Saturday, October 31, 2015

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 2, Episode 3 “The Myth of Sisyphus” (B+)

While I still contend that this season isn’t quite as mesmerizing as the first, this episode had a few moments that made the hour in a big way. The introduction of Keir O’Donnell’s Ben Schmidt started it all off, as he described the problematic nature of getting involved with the Gerhardt family by suggesting that Lou would be better off confessing to the crime and spending his life in jail than investigating it. Their trip to North Dakota made for a superbly tense scene in which Lou acted like a cop and couldn’t believe that everyone around him didn’t care, emphasizing that, in Minnesota, “When a police officer says talk, you talk.” Lou’s earlier standoff with Mike Milligan and the “Bathroom Brothers” was equally intense, and he’s putting himself right in the crosshairs of two dangerous crime families who will have no qualms about crossing into Minnesota to take care of him. Mike knows how to talk, and to see him flummoxed by Joe going on about hair product was very entertaining. This really is a family business, as Simone’s involvement in trapping poor Skip, whose frequent tie-wearing doesn’t do him any good, showed how much she wants to do bad things, even if Dodd disapproves very much. Betsy suggesting that there was a hit-and-run tied in to the diner shooting got Peggy very spooked, and the ways that she is having Ed cover up what she did are almost certain to get her caught, and not necessarily by the local police who are so polite about being unfriendly.

Friday, October 30, 2015

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 6 “Code Your Soul” (B-)

Another episode, another gunfight. This was a fine episode, but, as usual, it offers precious few clues to Jane’s true identity and the many tattoos on her bac while introducing a plethora of new villains and complications to make the puzzle even bigger and more difficult to solve. A side of Jane that we saw in this episode that we hadn’t really seen before was a very compassionate yearning to help other people and just spend time with them. Inviting her new hacker friend to go for a drink wasn’t an appropriate move, but it was an acknowledgment that she needs someone to be able to interact with who isn’t considering her a specimen or holding on to the hope that she is actually a long-lost neighbor. Asking her security detail to come up for a drink was another attempt to try socializing and being normal, something that she just isn’t going to be able to do. Charging in to save Ava was a sign that she is brave and committed to helping innocents, but it’s not going to help her ease back into being a regular person anytime soon. Weller feeling like he needs to distance himself because his relationship isn’t right is poorly-timed, though it is legitimate since he’s clearly so ingrained it, as evidenced by his father’s emotional reactions to the news that Taylor is back, something which has not yet been confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt. Soon enough, I’m sure another major bombshell will be dropped that will throw the few things the team has learned so far into question.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 3 “Chapter Twenty-Five” (B+)

Jane is not having an easy time separating from Mateo, and I’m glad that this episode, complete with a stroller falling down a large number of steps and nearly hitting her professor during class, has essentially catapulted Jane back on the journey of easing back into her old life while still finding more than enough time to spend with her newborn son. I enjoyed that the narrator made sure to tell Jane that she couldn’t do his job for him when she tried to speak every action for Mateo, and as usual this show provided some signature sweetness with Alba, Xiomara, and Jane all reading the same speech. Petra presenting three options to Rafael and Jane was bold and blunt, but it seems that they’ve found an agreeable way to move forward, one that is the best route given the circumstances and Jane’s hallucinations of Petra and her mother contributing loudly to their family occasions. Michael trying to be macho failed miserably but may have helped to win Jane over thanks to his diary. My favorite moments of the Rogelio-Xiomara-Luciana storyline were Rogelio reacting to Xiomara saying he’s not that great an actor and Alba sprinkling water at Xiomara to knock some sense into her and tell her not to give up on him. Luisa was smart to figure out who she thought had kidnapped her, but she didn’t quite get it right, suggesting that she’s in a much more interesting and complicated position as a bargaining chip who may or may not even be desired by the intended target.

What I’m Watching: Minority Report

Minority Report: Season 1, Episode 6 “Fiddler’s Neck” (B)

It’s a treat to see the whole family back together again, even if I wish that them working together to outsmart an enemy who can’t see the future would have been just a little cooler. Arthur closing his eyes to get details and Dash counting steps to tell Vega when to fire her gun were helpful, but it didn’t quite have the choreography I might have hoped for. I like Arthur and Dash spending time together, bonding and exchanging ideas of why they do what they do. I loved the opportunity for Vega to spend some time with Agatha and prove to her that she could be trusted. It was very enlightening to learn about Agatha’s backstory and meet the man she left behind because she saw a brighter future for him, Brian, played by Kenneth Mitchell from “Jericho.” Back on the mainland, Akeela coming to Will with news of a hack focused around him got a very different answer than she expected, and sent her right to another supporting character known mostly for his intelligence and not for his social graces. Wally and Akeela had a great round of insulting each other by telling each other just how much they knew about the other, but things got more serious when they realized that the probe into Will was about more than just him, and that their work with Dash was threatening to expose the fact that a precog was back at work, helping the police to close more cases than in recent memory.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pilot Review: Supergirl

Supergirl (CBS)
Premiered October 26 at 8:30pm

I feel like this was one of the first new fall shows I heard about way back in the spring, and it’s one of the last to premiere. I’m one of those many fans who watched “Smallville” for all ten seasons despite the fact that it never really got good again after season two, and though I’m enjoying “The Flash” a great deal right now, I’m still wary of committing to a superhero series if I’m not sure what the payoff will be. I’m pleased to say that I think this episode worked well, which is a particular compliment given a major hurdle presented by its premise. The entire origin story is tethered to how Kara is Superman’s cousin, and it would seem that the show will focus only on Supergirl and not have her more well-known relative appear at all. It doesn’t make much sense tha the would leave her completely in the dark, but that’s this show’s burden to try to make seem irrelevant. What does work very well is the cast, led by the wonderful Melissa Benoist, whose genuine excitement about getting to use her powers is the show’s best asset. Chyler Leigh makes a great sister slash secret agent, and I’m glad to see David Harewood, who was eternally grumpy on “Homeland,” get to play a similar part here but one that feels a lot more involved and energetic. Mehcad Brooks from “True Blood” is superb as James Olsen, a much more polished grown-up version of the kid photographer from the Superman universe who just happens to be looking out for Kara with the helpful knowledge of her secret identity. Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant may be a bit more to take, but every superhero show practically demands a powerful curmudgeon to berate the alter ego while venerating the superhero. Having Kara targeted by the freed prisoners from the Phantom Zone is a cool concept, and I think it should work well. This show just needs to balance his hokeyness with its action and drama, and I think this opening hour managed to do that. I’m looking forward to more.

How will it work as a series? There are four people who know Kara’s identity – Alexandra, Hank, James, and Winn – and that should give her a few great sounding boards to help her become the hero she has always wanted to be. There will be danger and disappointment along the way, but it’s sure to be rewarding.
How long will it last? When I searched around to see how this show had performed, I did not expect to come across the headline that this pilot ranked as the most-watched new show of the fall in its debut airing. Moving to 8pm without “The Big Bang Theory” will be a more accurate test, but I think this is a strong enough start to guarantee this show a super life.

Pilot grade: B+

Take Three: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 1, Episode 3 “I Hope Josh Comes to My Party!” (B+)

This show continues to deliver, and this third hour featured more songs than ever. They were actually quite catchy, and I think that they’re incorporated into the storyline very well. Nothing is better than Rebecca’s reactions to situations and comments, and the best part of this episode was Paula’s song about facing your fears and doing plenty of irresponsible things, advice which encouraged her son to steal a test so that he wouldn’t have to be scared of failing it. Meeting her kids and her husband was a treat since they pretty much ignore her entirely, as her husband practices for his next big barbershop quartet singoff and she comments on her older son’s serial killer vibe. Her attempts to save the party were noble and terrific, but she wasn’t the only one who did a spectacular job of lifting everyone’s spirits and turning up the heat. Josh showing up and making it exciting was probably the best thing that could have happened, although not answering Valencia’s text when she said she got home was another victory that hopefully won’t give Rebecca too much confidence. She’s actually at a point now where she and Josh could be good friends and hang out on a regular basis, but given this show’s title and style, I don’t think she’ll be content to stop there and will still ooze her particular brand of crazy onto Josh and every else in her life. I’m having a blast watching her adjust to West Covina, and I hope we get to see plenty more of this show in the future.

What I’m Watching: Quantico

Quantico: Season 1, Episode 5 “Found” (C+)

I get that these trainees should be able to think on their feet, but having them master an undercover identity only to pass it to someone else to adopt on the spot seems a bit excessive, and also poses a risk if the organization they’re infiltrating wises up to what they’re up to, not that such things are mentioned or stressed on this show at all. It seems that the larger endgame of this episode was for couples to get together in some way or another. With no sign of Nathalie in this episode, Alex and Booth won the game and were passionate with each other, a connection that lasted even if in a non-romantic way since Booth was the only one who immediately presumed Alex was innocent. Shelby and Caleb realized that they’re better off taking out their hatred for each other in a sexual way, and now that present-day Shelby is on Alex’s side, it’s no surprise that Caleb is the newest suspect. Elias finally made a decent point about why he was stalking Simon, and it seems that Simon’s confession about having done things he can’t undo won him over, and has even opened the door for a possible romantic relationship with Nimah. Alex recording a broadcast to the world asserting her innocence was the best thing she could possibly have done, and doing it from a mosque so that she could get away without being caught was just as smart. I still don’t think O’Connor will even consider the possibility that she’s innocent, and it will be a long time before we learn just what he has against her.

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 2, Episode 4 (B+)

It’s reassuring to know that there’s more than enough drama in the present that this episode didn’t even need to flash forward to the future until the very end. Instead, we got Richard Schiff chewing as much scenery as possible screaming at the judge about Noah and his paramour, not anywhere close to defending Noah but instead viciously prosecuting him as Helen’s divorce attorney. His argument about the whole brownstone backfired in a big way with the judge, and that coupled with the realization that she couldn’t move forward as fast as she wanted with Max sent her spiraling. The fact that everyone agreed that this is the one time she screwed up only further emphasized the degree to which she plummeted, getting drunk and stoned, running out in the middle of a haircut, parking in a handicapped space, hitting a car, and then hitting a cop before being arrested. Noah’s reaction was not out of control, and it turns out that he can’t handle as much as he thinks he can. As if his father, played by Mark Margolis from “Breaking Bad,” wasn’t enough of a sore sight, Jennifer Esposito’s Nina said what he didn’t want to hear about how he really wasn’t capable of raising four kids by himself. Martin’s stomach pain made their night in the motel miserable, but Alison showing up was a nice ending. Unfortunately, our brief trip to the future was a grounding reminder that all does not end well, and Noah standing trial in the Hamptons is inarguably bad news.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 6, Episode 3 “Thank You” (B+)

I was going to comment halfway through this episode that it featured more deaths at the hand of walkers than we’ve seen in a while, which of course says more about the state of humanity than the state of the world. There was a fatalistic tone to this hour, spoken aloud by Rick when he said that they wouldn’t make it all back and confirmed by the several times that different groups of people got caught with no way out. Most of the Alexandrians, even the smart ones, didn’t make it, but the much bigger and more impactful death was that of one of the series regulars who’s been around since the very beginning. Watching Glenn get mauled to death by walkers, quite viciously at that, was especially devastating since it was Nicholas’ suicide act that caused him to be knocked down into the melee of walkers. Maggie is going to be crushed, and it’s not even a guarantee that she’ll learn of his fate since he’s now just one of a large group of walkers who may never be found. Michonne writing “You’re getting home” on her arm was a formidable display of courage, but that didn’t pan out either, as even his note got trampled and left behind. Rick pledging that they have to go forward for the people of Alexandria was also noble, but firing blindly when he saw people walking next to the RV after killing the man who had baby food was a sign that he has lost his humanity. Panicking when the RV wouldn’t start was a fearsome way to end the episode, and I suspect we won’t learn Rick’s fate for a while since we have to check back in on the misery happening at Alexandria.

What I’m Watching: The Leftovers

The Leftovers: Season 2, Episode 4 “Orange Sticker” (B+)

Now that time has caught up to where we were at the end of the first episode, we’re back to following the show’s number one family in the face of the disappearance of John’s daughter and her friends. Nora panicking because she thinks that it’s happening again was a worrisome introduction since she has been so much happier recently. Telling Jill about her former assignment tracking down people who were pretending to have disappeared so that their families could collect death benefits helped to explain a lot of what she’s been through and how that was a perfect job for her since she had actually lost her whole family and they were just trying to pull a scam at the expense of others. Matt’s experience was a deeply disconcerting one, having a normal conversation with his wife and then waking up the next morning to find that she was back the way she had been before that. While it seemed that John was picking Kevin up in order to lead him to his interrogation and execution, having him come alone to beat up someone else was almost as bad. Erika’s cool reaction to John getting shot spoke volumes, but what Kevin saw wasn’t as impactful as what he hallucinated in his conversation with Patti. Realizing that he tried to kill himself in a way that wasn’t attention-seeking is deeply disturbing and worrisome, especially since he doesn’t remember doing it. Returning home to be literally connected to Nora by handcuffs provided some comfort, but that tranquility won’t last long.

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 4 “Taxed” (B+)

I think it’s official: Judge Schakowsky is the most despicable character on television right now. It doesn’t suggest much in the way of the effectiveness or fairness of the legal system that the lawyers advise their clients to take pleas to avoid having to spend another night in jail and the judge punishing lawyers for making cases take more time than sixty seconds. While one shoplifting arrest was legitimate, the notion of reinvigorating the system and making bond court into something less arbitrary and unjust is a perfect cause for Alicia to undertake with her latest potential partner, Lucca. It’s not too surprising to learn that Jason has a troubled past, complete with disbarment after he punched a judge. His coolness under pressure is superb, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan definitely the best addition to the cast this season so far. I’m also pretty pleased with Margo Martindale’s Ruth, who initially seemed like she was just there to be driven crazy by Eli, but who managed to do a terrific job of appeasing both Grace and Jackie and getting them to back off on their views about physician assisted suicide. Diane being forced to argue against physician assisted suicide was tough, and I like that, though Oliver Platt was great as conservative mogul Reese, he’s now sent Peter Gallagher’s Ethan in to communicate his wishes. The rapid-fire exchange between Diane and Ethan about their beliefs was one of the episode’s strongest moments, both well-written and marvelously acted by Gallagher and Baranski.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 5, Episode 4 “Why Is This Night Different?” (B-)

There is a point at which there are simply too many twists. That’s not even to suggest that the twists are bad, but when the same character is involved in multiple head-scratching revelations, it’s hard to take her or her show seriously. When Alison went behind Saul’s back to try to get him fired to save her job, that was one thing. When it was revealed that they were sleeping together, the ethics and logic of it were both called into question, and it was clear that they weren’t keeping it secret, if Saul bringing her to a Passover seder is any indication. Now, it appears that Alison was unquestionably the one who put Carrie’s name on the kill list Quinn got and may also have been responsible for bombing the plane with the CIA’s best hope in Syria on it after going to great lengths to convince him to turn on Assad. It’s baffling to me how much corruption and treachery there is within the CIA in this show’s universe, and watching “Quantico” immediately makes law enforcement seem like a lost cause. I can’t quite understand why Quinn thought it was a good idea to have Carrie come with him to the drop since it would have made sense that someone was monitoring his activities, but she did save his life and the assassin wasn’t even called in until Quinn made his drop. Laura’s pursuit of new information isn’t going to lead anywhere good, and the dead bodies piling up thanks to an unfortunate sale to the Russians is only going to create major problems for all intelligence operations in Germany.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 1, Episode 9 “La Catedral” (B+)

Pablo in prison feels a whole lot like Pablo in exile – he’s free to do what he wants and living in absurd luxury, but he can’t stand the fact that he can’t live his life as normal. While he still gets a certain level of respect from those around him, including the guards, the paranoia he admits he has still gets the best of him. Quadrupling the war tax was probably a poor idea, but one of his henchmen’s girls did him in by casually complaining about the tax in front of his family, a miserable and irreversible mistake to be sure. Watching Pablo get knocked down during a soccer game was a subtle but powerful moment, speaking even louder than beating a man to death with his bare hands after giving the appearance of letting him go free. It’s so interesting to see the difference in how the Colombian government and the DEA deal with Pablo’s newfound situation, with Carrillo begrudgingly leaving the country after being reassigned and Gaviria carefully weighing the value of Pablo taking advantage of his prison life while the country actually has peace, while Steve and Javier installed cameras in the smuggling truck and then leaked them to the press when Gaviria refused to do anything about them. Steve is our narrator, and we’ve seen him in a few hairy situations, but I think the most fearsome scene so far was when he pulled a gun on a man who he rear-ended because he wasn’t looking, terrifying his wife and making it apparent that this narco lifestyle is getting to him too.

What I’m Watching: Heroes Reborn

Heroes Reborn: Season 1, Episode 6 “Game Over” (C)

I hadn’t realized that the one goal of the good guys on this show was to free Hiro, but it makes some sense that they would want to try to go back in time and stop June 13th from happening as everyone experienced it. Given the original show’s horrendous understanding of time travel, I’m not optimistic about things working out well or coherently (definitely not both), and I was surprised that Hiro wasn’t so eager and energetic as soon as he was freed from the video game fortress. This show has proven itself to be considerably darker than its predecessor, though it still lacks a sense of finality and seriousness that I think would help it considerably. It also seems determined to stick to its comic-book roots, with Tommy discovering a new issue in Paris, thanks to Emily’s apparent interest in and knowledge of books being sold along the Seine, that proclaims him the next big hero. Malina saving Luke from drowning after they both tried to steal candy bars with their powers was an admittedly clever way of getting them to meet and realize that Luke knows exactly where Tommy is, a fortunate fact since he’s just the person Malina is trying to find. Carlos drinking something without really knowing what it is wasn’t smart, but I assume Captain Dearing wants his money back and will actually do what Carlos wanted. Miko ceasing to exist because she was only a creation of the video game is a strange twist, and I assume she’ll be back in some form eventually. I do hope that, whatever events Hiro and Noah succeed in undoing, it doesn’t mean reviving Quentin, who couldn’t have met his dark end at the hands of his sister sooner.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 4, Episode 7 “Highway Robbery” (B+)

This episode started off on a poignant note with Walt remembering a happy moment with his wife, a fitting introduction for an hour that dealt with Walt trying to move on. Going to apologize to Donna was a big step, and, as with Longhorse, she found his words to be sincere but hardly constituting an apology. It was great to see Ruby, a background character if there ever was one, burst into Walt’s office to tell him that he can’t sleep there and that Walt’s wife would want him to be happy with someone else rather than just wallow in self-pity. Her answer when he asked her out – that she spent more than enough time trying to convince manly men to deal with her emotions and didn’t want to have to do it on her free time too – wasn’t inspiring, but that didn’t stop him from having Ruby call her when he was on the side of the road deep in thought about having killed Barlow. Walt has been facing some tough situation recently, this time ending up in a car with a crippled man who never forgave the man who put him in that state. Cady taking on old cases from Mathias is an interesting development that is certain to lead her to trouble. Travis is fully ridiculous, ready to get reimbursed for deputizing himself and helping too much with the case. Another onetime applicant for a job in the sheriff’s office, Monte, was pretty damn furious when he found out that Walt was playing mind games with him, and I expect that maybe he’ll show up again to cause some trouble.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 2, Episode 7 “There Is Not Currently a Problem” (B+)

We just got an unexpected dose of seriousness from this show, one that explains Gretchen’s recent behavior and leaves things on an uncertain note going forward. Jimmy’s oblivious quoting of “Hakuna Matata” at the start of the episode was funny but turned out to be the questionable motto of the episode, as the group got trapped at home because of the marathon, with more people than Gretchen or Jimmy could handle, forcing them to retreat into drinking and aimlessly trying to catch a mouse, respectively. Collette was a terrific part of this episode, asking Lindsay if that was her real voice and ignoring being referred to by both Lindsay and Vernon as a “rando” and getting excited about doing an avocadon’t. Her spirit and energy is perfect for Edgar, and she does pretty well bouncing back after insults from his friends too. Lindsay telling Edgar she misses him was somewhat sweet, and he’s so wrapped up in his affection for Collette that he no longer wants to spend one-on-one time with her with ulterior motives, instead inviting her to join them for a three-person activity. Vernon’s improv efforts, particularly with mirroring, were horrendous, and he was mainly just there to main Lindsay not seem so crazy. Gretchen’s explosion at everyone was harsh, especially the part about improv directed at Collette, but I don’t think it fazed any of them. Confessing her depression diagnosis to Jimmy resulted in a heartwarming show of support from her boyfriend, whose assurances that they can get through anything were dented only slightly by the sight of the mouse he was so sure he had killed running across the floor at just that moment.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 5 “The Verdict” (C)

This is one case where the sum of the parts just doesn’t add up to much, since nearly all the plotlines fell flat because of this show’s typical tendency to exaggerate for no discernable reason. Gloria’s enthusiasm about being called for jury duty was funny at first, but telling the judge that she knew the accused was guilty would have been a red flag for anyone, and seems like it could even have occurred to Gloria as something that might get her dismissed (I just finished my own jury duty, as it happens). Spotting another guilty man in the courtroom who then ran was amusing, but the plotline was too far gone by that point. Jay having to serve as a parent volunteer was negated by the obnoxiousness of the coordinating teacher, who could have been annoyed enough at Jay for bringing his assistant without having to be so earthy and over-the-top. Claire trying to make decisions in Jay’s absence was painful to watch, and while I’m glad that Haley and Alex respect their mother for taking so much abuse, I didn’t need to see any of that. Mitchell inviting the ex of one of their friends to the party was an unnecessary development that should have been avoided and could have erased that whole plotline from existence. The one remotely decent thread was the one involving Phil’s optimistic worldview which was shattered by a conveniently vague conversation with the man who turned out to be the doctor who had delivered Luke.

What I’m Watching: Casual

Casual: Season 1, Episode 4 “…” (B+)

When you watch a lot of TV, especially all in a row, it’s always important to remember exactly what type of show it is that you’re watching. For instance, when Alex learned about an interview with a journalist that he was being kept from doing because of fear that he would embarrass the comedy, it wasn’t going to turn into some sitcom storyline about how he said all the wrong things and ruined the company’s image. Instead, he took the journalist to a bar and played pool with him, and actually did a tremendous job of exactly what he needed to do. And then he vented by talking to the bartender and made a human connection, and the whole thing would have been perfect if he hadn’t dismissed her in the morning by thanking her for giving him a wonderful experience by opening his eyes up to sleeping with someone who isn’t physically attractive. That Alex didn’t realize that he did anything wrong says a lot about him, and his sadness at not even having one false, manipulated match speaks volumes too. Valerie’s uneasiness about James not texting her back led her to do something impulsive but even moreso strange, stopping by to bring spoons and then just walking out the door when he didn’t react too enthusiastically. Laura didn’t hide her resentment one bit when her teacher didn’t pick up on her advances, and it seems like he got the hint now, which just means it’s a matter of time until someone gets into big trouble. And we got to meet the even more relationship-proof matriarch of the family, Dawn, played by Frances Conroy of “Six Feet Under” excellence, whose physical presence in the next episode should be quite something. I’m also very pleased to report that this show has already been renewed for a second season!

What I’m Watching: Limitless

Limitless: Season 1, Episode 5 “Personality Crisis” (B)

This episode laid out a clear difference between the Brian Finch who wakes up each morning and the Brian Finch who is accessing 100% of his brain capacity. It was interesting, to be sure, but it was also the least entertaining episode of this show so far. I did love that Brian recorded videos for himself that featured miniature figurines of the people involved in his life, and that Mr. Sands actually acknowledged his own representation rather than let it be left to Brian’s imagination. I like that what the NZT-enhanced Brian is most worried about is that his true self will find it necessary to do the right thing and tell Rebecca about her father, even though he understands that it is all but guaranteed to lead to supermax and death. What that means is that Brian is good at heart, and he doesn’t need NZT to make him like that. This episode showed that more than enough as he worried about the morality of what he was doing and who he was putting in harm’s way and sending off to a life in prison. I’m impressed that this show has now introduced a second coupling of characters involving actors who have been a couple on another show. Desmond Harrington, who played Quinn on “Dexter,” is a great choice to play the suave, perceptive Agent Rooks, who just happens to be carrying on a secret affair with Rebecca. Their relationship here seems to be much healthier than the one between Deb and Quinn, but that’s more of a statement about that show than this one.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 3 “Real Dead Housewife of Seattle” (B+)

I imagine that, eventually, maybe nine or ten years down the road, this show will run out of ways to make Liv’s latest state endlessly entertaining and terrific. That hasn’t even come close to happening, and eating the brains of a dead housewife made for one of the best experiences yet. The standout moment for me was definitely when Liv presumed that Clive was going to pull the car around for her so that she wouldn’t have to walk in her shoes, and his response was priceless. Finding out that she was shopping with the killer was another stellar scene, and I love that the employees at the store thought that her going full zombie mode was just a typical catfight worthy of calling the police, which prompted a humorous response from her about sort of being the police. Acting like a diva gave her the perfect excuse to slap Major, whose association with Vaughn only compounded the fact that he’s been ignoring her. Major and Gilda becoming a couple is an interesting development, but not quite as startling as the news that Gilda is actually Vaughn’s daughter! Peyton’s return makes things even juicier, and I have a feeling that she’ll be the first to realize that Gilda is hardly the roommate she was for Liv and that she doesn’t have her best interests in mind at all. Dropping off a cake for her is a good first step since I think that it’s going to take some time to mend the fences and for the two of them to be on good friendly terms again.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 3, Episode 4 “Devils You Know” (B)

This episode progressed one plotline forward a whole lot, and now that’s thrown the main focus of the show so far this season onto the backburner. Hunter going deep undercover to infiltrate the new Hydra came to a screeching and very predictable halt when his first meeting with the boss gave him away since Ward recognized him. I’m not sure what the plan was there, and it didn’t track too much that May was able to show up in time to save him but S.H.I.E.L.D. was far enough out that they couldn’t do anything to help either Hunter or Andrew, who appears to have paid for his association with S.H.I.E.L.D. with his life, though the fact that we didn’t see his face makes me think that he definitely made it out but might not come back the same man. As if the team wasn’t fractured enough, now May is going to hold it against Hunter that he got Andrew killed just to get his revenge, and Ward has been made aware of how close to getting caught he came. Daisy and Mac working with Rosalind is an unstable alliance to say the least, but their enemy is also a formidable one whose ability to create holes in objects and space makes him a very serious threat. I suspect that his existence is connected to another world and to the portal that Simmons is so obsessed with, and that realization is going to prove extremely problematic and disruptive once the connection is eventually made.

What I’m Watching: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 4 “Little Mitchard No More” (B)

I like that every episode of this show opens with an absurd scene from the show-within-a-show that previews the themes of the episode to come, and I was pleased to recognize Emmanuelle Chriqui from “Entourage” as his latest scene partner. I’m equally fond of his real-life romantic interest, Claire, who definitely does not reciprocate his feelings. Every time she shuts him down and indicates that she’s not wowed by him in the same way that every other person seems to be, he just becomes even more intrigued and fascinated. Getting Todd to move out of his office so that she could have one was a nice gesture, but actually reading all of the background checks and trying something new for once – doing work – was what really stuck and proved helpful to the case. I didn’t love the other main plot of the hour, which featured guest star Nat Faxon from “Married” and Alexie Gilmore as a couple who innocently befriended Stewart and Deb with the ulterior motive of getting an in with Dean. It’s natural that anyone would be blinded by fame and the chance to get to know a celebrity, and that Stewart and Deb would have more honest hopes for the human race than to assume that everyone is using them for some nefarious or self-serving purpose. What was less entertaining was when Lyle and Vanessa pretty much expressly told Stewart and Deb that they weren’t welcome since Dean wasn’t there. The star of that particular plotline was David Bloom, who played Kevin on “Wet Hot American Summer,” as Brandon, the lucky kid who got to meet Dean.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 3 “Family of Rogues” (B+)

This show does a great job of turning its villains into heroes and then back again, offering up a number of characters whose allegiances blur the lines and change continually from episode to episode. Initially, Captain Cold was one of Barry’s fiercest enemies, particularly because of his association with a certain hothead, and only since Leonard found out Barry’s true identity and kept it secret has their relationship become a bit less icy (pun most certainly intended). I’m actually more fond of his sister Lisa, whose relationship with Cisco is simply terrific, relatively genuine even though both of them put so much subtext into every conversation they have that indicates resentment on Cisco’s part and deviousness on her. Neither Snart sibling compares to their awful father, Michael Ironside’s Lewis, who was evil enough to put a bomb in his own daughter’s head to compel his son to help him with a robbery. Shooting Barry after he did his part in the job was a poor move, and fortunately Barry used his speed to save himself and get the upper hand. It’s good that Lewis is out of the picture since he was a formidable threat, and now it’s a matter of controlling Professor Stein’s apparent revival of Firestorm and an Earth-Two version of Harrison Wells who has just materialized in Star Labs. And on a more earthly note, Iris is probably going to be pretty broken up for the foreseeable future now that she’s learned that her mother is actually still alive.

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 4 “Deadbeat” (B-)

Jimmy is a lot of things, and if being a solid, dependable parent and grandparent is not one of them, neither is being self-aware. Showing up at his granddaughter’s birthday party two hours late because he couldn’t figure out what shirt to wear and then deciding to throw her a comparable bash to prove that he was capable of hosting a blowout party was rather idiotic, and while this entire show is a bit of a stretch in terms of believability, that didn’t help matters at all. Ultimately, it was still entertaining, and that’s why this show is fun and watchable. There were plenty of awkward and uncomfortable moments, mostly facilitated by Jimmy in his efforts to get everyone to like him. It’s funny that Patrick Fischler is the go-to actor for any TV role that requires a controlled craziness, and he was just the person to play Sara’s brother Fredrick, who, like most in cinematic and television situations based on people who just found out they have kids, was erroneously told that Jimmy had knowingly decided not to be involved in Gerald’s upbringing. Speaking of his son, Gerald really is a sweet guy, determined to please his daughter after Jimmy completely misunderstood his request to have Big Bird there. Returning in the chicken costume was nice, and it’s a shame that he always finishes last and can’t get Vanessa to notice him in the way he wants. Annelise’s new role as the bathroom lady wasn’t terribly amusing, but it was a step up from Ken’s imagined competition with Gerald as a surrogate son slash brother to Jimmy.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What I’m Watching: Fargo

Fargo: Season 2, Episode 2 “Before the Law” (B+)

It’s hard for this season to be able to match the awesomeness of season one, and though I am enjoying it, it’s definitely not captivating me in the same way that the first story arc did. It’s completely interesting, though, and I’m so intrigued to find out more about all of these characters. What’s best about it is that there are certain scenes that speak so truly to what this show and its universe are all about, fully matching anything that has come before them to exemplify what makes this show work so well. Bokeem Woodbine was the MVP of the hour as Mike Milligan, the henchman who talked his way out of a damning stop by Hank and gave him plenty to think about. I also much prefer Mike’s complaint letter typewriter intimidation to Dodd’s more brutish ear removal as a torture tactic. Lou knocking on the door just as Ed was cutting off Rye’s fingers and the phone ringing as Ed was about to grab the finger that rolled made for another terrific moment that was eerie and foreboding but didn’t end up materializing into anything. I’m glad to see Elizabeth Marvel, formerly of “House of Cards” and “Lights Out,” as Constance, who has more than a passing interest in Peggy’s life and may be coming concerningly close to learning too much about Peggy’s car accident. There are still so many players to keep track of, but I’m very interested in seeing where it all goes and who manages to survive the entire season.

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 5 “Split the Law” (B-)

The bombshell that Jane may not in fact be Taylor Shaw wasn’t so relevant in this hour, but it’s definitely true that Jane isn’t ready to be a normal person just yet, as the ill-advised dinner party with Sarah proved. Jane is experiencing a lot of flashbacks to memories she had repressed or erased, most of which are disconcerting and upsetting, and it’s hard for her to be able to function and try to come to terms with the fact that she once had a regular life, be it in sub-Saharan Africa or in the United States. The big escalation that happened in this hour was the incorporation of Michael Gaston’s Carter into the plot in a way that didn’t just involve covert closed-door conversations with Bethany but instead put him face-to-face with the rest of the team. Aiming to take the shot to kill Jane in the cemetery was a bold move, and fortunately Bethany was there to encourage him to put down his gun and reconsider. Getting Tasha to spy for him was a major gain, and it’s clear that his intentions are fully malicious when it comes to Jane’s existence and her continued progress, albeit slow, in uncovering the truth about who she was and what she knows. This show certainly has no shortage of action, best demonstrated in this hour by the sudden appearance of a staggeringly large number of gunmen in the cemetery when the team just thought they were there to do some casual light investigation.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 2 “Chapter Twenty-Four” (B+)

It’s really something to see Jane as a hallucinated bachelorette, exuding much more confidence and self-obsessive behavior than we’ve ever seen from the real Jane. Her post-baby slump in which her family tried desperately to get her to shower didn’t last too long, but the drama of having to choose between Rafael and Michael is quite the struggle. It makes sense that she’s not jumping back into a relationship with either of them, though at least now they’re competing over who can be nicest instead of doing things that upset Jane and cause her to reconsider their connection. Rafael being prepared with a menu of different fry options and where to get them was probably the winning moment in my mind, but the real Jane has yet to decide. I’m thrilled that, following their accidental cruise to Cuba, Rogelio and Xiomara have decided that they want to date again, opting to go through with the annulment but to start back where they were and see where the relationship goes. Rafael’s conclusion that Petra was pregnant with his former assistant’s baby didn’t last long, and Petra is going to feel his wrath, another unfortunate development following the latest backstabbing by Lachlan. Luisa wasn’t doing too well in her new role, and now it looks like she’s headed abroad for a reunion with Rose that may or may not set her back a whole lot in her process of getting back to normal. At least it promises to be juicy and exciting!

Friday, October 23, 2015

What I’m Watching: Minority Report

Minority Report: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Present” (B-)

It’s fitting that Vega should have a complicated family backstory of her own considering just how unusual Dash’s childhood was. It’s no surprise either that he was a cop and that he died in the line of duty at the hand of a mysterious assailant. Flashing back to 2048 and using Vega’s birthday as the tipping point for the plot of the episode was interesting, but I do wish that this episode would have had a bit more oomph. I do like Vega as a character and I like that she’s complex and spirited, but this episode just didn’t resound as much as I might have hoped it would. I am fond of how clues show up in the vision and then lead to false positives, like Vega getting the jersey for her birthday and then presuming that because she had it her fate had been sealed, instead of someone else owning the same jersey and showing up later. Dash punching Arthur in the face for not telling him that he got Vega’s name seemed out of character, though it does underline the fact that Arthur cares deeply for his new police companion, and that’s going to make things difficult when Arthur and Agatha have to go head to head with their brother because they believe Vega is going to betray them. Something tells me going back to the old system is going to be Dash’s idea as a way to save someone, which will make right and wrong even more indistinguishable.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 1, Episode 5 “Babe Secret Phone Germs” (C+)

This show is pretty fun, but it’s not great. Some of the plotlines, like John buying his granddaughter a phone, are decent life lessons, but they don’t make for excellent comedy or drama. That storyline featured a particularly jarring outburst from Dianne Wiest’s Joan which I imagine seemed a much more solid moment on paper that it came out in the scene. Sophia’s precociousness is amusing to a degree, but it’s also hard to take seriously. Jen and Greg fighting to not become germaphobic parents is an understandable and relatable cause, and naturally they would have to get plagued by two very excessive manifestations of cleanliness to fight them at every turn, like a skunk who sneaks into the house and a handyman whose shoeless socks leave footprints and who is bold enough to pick a pacifier up off the floor and stick it right back into a baby’s mouth. Ken Marino was the perfect person to play the hapless Will, Matt and Colleen’s coworker who just happened to walk in on them making out and realize that they were in a relationship. Matt quitting was incredibly dramatic, but it’s nice to see that the screwup child is doing well in one aspect of his life, having found a great girl who appears to have gotten over his previous marriage and even managed to win over his family with her multilingual abilities at brunch. Tyler’s new girlfriend being so much older and, for lack of a better word, larger, was excessive, but it was decently fun to see Heather stumble and make a toast to boobs.

Round Two: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 1, Episode 2 “Josh’s Girlfriend is Really Cool!” (B+)

This second episode was great, and I’m glad to see that this show, unlike its main character, seems to be one of the more stable new offerings of the fall season. Rebecca’s energy is so wild and superb, and it’s fun to see it manifest itself in certain ways. Not getting in to the club because she tried to bribe the bouncer with too much money was funny, and I love the way she reacts to things, like the story about hand stuff with the English teacher which may or may not have constituted statutory rape. It’s good to see that, despite her newfound obsession with Rebecca, Paula was level-headed enough to call her a munchkin dumbass, and she also ordered a “Team Rebecca” t-shirt to declare her eternal allegiance to her new best friend. The fact that the yoga class turned into a musical number was great, but I’d actually pick the song about wanting to lock her in a basement but still hang out with her as the best number of the hour, highlighted by the very creepy line about collecting baby teeth and turning them into a new retainer. Josh inviting Rebecca to dinner after Valencia found out about them and forbade them to see each other is an intriguing twist that I can’t imagine will end well but should prove exceedingly entertaining. I’m also pleased and relieved to see that Rebecca is in fact an excellent lawyer, which redeems her move to West Covina just a little bit since she’s actually thriving professionally.

What I’m Watching: Doll and Em (Season Finale)

Doll and Em: Season 2, Episode 6 (B+)

Looking back at my review of the season one finale of this show from a year and a half ago, I noted that I closed it by saying that I wouldn’t fight for this show to be renewed. I feel very differently now, since I believe that this season evolved to a new level, giving Doll and Em something to do aside from quibble awkwardly about their roles in each other’s lives. Casting Evan Rachel Wood and Olivia Wilde as versions of themselves playing the characters in their play was brilliant, and having Ewan McGregor pop by to play himself and possibly impregnate Dolly was also superb. This finale was great because it featured so much, including both mothers coming into town to jab each other about accommodations on the flight and support their daughters. Evan and Olivia quitting after seeing the angry draft Em wrote was a fateful event, highlighted by Doll and Em’s reluctant acceptance of Olivia’s harsh question about whether it would be an appropriate time to call them that dreaded four-letter word, and it led to what was inevitable and so fitting from the start: Doll and Em playing the parts that they wrote which they constantly argued weren’t their real selves. Fortunately, the show was a resounding hit, and it’s nice to see a happy ending. I’m not sure if this show will be back, and who knows when, but I would be pleased to see more of it since it was a unique and enjoyable delight this year, not so substantially greater than the first but eye-opening and entertaining in a very different and refreshing way.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Dolly Wells

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What I’m Watching: Quantico

Quantico: Season 1, Episode 4 “Kill” (C+)

As this show progresses more and more, we’re understandably getting to experience a lot of the present-day goings-on and seeing other recruits in their current states. Shelby has evidently returned to her former lifestyle, jumping from mansion to mansion and practicing a very fancy way of doing things. It’s strange to me just how much all of the recruits believe that Alex is completely and totally guilty, whereas Booth is convinced that she isn’t the perpetrator yet is the one and only person who directly incriminated her and has now made her the target of a shoot on sight order. Simon getting her out of harm’s way when she was about to be arrested demonstrates a certain allegiance, and now we’re going to have to experience Alex torturing Shelby for some information I don’t believe she has. Booth’s decision to go against O’Connor was an intense one that clearly comes with some built-up resentment, and I’m surprised that O’Connor trusts him as much as he does after that. As Caleb becomes a more well-rounded character, Elias continues to be a petty and creepy thorn in Simon’s side who doesn’t add much but does detract quite a bit. For people who are supposed to be keeping secrets, these guys are doing a pretty awful job, namely Booth unintentionally spilling the beans about Alex killing her father to Shelby and then Alex going ahead and confirming it by sharing it with her after all. I guess that’s what keeps it interesting, but it also sincerely wounds the show’s credibility.

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 2, Episode 3 (B+)

Sometimes, the events on this show speak loudly enough for themselves that the style of this show doesn’t even need to enhance it. That was very true for this plot-heavy hour, which didn’t present very different accounts from Noah and Alison but did showcase some truly interesting developments. Noah proposing to Alison was a bold and relatively careless move, but it’s clear that they do make each other very happy and that it’s not just a fleeting fling. Alison inventing the story of how they met was particularly impressive, and seemed out of character for her in a fascinating way. Hurricane Whitney showing up definitely put a damper on things, and as if she wasn’t rude enough to Alison in Noah’s perception of things, asking for Scotty’s number and then calling Alison a disappointing person sealed the deal in terms of her manipulative and bratty nature. Noah getting a $50,000 gift from Max felt a lot like him making up for his guilt for dating Helen, a fact that Noah is blissfully ignorant to at the point. Getting served by divorce papers makes his marriage seem like a done deal, but his case in the future, which finally we got to see with Richard Schiff’s lawyer, Noah, and Alison present, is obviously much more important and worrisome in the grand scheme of things. Alison’s walk and talk with Robert were very enlightening, and it’s so intriguing to hear her articulate how she feels. His advice was equally compelling and framed the idea of a second marriage in a mesmerizing light.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 6, Episode 2 “JSS” (B-)

It’s episodes like this that make me question whether I should really be watching a show like this. Typically, this show is dark and unsettling, but rarely in the way that this episode was. I’ve experienced this feeling twice before with this show, the first time when Carol and Tyreese killed a young girl because she didn’t understand what being a walker meant, and the second when the cannibals showed up and just started executing people in a line for no discernable reason. Having Alexandria attacked by brutal enemies wielded deadly weapons while their most skilled fighters were out trying to get the walkers away from town was very disturbing, particularly because of how they lit people on fire and hacked away at them after striking the first blow. None of them were able to defend themselves, and children were also involved as targets and ultimately killers (I thought Carl was long gone but apparently not). This show is strong and intense enough without having to resort to this senseless depravity, and I would cite the entire plotline involving the Governor as a compelling example of this show not going too far but still working well. It’s always hard to read the inconsistent Carol, and Morgan vowing not to kill anyone wasn’t terribly helpful given how he saw how the savages were attacking. I recognized Benedict Samuel, star of “Asthma,” which opens tomorrow, as the man killed by Morgan, and also Emmy winner Merritt Wever from “Nurse Jackie” in a strong guest spot as Denise, who ended up holding up pretty well under severe pressure.

What I’m Watching: The Leftovers

The Leftovers: Season 2, Episode 3 “Off Ramp” (B)

More than anything, this show has managed to preserve its tone, showcasing utter devastation in a modern-day setting. I wasn’t sure whether Laurie would continue to be a part of this story, but it turns out that she is actually quite central, and that hearing her talk is well worth it since she’s got a lot to say. Running a support group for those brainwashed by the Guilty Remnant is an excellent vocation for her, and the fact that she’s writing a book gives this show a much more grounded feel than a lot of its events since writing and publishing is a literal and specific way of getting the world to know what’s going on even if they’re not local and experiencing it. Going after her stolen laptop and deliberately hitting two Guilty Remnant emissaries with her car on her way home was an intense journey, and then hearing the publishers trying to sensationalize her just broke her. What’s much more disconcerting, however, is what’s left of the Guilty Remnant, as Chris’ attempts to infiltrate and extract people were brought to a swift end by a whistleblower and he was forced to experience an odd yet humiliating and terrifying punishment from Meg, who has now surpassed her recruiter to attain Patti-level status. Chris definitely doesn’t have the charisma of Holy Wayne, but it’s so true that most of the people in that room could use something to believe in, and a simple life-altering hug may be just the remedy they need.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 3 “Cooked” (B)

This episode was a bit complicated, primarily because the fake case perpetrated by an FBI agent seemed like it was built up to be something major in an unnecessary way that went far beyond what could have secured an opportunity to entrap a corrupt judge. The case itself was much more interesting before it became just part of a ploy, and it did seem like Christopher McDonald’s obnoxious Judge Schakowsky might just take the bait. The twist that Eli tipped him off is intriguing, I suppose, but directs events in a tangential level that has to do once again with the intermixing of Alicia’s legal career and Peter’s political race, something I don’t love. Ruth forcing Alicia to go on a cooking show with Veronica was an ill-advised plan, and Eli didn’t actually do anything wrong since he tried to stop it rather than merely let the plan self-destruct as it did. The lack of enthusiasm demonstrated by Diane’s new intern and would-be mentor prompted in her a legitimate desire to feed Alicia cases, and it’s a shame that Howard got overheard by David Lee at just the wrong moment so that she revoked her generosity based on inaccurate information. Howard asking Jackie out was a treat, and it’s good to see him romancing someone who rarely experiences that kind of attention and also putting some true effort into his cases, shocking all those around him since he’s known for taking naps and taking credit for his associates’ hard work and long hours.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 5, Episode 3 “Super Powers” (B-)

Carrie being crazy has always been one of the most fascinating and volatile aspects of this show. I don’t use that word to refer to her bipolar disorder but rather to the fact that, while on her medication, Carrie decided it would be a good idea to stop so that she could be clearer of mind, and only told her boyfriend several days later that she wanted him to monitor her if she went off the deep end. That definitely happened, as evidenced by her maniacal swallowing of pills and her accusations that drove Jonas away, and it also brought back the more lamentable side effect of her being off her meds, which is hallucinating dead boyfriends who were also onetime terrorist suspects. Aayan’s reappearance was dark, but it is clear that Carrie has a host of enemies, all of whom might want her dead. Quinn abducting Jonas’ son to draw Carrie out was a brutal choice, and it’s a wonder that he didn’t get himself shot by a gun-wielding Carrie ready to exterminate whoever it was who came after her. I’m not overly supportive of the twist that Saul is actually sleeping with Alison, especially since we saw them engage in a major argument about her trying to get him fired that didn’t happen in front of anyone and therefore couldn’t have been for show. Laura continues to try to be as indignant as possible, but getting the real information from her source rather than a decoy swapped out for the actual stuff would be helpful with that.

Pilot Review: Truth Be Told

Truth Be Told (NBC)
Premiered October 16 at 8:30pm

Every season, there are creative, fresh offerings on each network, as well as some reboots, remakes, and reimaginings that feel familiar for a number of reasons. And then there are those shows that have different characters but feel like every single show that have come before them. “Truth Be Told” definitely falls into that category, presenting two couples who are neighbors whose husbands constantly get themselves into trouble while the wives laugh at them for thinking that they can get away with whatever they’re scheming about or secretly thinking. This pilot presents the conventional plot of one couple hiring a babysitter who, shockingly, is very attractive, and who sets off a red flag for Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s Mitch, since he knows that being attracted to her can’t end well for him. Predictably, his wife Tracy laughs off the idea of his being a threat, but then Mitch’s best bud Russell recognizes the babysitter from porn. Nothing about that is new, and while this show isn’t nearly as grating as some of the awful sitcoms that have come before it, it has nothing fresh or enjoyable to offer either.’s description explains the premise as “a black couple and a white couple, who are neighbors and best friends, vigorously discuss the issues of the day.” That’s pretty accurate, and very little of that sounds remotely appealing. I preferred Gosselaar in “Franklin and Bash” in full-on ridiculous mode to his awkward, subdued husband trying not to fall into a trap every moment that he’s not protesting class or racial injustice.

How will it work as a series? The premise leaves the door open for a million different storylines, since these friends can talk about or fight about anything that piques their interest. It seems like Mitch and Russell will be the focus of the show while their wives will be there mostly to chastise them, but I assume that switching it up could prove interesting and creative, two adjectives I doubt will frequently apply to this show.
How long will it last? It’s not as if Friday nights were a promising place to start new shows, let alone comedies, but ABC did it pretty well, which means that NBC is almost guaranteed to fail. The pilot performed worse than the inexplicably popular “Undateable,” which itself didn’t score a home run. I think this one won’t last too long; certainly not past its initial order.

Pilot grade: D

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 1, Episode 8 “La Gran Mentira” (B+)

I would love to see just how the history of Pablo Escobar and the DEA’s pursuit of him was broken up into these episodes since every hour feels so self-contained and themed, easily distinguishable from any other hour (another benefit of watching one episode per week, although I’ll admit that as I write this review the same day as I watched the episode, I fully expect to watch episode nine within the next forty-eight hours since it’s already available). The legacy of the kidnappings came to a swift and devastating ending when a successful operation by Carrillo and his men turned into the tragic death of the number one hostage when she was struck by police bullets after Gorilla told her to hide in the closet. Gaviria was evidently under a lot of pressure to make peace and negotiate, but he wasn’t the only one who caved. Carrillo took things to a whole new level by gathering up a group of people who hated Pablo more than he did to beat Gustavo to a pulp and then to finish him off when he proved to be uncooperative. That being the straw that broke Pablo’s back caught me by surprise, but, as Steve said in his narration, the sight of Pablo being taken into custody really was a big lie since he’s not going anywhere that’s truly going to prevent him from continuing to be the omniscient criminal that he is. There are two episodes left this season and then more after that – I really can’t imagine where it will all take us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What I’m Watching: Heroes Reborn

Heroes Reborn: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Lion’s Den” (C)

These glasses that allow their wearers to immediately identify unregistered evos are awfully helpful to those who want to catch them and immensely detrimental to those who don’t want to be caught. They proved particularly problematic for Captain Dearing, who got himself arrested and taken in, and which answered my question of why actor Dylan Bruce, fresh off “Orphan Black,” had such a measly role on this show. Dearing isn’t the only one adjusting to his new normal, as Luke burned down his house to get away from bad memories of what he has become. The evos are going to need as much help as they can get given the recent neutralization of Farah and the fact that the clueless Malina is now humanity’s last hope. Noah and Erica knowing each other intimately is not a surprise, but it does reinforce this show’s tendency to have every character know about deep, dark secrets, which makes getting anything done without the entire world knowing more than a bit improbable and unlikely. Tommy’s inability to process the news that his mother is not actually his mother is distracting him from what he should be doing, and it would have been helpful if Casper had been even just a little less cryptic about what his role is before he teleported away. Tommy and Miko are both becoming much more in control of their powers, and they could use some guidance in how to prevent an extinction-level event without just having to figuring it out for themselves in the nick of time.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 4, Episode 6 “The Calling Back” (B+)

I always find it interesting when a show like this, which recently has been very focused on internal developments related to its main characters, begins out in the field with what will most definitely turn into a major crime. Hunters nearly shooting a woman led to them rather nobly reporting what they had seen to a dubious Ferg and more eager Zach, which turned out to be the aftermath of a rape that may or may not have happened on the reservation, making jurisdiction a tricky matter. Walt and Mathias cross-deputizing each other to help with the investigation was the most productive partnership we’ve seen lately, but it didn’t help much since it presented plenty of other problems, the most difficult of which was the victim’s mother not wanting her to go through with testimony of any sort. Callum Keith Rennie didn’t have a chance to interact with his former “Battlestar Galactica” costar Katee Sackhoff in his guest appearance as the oily lawyer for the accused men, but I appreciated seeing him in that snively role. I like that, with Zach around as the newbie, Ferg has taken on a much more confident, even arrogant attitude. Walt stopping by to evict Vic at the start of the episode was a strange moment since she was clearly very frazzled, and comparing her place to Walt’s as the only strong defense didn’t hold up well. Staying with Cady is a lot to ask, but hopefully it will help get her back on track since she’s obviously not holding up so well.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 2, Episode 6 “Side Bitch” (B+)

Only on this show would a character finding a significant other crying in her car in the middle of the night be cause for relieved celebration. Jimmy’s plan to discover what Gretchen was up to when she snuck out with her burner phone each night was ill-conceived, but the results is produced were interesting. His initial efforts were met with sarcasm and aggression from Gretchen, and taking her to a bar that only served artisanal waters was a serious misstep. The fact that Ty owned it was a funny coincidence since Gretchen was not at all pleased to see him, and Sam did not react well to Jimmy’s accusation that he was sleeping with Gretchen. It makes much more sense, naturally, that Gretchen brought her burner phone with her so that she could play a game on it while she was crying in her car. Lindsay’s situation is not good at all, and hallucinating that Vernon was Paul was a definite low point. Comparing herself to “Reese Witherspoon in that backpack commercial” was a humorous summation of her state. I’m thrilled about what’s going on in Edgar’s life, as he worked up the courage to ask Dorothy out on a date and managed to break her brain because he was actually being polite and human. Breaking up her improv troupe, completely with imaginary dropped mic, may not have been the best move, but she seems pretty happy about where she is, and I think they might be able to begin a healthy and wonderful relationship together, ready to be burst and deconstructed by Edgar’s malicious roommates.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 4 “She Crazy” (C+)

This episode wasn’t insufferable; it was just so familiarly formulaic that it wasn’t funny. What annoyed me most was the storyline with Mitchell and Luke that involved Mitchell thinking every question and statement Luke uttered about driving was metaphorical, not looking up once to acknowledge that he was actually talking about driving. It might have been amusing at first, but following that scene for nearly the entire course of the episode was unnecessary. Cameron putting on another personality for his frat brothers was slightly more entertaining, highlighted by his posing as a pizza delivery man who made his way into the enemy house, but it didn’t go far from there. Gloria being unable to speak and appear like a coherent and sane human being upon encountering her favorite soap star wasn’t much to write home about, since her knowledge of where the actress was staying under a fake name made her out to be far too eccentric from the start. There’s not much to say about Manny and Chelsea since the man-in-a-boy’s-body has faced much flirtation adversity in his history on this show. Claire trying to pitch a bunch of new closets only to have them shut down for being old ideas was unspectacular, and having birds attack her during a meeting wasn’t terrific either. Phil’s enthusiasm for ducks was typical, and roping Lily in to coming with him, prompting her to spell “Help” in rocks at the store was a mild saving grace. The best line of the episode was Phil acknowledging that “Phil, duck food” was almost his name.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Round Two: Casual

Casual: Season 1, Episode 3 “Animals” (B+)

I had high hopes for this show following the double-decker premiere last week, and I’m pleased to report that they were met by this third installment, aptly named “Animals” to correspond to more than one of its plotlines. Alex adopting a dog to try to encourage Valerie and Laura not to move out was a smart move in a sense, but his lack of interest in actually taking care of the animal led to an incredibly short period of ownership. Trying to get through sex while Carl was whimpering didn’t help matters, and his low point was sneaking out in the morning only to have Carl run back through the dog door and wake up an unamused April. I like that Alex keeps calling Leon to come with him on misadventures, and that Leon is hopeless to refuse and has to come along and suffer his ridiculous plans. Valerie enthusiastically putting an offer down on a house was triumphant while it lasted, and discovering that she too was on an allowance was an unfortunate blow to her newly renewed confidence. Zak Orth is particularly cruel as Valerie’s ex Drew, and it’s no wonder she’s in her current state thanks to his bitter attitude. At least she’s found some fulfillment in sleeping with James, while Laura has to settle for fantasizing about her homeroom teacher who less than subtly made a pass at her mom during the parent-teacher conference. I wouldn’t be too surprised if what Laura imagined in her mind is so far off from what may end up actually happening soon.

What I’m Watching: Limitless

Limitless: Season 1, Episode 4 “Page 44” (B+)

The best thing about this show is the way that Brian takes advantage of his situation at work to have some good-natured fun. E-mailing with a few interesting people seemed like an entertaining distraction, and it turned into something much more substantial as just one of the many things Brian had on his mind in this hour. I’m happy to see that Rebecca is starting to take on more of Brian’s personality, giving him permission to go slowly on FBI-related tasks so that he can help prove his new friend’s innocence, which in turn led him to prolong his inevitable break-in to steal classified files since he felt bad about betraying her trust. I also enjoyed that she matched his curiosity at finding out what the culprit did with the mouse. On a more serious note, having the Chinese treason confession interspersed with Brian breaking into the office to steal the files made that a very serious act, and the sudden decline in his father’s health demonstrated just how much he is being watched. Faking the files was a smart play, but it seems like those manipulating him are fully aware of his capabilities and won’t be easily fooled. Involving Rebecca’s father and his legacy at just the moment that Brian discovered the file with her father in it also makes everything a bit more dramatic. I still love the comedic moments, like Brian spilling coffee on a top-secret file while wearing a female body inspector shirt and profiling Mike and Ike, both of whose real names he doesn’t know.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 2 “Zombie Bro” (B+)

This may have been my favorite Liv yet, hopped up on frat boy brains and embracing it to the fullest. Talking about how she’s enjoying chillaxing and everything being funny was a great summary of her time, but it was much more entertaining than that. Asking the frat brothers who they think sucks, pranking Ravi while he was asleep, and demanding details and photos from the furry during questioning were just the highlights. I also love that she brought Gilda to a frat party where the only rule was that they couldn’t wear real clothes – prompting Liv’s caution tape dress and Gilda’s trash bag outfit – and Gilda’s reaction to everything was quite amusing. It doesn’t compare to Clive’s, though, and I like that he summarized it by comparing her to the box of chocolates where you never know what you’re going to get. I was initially intrigued by the new Major, who is much more confident and very loose and friendly with Ravi, but his decision to take utopium and start getting into drugs suggests that he’s not nearly as stable as he should be. Liv also seemed pretty devastated by the fact that he didn’t want to talk to her after he expressed other sentiments while he was high. The casting of Robert Knepper as Blaine’s father was perfect, and it’s clear that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Blaine wasn’t too fazed by it, but his father chewed into him pretty cruelly and seemed to enjoy it too.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 3, Episode 3 “A Wanted (Inhu)Man” (B+)

There are a lot of agencies at play on this show right now, but most of them aren’t really so official. I like the relationship that is developing between Coulson and Constance Zimmer’s Rosalind, and the fact that she drove a convertible to their meeting was great. Unfortunately, her aims aren’t quite as noble as Coulson’s, which was especially regrettable since Daisy managed to talk Lincoln into coming in with her just before her men arrived to take him into custody in exchange for Daisy’s freedom. We didn’t see any of Ward in this hour, but it was interesting to see the lengths that Hunter and May went to in order to get closer to Hydra and the operation that he’s trying to put together. It was initially funny to watch subtitles being provided for a drunken Hunter and his similarly foreign colleague, but then it turned into Hunter being beaten to a bloody pulp before resorting to savage methods in order to win a fight that might get him a meeting with the top brass at what remains of Hydra. Simmons is having understandable trouble readjusting to life on this planet, and it’s sweet that Fitz is so committed to helping her through the process. Their roles are reversed with Fitz on the mend, and it’s very nice that Fitz took her out to a quiet, private dinner so that she wouldn’t have any distractions. Her apparent obsession with reopening the portal, on the other hand, is more than mildly concerning, and will definitely present a few obstacles to getting her back on track.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Take Three: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Curious Disappearance of Mr. Donovan” (B+)

There’s something about the style of this show that works pretty well and helps augment the plotlines contained within to a funnier level. Much of that is due to Rob Lowe and the way that he plays Dean with such commitment to his own ego, but a lot of it also has to do with the players around him, particularly Fred Savage, William Devane as their father, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Stewart’s wife Debbie. Dealing with Dean having trouble admitting he was wrong was the perfect focus for this installment, which found Dean still trying to pin a broken window from twenty years earlier on his less perfect brother and then identifying Claire as the mole, which proved to be incredibly incorrect. Stewart trying to trick him into admitting it by pretending that he fired Claire was an especially entertaining moment. Steve Little definitely has a penchant for playing suckers, as Todd was an unwitting mole in this case because he loudly told a bartender all the case secrets while opposing lawyers kept him talking with free drinks. The family obsession with “Ray Donovan” was random (but understandable – it is a terrific show), and I like that Stewart pressed his own children to confess to having deleted an episode from the DVR, which created obvious confusion when watching to the next episode but hilariously should have been irrelevant due to its availability via On Demand. The best spoken line, uttered twice by Dean, once as the Grinder: “You. Just. Did.”

Take Three: Grandfathered

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 3 “Guys’ Night” (B)

There are a number of elements of this show that feel formulaic, but the characters are turning out to be relatively entertaining, and so it’s not much of a problem. I like how unapologetically nonchalant Jimmy is about not knowing a single fact about his son and about constantly dodging uncomfortable conversations at work by commissioning new pepper mills. The fact that he always puts effort in eventually is a dependable inevitability, and that’s what manages to keep him likeable. Gerald continues to be a bit of a dweeb, but at least he is enthusiastic about his feelings for Vanessa and even drunkenly put together a pretty impressive display that might have won her over had she actually been present to see it. My favorite character is Sara, who racked her brain to find things to do with her time when Gerald skipped out on their “Amelie” viewing date to spend time with his father. That her activities included calling to switch to paperless billing she was already received and taking quizzes to find out which “Friends” character she was proved entertaining, particularly because of the humorous nod to her time spent as a guest star on that show. Giving Annelise something to do after she tried to speak her mind with Jimmy was interesting, leading to a mediocre plot involving Jack McGee’s old-fashioned bartender and the seemingly amazing daughter who will now work with him, which might end up being a problem given the unfortunate way in which her relationship with Jimmy ended years ago.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 2 “Flash of Two Worlds” (B+)

I had no idea when I started watching this show just how much it had to do with alternate realities, and I’m so glad to see that it does. I love that Victor Garber’s Professor Stein is now a regular player on the show, since his performance here is fun and also terrific. Having him and Cisco work together is a treat, and it’s also useful since Stein was astute enough to realize that Cisco has what appears to be a power that allows him to see situations as they happen, which turns out to be awfully helpful in saving lives and sending the Flash to the right place. I’m also very pleased to see Teddy Sears, who was great in season one of “Masters of Sex” and much less good in season three as Austin, as Jay Garrick, who wanted nothing more than to help Barry take down his latest enemy and learn how to fight Zoom. Calling Barry “son” is a bit strange, but I like his antique-looking helmet and the fact that both he and Barry rushed to Patty’s side right after they saved her. I really like Patty, and she did a great job in her first appearance, even if she did manage to get herself kidnapped and nearly blown up. It’s not exactly great timing for Joe to have a new partner since the return of Iris’ mother is sure to prove to be an immense distraction. Fortunately, Barry has Jay to turn to for assistance, and hopefully Cisco can get his ability under control to make sure Zoom doesn’t take anyone else out.

What I’m Watching: The Muppets

The Muppets: Season 1, Episode 4 “Pig Out” (B+)

You have to give Kermit credit for knowing how to resolve an out-of-control Piggy situation, especially if he’s the one who caused it. It was partially his fault for not realizing that Piggy would jump on the opportunity to go out with the crew despite her assurances that she would say no when invited, and he had to deal with the consequences as a result. Talking about how normal people problems irritated her to those who didn’t even have landscapes got off to a bad start, but telling them they could come in late and disregard the uptight Kermit scored her major points. While defending the importance of preparing for the show should have been enough, Kermit was wise to build up her ego instead and make her feel that she shouldn’t be sharing as much of herself with the lowly crew. The only celebrity guest this week was Ed Helms, who proved most memorable in being mistaken as someone people knew from the office rather than the show of the same name. Fozzie’s erroneously-fired t-shirt cannon gave him the opportunity to be a good person and go visit the hospitalized Statler, but unfortunately his kind nature got taken advantage of, and he was gullible enough to believe that Statler and Waldorf wanted to make it up to him by taking him out for a nice dinner. I did enjoy watching all of the crew members take their turns at karaoke, which naturally is much funnier due to their muppet nature.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What I’m Watching: Fargo (Season Premiere)

Fargo: Season 2, Episode 1 “Waiting for Dutch” (B+)

This show’s first season was probably the best thing I saw on television last year, and I couldn’t be more excited to have the show back. Fortunately, this premiere was much better than “True Detective” (which wasn’t even that bad, for the record), and it’s great to see that this season is likely to be just as intriguing as season one. This is much more of a departure than season one was from the film since it’s set in the past, but it’s good see that this show hasn’t lost its signature vibe. Additionally, the crimes committed are different in specifics than they were thirty years later, but their nature is still the same. I was floored by the talent I saw show up in this episode, counting a staggering twelve familiar faces. Kieran Culkin, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Hogan, Jean Smart, and Zahn McClarnon were the members of the criminal syndicate, two of whom are still alive and sure to have a major role in the season. Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Cristin Milioti, and Nick Offerman are on the side of law enforcement (and politics) in Minnesota while Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst are now an unwilling criminal element thanks to Dunst’s Peggy and how she handled hitting a man with her car. And then there was Brad Garrett as another player gunning for the Gerhardt family. The best part of this episode was Ann Cusack’s performance as the judge who skewered Rye and would have come out ahead had it not been for Rye’s decision to shoot her. This is sure to be a great season, and I’m very intrigued to see where it will go.

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 1, Episode 4 “Bone May Rot” (B-)

It’s not every day you run into a murderous scientist intent on killing mass amounts of people by spreading a virus using his own body. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that this show is centered on Jane’s tattoos since every one of them seems to lead the team into a volatile action-packed battle that seems like it stands completely apart. Site-specific tattoos that only show up at the CDC make this whole thing all the more complex and thought out, and the mystery of why someone would go to all this trouble just continues to be compounded. At the same time, Bethany is being pushed to get rid of Jane or at least let her sit down with Thomas, and it seems that Jane may not be Taylor after all. Two completely contradictory samples make for one major question mark, and that’s of course the whole nature of this show. The element of this episode that I liked most was that the big discovery came not from a member of the team but from Patterson’s boyfriend David. Patterson is certainly an irreverent, quirky supporting character, and it’s good to see that she has an equally energetic partner at home who happens to be just as scientifically-minded. It’s obvious that she’ll be in tremendous trouble when the humorless Bethany discovers that she’s been sharing sensitive case files, but for the moment it’s helping their investigation and it’s good to see Patterson getting to take the spotlight in her own little subplot.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin (Season Premiere)

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 1 “Chapter Twenty-Three” (B+)

I do love this show, and I’m glad to see that this premiere is completely solid since I wasn’t sure how the end of last season was going when it got all full telenovela. Fortunately, this hour showed that the narrator is still having a great time telling the story, and it’s plenty juicy with more than enough regular intrigue to fulfill itself. The speed with which Mateo was returned was a relief since Jane looked awfully distressed – understandably – at the news of his having been taken. The chain of events that got Michael to the church to meet not with Rose but with her henchwoman and his former partner Nadine was quite comedic, highlighted by Rafael and Michael diving into the pool after Juicy threw a fit and all of Rose’s things that Luisa was holding onto out the window, with Jane ultimately being the one to find it. Rogelio tweeting out the amber alert and getting unwanted attention at the Villanueva home was an amusing misstep, and I like that Jane just happened to start leaking milk at just the moment that she went out to get the nuns and paparazzi away from the house. Petra hallucinating a tiny Rafael on the jar of his sperm was entertaining, and Luisa conveying to her that Rafael still has feelings for her won’t help get back to a great place anytime soon. It’s hard to know if that was Rose at the end despite Bridget Regan being in the credits as a guest star, and I imagine that we’ll find out soon enough.

What I’m Watching: Minority Report

Minority Report: Season 1, Episode 4 “Fredi” (B)

I didn’t realize how much trouble this show was until I saw the news earlier this week that this is the first show to have its episode order cut, down to ten episodes instead of thirteen. That’s never a good sign, and it all but guarantees this show’s premature demise sometime very soon. I feel like it’s an unfortunate trend that has happened with so many future-set shows, based mainly on its expense and the fact that its format just didn’t catch on. I’m also more impressed with this show at this point than I was with, for example, “Terra Nova” and “Almost Human,” but it looks like this show is going to share the fate of those two FOX series if it even makes it as far as they did. What was nice about this episode was that it didn’t feature much of Will and instead let Dash take the lead in his new role. He even got the chance to make a new friend, one who was actually quite attractive to him and liked him back. Sheila Vand’s Fredi didn’t turn out to be who she was either, but it was an enthralling ride. What I liked even more was the fact that Agatha had Charles search the database for information on photonic containment based on her vision of the precogs back in their old habitat, and then she coached him on how to get away from the police, instead sending him directly into their line of fire to make sure he gets taken out. She’s definitely the most intense and fearsome of the three siblings despite appearing to be the most unassuming.