Friday, July 31, 2015

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 1, Episode 6 “eps1.5_br4ve-trave1er.asf” (B+)

I’m not even sure how to react to this episode after its utterly devastating finish, something that I wasn’t prepared for at all. It started out on a pretty furious note, interrupting a seemingly calm conversation between Elliot and Shayla about the situation they were in with a brisk abduction and Elliot with his back to the wall, desperate to save his girlfriend and neighbor while trying to outsmart Vera in the process. The way that everything evolved was pretty fascinating, as the initial plan of baiting a cop with a free iTunes purchase didn’t work and then Elliot had to evolve to opening every cell door to stage a massive prison break. His discovery that Vera’s brother Isaac actually wanted him dead was surprising, and then all of a sudden Isaac was executed by Vera. It was strange to recognize Isaac as Rick Gonzalez, who was part of the supporting comic relief on “Reaper.” What was completely horrifying and tragic was Vera’s casual reveal that Shayla had actually been with him the whole time. There was a sense of dread that made it seem clear that she wasn’t just tied up in the trunk but dead, a maddeningly miserable discovery that calls into question everything Elliot stands for. I have no idea what he’ll do next, since joining Angela in her bold pursuit of justice isn’t going to permit him any more closure in this terrible turn of events. Maybe he’ll go to Tyrell, whose plan is well understood by an unamused Scott, but likelier he’ll just return to Darlene, Mr. Robot, and the cause he cares about most. Angela using the keywords “change the world” seemed like they might distract Elliot from his mission, but now he’s going to either disintegrate or go on the warpath.

What I’m Watching: The Brink

The Brink: Season 1, Episode 6 “Tweet Tweet Tweet” (C+)

Walter’s stint at the top didn’t last long, as his wife Joanne showed up in Israel to undermine him and he got personally recalled by the president back to the United States, an order I’m sure he’ll do his very best not to follow. Without Walter taking up most of the plotline, this show didn’t waste any time in refocusing its absurdity. I love the fact that Alex managed to cause an international crisis merely by giving the Pakistani girls he brought into the embassy the wi-fi password, giving them a platform to tell the world that they’re loving all the freedoms America has given them. I would have thought that Ambassador Kittredge’s delusional dream would have been their undoing, but there wasn’t even time for that since Alex sabotaged the whole operation right away. Z-Pak and Glenn’s situation only got weirder as they discovered that this lonely couple who may or may not occasionally eat people also have some intense sex fantasies that involve adultery and unfortunately some irreversible violence that forces them to go into the village. If only the world was a bit bigger and Z-Pak didn’t come face to face with one of the men who tried to capture them earlier, putting them right back into the middle of a very bad and dangerous place. Who knows what can go wrong next and how Z-Pak and Glenn will somehow again be the crucial players in an international game that they don’t even really have a clue is being played.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Excitement of Release” (B)

As usual, this was a pretty packed episode in terms of its developments even if it didn’t span as much time as previous hours have, but I’m pleased to report that it felt much more thematically relevant. The introduction of three new potential investors – Eddie Jemison’s massager developer, Josh Charles’ perfume man, and John Gleeson Connolly’s Hugh Hefner – makes it clear that this business is going somewhere, and, as the biggest star among the three, Charles’ Dan Logan appears to have won out, asking the poignant question of what sex smells like and how he can put it in a bottle. Bill’s idea to have the book used as a textbook was a strong one, but peddling it to Wash U and trying to drag Scully bag into everything was hardly the best use of his time and dealt a particularly unforgiving blow to his ego. Showing Paul his card collection was heavily awkward, and I thought that Bill was going to mistake his affection for Paul as a signal that he should make a move which would have had disastrous results. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to take Joy’s medical collapse as an indicator that Paul found out her plan and was abusive or a subtler signal that escape is never truly possible from the banality of married life. Lester and Jane found a great way to connect through the erotic content of letters written by fans and haters alike, which is nice to see. By the end of the episode, I had forgotten all about Bill’s ugly double standards about Virginia being married, even though it ended with an all too comfortable shared moment in bed. Tessa’s story is what spoke loudest in this hour, as a fun game of talking about her mother’s book led to her being forced to do something she really didn’t want to do and apparently accepting it as something that might just happen again.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 3, Episode 3 “Come and Knock on Our Door” (B+)

This is a show about family, and this episode was more about that than anything else. It’s incredible to see how Mickey has built a business idea around the people in his life and the ways he thinks it can be a money maker. Bunchy stepping into the mix shows just how absurd it is, as he shops for breast milk at the supermarket and takes photos of topless women to put on the company website. But this show always needs some entertainment and a bit of good news, and while I was worried that there was too much celebration and Terry couldn’t actually have a happy ending, it seems that, for the moment, he really is on top. Though he was able to say to Terry that it doesn’t cost him a thing, Ray really did put everything on the line to get him released. After approaching Frank and then seeing that Mickey had ruined his first plan, he went to Finney, who was able to accomplish the same kind of thing that Ray usually does but with infinitely less effort. All he had to do was say “This is taking far longer than I thought it would” and it happened. Paige gloating after Ray signed the contract was cruel, and she’s obviously going to bother him as much as possible just to see what happens. Abby taking some time away should be a positive thing since she needs to get her life in order, and both Bridget and Conor could use some stability too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What I’m Watching: Humans

Humans: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

This was a good episode that helped return this show to solid footing, and I’m now extremely eager once again to see where it goes next. What I like most is that things are actually happening, namely with Mattie once again reaching out to Leo and understanding exactly who Anita is and Niska marching directly to George’s doorstep. It was intense to see Leo react to the complete lack of familiarity expressed by Anita and the total absence of Mia. Mattie’s attitude has shifted completely, as she now understands that Anita is not some artificial intelligence irritation but rather something much more complex. The unfortunate thing is that she was also able to discover thanks to her hacking skills that someone had sex with Anita, and of course she would assume that it was her brother and not her father. Joe’s confession came a bit too late and his dismissal of the severity of his act almost negated it entirely. That marriage appears to be headed the way of Peter’s, which has officially disintegrated as his wife prefers her synth to him as a companion and even wants him to pay for it. Odi getting found in the woods wasn’t a positive development, and it’s a good thing that Peter’s surprise visit didn’t result in Niska hurting anyone. Karen’s own investigation into Niska and her motivations is particularly fascinating, especially because she is posing as a human. Vera pegging Niska as a synth was another great moment, as George’s refuting of her claim proved all too logical.

What I’m Watching: True Detective

True Detective: Season 2, Episode 6 “Church in Ruins” (B)

The undercover mission is officially underway, and it’s drawing out this show’s darkness, finally giving it a victory over its misery. At least Ani, Ray, and Paul are firmly on the same page, all seeking to uncover the truth and help score some points for the good guys. Ani didn’t waste much time in taking care of herself and ensuring that her situation didn’t get too messy, and the man who she appears to have killed definitely merited a fierce punishment considering the way he was treating her. This show does have a talent for displaying the disturbing underbelly of society, and that was especially clear in the contradiction of the fanciness of the party and the depraved nature of its activities. Though it wasn’t exactly a warm moment, it was affirming to see Ray put some effort in to spending time with his son, allowing him to watch “Friends” and questioning the woman supervising their visitation about whether she liked what she was doing. We also got to see a slightly softer side of Frank, which is only to say that he’s not quite as vicious as others around him, even though he was pretty brutal just a few minutes earlier. His motives for finding the young woman on the other end of the phone weren’t entirely pure, but he saw no value in killing her just to make a point. He also has a soft spot for boys with complicated relationships with their fathers, not that his words provide too much comfort.

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Episode 2 “Mei Mei” (B)

There’s something about a blanket of snow that makes an episode of television or a film almost infinitely more impactful and meaningful, and that was certainly the case here, especially as it started with Cullen pursuing an at that point unknown worker down a treacherous patch of white-covered land. Building in the winter is definitely intense, and I also liked the imagery of the Sacramento train car being deconstructed, with nothing but the sign with the city’s name to decorate Collis’ future museum. The big surprise, though it didn’t shock me too much, was that Fong was actually Mei, a secret that Cullen was more than willing to protect. I instantly recognized Tzi Ma, who played Tao, from his illustrious TV career, most notably portraying the despicable Cheng on “24.” I like the Swede’s new role as go-between for the railroad and for the Mormon people, just another of the populaces exploited for their work along with the Chinese, even though their situation is much better. The sight of the Swede casually yanking off a few of one poor brother’s toes was pretty agonizing, and it’s a good thing that he swiftly rectified the situation for the future by procuring winter boots that his workers were more than a little happy to see when they arrived. After many failed attempts to return to his onetime post, the Swede has learned a thing or two about how to work the system and use it to his advantage, which he’s doing now quite successfully.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I’m Watching: Dark Matter

Dark Matter: Season 1, Episode 7 “Episode Seven” (B+)

This is exactly the kind of episode that I’ve been waiting for, once that inserts just a few new faces into the mix to shake up the regular dynamic. I’m never sure just what to make of this show’s tone, which is often jarringly comical in a way that doesn’t feel right, but it overall does make it sufficiently entertaining. I was surprised to recognize Ruby Rose, who at the point I’m at in season three of “Orange is the New Black” almost has a background part as Stella, as Wendy, the entertainment model android who really livened things up for most of the crew. Interestingly, Three was preoccupied with a woman of his own, someone who actually thought he was a good person and made him care more than we’ve ever seen before. That made One that one that got attracted to Wendy and had no qualms about using her for some uncomplicated sexual recreation when Two rejected him, which was quite awkward, and unfortunately triggered her revenge setting that resulted in her getting decapitated and still working hard to kill the crew as they hurtled towards the center of a star. Some solid teamwork helped to prevent that, and I like that everyone is managing to get along in the middle of a crisis. Wendy helped to show some smiles from people we didn’t know possessed emotions like happiness, namely Four, and the way that they enjoyed their food was a delight. It was amusing and uncomfortable to watch the Android get jealous of Wendy and then impressive to see her take the high road, only to be shot for her kindness. I like that the episode ended with Two stopping by One’s room to revisit their earlier conversation with an immensely different outcome.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 3, Episode 7 “Tongue-Tied” (B+)

I love the present-set plotline of this show, but there’s something about the episodic flashbacks that can just completely redefine a character in the most fascinating way. It happened before with Lorna, and now Norma gets her turn. Parts of her flashback felt like scenes from “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” but I think that’s the point – she was swept up completely by the allure of being accepted for who she was with absolutely no questions asked, and more importantly with her not having to speak. In fact, she’s a lot like our friend the nun who got on a power trip, but it’s more about making everyone feel good with a simple touch. It’s a shame that Red had to be the first one she took down, though she did take over the kitchen with an iron fist and treat her loyal former friend especially poorly. Gloria’s situation is also lamentable, but she too got too angry and let her emotions get the best of her. Watching the new trainees, especially one particular screwup, is both frightening and entertaining, and Alex marking him for seduction is a risky plan. I love how excited Piper is about her new worn underwear business, and the fact that her brother was all too willing to assist. Poussey enjoying Crazy Eyes’ violent erotica enables them to have a fun connection that they don’t usually have, which is nice. Caputo comprehending that Danny is essentially the new warden was an interesting realization that should help to frame things in a new light for both of them.

What I'm Watching: Sense8

Sense8: Season 1, Episode 8 “We Will All Be Judged by the Courage of Our Hearts” (B+)

I'm so glad that the action is picking up on this show, and I think I actually cheered at one point during this episode. That was, of course, when Sun got woken up in Seoul to sub in and help Nomi avoid detainment, and then when a frazzled Nomi hijacked a car and remarked that she didn't know how to drive, only to have Capheus appear and triumphantly declare, “I do!” It's truly awesome to have these characters appear together on screen, even though they're worlds apart, and I love that the show is now officially bringing other people in to confirm that this isn't all in their heads. I'm not sure how I feel about Will's partner walking in on him sucking face with no one at all, but I love that some of the sensates are connecting romantically. I'm all for Kala and Wolfgang, but Riley and Will make a pretty cool pair too. It's interesting that Will and Nomi don't really talk about how they're connected or what it is that they're experiencing, but they're trusting those around them with the knowledge of their impossible secret. Amanita is very resourceful, grossing out one of the cops in her mom's house to buy Nomi some time, and it's just a matter of whether Nomi can get to true safety quick enough to evade capture by the frightening Mr. Whispers. Kala's life was going just fine even with a marriage she wasn't sure she wanted, but now her father-in-law has been murdered in front of her, making her situation far more dire than it was just hours earlier.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 1, Episode 12 “The Bachelor Party” (B)

This was a significant improvement over episode eleven, and the occurrence of a bachelor party means that the wedding can’t be far away – almost definitely happening during the season finale, which is next. The bachelor party was contrived mainly because of Robert’s casual inviting of a guest who clearly doesn’t support their lifestyle but who also doesn’t particularly like Sol, which seems to me to be the far greater offense. It was nice to see Robert step in to defend Sol, but I’m not sure that moment was entirely necessary. Its effectiveness is also reduced by the poor acting of Martin Sheen, who used to be so great but just doesn’t do a great job on this show. Sam Waterston isn’t putting all that much effort in either, but Sol is far better portrayed. What I did love about the bachelor party was that it put Bud and Coyote in an amusing situation where they had no idea what to do, and they enlisted Mallory to plan a run-of-the-mill fancy affair for them. That they called on Brianna to spice it up and saw her go too far was even funnier. During this event, it was great to see Grace and Frankie unwind, going out on the town after dressing each other and letting loose in a way that made them feel younger but also truly free. My one complaint is that one of their would-be suitors was played by Creed Bratton of “The Office” and he didn’t even have a hilarious line to utter.

What I’m Watching: Married

Married: Season 2, Episode 2 “Aftershocks” (B+)

I did like this episode, but I’d like to take a moment to lament the fact that this show has changed its musical score just enough to not be as bouncy and recognizable as I enjoyed in the first season, and that’s a shame. This show is still pretty fun, and a fortieth birthday for Lina provided the perfect backdrop for some true marital issues. Russ and Lina’s woes were limited to Russ hilariously framing tickets for the wrong Whoopi Goldberg movie that he thought they had seen on the first date and him trying to spin her getting pain as a slick sex injury. The couple that had much more trouble is portrayed by two great TV guest stars, Michaela Watkins, who has appeared on “Trophy Wife” and “New Girl,” and Patrick Fischler, who was on “Mad Men” and “Lost,” among others, as feuding separating spouses Stacey and Jay. We only saw them once before, and having them back again was a real treat. Jay demanding the location of one of his Civil War action figures and Stacey insisting upon an Asperger’s diagnosis put a real damper on the party, and Stacey was more than gone by the time the confused guests showed up. We saw more of Bernie in this episode than we usually do, and I also liked how A.J. brought his own backup cake since there’s never cake left for him and it’s all he feels he has in his life at the moment. In future episodes this season, I’d like to see more of the core group of friends, especially Jess and Shep.

Round Two: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll: Season 1, Episode 2 “Clean Rockin Daddy” (B)

I want to like this show a lot, and I’ll still plan to watch it, but I didn’t find this episode to be all that engaging. The show does still have a compelling tone and supremely entertaining dialogue, and that’s something to celebrate. Johnny’s constant references to rock and roll idols far more famous and successful than he don’t seem to be landing too well with his bandmates, and that was pretty much his main argument for why he should continue doing drugs, because so many great songs were written by icons under the influence. The hilarious logic of rehab being too expensive so his contract instead stipulated that he had to go clean and sober cold turkey for thirty days and churn out songs was quite entertaining, and Johnny doesn’t even seem to fight most of these on solid ground, just pushes back because he doesn’t want to do them even though he understands that he’s required to. Writing a song that didn’t impress everyone else in order to trick them into having him start getting high again was sly, and it seems like just the sort of behavior we can expect on a regular basis from Johnny. What I would like to see is more of the ensemble cast, particularly Gigi, who I think has much more to her than we’ve seen so far. This show feels a lot like “Californication,” with a central magnetic mess and a whole horde of interesting people around him just waiting to take the spotlight and shine.

What I’m Watching: Rectify

Rectify: Season 3, Episode 3 “Sown with Salt” (B)

This episode was a bit better than last week’s but it definitely isn’t in a rush to get anywhere, especially considering the fact that this show got renewed a couple weeks ago for a fourth season, meaning that it can take plenty of time to tell Daniel’s story. There’s a certain way that Daniel has about him that is fascinating, taking in everything about the world that he missed with a calm, judgment-free wonder, and that’s what makes this show most watchable. But then there’s a darker side of him, the one that comes up when others push him and manifests when they go too far. We saw a bit of that with Carl as he pressed Daniel about George’s death, and that’s where the question continues to come up of whether Daniel is actually guilty or if he’s truly the innocent person we and he all believe him to be. Amantha put it well in her honest scene that burst out of her during management training – she invested her entire life in getting her brother exonerated and then within weeks of his being released he admitted again to having done it, which is now on his permanent record. I was shocked to recognize Michael Vartan of “Alias” fame as Forrest, Amantha’s hotel friend, and it’s good to see him in something serious like this. This was the first time that we’ve seen Teddy and Tawney together in a while, and they’ve definitely grown so much apart even in just a short span of their lives. All this has clearly taken a toll on Janet and Ted too, whose relationship can never quite be the same anymore.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What I’m Watching: Wayward Pines (Season Finale)

Wayward Pines: Season 1, Episode 10 “Cycle” (B-)

Technically, this is the series finale, though I think that this show could be back for another run. I’m not exactly sure what the point would be since this sorts of ties things up neatly in one sense and ends it on a very depressing, haunting note. It also serves as the crucial connector of the first half of the show’s season and the second half, explaining the role of the first generation and why Wayward Pines operated and continues to operate in a totalitarian fashion. This finale was action-packed, with Kate immediately reclassified as a spokeswoman for the people rather than someone they wanted to reckon, and Pam also redefined as someone with true good in her heart rather than her brother, who acted more like a jealous god. I’m not sure that some of the plot developments fully tracked, but this show has always been more about the ideal and its premise than what actually transpires. Megan meeting her end because she refused to run and to address what was happening was telling, and Ethan made a triumphant sacrifice, blowing himself up to ensure that the creatures didn’t permeate their safe space. But then this show returned to its horror origins and revealed that, despite all this success, the threat was never really external. Even with the beings kept out, it was the first generation who rose back up and took power, not content with an occasional reckoning but instead intent on stringing up those who would dare to leave, no longer leaving anything to the imagination. If this show did return for a second season, I’d probably watch because I like dystopias, but I do feel that overall this cool concept needed some finessing.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Toby Jones as Dr. Pilcher

Round Two: Impastor

Impastor: Season 1, Episode 2 “On the Third Day…” (C+)

Watching this show demands a certain level of acceptable stupidity, and my hope is that it might one day outgrow that, though I’m not optimistic. I’m hardly attached to this show, which airs on TV Land, a network I otherwise never visit, but in the middle of summer I’m open to giving it a few weeks to develop. I was surprised that Buddy’s pursuers tracked him down at the end of the series premiere, but that just underlines the show’s theme of convenient miracles that help Buddy get out of sticky situations, in this case a lightning strike that felled his two captors and enabled him to get away scot-free and run back to his newfound safe haven. This is the second time in just two episodes that we’ve seen him run when things get bad, but I’m glad that he’s much more interested in the long con and continues to realize that there’s a way to get out of it and keep up the charade. He’s fortunate that the abrasive detective was too dumb to recognize him at his own funeral, which was a truly moronic move, and maybe hearing LeeAnne say that she can never be with him will actually convince him to move on with his life. Russell showing up at his house in leather after hearing the reason he left his old church was supremely awkward, but it didn’t seem to even faze Buddy, which says something. This show could be fun, but I’d prefer it get just a bit smarter.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 1, Episode 5 “eps1.4_3xpl0its.wmv” (B+)

This show doesn’t waste much time, already sending Elliot into the lion’s den to carry out Fsociety’s master plan. Of course, on a show like this, things don’t happen exactly as they should, which presents an even bigger problem for these logic-minded programmers and hackers. The wrong manager showing up after Elliot destroyed poor Bill raised immediate alarm, but that was swiftly handled with a cruel spoofed text that made her think that something was horribly wrong. And then, after all seemed completely clear, Tyrell showed up and acknowledged Elliot by name, completely blowing his cover yet interestingly not forcing him to leave before treating him to a fancy and intimidating meal. Not succeeding despite having such a tightly-designed plan was an enormous blow to Fsociety and particularly to Darlene, who fell apart and then came home with Elliot because she was so upset. At least Elliot has a pretty good handle on things, and it’s nice to see him sounding happy when he speaks to Shayla, who herself is doing pretty well. Angela made a smart decision by breaking things off with Ollie, whose attempts to get her back were pretty lamentable. Now she’s just encountering a whole new mess looking at what her father has stashed away in his house. Tyrell’s dinner party was quite interesting, particularly when it involved him following his host’s wife into the bathroom and having a plentifully awkward conversation with her while she was on the toilet. He’s definitely a strange one, but at the same time he has a magnetic quality to him.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Brink

The Brink: Season 1, Episode 5 “Swim, Shmuley, Swim” (C+)

I’m not sure why I’m expecting anything but ludicrousness from this show, but it’s definitely getting even crazier with every episode. There are some definite strong moments of humor, and though it’s highly uneven, it never misses a beat with either its more serious moments that quickly devolve into silliness or its outright comedic developments. Z-Pak and Glenn breaking free from their captors and then ending up in an entirely different form of strange captivity was one such instance, and I think that Pablo Schreiber and Eric Ladin are extremely well-suited for their roles, committed to just how far out of the regular plotline they will exist as the most worrisome representatives of American military diplomacy in action. The actual face of such things, Walter, isn’t much better, talking his way into a meeting with Israel, giving Alex a run for his money in terms of immaturity and pushiness. Getting cast aside by Pierce was a blow, especially considering how far he had come, but I’m sure he’ll swim his way back to the top. I think the most worthwhile part of Alex ending up with a trail of Pakistani schoolchildren behind him at the embassy was the image of him sitting on Fareeda’s lap in the front seat since Rafiq was not okay with the idea of Fareeda being on Alex’s lap. Worldwide war may be imminent, but good news for this show – the shenanigans will continue for plenty of time to come, as it has been renewed for a second season by HBO.

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 3, Episode 2 “Three’s a Crowd” (C+)

I don’t quite understand this show’s apparent need to cover leaps and bounds of time over the course of a single hour, beginning with Bill noting that Virginia is pregnant and then ending with her actually delivering the baby. This show has already fast-forwarded through time on a number of occasions, and one would think that the time during which Virginia was pregnant and Bill was working with another partner would actually be interesting enough to merit a bit more focus. Instead, we got Maggie Grace, who famously played Shannon on “Lost” and starred in the “Taken” movies, as Bill’s all-too-eager replacement partner Dr. Christine Wesh, who was essentially a clone of Virginia but with a medical degree, and only saw her in a single scene. Libby’s fury over the situation made her seem hysterical and reactionary more than anything else, and she’s officially sunken back towards the type of character she was in season two instead of the fascinating personality she represented in season one. A sham marriage of convenience to George was an unfulfilling solution for Virginia, but it seems that she is always fated to suffer while Bill gets to control events with his antisocial nature, everything based on the work and perception. The treatment of the Shah of Iran and his wife, played by Necar Zadegan, who starred in a later season of “24,” was interesting but could have sustained an entire episode all by itself and felt insignificant in the way that it was presented in this hour.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 3, Episode 2 “Ding” (B+)

Ray gets things done and he operates by and large outside the law, but he doesn’t tend to be dishonest. That’s why his newfound business partnership with Paige is enormously problematic, since she sent him to do a job that he managed to get done but played him in the process. Ray was a glutton for punishment at the end of the hour, encouraging the SEAL to repeatedly punch him in the face, and he’s definitely beating himself up for letting himself be tricked. I knew Paige had to be something for Katie Holmes to be cast in that role, and getting Ray to bring the unwilling blackmailer to the hotel so that he would break the quarterback’s arm since she actually represents the backup quarterback was highly devious, and I smell a forbidden romance brewing between Ray and Paige. Involving Paige’s father because of the money could complicate things, but something tells me that Malcolm might actually approve of the fixer as a fitting match for his daughter. Ray isn’t being smart with his treatment of Lena, who is practically begging him for acknowledgment, and I don’t think he’ll soon lose her because she’s loyal, but it’s going to happen eventually, and he’ll inevitably miss her. The Donovan home life isn’t going great, and Abby catching Connor using his bed for some extracurricular activities was a very welcome bright spot. Terry isn’t faring well in jail, getting himself sicker despite managing to stand up for himself, and Mickey is just getting in deeper with Daryll and his prostitute friend’s daughter by his side. Bunchy seems to have found his own brand of trouble with a bossy luchadora, and there’s no way that can end well.

What I'm Watching: Humans

Humans: Season 1, Episode 4 (B-)

I figured this would have to be inevitable, but it really didn't take long at all for Joe to give in to untoward desires and activate the Adult 18+ settings on Anita that permitted him to have sex with his Synth. It seems to me that such a feature would have to be imprinted in her data stores somewhere and that a scan of her less than twenty-four hours afterwards would reveal some trace of that command. Otherwise, how could it possibly show that she had been on the market for fourteen years when she had been sold as a new model only several days before? That inconsistency doesn't bother me too much, but I do think that Laura's rightful suspicions are now going to be hindered by Joe's efforts to cover up his affair with his robotic nanny. I'm glad that Laura is being proactive and trying to get to the bottom of these malfunctions rather than just assuming the worst. Niska found a great avenue to take out her rage for the mistreatment of synths by humans by going into a fight pretending to be a human so that she could hurt a bunch of them for amusing themselves by beating up synths. Leo visiting George revealed that he was created as more than just a synth to resemble his father's deceased son, and Hobb is now much more on his trail too. Pete's situation isn't great with his personal life crumbling, and it's a good thing that he got his work suspension sorted out so that he could get out of the house. I thought something romantic was brewing between him and Karen, but it turns out that, thanks to a rather disgusting bag removal, she's actually a synth, something I suspected all along given her rather robotic behavior. This world is definitely out of control with secret synths posing as humans all over the place.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I'm Watching: True Detective

True Detective: Season 2, Episode 5 “Other Lives” (B-)

After the shootout that ended last week's episode, we've reconfirmed the fact that our three police protagonists are good people who ultimately want to get to the truth. Digging until they uncover it is the main way that they can bring up about justice, but they're also plagued by their personal problems, as shown for all three of them in separate scenes. Ray being told he has to move out because he is no longer officially employed by the force was a small blow compared to the misery of losing unsupervised custody of his son and then finding out that the man he thought assaulted his ex-wife wasn't actually guilty of the crime. Paul's hearing didn't go well at all, and his continued professions of innocence fell entirely on deaf ears. Ani was particularly bunt in her sexual harassment seminar, but it's clear that she was doing that just to mock the situation, and she didn't even seem especially amused by how well it was working. As each of them try to reconnect with family members, their loneliness is becoming increasingly evident. Ray shared a decent moment of honesty with his ex-wife when they talked about his attacker, Ani is using her sister to get close to a lead for the case, and Paul's mom took the $20,000 he brought back from his tour. Morgan continues to be the most magnetic element of the show, pushing Frank to do more than just be a big talker. I'm not sure why a tense arrival by Ray merits a cliffhanger episode ending, but I suppose their conversation will be fruitful.

What I'm Watching: Hell on Wheels (Season Premiere)

Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Episode 1 “Chinatown” (B-)

I nearly missed the premiere of this show since I didn't even remember that it was coming back, let alone for a final season that's actually going to be spread over the course of two summers. I've always enjoyed this show, though I'm startled by how few original series players are still on the show, with Dominique McElligott, Common, Robin McLeavy, Tom Noonan, Ben Esler, Phil Burke, and Eddie Spears all gone now (though I think that the two of those who are still living may indeed be back later this season). Their absences make the reunion of the Swede and Cullen at the end of the episode all the more fantastic since, after so much time spent being adversaries, they might actually end up being the best of allies. The rest of the episode, on the other hand, didn't exactly move at an exciting pace. The introduction of Chinese immigrants as vital participants in the railroad building process shifts the focus away from other types of outsiders previously involved in the industry and one again reasserts a superior position from which the white men can lord over their underlings and make them feel as if they are lucky to be employed for a fraction of what they would pay someone with a different skin color. Cullen's opening fantasy seemed far too peaceful to be true, and it looks like he's paid a steep price for the path he's taken in terms of his family's well-being. I'm eager to witness his latest competition with lifelong foe Durant and to see who manages to make it across the country first.

What I'm Watching: Dark Matter

Dark Matter: Season 1, Episode 6 “Episode Six” (B)

So here's an example of intense exposition for almost the entire episode, done through a creative lens with no particular time-related developments aboard the ship in the present. It's important to get some backstory to understand who these people were, and also for them to be motivated to seek out their former lives and the pieces of it that don't add up, and I suppose this is the best way to do it. There's something interesting about having Five play them in each of their memories, which also enables us the opportunity to be able to guess whose flashback it is, and Six going in to rescue her was cool too. I would say that, objectively, Four's story is the one that's least engaging, mainly because he never participates with the group at all in anything, and doesn't express any interest in being part of the group as One, Two, Five, and Six do, or actively arguing for its demise, as Three does. That he was framed by his vengeful stepmother is somewhat juicy, and maybe he'll return to the old-fashioned empire from which he came and try to exact justice on his disloyal family members. I preferred Six's reaction to his own memory in which he was dismayed to find out that an act of triumphant thievery he had carried out resulted in the deaths of many people but then proceeded to execute all of those involved in the act with him, complicit or not. All of these characters, even Three, seem to want desperately to be good people. We got a glimpse of what a few of them were like before, and I'm eager to see more of that going forward. I wouldn't mind another trip into Five's brain, especially if there are special guests along the way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What I'm Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 3, Episode 6 “Ching Chong Chang” (B+)

This show is doing a full tour of all of its inmates, even the much more supporting characters like Chang, who has barely uttered a word since winning her big election a long time ago. Chang's story isn't the most interesting or compelling, but it does give some context to show that she didn't live such a different life on the outside, relatively alone and able to do what she wants because no one is really watching. I liked her moments of bonding with Crazy Eyes after her play was put on and with Piper when she told her she looked like Bo Derek in “Tarzan.” Lolly caused quite a ruckus at the prison by demanding a kosher meal and then casually educating those around her about their right to order one themselves, and I guess prison is the one place where the airplane kosher option may actually be better than the alternative. Lorna trying to scam men who wrote letters to her by pretending to be interested in their hobbies didn't quite seem like her, and I'm glad that she confessed to the last suitor we saw that it was all an attempt to get a sympathetic ear to help find Nicky, and it was sweet that he responded positively, especially considering how negatively he reacted to her attempt to feign interest in his alleged hobby. Piper protesting the notion of slave labor and suggesting that there could be a much more efficient way to make $90 panties is just like her, and, as usual, she's getting nowhere. I like that Gloria was shopping around to find a ride for her son to prison each week, and that she found success during her haircut from Sophia. The most worthwhile development was Healy taking advantage of Caputo feeling bullied by all his underlings and approving Red's transfer back to the kitchen, which should certainly stir up some excitement.

What I'm Watching: Sense8

Sense8: Season 1, Episode 7 “WWN Double-D?” (B+)

The end of this episode brought things together in a major way, and I enjoyed the detective work done by Nomi and Amanita to get to that point. After the humorous start in which Michael's former friend was clueless that he was now Nomi, they were having fun when they broke into the doctor's house and even managed to salvage the situation once he came home unexpectedly, but it got much, much darker very quickly after that. Mr. Whispers, who we haven't seen in a long time, is a formidable and fearsome enemy, and the quick sight of his face on Niles' body right before he shot himself at the end of his killing spree was intense. I love that Jonas showed up to tell Nomi to get out of there and the doctor said his name to confirm to Nomi that she's far from crazy. Most of the other developments of the hour were much more serious, featuring Sun's introduction into prison and Will dealing with an unfriendly informant who happened to snap a picture of Mr. Whispers. Capheus was so excited to see the clouds on the plane while Riley was flying, but it wasn't long before he had to return to reality, after the celebratory arrival of his new boss' daughter was made less happy by the forceful amputation of a disloyal underling's hands. Wolfgang and Kala bonding was nice too, and it's just a shame that their near-kiss was interrupted. Daniela is having so much fun with Lito and Hernando, and it's a shame that she felt the need to capture it on camera since her vicious ex stole her phone.

What I'm Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 1, Episode 11 “The Secrets” (C+)

I wasn't too fond of this installment, which focused a lot on secrets and their coming to light but didn't otherwise do much productive. I'm not sure why, but Craig T. Nelson's Guy hasn't been much of an addition to the series, initially an intriguing figure who was all about courting Grace and now just someone who's there who doesn't add any real value. His understandable jealousy over Timothy V. Murphy's Byron, who has seemed far more illustrious than Guy recently, makes sense but just wasn't too worthwhile a plotline. I more enjoyed his passive interactions with an anxious and offended Frankie, who had a problem with his Ambien eating (something I've never experienced) and general lack of memory or care about diminishing or using her food or supplies. That his relationship with Grace is an intensifying is probably not a bad thing since they're both at a point where they could settle down, but I think Grace's general mode is a bit too frenetic and Frankie-filled to enable her to be safely domestic. Robert so casually dismissing the fact that he slept with another man in the midst of their decades-long affair wasn't terribly believable, and the fact that Sol made a big deal of it was totally legitimate. At least Robert had the common sense and decency to dismiss his guests enough to be able to work through it with his new life partner. I very much enjoyed Bud and Coyote crashing Brianna's date and the fact that her underling more than held his own opposite severe scrutiny and excessive immaturity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What I'm Watching: Married (Season Premiere)

Married: Season 2, Episode 1 “Thanksgiving” (B+)

This was one of my favorite new comedies last year, and I'm very happy to have it back for season two. This wasn't a hilarious episode but still served as a good reintroduction to these characters thanks to a field trip and a misguided admissions process. Starting the episode with Russ and Lina trying unsubtly to tell their daughter that she wasn't dressed appropriately paved the way for a much larger and more mature conversation about sex more towards the end of life. Lina's mother and stepfather were played by two familiar TV faces, Frances Conroy, who used to star on “Six Feet Under,” and M.C. Gainey, who I remember best as Tom Friendly on “Lost” and Bo Crowder on “Justified.” Discussing the fact that she believed her mother was being raped in front of the abundantly helpful facility employee didn't work out so well as their September Thanksgiving dinner was interrupted by an evaluator from the community, but, aside from their young daughter overhearing the word rape and asking about it, that whole mess seems to have worked itself out. Jess' biggest problem going in to her preschool interview at first appeared to be the fact that she was overcompensating for people perceiving her as a trophy wife and pushing too hard against those who weren't asking any questions. Ultimately, however, it was her dismissal of A.J. as a put-together person that nearly did her in, and I love that A.J.'s revenge was to pretend not to know them when he knew it would help them while he had actually already taken care of the recommendation without telling them so that he could make them sweat.

Pilot Review: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (FX)
Premiered July 16 at 10pm

I've been seeing ads all over for this show for months now, and it's finally here. I wasn't particularly excited about it, but I was a big fan of Denis Leary's last show in which he starred, “Rescue Me,” which also aired on FX. I'm pleased to report that this is predictably depraved and should end up being a lot of fun. I'm not too interested in the music scene, but I think this show will ultimately be about the people involved and what the culture creates. Johnny being asked “Are you anybody?” is a perfect encapsulation of that, and this episode was full of that. I enjoyed the introduction to the Heathens and to Johnny Rock, who was accused of sleeping with his bandmate's fiance and another's wife and tried to defend himself by claiming ignorance and that they didn't actually sleep together. Finding out that he has a daughter by trying to make out with her in a bar and getting slapped was a terrific introduction to a character who seems to be just as fiery as her father, and quite talented to boot. I love that she overheard the whole conversation about what to call all of her body parents between her father and his reunited bandmates and that she even contributed to it. Johnny yelling at the paparazzi for taking pictures of random people is exactly the same kind of defiant grandstanding and speechmaking that made “Rescue Me” so great, and I hope that this show, in a half-hour format, will be similarly entertaining.

How will it work as a series? The band's back together but there are definitely plenty of issues, and $200,000 won't take them nearly as far as they think it will. Watching them interact with each other should be well worth it and I think that the cast is more than up for the task of creating a hilarious dynamic that should prove immensely watchable.
How long will it last? The ratings were far from spectacular, but I think that Leary's reputation might be enough for FX to give him a shot and let the show run for a bit. At this point I would expect a renewal even if FX's newest comedies aren't performing nearly as well as they might like.

Pilot grade: B

What I'm Watching: Rectify

Rectify: Season 3, Episode 2 “Thrill Ride” (B)

I'm not sure there's a more evocative image I can think of on television than the red inflatable man outside the shop dancing in the wind. Teddy just stared at it in this episode, and it brings up plenty of memories of this show's most intense moments, especially the one that compelled Daniel to move in with Amantha and has driven such a wedge between the members of this extended family. Teddy's drive with Jared was a prime example of how this show can be very effective in its content while being devastatingly slow in its execution. I like that Tawney got asked whether Teddy actually liked being called that simply because it was a distinguishing moniker from his father, and it's good that she's doing some soul-searching while being away from her very aggressive husband, who clearly needed some time and space to let loose. Carl and Sondra are definitely disagreeing on strategy, but it's good that this investigation is finally being conducted in the proper way after so many years. Ted telling Janet that he asked Daniel to leave was tough, and Janet had a difficult time grappling with the news Jon gave her as well. I love that Amantha responded sarcastically to questions about her name from her previously pregnant coworker and then shot right back at her with a mockery of her being named Peanut. It was great to see Daniel have a good day, enjoying being out in the world and doing normal human things like buying groceries and doing laundry.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pilot Review: Impastor

Impastor (TV Land)
Premiered July 15 at 10:30pm

I remember reading about this show on The Futon Critic a while ago, and I nearly forgot that it was premiering this week. My main reason for wanting to see this show since this network isn't one I typically make sure to tune into every time it airs a show primarily aired at a much older generation was Michael Rosenbaum, who spent a few terrific years reimagining Lex Luthor on “Smallville,” and then after not doing much showed up in a hilarious guest spot that won him an AFT Award on “Breaking In.” I haven't seen him since then, and it's great to see him take on a goofy role like this in a show that's essentially a looser version of “The Riches” that's infinitely more ridiculous. The premise doesn't suggest that it will be a fantastic show, but I do like the cast assembled here. The only one I don't know is Mike Kosinski, who plays the overeager gay member of the church. I don't remember ever watching “Less Than Perfect,” but I remember Sara Rue from plenty of other things, and she seems to be playing the most sensible and intelligent character. I love Mircea Monroe from her work on “Episodes,” and it's great to see her playing a more normative but equally eager character. David Rasche is an Armando Iannucci regular capable of insanely funny deadpan, and I hope this role is worthy of his talents. And Aimee Garcia, who was great in both “Dexter” and “Vegas,” is holding down the fort in Buddy's former world, which it seems has caught up with him all too quickly. This show is stupid but much more vile than I had expected it to be, and I think it's worth checking out for a week or two to see if it gets funnier or if it stalls right away.

How will it work as a series? I'm surprised by how quickly Buddy's old life caught up to him, especially since he managed to ease into the role of revered without much difficulty, and it's going to prove challenging to stay alive and keep his identity a secret from his congregation. That journey could either be fun or dumb.
How long will it last? That I'm not so sure about. I don't think many were charmed by the pilot of this show, and TVLand isn't consistent with which shows it decides to keep around and which ones it abandons after just a season. My prediction for this one is that it won't make it to a second year.

Pilot grade: C+

What I'm Watching: Wayward Pines

Wayward Pines: Season 1, Episode 9 “A Reckoning” (C+)

There's just one episode left of this show, a fact that should be obvious given the major cliffhanger that ended this hour and the knowledge that a mess has been created that will be near impossible to clean up. What's frustrating about this show is that it goes from zero to sixty without any warning, with armed first generation militants breaking into a jail and executing four out of five prisoners moments later and Theresa and Kate switching sides completely after seeing video footage of a destroyed Golden Gate Bridge. That video makes me wonder whether something like “Fear the Walking Dead,” a prequel about how things changed, might be interesting, but I think that understanding how Wayward Pines was built and the institutions that were created might be more worthwhile. The problem is that there are far too many holes in the way that this show has been arranged, which is a shame because I think the premise is really solid. Pilcher shutting off all the power in the city after Ethan decided to start telling everyone what's really going on was vindictive rather than practical, and shutting off the fence so that the beasts humans have evolved into can get in was a poor choice that is going to bring down everything he worked so hard to build. Kate and Ethan are firmly on the same side now, which is good, but Megan and the first generation are not going to be able to see Pilcher's arrogance before they burn the city down.

What I'm Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 1, Episode 4 “eps1.3_da3m0ns.mp4” (B)

This was a really trippy episode, further demonstrating that this show is operating from such a fascinating vantage point as it tells an already interesting story. Elliot going into withdrawal was poorly-timed, but obviously Mr. Robot has realized that he's vital to their plan and therefore they have to take care of him and help nurse him back to help. Experiencing the video footage in which he got his own mask was particularly memorable, and I also enjoyed his proposal to Angela. The best line of the episode was “Don't be mad at me – I know I slipped, but I'm about to change the world,” and it perfectly epitomizes Elliot and this show. With Elliot out of commission, there was plenty of time to delve into the personal relationships of other people on this show, even though Tyrell, who we've already seen has a wild personal life, didn't appear at all. Angela got a great tour of the city from Shayla, who seems to really enthrall her. After their passionate moment, Angela did something irreversible, and its effects are sure to be highly damaging. Darlene taking Trenton around was quite entertaining, and Darlene's confrontation with her ex-boyfriend, who made the fatal mistake of proposing to her, started off as very funny and then turned considerably more serious. This show's ensemble is really terrific, and I like that we get to see characters like Romero and Mobley as they struggle to find sensible things to do with their time while they wait to pull off the hack that really could change the world.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What I'm Watching: The Brink

The Brink: Season 1, Episode 4 “I'll Never Be Batman” (B-)

I'm not sure that this show can get devolve any more, and I'm glad to see that some of its humor, however outlandish, is actually working. The sight of Walter having a political conversation with a foreign leader while peeing into a bag held by an all-too-compliant Kendra was hilarious, as was his lack of apology for the matter. Walter is certainly a force to be reckoned with, accomplishing the delay of international war while nearly combusting from his kidney stone and dismissing Alex's unamused boss who didn't want him to speak directly to the secretary of state. It's a good thing that Kendra didn't tell him about his wife accepting the job since he's sure to explode once he hears that information. Alex didn't have much trouble setting up the major meeting thanks to a convenient wiretap, and my favorite moment of his Shakira-assisted getaway was when a motorcycle owner mistook his shouting of “Is real” about the $1000 bills to be a reference to the country he detests so much. I love that most of Z-Pak and Glenn's conversations happen while they are flying and while they really should be paying more attention to where they're going and who they're accidentally shooting. Z-Pak's logic about his two-family situation was magnificently laid out, and it's too bad that Glenn had to poke a hole in his perfect solution at the exact time that they were experiencing critical flight failure due to a wing being on fire. What absurdity can come next?

What I'm Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 3, Episode 1 “Parliament of Owls” (B-)

I'm relieved to report that this premiere is a substantial improvement over the mess that was last season, and even though I'm not sure that it's headed in a productive direction, I'm okay sticking around to see what happens. A few years have passed, and the biggest change is that the kids are all grown up. What that means is that they all have personalities and can actually hold conversations, like Bill's son asking him about his book, which Bill quickly replied was not for children. For Tessa, it means that she can be naked in the tub and kiss Bill, expressing herself in a very rebellious way. Bill nearly hitting his son was an important moment, but I'd stress more that he is literally the least friendly or pleasant person that I could find on TV these days, and I can't understand why he insists on being so rude and unhappy. It's very interesting to see the note at the end of the episode that while this story is based on truth the children are fictitious, which feels like an unnecessary caveat given the already sensational nature of what this show's characters do, and I'm not talking about an envelope-pushing study. Libby has gotten a bit better, though she's still devoured by stress and anxiety about what's happening far away while unable to perceive what's right next to her. Kissing Virginia just to see what it was like was a brave act, and it seems to have caught her off guard. More concerningly, though the press conference went well, the subsequent throwing up from Virginia led to a much more irreversible revelation: Virginia is pregnant. That's going to complicate things.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What I'm Watching: Ray Donovan (Season Premiere)

Ray Donovan: Season 3, Episode 1 “The Kalamazoo” (B+)

I'm thrilled to have this show back, and I'd like to start this review off with a hearty congratulations to series star Liev Schreiber, who scored an Emmy nomination despite costar Jon Voight's snub. Schreiber is what makes this show work, along with many other great elements, and this episode demonstrates that once again as Ray charged right in to a situation with plenty of guns and didn't blink an eye as he got his job done. The introduction of Ian McShane's new player is certainly intriguing, and I was very surprised to see Katie Holmes as the actress portraying his daughter, a clear indicator that she will have a larger part to play over the course of the season. Ezra dying was an unfortunate development that underlined how much of a rift Kate's execution at Ezra's command created, with Deb telling Ray to leave the funeral and Ray unwillinging to even consider working with Avi again. As usual, Bridget blames her mother for anything her father did, and it's good to see that Abby is at least putting herself to good use sticking up for Bunchy and helping him collect payment from delinquent gym users. Mickey is the making the most of his situation, living the life in the pool and entertaining all his neighbors with regular fun. Buying a grill and trying to get the pimp to take his operation elsewhere seem like simple enough moves, but Mickey may just make himself too many enemies to be able to continue enjoying his lovely new circumstances.

Take Three: Humans

Humans: Season 1, Episode 3 (B)

I'm still interested in this show, it's just hard sometimes to figure out what its overall goal is and to see its endpoint, even if just in the near future. The biggest drag is everything involving George, who is protesting against the iron grip Vera has on him and trying desperately to save his beloved Odi. It's very clear that Odi is malfunctioning on a regular basis, unable to evaluate tasks assigned and understand that his primary purpose should be to protect his master, jumping out of the car to find George ice cream instead of continuing to drive the vehicle. He won't fare too well in the woods by himself, but something tells me that he may end up being conveniently found by a familiar band of rebel robots. Niska is in the wind and is not eager to be told what to do, and she's an example of how mistreatment can lead to resulting violence on the part of a synth in self-defense, and it's only going to make the pursuit of these “defective” models all the more bloody. Anita rushing into traffic to save Toby as he was about to be hit by a car was a crucial act, and now Laura's perspective has changed considerably. Dissecting the way Anita said she would always take care of Sophie was important, and Anita is right to be suspicious. Anita having to strip down so that Joe could do a physical inspection of her malfunctions was pretty forced and not too convincing.

What I'm Watching: True Detective

True Detective: Season 2, Episode 4 “Down Will Come” (B-)

This show feels extremely cyclical as the same things keep happening over and over again. Frank going around to all those he did something for at one point and demanding continued payment for it despite full restitution having been made long ago is the worst possible business model, and even if he can beat up enough people to intimidate them into compliance, it still doesn't position him as a terribly intelligent individual since he's bound to be dethroned as a tyrant eventually. Ani being put on leave because of pending allegations about sexual misconduct feels awfully similar to Paul's situation, though she didn't let it phase her and marched straight in to continue working as much as sh can. The major shootout at the end of this episode is reminiscent of a turning point at the same time last year in season one, though I think the crucial difference is that while that showed and told us something about who Rust and Martin are as people, this just underlines the miserable nature of society. A staggering amount of collateral damage occurred in this gunfight, and the fatal blow to the head of a fellow detective was certainly startling. What it left us with was the sight of three equally dedicated cops with equally rocky pasts caught in the middle of something far darker and more dangerous than they had expected. They understand what it is, but it doesn't make the situation any more desirable to watch, though I'm hoping its continued descent into darkness will somehow help turn the show around.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Emmy Nominees: Best Comedy Series

My predictions: 5/7, picking “The Big Bang Theory” and “Jane the Virgin” over “Parks and Recreation” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

I'm sad that “Jane the Virgin” got virtually shut out, but how amazing is it that Parks and Recreation got nominated for its amazing final season? How little it's been recognized is an embarrassment, but at least it's here this year. I don't quite see the hype behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but I'm fine with it being here, joining the terrific Transparent as new blood. Modern Family, which earned just six nominations this year, is back to contend for its sixth consecutive trophy, going up against Veep for the fourth time, Louie for the third, and Silicon Valley for the second. “The Big Bang Theory,” which had been nominated four years in a row, was summarily dismissed this year, and I'm not sure why. I have some “Louie” to catch up on, but otherwise I think this list is pretty solid.

Who should win? “Parks and Recreation,” of course
Who will win? I think Modern Family has to win again, even though I'm rooting for anything else. We'll see what the episodes submitted are.

Emmy Nominees: Best Drama Series

My predictions: 6/7, picking “Empire” over “Homeland”

I'm not disappointed in my incorrect prediction of this category, mainly because I watch all seven nominated programs and had no desire to get into “Empire.” I do think that, while the fourth season was a return to form but nothing close to what it used to be, Homeland does not merit showing up in this category again after its tremendous first two seasons. It's good to see Orange is the New Black make the transition to this category even if it lost a few actors on the way, and to have new blood, Better Call Saul, welcomed enthusiastically. This is the eighth nomination for Mad Men, the fifth for Game of Thrones, the fourth for Downton Abbey, and the second for House of Cards. Maybe next year we'll get some new blood. Where are “The Leftovers” or “The Affair” when you need them?

Who should win? “Orange is the New Black” or “Better Call Saul,” I'd say, but they're all pretty good
Who will win? I think Mad Men takes its throne back.

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/6

So much for the witty construction of “Jane the Virgin” being honored – it seems like voters like The Last Man on Earth and its pilot better. Transparent being recognized for its pilot is enormously valid. Louie gets nominated every year for whatever episode it submits, which this year is “Bobby's House,” and the same holds true for one of my favorites, Episodes, contending this year for “Episode 409.” Silicon Valley got its season finale, “Two Days of the Condor,” recognized for the second year in a row. Veep also scored again here, with its season finale, “Election Night,” on the list.

Who should win? The “Transparent” pilot, “Episode 409,” or “Election Night”
Who will win? “Transparent”

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

My predictions: 1/6, picking only “Sleepover” and the wrong episode of “Transparent”

I'm not quite sure what all the hype is for The Last Man on Earth and especially the one installment of it that I watched, “Alive in Tucson,” which was the pilot. Louie always gets whatever episode it submits nominated, and this year that's “Sleepover.” Just like last year, Silicon Valley got its season premiere, “Sand Hill Shuffle,” recognized. I'm thrilled to see Veep finally appreciated in this category, particularly for such a brilliantly-choreographed installment as “Testimony.” I didn't love the episode of Transparent that's recognized here, the flashback-focused “Best New Girl,” but it was well-directed and a strong representation of the show at its most piercing.

Who should win? “Testimony” or “Sand Hill Shuffle”
Who will win? I think it will actually be Alive in Tucson.

Emmy Nominees: Best Writing for a Drama Series

My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Mother's Mercy” and “Person to Person” and the wrong episode of “Better Call Saul”

I'm always surprised when a show that hasn't typically been recognized in a particular category seemingly randomly shows up, as is the case with The Americans and “Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Joining the season finale of Game of Thrones, “Mother's Mercy,” is one of the best episodes of Better Call Saul, “Five-O.” Mad Men got doubly nominated for its swan song, with “Lost Horizon” and series finale “Person to Person” recognized. I'll have more to say about this category in my winner predictions and analysis.

Who should win? “Five-O” or “Lost Horizon”
Who will win? Since it's a series finale, probably Person to Person.

Emmy Nominees: Best Directing for a Drama Series

My predictions: 1/5, picking “Eldorado” and a different episode of “Game of Thrones”

So the one thing I got right here was statistic-based: onetime Best Drama Series nominee Boardwalk Empire again get recognized for the directing of its season finale, “Eldorado,” serving as the major nomination out of its ten mostly technical bids. I thought “Hardhome” was a lock, but I guess voters preferred Game of Thrones episodes “Mother's Mercy” and “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” The episode of Homeland recognized, “From A to B and Back Again,” is a fine choice, and I suppose “Method and Madness,” the pilot of The Knick, is decent too. These weren't the best directed episodes of the year by any definition, but it's an okay list.

Who should win? “Mother's Mercy” or “Eldorado”
Who will win? Probably “Boardwalk Empire”

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Kristen Johnston and Rita Moreno over Hoffman and Adlon

I'm fine with this category, I just think it's strange that Pamela Adlon (Louie) is finally being recognized now after so many years spent on this show and “Californication.” Additionally, while I'm all for Gaby Hoffmann (Girls) being nominated, that's also a case of waking up several years after a great actress has been working for a while. The rest of this category isn't so fresh, with four returning nominees, one for a new show. Elizabeth Banks (Modern Family), Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory), and Joan Cusack (Shameless) are among the sole representatives of their shows, while Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) is actually one of an impressive five to be honored from her show.

Who should win? I've seen all but one – I'd firmy support Fey at this point.
Who will win? I think it will be Fey.

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Steve Buscemi and Nathan Lane over Mel Brooks and Paul Giamatti

I'm relatively pleased with how I did in this category, correctly picking four nominees and then incorrectly choosing two past nominees, who were instead replaced by Mel Brooks (The Comedians) and Paul Giamatti (Inside Amy Schumer), both of whose performances I haven't seen. I'm thrilled that Jon Hamm (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) made the cut, and I think that Bradley Whitford (Transparent) is a solid choice as well. As I do each year, I need to sit down and watch some SNL to see the performances of Louis C.K. (Saturday Night Live) and Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live).

Who should win? I've only seen two nominees, but I like Hamm a lot!
Who will win? I'm not sure – maybe Brooks?

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/6, picking only Martindale, Rigg, and Janney

I'm not terribly disappointed by the omissions in this category since they weren't inclusions I was advocating for, but I'm always surprised that certain shows get honored, perhaps deservedly, in this race when they don't show up anywhere else. Margo Martindale (The Americans) has been the biggest example of that, and Khandi Alexander (Scandal) never competed for a major award before and is now here for a show that was all but forgotten this year and only ever really showed up in a couple places before. Cicely Tyson (How to Get Away with Murder) is an interesting inclusion for such a show, which usually only gets buzz for its lead actress. Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) is a prime example of honoring an actor or actress for a larger role when he or she only appears in a small part in a later season of a show. Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones) is a perennial nominee at this point, and Allison Janney (Masters of Sex) is expectedly back.

Who should win? I've only seen three of these, and I'd pick Rigg at this point.
Who will win? I think it will be Tyson or Janney again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 1/6, picking only Bridges

Here it is – my official worst category! Objectively, Sam Shepard and Robert Morse made sense as choices based on the popularity of their shows and their reputations, and Oliver Platt and David Hyde Pierce were solid bets too. Instead, we got three returning nominees - Beau Bridges (Masters of Sex), as expected, Michael J. Fox (The Good Wife), and Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards) – and two historical awards favorites, F. Murray Abraham (Homeland), and Alan Alda (The Blacklist). It's also interesting to see Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) recognized for a much zanier and less controlled guest appearance in season two when he probably should have been honored instead for season one. This is a fine list, I suppose, but it doesn't look anything like mine.

Who should win? Cathey or Fox?
Who will win? I think Bridges will take it again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 6/8, missing Nash and Hoffman

I'd like to note that I technically got 100% in this category; they just tacked on two other nominees. Niecy Nash (Getting On) definitely fits that bill, recognized for a show that wasn't honored in any other race. I've never seen it, and I'm perplexed to say the least. I'm very happy for Gaby Hoffmann (Transparent), an unexpected double nominee this year. She was great, even if I might have recognized costar Amy Landecker ahead of her. Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) is the lone defender of her show, which was snubbed elsewhere, and she's joined here by two other series representatives, Allison Janney (Mom) and Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live). Also here are Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Anna Chlumsky (Veep), and Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

Who should win? Chlumsky or Hoffmann, though I don't watch four of these shows so that's not quite fair to say.
Who will win? It will probably be Janney again, but I'll bet on Chlumsky based on her episode submission.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 3/6, picking only Burrell, Burgess, and Braugher

I'm not sure how to react to this category. It's strange to me that Adam Driver (Girls) is still here when his show was virtually ignored elsewhere, and while I appreciate Tony Hale (Veep) so much, there are so many incredible male supporting players on that show that they could easily fill one if not two categories. Ty Burrell (Modern Family) is officially the only member of his cast to appear here, joined just by Julie Bowen and guest star Elizabeth Banks in the lowest-ever haul for the show. While I don't always love Titus Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), I won't protest his nomination. Ditto Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine). And I'll note that I predicted Keegan Michael-Key (Key and Peele) last year, though I've never seen his show. I'm sad that Jaime Camil isn't here, but “Jane the Virgin” didn't merit any real mention anywhere. This isn't a bad list, just a bit of a random one.

Who should win? I don't watch two of the shows, but I'd pick Hale or Burrell
Who will win? My guess right now is that Burgess and Pinot Noir can bring it home, but it may be Burrell again.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/6, picking only Aduba, Headey, and Hendricks

Interestingly enough, this category is actually composed entirely of returning nominees. Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), who won a comedy guest actress trophy last year, is now the only regular player from her show to earn a bid. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), who was nominated two years ago and honestly does not deserve to be here, joins Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) for her second consecutive and much more legitimate nomination. Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) survived the snubbing of several of her costars to earn another nomination, and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) is here for the last time. In the biggest shock, Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), who won a Golden Globe earlier this year, is back but without her revered costar Maggie Smith, who I still find to be one of the sharpest and best parts of her show. I would argue in a heartbeat that both Ann Dowd and Carrie Coon of “The Leftovers” were better than this entire bunch, even Hendricks, and I'm also surprised that Kate Mulgrew isn't here. Oh well.

Who should win? Aduba, Headey, or Hendricks
Who will win? I'd love to see it be Hendricks, but I think it will be Headey or Aduba.

Emmy Nominees: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 3/6, picking only Banks, Dinklage, and Mendelsohn

I have a few issues with this category. I don't understand why Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) is nominated every year, especially since his costars are being dismissed in almost all races. He's not bad at all, in fact he's quite charming, but he's not one of the six best supporting actors on dramatic television. Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) is also an odd choice at this point in time, mainly because this wasn't Eli's most notable year. I have no issue with Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline), who I like as an actor even though I don't like his show, and I'm fully supportive of Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul) and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones). And even though he wouldn't be my choice, I welcome the inclusion of Michael Kelly (House of Cards), a hardworking actor who has never really had the opportunity to be recognized like this. It's more of a letdown to see actors like Christopher Eccleston, whose amazing show earned a grand total of zero nominations, and Walton Goggins, whose show in its final year also earned absolutely nothing, ignored when they actually had a chance of representing their series. It's also puzzling to see Jon Voight snubbed for year two of his show, especially since costar Liev Schreiber did get nominated. And, not that I'm complaining, I'm surprised that last year's nominee Mandy Patinkin isn't here given the enthusiasm shown for his show and its mediocre creative resurgence.

Who should win? Banks or Dinklage
Who will win? I'll hedge my bets on Banks for now, knowing full well what his episode will be. It will all depend on what others submit.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Ellie Kemper and Gina Rodriguez over Schumer and Tomlin

I'm very disappointed about the two snubs in this category. “Jane the Virgin” managed just one nomination – an enormously deserved bid for a category I didn't know existed, Best Narrator – despite being the most charming show on television. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was recognized for Best Comedy Series and in all five other eligible acting categories, despite the fact that Kemper is its most endearing part. I do think that Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie) serving as the sole representative for her show is fine since she is its most entertaining player. I've never seen Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer) on her show, though I do think it's strange that she can compete her and then her show places elsewhere in separate variety categories. I correctly called Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback) being included, joining two actresses on departing shows, Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and one on a red-hot series that could last forever, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep).

Who should win? Poehler, naturally, or Louis-Dreyfus
Who will win? I think that Poehler can pull it off unless Louis-Dreyfus triumphs again

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

My predictions: 4/7, picking Thomas Middleditch and Jim Parsons over Anderson, LeBlanc, and Forte

Seven slots, and no room for Jim Parsons? I'm not objecting, but it's clear that Emmy voters have jumped ship in regards to their support for the CBS comedy, which managed just a few acting nominations this year and got ousted from the major categories. I'm so happy to have been wrong about the snub of Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), who continues to be terrific on a show that continues to be terrific yet seems only qualified for recognition in select categories year after year, as is also the case for “Silicon Valley,” whose actors can't be nominated. Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) is a fun inclusion even if I'm not too fond of his show, and apparently voters really like Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth). It's good that Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) made the cut given Emmy voters' inexcusable lack of support for another Golden Globe-winning comedy (see next category), and he joins returning nominees Louis C.K. (Louie), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), and William H. Macy (Shameless).

Who should win? LeBlanc, Tambor, or Macy
Who will win? I'll put my money on Tambor.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Julianna Margulies and Taylor Schilling over Maslany and Moss

I can't believe it - Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) finally did it! The best actress currently starring on television has an Emmy nomination to show for it, and it's wonderful. I'm also pleased that Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) earned some recognition for the final season of her show, in which she was great. It's too bad that Taylor Schilling didn't make the cut, and it's strange that Julianna Margulies didn't either since costar Alan Cumming got recognized again this year. Taraji P. Henson (Empire) turned out to be the sole beneficiary of her show, which didn't really get honored anywhere else. Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder) got in, joining returning nominees Claire Danes (Homeland) and Robin Wright (House of Cards), and ousting Lizzy Caplan, Michelle Dockery, and Kerry Washington. Quite the overhaul, keeping just two nominees.

Who should win? Maslany, naturally
Who will win? While I'd hope it was Maslany, I think that Davis or Henson will probably win.

Emmy Nominees: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

My predictions: 4/6, picking Terrence Howard and Timothy Olyphant over Chandler and Schreiber

I couldn't be more excited about one of the most deserving and unexpected surprises in this category: Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), who wasn't nominated last year but is definitely one of the best actors currently working on television. It's also clear that Kyle Chandler (Bloodline) is an Emmy favorite, though I couldn't get through more than a few episodes of his show and don't think his character is nearly as beloved as Coach Taylor. Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) got recognized, which is great, joining three returning nominees, Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and two whose shows have finished airing, Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom). This is a pretty strong category!

Who should win? Anyone but Chandler in my mind – I'd probably choose Schreiber.
Who will win? I think Hamm has to finally win unless Spacey does.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Emmy Predictions: Best Comedy Series

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 16th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Louie, Modern Family, Orange is the New Black, Silicon Valley, Veep

The competition: “Orange is the New Black” is being transplanted to the drama race, which leaves two spots open since the category has now been expanded to include seven nominees. Conventional wisdom says Transparent and Jane the Virgin should take them, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is nipping at their heels. Grace and Frankie and Black-ish will get some votes, as could never-nominated Shameless or past nominees Nurse Jackie or Girls. And wouldn't it be great if Parks and Recreation got recognized for an incredible final season?

The predicted nominees: The Big Bang Theory, Jane the Virgin, Louie, Modern Family, Silicon Valley, Transparent, Veep

The predicted winner: “Transparent”

Emmy Predictions: Best Drama Series

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 16th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, True Detective

The competition: This year, we'll have three new nominees to add to the mix since “True Detective” is no longer eligible in this race, “Breaking Bad” ended and seven shows will now be selected. Count on the other four to return, and all but certain to join them is Orange is the New Black, newly considered a drama after a Best Comedy Series bid last year. Better Call Saul and Empire are the strongest bets to join the list, both untested as they premiered in 2015 and haven't yet had another guild heap praise upon them. The Affair, which won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series, may benefit from the expanded field and could fill an open slot, though it will also face competition from former nominees The Good Wife and Homeland. I'd love to see The Leftovers make the cut, and it's always possible that Justified will be rewarded for its swan song.

The predicted nominees: The Affair, Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Empire, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black

The predicted winner: “Mad Men”

Emmy Predictions: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 16th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Episode 305 (Episodes), So Did the Fat Lady (Louie), I Wasn’t Ready (Orange is the New Black), Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency (Silicon Valley), Special Relationship (Veep)

The contenders:
Valerie Makes A Pilot (The Comeback)
Pilot (The Comedians)
Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television (Community)
Episode 409 (Episodes)
Cubbies (Girls)
The End (Grace and Frankie)
Chapter One (Jane the Virgin)
Alive in Tucson (The Last Man on Earth)
Bobby's House (Louie)
American Skyper (Modern Family)
Patriot Games (Modern Family)
Pilot (Mozart in the Jungle)
Leslie and Ron (Parks and Recreation)
One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation)
Sand Hill Shuffle (Silicon Valley)
Two Days of the Condor (Silicon Valley)
Pilot (Transparent)
Kimmy Goes Outside! (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Election Night (Veep)

The predicted nominees: Episode 309 (Episodes), Chapter One (Jane the Virgin), Bobby's House (Louie), One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation), Pilot (Transparent)

The predicted winner: “Pilot”

Emmy Predictions: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 16th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Episode 309 (Episodes), 100 (Glee), Elevator, Part 6 (Louie), Vegas (Modern Family), Lesbian Request Denied (Orange is the New Black), Minimum Viable Product (Silicon Valley)

The contenders:
Valerie Gets What She Really Wanted (The Comeback)
Pilot (The Comedians)
Episode 409 (Episodes)
Daddy Issues (Girls)
Dreams Come True (Glee)
The Vows (Grace and Frankie)
Chapter One (Jane the Virgin)
Alive in Tucson (The Last Man on Earth)
Sleepover (Louie)
Connection Lost (Modern Family)
The Day We Almost Died (Modern Family)
Won't You Be Our Neighbor (Modern Family)
Pilot (Mozart in the Jungle)
One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation)
Two Days of the Condor (Silicon Valley)
Best New Girl (Transparent)
Moppa (Transparent)
Kimmy Goes Outside! (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Testimony (Veep)

The predicted nominees: Dreams Come True (Glee), Chapter One (Jane the Virgin), Sleepover (Louie), Moppa (Transparent), Kimmy Goes Outside! (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

The predicted winner: “Chapter One”

Emmy Predictions: Best Writing for a Drama Series

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 16th. Please refer to my Emmy musings for this category for a detailed analysis of the contenders, and, as always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Felina (Breaking Bad), Ozymandias (Breaking Bad), The Children (Game of Thrones), Chapter 14 (House of Cards), The Secret Fate of All of Life (True Detective)

The contenders:
Episode 1 (The Affair)
Bingo (Better Call Saul)
Uno (Better Call Saul)
Part 12 (Bloodline)
Eldorado (Boardwalk Empire)
Episode 8 (Downton Abbey)
Pilot (Empire)
Mother's Mercy (Game of Thrones)
The Drone Queen (Homeland)
Chapter 39 (House of Cards)
The Promise (Justified)
Method and Madness (The Knick)
Pilot (The Leftovers)
Lost Horizon (Mad Men)
Person to Person (Mad Men)
40 Oz. Of Furlough (Orange is the New Black)
It Was the Change (Orange is the New Black)
We Have Manners. We're Polite (Orange is the New Black)

The predicted nominees: Bingo (Better Call Saul), Mother's Mercy (Game of Thrones), Chapter 39 (House of Cards), Person to Person (Mad Men), 40 Oz. Of Furlough (Orange is the New Black)

The predicted winner: “Person to Person”