prodding Bella with questions to test how she might answer them. This episode was chock full of guest stars, starting with Michael Chernus from “Orange is the New Black” and “The Big C” as Bella’s creator who ended up murdered by heavy metal music. His murderers were played by Michael Cristofer, who recently appeared on “Smash” and “Ray Donovan,” and Halley Feiffer from “The Squid and the Whale” and “Gentlemen Broncos.” The most stirring part of this episode came at the very end when Sherlock might normally intimidate someone into confessing, but instead Isaac Pyke proved to be far more devious and villainous that his physical state might suggest, going head-to-head with Sherlock intellectually and calling his bluff on not selling out a fellow addict. We don’t usually get to see Sherlock’s more vulnerable side, and it’s a reassuring sight. It was great, however, to see Watson assume that Sherlock had concocted a plan to get Raza Jaffrey’s Andrew out of her life by pairing him up with a new business in Copenhagen and then, upon realizing that it wasn’t actually his doing, opt to accompany her beau on a vacation rather than let him go or sulk.

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 6, Episode 9 “Lean In” (B+)

This episode was full of momentous moments, most of which were good. Unfortunately, the sole negative one may sour everything. Zeek continued to use Drew as his chauffeur for illicit, Camille-prohibited activities, and finding out that Drew told on him was damaging to their relationship. Camille’s reaction to Zeek’s uber-romantic plan was sweet, and that makes the end of this episode all the more heartbreaking, as Zeek’s health takes a turn for the worse, hopefully in a way that isn’t incapacitating or lethal. I’m never been a big fan of Mark, particularly because Jason Ritter is inconceivably the only actor from this show ever to be nominated for an Emmy, but I think he was used to good effect here, painting a picture for Sarah of where he is in his life and allow her to realize that she’s content with where she is with Hank. Dylan’s parents coming to the school was disastrous to say the least, and it’s great to see that Max managed to come up with a fitting and truthful apology that Dylan warmly accepted before horrifying her parents by calling Max by her chosen nickname for him. And that gets us to Joel and Julia, who seemed ready to be done for good after Julia stormed in with the divorce papers, but maybe that kiss finally did it. With only four episodes left, this show has the potential to pull at many heartstrings and it’s hard to know how happy an ending will actually be in store for viewers at home.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What I’m Watching: A to Z

A to Z: Season 1, Episode 8 “H is for Hostile Takeover” (D-)

Slowly but surely, this show is wringing out all of its charm and becoming entirely unappealing. If Thursday nights were more populated by other comedies, particularly NBC’s far better “Parks and Recreation,” which has been saved for midseason for its final season, I might give up on it, but I feel compelled to stick around. The main problem now is that Zelda is no longer adorable, cast as a drag on Andrew’s individuality with no positive qualities of her own. In turn, that makes Andrew seem like a worthless character, incapable of not being influenced by others, and that’s not how it has to be. Stu up until this point has been all about Zelda except when it means that it’s diminishing his relationship with his best friend, and his hostility to her felt out of place. At the same time, Stephie’s sudden desire to be Andrew’s best friend was puzzling since it doesn’t track with her behavior up until this point, aside from her tendency to latch on to whatever anyone else is doing before giving it up quickly when something more interesting presents itself. I for one had never heard of professional stair climbing and didn’t think it was a real thing, but apparently it is. This show just seems to be going for the lowest common denominator and the easiest plotlines to pull off without having to put any effort into making its characters three-dimensional. It’s disappointing, and I don’t see much hope for the final five episodes of the show that are still slated to air.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 8 “Three Turkeys” (B)

This episode was extremely choreographed, but unlike some of the installments that came before it, it actually worked to pretty decent comedic effect. This was the first Thanksgiving episode of the season that I’ve seen, which may have helped to cast it in a positive light, but there’s no denying the ambitious quality of the setup here as related to the famed giant family holiday. Jay and Gloria’s faked vacation to be able to get away from time with the family was entertaining, and leaving Joe upstairs in the room by himself was the high point of that particular plotline. Cam and Mitchell putting on dresses designed purely to show no reaction from Jay or Gloria was a bit too coordinated, but forcing Lily to carry the backpack that ultimately made her fall on the ground was funny. Phil’s best moments were reacting to the shrunken turkey and the fact that nothing was going right, and I probably could have been done with the seductive-sounding app by about the third or fourth time we heard it. Manny and Haley’s storyline was actually the strongest simply because of how both reacted to it, and my favorite part of the episode was Haley’s quick thinking in figuring out a way to convince the family that it was their idea not to spend Christmas together so that she could go away on a planned trip with her friends. For one of the two dumbest members of the family, sometimes she can be pretty smart sometimes.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy


Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, Episode 11 “Suits of Woe” (B+)

This episode was very deft in its handling of the gradual reveal of Gemma’s actions to the whole world. Everyone in this hour was at the top of their game, but particular credit goes to Charlie Hunnam for realizing Jack’s reaction in an unusually emotive way. It’s stunning to see how he took the news, staying with Abel in his room through the night and then going to see Juice to get the answers he needed. At first, he kept others at bay, and then he came clean with the entire club, taking on the responsibility for all of the collateral damage that occurred as a result of his murder of the innocent Gemma and Juice framed. It seems like Jax, once again returned to his reformer ways, may actually be the one who pays the price for what Gemma did, if the club votes that he should meet Mr. Mayhem, an outcome he seems more than prepared to accept. It’s an instance of rather extraordinary leadership, though it won’t be able to make up for what has already happened. Gemma also seems to realize that her time with Abel and the club is soon over, though she’s running from it instead of facing it head-on. I had the opportunity to participate in a press phone call with Katey Sagal earlier this week in which the actress demonstrated a much different demeanor and attitude about everything, politely answering questions and speculating that Gemma really is doing everything out of love. It’s just a shame that she’s gone crazy, talking to herself and enlisting another person who’s gone off the rails, Juice, to frame a random racial group and spread violence all around Charming and its surroundings.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 8 “Point of Origin” (B+)

Who would have thought that Shaw would have gotten herself identified at her department store job in a scene quite as awesome as this episode’s final moments? As always, I appreciate this show’s ability to multitask, featuring a new episode-specific plotline that tied in to Reese getting to serve as a training officer, and connections to Elias, Dominic, and Samaritan thrown in along the way to tie everything together. It’s always interesting when this show throws the rare curveball of its number actually being the perpetrator, and in this case it was a false positive: Dani was taking pictures of her fellow trainees not because she was trying to take them out but because she was working to identify a traitor among them. Adria Arjona, who is slated to appear in the second season of “True Detective,” handed in a decent performance as the highly motivated Dani, who had trouble suppressing her strong police training, and I look forward to seeing her on HBO’s anthology crime drama. No Root in this episode was a shame, but I’m sure she’ll be back soon enough to help Shaw out of the comprising situation in which she’s found herself, easily identified by Martine thanks to her dogged pursuit and probably realizing that the rest of her underground, irrelevant friends are sure to be put back on the map soon too. We’re barely a third of the way through the season – I can’t even imagine where this consistently reliable show will take us over the course of the rest of its fourth year.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 8 “Things We Bury” (B+)

Is there any denying the maniacal brilliance of Kyle MacLachlan? There’s something about his delivery that just can’t be matched, from his introduction as a doctor to his emotionless review of the fact that he shouldn’t have given himself away by calling Coulson by his first name. It’s very interesting to learn that he’s not just allying himself with Whitehall, but instead positioning him for a painful death as revenge for torturing and killing Skye’s mother. I love the casting of Dichen Lachman, best known for her work on “Dollhouse,” as the woman who managed to touch the obelisk without being destroyed and who didn’t age in the decades of Reinhardt’s incarceration. Seeing the transformation of Reinhardt into Whitehall was informative and worthwhile, and this latest flashback to Agent Carter, coupled with ads on the bottom of the screen for her show’s premiere, make the 1950s post-Hydra world seem like an intriguing place to visit. I enjoyed Coulson giving Skye and Triplett ridiculous errands to do in Hawaii without cracking a smile, and it’s good to see Bobbi and Hunter letting off some steam by jumping back into bed together, a decision they’ll surely regret. Ward’s time spent digging for the well with his brother was unsettling, and though Christian died an offscreen and unglamorous death (is he really dead?), it’s clear that Ward doesn’t possess much emotion and is simply concerned with whatever the best and most logical business deal presented to him is. He’s the perfect ally for Whitehall and a formidable enemy for S.H.I.E.L.D.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl


New Girl: Season 4, Episode 18 “Teachers” (B-)

I have to give this show a higher grade than usual since I did burst out laughing at one point and managed to sneak in a few more hearty chuckles over the course of the episode. The part that really made me laugh was Schmidt’s attempt at doing laundry, mainly because of the determination he expressed to pretend he was doing it right even though he was really just doing ridiculous things to the machine. Winston not understanding how to read a ruler was also relatively funny, and though it wasn’t hilarious, their men’s night spent drinking sangria in a tent was somewhat entertaining and made this bunch considerably more bearable than they have been in a while. Off at her teacher’s convention, Jess was extremely silly in her blatant attempts to ward off any contact with Ryan, and Coach didn’t end up being much help. I could skip all of the preamble involving Jess being forced to touch Ryan and to connect with him, but I’ll admit that it was satisfying to see them share a passionate kiss and to realize that this relationship is headed places that will likely cause Jess many overactive headaches. Coach’s drunken behavior only really served as a way to better showcase Ryan’s angelic nature in Jess’ eyes, but Damon Wayans Jr. does deserve credit for his ability to really dial up the eccentric craziness when he’s called upon to do so. This episode gives me hope that maybe this show might be able to produce some decent installments in the future.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Flash is Born” (B+)

This episode was fun because it had a personal feel to it, with Barry coming face-to-face with a bully from school who, when endowed with powers, opted to use them to become even more of a bully. Having Tony go after Iris first helped root this show in the history that Iris and Barry have shared, and then helped make Barry all the more inspired to get a five point three mile running start to take down the guy who made his life miserable. Barry hasn’t exactly managed to solve the problem of Iris being obsessed with the Streak, though he did at least manage to earn himself his proper moniker. Though it doesn’t help get him Iris, Barry talking to Mike and learning how to fight actually proved productive, and it’s important that they get along since they’re inevitably going to be spending plenty of time together. It’s nice to see that Iris and Barry made up and that they’ll be headed good places in the future. Joe is being awfully enterprising in his search for the metahuman who killed Barry’s father, and his first suspect – Dr. Wells – seems to have exonerated himself, though our knowledge of his future-facing tendencies indicate that he’s probably hiding something. Joe did earn himself a troubling warning in the form of a streak-like visit and a note pinned on his wall that very directly threatened the life of the person he cares most about, which is sure to make him question whether the road he’s traveling is worth it.

Pilot Review: State of Affairs

State of Affairs (NBC)
Premiered November 17 at 10pm

Every season, it usually happens that two very similar shows premiere around the same time. In this case, “Madam Secretary,” a show about a female political player fighting chauvinism around her as she advises the president, got a two-month head start. The crucial difference between the CBS drama starring Tea Leoni and this show is that Katherine Heigl’s Charlie Tucker has the ear of the president already as a trusted confidante and the former fiancée of her late son, and she’s struggling to keep that pipeline open in the face of some secrets that might damage their relationship. As a result of that different setup, Charlie doesn’t have the same appeal as Leoni’s Secretary of State since she hasn’t undergone a major transplantation to her new role. Instead, Charlie is a determined woman who fights hard for what she thinks is right, which involves pissing off more than a few people in the process. This marks Heigl’s return to television after her departure from “Grey’s Anatomy,” and this role is considerably more mature in a way that doesn’t exact suit her. Alfre Woodard, who can adopt any part without much effort, is able to chew her share of scenery, but it’s not the best showcase of her work. This show is far from exciting politically, and the subplot of Charlie covering up CIA secrets related to her fiancée’s murderer being an asset isn’t all that enthralling. I didn’t have high expectations for this show, and, predictably, it didn’t exceed them.

How will it work as a series? Charlie has made her enemies, and she managed to get herself filed and flagged for detainment in the span of the show’s first episode. That doesn’t bode well for her future, especially considering the fact that the President likes her but isn’t particularly warm. At least she’ll be able to execute some solid operations, provided she can stay focused without letting her skeletons distract her from doing her job.
How long will it last? That all depends on NBC’s metrics. The pilot managed to win its timeslot but still fell short of the impressive numbers that “The Blacklist” was pulling in. I think NBC will want to stick with what should still be considered a hit if it can find more than one of them, and this show may actually have a promising future.

C-

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 6 “Chapter Six” (B+)

This episode felt different from the previous five hours, maybe because the narrator is talking less or maybe because the show isn’t headed in a fully expected direction, which is great. I’m most relieved that Petra didn’t end up immediately intimidating Rafael into giving in to her demands, and instead Michael got to be there to smugly help with the arrest, with nothing much coming of it. Jane’s career got to advance in an unfortunate way, as she first ended up as a high school teacher at a catholic school, and then had to have Rogelio’s monster stepdaughters as her students. Jane didn’t waste much time in getting her revenge, and it’s sweet that Rafael was eager to help her by distracting them with his shirtless body. Jane breaking things off with Michael was a surprise, even if it makes sense, and I’m nervous about what he’s going to do when he finds out about that kiss that Jane and Rafael shared at the end of the episode. Xiomara prioritizing her relationship with her daughter and Rogelio’s budding relationship with her over their own romance is thoughtful, and Jane could use a few odds stacked in her favor. Things have changed considerably since Jane first got inseminated, and now we’re looking at Petra being in much more serious trouble than she was before and a dangerous villain who might even transcend the soapy nature of this show in a way that could be very devastating for Rafael and everyone connected to him.

What I’m Watching: The Affair


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

This episode brought in a wholly new plotline that put the central affair on the backburner, throwing it all into question as Noah discovered something surprising about Allison. I wouldn’t have pictured her as a drug dealer, and the way in which she responded to Noah confronting her in both his account and hers of the conversation demonstrated a sense of having accepted it as a necessary evil. Reconsidering that decision later by suggesting to Cole that maybe they should get out of the drug business and sell the farm didn’t go over well, and tensions in that marriage have now gone from uncomfortable to full-on uncommunicative. Helen’s request to Noah to revive their sex life was honest and reasonable, and if only Noah hadn’t let the sour taste of realizing that Allison wasn’t the woman she thought he was inspire him to come home and take the romance out of their lovemaking by acting aggressively and prematurely. Their friendly visitor dropped another hint that Noah is lying to his wife, confirming that he continued the party without him, and it can’t be long before she truly knows that something is going on. Allison driving Martin home after he spent the night on the farm was an instance of this illicit relationship being at risk of being way too out in the open, though it’s hard to top the reckless idiocy of the two of them sneaking into a bathroom together with his daughter in the stall right next door.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom

The Newsroom: Season 3, Episode 2 “Run” (A-)

I’m very pleased to report that this is the best episode this show has produced in a long time, a pleasant reminder of how clever and fantastic this show used to consistently be. This is the kind of writing that Aaron Sorkin is known for, and these actors known really know how to deliver it. I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth between Will and Neal with a bit of Rebecca mixed in, and Mackenzie’s arrival only made things more entertaining. That it ended in such a serious fashion is worrisome but the transition to drama was smooth and effective. It’s great to see Mary McCormack, who starred in the last few seasons of “The West Wing,” as Mackenzie’s FBI friend whose initial advice didn’t end up panning out. I heartily enjoyed Maggie’s train ride back from Boston, mostly because she’s become such a confident reporter but also because of the guest stars: Paul Lieberstein from “The Office” as an EPA official broadcasting personal opinions all over the train and Jimmi Simpson of “Virtuality” as the man who put in headphones for her and then asked for her number. I was also very happy with the casting of Kat Dennings as Reese’s stepsister, who helped give Sam Waterston the best material Charlie has had in a while, and Jane Fonda for that matter too. Sloan and Don’s brunch date was fabulous, and I cracked up at her obsession with the waffles. Their subsequent tricks were entertaining, and this is one terrific power couple that wants to do anything possible not to admit that they have genuine feelings for each other.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 8 “Halfway to a Donut” (B)

I questioned, midway through this episode, where this show was headed when Saul managed to escape and then went running for the hills. It seemed too easy that he could just get away from his captors like that, and hardly realistic that they wouldn’t be keeping a closer eye on him. And then this show let its walls close in on Saul, as Carrie led him through alleys and back doors and convinced him not to end his life long enough to send him straight into the arms of an eager mob of terrorists ready to apprehend him again. Lockhart, to his credit, did a great job of reigning in his temper by episode’s end, but submitting so quickly to all of the demands was a disappointment, and certainly doesn’t benefit Saul. There’s a certain simplicity to the way this show works, with Kahn realizing right away that Dennis is the one leaking information to Tasneem, who he apparently knows is actually working with the terrorists. At least there’s one person in the ISI who is sympathetic to Americans and all that is good, but it may not be enough considering how damaging a blow to the ambassador the news that her husband is a traitor will be. Maybe Carrie in all her operational capability can use that knowledge to their advantage to purposely misdirect their enemies, which could double as a smart tactical move and the perfect revenge for them stooping so low as to mess with her medical cocktails.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 6 “Consumed” (B-)

On the scale of what’s most relevant and exciting on this show right now, watching Carol and Darryl wander through the streets searching aimlessly for Beth does not rank towards the top. I’ve never been a big fan of Carol since she dragged the show down when she was only concerned about Sophia and then didn’t quite fit in when she got all too tough and murderous. Paired with Tyreese, she wasn’t exactly inviting or warm, but at least they functioned well together. That’s certainly true of her and Darryl, who tends to be more interesting when he’s actually talking then when he’s just grunting and shooting his crossbow. Nothing game-changing or shocking came about in this episode, at least for its first two-thirds. Only when Darryl was about to leave Noah to die a vicious death did Carol again become the empathetic one, and the episode didn’t really get revved up until they realized that he knew Beth and could take them to her. The way this show has been recently, we’re not likely to see a rescue mission for a few seasons, but let’s hope that things converge before then and that Beth hasn’t been unduly punished for helping Noah escape and defying Dawn. Seeing the city was definitely a stark reminder of how things are just as bleak in the middle of a former metropolis as they are out on the long, winding road to Terminus or the prison or Hershel’s farm or anywhere else our ragtag band has been over the last few seasons.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 9 “Sticky Content” (C+)

This episode was two-pronged, hardly a surprise these days but still disappointing for a show with an ensemble like this. Cary managed not to get himself into more trouble with the law for the first time in a while, but he did endanger himself in a bold and probably not too intelligent way. It took a while to verify that the tape was in fact authentic, and then it turned out that Bishop wasn’t actually serious about wanting Cary dead. It would be nice if he was more concerned with keeping his former lawyer out of jail, since there’s really no way this ends well. As she pressed Kalinda to be more invested in their relationship, Lana seems to have screwed herself over career-wise after handing over the tape to her pushy girlfriend. Having her personal life aired out by Cary in front of her boss didn’t help matters much. What I can’t believe most is that this show finally referenced its tendency to have characters say “phoned” rather than “called,” something I noted in my review of a season two episode four years ago and have noticed many times since then. On the campaign front, it’s rather appalling to see the stupidity of the attack ads conceived of by the campaigns and the pacs. It seems like the only productive – and truly destructive – thing that came out of it was that both Peter and Alicia think that it’s a good idea to have affairs at this moment, egged on by the other’s insolence.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels


Hell on Wheels: Season 4, Episode 12 “Thirteen Steps” (B-)

This season has featured a few episodes that focused only on one character and drew out their death when it just wasn’t necessary and didn’t serve a more lasting purpose. I suppose that Elam dying led to Cullen realizing that he needed to quit the railroad, but it took Ruth getting hanged for him to actually do it, so I don’t see why both needed an entire episode each. Ruth’s determination to die was puzzling given just how easily she could have prevented it by accepting Governor Campbell’s pardon. Nothing good comes from it since now there will likely be unrest and possibly even violence in Cheyenne as a result of her execution, maybe from more than Mickey and his new enforcer. Ruth was a great character, to be sure, but I think she was at her most interesting when her father and brother were both still alive. Ezra was good for her too, though he’s also been forgotten now since we haven’t seen the Swede or Brigham Young anytime recently. With law enforcement and the church officially without leaders in Cheyenne, law and order is going to break down, and I’m not sure how things will turn out. This show recently got renewed for a final season which will be spread out over two years, so there’s obviously more ground to cover in this ever-changing town. Cullen and Durant have both changed so much over the years, and, along with Mickey and Psalms, they’re now the only characters from the beginning of the show left.

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 1, Episode 9 “Looking Up” (B+)

After a detour into the past that wasn’t fully productive, I’m happy we can return to the present for a much more effective episode. I appreciate this show’s fluid look at sexuality and sexual orientation, but I was especially impressed with this episode and how Ali didn’t just conform to what might have been expected of her. Maura is transgender and Sarah is a lesbian, and Ali was exploring by embarking on a romance with someone who was transgender. Syd’s awkward confession of her feelings after Ali took the news of her history with Josh poorly might have just led to Ali accepting it, but instead things are more complicated, which I think is a result of rich characters. It was good to see Sarah and Len bond as friends in a way that they hadn’t been able to do in a while as spouses, and hopefully that getting along won’t mean obstacles are ahead for her and Tammy. Bianca seemed like she might be a problem for Josh’s budding relationship with Raquel, but they may have gotten past that, and he really does like her. It’s great to see Maura and Shelly getting along so well, particularly after we saw how she took the news of his desire to be transgender so many years ago. Let’s hope Ed gets the peace he may or may not have wanted and that his death can be the perfect way for this family to come together and accept each other for who they all are.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 3 “Just a Regular Irregular” (B+)

This was a much more solid and functional episode than the last two have been, which is reassuring, though the word “maths” was thrown around an awful lot. It was good to see Rich Sommer’s socially awkward mathematician Harlan, who it turns out has a secret identity as Mo Shellshocker, which put him directly in a not-so-lucky lottery winner’s sights and made him the target of a deadly math game. I like that Sherlock decided to call the culprit and identify Mo with his address, putting on his usual fake American accent, but at least he was kind enough to send him to the wrong apartment where the police could apprehend him. Harlan seemed genuinely offended that Sherlock had replaced him with someone else, and to learn that it was because he didn’t want to be social with him as a friend was a reasonable and welcome return to the Sherlock we’ve come to know on this show and not the inconsistent character we’ve seen recently. Watson helping Sherlock convince Kitty that she should go to a support group for rape victims was kind, and it’s good to see that her advice is being accepted. Watson had an awkward and boundary-crossing run-in with Sherlock when he stopped by her new apartment and introduced himself to Watson’s new boyfriend, played by Raza Jaffrey, who is also spending time in Pakistan at the moment on “Homeland.” He didn’t seem fazed by meeting Sherlock, and he may actually be a good influence and a sincere improvement over Mycroft.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 6, Episode 8 “Aaron Brownstein Must Be Stopped” (B+)

I had the rare experience of talking to a friend about this show, a feat in itself, but more notable because it was before I had seen this episode. She was disappointed by the inconsistency of characters appearing in every episode and also didn’t see the point of Hank being featured without Sarah since he’s not a Braverman. I do wonder how this season might have played out differently if the whole cast had been present, but the plot could easily have been the same and just divided among multiple episodes. Regarding Hank, I don’t mind it since I think he’s actually a terrific character who’s grown a lot, thanks mostly to his relationship with a Braverman other than Sarah – Max. The former class president had a tough hour, first trying to get his main competition for Dylan’s affections expelled and then putting himself out there and getting shot down by Dylan, who, to her credit, was trying as hard as possible not to be mean. It’s important that not everything ends positively and sunnily on this show, but hopefully it can end up being a good driving force for Max rather than a crushing defeat. In panicking about his financial situation and his pride, Crosby ended up being a strong support system for Amber, who in turn made sure to tell her brother that he didn’t have to support the family all on his own. There are just five episodes left this season, which doesn’t tell us much since some characters might be absent from an installment or two, but I’m eager to see how these stories wrap up even though it will be sad to say goodbye to these characters.

What I’m Watching: A to Z

A to Z: Season 1, Episode 7 “G is for Geronimo” (D+)

Maybe I shouldn’t stick with this show through its final episode. What I’ve realized is that our formerly beloved protagonists, who were really the only reason to watch the show, have lost a great deal of their chemistry. In this episode, Andrew was out of touch as usual with how Zelda really felt about the given topic of the week, which in this case was her theoretical music career, and Zelda was distant because she didn’t want to open herself up and be vulnerable to having to question her life choices. To say that the honeymoon period is over isn’t accurate since they’re still happy, but the magic is gone, and not in a way that feels appropriate because it’s true to life. I’m not sure that Stephie being slightly clever and deceiving Stu qualifies them as even, but if it can make them even a little bit more bearable, I suppose that’s progress. Howard discovering that Lydia is actually nice and it has nothing to do with her getting drunk was surprisingly a step up from other Lydia plotlines, but not by much. My main question of the episode is how Andrew can be so inept as to share his entire music library with the company and everyone else there can so easily find the music and know where it is. One would think he’d have more technological knowledge but also that he’d have a big enough library that it would be hard for everyone in multiple companies to listen to the same song while they’re in the middle of a work day theoretically doing work.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 7 “Queer Eyes, Full Hearts” (B-)

This episode was better than many recent episodes since it didn’t try too hard on most fronts and actually offered compelling and half-believable plotlines. The only problem was that it wasn’t funny, which is a shame since it did seem to be a step in the right direction. We didn’t see Luke and Alex’s sleepless studying didn’t do much, but the rest of the Dunphy clan was being used quite well. It makes perfect sense that Andy would spend a lot of time freaking out about asking Phil to be his assistant, and I like that Haley managed to get her mother off her back by telling her that they were having sex, which of course led to disappointment for both parents when Andy announced that he had a girlfriend. Haley has already become a certain kind of character, and it’s best that she be put to use in a role like that of an assistant for a catty fashion designer, one who happens to be played by the great Michael Urie, whose big role on “Ugly Betty” found him playing an assistant in the fashion world. It’s good to hear Gloria speak up about something serious for once, and it’s sweet that Jay tried to learn Spanish so that he too can sound like an idiot. Cam being Cam and focusing only on himself for his gay coach profile wasn’t a surprise, but I liked that he went to the courtroom and then did his very best to inaccurately summarize Mitchell’s case to give him the recognition and publicity he deserved.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy


Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, Episode 10 “Faith and Despondency” (B+)

Every week, I ask myself whether the violence on this show is really necessary. I didn’t need to see Moses’ eye ripped out and then hanging off of his face, or to watch his fingers being cut off and then dwell on them severed on the ground. It’s all in the service of demonstrating the lengths SAMCRO is willing to go, and the fact that they’re being much more systematic about their revenge, doing to Moses exactly what he did to Bobby and then executing him moments later. Tig did the same thing with the Aryan Brotherhood member who insulted Venus, and there’s just more bloodshed at every turn. Fortunately, things seem to have leveled off, with Tully and Marks the only loose ends left to take care of with their entire crews decimated. Though it represented his first kill, it’s a good thing that Unser could be depended upon to save Eglee’s life. I do want to make mention of this show’s unexpected opening sequence, which saw each of the club members having sex. This show has always been gratuitous, but usually with violence and not sex. I think it did serve a purpose, especially since Chibs and Tig revisited their complicated relationships later in the episode when their current lovers tried to break things off, but it was still a bit shocking. Abel’s lie was disturbing, and it was all building to that big revelation that came at the very end of the episode. We just have to hope that Jax handles it well and that no one else has to die as a part of it.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 7 “Honor Among Thieves” (B+)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Like its characters, this show has an uncanny ability to evolve even before it needs, constantly compounding its universe and storylines in a magnificent way when they’re already excellent as they are. I remember how excited and impressed I was with the installment that introduced Shaw and her late partner as the “relevant” side of things, and now we got to see a new team, which includes Theodora Woolley as Brooks, the by-the-book order-follower, and Nick Tarabay, a very familiar TV faces who has appeared on “Spartacus” and “Believe,” as Devon, the more human of the two who doesn’t always think strictly logically and procedurally. What I love is that, worrisome as it is for our characters, his deletion of the recording that showed him letting Shaw go was exactly what tipped Samaritan to reexamine the footage and spot Shaw. Though their cover identities have been fun, I think returning to an all-out intelligence war could be productive. I enjoyed watching – and hearing – Shaw work her way through every double entendre imaginable with Tomas, who was a terrific number. Listening to Root provide commentary for Shaw and the two of them interact at the end reminded me of just how far these two – both originally antagonists – have come on this great show and what fabulous additions they’ve both been. Carter grew on me as the show developed, but when an episode barely even features Reese, Finch, and Fusco and works tremendously, the credit needs to be given to the deserving players.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 7 “The Writing on the Wall” (B)

Whatever I might say about this show, there is an awful lot going on and it’s not an easy thing to manage. We didn’t see Dr. Whitehall or Skye’s father or General Talbot in this hour, and yet quite a lot of ground was covered. An old plotline was also unearthed, as T.A.H.I.T.I. suddenly reemerged and showed a side just as dark as that first time that we saw Coulson with his brain exposed begging to die. The focus on the other revived agents brought two notable sci-fi guest stars, Brian Van Holt and Joel Gretsch. Holt, who just wrapped a recurring stint on FX’s unfortunately cancelled “The Bridge” and appeared a while ago in one of the best sci-fi shows I’ve seen, “Threshold,” was the vicious carver who went around torturing his former colleagues. Gretsch, who was on “The 4400,” a show I haven’t actually watched, and played a priest on “V,” didn’t have nearly as much to do as the family man who couldn’t remember his past and pretty much walked away from the spy life when given the opportunity to return. The home team really has grown in a positive way, with enough people around both not to know anything about T.A.H.I.T.I. and to be able to tail Ward without him recognizing them. That didn’t work out too well, of course, but at least it’s good to see that Ward is being put to good use as a formidable nemesis for S.H.I.E.L.D. who seems to be more interested in exacting revenge on those who have recently wronged him than with aligning himself with Hydra.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl


New Girl: Season 4, Episode 7 “Goldmine” (C+)

This episode was decently enjoyable, but I just wish that this once-hilarious show would try a bit harder. Schmidt spent an entire episode talking in purposely ambiguous language about Cece’s breasts, something that might have been funny for a moment but proved to be overwhelming for the whole half-hour, especially since it managed to create two very misunderstood scenes that, at least in the moment, worked out well for the rest of our characters. I’m not sure how long we have to wait for Schmidt and Cece to get back together, and I find myself yearning for the days when Cece had to dress as unattractively as possible so that she wouldn’t hurt Schmidt’s broken penis. Nick pretending to be gay resulted in a few laughs but wasn’t worth wasting an episode, and Ian didn’t add anything either. Coach losing patience at Winston’s long game was the first instance in a long time of Winston getting a plotline that didn’t have to do with him being a cop. That said, I find it hard to believe that, with all the time he had been spending with his neighbors, he wouldn’t have told them about his occupation and that they would believe that he sold socks. With all the lies, things worked out somewhat well for the two men who were awkwardly described in Schmidt’s ode to Cece’s chocolate breasts. I do hope that we’ll see more of the ladies down the hall since this show can use some supporting characters who might bring it back to a tolerable place.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 5 “Plastique” (B+)

This was an important first for Barry and for this show, as reiterated a number of times during the episode: a metahuman who wasn’t hellbent on using her powers for evil. Instead, Bette Sans Souci was awfully reminiscent of a famous Marvel superhero, Rogue, whose destructive and uncontrollable abilities are triggered with just a touch. It’s crucial for Barry to remember that there is good in the world, though every loss of life, particularly hers after he made sure she wouldn’t sacrifice herself, is devastating to him and chips away at his optimistic outlook. Right before she died, Bette didn’t offer enough of a clue to Barry that it was the seemingly harmless Dr. Wells who put her up to taking out her former commanding officer, and that his intentions are far more devious and malicious than anyone suspects. I was glad to see Clancy Brown, who I remember from “The Shawshank Redemption” and his formidable stint on “Carnivale,” as General Wade Elling, who has a checkered past with Dr. Wells and seems to be well beyond ethics in the pursuit of what he sees as protecting his country. I’m not too familiar with DC mythology, but one quick trip to Google confirmed that Grodd the gorilla is likely to make a return appearance as something other than a metahuman that will prove to be a nemesis for the Flash. This show has managed to be campy and dramatically sound at the same time, which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 5 “Chapter Five” (B+)

This hasn’t exactly been a relaxing pregnancy for Jane, who is devastated on a regular basis with revelations about how things in her life are not nearly as stable as they seem. She started the hour off furious at her mother for keeping her father from her for so many years, and then had a few awkward meetings with dear old dad that didn’t go too smoothly because he was either working way too hard to impress her or trying to defend her mother’s actions. Rafael broke the news that he and Petra were getting divorced and that he wanted to raise the baby alone, and then, just when things were going well with Michael, she found out that he had known about Petra’s affair and covered up the fact that Jane would be giving the baby to an unstable couple. Michael is far from this show’s most likeable character, but I don’t see this being a big enough deal in the long run for it to ruin their relationship. Rafael was relatively diplomatic about his divorce from Petra, and it’s a shame that she and her mother have resorted to dirty tricks to complicate Rafael’s life. Disgusting Tom was a short-lived character, one who managed to live up to his name almost instantly, and now he’s the second person to die in the hotel in a very short period of time. Rafael’s career looks ready to crumble around him, and I’m curious to see whether Jane will be on his side when everyone rallies against him.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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

The Newsroom: Season 3, Episode 1 “Boston” (B)

Now here’s a show that it’s an incomparable experience to watch, and we may as well get it while we can given that the show is ending for good after a mere six episodes this season. It’s been over a year since the show finished its second season, and, in typical fashion, this show fast-forwards to a monumental event in the history of news, the Boston Marathon bombings. Watching the team learn pieces of information and deliberately decide to hold off on their reporting for fear of making another wrong call is certainly interesting, and it’s made tensions in the newsroom quite high. There’s an awful lot happening in terms of the dynamics of the team and their overseers, but the most significant is Dev receiving classified documents and apparently being unintentionally complicit in their theft. Let’s hope that things turn out alright for him. I guess it doesn’t matter what the leaked secrets pertain to, which should give the show time to focus on a mix of real news and fictional people problems. Reese is going to need some help from Sloane in maintaining the reigns of his corporation, while the show seems headed for certain cancellation, if not the network itself. In brighter news, exercise maven Maggie seems to be doing better, capable of reporting live on camera when Elliott hilariously ate walnuts, and it’s good to see at least one person in a better place than when we left them. Fortunately, Will and Mackenzie’s wedding planning is a source of thorough entertainment.

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 7 “Redux” (B)

Carrie off her meds is not a reassuring sight. She’s frantic and unpredictable enough when she is fully focused due to her careful regimen of pills, and now that her dosage has been tampered with without her knowledge, she’s lost it completely. It didn’t take long for her to get taken in, but, predictably, it was Aasar Kahn, her one ally in ISI, who had orchestrated events to make sure that Carrie ended up in his custody rather than rotting in prison. I’m sure that many other viewers felt the same way I did when they saw Brody come downstairs, thinking for a moment that this show had completely jumped the shark, expecting us to believe that Brody had somehow defied death and that bringing him back now would make the show stronger. Learning that it was just Carrie hallucinating and that Damian Lewis had been convinced to come make an impactful cameo at least didn’t feel like a stretch, but it’s still distracting to see life how Carrie sees it rather than to see events play out as they are really happening. This show has always portrayed terrorism on a very one-on-one human level, first with Abu Nazir and now with Haqqani and Saul having heart-to-hearts about the ethics of their behavior, with Saul saving the news that he’s Jewish for just the right moment. Despite Lockhart’s aggressive behavior, I can’t imagine that Saul is doomed, but it would be awfully helpful if Martha would resign and get her duplicitous husband out of Pakistan as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Affair


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

A return to the rest of the ensemble definitely proved productive in this episode since it showed us important and problematic components of both main characters’ home lives. I like that this episode continued in the format of presenting continuous stories rather than repeating the same events from a different perspective while still shaking it up by switching who gets to go first. What that permitted was the first of two shots of our protagonists waking up in bed with their actual spouse, starting with Allison feigning fatigue only to be caught getting dressed up by Cole only a few minutes later after she got out of bed the moment he left. Allison’s familial crisis was the arrival of her mother, whose effervescent attitude seems to annoy Allison greatly and doesn’t go over too well with Cole either. Athena was awfully quick to conclude that Allison and Noah were having an affair, and she’s not the only one. Running into Oscar while he was waiting for AAA was very unfortunate, and freaking out at him when he stopped by his home didn’t help the situation at all. Hearing what Whitney did is disconcerting, but not nearly as much as how the Butler family reacted to it, with Bruce immediately assuming that she must be after his money. Noah and Helen’s marriage is definitely deteriorating, and this didn’t help the situation at all.

In related news, this show has been picked up for a second season!

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 5 “Self Help” (B)

So much for seeing what came next for Beth and Carol, or even for returning to the church. Instead, we got an hour devoted to the drive to D.C., which unfortunately didn’t make it very far due to some internal sabotage. Eugene’s revelation that he isn’t actually a scientist couldn’t be any more devastating, particularly because he seemed like such a beacon of intellectual hope ready to rid the world of this terrible walker plague. You’d think he would have at least wanted to keep his cool until they made it to the nation’s former capital since either they would find an actual scientific institution or the lack of one would get him off the hook. Instead, they’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, and this news really broke Abraham, who was deserted by his family early on, as we learned in the flashbacks. Not much else was revealed during this episode, and now we have the group splintered again, with little hope of being reunited since everyone is headed in different directions. This show was already renewed for a sixth season ahead of its fifth season premiere, but I sincerely doubt that our ragtag gang will get back together anytime before then. The real question is what’s next for this crew, since D.C. still seems like an ideal destination in my mind, but I think they’ve lost the drive that was propelling them to make it there. Hopefully Glenn and Maggie can rally the troops to press on to some hope of salvation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 6, Episode 8 “Red Zone” (C)

Alicia’s candidacy is proceeding along at a rate that hardly feels urgent but also feels distracting from the main legal focus of the show, though I’m not too pleased with the latest developments in Cary’s case either. Castro dropping out of the race was presented as a footnote in a recording at the end of the episode, which is another instance of this show investing in building up a character and then just dismissing them outright when something showier – namely a more prominent guest star – comes along (see Peter’s recent election for support). The familiar face of this hour was Madeleine Martin, who played precocious daughter Becca on “Californication,” as Owen’s student who was having a difficult time proving the guilt of her rapist. Her desire to let it go once he got expelled while Alicia pressed her to lead the class-action suit was emblematic of how lawyers often want to fight more than their clients, as shown a few episodes back with the neighboring farmers. Cary getting coached on how to be a normal witness was fine even if it continues to drag on this case forever, but I don’t like Kalinda tiptoeing around Lana and spying for Bishop. It doesn’t suit her character, and I don’t think anyone wants a repeat of the abusive husband plotline, so Kalinda should really get back to her legal work and away from her extracurricular activities. She’s at her best when she’s doing good work and only casually romancing people, not spending all of her time with one or more of them.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels


Hell on Wheels: Season 4, Episode 11 “Bleeding Kansas” (B)

This show took a few weeks off for the month of October and now it’s back with a somewhat unexpected installment in the wake of Ruth’s shooting of Sidney Snow at the end of the last episode. I had assumed that Sidney was dead, but instead we got one of the show’s more retrospective hours, where Cullen and Durant tried desperately to keep the miscreant alive so that Ruth wouldn’t have to face execution for killing a man. Sidney managed to be despicable right up to the bitter end, grabbing Cullen’s gun and trying to shoot him and then attempting to crawl out the window just moments before he ultimately died. It was jarring to see Reverend Cole, who we haven’t seen since midway through the second season, letting himself be ruled by his full fanatic fury, beheading slaveowners and purporting to be doing the lord’s work. It was worthwhile to see how Ruth was shaped to do good by seeing what he did, but it didn’t resonate quite the way I might have hoped it would. Louise, on the other hand, summed the situation up perfectly, noting that she had seen too many people do horrible things in the name of God to believe that he existed. Governor Campbell may have to contend with Mickey’s angry, eye-popping cousin, but that’s not going to stop him from wielding his judiciary ax and ensuring that Ruth pay for her crime, even if not a single person in Cheyenne thinks that she should be considered guilty.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 1, Episode 8 “Best New Girl” (B-)

Normally, I’m all for flashbacks, especially when they come at the end of a season right before or after a cataclysmic event (see “The Leftovers” for a very effective instance of that earlier this season). But in this case, taking away all our familiar faces aside from Mort and Mark right after an episode that left the family splintered and Maura devastated by her family’s lack of support at her show didn’t have the desired effect. What we’re waiting to find out is what happened with Mort and Mark that made it so that going to big conventions years ago didn’t translate into Mort coming out earlier. In this case, we had a bit of alienation as Mort bonded with someone else and left Mark to his own devices, and then Mort making the questionable move not to change back into male clothing when they left the safety of the retreat. I was pleased to see Michaela Watkins, who is great at playing crazy but here toned it down perfectly, as Connie, a woman more than open to spending time with men who chose to dress as women. Her character seems like a true rarity, though I think that Shelly is relatively open to it as well even though she didn’t take it seriously for many years. Seeing snippets of the three kids as younger people wasn’t as enticing as seeing their older selves, though a young Ali defiantly performing her Bat Mitzvah portion to a random visitor from memory was definitely intriguing. I hope that the final two episodes of the season get back to the more pressing issues in the present.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 2 “The Five Orange Pipz” (B-)

My enthusiasm for this show is quickly dwindling, but I hope that’s just because it’s off to a slow late start. I’m not impressed with Kitty, who had to be crafted as this unlikely successor to Watson as Sherlock’s other half but actually has a deeper backstory that involves a dark past which she has just barely been able to overcome. The main problem I have with her is that her presence is changing Sherlock into a wholly different person, since he surely would have been the one to directly accuse an AUSA of corruption to her face instead of scolding her for such a brazen and bold move. At least Sherlock and Watson are working together somewhat well, which makes things easier, even if the rest of the members of their team need some improvement in that area. This episode featured two guest stars recognizable from sci-fi and fantasy roles. Sonya Walger, who appeared on “Lost” and “Flash Forward,” among other things, was the AUSA who didn’t stand for Kitty’s blunt accusations, and Zak Orth, who played Aaron on “Revolution,” was the father eager to take credit for a murder he didn’t commit so that he might have some hope of winning his wife back. This case started off as extremely interesting, but the resolution was far from startling. I want to be excited about this show again, and I think it needs a fresh and fascinating case, plus a decent recurring storyline to mirror Moriarty in season one, to jump start it again.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What I’m Watching: Parenthood

Parenthood: Season 6, Episode 7 “These Are the Times We Live In” (B+)

In our weekly missing character count, we have no Adam, Kristina, Crosby, Jasmine, or Camille, but that gave us plenty of time to focus on everyone else in the family. Amber babysitting Max and Nora wasn’t necessarily a good idea, and it didn’t help that Max blatantly told her that she would be a terrible mother before indulging in an all-out sugar fest in protest of not being able to go to Alcatraz. Fortunately, Sarah swooped in at just the right moment to help her daughter realize that being a parent isn’t something automatic and that she’s actually much more qualified for the job than she thinks. It was great to see Hank speak his mind with Sandy and take responsibility for the failure of their marriage, and he even got to have a little bonding moment with his ex-wife and his daughter, which unfortunately meant that Sarah got left out after being the impetus for the family reconciliation. Drew’s still unsure of what he wants to do with his life, but at least he has Natalie encouraging him to compromise his undetermined morals and go shoot guns with his thrill-seeking grandfather. Watching the latest and most finite chapter of Julia and Joel’s relationship unfold was heart-wrenching, and Joel’s conversation with Zeek was pretty tough. It certainly seems like Julia is ready to move on, but I suspect that Joel’s effort won’t end up being fully in vain. It would be sweet if they got back together, and this show doesn’t seem to be too averse to a happy ending.