Saturday, February 28, 2015

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 16 “Blunt” (B)

It’s good to see the team functioning relatively well together, though I’m still not quite as enticed by some of these installments that don’t directly involve Samaritan, even though the end did indicate that Root is up to something big. The return of Dominic was inevitable since he and Elias really have a stronghold on criminal enterprise in New York City, and it’s so interesting to see how much he knows about Reese, now Riley, and the rest of our friends, yet he never really poses a true threat to them. I’m surprised that Reese didn’t break the news about Shaw to him since the two of them spent some personal time together and she’s surely his favorite out of the crew. It was funny to hear Finch catch himself while talking to Harper, about to reference Mr. Reese before quickly correcting to Detective Riley. Harper was the most difficult kind of number, one fully intent on getting into trouble with no concept of what consequences there would be, and who still wouldn’t have done anything differently had she realized. Fusco is proving to be an asset lately, no longer a punching bag after affirming his commitment to the team and the cause. I liked the scene in the club because it had a nice rhythm to it that wasn’t the same familiar, albeit excellent, musical meter of this show. I’m very intrigued about Root and what she’s doing, and I’m eager to see where her plan takes her and what her endgame really is.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation (Series Finale)

Parks and Recreation: Season 7, Episodes 12 and 13 “One Last Ride, Parts 1 and 2”

I’m going to miss this show. Fortunately, it went out on a high note, never dipping in quality and always delivering consistent and often incessant laughs. Jumping ahead in time was a risky gamble for this show’s final season, but I think it paid off, and fast-forwarding to the future even more with every fateful final touch Leslie had with each character was a truly touching way of sending this show off. I like that we even got to say goodbye to a minor character like Craig and Jean-Ralphio, who would be stupid enough to get caught faking his own death by showing up to his own funeral. And though their names were in the credits at the beginning of the episode, it was still a treat to see Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe back as Ann and Chris, content to stop by and say hi without stealing the show. Of the pieces of the future, I think that Jerry’s might have been the best, since it showed him getting elected time after time as mayor and dying on his 100th birthday happily surrounded by his family and an impossibly young-looking Gail. Ron’s fate was also heartwarming, as Leslie found him the perfect job after he realized that he didn’t want to do what we was doing anymore. It was fun to start with Donna since she’s always been a great part of the show, and I like that Tom chose personality types in his book named after his best friends. April giving birth in Halloween makeup was pretty terrific too. What’s not to like about this show? Will there ever be a character quite as universally enthusiastic and cheerful as Leslie Knope? I don’t think there could have been a more endearing and uplifting finale, particularly with Ben and Leslie being approached to run for Governor of Indiana at the same time. Ending on a note of triumph without going into too much detail was just wonderful. I always say I’m going to write retrospectives with best episodes listed and other honors after shows end, and I really mean it with this one – I’m nowhere near ready to forget about it just yet. Also, I should start playing Cones of Dunshire.

Series finale: A-
Series grade: A
Season MVP: Amy Poehler
Season grade: A
Series MVP: Amy Poehler
Best Season: TBD
Best Episode: TBD

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 4, Episode 17 “Spiderhunt” (C-)

This was far from a worthwhile episode in my mind, featuring one or two laughs embedded deep within some very obnoxious and obvious plotlines. I always go back to the brilliant double entendre of “Quick Hardening Caulk” whenever this show deems it necessary to include dialogue that has to have a separate meaning when one or both of the characters have no clue what conversation they’re actually having. Maybe it was the fact that Jess had no problem with the things that she thought Nick was saying about Cece when he was actually talking about the popcorn maker that made it hard to believe, but I think it was just that it was an unnecessary delay tactic before Cece finally admitted to Jess that it was Schmidt who she liked. The handholding moment under the table with Winston awkwardly joining in was the episode’s best moment, which doesn’t say much for the twenty minutes or so that came before it. I hope Cece makes her feelings known soon since I’m tiring quickly of Fawn, and it would be nice to see Schmidt with someone who rolled their eyes at his eccentricities but didn’t stomp all over him all the time. I liked the science behind Nick’s Bolognese sauce, using healthy portions of bologna and mayonnaise to give it its defining taste, which won over Fawn and no one else. Coach’s draft e-mails all getting sent was a positive consequence of an otherwise meager subplot, and I’d like to be able to hear from her more in the near future since I think she really does a number on Coach.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Take Three: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 4 “Hero” (B)

I’m not completely sold, but there were elements of this episode that indicate that this show may possess the ability to truly be great if it stops long enough to linger on its more potent and haunting moments. There was something about Howard and Kim going to look at the billboard and it slowly coming into view that felt truly and fantastically intense, and really worked. Starting at the beginning of the episode with Kevin Weisman of “Alias” fame as a random acquaintance of Jimmy’s out on the town with him was great because it didn’t clearly introduce the situation or its timing and also gave us the first mention of Saul Goodman. Making it seem like Jimmy was being played for a fool and then finding out that it was actually him who had created the ruse was cool, and it makes Jimmy a very tough character to read. Putting up a sign designed to infuriate his rival and then staging a rescue in front of it shows just how little he cares about the ethics of the methods he uses, which made his reluctance to accept a bribe from Mrs. Kettleman, who didn’t want to hire him since he seemed like the kind of lawyer who represented guilty people all the more perplexing. He clearly managed to pique Chuck’s curiosity enough to risk going out into the ungrounded wild to steal a newspaper, which suggests that Chuck knows him well and would judge him for the tactics he has used to get ahead and earn, among other things, seven new voicemails.

What I’m Watching: Togetherness

Togetherness: Season 1, Episode 6 “Ghost in Chains” (B)

I liked this episode, but I think it was a bit fragmented to truly fit its title. The amount of time Brett spends in nature hunting for sounds is absurd, especially considering how little those he works with value what he does. He should really do more creative things with what he cares about, though it wouldn’t be like him to stand up for himself and try to make a change. Encountering Mary Steenburgen’s earthy stranger in the woods was certainly odd, there’s no getting around that. But it was fascinating to see him open up partially to her view of the world, and welcome the opportunity to be buried under leaves at the end of the episode despite his ardent protests. Stepping outside his comfort zone is something he rarely does, and it was jarring to see someone open him up so easily by exhibiting no sense of boundaries or judgment. Michelle does enjoy spending time with David, and Tina wasn’t wrong to comment on her excitedly going to flirt with him. I like that Michelle was relatively blunt and honest with Tina about her lack of appreciation for and sensitivity towards the people in her film. Unfortunately, seducing Larry into giving Alex a part in his movie didn’t have the effect she had hoped it would. Seeing the two of them bicker, especially when one of them has something to be sorry about, is a true pleasure, and for me it’s the highlight of this admittedly awkward but usually satisfying show.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 4, Episode 6 “Close Up” (B+)

This was a fun episode, highlighting each of our characters, girls and boys, as they faced the latest tribulations in their lives with plenty of wit, frustration, and personality. Jessa was the only one who didn’t really do anything, while Hannah made the realization that she wants to help people, something that she’ll likely tire of very quickly. Marnie and Desi went from having lots of sex to a major argument about whether they thought of themselves like another band and Desi wanting to write songs by himself and polish his motorcycle instead of appreciating Marnie’s creativity. Shoshanna has proven that she is the absolute worst at interviews, and her banter with Jason Ritter was absolutely fantastic. She’s jumping ahead a bit in terms of her marriage plans, but I’d be happy to see him again and see where their soupy romance goes. Ray going to the city to fight for what he believes in was a great step, and I love that he didn’t end up getting called and then he launched into a tirade for the rights of the people, which resulted in the members of the council bickering like children. It would be a thrill to see him run for political office, even such a minor one, and I heartily look forward to his campaign. Mimi-Rose is a fantastic character, and it was great to see a lovestruck Adam change his tune so much when she casually dropped the news that she had an abortion. An odd ending montage was actually fitting, and it makes me pleased with the direction this season is taking.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 11 “The Distance” (B+)

This show has some deeply contemplative themed episodes and also sometimes tends to follow just a few of its characters in a given hour. And then it features episodes like this, which are very stream of consciousness and in the trenches, following the whole group as they move from place to place, unsure of what’s going to come next. That was very much the case here, as Aaron served as a friendly face who seemed all too calm about the state of things, almost too good to be true. It turned out that he was incredibly sensitive, reuniting with his partner Eric after getting truly concerned during the car ride when he saw the flare go up. He’s a fascinating character, and I really am curious to see what lies beyond the gates in Alexandria. Michonne, who defended Aaron’s apparent intentions, made things seem dark again when they were finally looking up when she suddenly got concerned and asked Rick if he had asked Aaron the three questions. Maybe the problem with Alexandria is going to be that they won’t be able to trust the tranquility of things and will feel the need to leave to be able to return to the predictable chaos of the outside world. Abraham and Rosita at least seem to be looking ahead to the future – and Washington, D.C. – with some positivity, and the sound of children playing is certainly inspiring. It’s just so hard to know what’s going to make it all fall apart.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 8 (B+)

Now this is technically the season finale, but we only have to wait a week until the Christmas special airs here in the U.S., while British viewers have to wait over a month. This was a fitting storyline for a supersized episode such as this one, filled with a big trip to London and plenty of drama to go along with it. Atticus’ Jewish heritage turned out to be a big issue, in part because Rose wanted to do as much as possible while his father sternly disapproved of the fact that he would be marrying outside the faith. Surprisingly, his stag party mishap was the result not of his father’s handiwork but of Rose’s mother’s, and she did a good job of making up for it by coming out with the news of her divorce to prepare for any bad press it gave her new in-laws, resulting in a hilarious threat of divorce by Atticus’ mother if he gave them any trouble. I feel like every big secret on this show just boils over to a point that everyone has to guess it and then becomes a big nothing, like Edith being her daughter’s birth mother, something people keep guessing easily. It was very sweet that Robert chose to honor Mrs. Patmore’s nephew at the memorial after all, and she even seems to have kept Daisy from leaving due to her emotional reaction to the news of her impending departure. Tom did a nice thing for once and protected the new footman from being used by Denker, though he did manage to stick it to her in the process. Her ongoing feud with Spratt is pretty hilarious, and I enjoyed the fact that his attempt to cast her in a bad light didn’t work out anywhere near as well as he had hoped it would.

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 3, Episode 7 “You Can’t Hide from the Dead” (B+)

This hardly seems like the ideal time for our crew to be pulling a job, so soon after Siobhan’s death, and that obviously presented a serious problem when Lucas started hallucinating her while Job was desperately in need of some assistance. Fortunately, it looks like they made it out unscathed, though no one is in a mood for celebration. Brock was more than ready to go after Chayton alongside Lucas after he called Emily and told her that being with Kai was a bad idea. Aimee deciding that Chayton is a serious threat is a bit of a late realization, and I’m sure that tracking him down with come with its share of consequences. He really is a menace, determining that even those who haven’t done wrong by him deserve to die, some more painfully than others. Deva might have issues with her parents, but there’s no denying the awesomeness of them joining forces to come pluck her out of her life plagued with bad decisions, complete with a thorough takedown of all of her hip punk friends. Gordon daring Charlie to pull the trigger was intense, and a sign that he isn’t afraid of much anymore. Rebecca seems to have realized her position in her uncle’s life, and meeting with his former buyers behind his back is a risky move that only she can get away with it, so long as Burton doesn’t spill the beans to Kai and ruin whatever endgame she has planned to take back what she feels has been taken from her.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Red Forest” (B)

Make no mistake about it – I am thoroughly enthralled by this show and very excited by the direction in which it is headed. Yet I am a bit concerned that it may be taking on a bit too much at once, and that it isn’t entirely sure where it’s headed. Maybe my understanding of time travel is rusty, but it’s not clear to me how Cole traveled back from one time where the machine worked, then returned to a time where it didn’t yet still got pulled back according to a certain schedule, and then got easily sent back again to correct his timeline, where he was promptly assigned a new bullet wound courtesy of a relatively useless Aaron. It was obvious that Ramse was going to be the one in charge of the West 7 in this alternately timeline, identifiable by his obligatory eye patch, and fortunately Cole knew just what to say to be able to convince him of who he truly was. That same task took considerably more effort with Aaron, whose mouth visibly dropped when he splintered back to the future. Let me tell you, whoever that woman was whispering strange things into Cassandra’s ear was truly freaky, and she’s definitely going to be haunted by that. At least her death in 2015 and the outbreak of the plague in 2016 seems to have been prevented, and now Aaron has Operation Troy to go on as a clue in this complicated web of trying to rewrite and rebuild history.

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 15 “When Your Number’s Up” (B)

I always find it interesting when this show, or any crime show for that matter, shows a murder happening where we clearly see the killer before the investigation even begins. In this case, said killer was portrayed by Alicia Witt, who’s turning into TV guest star royalty recently after showing up on “Justified” and “House of Lies” in recurring roles and taking on challenging and layered parts that demonstrate strong talent. It wasn’t initially clear what she was doing, killing random people and leaving money with them, and gradually understanding more of the insurance schemes that she was trying to unveil was an interesting process, particularly because her own circumstances were not at all what they seemed to be. Another familiar face was Maria Dizzia, who portrays Polly on “Orange is the New Black,” as her sister, who nearly got herself taken out and valued by her murderous sibling. The case was certainly creative, but it didn’t present an eventual clarity that I found to be satisfying or thought-provoking. Instead, the episode ended with a personal development, one that’s just the latest in a long tradition of indecision on Watson’s part about where she’s going to live. Sherlock buying her place was a big statement, and separating spaces in the loft – and scaring Sherlock in the process by nailing a door shut – was a clever and probably effective solution to needing to ensure that they could be close enough to work side-by-side but have some crucial separation that would allow them both, but mostly Watson, some peace.

Pilot Review: The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple (CBS)
Premiered February 19 at 8:30pm

It’s common practice these days for old shows to be remade, but there has to be some thought put in about whether it’s worthwhile, and, more importantly, relevant to bring something back that hasn’t been on for a long time. What makes 2015 the right time for CBS to re-launch “The Odd Couple,” this time with Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon as its stars? It’s a true mystery, and not one that leads to a great place. This is Perry’s fourth time anchoring a show since “Friends” ended a little over a decade ago, and none of his previous efforts has lasted more than a season. This is his first time on CBS after two failed NBC productions and another on ABC. Lennon, who made a name for himself as one of the funnier and more ridiculous personalities from “Reno 911,” had a miserable stint on “Sean Saves the World” but hasn’t done much in the way of regular TV since. I would have thought that CBS learned its lesson from “How to Be a Gentleman,” a show I liked but no one else did, which featured a neat freak who is impossibly and anachronistically proper trying to curb the brutish instincts of someone with considerably less regard for other people. Very little here is funny, and Perry experiences the same problem he’s had since playing Chandler Bing elsewhere: when he’s not endearing, he just seems mean rather than sarcastic, and Felix is just that. Lennon’s Oscar is horrendously over-the-top, and it’s hard to take the show seriously enough to come close to enjoying it. Wendell Pierce and Lindsay Sloane are trapped in supporting roles that don’t allow them to be as funny as they want to be, but they still act as de facto show savers to an extent. Unfortunately, there’s just not much worth saving here.

How will it work as a series? The original 1970s show ran for five seasons and was very popular. This show could theoretically milk any number of bad roommate plotlines from the sitcom catalog, particularly with the technology Felix has in his apartment that permits Oscar to transform his sports ticker into an electronic message display signed “F.U.” That kind of humor isn’t going to bode well for this show’s future.
How long will it last? Possibly longer than it deserves to, but I think the unexpectedly solid ratings it achieved for its pilot will drop drastically over the next few weeks since the series finale of “Two and a Half Men” likely gave it a big boost. I wouldn’t count on this one making it to next season, but it may manage to air the entirety of its first season.

Pilot grade: F

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 15 “Fight or Flight” (C)

This episode was awfully gimmicky, and none of its threads did it for me. We’ve long known that Manny isn’t a particularly manly or violence-inclined individual, and Jay encouraging him to stand up for himself and punch his bully in the face was hardly ideal or appropriate parenting. To think that someone could go from making a cruel “butter nut squash” joke one day to bringing an apology apple pie the next day is highly unlikely, but that’s the world of this show that at least Manny and Phil live in, where people do weirdly specific and uncharacteristic things all the time to support their interests. That was absolutely the case with Phil, who ended up in the back of coach when Claire ditched him for a chance to relax in first class and sat next to a magician who seemed intent on doing tricks with the pure goal of making Phil smile. That certainly isn’t a fate that Claire would have wanted to encounter, but I suppose that the free massages from her other seatmate made up for the racist, vicious behavior of her first class companion who quickly went downhill as a human being after uttering a few words. I like Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Lane, and while I did appreciate Sal back when she first appeared, I’ve never been fond of Pepper or Ronaldo, and I think that it’s a waste of a plotline for Cameron and Mitchell, who have plenty of other things to deal with than trying to decide who will adopt the baby that their friend has apparently abandoned. Also really not working for me: all of Pepper’s jokes about what a dump Cameron and Mitchell live in – humor isn’t automatically funny just because it contradicts reality.

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 6, Episode 5 “Sounding” (B+)

I like that, in preparation for the signing off of this show at the end of the season, we’re getting the opportunity to see some of our favorite familiar faces along the way. Ava is running scared, scrambling to figure out how she can get out of her current situation, failing each time to remember the insular, interconnected nature of Harlan and its surrounding areas. It was a great chance to see Mykelti Williamson’s Limehouse again, who asked exactly the right questions as soon as he saw Ava, tailoring his recommendations based on whether she was running from the law or from Boyd. Her shovel search with Errol got hilariously interrupted by a character I’d probably rate as this show’s best non-villain, Constable Bob. His eagerness to help Raylan was obvious, though he wasn’t nearly as excited when Raylan casually suggested that he go ask Errol to step outside, a plan that did not go well at all. Raylan showing up just as he got tased made the situation laughable rather than deeply problematic. Ava kissing Raylan is a big move since everything she’s done up until this point had nothing romantic involved, and I feel like Boyd will be able to notice that more than anything else. Choo-Choo’s starter tap was a bit overenthusiastic, and Rachel and Tim are much closer to monitoring everyone’s criminal activities than they seem to be aware. It’s good to see Jeff Fahey, a dependable actor from “Lost” and other projects, as Zachariah Randolph, yet another person in Harlan with complicated feelings towards Boyd.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 15 “Q and A” (B+)

I guess we’ve forgotten all about Shaw, and that’s not a problem since it’s helping to move the show forward, featuring a returning of its regular rhythm and a few of its most important characters. Claire sending a coded message to Finch that seemed like a desperate cry for help was an important validation of the work that he does, but it wasn’t actually that at all, instead a trap designed to bring him closer to Samaritan. Fortunately, Finch saw through it and managed to be saved by Root in the end, and may have planted a crucial seed of doubt in Claire’s mind that should push her to true rebellion at some future moment. Reese working as a security guard at a cutting-edge tech company was hilarious, particularly when he had to break up a petty fight, and it was the perfect cover for him to keep an eye on Anna, who it turned out was a secret underground fighting champion who got herself in over her head in an entirely different arena. This show managed to do it again, connecting its two plotlines in a fascinating way by featuring an episode-closing meeting between Lauren and Greer, positioning the service that gave someone searching for the number of a suicide hotline links to articles about how to make sure those you love are taken care of after you’re gone to be partnered with the extremely devious Samaritan, a combination sure to be dangerous and deadly for any who cross their path.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 4, Episode 16 “Oregon” (C+)

I doubt I’m the only one who found it more than a bit disingenuous that Jess and Ryan’s relationship was ended with a voicemail after he turned into an uncommunicative absentee long-distance boyfriend so soon after asking Jess to move in with him. It doesn’t do justice to their romance and to the fact that they jumped through so many hoops to be able to be together, and I find it hard to believe that Ryan would let go of Jess so easily, though it’s very possible that he might show up to try to win her back since he theoretically hasn’t yet found out about the end of his relationship. It was sweet that her friends banded together to take the world’s longest and most specific tour of Portland ever, led by Nick who recently benefited from such supportive friendship after going through his own breakup. Cece turning into a blubbering mess around her firefighter crush wasn’t a terribly pretty sight, and it’s quite surprising that she opted to pass on going for it when Schmidt helped hook it up because she’s actually admitting that she’s in love with Schmidt. It’s a bit late for that, and let’s hope that she comes clean soon so that he can move on from his latest unhealthy relationship. Jess’ mom taking drugs and having the rings in her possession felt awfully forced, and the only part of the wedding that really did it for me was when Jess walked in to find her father dancing with his young bride, an unexpectedly touching moment in the midst of such chaos.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 14 “Fallout” (B)

This episode was jam-packed with lots of actions, and things happening very quickly where they had previously been building over the course of a number of weeks. Having Ronnie and Dr. Stein back seemed too good to be true, and of course it would make sense for them to merge, separate, and then merge again all over the course of a day or so to combat a villain, General Eiling, who theoretically could find them anywhere, like, say, Pittsburgh. Yet things are never sewn up so simply on shows like this, and that’s part of their appeal. There was plenty of entertainment to go around from the lines spoken, particularly from Dr. Stein as uttered by Victor Garber, about his unshakable connection to Ronnie. I like the notion of having recurring characters who might pop up now and again, but I do wonder how long Ronnie could feasibly stay away from Caitlin and whether something tragic has to happen to separate them fully instead. I wouldn’t mind have Ronnie as a regular member of the team, but I’m not sure that’s in the cards. Iris is doing a great job of fulfilling her role as the intrepid reporter, and she’s soon going to find herself in trouble, likely not from Caitlin or Cisco but from Dr. Wells, who will surely go to great lengths to protect the secrecy of his operation. It turns out that Wells is Reverse-Flash, which isn’t a big shock, and he’s still, to an extent, a good guy, sicking the gorilla on Eiling to make sure that his friends stay safe. I’m sure we’ll soon see Reverse-Flash going into the past to kill Barry’s mother to make sure he stays on his path while Barry makes a desperate but likely unsuccessful attempt to change history.

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation (Penultimate Episodes)

Parks and Recreation: Season 7, Episodes 10 and 11 “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” and “Two Funerals” (B-/A-)

There’s a certain appeal to doing an episode of a show in a special format, but it also means losing that episode almost entirely in terms of plot development and real character interaction. A half-hour tribute episode for Johnny Karate probably wasn’t necessary, and though it did contain some laughs, it was a bit too childish to feel truly relevant this close to the end of the show. Not having Tom appear given how close he and Andy are was also strange, and that wasn’t explained at all other than an apparent trip to New York that he returned from in the following episode. Leslie hosting felt a whole lot like SNL without the truly funny parts, but at least it’s endearing to see most of the cast taking on their usual roles in an exaggerated way. The second episode was considerably more satisfying, creatively featuring a handful of cameos so that we can see all of our favorite characters again. Having Bill Murray’s mayor die was a perfect impetus for interviewing new mayoral candidates, and I love that the Douche was pretty much the strongest applicant (seeing Bobby Newport again was a treat too). Dr. Saperstein being considered was fantastic because it meant we got to see Mona-Lisa again, and then Jean-Ralphio appeared to help Tom with his proposal. Appointing Gerry (never sure how we should really spell his name) to be the mayor was a fitting thing, and having him sail off in a balloon before being able to give his speech still permitted him some royal treatment. Tom’s simple proposal for Lucy was impossibly sweet, and hopefully that means we’ll get a wedding in the hourlong series finale. My favorite cameo came from Sam Elliott, currently starring in “Justified,” who appeared as Eagleton Ron at just the right moment when Ron was in the middle of a crisis, which was solved by a hilarious and unexpected matchmaking on Donna’s part. It’s so sad that we’re already at the end, and I’m sure I’ll go back to watch episodes of this show countless times after it has come to a close.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Round Two: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 3 “Nacho” (B-)

If nothing else, this episode demonstrated a seriousness that the two-hour premiere did not. Starting with a very normal and with-it Chuck visiting Jimmy in jail and telling him that he needed to consider his options set a dramatic tone, one of Saul being more than just a talker but also someone capable of getting angry for legitimate reasons. Chewing out the lawyer in a bathroom after he had spent a while talking about his case only to find out that he was confusing it with another case was one such instance, and a scene like that makes his outbursts at Mike all the more understandable. I like that Mike actually got to have more of a role in this hour, asked to pressure Saul into giving up his client and then set on refusing to play ball once he realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Saul certainly is intuitive, and theorizing that the Kettlemans kidnapped themselves was a smart conclusion. Mike’s suspicion that they hadn’t gone far turned out to be true too, resulting in Saul’s ill-conceived “Here’s Johnny!” entrance into the tent and then the episode-ending splitting open of the money bag. Having your client threaten to kill you if you’re not released by the end of the day is not a good sign, and Saul is going to have to be very careful not to end up dead going forward (though he’s probably safe for now given that he’s the star of the show), especially about his relationship with Kim.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 14 “Chapter Fourteen” (B+)

This show has always been a telenovela, but now it’s starting to really acknowledge that as Jane sees just how ridiculous every part of her life is. I have to note that opening with a Woody Allen quote and a flashback to five years ago with Jane considering going to Iowa made me wonder what would have happened in a bizarre TV alternate universe where Jane and Hannah Horvath ended up taking creative writing together. There’s more than enough drama and preposterousness to fill this world, namely the fact that the Roman we saw Rafael talking to isn’t really Roman but his twin brother Aaron! Twins may in fact have been an invention of the soap opera designed to create confusion and enable double-crosses, and here their invocation was relatively harmless, if only serving to provide a brief shock for both Jane and Petra. It’s hard to blame the zany Luisa for being upset with Rafael calling her plans crazy over and over, and giving her shares of the company to Petra was the perfect payback. Running away with Rose is an intriguing plan that is sure to lead nowhere good for all involved, and may well be what gets Sin Rosetro caught. It was tough to see Jane and Rafael fighting so much about trust and their future, but they managed to make up, say I love you, and even have an uncomfortable question popped (no, not a proposal) that’s going to change everything. Jane sitting Xiomara and Rogelio (Dad) down to talk honestly with each other was fun, and it’s nice to see the chastity period over, even though Rogelio for some reason tried to argue against it.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 4, Episode 6 (B+)

We don’t get to see much of anyone’s family on this show too often, and lest we expect some unusual sweetness, it’s better instead to be prepared for a family dynamic in which characters whisper expletives at each other just to get the last word in. It’s not all Matt’s fault, of course, as both his father and his stepmother are truly awful people, who respond to him getting them a better room by demanding photos of the “Friends” cast autographed by more than just him to give out as bribes to ensure that his father gets the proper treatment. The need for a trustworthy doctor reminded me of when Junior on “The Sopranos” was obsessed with a physician simply because he was named John Kennedy. Sean’s conversation with his father, who displayed no emotion and said that you don’t need the best for a quadruple bypass before recommending only people he didn’t have confidence in, was very entertaining. Matt’s stepmother being concerned about what might happen to her if her husband died and left her with nothing was quite hilariously selfish, and I love that all Matt’s father wanted after he sold all his cars to keep the condo was a new car. Morning’s passive-aggressive conversation with Sean and Beverly about a role on their new show was pretty terrific, and she’s really not too great about hiding her true feelings. Carol did a magnificent job of coming up with the worst pet name ever for Helen, and let’s hope that’s the biggest of the problems in their accelerated romance.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 4, Episode 6 “Trust Me, I’m Getting Plenty of Erections” (B+)

Who would have thought that the news that our pod earned themselves $9.2 million would be accompanied with such little fanfare and a shot of Marty lingering outside Jeannie’s ultrasound appointment which he emotionlessly dismissed when she asked him to come with her. Doug’s excitement is relegated to the unheard end of a phone call to Marty, while Jeannie learns the news when she’s busy looking at her phone instead of at the image of the baby that she’s going to give birth to very soon. Marty’s ambivalence towards his forthcoming child is causing serious problems at home, as Malcolm judges him for not being involved and it’s hard for him to be seen as a fitting parent for Roscoe. Chastising his son for not going to school doesn’t have the effect it should when he’s more of an irresponsible absentee friend than a father. Jeannie got a big surprise in this episode with a job offer presented casually by Kelsey to come manage the people she hates so much and serve as their CFO. It would actually be a good fit for her, though I think she thrives on moving from person to person, sucking the life out of those she doesn’t deem worthy of respect, and a stable job set in one place might make that difficult. The most stirring thing about it, however, was Clyde’s reaction to her leaving. Doug’s response, to try to talk to Marty to get him to reconsider, was unsurprising and na├»ve, but Clyde showed genuine emotion for someone about whom he’s never really had a kind word to say.

What I’m Watching: Togetherness

Togetherness: Season 1, Episode 5 “Kick the Can” (B+)

As this show goes on, that promotional photo of the cast headed to the beach looking like a mess is perfectly emblematic of this group. Brett and Michelle’s therapy went predictably awfully, and it’s understandable that both would want to move past it in the best way possible. Unfortunately, those methods are very different, and Brett’s suggestion of spending the day in his favorite chair at Barnes and Noble didn’t help matters much. Michelle had a much better idea – kickball – but of course that led to her unsuccessful attempt to secure the field by claiming it rather than reserving it. Larry trying to give gift cards to entice the kick the can players to leave was entertaining, and I want to see much more of him in the near future. I liked that Michelle ultimately decided that challenging them to play kick the can was the best plan. Alex kissing Tina while he was drunk and they were hiding together was definitely a misstep, especially following his strong response when she accused him of being jealous of Larry. Her reaction to being tagged when she stormed out showed just how angry she was, and it’s going to be hard to get past that. Brett completely misunderstood what faking it meant, and though he smiled when Michelle made that fantastic victory kick, it’s obvious that Michelle was more able to relax with someone else. David showing up just when Michelle was by herself and still in it to win presented a great opportunity for bonding, though his eagerness to help her torch her husband’s car as a distraction rather than as a way of getting her frustration out means that things are still healthily platonic.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 4, Episode 5 “Sit-In” (B+)

I would still like to see Hannah remain in Iowa, but having an episode which involves her painful reintroduction to New York proves to be fitting and entertaining, filled with sharp writing and great characterizations. Shoshanna, the first visitor to the apartment, wasn’t particularly kind, though she did at least focus on Hannah for once rather than just on her problems. Jessa was heartless, even for her, and casually mentioning that she had introduced Adam to Mimi-Rose didn’t help matters at all. She isn’t capable of feeling remorse, and even though it took Marnie an unbelievably long time to show up, I think this is the final nail in the coffin in Hannah and Jessa’s friendship. I like that Mimi-Rose is a layered intellectual, someone who Hannah would surely admire had she met her under different circumstances, and that she offered to go talk to Hannah and console her, an idea that Adam soundly rejected. Ray’s visit to the apartment was among the best, as he was so caught up in his own problems but actually served as a good friend for Hannah since she’s never been one to listen to other people, and I think that kind of selfish attitude was just what she needed. She could have done without that burn, of course, and it was nice of Adam to rip off Ray’s makeshift cast and tend to the wound before sending Hannah off with his token “kid” nickname that Hannah rather bluntly asked him not to call her again in the future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 5, Episode 6 “Crazy Love” (B+)

There’s no beating this comedy’s ability to be absolutely gut-wrenchingly devastating when it wants to be. Steve’s return, or Jimmy, if you prefer, wasn’t terribly melancholy, but it did cause Fiona great anguish that wasn’t satisfied by a square punch to the face. Having the whole Gallagher clan watch Fiona make a bad decision by giving in to the impulse to sleep with Steve when she knew it was a destructive one underlines the way in which this family recognizes just how predictably depraved they are. Sammi taking on a maternal role in the home is peculiar, but that’s definitely not something Fiona is fulfilling anymore, particularly with the husband she didn’t get the proper chance to tell her family about. Kev and Veronica splitting up is terrible, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to find sympathetic ears for their issues, and I suspect that they’ll end up reconciling before doing anything they really can’t take back. Lip is a pretty hilarious RA, though he is at least trying to stay on top of his responsibilities. This episode was dominated by Ian’s psychotic break and Mickey’s heartbreaking concern for him, a far cry from the hateful brute we originally met. It’s a relief that nothing happened to the baby, but Ian’s future does not look bright, and I think it’s going to affect the rest of the family, who will have a tough time recognizing that one of their best and brightest has inherited something from their mother that they’re hopeless to be able to combat.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 10 “Them” (B)

This world may be full of undead people, but at least there are more than enough intellectual villains to go around. This episode’s ending was eerily calm compared to most of its contents, which were considerably more dramatic and grim than usual. Sasha is in a bad state after losing her brother, and no one is doing particularly well as they trek endlessly to make it to Washington, D.C. in hopes of finding that elusive safe haven. The appearance of a pile of water bottles at just the moment that our group was unbelievably thirsty seemed too good to be true, and though Eugene was eager to go on faith and try one, Abraham wasn’t so open to the idea. Aaron’s casual appearance at the end of the episode, citing Rick by name as the leader, suggests that there indeed is some place safe from the walkers, but there are likely conditions that go with it that could be awfully reminiscent of Terminus or something worse. The storm nearly took down the whole building that our group was huddled in, and seeing them hold off the invading winds and walkers was intense, accompanied by thunderous music not usually heard on this show. The most striking moment in the episode, however, was one line of dialogue, after Rick finished his story and then referred to the group as the “walking dead.” It’s significant because it’s the first time we’ve heard those words, and I, and many other viewers, I’m sure, never thought of the survivors as the ones who should be considered the walking dead.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 7 (B+)

It’s strange to think that the member of the extended Crawley-Grantham family with the least significant romantic or family development in this hour is Mary, though even she managed to get rid of one suitor thanks to another’s aggressive actions. Violet hit it on the head when she told Mary that a lack of compassion can be as unattractive as an excess of tears, and Mary truly is turning back into her bratty cruel old self. It’s endearing to see Cora learn the truth and move past being kept in the dark to encourage Edith to bring home the baby and officially adopt her so that she can be part of the family. Let’s hope that Anna has enough sense not to breathe a word of what she saw to Mary since that will just ruin everything. It’s lovely to see Rose and Atticus so happy together, and let’s just hope that nothing ruins that, especially since they seem to be have made it over the religious hurdle. It’s impressive to find someone who can elicit the same rage from both Tom and Robert, and it’s a shame that Isobel had to be his main victim given that she’s never had an improper or selfish thought in her life. Mosley and Baxter traveling with Daisy to William’s father’s home to encourage her to continue her studies was sweet, and it’s nice to see most of the help functioning pretty well to help each other and focus on their homeowning futures in these changing times.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 3, Episode 6 “We Were All Someone Else Yesterday” (B+)

I can’t think of a more effective way for this show to follow up Siobhan’s death than with a black-and-white sequence that recounted our noble sheriff’s arrival to Banshee and how things could have gone very differently. Stopping things before they got out of control and talking down the thugs who killed the real hood in the version of events we know presented a tragically alluring possibility: that our Lucas might have left Banshee right away without ruining Carrie’s life and Siobhan’s life, and taking the down to hell with him. In the real world, both Aimee and Robert John Burke’s FBI team leader wanted to rob Lucas of his chance for revenge, but he managed to get it in the form of a painful literal twisting of the knife, although his thirst for blood permitted Chayton to get away, sure to be heard from again soon when he in turn comes for blood. Deva made herself a new friend who I’m sure will get her into trouble, and she wasn’t exactly headed down a great road. I like what her father said to her about them both being the people they always said they’d be. Rebecca managed to take on her uncle’s attitude and serve as his proxy very effectively, but then he had to go ahead and take her down a peg. Interestingly, in her absence, Emily has found herself a precarious perch, one that’s sure to lead nowhere good and to upset Brock in a big way when he inevitably finds out.

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Night Room” (B+)

I don’t usually read other people’s reviews of episodes, but I’m starting to think that maybe I should. That’s because, in the wake of the episode’s final moments, I googled to see what other reviewers said about that confusing finish involving a very different 2043 to which Cole had returned. Christine Seghers’ IGN review threw me for a major loop since it addressed a whole bunch of questions I hadn’t even asked, namely whether we’ve been seeing multiple timelines already. The notion that relationships and trust have been formed throughout time between Cole and Cassandra and Cole and Jennifer (definitely not between Cassandra and Jennifer) is extremely alluring as a concept, and I’m all for time travel being much more fantastically complicated than it’s made out to be. It can never be as simple as Cole fading away once he’s negated the outbreak of the virus, and I like that nothing is stable, particularly the place he comes back to after he splinters back to the future. Learning that Jones sent back others before Cole in a way that didn’t work at all was intriguing, and Ramsey keeping that knowledge secret was important. What’s most impactful is the fact that we saw that interaction, which proved enlightening, and now Cole has returned to a very different future in which that conversation never happened. I want to see more of Jennifer since she’s so wonderfully deranged, and Tom Noonan’s tall man is entirely creepy. In continued praise of the IGN review I referenced above, please note the completely accurate caption under Jennifer’s picture: “I’m the craziest thing on this show. And this show is BANANAS.”

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 14 “The Female of the Species” (B)

I think I neglected to mention in my review last week anything about Andrew apparently being poisoned. I was very surprised to learn that it wasn’t just an ill-fated attempt on his life, but instead an actual assassination that led to his death just as Watson was breaking up with him. I like that Watson knew right away that it was Gina Gershon’s Elana March who was responsible for hiring someone to try to kill Watson, which inadvertently ended up killing Andrew, but, once again, all that intrigue was rushed through in just one episode. I am much more enticed, however, by why this particular plotline is closed since it was Moriarty who, taking an interest in Watson’s life, took Elana out to make sure that she could control the endgame with Watson and by extension Sherlock. I’m eager to see her return, especially since that’s not something I was expecting at all. It was fun to see Sherlock try to team up with Detective Bell, who he refused to call by his first name, while he was off, presenting yet another guest who woke up to a startling alarm after falling asleep on his couch. It does seem strange that this show continues to opt for excessively ambitious and dramatic plotlines like the resurrection of an extinct species by a thieving zebra breeder. Sherlock’s English pronunciation of “zebras” was thoroughly irritating, adding to the unnecessary fanciness this particular plotline entailed. What happened to good old-fashioned creative murders of humans by humans?

Monday, February 16, 2015

What I’m Watching: Babylon (Season Finale)

Babylon: Season 1, Episode 6 (A-)

I so hope that this show returns for a second season, and I definitely plan to go back and watch the 90-minute pilot just to be able to spend more time watching this brilliant series. It’s such a smart and entertaining show, one that can move from witty banter to deadly serious drama in an instant. My favorite exchange from the episode was Finn calling Liz the “best thing to happen to London since the plague,” to which she responded by calling him a “dinosaur staring at monkeys sailing by on bikes with iPads.” It’s hard to find such intellectual insults on any other show, and it was fascinating to see the two of them working together by episode’s end, both agonizing about what to recommend for Charles to do. Liz switched sides as soon as she realized that Charles was actually impressive, and it’s worrisome to see just how eager she was to throw her previously championed candidate under the bus in such a brutal and unforgiving way. Matt’s attitude about the worthiness of his footage made it hard to find sympathy for him when Robbie, swayed by a tall strawberry milkshake, went full-on commando to get the footage back. Robbie and Banjo getting arrested in preparation for a full-scale police inquiry in the wake of the release of the footage by Charles via Liz and Finn was an intense signal of what’s to come, and I really want to see it. Ending with the three of them sitting at the table ready to address the masses was terrific, and I’m just itching for more. I want to get people to watch this show – it’s officially the series of 2015 that I’m championing as my recommendation.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: James Nesbitt (but really everybody)

Pilot Review: The Slap

The Slap (NBC)
Premiered February 12 at 8pm

Here we have a real concept show, an entire series that revolves around one formative moment: one adult disciplining someone else’s child in a physically forceful way. It’s an interesting premise, to be sure, and it worked well in the 2008 novel and 2011 Australian TV series. This first episode was all about building the tension to the point that we knew something bad was coming, and the circumstances under which the slap happened couldn’t really have been any worse. Focusing this first episode on Hector was a bit of a distraction tactic, since the only real tie he had to the slap itself was that it happened at his party. This is one dysfunctional family with more than a few troublesome dynamics, and this violent incident only makes things worse. The cast assembled is a strangely diverse one, pulling together talents with vastly different backgrounds, most of whom I wouldn’t have expected to see on a show like this. Melissa George, who also starred in the Australian original, makes sense given her TV past on “Alias” and “Hunted,” and Zachary Quinto got his start on NBC, in “Heroes,” and this is the most ferocious character he’s played since supervillain Sylar. Thomas Sadoski picked a pretty good role to follow up “The Newsroom,” just as opinionated as Don but in considerably different circumstances. It’s strange to see movie stars Peter Sarsgaard and Uma Thurman at the head of the cast, and jarring to hear Thandie Newton using her native accent. Unfortunately, the eclectic nature of the cast and the appealing promise of the concept isn’t matched by the writing and the style of this show, which felt like a version of Carrie Mathison’s jazz fever dream for a while and then jumped from comedy to drama without any warning. I’m not too enthralled and don’t have much interest in seeing where the aftermath of this slap leads.

How will it work as a series? This is being billed as a mini-series, with eight episodes planned, each focusing on a different character. It’s possible that each will recap what we’ve already seen from someone else’s perspective, which could prove repetitive, but I think that even if it just goes forward, this will prove to be yet another overly ambitious event series that doesn’t pay off.
How long will it last? Entertainment Weekly titled its ratings report “Ouch: NBC’s ‘The Slap’ Ratings,” opening with the line, “These numbers are gonna hurt.” The least impressive part of a disappointing Thursday night drama block is sure not to last long, but I think NBC will be willing to air these eight episodes, though even that’s not a guarantee.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 14 “Valentine’s Day 4: Twisted Sister” (C)

When an episode’s title has a number as high as four in it, maybe it’s a sign that a show has outlived its originality to an extent. I remember the first time we met Clive Bixby and Juliana being extremely funny, and Claire getting her entire dress caught in the escalator was decidedly unforgettable. At this point, both the characters and the audience are tired of the expected, and Claire treating Phil as Phil only to realize that he was so much more enthralled by Juliana than by here didn’t result in too many laughs. The best part of the ordeal was the ending scene in which Phil refused to let Claire in because he was still pretending she was Juliana. Gloria’s sister didn’t get to do much aside from show up and inflate Jay’s ego while complicating his Valentine’s Day in a major way. Getting caught trying to seduce Jay on the baby monitor and having Gloria burst in to explode at her was a funny finish, but the rest of the plotline didn’t really pay off. Cam and Mitch didn’t get a Valentine’s Day story, and instead they got to repetitively give and steal gifts, which wasn’t particularly amusing. I guess kids aren’t allowed to show up in Valentine’s Day episodes, unless they’re Manny? It was strange not to have the three Dunphy kids around, and I’m not complaining about Lily’s absence since she doesn’t add nearly as much comedy to the show on a regular or consistent basis.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What I’m Watching: Justified

Justified: Season 6, Episode 4 “Trash and the Snake” (B+)

For all of the ability of many of this show’s characters to talk circles around any particular point, this show is enormously capable of being direct when it wants to be. The most startling moment of this episode was Ava opening up the door to her hotel room to find Catherine sitting inside, which began their day-long adventure highlighted by a mischievous jewel theft. The eerily calm and entertaining day took a sharp turn when Catherine casually mentioned the guard who hated Ava and then recanted his testimony, throwing her for a loop and causing her to text Raylan in a panic. It was a real treat to see two season two characters back, first a newly sugar-intolerant Dickie, who was a terrific verbal sparring partner for Raylan, much to Tim’s amusement, and then Loretta, who was bold enough to try to take Avery out with an apple pie when he and Tye paid her a visit. Raylan and Tim showing up to directly address what Avery and Tye were doing was very worthwhile, and I think that this new plot related to Kentucky’s theoretical future legalization of marijuana is incredibly interesting. While everyone else was together, we got to meet a new eccentric character with an ego just asking to be burst. I knew I recognized The Wiz, and it’s because he’s played by Jake Busey, who starred in “Identity” and is also the son of Gary Busey, which makes a lot of sense given the uncanny resemblance. Boyd may not have caused the fire in the hole that took him out, but that was a pretty legendary and explosive way for a character to go out.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 4, Episode 14 “Guilty” (B)

I guess that shocking glimpse of Shaw at the end of last week’s episode was all we’re going to get for now, and, for some reason, Root is also entirely absent from this episode, which was a real shame. It’s not that the boys can’t handle it, but I think she enhances she show whenever she’s around. What having the core duo of Finch and Reese working together did was underline just how much people around them get hurt, with Fusco seeming like an innocent bystander and unexpectedly asserting himself, pledging his allegiance to the cause and his willingness to be put in harm’s way to help people. I’m all for positive Fusco moments since I think he’s the show’s inarguable punching bag and rarely deserves the treatment he gets. Finch getting assigned to a jury was a great move by the machine to make sure that he would be where he needed to in order to help protect Emma and sway the jury in the right direction. I like that Zoe, who hasn’t been a main character but a welcome recurring personality, showed up to help Reese out and flirt out of control with him. I really like the dynamic that he’s forming with Iris, and I look forward to their continued conversations. This show always benefits from having a female presence despite the effective partnership of its two male leads, and I’m curious to see if Shaw will end up having a more permanent replacement of some sort in the near future.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 4, Episode 15 “The Crawl” (B)

This episode was substantially better than much of what has been produced this season, delivering a number of laughs and entertaining moments. I liked Nick’s relationship with Kai at the start but didn’t feel that it progressed particularly well, leading to a disappointing breakup whose only benefit was this episode and Nick’s desire to complete his smiley face bar crawl, handily transformed into a goatee when Nick’s lack of shoes prevented him from entering the final stop on his map. Winston in this episode was a pretty terrific wingman for everyone, bringing along the most random of objects and things to help ensure a successful night as the de facto designated driver. Jess and Ryan were both incredibly awkward about Ryan’s rather casual dropping of an invitation to live with him, and I like that they worked through it solidly and quickly. The complication, of course, is Ryan getting an offer of his dream job, which would mean moving back to England. If there was a way to show that Ryan isn’t perfect, that’s it, because he just isn’t from the same place as Jess, and they may have the same ideals that just can’t realistically exist together. I hope this isn’t too traumatizing an ordeal for Jess and that she’s able to move on if and when it inevitably it doesn’t work out. Coach’s multiple attempts to pick up the same girl were endearing, and it’s always nice when a relationship possibility presents itself when all someone is looking for is a one-night stand. My least favorite part of the episode was Schmidt’s current romance, but it too may be headed in the right direction.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 13 “The Nuclear Man” (B)

The knowledge that Martin Stein and Ronnie were merged during the explosion seems to have made whatever they have become together a much more relatable personality, going from a brute who couldn’t talk and would only burst into flames to a fully coherent entity controlled almost entirely by Stein’s consciousness and Ronnie’s voice. Ronnie gently speaking to Stein’s wife when she appealed to him and then kissing Caitlin before telling her “That was from him” certainly confused things, but I think anything related to the metahumans here is meant to be a bit unexplained and chaotic by nature. The explosion at the end of the episode doesn’t bode well for the future of either of the inhabitants of the merged body, but you never know, and General Eiling’s command to bring in Firestorm suggests that he’s still out there in some form, unless he’s referring only to the device that created the metahuman. Joe enlisting Cisco’s help in trying to deduce who killed Barry’s parents was going well until he let it slip that he was going after Dr. Wells as the perpetrator. The news that the blood on the wall appears to belong to an adult Barry is puzzling at best, but I think that’s all about the mythology of this show which will unfurl gradually as it progresses. Barry was all about the romantic dates with Linda, and it’s a shame that he sabotaged his own chances by running off, not realizing that she would call the station to catch him in a lie about going to work. Iris did her part, conveying how Barry felt about her enough to make Linda think that it wasn’t worth getting close to someone getting over an excessive attachment to someone else.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What I’m Watching: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation: Season 7, Episodes 8 and 9 “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington” and “Pie-Mary” (B+)

In its old age, this show is becoming extremely sentimental, and I love it. April’s growth as a person was a main theme in both of these episodes, as everyone tried to help her figure out what job she should do next and then Ron realized just how close a kinship they share. It’s always hilarious to see Barney with his love for accounting and Ben, overeagerly laughing at his jokes and expressing extreme disappointment at both Ben and April passing on job opportunities to work with him. Andy’s attempt to convince him that April should be hired, complete with explosives and a creepy picture of her face, was marvelously well-intentioned and so truly terrible in execution. I think that the job April picked for herself is just perfect, and I’m sure she’ll come around to the idea of leaving Pawnee since, of all our characters, she’s never been that attached to her hometown anyway. Her last adventure with Ron was a real treat. I love that we got to see Donna and Gerry spend some time together and to see how that relationship has blossomed, with Donna spending hours just watching Gerry continue to drop valuable items down the drain before easily getting them out the next morning. What I enjoyed most from this hour was all the politics, with a flurry of cameos that demonstrate just how much people in Washington either like this show or Poehler or both. This comedy is more than competent at addressing politics in a funny and fantastic fashion, complete with men protesting for men’s rights and women’s organizations giving Woman of the Year awards to yet another man.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 1, Episode 13 “Chapter Thirteen” (B+)

More than anything, this installment was sweet and sentimental. There were considerably more dramatic turns than usual, most notably the development that there might be something wrong with the baby. Seeing Jane so concerned and worried about whether she should do the test and how she would act once she knew was upsetting, but the sight of Rafael sleeping on the floor next to her bed and her entire extended family standing around her bed with her graduate cap on made it all okay. It’s nice to know that, whatever their issues, the extended Gloriana Garcia family is always there when any of its members need it. Rogelio sulking around the house and giving depressing life lessons to Xiomara’s dance class was certainly lamentable, and it’s great to see that he got the encouragement he needed to get his life back on track. Though filming a new telenovela in Mexico would mean him leaving, it may not be the worst thing for both him and Xiomara, since they could use some time to work on themselves individually. Petra getting booted by Lachlan wasn’t too surprising, but Milos arriving to tell her that he purchased a third of the hotel and is set to help her ascend the throne once again certainly makes everything more interesting. It didn’t take long for Michael and Nadine to realize that Rose was actually Sin Rostro (I love the Sin “Rose” Stro thing every time), and I assume she’ll elude authorities for a while. More puzzlingly, Rafael’s role in the whole mess with a mysteriously alive Roman Zazo makes it seem that maybe most of the Solano clan should be considered suspects.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 4, Episode 5 (B+)

This episode was all about managing relationships that just aren’t working, and it was very funny on all three fronts. It’s clear that Tim is definitely going to be a thorn in Sean and Beverly’s side, and the determination with which he emphasized his involvement in the project before Beverly came on board was cringe-worthy more and more every time he said it. Kudos to Sean for sticking up for his wife and his project and suggesting that he bow out creatively and sit back while he earns profits from a show that everyone fully expects to be lucrative. Putting Merc into the equation with Helen and Carol wasn’t the least bit helpful for their young romance, particularly because, for once, it wasn’t Carol who said the wrong thing, but rather Helen when she offhandedly judged anyone who would be associated with sleeping with Merc, prompting a rightfully angry reaction from an offended Carol. I love that Morning suggested a sex tape with Matt as a way to make money and that she spent the whole episode trying to convince him via VHS tape that they had in fact already made one that he couldn’t possibly be bothered to remember. Matt’s invitation to a dictator’s party was a hilarious plotline, and the best part was the surprise cameo from a “Friends” costar that was absolutely perfect in its brevity and effectiveness: David Schwimmer as another dictatorial guest who got paid twice as much as Matt to be there. They did shoot his driver, so Matt didn’t lose out on all fronts.

Pilot Review: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul (AMC)
Premiered February 8 at 10pm

I should start by saying that I didn’t love the pilot episode of “Breaking Bad,” giving it a C+. I grew to appreciate and really like the show, but still feel that is was somewhat overrated when described as the best show ever. I don’t think that this show should exist entirely in comparison to the show that spun it off, but that’s inevitable, as evidenced by the incorporation of a minor character from early on in the original show’s history to this show’s double-decker premiere installment. There’s no denying that Saul, or Jimmy, as he is apparently known, is eccentric, and he can really talk. But the fascinating crooked lawyer Walter White met isn’t the star of this show. instead, he’s a mess who manages to get himself together in the heat of the moment and talk Tuco into breaking one leg per offender instead of outright killing the idiots who tried to con his grandmother. He’s a loose cannon, and while that does make him immensely watchable, it also makes it hard to latch on to this show. I’m not taken with Michael McKean’s technophobic shut-in, and I’d like to see Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut as more than just a wry tollbooth operator. Having Raymond Cruz’s Tuco guest star was a fun throwback, but I think his character here is too over-the-top and comical. The show is leaning that way as a whole, and while I’m not ready to give up yet, this wasn’t the reintroduction to Albuquerque that I was hoping for, even though it was about what I was expecting.

How will it work as a series? The Monday night hour doesn’t really give much more insight since it’s all exposition and leads to the final scene with Nacho that will set up whatever Jimmy’s criminal enterprise is, which presumably will lead to the creation of one Saul Goodman. There’s plenty of wild material to be explored here, but the show really needs to find its tone.
How long will it last? I forgot that AMC renewed this show last year long before it started airing, but the pilot ratings, summarized as the most-watched cable series premiere ever, would have issued an immediate renewal on their own. The reviews have also been largely and overwhelmingly positive, so this show isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: House of Lies

House of Lies: Season 4, Episode 5 “The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always a False Front for the Urge to Rule” (B+)

There’s something about having a party outdoors that gives it the potential to be all the more volatile. That was certainly the case here, as Kahn and Associates continues to be a train wreck with Ellis at the center. There’s no way that this partnership is ever going to work, but to be honest both Ellis and Maya seem to be working incredibly hard to ensure their mutual destruction. I think they’re both equally strong characters, Ellis a pompous intellectual who chooses to be ignorant when it suits him best and Maya a determined visionary who won’t let anyone get in the way of what she wants to accomplish. Putting them together is almost as volatile as having Marty and Jeannie in the same place at the same time, always ready to sabotage each other purely for their own pleasure. There’s still something mesmerizing about seeing them work, when they’re able to stop fighting long enough to work their magic. Kelsey and Clyde are a terrific business team, but he crash-landed hard when he tried to be way too confident by making his move. That was a rare win for Doug, who deserved to come out on top after being tricked into sucking up to a teenager who he thought could be a major investor. Seeing the members of the pod all looking miserable at the table after each suffering a personal defeat was a confirmation that this group has sunk low, and it’s going to take a lot of perseverance and luck to get back to being relevant again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I’m Watching: Togetherness

Togetherness: Season 1, Episode 4 “Houston, We Have a Problem” (B+)

I like this show because its scope isn’t too broad, focusing squarely on its primary four characters and not on a much grander universe of any kind. Brett and Michelle’s latest attempt to rejuvenate their sex life failed miserably, but they ultimately managed to have a pretty decent time together in the hotel even if the sex wasn’t what made it worthwhile. Brett understands that he needs to spice things up, and taking the step to get a hotel room as a spontaneous surprise should have done the trick. Yet he missed the part about her wanting something different, most crucially evidenced by his unfortunate use of the pillow to make Michelle all too comfortable during sex. It was nice to see them cuddle up and watch a movie together before that, and it provides some hope for the future of their relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed a similarly awkward but altogether different sexual tense experience in Texas courtesy of new best buds Alex and Tina. Alex actually managed to have a great time with Tina’s friend and could well have had a terrific night with her had Tina not selfishly intervened to take him home with her. He was clearly upset by her newfound relationship with Larry while she was oblivious, and then she was all about dancing up a storm to compete with him once she saw that he was starting to stir up a romance. Their hug on the couch was sweet, and I’m glad that this friendship is staying just that for the moment.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 4, Episode 4 “Cubbies” (B+)

This was a great full service episode, one that addressed all the protagonists of the show in a compelling and truly entertaining fashion. Not starting with Hannah in Iowa was a welcome change, though that did of course leave her big move for the end of the episode, and we’ll get to that. We only saw Jessa at the beginning of the episode, which was fine, as she managed to pick apart everything about Marnie’s new song that she possibly could with just a few words. Shoshanna’s analysis wasn’t all that much more helpful, but Marnie’s self-esteem has taken a hit recently and it could use a bit of a boost. Desi breaking up with Clementine is a big deal, but he was too much of a sobbing mess for Marnie to be able to soak in the positive development. Ray going outside to yell at horn honkers all day is pretty hilarious, and I’m glad that Shoshanna, whose interviewing skills backfired even more than when she turned down an offer from what she had considered a test interview, stopped by to take Ray shopping and encourage their friendship to progress. Hannah’s class experience following her hostile apology letter distribution was difficult at best, and I like how her professor approached the question of whether she really belonged at Iowa. It took a dinner with her dad, of all people, to make her realize that coming back east was the right thing to do, even if it is just for a quick visit. Having Gillian Jacobs answer the door as someone who is not Adam’s roommate was supremely awkward, and I’m eager to see how this all gets sorted out, especially if Hannah wasn’t just coming home for a visit.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 5, Episode 5 “Rite of Passage” (B+)

I’m not sure what to start with here – the intensely dramatic or the completely depraved comedy. I think it’s better to get the ridiculous stuff out of the way first, namely the latest situation in which Frank has found himself. He went over to the home of his donor’s parents simply because he wanted something to eat and somewhere to sleep, and what he ended up with was an immensely manipulative relationship with David’s father who saw his son in him and a sexual tryst with his mother. He did enough damage to his own family, and now he’s managed to mess that couple up for a while after spending just one night under their roof. Debs made a big leap from fighting in the ring to working with her brother to take bets on catfights which essentially just involve her beating up her former friends. Sammi’s attempts to hit on Mickey at the bar epitomized her obliviousness to the world around her, and now that her father has officially let her down, it will be interesting to see how she picks herself back up. On a more serious note, it’s a shame to see Mickey realize that Ian is sick and then have him run away, and he picked the wrong time to try to teach Lip a lesson that has prompted him to head back to school early. Kev’s attempts to get even with Veronica as ordered by her failed at first and then worked well, but it revealed a much more serious problem: that Veronica just isn’t equipped to deal with the pressures of parenthood and not getting to put herself first. Jackie’s overdose was a harsh hit of reality, and while Gus was there to swoop in and be protective and safe for Fiona, it’s only fitting that Steve would choose this moment to show up and wreak havoc on Fiona’s life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 9 “What Happened and What’s Going On” (B)

This show is back after a disheartening mid-season finale for the back half of its season, which is sure to present more meandering and brutality to come. As tends to be the case, minor characters only get to take the spotlight right before they’re about to leave. Tyreese took center stage here as the group made its way to the latest false safe haven, serving as a mentor figure for Noah, who was pretty devastated when he saw his community in ruins and had his breakdown before he walked into his house to find his entire family predictably turned into walkers. Most of the episode was a part of Tyreese’s fever dream, which managed to bring back a surprising number of dead faces, most notably and impressively David Morrisey’s Governor. It’s haunting to think about just how many people have died on this show who were central to the group and to the show’s mythology, and in this case they’re only the ones who interacted personally with Tyreese, most memorably Martin, who was even more haunting than the creepy young girls who Carol had to put down last season. It’s a shame that he didn’t make it, but what a way to go out. Rick seems more wearied than ever, and it’s going to take the cynical drive emanating most strongly from Glenn and Michonne to keep this train going. Maybe some temporary form of comforting sanctuary actually exists in D.C., but something tells me that won’t be the case.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 5, Episode 6 (B+)

We’ve all known that it was coming, and I think that the confirmation of Gregson’s death, at Hitler’s hands, no less, was more crucial for prompting Edith to take control of her life and make a major change. It’s been so long since we’ve seen this truly petty, selfish Mary who insists on being cruel to her sister even and especially when she sees just how much pain she’s in. It’s bad enough that she is trying to show both Tony and Charles what they’re missing when she’s pretty much chosen not to be with either of them despite their extensive efforts to seduce her, but to get a modern haircut and show it off at just that moment was particularly unkind. The day at the races was a rare breath of fresh air for the stuffy Crawley family, and provided the perfect opportunity for Edith to make her exit. Taking her daughter away from her adoptive mother wasn’t easy, but I think it will be good for Edith to escape to a new life without the pressures of her family, and hopefully she’ll have access to the money and company that Gregson left her. Carson going with Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore to see the cook’s new property was fun, and I love that Carson so awkwardly proposed buying a similar place with Mrs. Hughes. Bates confirming that he planned to kill but never did is a relief in one sense, but all signs are pointing so strongly at him as a suspect that it’s hard to imagine that he can escape conviction.

What I’m Watching: Banshee

Banshee: Season 3, Episode 5 “Tribal” (B+)

This is the second time recently that this show has featured the death of an innocent (for the most part) in a way that’s been difficult to digest. This show features so many gratuitous ends for any number of characters, but it’s somehow different when it’s a series regular character and also someone who didn’t set out to attack or maim someone else. Siobhan’s death is heartbreaking, both because she finally knew Lucas’ secret and because she pleaded with Chayton for her life, a request he brutally did not honor. It’s not as if Lucas did something other than try to defend another member of his team from certain death at Chayton’s hands to get Siobhan killed, so he’s not to blame for her death. Lucas felt true anguish when he was cradling her body, but it didn’t take long for that sadness to turn to anger and hate, which is just going to lead to more violence, hardly the ideal outcome. Chayton really is above the law, and it’s going to take teaming up with Kai to stop him. I’m endlessly fascinated by Kirk Bunker, the neo-Nazi-turned-deputy-applicant who ended up fighting side-by-side with African-American District Attorney Alison. She also showed her true colors in the heat of the moment, far from content to sit back and relax and instead intent on taking charge of the situation. Jackson was so set on unlocking his client that he took a bullet in the process, and Kai still managed to get out and team up with the man who almost beat him to death only an hour or so earlier. The pairing of Emily saying a prayer for Kai’s mother while Lucas and Kai were awaiting the opening of the gate was typically spectacular and intense, and the episode’s best line came from Brock: “Everything you touch turns to blood.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 1, Episode 4 “Atari” (B)

I didn’t love this episode as much since it dealt with the aspect of the show that I’ve found to be least interesting up until now – the future as it relates not to governmental structures or anything like that but instead essentially to gang disputes. It’s interesting since there isn’t much consistency with dystopian futures, and often times whatever should be shown isn’t featured all that much. It’s clear that Cassandra is a dynamic character and Cole is at his best when he is with her, and also that Jennifer and the 12 Monkeys are the most exciting and worthwhile part of this universe. Giving some context to Cole and Ramsey’s friendship by spending some time in 2032 was useful since it revealed that Ramsey was the humanizing force for Cole, able to recognize that the work they were doing with Deacon and West 7 was truly abhorrent. Deacon is a perfect role for Todd Stashwick, who was previously despicable as the leader of another outlaw tribe on “The Riches.” When Cole got himself caught by Deacon and West 7 after traveling through time, I thought he had gone far into the future. Instead, this episode got saved by a great surprise – that he had actually been sent, however unintentionally, a few days back to be able to come dangerously close to his old self and save the day by turning the tables with some futuristic knowledge. Stranding him permanently in 2015 was one option, but now having him back and more willing to talk than ever with the ability to go back to the future is definitely a plus. Now it’s just a question of whether Cassandra’s latest discovery will indeed change everything.

Pilot Review: Allegiance

Allegiance (NBC)
Premiered February 5 at 10pm

Before I sat down to watch this show, I thought it was the one with Anna Friel as a spy, which is actually “Odyssey,” which doesn’t premiere on NBC for another two months. Instead, it’s yet another series that deals with spies embedded within other spies, namely one highly functional FBI agent whose mother just happens to be a former KGB operative activated again by a restored connection to her dangerous past. It’s not a terribly compelling concept after similar things have been so many times in the past, and the main appeal here is theoretically how insular it all is, that Alex is one of the FBI’s best and his parents work directly for Moscow. The main problem, and one I’ve had in the past with series like “The Mob Doctor,” is that there is so much emphasis put on how important recruiting this vital asset, but there is already so much free-floating intelligence that would seem to make the attainment of another asset unnecessary. If multiple spies already know the inner workings of the American government, why go to so much effort to turn someone else? Despite its protagonist’s command of logic, this show does not share the same commitment to coherence, opting instead for high-speed car chases and other excitement to fill its scenes. Of the cast, I’m disappointed to see Hope Davis follow up a previous Emmy-nominated spectacular TV role in “In Treatment” with this, and I guess a grumpy higher-up part for Kenneth Choi is a decent promotion after his recurring turn as Henry Lin on “Sons of Anarchy.” I don’t think that this show would have intrigued me even if it had been much better, but this pilot didn’t grab me at all.

How will it work as a series? Alex realizing that the dead Russian traitor was someone he knew opened up the can of worms, and now he’s going to have a totally different relationship with his family. I’ll admit that I watched the “This season on” preview at the end of the episode, so I know what twists and turns appear to be coming, and I’m not too optimistic about what I perceive as soapy and forced turns instead of true drama.
How long will it last? Not long, it appears. NBC is having a bit of a comeback lately, and that means that those shows that don’t impress are almost certainly goners. “The Blacklist” did well in its premiere, and following that up with lackluster numbers bodes poorly for this show, which is likely headed towards cancellation at or before the end of its first season.

Pilot grade: D+

What I’m Watching: Babylon

Babylon: Season 1, Episode 5 (A-)

This episode changed the game in so many ways, driving forward the specific plot and this show’s characters while also addressing the overall themes of a complicated working police force. Liz was all about making her play, deciding to back a different horse and push Sharon to be the new Commissioner over Charles and undermining Finn and his operation at every turn. I love all of Liz’s over-the-top references, and she definitely knows what she’s doing. Sharon, to her credit, does too, explaining the realities of being behind a different desk and then coming up with a great idea with the cell phones during her press conference. Finn might know exactly what Liz is up to but that doesn’t mean he can do anything about it. Finding the boy too late was a sad ending that should cause a serious dent in Liz’s current campaign since she only knows how to win, and losing something like this is just devastating. The inquiry into the shooting didn’t go particularly well, and I’m surprised about who broke and revealed that Warwick was never actually there. The most damaging thing was Robbie’s insanely stupid decision to confess the fact that he moved the gun to a journalist, who just happened to be recording that particular revelation. On a lighter note, it’s pretty amusing to see a cop hired to guard a furniture store sale take that opportunity to purchase a couch for himself, a definitive moment of this show’s bizarre but effective comedy-drama hybrid.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What I’m Watching: Elementary

Elementary: Season 3, Episode 13 “Hemlock” (B+)

And just like that, Kitty is gone and we’re back to the same dynamic we used to have on this show. I grew to be fond of Kitty but don’t feel that she is vital to the relationships on and effectiveness of the show, and so while I think she didn’t get a particularly fitting goodbye and could well be due for a return soon, I have no problem with getting back to how things used to be. That proved to be especially helpful for the particular personal development of the week, which was Watson having the unexpected impromptu opportunity to meet Andrew’s father. To her and his credit, she did very well, and it should have cemented what could have been a mature and healthy relationship. Instead, it showed Watson that this isn’t what she wants, a conclusion Sherlock helped her get to. It’s a shame since she could have used a positive relationship in her life, but this will at least enable her to get back to what she actually wants to do after a pharmaceutical diversion and attempt at being domesticated. This latest case did require plenty of attention from both of them, as trying to figure out killed a debt collector produced an unusually large slate of suspects, and I was most interested by the change of heart that it was revealed that the victim underwent, opting to forgive all debts so that he could have a less weighty profession on his conscience and do something to fulfill his life.

Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Premiered February 4 at 8:30pm

I was devastated to see that this show earned a 75 rating on Metacritic since I found it truly awful, not even living up to my low expectations. This show epitomizes what a terrible sitcom looks like, trying so hard to be specific to one culture and hitting every signature trope in the comedy handbook. Setting itself in the 1990s is a bad start, one that hasn’t worked well for other shows recently. Everything that seems especially American is exaggerated, particularly all the references to white people and the things that they do. Louis going shopping for Lunchables so that he could put his lunch and himself into a box was quite an overt bit of messaging, though there’s no room for subtlety here with Paul Scheer’s host starring in a commercial that professes his whiteness. Jessica comes on very strong, and the horde of rollerskating housewives is particularly irksome. I spent most of the episode trying to figure out where I knew series star Randall Park from, and it turns out it’s his much funnier role as presidential candidate Danny Chung on “Veep.” His character here is just as driven, but he’s trapped in a universe much more nightmarish that anything the political world could ever cook up. To me, Hudson Yang’s Eddie is not TV’s latest endearing child but a sign that some shows should just never be brought to air, even if it seems that this show is well-regarded by an absurdly high number of people.

How will it work as a series? I could have stuck around to find out, but I had more than enough after the first installment to return for the second episode that aired at 9:30pm. This is all about race-specific humor, and even more about how these people aren’t white and that makes them the normal ones even if they stick out. I’m not into it, and I’m not sure this concept could be funny even if it was much better executed.
How long will it last? Though I won’t be tuning in ever again, many likely will, as this show launched strong, not quite as definitively so as “Black-ish” but on par with “The Goldbergs,” two comedies that this show pairs very well with, along with ABC’s other Wednesday night anchor, “Modern Family.” I think this one may have a longer life than it deserves and be looking promising for a second season at the moment.

Pilot grade: F-

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 13 “Rash Decisions” (C+)

This was an innocuous episode, one that was perfectly harmless but also not at all funny. Jay having to give up Stella just emphasized a part of him that doesn’t particularly entertain me, which is his obsession with his dog and his inability to recognize that he values Stella over members of his family, as evidenced by his declaration that he wouldn’t want to be away from Joe for a few days since he presumed that Stella would be the one to stay. Manny’s supposed allergy to dogs also fell on deaf ears once it was revealed that it was Gloria’s face cream causing the rash, which is nothing new. Phil favoring Andy over Luke didn’t do anything at all for me, and I really wish that Luke would be dumber again since he’s much more entertaining when he’s actually dim-witted. Alex acting like Haley to win over a college interviewer was a surprise and not one that I bought. I was pleased to see Aya Cash of “You’re the Worst” guest-starring as the interviewer, but reading on EW that she was cast because of her role in the raunchy show that will return to FXX later this year is a letdown since this was hardly the proper showcase for her. Mitchell trying not to be like he usually is while working with Claire was predictably short-sighted and short-lived, and I think the only positive outcome is that Claire seemed merely ignorant and not totally oppressive and unfriendly as a boss.