Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#1: Narcos

I almost didn’t watch this pilot and I wasn’t much looking forward to the show because of the subtitles, but I am so glad I did since it was without question the best new show of 2015. The pilot was electric and fascinating, with Pablo Escobar firmly established as an incomparably efficient and powerful drug lord who truly believed in his country and his business. Each episode felt like a movie in the traditional HBO style, and I can’t even imagine how incredible and intense season two is going to be. This show is violent, but it’s a must-see for anyone with a serious interest in television.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#2: Casual

Who would have thought that one of the best new shows of the year would air on Hulu? I wasn’t prepared for how simply great this show would be, a funny and entertaining comedy with a lot of drama packed into the brother-sister-daughter dynamic. The trio of Michaela Watkins, Tommy Dewey, and Tara Lynne Barr is fantastic, and they’re well-supported by great supporting stars and rich dialogue that makes each episode of this show truly enjoyable. Fortunately, this one has been renewed for a second season and even snagged a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical.

Best Episode: “Bottles
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#3: Babylon

I can’t rave enough about how amazing this very short series imported from the UK that aired on Sundance Channel last January is. In a time where confronting the police force can be increasingly complicated and problematic, this skewering parody of the British police was amazingly excellent. The drama was equally intense and awesome, with excellent performances from Brit Marling, James Nesbitt, and the entire cast. I just wish that one short season wasn’t all this very underseen show had been given.

Best Episode: Episode 3
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#4: iZombie

Who would have thought that there was still room for a zombie show that feels fresh, no less a comedy on the CW? This show, which is already halfway through its second season after a strong debut earlier this year, is easily one of the most consistently entertaining shows currently on the air, using the established trope of zombies craving brains to help its main character solve murders while also getting the added side effect of inheriting the personality traits of the deceased, which is hilarious more often than not. This show also manages to achieve dramatic success on a regular basis, and balances between its lighter and more serious moments exceptionally well.

Best Episode: “Zombie Bro” (though it’s hard to choose!)
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

I did not expect this show to be one of my favorites of the fall when I saw poster advertisements, and part of that was because I had no idea that it was a musical. This may well be the most inventive show currently on television, painting its protagonist as wildly insane but also so focused in her obsession that she’s impossible not to watch. Rachel Bloom is a delight as the zany Rebecca, and she’s surrounded by a great group of actors who sing and dance a lot as this show, which is so much better than it should be, continue producing extraordinarily entertaining episodes. And the music is catchy too!

Best Episode: “I’m Going on a Date with Josh’s Friend!
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#6: Mr. Robot

I’m always at a loss for words when it comes to this show, since it’s so unlike anything that I’ve seen before. Rami Malek is electric as the center of a show about a hacker with more than a slight issue with experiencing reality as it happens, and this show managed to drop bombshell after bombshell each episode, retooling its own sense of what was actually going on. Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, and Christian Slater are the standouts of a sleek and reliable ensemble. It’s still hard to process it all, and I’m very eager to see where this wildly creative show heads as it continues into season two and beyond.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#7: Humans

This was one of the best surprises of the season, a British import to AMC that had an eyeroll-inducing tagline and seemed like it wouldn’t offer much. That was far from the case, as this look at artificial intelligence and one way that it might threaten society was examined by following a few humans and a few robots designed as butlers who were anything but. This show was extremely engaging and enthralling throughout, improving steadily in the second half of its season, and season two is sure to be very interesting as it tackles its subject matter through a new framework.

Best Episode: Episode 7
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

I’m only six episodes into this Netflix offering since I watch streaming shows one episode per week rather than all at once, but I’m already hooked. I’ve loved Krysten Ritter for a while now, and this may well be the perfect part for her. This show is much, much darker than anything Marvel has put out, is a bleak but immensely interesting look at how superpowers don’t always translate to visible heroism or shiny costumes. I’m glad that I have so much left to experience of this show, and I imagine it will only get better as it goes.

Best Episode (so far): Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

For a network filled with comedies laced with drama, this may well be HBO’s subtlest comedy. Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey are subdued as a couple trying to make it through the banality of day-to-day life, and the real treat is the supporting cast members: Steve Zissis and Amanda Peet, both of who do a tremendous job of making characters who could seem outlandish and over-the-top feel perfectly real. The family-friend unit is a delight to watch, and this show is just as effective as it is awkward. This show aired just eight short episodes in its first season, but fortunately it will be back for a second season very soon.

Best Episode: “Kick the Can
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

It’s nice to know that there are certain people who can be relied upon to create the same kind of show over and over again. I liked “Rescue Me” a lot and didn’t care much for “Sirens,” Denis Leary’s follow-up series, but having Leary back as the star of his show, with some talented stars, particularly Elizabeth Gillies as rocker Johnny Rock’s equally talented daughter Gigi, in the cast, is a recipe for hilarious depraved success. The band dynamic on this show is fantastic, though not quite as much as the absurd family interactions between a father and daughter who first met when he tried to hit on her.

Best Episode: “Hard Out Here for a Pimp
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#11: Limitless

Though I never saw the film, this ranks to me as the best of many television adaptations this past year of recent science fiction films. The premise was explained simply and easily, and the entertainment factor on this show is so high, which is a treat. Jake McDorman’s performance as Brian is full of fun, and the energy with which he enjoys his every brain-addled assignment is great. This show also likes to try formatting its episodes in different ways, adding creativity at every turn. And there’s a serious side to it all which works pretty well too.

Best Episode: “Badge! Gun!
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#12: 12 Monkeys

Turning the awesome 1995 film about a time traveler sent from the future to prevent the outbreak of a deadly virus was a terrific idea, and there’s so much to like about this show. Though it faltered a bit in the middle of the season, the amount of intrigue and incredible grasp of some mind-boggling time travel concepts makes it great, and the season finale put it firmly back on track. Aaron Stanford is perfect as time traveler Cole, and he’s surrounded by a superb ensemble with many appealing and mysterious players.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

The highly anticipated prequel-sequel series to “Breaking Bad” got off to a similarly overrated shaky start, but by a few episodes in, it was clear that this show was well worth making. Bob Odenkirk is terrific, as is Emmy nominee Jonathan Banks, whose character got ported over from that other series to help form the exposition for this dark and immensely well-done series about someone who just wants to be a lawyer and do good work. There’s plenty more to come, and I’m definitely eager to stick around to see how it all plays out.

Best Episode: “Five-O
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

I had no expectations whatsoever for this space-set science fiction series, and I was extremely intrigued by the pilot. This show maintained a high level of engaging content through the course of its first season, featuring six incredibly interesting characters with little idea of who they were and an android with an entirely different outlook on life. The season-ending cliffhanger was a doozy, and I can’t wait for season two of this cool show.

Best Episode: Episode Seven
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Top 15 New Shows of 2015: #15

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 a large number of impressive new television series. As 2015 closes out and 2016 begins, here’s a look back at the best new shows of the year.

#15: Supergirl

I’m surprised that one of the best new shows of the year – about a superhero – airs on CBS. This show definitely does not fit the procedural mold that the network is famous for, and instead offers a lighthearted but affirming portrait of a female alien hero forever in her younger cousin’s shadow with a great central performance from Melissa Benoist and great support all around from a fun cast.

Best Episode: Pilot
Pilot Review | Episode Reviews

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 6 “AKA You’re a Winner” (B+)

This show is so full of rich characters that this episode took some time off from Trish and Will and brought back Luke for an enlightening episode full of disturbing revelations. Now that Malcolm has been saved from Kilgrave’s continued influence thanks to Jessica’s photo agreement, he’s being quite an advocate for Jessica, amusingly trying to stand up to Luke and make sure that he hasn’t been Kilgraved and that he has Jessica’s best interests at heart. Hearing him talk at the support group really underlines how traumatizing and life-destroying Kilgrave is. The start of the episode featured Kilgrave using his powers to get an entire table of poker players to fold so that he could walk away with over a million dollars, and then he decided to play fair and offer the owner of his new house double what it should go for on the condition that he left the next day. It’s so intriguing to see when he uses his abilities and how when he doesn’t use them, like with the purchase and his security detail, it’s fully for business reasons rather than moral ones. It’s a good thing that Kilgrave doesn’t know that Hope is pregnant, though I suspect that Hogarth is going to push hard to get a sample of his DNA and tip him off in the process. Jessica and Luke’s relationship was a rollercoaster in this hour, starting off with a happy reunion once he realized what Kilgrave had done to her and ending miserably with him furious that Jessica hadn’t told him she killed his wife. He’s the best ally she could ask for, so hopefully they’ll find a way to make peace enough to continue to work together to take down the man who ruined both of their lives for good.

What I’m Watching: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle: Season 1, Episode 6 “Three Monkeys” (B)

This episode was anchored around the day that the Nazis celebrate their victory over America, a holiday that seemingly has little to no significance for the Japanese, yet another sign of their fragile and flagging alliance. Joe going to Smith’s house to spend the holiday with his family presented an interesting opportunity to really see how Smith operates, evident most in the way that he lied to Joe so that they could pick up Rudolph at the airport under the guise of getting Mrs. Smith’s dead mother. That was the first important intersection of bicoastal plotlines, as Rudolph and Smith’s friendship wasn’t enough to keep Smith from turning him in to the authorities for his covert operations. Joe’s future is at serious risk now that Smith has caught him going through his files, and it’s going to be hard to talk a man who just sent a friend to prison or worse into not doing anything about it. At the same time, Tagomi hiring Juliana to work in his office gave her access to a whole lot more than she probably should be able to see, and she dove headfirst into utilizing her new position to her advantage to punish the Japanese for their misdeeds, both personal and military. Frank is not in good shape, but making his way over to Mark’s home after hearing the phrase “To life” proved unexpectedly therapeutic. Hearing Michael Gaston slowly recite a very traditional and emphasized version of the Mourner’s Kaddish while wearing a yarmulke on his head showed something that this series has yet to feature: Jews living in secret and surviving in this harsh new world.

What I’m Watching: Master of None

Master of None: Season 1, Episode 8 “Old People” (B+)

This episode returned to the kind of theme that this show used over the course of its first few episodes, but I think it was more effective here than in the “Parents” episode people seem to love so much. This episode earns extra points for a relatively positive use of Arnold, who at first was trying to help his grandfather get a clearer picture on his VHS tape of “Twins” and then found himself bonding with his doll after his grandfather passed away. Dev talking about his relationship with his grandparents who live in India and don’t speak English was the perfect impetus for Rachel to realize that she should really visit her grandmother, who lives in the Bronx, more. I love how truly excited Dev was to get to talk to a woman whose life experiences enabled her to see what New York City used to be like, and offering to stay to hang out with her when Rachel had a work emergency to deal with was especially sweet. Agreeing to sneak Grandma Carol out of the nursing home to grab a great Italian meal was a bit riskier, though seeing how happy she was singing at the club with a thankful smile on her face when Rachel and Dev showed up made it all worth it. This show does a good job of enabling its main characters to grow as a result of their interest, however minimal, in what others older than them have been through and have to share with them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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

The Affair: Season 2, Episode 12 (B+)

This show has raised a lot of questions so far about what really happened on that fateful night which prompted season one’s questions and season two’s murder trial, and this episode provided there very important answers that aren’t up for debate, confirmed in some way by both Noah and Alison in their recollections and experiences. The first is that Noah is not the father of the baby he was raising, and Noah remembered being told about it by Allison in a much gentler way than her memory suggested. Scotty’s musical performance was an unexpected treat, and what an intense, layered scene it was as he sang directly to Allison thinking that it was their baby when all signs (and a paternity test) actually point to his brother. Allison being present at the scene of the crime and claiming to have pushed Scotty into the road right before he got hit complicates things, and shame on Noah for nearly throwing Allison under the bus by having the detective called who would have eviscerated her. And then there’s the big bombshell – Helen was the one driving the car. Noah did ask her to do it after she said that she wasn’t fit to drive, but she also would have kept going had Noah not insisted that it wasn’t an animal that she had hit. Noah telling Allison that he couldn’t let Helen take the fall because she was the mother of his children stung a lot, and I think that’s going to carry over to next season. Noah standing up to confess to the crime so that neither of the women in his life would have to go to jail for him was noble but stupid, and there’s no way that plays out well. This has been a great season with an exceptional renewed focus on the four main characters, and I’m eager to see season three and where it goes, especially now that we’ve pretty much caught up to the future.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Maura Tierney as Helen

What I’m Watching: Homeland (Season Finale)

Homeland: Season 5, Episode 12 “A False Glimmer” (C+)

This finale was structured in a manner very unusual for this show, resolving the terrorist-centric action within the first fifteen minutes or so and then moving on to more thought-provoking monumental character developments that weren’t related to threats or the impending end of the world. That first sequence with Carrie going into the tunnel to pursue the terrorist whose mind was ‘t quite made up was reminiscent of Carrie going back down to find Abu Nazir after escaping captivity in season two. Though she nearly came face-to-face with a train, she was in less danger and had a much easier time subduing the terrorists and stopping the gas from being released directly towards an incoming train that would have then spread it through the entire station. Laura being arrested and then lying to help Gabe H. Coud escape extradition to his home country where he would face certain execution was a major blow to democracy and the truth and all that, underscoring this show’s desire for its characters to be unequivocally good and constantly face situations that force them to content with hard moral decisions. Saul having the car whose trunk Alison was hiding in riddled with bullets was one such For someone known for flying off the handle and being uncontrollable, Carrie was courted by an awful lot of people in this hour. Saul’s offer to let her run her own team and pick her mission is essentially the most open-book job possible, yet she feels that this isn’t who she is anymore. Quinn confessing his love for Carrie in the letter that seems to have prompted her to pull the plug on her friend wasn’t much of a surprise, though it was far more verbal and emotional than he has ever been (this show also rarely has letters read around by the voice of their writers or religious experiences light up the screen). Otto propositioning Carrie in a big way was more of a shock, and something tells me that’s not what she wants to do either. This show is just going to keep going and going, and with a world of possibilities open for season six, let’s hope some smart and creative choices are made.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Sebastian Koch as Otto

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 2, Episode 2 “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump” (B+)

I liked this episode a lot more than last week’s, even though things are pretty far out at the moment as they relate to almost every plotline. It’s strange to see Maura and Shelly essentially in a relationship, and it’s most troubling because Maura is definitely not invested in the way that her ex-wife is, choosing not to receive pleasure back from her in the bathroom and to disregard her flirtatious invitation to come sit next to her at the party. Ending the episode with Maura looking at herself in the mirror and dancing at the club was very effective, and it’s clear that she’s headed to a place of greater self-awareness, but it may not be with a lot of the people in her life. Ali is also going in the right direction, making amends with Syd and possibly headed towards a romance with her old best friend who shared some feelings with her that Ali didn’t quite reciprocate. Being pregnant and having her boyfriend’s teenage son move in with them does seem to be a bit much for Rabbi Raquel to take, and while she seems to be dealing with it pretty well, I’m concerned that Josh is oblivious to it seeming daunting. Sarah actually seems the most put-together at the moment, coping well with a drunk Tammy showing up to crash the party and then being the one to drive her mother home. With the way things currently stand, it’s going to be quite a tumultuous and involving season.

Monday, December 21, 2015

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 5 “AKA The Sandwich Saved Me” (B+)

What a great title this episode had, and it references some important things we’ve learned this episode. Flashing back to see Jessica trying out being a superhero, with an ineffective mask and stupid names to boot, was informative and entertaining, and I liked seeing her reaction to saving a girl while dressed as a sandwich. It’s clear that Jessica never had much interest in hiding her abilities, as evidenced by her brazen act of strength executed purely to embarrass an obnoxious guy who hit on Trish at a bar. Explaining why she saved Malcolm for the first time to Kilgrave said a lot, and she’s clearly committed to helping people enough to give in to Kilgrave’s request for a picture a day of her to replace his required photography. I was surprised at how quickly the “kidnap Kilgrave” operation came together, but it makes sense that they wouldn’t need to wait the whole season to make their move. I like the banter between Will and Jessica and how Trish plays mediator, and their plan was actually pretty solid. Jessica salvaging Kilgrave seeing Will by drawing his attention to her seemed like it had saved the day, but of course Kilgrave was smart enough to hire help that wasn’t brainwashed to ensure that he wouldn’t be taken. The game has changed now, but that’s only going to make Jessica – and Will – more determined to bring down the scourge who has made so many suffer and has sent Hope to a dark place.

What I’m Watching: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle: Season 1, Episode 5 “The New Normal” (B)

This episode’s title is very fitting since its characters are now all back to where they started, and they’re finding that adjusting to the new state of things isn’t too easy. So much for the Marshal pursuing Juliana and Joe sticking with her – now Juliana is back in the Pacific States with Frank, who is not happy to see her at all. Going in to play dumb and pretend that she wasn’t doing anything wrong didn’t work out too well, and I did like how her being questioned was edited together with Joe being grilled and told that he hadn’t even come close to completing his mission. I’m back to a point of feeling that this show’s overarching concept is much greater than its actual characters and plot, and I’m hoping that the next episode will contain a bit more excitement that can move the plot forward than a turncoat Nazi being on the run and Juliana getting a mysterious visitor who sent her to an undercover job that she really shouldn’t take. Frank is in very bad shape, but the consequences of his time spent in Japanese custody continue to have frightening reverberations that underline just how frightening a world this is. With Juliana back on the West Coast and Joe back on the East, it’s becoming harder and harder to have a centralized storyline, and I’m eager to see things come together for a more cohesive and enticing second half of this season, which I’m hopeful will happen.

What I’m Watching: Master of None

Master of None: Season 1, Episode 7 “Ladies and Gentlemen” (B+)

At first, I wasn’t sure why the episode opened with a woman we didn’t know being followed home by a guy who just wouldn’t leave her alone, and I thought it was just to show that Dev’s problems aren’t nearly as serious as those experienced by people around him. But, as this show has demonstrated, its episodes are very specifically themed, and the notion of women having to deal with things men don’t was emphasized throughout the half-hour. Dev standing up for his female colleagues was a nice thing to do, and naturally that led to him being ousted from the commercial so that women could play the main parts with men in the background. The best part of the episode was when Denise and Dev decided to not let the masturbating man on the subway go unpunished and shouted out “Stop what you’re doing, this is a citizen’s arrest,” which, shockingly enough, worked. I also loved how Rachel responded to Dev asking for them to call it a draw by running off and bragging about how she just won the fight with her boyfriend. Even when Arnold threatened to bring down this episode with his unnecessary presence and his immediate reversion to uselessness when he went with Rachel to help bargain down the price of her new couch, Rachel stepped in to save the day, proving that Noel Wells is this show’s best asset aside from its lead actor. I didn’t realize quite how far into this show I was, with just three episodes left that I’m very much looking forward to watching.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 1, Episodes 10 and 11 “Burn Vasectomy Milkshake Pong” / “College Stealing Santa Caroling” (B/B+)

I accidentally forgot to watch last week’s episode and review it in time because I didn’t realize this show was still airing episodes in December, so here’s a double review to catch up. In the first episode, the awkwardness of the “controlled burn” scenario was palpable, the highlight of which was Greg’s miserable decision to call Jen fat as a way to direct her anger towards him and her grinding his chips into dust as revenge. The vasectomy plotline was hardly original, but Tim made it fun. The milkshake plotline was entertaining most for its ending shot of Joan with all the milkshakes in her lap in the passenger seat. The ping pong fiasco was absurd, and the definitive moment of that plotline was Greg knocking out another tooth when he threw down the paddle and hit himself in the mouth. I enjoyed the second episode quite a bit, and I like that the characters recurred throughout the installments in a much bigger way than usual. Tyler announcing to the whole family that he didn’t want to go to college after his mom gave him a University of Michigan sweater during the Yankee Swap was plenty awkward, and it was great to see that Matt was mature and smart enough to make a recommendation that he knew would ultimately take his nephew in the right direction. Tim’s obsession with Clementine is more cringe-worthy than creepy, and I love that she’s exactly the same way around Matt, much to Tyler’s chagrin. John bouncing Joan off the air mattress was amusing, and the other funny part of that segment was that Jen’s first reaction was to steal random things from Joan as revenge for her baby’s first Christmas being taken from her. Samantha getting lice after pretending to go the library was the weakest of all the vignettes but harmless at the same time. Colleen’s eagerness to volunteer to go caroling with John to bond with him was very sweet, but not as much as her thoughtfulness in organizing the whole family to come sing dirty carols with him.

What I’m Watching: Limitless

Limitless: Season 1, Episode 11 “This is Your Brian on Drugs” (B+)

It was a nice treat to have an episode of this show so late in December when most series have already gone on hiatus, and I’m pleased to see that it will be back in just a couple short weeks in the beginning of January. Running through some of my favorite new shows this year, I found myself defending this one to a friend. I still find this to be one of the more entertaining new additions to the fall slate, and I think it consistently manages to be strong, trying new framing devices on a regular basis and always keeping up its quality. This episode had a fun structure, and also contained some more serious developments not related to Brian and his clandestine deal with the devil and a certain senator to keep his supply coming. Ike talking about his dream about an endless string of Mikes, including a female Mike, was entertaining, and then he got himself shot by vandals trying to get ahold of drugs that just happened to include a large supply of NZT. We finally got to see other agents taking NZT, and I found what they did very interesting, and also how Brian realized that Casey was on NZT while he was talking to Naz. Boyle shooting and killing Casey was an unexpected event, and that’s clearly going to fracture the team as Brian and Rebecca insist that it could have been avoided and Boyle continues to feel that it was necessary. It was a strong dramatic way to end this show’s run this year, and I look forward to more in 2016.

What I’m Watching: Fargo (Season Finale)

Fargo: Season 2, Episode 10 “Palindrome” (B+)

In a sense, it feels like this season just started, but I know that there was actually so much packed into ten episodes that it seems silly to want more (aside from a third season, which is wonderfully on the way). This isn’t the kind of show where you have to wonder whether it’s all going to pay off, because the rewards are there along the way with acerbic dialogue and layered, eccentric characters. This season ended exactly in the fashion that I would have expected it to, with a few serious conversations about what all this meant and a much more peaceful resolution for the general populace than a show with this much violence might typically feature. Peggy hallucinating Hanzee trying to smoke them out as Ed gasped his last breath showed just how disconnected from reality she was, and Lou reminding her that people died as she talked about how she wanted to serve his prison time by the water was pretty much the only response he could have given at that point. Hanzee meeting a contact for a new identity and face, fated to fade into the shadows with no repercussions other than relocation, was fitting in an odd way, and I like that we saw two kids playing ball and signing who we know well will surely grow up to become the gangsters we met in season one. Speaking of season one, it was intriguing to hear Betsy talk about the future she saw, full of Keith Carradine, Colin Hanks, and Allison Tolman, all of who I hope will show up in some way or another in season three of this show. The most perplexing and appropriately dissatisfying resolution was that given to Mike, who survived despite everything and earned a desk job for all of his troubles, making all the violence seem futile and immediately forgotten. What a season it’s been – I can’t wait for season three!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 8 “Chapter Thirty” (B+)

Plenty is happening on this show, and even our narrator is having trouble keeping up, as evidenced by his expression of hope and subsequent relief that Michael would explain what he was thinking so that he wouldn’t have to put everything together on his own. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Luisa’s mom definitely faked her suicide and is the drug lord known as Mutter, and Luisa is pretty much just thinking about how much she wants to get with a freaked-out Susanna as a way of coping with the stress and uncertainty of it all. Rafael was actually present in almost all the plotlines in this hour, helping Petra to come to a good place before she got turned in to the police by her duplicitous mother, dealing with his own lying mother, funding a shelter, and trying to appeal to Jane’s forgiving side while she had smoke coming out of her ears. I love the “C - A - L - M” strategy that the original Mateo taught his wife and that she passed down to Jane, and I highly enjoyed Rogelio’s version of it that involved avocado and lavender beauty products. There was so much sweetness here to balance out the fury and the sensational developments, capped by Rogelio’s reaction to Jane revealing that she knew he had invented her scholarship. Jonathan tricking Jane into writing outside of her comfort zone was fun, and the science fiction story was definitely my favorite. Michael sending back the fixed tree topper was immensely caring, and he just scored some major points that make it look more and more like Jane isn’t ever going to be able to truly get over him, regardless of the strides she made in couples’ therapy with Rafael.

Friday, December 18, 2015

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 8 “Hostile Takeover” (B)

This show is getting to be a bit repetitive in certain ways, and making great strides in others. I feel like just recently there was a prisoner being held in a supposedly secure location by the DEO and he was actually just biding his time and ending up exactly where he wanted to be, and that’s just what evil Aunt Astra did in this hour. Yet it’s more complex than that, since apparently Astra fancies herself a true defender of Krypton, able to see that her planet was in peril and that her sister was doing nothing to stop its decay and destruction. The corresponding storyline that took some of Kara’s attention away was considerably more light-hearted, and involved some entertaining intrepid detective work on James’ behalf, with a useful assist from Lucy, who came in quite handy with her legal skills. It’s strange when we feel like we should be rooting for Cat when she’s such an awful boss who doesn’t value the people who work tirelessly under her, but she had a surprise up her sleeve in this episode that I didn’t see coming. I like that she figured out that Kara was Supergirl all on her own without any big moment to reveal it, and that she simply thanked her for doing what she had been doing. I suspect things will change but I’m not so sure, since I feel like Cat won’t try to exploit her or treat her too differently, but instead will know to rely on her now that she’s actually taken the time to look at her and really see her.

What I’m Watching: Quantico

Quantico: Season 1, Episode 11 “Inside” (C-)

This show tried to drop as many bombshells as possible before it goes on hiatus for nearly three months, and, as usual, it achieved that effect but not without stretching its believability even more than it’s already been extended. The necessary holiday theme played its part with the flashback to New Year’s Eve on campus when all the female recruits, minus Raina, discovered that they had all lied and stayed behind, resulting in them all drinking together and ultimately getting invited to Caleb’s family party. While Nimah stayed behind to socialize with Shaw, the others got a firsthand taste of a Haas family event, which included an introduction to none other than Caleb’s mother, played by Marcia Cross of “Desperate Housewives” fame, who was far less into chewing scenery than I had expected, though I do believe that she’s the one behind this whole attack. The other guest of honor was Ryan’s ex-wife and current partner, portrayed by Eliza Coupe, who has been everywhere lately. In the present, Alex is headed straight for prison for no real reason, but first - the show has to kill off a handful of people, or at least make it seem like it did! Of course Simon isn’t the bad guy, and Elias isn’t either, he’s just too vulnerable to other people holding things over him and as a result ended up helping the terrorists trick the FBI - not too hard - and get everyone to the true target location under the guise of being evacuated to safety. The fallout from that won’t be great, but I don’t think too many of our friends were actually inside when it blew up. We’ll find out in March!

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 2, Episode 11 (B+)

I just wrote in my review of “The Good Wife” that Josh Stamberg pulled double duty this past Sunday night showing up in major roles on two shows I watch. Max has always been a good guy, treating Helen right and even trying to take care of his old friend Noah. His pal doesn’t reciprocate his kind heart, and naturally Noah would feel it necessary to take out his panic and fury about Alison lying to him on Max by telling him that he’s always been jealous of him and railing at him for sleeping with his ex-wife. No wonder Max was motivated to testify against him, likely not making anything up but not inclined to protect a man who has never appreciated anything that was given to him. Having the episode split between Cole and Noah’s perspectives was very effective, and also helped to make Alison a more elusive character who suddenly showed up as a big part of Cole’s life again and slowly started disappearing from Noah’s. It’s a small world on this show, and Luisa’s mother working for Helen’s monster mother brought things too close to home in a way that threatened to unravel their whole relationship. There’s just one episode left this season, but this show should be in no hurry to wrap up its storylines as it has been very deservedly renewed for a third season. I’m of the opinion that this season has been just as good as season one, and unlike timeslot companion “Homeland,” this show should keep going for a while.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 10 “KSR” (B-)

It’s always interesting to me to see an actor appear in more than one show in a single night. Presumably, Josh Stamberg didn’t know that his appearance here as a man who wrote grotesque things about rape fantasies online would air just an hour before a pivotal episode for his recurring character on “The Affair,” but that’s how it played out. Stamberg is usually smug but likeable, and the way he reacted to being convicted for a crime he never committed certainly cried out for empathy. The fact that the verdict was overturned by the world’s most corrupt judge and the most despicable character on television is a bigger deal, since now Alicia might technically be seen as being in cahoots with the judge who responded to her accusing him of nearly taking a bribe by handing her a victory on a silver platter. Alicia didn’t keep her feelings to herself this episode, lashing out at a bewildered Eli for having Jason sent away while he reeled from his sudden dismissal from Courtney’s life. The latest associate coup at Lockhart and Co was far less dramatic than the last one, but Cary and Diane handled it in the most cutthroat way possible, ensuring that their traitorous former employees couldn’t go on to their dream jobs as planned. This show isn’t taking a long break this year, returning in less than a month, and I’m hoping for a bit more focused direction in the coming year with an eye to legal matters more than politics and a return to what this show used to be.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 5, Episode 11 “Our Man in Damascus” (C)

Well, there’s just one episode left in this season, and I can’t imagine how anything is going to be tied up in a coherent way in the finale. Allison has gone completely off the rails at this point, and she’s not really helping anyone by derailing the efforts of the good guys to prevent a major terrorist attack which may not be happening at all because of the reluctance of one terrorist to go through with his part of it. It’s clear that there is no better way to make a suspect talk than by executing another agent right in front of him, but he paid for his information with his life, and Allison shot herself too just for good measure. I can’t comprehend why she was just walking around as if she would be trustworthy, and then she was left alone to be able to escape from the hospital after she still hadn’t been cleared by the FBI of wrongdoing. Speaking of not supervising people, it seems absurd that a suspect in the middle of interrogation who had been seized publicly after trying to come in on his own would be by himself in a room with a window that could easily allow him a different kind of exit. It’s especially terrible given Laura went on national television to demand the dead man’s release or she would leak all the remaining classified CIA documents. Quinn coughed up a whole lot of blood when Carrie and Saul tried to shock his body into consciousness, and it doesn’t look like anyone is headed for a happy ending, even the terrorists!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What I’m Watching: Transparent (Season Premiere)

Transparent: Season 2, Episode 1 “Kina Hora” (B)

It’s clear that since Jeffrey Tambor won the Emmy last year for his performance as the patriarch turned matriarch of one of television’s most fascinating family, this show has become immensely popular and respected, receiving numerous Golden Globe and SAG nominations last week. Expectations were understandably high for what this premiere would be like, and it was definitely a packed and development-filled episode. The all-white wedding theme helped to start it out on a subtle but stark note, as the chaos of everyone gathering in front of the hapless photographer for a family picture was dominated by so much shouting and Maura stealing the thunder by asking the photograph where he wanted her chin. There was a big dramatic undercurrent in this episode related to Sarah’s complete lack of commitment to her new marriage and the fact that she felt like she was in way over her head in terms of this binding relationship. Naturally, it took until after the nuptials for her to fully make that realization. The news that Rabbi Raquel is pregnant is big, and Josh did a great job swiftly spreading the word about that secret. The sudden flashback to 1933 Berlin felt out of place, and also came about in a strange way given that there was no warning for it and no explanation after the fact, but this show has never been one to uphold convention. I didn’t love this installment but I’m looking forward to seeing how this season plays out over the next couple of months.

What I'm Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 4 “AKA 99 Friends” (B+)

This show does a masterful job of building up its main villain by rarely showing him, and instead making it clear that the effect he has on people is truly devastating. Hogarth bringing in people who claimed to have come under Kilgrave's influence seemed less than genuine, and weeding out some of the people who were trying to use his existence as a way to justify their own troubles, particularly a pregnant girl who claimed that he made her have sex despite her conservative upbringing, was a definite challenge. But beneath all that were the more haunting true stories, like the woman who had to keep smiling and the man who was charged with child abandonment because he had to drive Kilgrave around for a full week. What to me was most powerful was how Will, who appears to be becoming a regular character, couldn't let what he did go so much that he stopped by Trish's apartment to apologize by getting to know her and really talking out some issues. Jessica is inarguably on edge, and it didn't help that her paranoia about her latest client being sent by Kilgrave turned out to be something even worse. Jessica Hecht's Audrey Eastman incurred Jessica's full wrath when she revealed her true purpose, which was to make enhanced humans, or whatever they're called in this universe, suffer for the misdeeds of others. As if Jessica's fury wasn't bad enough, Hogarth showed her true nature when her ex-wife dared to call her out on bringing her new girlfriend to the spot where she proposed. She is not someone who should be crossed, and I'd be very worried about Kilgrave getting to her and using that rage to his detrimental advantage.

What I'm Watching: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle: Season 1, Episode 4 “Revelations” (B)

As this show continues, I'm still intrigued and invested enough to keep watching, but it hasn't yet reached the point of must-see TV that I feel other series have. In a sense, its growth is stilted by the fact that it's supposed to be digested in a short period of time, and therefore its relatively slow pace and character development might perhaps be attributed to its format. Episode three brought us a bounty hunter who seemed like he might become a regular player but would probably be better suited to a short arc that showed how far Joe was willing to go to protect Juliana under the guise of carrying out his mission. It's interesting to see just how easily Joe lets slip his true intentions, or at least what he purports them to be, since it's rarely the truth. He gave up the film footage to Lem so that they wouldn't be executed because he suspected of being a Nazi spy, which he is, and then he threw his Nazi allegiance in the Marshal's face to ensure that his number one mark wouldn't be taken out by the bloodthirsty hitman. The scene with Juliana rushing to start the car and the Marshal slowly walking towards her felt like something out of an old-fashioned thriller, which is very much what this show is designed to be. Frank's insistence on revenge can't lead anywhere good, and locking his friend in the closet after he tried to stop him only led to something bad nearly happening, though what we saw indicates that Frank wasn't the one who pulled the trigger. I imagine we'll know soon enough, though this show is in no rush to provide too much information.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What I'm Watching: Master of None

Master of None: Season 1, Episode 6 “Nashville” (B+)

Now this was a great episode. I couldn't be more excited to have Noel Wells back as a newly single Rachel who was brave enough to accept the bold invitation from an eager Dev to fly to Nashville for their first real date. Starting off from a position of already knowing each other was enormously helpful and enabled them to just fire back humorous comments at each other, and what a pair they make. Trying to get the hotel clerk to admit that there had been a murder in their room was a fun start, and they just kept on going with that throughout the course of their entire stay. It was a shame to see Dev make the unfortunate misstep of trusting the usually reliable Waze and making them miss their flight back, an especially lamentable development considering they were late so that he could go get a sauce he could have bought at the airport, but luckily the rut didn't last long as he tried to make it up to her on their flight and then promptly asked her to hang out more as soon as they got back to New York. It's a real delight to see Dev doing so well romantically, finally getting a girl who is completely on the same page as him about everything related to humor and fun things to do. They were comfortable enough to nap during their out-of-town date, and her being a vegetarian isn't a dealbreaker. I really hope this thing is going to last – they're great for each other.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst (Season Finale)

You’re the Worst: Season 2, Episode 13 “The Heart is a Dumb Dumb” (B+)

This season comes to an end on a positive note, and I’m pleased to see that the show has been renewed for a third season by FXX while the show that premiered with it, “Married,” got cancelled after a poor second season. Much has been said of the shift this season to more dramatic territory with Gretchen’s depression taking center stage, and while that has been good, I think the comedy has remained just as strong too. Gretchen finally left the house in this episode, and I love that the first thing she did was to go track down the girl that Jimmy nearly slept with and hit on her. Nina’s response was a great one that recalls the title of this show: “I’m a real person!” Jimmy, meanwhile, was getting plastered to the point of absurdity, and he nearly got Edgar to ruin the best relationship he’s ever had. Fortunately, Dorothy was fantastic enough to not take it as finite and stick with her improv master boyfriend. It was a blast to see Vernon take the mic and air his feelings for once in a baby shower appropriate for Becca’s awfulness. Paul dumping Amy when he found out that Lindsey was pregnant was a surprise, and the look on her face when she was riding in his new hobby said so much. This has been a good season, and I’m eager for more next year.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Collette Wolfe as Dorothy

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 9 “White Christmas” (C)

It’s understood that Gloria doesn’t always manage to come off as highly clued in to what’s going on around her, and much of it stems from the fact that she doesn’t have a strong grasp of the English language. But it’s a stretch to think that she would mistake celsius temperatures for fahrenheit measurements and bring her entire family on yet another torturous adventure, following their recent therapy session, with winter clothes ready for a white Christmas instead of shorts and t-shirts. I’m not usually too fond of when shows try to do parodies that don’t extend into the entirety of the episode, and I feel like “The Shining” is the most-parodied movie out there. Having Luke and Manny try to scare Lily only to actually frighten a dim-witted Luke was mildly amusing but hardly as funny as it should have been. Naturally, Andy and Haley decided to have sex in just the spot that Luke and Manny had pretended was haunted, leading to the whole family discovering their affair. Gloria inviting Beth was a cringeworthy development, but she got written out pretty quickly after she told Andy that she too was having an affair, making his newfound relationship with Haley perfectly acceptable going forward. Though it’s less fun now that people know about it, it’s going to be good to see the two of them together since they really are so different despite their strange attraction to each other. Jay’s efforts to ensure that Claire really wanted the job were well-intentioned but as usual hardly gentle.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 9 “Cape Town” (B)

This show caught the holiday bug and felt like it needed to follow up on the apparent requirement of seasonally themed programming, featuring costumed superheroes in its jolliest and silliest version of a celebration. Don’t get me wrong - there were definitely great moments of this episode, like Liv delivering a handful of speeches about good and evil and what she must do to defend the world, and her bold attempt to wear a mask and take on an army of thugs not realizing that the woman she thought was rescuing was actually the most dangerous of them all. What I liked about all that was who it was who saved her: Eddie Jemison’s Stacey Boss, who had the perfect cover story that got him pardoned for shooting an enemy and also got him off in general while he cleaned up an ugly mess. It’s disconcerting to see Liv be hot and cold in response to Major and the generally big gestures he’s making to try to work with Liv’s varying moods caused by the brains and her normal state of being. Breaking up with Major was a miserable outcome, and it comes at a time that he’s already feeling pulled away because of a sympathetic encounter with a zombie who just wanted to die and could therefore help fulfill Major’s quota. Hearing him explain to her why he does what he does and why he could never tell Liv was very endearing, but there’s no way that it can work out well for either of them when the truth finally comes out.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 3, Episode 10 “Maveth” (B)

This is the last time we’ll see this show for a while since “Agent Carter” is going to be taking over through the beginning of March. There’s plenty to think about from this hour, though I’d also like to see things move on a bit from where they currently are. There is no reason why Grant Ward should still be alive, yet everyone continues to think that it’s a good idea to just wound him and ensure that he suffers like he has caused others to suffer. Coulson had the chance to take him out and did a pretty good job up until the point that he nearly didn’t make it back through the portal and somehow let Ward slip back through, now possessed by that inhuman who had taken over Will’s body. It seemed for a while like Fitz was going to be able to get Will back through, but fortunately Fitz realized that Will was no longer alive and that he had been traveling with an impostor the whole time. This show’s crowded cast came in handy as they went in to the rescue, with an eager Joey tagging along and figuring out just what he can do to carry his weight. Simmons letting Andrew out to save her seemed like a good idea at the time, but it appears that Lash took out every one of the inhumans in the chambers next to him, proving that he can’t be controlled. All this and more sure to be slowly resolved when this show returns in March.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 9 “Running to Stand Still” (B-)

Now that the crossover with Oliver Queen and the ancient Egyptians is done, it’s time for this show’s last offering of 2015..a Christmas-themed hour? I’m not sure why such things are necessary, but I also know that I’ll have a hard time getting the image of a maniacal Mark Hamill sending an army of spinning dreidels at the Flash when I go to see the new “Star Wars” movie sometime in the weeks to come. It’s hard to keep track of all the villains that Barry has put away even in just over one season, but it didn’t take long to remember Hamill’s Jesse James and the Weather Wizard who was there when Barry first ran fast enough to travel back in time. All of the holiday-oriented moments of the hour didn’t do much for me, though the thought of Barry and his friends and family, including Jay, Harry, and new addition Wally West, gathering together to celebrate Christmas is somewhat heartwarming. And after much prodding from a newly single Cisco, Caitlin and Jay finally kissed and showed some attachment to each other. But what was most worthwhile for me in this episode was everything involving Patty, who was bold enough to bring a boot designed specifically to keep the Flash in one place so that she could execute the man who killed her father. It’s a good thing that the Flash talked her down and that he managed to do it without giving away his secret identity. More to come certainly in 2016, and I’m eager to see this show go back to its regularly scheduled storylines not involving pharaohs or Santas.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Muppets

The Muppets: Season 1, Episode 10 “Single All the Way” (B+)

This was a fun holiday episode to send this show off for the holidays on a hiatus through the beginning of February. Every time I mention to friends that I’m enjoying this show, they look at me quizzically and note just how much they don’t like it. In fact, the showrunner has even been replaced, ready to overhaul this show creatively. I don’t see what’s so wrong with its current state and why that’s so necessary - I’m having a great time watching it week after week. This episode’s celebrity guest star, Mindy Kaling, was perfectly tied into the plot, not trying to upstage Piggy with her singing but rather trying to shatter everyone’s eardrums with her hopelessly off-key singing. I’m glad that it wasn’t so bad to be truly awful since that would have been unnecessarily excessive, and I like that she loved the idea of being part of a sketch but still mistakenly insisted that everyone was tuning in to watch her sing and not to do comedy. The entire crew singing was the perfect solution to that particular problem. Yolanda giving everyone her name as their Secret Santa because she had been left out of the game the year before was funny, and it was nice to see everyone still give her gifts once they figured it out and felt bad for having unintentionally excluded her. The best part of the episode was Fozzie reassuring himself with an altogether different message than Piggy was giving him when he and Becky broke up, and now it seems that there may be some sexual tension between none other than Piggy and Kermit, which should prove interesting in the episodes to come.

Pilot Review: Telenovela

Telenovela (NBC)
Premiered December 7 at 10pm

This week, we got the second new show that NBC is premiering in January and previewing early with two installments. In this show, we get a different Latina actress known for an hourlong comedy - Eva Longoria - in a show that feels a whole lot like America Ferrera’s old series. This one is unapologetically a telenovela, using that as its premise but also feeling a whole lot like it in terms of many of its characters. Its format is much more of a sitcom, and not a terribly sophisticated one at that. Longoria was never considered to be one of the strongest players on “Desperate Housewives,” though she was perfectly cast for that role. The same is true here, allowing Longoria to really be ridiculous and over-the-top as a soap star who isn’t as popular as she once was and has to contend with a vicious costar who used to be the lead and an ex-husband who is now her costar and who got inserted into the show’s poster rather quickly. The only member of the supporting cast who caught my eye is Amaury Nalasco, who played Sucre on “Prison Break” and here gets to play up the silliness of his character, who especially in episode two got to have a wild plotline full of romance, betrayal, and passion. This show isn’t terribly sophisticated or particularly funny, and I think I’d much prefer to give its timeslot companion a few episodes to see where it goes rather than tune in to this one again.

How will it work as a series? The second episode, with Mimi’s sex dreams that turned into a whirlwind office romance, showed that this show is all about mirroring its show-within-a-show in drawing its salacious plotlines. There is sure to be some entertainment in there, but this show doesn’t hold a candle to something like “Jane the Virgin.”
How long will it last? Not long. While “Superstore” got off to a good start, this show didn’t perform as impressively, making its success all the less likely. We still won’t know until both shows arrive at their normal timeslots together on January 4th, but I wouldn’t count on this making it past February.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 2, Episode 9 “The Castle” (B+)

Did that really just happen? Somehow, a UFO showing up over a bloody hotel battle in a South Dakota sky doesn’t seem all that out of place on this show where it might on other series. It’s still crazy, but it felt right in a way in this episode that suddenly switched to having a storybook narrator summarize and contextualize its events. The whole shootout was extraordinarily well staged, and it seems that Hanzee just really wanted to stick it to the Gerhardt family for unknown reasons, and he didn’t care about all the collateral damage incurred by having them blast their way into a motel filled with police thinking they were from Kansas City. The whole plan to have Peggy and Ed go in wearing a wire to arrest Mike was poorly thought-out from the start, but Lou managed to get himself escorted out of the state for being too pushy with his lawmanship. Peggy is most clearly the ringleader, doing crazy, brash things, and then forcing an all-too-willing and personality-free Ed to help clean up the mess. Naturally, the first thing to do when a shootout was happening is to knock out the cop charged with protecting you. I suspect their fate will be similar to Lester’s in the first season, doomed to an untimely death because they couldn’t comprehend the seriousness or slippery nature of their situation. Hank being ready with his gun when the Gerhardt henchmen burst into his room was impressive, and it’s a shame that Ted Danson didn’t earn a Golden Globe nomination for his performance this season (Patrick Wilson and Kirsten Dunst did, and are both certainly deserving). Fantastically, this show has been renewed for a third season, which will be set in the present day. I can’t wait!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 7 “Human for a Day” (B+)

Kara not having her powers was an inevitability at some point, and I like how it was handled in this episode. The fact that James and Maxwell are both well aware that Supergirl must have lost her abilities temporarily because she essentially overexerted herself is intriguing, and naturally they came back just when they needed to in the nick of time. The best part, though, was how Kara still wanted to help save the world and do good even without super strength or flight, and that she was courageous enough to walk into the middle of a holdup without true invincibility is the sign of a real hero. I prefer those moments to Cat dominating scenes and sending employees home for catching colds and daring to show up at work and potentially infect everyone else. It’s great that James managed to capture a great picture that helps to paint her as the brave do-gooder she is. Much of the more enticing drama of the hour came from the prisoner on the loose who nearly escaped and killed a whole bunch of people, and the fact that Alex decided that was the time to air her mistrust of her boss was unfortunate and inconvenient. It was all well worth it, though, for the big reveal that Hank is not actually Hank but an alien shapeshifter who showed his true self in the most dramatic and awesome fashion possible. Now Alex can trust the alien who seems like a good guy and wants to help Kara, and maybe he’ll be an even be a better ally since everything is out in the open.

What I’m Watching: Quantico

Quantico: Season 1, Episode 10 “Quantico” (C)

This episode continues events in the same direction that they’ve been headed all along, becoming more and more ridiculous thanks to an influx of extra twists and the continued public affairs of the FBI trainees. Back in the past, putting recruits like Nathalie on trial in front of the entire group and having her future be judged with them all watching seemed more than excessive, especially given the reason that she was fabricating her scar. I also have to take serious issue with the notion of Simon being implicated by his peers simply because of his service in the Israeli Defense Forces. While the situation in the Middle East may be controversial, especially in the world of Hollywood, having served in the army of a top ally would definitely not be so damning for employees of a government intelligence agency. I’m not sure why Simon thought that planning a twin bomb threat and making sure that it wouldn’t actually work was a good idea, since now it appears that it led to the real thing being carried out with no planned flaws and his abduction for figuring that out. The reason he got kicked out of the academy also seemed rather trivial given everything else that’s happened. You’d think that an intelligence agency would think to make sure its doors were locked or guarded when they were spying on their own people, and that stupid policy has now led to everyone hating Alex even though they know that she’s innocent. Now we’re back at square one with no real leads, though maybe a few major hints will be dropped in the upcoming mid-season finale.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 2, Episode 10 (B+)

After an episode that deviated from the perspective-focused style, we’re right back to it, but in a way that feels perfectly natural and started off by following just one character without any other regular players appearing in his life. Noah showing up to couples’ therapy without Alison was an excellent chance for him to get introspective and share so much without thinking he was actually being shrinked. What was most fascinating to me was the extreme difference in what Noah said to Alison and what she heard, an enthusiastic endorsement of continuing therapy together contrasted with a request never to go back again. Noah talking about his desire to cheat and his fear of starting a relationship with someone he cheated with was very interesting, and the dialogue on this show truly is superb. Alison meeting Luisa was a fantastic moment, and it’s crazy how far these characters have come. Scotty’s return was a worrisome development that made it seem like things would just return immediately to the messy Lockhart situation that formerly existed for Alison, and Cole’s reaction was not a good one. Two tidbits of news about this show unrelated to this episode: it was just renewed for a third season, which is awesome, and Maura Tierney earned himself a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination, while her show, which took home the Best Drama Series award last year, didn’t show up anywhere else. Good for Maura, at least! She’s a great actress and her performance this year has been pretty incredible, and I think I’d single her out as the best one this season.

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

The Leftovers: Season 2, Episode 10 “I Live Here Now” (A-)

I’ll still argue that the first season was much better in my mind, but it’s hard not to find some aspects of this episode incredible. That scene on the bridge with Erika running towards Evie, hugging her nonresponsive child, and then defiantly staying there while the clock ticked down was supremely intense, and it makes me think that maybe Regina King could have been recognized by awards bodies for this show and not for “American Crime” (though admittedly I stopped watching that show after episode one). Once again, the Guilty Remnant have done something worse than killing or physically hurting people – they have devastated any sense of peace or tranquility. Blowing up the bridge would have kept the residents of Jarden cut off from the rest of the world, but instead they made it just like any place, robbed of any wonder or specialness. Meg and Evie singing the town anthem was especially harsh, and I think the residents of Jarden may be too heartbroken to stand up to the cult newly in their midst. Nora having the baby taken out of her arms only to find her seemingly shielded from the horde of people trampling over each other was powerful, and Tom swooping in to choose the right side was a promising development. Kevin was bold to tell John that he thought his daughter might not have loved him, and that getting shot sent him right back into purgatory was so fascinating. Coming home to find his entire extended family, including a miraculously awake Mary, smiling at him in the dark provided a wholly unexpected happy ending, one that could well end this grim show on a weirdly positive note. Since I wrote this review, this show has been renewed for a third and final season, which I think is probably fitting, though I think it could go on for longer than that.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Regina King as Erika

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 5, Episode 10 “New Normal” (C)

In the wake of Allison being caught and trying to spin the whole thing to make it seem like she was actually playing an asset rather than betraying her country on a regular basis, it all doesn’t matter because things are not good and the CIA could use help both from Allison and from non-agent Carrie. It wasn’t enough that Saul laid hands on Allison and attacked her in interrogation, but because of imminent and immediate terrorist threats, all is immediately forgiven and Dal trusts everyone, especially those he doesn’t personally like. It’s no wonder that Carrie thinks she brings destruction to all those around her, because she had to watch Quinn being exposed to sarin gas on television and be present at Brody’s hanging just a few years earlier. But fear not, Quinn isn’t dead, instead he’s creepily laying there with his eyes open just waiting for Carrie, Astrid, or some other past romantic interest to come rescue him. This terrorist plot isn’t going too smoothly though considering one do-gooder’s duplicity, but naturally he was protected so some poor innocent terrorist had to pay the price for his misdeed. The authorities are busy arresting people who are more than happy to cooperate, just ensuring that everyone on all sides can’t accomplish much of anything. This show was just renewed for a sixth season, which seems a bit excessive at this point unless it completely reboots itself and introduces a whole bunch of new characters in a new place with a different focus.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Golden Globe Nominees: Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical

My predictions: 3/6, picking only “Orange is the New Black,” “Silicon Valley,” and “Transparent”
Who’s missing? Girls, Jane the Virgin, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Last Man on Earth, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory

It’s very interesting to compare this list with the SAG Best Ensemble field, which also contains six nominees. Three of them - Orange is the New Black, Transparent, and Veep - are the same. Of those three, it took “Orange is the New Black” until its classification as a comedy in year two to get here, “Transparent” was snubbed in season one, and Emmy winner “Veep” is actually here for the first time. Long-forgotten are network comedies like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” that SAG still likes, and instead, we get an interesting trio. Silicon Valley is back for year two, keeping up its streak of only being nominated in the top races with no performers ever singled out. Mozart in the Jungle is an Amazon offering that I found over the top but it’s still interesting to see it here. And the best news of all is the inclusion of Hulu’s superb show Casual, a fantastic addition that I’d love to see win this.

Who will win? It’s hard to say – maybe they’ll go for Veep now that it’s finally nominated?

Golden Globe Nominees: Best TV Series – Drama

My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Affair” and “House of Cards” over “Empire” and “Outlander”
What’s missing? The Affair, Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, House of Cards

Now this is a bit surprising, but very much in the style of the Golden Globes. Their winning series from last year, “The Affair,” is gone completely. Dismissed are two series that had been nominated regularly in the past, including one that I really didn’t expect to be gone so soon, “House of Cards.” Joining popular show Game of Thrones, the only returning nominee, are four brand new shows. Two of them I don’t watch, Empire and Outlander, and two I couldn’t be more excited about: Mr. Robot and Narcos. This list is cool if only because it honors five different networks: FOX, HBO, USA, Netflix, and Starz. I’d prefer a handful of other shows be represented here alongside those last two.

What will win? It’s looking like Outlander right now.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Limited Series or TV Movie

My predictions: 3/5, picking “Bessie” and “Show Me a Hero” over “American Horror Story: Hotel” and “Flesh and Bone”
What’s missing? Bessie, Show Me a Hero, Luther, Nightingale

It’s clear: Globe voters love their limited series that aren’t so limited. Last year’s winner Fargo, American Crime, and American Horror Story: Hotel will all be back again for new iterations and likely nominated again. That may also be the case for Flesh and Bone. The only traditional miniseries here is Wolf Hall, which beat out TV movies “Show Me a Hero” and “Bessie,” which just had their lead performers nominated. Not surprisingly, season two of “True Detective” did not make the cut.

Who will win? I’m thinking American Horror Story: Hotel.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series

My predictions: 3/5, picking Janney and Smart over Froggatt and Light
Who’s missing? Allison Janney, Jean Smart

This is a cool list, one singling out performers on shows who are clearly doing good work. Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) and Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) are back again, though I’m not sure they both need to be nominated year after year. Regina King (American Crime) won an Emmy for her work, and while I would have liked to see her here for “The Leftovers” instead, this is still something. I haven’t yet seen season two of her show, so I can’t speak to whether Judith Light (Transparent) really is the deserving supporting actress from her show. And one nominee I’m proud to have predicted - Maura Tierney (The Affair) - made the cut for a superb supporting performance after the other three nominations her show got last year all failed to repeat.

Who will win? I think this will be Aduba since she has yet to win a Globe.

Golden Globe Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series

My predictions: 1/5, picking only Lewis
Who’s missing? Jon Voight, Tituss Burgess, Ted Danson, Michael K. Williams, Peter Dinklage, Tony Hale

This list doesn't look like what I thought it would, but it rarely does. To start with, we have Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) again, now representing his show all on his own. He's still fun, but I don't think he needs to be here. I am pleased to see Christian Slater (Mr. Robot), a great chance to recognize a great performance. I didn't see Tobias Menzies coming, but apparently his show was very popular. It's good to see Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) recognized as the strongest part of a so-so show, joining fifth nominee Damian Lewis (Wolf Hall).

Who will win? I think it will be Lewis.