Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #1

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#1: Fargo



Adapting a wildly unique and highly-acclaimed film could have turned out poorly, but this ended up being the year’s best new offering. It managed to match the tone of the film while telling a story different enough to be worthwhile, with terrific turns all around, from Martin Freeman (a dead ringer for William H. Macy in so many ways), Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks, Allison Tolman, and everyone else. This anthology series, which was termed a miniseries but will return for a mostly unrelated second season, was unsettling, unnerving, and unforgettable, making the utmost use of its snowy landscapes to assist its storytelling.

Best Episode: “Morton’s Fork
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #2

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#2: The Leftovers



HBO’s drama about the aftermath of the rapture could have been hokey and preachy, and it turns out that it’s anything but. Instead, this is easily the most devastating program on television, using magnetic characters and their awful circumstances to demonstrate the power of connection and the irreversible nature of loss. The show’s cult, The Guilty Remnant, is one of its most interesting elements, and Ann Dowd delivered one of this year’s most haunting performances as their silent, unforgiving leader.

Best Episode: “The Garveys at Their Best
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #3

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#3: Jane the Virgin



I never thought I’d enjoy this show at all, and certainly nowhere near as much as I do. This series has managed to transcend its gimmicky premise and become a full-fledged telenovela parodying itself on a regular basis. The whole cast is superb, and Gina Rodriguez is a wonderful lead. This is not what I would expect from the CW, and the network’s twin Golden Globe nominations for this show demonstrate that, due to this show and #4 on my list, a forgotten network may just be making a comeback.

Best Episode: “Chapter Seven
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Monday, December 29, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Affair (Season Finale)


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 12 (B+)

It wasn’t easy to predict where this show would leave things off at the close of its first season, and I think that how everything played out makes a strong case for this show earning a second season since it obviously has a compelling story to tell. The aftermath of both our protagonists leaving their spouses wasn’t particularly pretty, as Noah got put on leave due to some indecent behavior and just slept around to keep himself occupied and Allison tried living alone and found that it was predictably lonely and alienating. Helen seemed quite ready to reconcile with Noah, and then they turned back into a parenting team while confronting their daughter about her affair with Scotty, with a few remnants of the time spent apart coming out of the woodwork in the process. Allison calling to tell Noah that his daughter was at his house was a shock, and things certainly didn’t go well out there in either recollection of events. Filling in how Allison came to be at the house demonstrated why this show’s format really works since it helped to account for a lot of the tension in the house leading up to Noah’s arrival, which prompted some sincere aggression from Helen, who has no qualms about sharing her feelings bluntly. Flashing forward to the damning revelation of Noah incriminating himself and getting arrested was compounded by the shock value of Noah and Allison living together. I’m eager to see how that comes about in season two since I think this has been a very strong first season highlighting great charactres.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Dominic West and Ruth Wilson

What I’m Watching: Homeland (Season Finale)


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 12 “Long Time Coming” (B-)

This episode wasn’t as worrisome as the hour before it since it actually legitimized its shocking twist pretty easily, but it felt awfully bureaucratic for a season that’s been very much right in the middle of the action. It makes sense that Carrie would have to go home for her father’s funeral, but that meant that none of the episode actually took place in Pakistan, and we had to settle for seeing Tasneem being interviewed as an unapologetic fanatic on television as our only connection to the country that served as the setting for most of this season. Adal being in Haqqani’s car because he went there to broker a deal to save the U.S. and Saul from embarrassment isn’t so crazy, but it feels like a sell-out, one that makes everything that happened this season worthless. There was something to seeing Carrie, Saul, Quinn, and Lockhart sitting around drinking after the funeral, but shouldn’t Quinn have been furious to know that he couldn’t find and kill Haqqani, even if he wasn’t privy to the news that Adal had all but granted him a pardon? Carrie storming off after she found Saul casually sitting outside Adal’s home doesn’t suggest much about the state of national security and the work the CIA does except for that there are always deals to be made. There’s a point to be made here but it’s hardly thrilling. This season was an improvement over the show’s third year but hardly the return to quality of the first two seasons that it seemed like it might be.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Nimrat Kaur as Tasneem

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #4

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#4: The Flash



I stuck with “Smallville” for ten years hoping it would return to the quality of its first two seasons, and I’m pleased to report that the first half of this show’s freshman season is already leagues better than that series ever was. Grant Gustin is fantastic as the optimistic Barry Allen, who treats his new powers as the coolest thing ever to happen to him. So far, the show has avoided become too cartoonish or repetitive, and its spirit of adventure is by far its best asset.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #5

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#5: Transparent



Amazon burst onto the television scene in a big way with the first of four shows that will make up its second-year class. Its extremely clever title is just the tipping point of its creativity, and its story is absolutely enthralling. Jeffrey Tambor delivers a mesmerizing performance as a father who starts publicly embracing the conflicted sexuality he has felt his whole life, and there is enormous support from the cast, particularly Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Gaby Hoffman as his/her adult children.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #6

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#6: The Affair


Showtime’s latest offering took two British actors – Dominic West and Ruth Wilson – and cast them as malcontent people whose shaky relationships with their own spouses drew them closer to each other. This show’s format lends itself to very different perspectives from the two protagonists, which is fascinating, and its story took some very compelling turns as it wrapped up its first season.

Best Episode: “Episode Seven
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Friday, December 26, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #7

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#7: Married


FX’s other new comedy took a fresh and funny look at marriage with a couple played by Nat Faxon and Judy Greer, whose deadpan abilities are truly terrific. Their antics may not be highly original, but there’s something about the way they play out that makes this show immensely appealing. Jenny Slate and Paul Reiser help with that too in the supporting cast.

Best Episode: “The Getaway
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #8

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



One of FX’s two new comedies was this unexpectedly sensitive and hilarious show about two truly awful people who end up as the perfect pair for each other, each so depraved that they may just be able to make it together. Series star Aya Cash is a particularly terrific reason to watch this series, which will move to FXX for its second season next year.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #9

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



Initially, I wasn’t fond of HBO’s new serial drama, but when I came back to watch the whole series after it received a handful of Emmy nominations, I found myself quickly getting into it thanks to its dark nature and the compelling performances from stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Michelle Monaghan. HBO’s venture into this new format should prove very productive as the anticipation for season two, which will feature an all-new cast and storyline, is already very high.

Best Episode: “The Secret Fate of All Life”
Pilot Review

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #10

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



HBO’s latest comedy aired just seven episodes but managed to win over Emmy and Golden Globe voters, earning nominations from both organizations for Best Comedy Series. After an uncertain start, this tech show did manage to find its footing, thanks to an entertaining cast and a very relevant storyline. Christopher Evan Welch, who passed away least year, was the show’s standout, but it seems that the rest of the cast has done well enough to anchor a second season if the show’s strongest installment, its cleverly-titled finale, is any indication.

Best Episode: “ Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #11

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



This British HBO import didn’t exactly roll out in dramatic fashion, airing its six episodes two at a time over the course of three weeks. It was fun – and by that I mean incredibly awkward – to see Emily Mortimer play a version of herself unable to see how she treated her best friend turned assistant, who of course went out of her way to make every situation as uncomfortable as possible. Doll and Em will be back for a second round, and while it’s not the most inventive show with people playing themselves that the UK has made, it is enjoyable and worth watching.

Best Episode: “Episode 1
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #12

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



The Sundance Channel followed up its highly acclaimed original series “Rectify” with this six-episode show with two equally interesting protagonists, both of whom had dark pasts and plenty to hide. Julianne Nicholson and Jason Mamoa were the real reasons to watch this eerie drama, which earned a second season and should have the opportunity to delve into more of its mysteries next year.

Best Episode: “Snaring of the Sun
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Monday, December 22, 2014

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 8 “End of Watch” (B-)

I’m really going back and forth on this show week to week. It’s never all that bad, but this episode was a rather slow moving and unengaging hour, focusing too much on a side of Sherlock that we don’t often see that doesn’t seem to jive with the rest of who he is as a person. Sherlock’s one sincere vice is his struggle with drug addiction, and it’s been a difficult process for him to talk about that. It doesn’t seem entirely plausible that someone would pay close enough attention to every word he said to write a blog with frequent posts directly quoting him, and the way that it played out didn’t speak to me. It is nice to see that Kitty has her mentor’s back and that she’s ready to go after him and force him to take down the blog but for the resistance of Sherlock, determined to take care of a private matter himself. The plot of this episode seems particularly poorly-timed with the tragic events that unfolded in New York City yesterday, though this seems almost simple in comparison to the complexity of the race issues at play in real life. The use of the murders as a diversion, and especially the second shooting following the revelation of the first victim’s addiction-driven activities, makes their deaths seem trivial, and I suspect that, had this episode aired today or yesterday rather than late last week, CBS would have opted to pull it for fear of truly terrible associations.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Cold War” (B)

The idea of two machines talking to each other through human manifestations of themselves is certainly appealing, but practically speaking I don’t think it played out all that well. Making a little kid a mouthpiece for highly pretentious talk about playing god and other such endeavors is a risky move and one that did not in this case pay off. I also like Root when is motivated by the machine rather than completely guided by it in terms of her speech, and this didn’t present the best opportunity for that. It was intriguing to show the backstory of Greer’s career, as he discovered that there really was no such thing as loyalty back in the 1970s and that inspired him to burn his treacherous boss and go rogue to right the injustices of the world. He’s definitely come a long way, ready to wreak havoc on New York City and seemingly on a larger scale than just the island, using Samaritan to demonstrate human fallibility. Samaritan’s “desire,” if it can be called that, to exterminate the machine is worrisome, but something tells me that this show would come to a swift end if our team didn’t have the machine looking out for it and Samaritan ruled the world. The crime rate spike in the episode kept both Fusco and Reese busy as they pursued their real-world jobs as cops, and it’s only going to get more intense as Samaritan is purposeful about who it gets killed and who it decides to save.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #13

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



This TNT thriller started out like ABC’s recent “Last Resort” and then fell prey to the same things that brought down this show. Chronicling the aftermath of a virus that killed a large percentage of the world’s population and following the vessel with the best hope of finding a cure was most interesting when it looked at how humanity – and not just the ship – acted in the new world. The finale was the best episode of the season, giving hope that maybe this show can be more focused and consistently enthralling in season two.

Best Episode: “No Place Like Home
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 14 New Shows of 2014: #14

My annual TV Awards, the AFT Television Awards, are given out during the summer. But this year, during both the spring and the fall, produced many impressive new television series. As 2014 closes out and 2015 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.



This show ranks last on this list because I only have on frame of reference: the pilot. I used to watch and enjoy the first two series in this franchise, and I wasn’t surprised to like this New Orleans-set version, with Scott Bakula, Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan, and CCH Pounder adding some local flavor. It’s not a series I felt like I needed to watch, but the pilot was definitely enjoyable.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pilot Review: Ascension

Ascension (Syfy)
Premiered December 15 at 9pm

It won’t take much more than the news of Tricia Helfer starring in a new show on Syfy to get me excited for a project, but of course I’m bound to be disappointed. The “Battlestar Galactica” star hasn’t had much luck finding a reliable project since her show ended (though I did enjoy her stint on “Burn Notice”), and now she’s back to her home network on what could be considered a miniseries but, like all such formats these days, may well be brought back for a second round. She’s not actually the lead on this show, an honor which arguably goes to Brian Van Holt, also a star of one of my favorite sci-fi shows, “Threshold,” which didn’t live long. The concept behind this series is excellent: that there was a scientific mission sent into space in the 1960s headed for a new planet which might be able to sustain life on a hundred-year mission. The inconsistencies are great and grievous, unfortunately, namely that fashion has somehow kept up with the times enough that people appear to be dressed in a current style but they still watch old movies and have to go to the library to figure out how to solve crimes. The communication with Earth is also a question, since obviously the lines are open enough for them to realize that they’re headed nowhere and that the Earth may not actually be in need of saving. The twist at the end of the first installment is a big one that throws it all into question, since they’re not actually in space but instead part of some massive century-long experiment. I suppose that seems more feasible than real space travel, but it’s still a lot to believe. Predictably, the show falls prey to the trappings of any thriller, favoring sex-ridden subplots and intrigue over compelling futuristic scientific developments. I would have liked to enjoy this show, but this didn’t even wet my appetite for a second viewing.

How will it work as a series? Since it’s designed as an “event series” airing over just three nights, the idea is that it may be a closed loop. I’m not going to tune in for the rest of it, so I don’t know where it will go, but it’s probable that it’s headed towards an explosive conclusion that could lead to a second season but also serve to wrap it up, filled mainly with melodrama and betrayal rather than solid sci-fi.
How long will it last? That’s the question. I haven’t agreed much with Syfy recently on what it does and doesn’t want, but I think that limited series being picked up is the hot thing right now, so Syfy might well want to bring this back for another round. I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s a possibility.

C

Friday, December 19, 2014

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 9 “Chapter Nine” (B+)

This episode got a bit more into true soap territory, with Michael thinking that Rafael might be Sin Rostro, Petra’s dark past revealed, and Petra’s mother pushing poor Alba down the stairs after she saw their hostage. Ultimately, though, it was everything else in this episode that drove it, as Jane and Rafael graduated from their honeymoon period into the real world as they argued about how to confront their latest problem, a dramatic and manipulative Petra trying to exert control and get custody of the baby. Her tactics didn’t serve her well, as her secret soon came to light, but it does seem more and more that she may just be a victim of circumstance and not the villain she’s often portrayed to be. Her mother, on the other hand, who doesn’t appear to be so wheelchair-bound, is definitely evil, and that doesn’t bode well for her quick-thinking hostage who is hilariously trying to escape by watching Rogelio’s show and listening to how he escaped his bonds. Rogelio losing his big award to the rival who considers him a father despite the fact that they’re the same age was appropriately humbling, and it’s nice to see that he continues to do kind things for Xiomara, though I think she’s earned something good happening to her of her own volition without her baby daddy pulling the strings. Michael is definitely grasping at straws trying to take down Rafael, and though I’m sure Rafael isn’t an innocent as he claims to be, Michael’s brother’s tip panned out very poorly in a way that is sure to have a negative impact on Michael’s standing with Jane.

What I’m Watching: The Affair


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 9 (A-)

It’s impressive that this show has been able to deliver some of its finest episodes after the summer, recounting the aftermath of this affair and how much of a lingering impact it’s had on its perpetrators. I thought that this show had completely abandoned its format since I must have missed the title card for part one, but it’s still extremely effective for its storytelling, so I see no issue with keeping it even though interviews are, for the most part, over. We got some very important pieces of information in this hour, namely that Allison’s medical instincts may have led directly to her son’s death and that Noah’s daughter is pregnant – by Cole’s brother. That’s a incestual web that is just getting more complicated, but it almost doesn’t matter because of how suddenly and irreversibly certain things are happening. Allison learning from Cole’s mother that the ranch is worthless burst all her hopes for the future instantly, and Cole showing up as she was about to board the train for the city was bold and surprising. The fact that Noah was actually there in the frame but not seen for us until the episode’s closing moment was excellently prolonged, and it makes waiting for next week’s finale incredibly difficult. Noah’s attitude towards putting Allison in a bachelor pad that would never be big enough for two people was far too casual, but then he took a huge leap and, out of nowhere, confessed everything to Helen and told her that he wanted to start the process of separating. Helen didn’t even want to discuss it for a moment, and that means that it’s going to be very hard to come back from this moment of honesty. Where that leaves a second season of this show is a mystery to me, but I’m eager to find out.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 11 “Krieg Nicht Lieb” (C+)

I’m starting to question whether this was all worth it, and that’s never a good way to feel about a show’s second-to-last episode of the season. Historically, those are often the best, since all the tensions build and a show is at its strongest right before it wraps everything up going into a break. This episode had just one single focus, forgetting about Saul and nearly omitting Lockhart, who is seen in just one scene discussing how he’s been cut out of the loop as the agency shops for his replacement. Carrie got the news that her father died at a moment in which it should probably have affected her more, but instead all it did was give Max a reason to want to give her a hug despite how much he hated her for never giving Fara any positive affirmation before allowing her to be killed. One would think that Carrie has lost enough people to be just as determined as Quinn to kill Haqqani no matter the cost, and it tracks with the CIA’s actual extermination of Osama Bin Laden that hunting down and killing someone who is directly responsible for great losses of the United States would in fact be a priority. Instead, Quinn becomes a commando and even shoots one of Carrie’s men trying to stay focused on his solo mission. And then, in the middle of a chaotic and foreboding protest, we get a surprise that no one saw coming, mainly because, on the face of it, it doesn’t make any sense. I’m not sure how Khan would know who Adar Dal is and know that Carrie would also understand the significance of him being in the car with Haqqani. This is going to require some seriously sound logic to be believed, and I’m not talking about the kind that rationalized Carrie spending a few episodes in a mental institution.

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom (Series Finale)

The Newsroom: Season 3, Episode 6 “What Kind of Day Has It Been?”

And here we have it, just twenty-five episodes in, the familiar title of an Aaron Sorkin finale in what ranks as his second-shortest series. What this hour indicates more than anything is that this show had excellent characters and deserved better than a truncated third season in which its storytelling had to be condensed to just six episodes. Charlie’s death provided the impetus for some soul-searching as well as for mandatory flashbacks to the beginning of things, namely right before Will gave his memorable answer prompted by none other than Mackenzie. Seeing everyone at those points is a reminder of how far they’ve come, and while I do understand the tendency to want to look back and in fact usually like it, it might have been nice to spend more of this precious time that we had left with the characters in the present. I think that Sloan became my favorite character, namely because she handled Sorkin’s quick dialogue better than anyone, rattling it off with precise pronunciation and the sense that she just needed to get it all out as quickly as possible. Her manipulation of Jim and Maggie’s relationship was merely because she and Don actually did find something great that didn’t need much work to be done. It’s great to see Maggie embrace her potential and Jim welcome that, and, were we to continue seeing them, they would be sure to have many more awkward repeated conversations before the truth finally and inevitably came out. Neal’s return to the newsroom was triumphant, and it’s good to see him end on such a high note. Fiona had a bigger role in this hour than she did in most, convincing Pruitt that he needed to appoint Mackenzie to a high leadership role to improve his image and to ensure that he had someone checking his moves all the time. Will blabbing about Mackenzie’s pregnancy was pretty hilarious, and there’s no denying the effectiveness of the show’s final scene, showing each person’s face and then ending with Will introducing the news as he surely will every night for the foreseeable future of this show were it to continue. I liked this season much more than season two, and I just wish that we got to see more episodes like the second and third installments of this season. I’ll make a list someday of shows I would immediately resurrect, and this would be near the top of the list since it didn’t have the opportunity to fully realize its potential and should have lasted much longer.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Olivia Munn as Sloan
Season grade: A-
Series MVP: Jeff Daniels as Will
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: “The Greater Fool”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 7 “The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction” (B+)

After a concerningly uninteresting episode last week that made me reconsider whether I should be watching this show on a weekly basis, this hour did well by providing an intriguing and immensely watchable plot: the hunt for a criminal who kills people and leaves a distinct trace of nutmeg at the scene. Deducing that it was in fact a cleaner who connected all the victims rather than a killer made things even more enticing, and then to learn that the cleaner himself was cleaned by an apprentice whose criminal father was concerned that his secrets would be spilled was interesting indeed. Though there’s some unnecessary back-and-forth about who does what and who wants to be there, the new trio of Sherlock, Watson, and Kitty actually works pretty well. Sherlock, to his credit, is giving Kitty appropriate commendation for the things she does right, allowing her to play her music at full volume during normal quiet hours after it was her observation that led to a major breakthrough in the case. Her response – to play a much calmer, more Sherlock-friendly musical choice – was sweet. Sherlock butting into Watson’s romantic life is nothing new, but this episode allowed him to portray her in a negative light, stirring up understandable resentment from her and a decent defense in the end after Christian Camargo’s doctor hired Watson to find out who stole his ID and then asked her out. The shot of her preparing dinner alone in the apartment wasn’t optimistic, but at least she’s not letting Sherlock take over her life too much.

What I’m Watching: A to Z

A to Z: Season 1, Episode 9 “I is for Ill Communication” (D-)

Absence does make the heart grow fonder, but terrible quality can contradict that pretty fast, meaning that I was anticipating the return of this show after a two-week hiatus, but watching it even for just a few minutes reminded me of how terrible it’s become. Over the course of a mere nine episodes, this is not the first time that we’ve seen Andrew and Zelda lie to each other and feign excitement about doing something or starting a tradition that neither actually wants to do. While many relationship may undergo the same process of figuring out how to be honest with each other, this has become tiresome and contradicts the excitable and eager way in which these two usually communicate with each other. Stu and Stephie continue to exist just to serve as angels and devils on their best friends’ shoulders without having compelling personalities of their own, and we’ve already seen Stu be unnecessary confrontational and possessive around Zelda while Stephie, who is usually much more prickly and selective about who she spends her time with, seems more than happy to embrace Andrew and his impulsive nature. The scene at Burbank Airport was full of awkwardness, and saying “I love you” to each other should have come at a better moment that wasn’t as laced with resentment and inexplicably available last-minute Christmas flights (see also this week’s episode of “New Girl”). Howard being pushed to go on a date to save the company was just the latest act of workplace depravity we’ve seen from Lydia, but at least they got a tender moment together working over the holiday, which is about as much as we can hope for when it comes to the awful product that is Wallflower.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 10 “Haley’s 21st Birthday” (C+)

When awards show nominations were unveiled last week, it’s interesting to see how Screen Actors Guild members still like their own, rewarding Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen, and the ensemble with repeat nominations, while the Golden Globes dumped Sofia Vergara and the show itself for the first time in its history. I’m of the opinion that this show is still better than some, but it’s lost much of its magic and creativity. This installment represents what’s most often problematic about this show, which is that it’s theoretically funny but then ends up being way too choreographed to be effective or, more importantly, actually funny. The best and most lamentable example of that is Lily asking her older cousins about how babies are made, which dragged on for a while before she revealed to her befuddled relatives that, despite her confidence, she in fact had no idea what she was talking about. It wasn’t hard to figure out where Jay’s overconfidence in thinking that he could get the better deal on a car was going, though I did expect Phil to prevail and be able to score his original price instead of Jay bribing the salesman to say that he gave him the deal. At least we got to see Phil light up at the notion that Jay actually what he thinks of him. I wasn’t too taken with the gay men dancing with overeager women at the bar, and it was much more entertaining to see Haley open up to her mother in an ill-advised way. Claire ending up with a tattoo was definitely not expected and, while out of character to a degree, still enjoyable.

Exciting Success with Predictions!

Whenever I make predictions for major awards show on this site and Movies With Abe, I log my predictions over at Gold Derby, which is a fantastic site that can essentially be described as Fantasy Football for film and TV awards. It turns out that I was ranked #1 in predictions for the Golden Globes nominations this year!

I've been meaning to post it - check out the article about my predictions and explore the fantastic website that is Gold Derby!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy (Series Finale)


Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, Episode 13 “Papa’s Goods”

As far as series finales go, I think this one probably won’t be as talked-about, mainly because it’s pretty solid and shouldn’t create much controversy. It’s not the series’ best episode, but that’s because the show has already delivered numerous devastating and unforgettable hours, or in the case of this season, much more than an hour. Getting what probably amounts to an extra 120 or so minutes of this show this season has been worthwhile since there has been considerable storytelling to do, and good for Kurt Sutter and FX for having a partnership strong enough that allows him to get the time he needs to wrap up his plotlines (Aaron Sorkin deserved similar treatment from HBO for “The Newsroom” and certainly didn’t get it).

Breaking down this episode requires an examination of what Jax did and what he didn’t do, and whether those things make him a good person when all is said and done. Confessing Gemma’s role in Tara’s murder to Patterson was a noble move, one that places all blame firmly on his shoulders and makes sure that there is no continued collateral damage. Killing Marks was an obvious choice, one that protects his club from further retribution, and offing Barofsky was a way to show that loyalty is valued above all. Executing the Irish and endorsing Conor showed that they’re looking for business deals and not to kill people just for the sake of it. He had his sweet parting moments with his sons, with Lyla, with Opie and Tara at their graves, and with his club. Not meeting Mr. Mayhem makes it so that his sons won’t blame the club for killing him but instead he gets them to see him as cowardly for driving into a truck instead and not facing the consequences of his actions.

To have Michael Chiklis return as the driver of the truck that he crashed into is an interesting if not fully necessary move, and my only curiosity would be what happens to his character, since sending an innocent man to jail for manslaughter is hardly a worthwhile final act. I suspect, however, that the long trail of police cars following Jax would support the fact that he turned into the truck’s path and that Chiklis’ trucker in not to blame at all. Having Chiklis there at the very end helps to underscore this as a serious contender for the title of best FX show since “The Shield,” and series regular Walton Goggins’ presence in the series finale of “Justified” this spring will do the same for the other top contender. Looking back at my season finale reviews over the years, I gave season two an A and every season since then an A-. That’s pretty solid. This has been a wild, violent ride, and a very worthwhile contribution to television from a singular mind.

Series finale: B+
Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Charlie Hunnam as Jax
Series grade: A-
Series MVP: Some combination of Katey Sagal, Maggie Siff, and Charlie Hunnam
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: TBD

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 2, Episode 10 “What They Become” (B-)

After a strong start to the season, this episode was a bit of a mess since it charged into the mythology full-throttle and made a very important and not entirely believable character changes happen. It’s a questionable move to head into a four-month hiatus with most of your characters trapped inside tunnels and caves that have just collapsed, but this show has been pretty bold for the second half of its life so far. Probably the most monumental moment of this episode was the long-awaited reunion of Skye and her father, who we now know is named Cal. Though at first he seemed a bit too crazy, it became clear that he was motivated by good, and it didn’t take long for Skye to call him dad, even if it was only to stop him from killing Coulson. The current head of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasted no time in shooting Whitehall, which was strange given how many enemies they’ve left standing and what mysteries still remain unsolved. Ward revealed himself to be loyal to Skye and Agent 33, who may now too be for hire, and it will be intriguing to see where they end up now that Hydra as an institution is crumbling. That’s not the only thing that’s crumbling, and poor Trip was just trying to be a hero and save Skye. Instead, she managed to be reborn in some way, as did Raina, it appears, while Trip turned to stone and disintegrated. The tragic aftermath of all this is sure to play out dramatically in March when the show returns after yielding its timeslot to “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” and then we’ll get to deal with this freaky man with no ones and what ominous threat he represents.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What I’m Watching: New Girl


New Girl: Season 4, Episode 11 “LAXmas” (D+)

Now this was just an annoying episode. This show has been formulaic and uncreative before without resorting to parading around an airport where Jess inexplicably is in charge of everyone’s travel arrangements and our once-beloved characters somehow manage to get on and off flights on one of the busiest travel days of the year with remarkable ease. Ryan being really rich is a very contrived plotline since he’s already charming and too perfect in most ways, so adding that complicating layer feels forced, especially if he’s so humble that he uses his money to fly back to the U.S. to surprise Jess after he thought that her flight was cancelled. An extravagantly priced ticket is the only explanation for him landing at the same time as her, and therefore it’s hard to understand how she managed to get on a flight too. Nick and Winston ending up in first class was mildly enjoyable, but I don’t believe that they’d really get up and then end up in the seat right next to the bathroom squished into the aisle by a very large man in the window seat. I was disappointed by Billy Eichner’s guest spot as the flight attendant who befriended Jess since he toned down his crazy too much, something I thought I’d never say, to just seem vindictive and cruel. The other notable guest star was also a bit too one-note, and that was Barry Bostwick of “Spin City” as the rich man who prompted Schmidt to start calling him a bitch in the first class lounge. I’m glad Schmidt and Cece are friends but I’d love to see it play out in a less immature and embarrassing way. I’m also always thrilled about seeing Jewish characters forgetting that they don’t celebrate Christmas.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Man in the Yellow Suit” (B)

To say this was my least favorite episode so far isn’t all that bad, but I just didn’t feel that it was as finessed as the other hours that came before it, and it tried to cram too much into just one episode that left things feeling very unresolved going into a six-week hiatus. It introduced Reverse-Flash, who killed Barry’s mom and who seems set on being his nemesis, it brought Caitlin face-to-face with her dead fiancĂ©, who has now become Firestorm, and it had Barry confess his feelings to Iris. Reverse-Flash isn’t all that cool of a villain, mainly because he has the same powers as Barry but with a whole lot extra, and he has some sinister relationship with Dr. Wells, though they likely had a falling out given the thrashing Dr. Wells got in the force field. The ending scene is perplexing at best, but I’m not sure we’re meant to understand exactly what’s going on, since Dr. Wells being Reverse-Flash doesn’t exactly track. It would have been far more dramatic if Firestorm had popped up a few times before revealing himself to Caitlin, and then he showed up to save the day in the lab, which was cool but felt a bit odd. Hopefully he’ll serve a better and clearer purpose in the future. I’m really not up to date with my Flash mythology, but that just means that I never know if a character or concept is original to the show or dates back decades. Iris and Eddie moving in together does seem a bit fast, and I don’t think there’s any part of Barry’s confession of love for Iris that was well-timed or well-received. That’s sure to be awkward now when the show returns for what’s sure to be an exciting back half or so of its first season in January.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 8 “Chapter Eight” (B+)

I’m not sure I’ve ever properly conveyed how much I enjoy this show’s rhythmic music. It helps to drive it forward in a certain way and quite literally underscore some of its more melodramatic and comedic moments. This episode was full of developments, particularly one that was quite predictable but still managed to be compelling in how it played out. Rafael did not react well to the news that Jane was a virgin, but we’ve seen that he’s not sleazy enough to get drunk and sleep with another woman just because he’s upset. I like that the way Jane learned the truth was because the prostitute hired to pretend to sleep with him was a religious woman who happened to have a Jane the Virgin necklace. Rafael coming clean with Jane about his financial involvement in the lawsuit and them sparking was sweet, and maybe this relationship, which I never would have imagined working, might just last. It’s good to know that Michael is doing just fine in the romance department, irresponsibly sleeping with his partner as he prepares for what’s sure to be a messy pursuit of Sin Rostro. Petra and Lachlan’s antics are troublesome, to be sure, but the biggest Solano family drama was Luisa’s return and Rose’s smart but cruel decision to make it seem like Luisa was crazy since she was feeling too honest. Xiomara’s music plotline wasn’t all that enticing, but I’m definitely a fan of Xiomara and Rogelio ending up together, which this advances.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What I’m Watching: The Affair


The Affair: Season 1, Episode 8 (B+)

The way this episode started out, I was ready to call it the best hour of this series so far. I might still, but Allison’s time at the hospital with her grandmother wasn’t as strong as much of what happened with Noah individually and with both of them earlier in the episode. Starting off with Noah being awesome at his teaching job gave us a chance to see him thriving, something that he hasn’t been allowed to do at any point yet on this show, and that was a treat. When he went to meet Helen at the restaurant, it wasn’t clear if they were still together or not, and it seems that they quite literally pretended to forget about his indiscretion, though his eagerness to go to the Hamptons to attend his father-in-law’s award did get Helen suspicious. They’re pretty blunt and honest with each other these days, as evidenced by Helen’s admission that she married Noah because he was safe and his response that the news didn’t surprise him. I’d vote for Noah’s attempt to give his son advice on math and bullies over Helen’s unsubtle “Are you bulimic” question to which she got a terrific response from her teenage daughter: “Yes, mom, take me back to therapy.” Noah’s alone time with Bruce was extremely interesting as the older of the two told Noah that he had a muse and she helped him write, and he regretted not keeping it going. Driving your mistress to the hospital so that she can see her dying grandmother is hardly romantic, but this affair is obviously not over. Even in Allison’s recollection, which mostly had to do with Cole stressing over selling the ranch and fighting with her mother over how to take care of her grandmother, the two of them said I love you to each other. Referencing Romeo and Juliet and how it only turned tragic towards the end couldn’t have been more foreboding.

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 4, Episode 10 “13 Hours in Islamabad” (B)

This was a dramatic and resounding hour in many ways, but it didn’t feel like “Homelamd.” I thought for a moment that I was watching “24” again with high-level government authorities standing just feet away from terrorists who managed to tunnel under the embassy and start a shooting rampage. This show has always been a subtler, less boots-on-the-ground thriller, and while this season has taken place almost entirely in the field, it still didn’t quite reach this level. This was a difficult hour to watch with all of the loss of human life for seemingly meaningless reasons, particularly Fara being identified as a Muslim, used as bait to get Lockhart to open the door, and then executed even after he complied. Max has barely ever spoken, and to see him spring into action and then blame Carrie for never giving her any positive reinforcement was a rarity. What really perplexes me is why it would possibly be a good idea for the list of undercover assets not to be destroyed as soon as they found out the compound was breached, and why anyone thought giving it to the most senior official – the only one who the attacking terrorists could identify by name – is beyond me. Hopefully it won’t mean doom and death for Quinn, who charged back into the field to link cell phones and find Haqqani all by himself. Leaving Carrie alone in Islamabad to help him is also worrisome, but this show has two whole hours to wrap up the mostly coherent and compelling dramatic mess it’s created this season.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Golden Globe Nominees: Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent”
Who’s missing? The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Episodes, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Veep

We have the strangest and most surprising category for last. If you had to ditch four series from last year and bring just one back, why would it be Girls? I noticed when I heard these nominees that “The Big Bang Theory” was not among them but missed the fact that “Modern Family” encountered its first-ever shut-out. That’s a big deal. I’m much sadder about both “Episodes” and “Parks and Recreation” being left off, and it’s puzzling that “Veep” and last year’s winner “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are gone. Instead, we get two fantastic new nominees – Jane the Virgin, possibly making CW history, and Transparent, certainly making Amazon history – to go along with Orange is the New Black, earning its first bid after a misclassification last year, and Silicon Valley, a decent show that feels just slapped in here and could probably have been left off the list.

Who will win? I think it will be Orange is the New Black.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best TV Series – Drama


My predictions: 4/5, missing “Game of Thrones”
Who’s missing? The Leftovers, Masters of Sex, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland

After plenty of upheaval last year, this category just replaced one freshman Showtime series – “Masters of Sex” – with a more consistent one, The Affair, and swapped in Game of Thrones, which I didn’t think they’d welcome back, for departing “Breaking Bad.” That means that Downton Abbey and House of Cards are still going strong, and, interestingly, so is The Good Wife. Not all of these would make my list, and I’m sad that “The Leftovers” got left out in the cold.

Who will win? Hard to say – maybe House of Cards?

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Limited Series or TV Movie


My predictions: 5/5
Who’s missing? American Horror Story: Freak Show, Sherlock: The Last Vow

I’m pleased to have predicted these five completely correctly, guessing that Globe voters weren’t gung-ho about “Sherlock” and that they were over AHS in this race at least. I’m thrilled about Fargo and True Detective, and not surprised by Olive Kitteridge and The Normal Heart. The fifth nominee, which wasn’t guaranteed, is The Missing.

Who will win? I hope Fargo, but True Detective would be fine too, I suppose.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series


My predictions: 2/5, picking only Aduba and Janney
Who’s missing? Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black), Ann Dowd (The Leftovers), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers)

This category is unpredictable as always, but at least this year wasn’t quite as crazy as last year. Dismissed are any traces of “Modern Family” and a few expected nominees, namely Julia Roberts, whose TV movie did well in other categories, and, unfortunately, any mention of the terrific “The Leftovers,” which could have had a handful of contenders in this category. Instead, we get Emmy winner Allison Janney (Mom), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) with her first Globe mention for her show’s fourth season, and Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), who won a guest acting Emmy and earned a SAG nomination, representing her show in this race. I predicted Kathy Bates (American Horror Story: Freak Show) last year but thought she wouldn’t make it this year, and I’m thrilled to see Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), who was ignored by Emmy voters, recognized for a terrific performance not as often noted as her male costars.

Who will win? It’s a competitive category, but I think Janney over Aduba and Bates (not the “Downton Abbey” one).

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series


My predictions: 4/5, missing Cumming
Who’s missing? Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

This category wasn’t actually all that hard to predict, with the one exception being Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), who is good on his show but this is hardly the time that he needs to be nominated. His series has had a few other people recognized in this category in the past, and I guess it’s just his turn. I’m happy to see last year’s winner Jon Voight (Ray Donovan) back for a very underrated show, and I couldn’t be more excited about Colin Hanks (Fargo). On the miniseries/TV movie front, we also have Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart), singled out from four Emmy nominees in this category from his film, and Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge).

Who will win? I think Bomer will take it.

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


My predictions: 4/5, missing O’Connor
Who’s missing? Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)

We have a nice deviation from SAG today with Allison Tolman (Fargo) earning a very well-deserved nomination, with the unexpected consequence of Cicely Tyson being bumped. Globe voters seemed to have preferred Frances O’Connor (The Missing), and her miniseries also scored a top bid. Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman), Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show), and Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge) are the other nominees.

Who will win? I think McDormand, but how cool would it be if it was Tolman?

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


My predictions: 5/5
Who’s missing? Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: His Last Vow), Richard Jenkins (Olive Kitteridge)

Unlike SAG yesterday, this category played out exactly as I thought it would, and that means I’ve seen four of the nominees. Cumberbatch, who did still score a film nomination, is nowhere to be found, but his “Sherlock” costar Martin Freeman (Fargo) did score a bid along with Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo). Both Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) and Woody Harrelson (True Detective) are here, and Michelle Monaghan even scored a supporting nomination for her terrific work opposite them. Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart) is the fifth nominee, and Matt Bomer is his only costar to score an accompanying nod.

Who will win? I’d guess McConaughey, but who knows with four nominees from two projects.

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


My predictions: 4/5, missing Rodriguez
Who’s missing? Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)

Why must something good always come hand in hand with something bad? I couldn’t be more excited about Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) being here, and her show also showed up in the series race, which is a big deal since it airs on the CW. But why did last year’s winner, the fabulous Amy Poehler, have to go? Couldn’t it have been Lena Dunham (Girls) or Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)? There’s certainly no reason Dunham still needs to be there. It’s good to see Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) transplanted to the right race after showing up in drama last year, and of course we have Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) here too.

Who will win? I’ll be optimistic and go with Rodriguez.

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


My predictions: 3/5, missing Cheadle and Macy
Who’s missing? Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Who cares if you won this award last year? Sorry, Andy Samberg, no return nomination for you. I’m happy to see William H. Macy (Shameless) finally recognized, but how much greater would it have been if Matt LeBlanc hadn’t been snubbed and the two of them could have been recognized along with the star of another show that used to air as part of an incomparable Sunday night Showtime block? I’m not sure I’d still include Don Cheadle (House of Lies), who missed out on a SAG bid yesterday, but good for him. No surprise to see Louis C.K. (Louie) back and Ricky Gervais (Derek) included for his latest project. This isn’t the first time that Jim Parsons has been left off this list, but the outright dismissal of his show is a shock. I am thrilled for Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), who, along with his show, made it into this race after failing to be recognized yesterday, signaling a huge triumph for Amazon.

Who will win? I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be Tambor.

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


My predictions: 3/5, missing Danes and Davis
Who’s missing? Kerry Washington (Scandal), Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)

This category was an interesting fusion of new and old, welcoming in one very welcome new nominee, Ruth Wilson (The Affair) whose show got plenty of support and another who seems to be the sole representative of her show everywhere, Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder). In a move very unlike this organization, two-time winner Claire Danes (Homeland) is back after being snubbed last year, joined by Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) and last year’s winner Robin Wright (House of Cards). What this unfortunately means is that Tatiana Maslany, who scored a surprise SAG nod yesterday, got left out in the cold. Also omitted is Kerry Washington, who was dismissed by SAG too and never even one a trophy from either organization.

Who will win? My money is on Davis.

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


My predictions:4/5, missing Spader
Who’s missing? Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex), Justin Theroux (The Leftovers), Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)

Last year I was excited about four brand-new nominees, and though this year we get only two, the other three are all from last year, which means that no actor in this category has been on the air for more than two years, which is pretty interesting. Unfortunately, James Spader (The Blacklist) needed a repeat performance at the expense of Justin Theroux, whose show was completely ignored. I’m very happy that Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) is here again since he easily could have been ignored. I’m thrilled about the love for Dominic West (The Affair) and his show, which scored bids in all three top categories. Joining them are Clive Owen (The Knick) and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards).

Who will win? Probably Owen, but who knows?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Final Golden Globe Predictions

Please find my final Golden Globe predictions for all television categories below. Though this morning’s SAG nominations announcement did feature a handful of unusually good surprise, it would be irresponsible to change all of these predictions since these organizations are remarkably different. True, I may be overestimating “Transparent” and underestimating something else, like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” but here are my predictions, and let’s hope for the best! For the record, I already had surprise SAG nominee Uzo Aduba in my predictions. You can see my film predix over at Movies with Abe. Check in all day tomorrow for reactions by category!

No guts, no glory:
“Jane the Virgin” for Best Comedy Series
“Sons of Anarchy” for Best Drama Series
Adam Scott for Best Comedy Actor for “Parks and Recreation”

Best TV Series – Drama
The Affair
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
The Leftovers


Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical
The Big Bang Theory
Episodes
Modern Family
Orange is the New Black
Transparent


Best Limited Series or TV Movie
Fargo
The Missing
The Normal Heart
Olive Kitteridge
True Detective


Best Actor in a TV Series – Drama
Clive Owen (The Knick)  
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Justin Theroux (The Leftovers)
Dominic West (The Affair)

Best Actress in a TV Series – Drama
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Kerry Washington (Scandal)
Ruth Wilson (The Affair)  
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Best Actor in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical
Louis C.K. (Louie)
Ricky Gervais (Derek)
Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Best Actress in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical
Lena Dunham (Girls)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Martin Freeman (Fargo)
Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie
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)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a TV Series
Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)
Colin Hanks (Fargo)
Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge)
Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart)
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a TV Series
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)

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series


My predictions: 4/5, missing “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
What’s missing? Transparent, Parks and Recreation

I’m actually pretty okay with this list, even though I thought that “Shameless” would make a surprise appearance after William H. Macy’s nomination. I think that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a fun inclusion, especially with Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg and Emmy nominee Andre Braugher here. Orange is the New Black is the obvious new addition, joining returning nominees Veep, Modern Family, and The Big Bang Theory. It’s too bad “Transparent” or “Parks and Recreation” couldn’t join them.

What could win? Why bet on anything but Modern Family?

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series


My predictions: 5/5
What’s missing? The Good Wife, True Detective, The Knick

I think this is the category that I’m most proud of since I accurately predicted that both Boardwalk Empire and Homeland wouldn’t go anywhere despite widespread opinion that they would, and that it would be a direct switch-out of House of Cards to replace “Breaking Bad.” Both Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones are expectedly still in the running too. It’s a shame that “Mad Men” has been forgotten and that “The Newsroom” was never recognized, but I’m pretty happy with this list based on what I can reasonably expect.

What could win? I think it will be House of Cards.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie


My predictions: 4/5, missing Burstyn
Who’s missing? Allison Tolman (Fargo)

It’s sad to see that deserving young actresses like Tolman are often ignored in favor of more established veteran actresses like Ellen Burstyn (Flowers in the Attic). That said, I haven’t seen her performance, but it’s a shame to see Tolman passed over. Joining Burstyn are Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman), Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge), Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart), and Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful). Since I watched just the first hour of Gyllenhaal’s miniseries, my investment in this category is considerably diminished, but maybe I’ll have the chance to watch more before the ceremony at the end of January.

Who could win? I think McDormand will beat Roberts and Tyson.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie


My predictions: 3/5, missing Brody and Jenkins
Who’s missing? Martin Freeman (Fargo), Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge)

So much for being on top of this whole miniseries/TV movie thing. It’s always confusing with supporting versus lead actors, and it’s clear that lead actors won out this year, as evidenced by Richard Jenkins (Olive Kitteridge) over costar Bill Murray, Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart), a double nominee this year, being chosen over four Emmy-nominated supporting costars, and Martin Freeman missing out on two counts to Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: His Last Vow), a double nominee this year, and Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo). The fifth nominee: Adrien Brody (Houdini).

Who could win? I think either Cumberbatch or Thornton.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series


My predictions: 2/5, picking only Bowen and Louis-Dreyfus
Who’s missing? Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black), Allison Janney (Mom), Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)

This ranks as one of my worst categories, since I bet on the wrong horses for scientific reasons that didn’t pan out. I think most people were surprised that Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) scored the lone nomination for her show in this category, especially since Kate Mulgrew would probably have been the best bet if star Taylor Schilling wasn’t going to make the cut. Last year’s nominee Mayim Bialik is out, while Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) is still in and Emmy winner Allison Janney is nowhere to be found. Julie Bowen (Modern Family) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) return, and, so fantastically, so does Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), who was snubbed last year after just one previous nomination. This is a fun list, and Poehler definitely still tops it for me.

Who could win? Probably Louis-Dreyfus, but I feel like Aduba could take it too.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series


My predictions: 3/5, missing Macy and Stonestreet
Who’s missing? Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), Don Cheadle (House of Lies)

So much for Amazon being the new Netflix. Tambor and his show are nowhere to be found, which is a shame, but another deserving actor - William H. Macy (Shameless) - joins the bunch, but it’s a shame that he’s finally being recognized for comedy when his show is actually now a drama. Last year’s nominee Cheadle is bumped for Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), returning after a year off for his third nomination, to join costar Ty Burrell (Modern Family), who finally dethroned Alec Baldwin last year. Louis C.K. (Louie) is back after his show was on hiatus for a year, and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) is back for nomination number three. Not much to say here – this is a fine if not exactly current list.

Who could win? I think Burrell will triumph again, but three-time Emmy champ Parsons might win here for the first time.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series


My predictions: 3/6
Who’s missing?: Kerry Washington (Scandal), Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show)

I couldn’t be more ecstatic for a sixth nominee. I thought all hope was lost for the masses to recognize the brilliance of Tatiany Maslany (Orphan Black), and then here she shows up! It’s very exciting. And she managed to do it while still leaving room for a rare first-year network drama to place - Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) – and a past nominee to be welcomed back - Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife). Joining them are perennial nominees Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and Claire Danes (Homeland), and a first-time nominee who won the corresponding Golden Globe prize last year, Robin Wright (House of Cards). Six nominees for Best Actress always means a shocking snub, and that’s Kerry Washington, who only earned her first nomination last year and has now been unceremoniously dismissed. If I still watched the show, I might be more broken up about it.

Who could win? I would love to say Maslany, but I’d actually bet on Davis, with Margulies and Wright close behind.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series


My predictions: 5/5
Who’s missing: Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Clive Owen (The Knick)

I’d be a whole lot prouder of myself if this had been the first category announced. Pretty much only here and in the Best Drama Series race did my theories hold (to both positive and negative effect elsewhere). Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), who has been abandoned by Emmy and Golden Globe voters, still earned himself a nomination here for the fifth and final time. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) are returning nominees, and Woody Harrelson (True Detective) and Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) are representing their show, which missed out on a Best Ensemble bid. This is a solid list, and all actors are worthy of nominations even if some important people did miss out.

Who could win? Here, I think McConaughey could manage it, but Spacey might swoop in for the win.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Final SAG Predictions

This time of year is always more exciting for movies than it is for television, but I’m all about awards and therefore I’m eagerly awaiting this announcement tomorrow morning too. My predictions are based on the assumption that SAG voters, unlike Globe voters, don’t tend to reward freshman series. That said, I am predicting a handful of new shows – “True Detective,” “Transparent,” and “Mom” – to break through and earn mentions. I may be wrong in assuming institutional love for “Boardwalk Empire” and “Homeland” and underestimating “The Good Wife,” but this is how I think things will play out. I’d love to see “Episodes” or Tatiana Maslany show up and surprise, but I think both are highly unlikely. Look forward to reactions here and to the film categories over at Movies With Abe every hour tomorrow after the nominations are announced in the morning. Leave your predictions in the comments!

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes (Homeland)
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Freak Show)
Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Kerry Washington (Scandal)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Louis C.K. (Louie)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: His Last Vow)
Martin Freeman (Fargo)
Bill Murray (Olive Kitteridge)
Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman)
Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)
Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart)
Allison Tolman (Fargo)
Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Homeland
House of Cards

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Orange is the New Black
Transparent
Veep

What I’m Watching: The Newsroom (Penultimate Episode)

The Newsroom: Season 3, Episode 5 “Oh Shenandoah” (B+)

I’m always conflicted about believing in a show’s direction when it isn’t actually based on facts and the creative minds, or one mind in particular in this case, are entirely in charge of how and where it proceeds. To have Will spend 52 days in jail and to have the source commit suicide in a very public way and to have Charlie die of a heart attack are decisions made by Aaron Sorkin, and the reason that they’re acceptable is because they’re in the service of valuable storytelling. This was just the kind of preachy episode that Sorkin haters can point to when they say that he’s elitist and self-obsessed, and it ended with a slow-motion, music-assisted scene similar to others he’s used in the past. But it’s hard to deny that the dialogue was expertly written and that the performers on the show delivered it excellently. I had a suspicion that Kevin Rankin’s cellmate was the type of educated brute capable of going toe-to-toe intellectually with Will who could only exist in a Sorkin universe, and it turns out that he wasn’t even real, just a manifestation of Will’s memories of his father, which was dramatically effective and made for some terrific conversations. Maggie and Jim’s doomed Russian-Cuban adventure was entertaining to be sure, but that’s much more about wrapping up the love story than journalistic integrity, so no commentary is needed other than to say that it’s good to see them together, even if Hallie was a great character. Don’s visit with the rape victim presented a very literal and unfiltered conversation about accusations and blame that’s extremely relevant at the moment, representing an important step for Don in defending what he feels is right. Sloan’s takedown of Neal’s replacement and his privacy-invading site was spectacular, and how fitting would it be if the entire staff resigned when Pruitt threatened to fire them? I think this season has demonstrated extraordinarily capability of this show, and this episode rushed what could have been a few meaty episodes into just one in time to wrap everything up in a series finale that’s sure to be impactful and memorable.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 6 “Terra Pericolosa” (B-)

This is currently my only Thursday night show (until certain NBC series return), and I’m rapidly losing interest. It’s not that it’s gotten bad, but it’s lost much of the flair and originality that initially made it so watchable. In theory, hunting down a rare map and the many people interested in it should have been interesting, but it just didn’t grab me the way that it should have. It did feature one recognizable guest star, Maggie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep and former star of “Emily Owens, M.D.” and “Extant,” which will return next summer, and, as tends to be the case when there is just one familiar face in a given episode, she deserved far more suspicion than others interviewed. This hour had a lot to do with the relationship between Kitty and Sherlock and how Watson perceives it to be inappropriate and problematic, since Sherlock is calculating and manipulative in how he ensures that Kitty will be at his beck and call, always working hard to get his approval. Fortunately, they did come to a good understanding with it, as Sherlock recognized that he was keeping Kitty at arm’s length because he didn’t want her to get hurt, and she deserved to be in charge of her own life. While Sherlock and Kitty’s relationship is only getting better, I think it’s not doing good things for how Sherlock and Watson get along, forcing Watson to exist again only in relationship to Sherlock, which isn’t nearly as compelling as when she gets to be her own person.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 9 “Strangers in the Night” (C)

This episode didn’t feel very grounded to me, mainly because none of the threads were connected and it felt like a completely ordinary half-hour that wasn’t particularly funny. The Dunphy family got just one plotline that revolved solely around Alex, and like most Alex plotlines, it featured her talking and no one listening, certain that they understood the situation while they actually didn’t have a clue. Some of her behavior really didn’t suit her, mainly calling Africa stupid since her boyfriend was headed there, but ultimately it was just an instance of the family thinking Alex was crazy and not believing that someone might actually be romantically interested in her. Taking a break from Gloria’s nationalistic challenges, the Pritchett-Delgado household found Jay in one of his weirder moments, getting way into a dog party that Gloria couldn’t really stomach. Manny interfering was hardly unusual, and his reading of the summary of the movie he could now watch in peace – “The Sting” – was smile-worthy but not a justification of the whole plotline. And then there was Kristen Johnston, who dumbed this show down a bit with an extremely over-the-top guest spot that managed to out-dramatize Cam, which is quite a feat. Brenda was literally the worse houseguest ever, completely ignorant of boundaries and determined to damage her unwilling hosts’ brand-new white couch. This show can do better, and putting a TV veteran like Johnston is such an unchallenging and unfulfilling role is a disappointment, though unfortunately it is something this show has done before and will inevitably do again.

What I’m Watching: Sons of Anarchy (Penultimate Episode)


Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, Episode 12 “Red Rose” (B+)

This ride is almost over, and this was a fitting second-to-last (extended) hour, one that included a handful of deaths but wasn’t nearly as gruesome as most of this season has felt. Even Juice’s demise, bloody as it was, didn’t feel gratuitous, mainly because he accepted his fate and even handed Tully the murder weapon, completely at peace with what had to happen and ready for it. Gemma was the same way, sitting with Jax and talking about the past. It was Unser whose death was unnecessary but I suppose unavoidable, since he linked his fate with Gemma’s and stood in Jax’s way, thinking that he wouldn’t shoot him and that it may somehow protect Gemma. It’s just a shame that Nero sent him up north to protect her and now he’s responsible for Unser’s death, something which might mark Jax as a target if his own club doesn’t vote to have him meet Mr. Mayhem. Jax seems completely ready for a guilty verdict, and it’s hard to know who will step up to replace him, though Chibs seems the likely choice with Tig as his loyal number two. Unser aside, there was a distinct lack of law enforcement in this episode, but things were more peaceful than they’ve been in a long time, Connor being the sole exception, so maybe everything is finally reaching a cooling period. With just one episode to go, “The Shield” managed to feature its sixth major cast member on this show, and it was none other than Michael Chiklis, who caught me and I’m sure many others off-guard with his brief role as an inconsequential trucker who happened to be the last person to see Gemma alive. It’s nice to see another friendly FX face. I’m sure that the series finale, however long it will be, will be emotional and memorable, and I’m looking forward to the fateful goodbye for this show.