Thursday, February 25, 2016

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Good Life” (B+)

What’s most interesting about these two powerful men is how loyal they are to their wives. On the “previously on” segment, I noticed the hint of Axe’s affair, but it turns out that the holdover wasn’t the sexy singer but the idea of projecting “Citizen Kane” and watching it the way it should be watched. Axe did offend his wife when he suggested sailing away without her, but that’s more about him being spontaneous and crazy with his decisions than anything else (more on that later). Chuck, on the other hand, called his wife when he found himself outside a sex club and then kept the romance going inside the club on the phone as she enjoyed the experience just as much as he did. He’s also in a very tough bind (some pun intended) with a forthcoming article painting his lack of action on Axe as a conflict of interest, something that he was not at all happy to hear Brian suggest. I like that we’re getting to see a bit of the intersecting personal lives of Brian, Kate, and Terri when they’re out on the road. Ending the episode with the dramatic arrest of one of Axe’s top guys was just the takedown that Chuck was hoping for after it was revealed that, unsurprisingly, Axe was just playing everyone and getting ready to make a whole lot more money by pretending that he was getting out when he was really doing anything but. Now that Chuck has made the first official move, things are going to intensify very quickly.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 6, Episode 6 “NSFW” (B+)

Things are progressing forward on a number of romantic fronts, and while some are positive developments, others are extremely devastating and negative. Fiona trying to get back the house was the most depressing, since the incredible number of violations presented such an easy and unexpected way to get her house back. Gus stood her up more than a few times, and then his language and pouring coffee all over the documents was even more hurtful. Carl stepping up to help relieve Fiona’s burden was a sobering and mature move, and it seems that he’s been scared straight by the quick return to brutal violence by Nick when he found the person who stole his bike. Lip did pretty well in front of the disciplinary board but all hope of a continued relationship of any kind with Helene is definitely lost. Even Amanda didn’t win from that situation, as she has to leave school because of hateful comments and death threats. Debs’ romance is taking a different turn than expected, and the father-daughter relationship between her and Frank is turning even more objectionable as time goes on. I didn’t recognize Sherilyn Fenn on “Twin Peaks” fame as Chucky’s grandmother, a character who is sure to rile things up in a destructive way. Watching Ian try to date is cute, and it’s a good thing he found a nice guy who’s willing to give him a chance even though he is terrible at opening up and trying to let someone get to know him a bit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 14 “Monday” (B-)

I don’t think I commented yet on the news that this show is apparently ending, a fact that was broken to the world by a Super Bowl promo advertising the final nine episodes. I think it’s fine that this show ends since it hasn’t been so strong in a while, but it’s still a bit surprising that it’s going out like this. It does feel as if things are wrapping up now that Alicia’s legal woes seem to have been solved by returning to her original firm, but she’s encountering an entirely new set of problems working with Diane and Cary in a capacity that isn’t on their level. It’s hard to believe that both Diane and Cary would so cluelessly continually make reference to Monica and Lucca liking each other when it’s simply because they’re both African-American. Lucca is also a very dedicated employee, yet she’s already being put in a bad spot by Alicia’s knowledge that she can do things, to a degree, how she wants to. The case of the week was an intriguing one since it started from a very responsible standpoint, with an internal employee coming to Alicia for legal help to ensure that selling the phone prototype he found was okay to do. The twists that came up throughout it on both sides were frustrating, and it’s difficult to get past the absurdity of the law and technicalities sometimes. This is the umpteenth time that Peter is being investigated, but it was more interesting this time since Scott Deveraux approached Marissa first. On the guest star, we had two recognizable TV faces: Judy Reyes from “Scrubs” as the opposing counsel and Joey Slotnick from “Nip/Tuck” and “Alias” as the unamused Anthony Dudewitz.

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

The Walking Dead: Season 6, Episode 9 “No Way Out” (B+)

It’s rare to find an episode of this show that ends on an optimistic note, especially when it includes new villains who seemed nearly as vicious as the cannibals and a child getting shot. The opening scene of this episode with Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha getting stopped by a motorcycle gang was extremely strong. We’ve encountered so many people who want nothing more than to terrorize and kill the random people they meet, and it was refreshing to see the good guys win so immediately when Daryl took them all out, which then enabled them to be the helpful cavalry that turned the tide and saved the day at the end of the episode. Rick running back out to aimlessly kill walkers after he nearly lost Carl was a worrisome sight, and it’s great that everyone banded together to go help him, and Glenn just happened to arrive then too, reuniting just about everyone. Taking back Alexandria was not something I expected for this bunch, and therefore it’s reassuring to know that there is still good in this dystopian world. Denise was the best example of compassion that exists, genuinely offering to save Alpha Wolf’s life when she didn’t need to and then reacting sympathetically to his death at the hands of Carol and some hungry walkers. For the first time in a while, things may just be looking up, though whoever the boss of that motorcycle gang is might soon come for Alexandria the same way others have recently.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season 6, Episode 7 (B+)

We’re so close to the end of the show with just two big hours to go, and it’s high time for heightened drama to make it feel like we’re getting somewhere. There were only two truly bad developments, the first of which was the death of Charlie Rogers. Watching the car racing was a thrilling activity, and the emotion Mary felt when she thought that Henry was the one who had been hurt made it clear that she has strong feelings for him. Unfortunately, that sense of attachment made her want to distance herself from him, and I suspect that he won’t stop pursuing her since it’s evident that he’s the first person to really entice her since Matthew. Before we get to Edith’s good news, it’s worth mentioning the misery of Thomas, who no longer has his secretive friendship with Andy since his illiteracy is out in the open and who can’t seem to find support anywhere beyond attempted kindness from the likes of Andy and Baxter. I do hope he ends up okay. In more celebratory news, Bertie made a lovely proposal to Edith, and he even agreed to take Marigold with them without knowing the real reason for Edith’s request. She’s due some happiness, and I can’t imagine she wouldn’t accept. It was thoroughly satisfying to see Mrs. Hughes exact her revenge on Carson in a way that really showed him that he shouldn’t be so hard on her and unappreciative. Molesley being asked to be a teacher was a tremendously wonderful occasion, and Mrs. Patmore’s successful bed and breakfast opening was a great event to go with it. And Violet sure has a strange way of showing her anger, by going on a cruise and getting her family a puppy.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 1, Episode 16 “Tattoo Valentine Pregnant Guitar” (B)

This partially Valentine’s Day-themed episode was fun, filled with the same typical interactions, some believable and some over-the-top, that define every episode of this show. Tim going to get a tattoo with Heather’s name on it wasn’t a bright idea from the start, but blaming the omission of a letter on doctor’s handwriting was a bit weak. It was impressive how much he got the Heater nickname out there, and his genuine effort won Heather over enough for them to have a great Valentine’s Day. Tyler and Tim trying to impress the women in their lives when Josh Groban’s accent-donning salesman threatened to one-up them was fun but forgettable. The best part of Matt’s late-planned Valentine’s Day date with Colleen was not bringing his overly affectionate parents with him to score a four-top at a restaurant that was already booked up, but rather Jen’s bluntly-offered multiple choice test that included “I’m an idiot” and “All of the above” as the options. I like that Greg and Jen set an alarm for when they wanted to start trying for a second baby, and that they found as hard as possible against the need to start right away despite signs like a stork literally showing up at the their doorstep popping up all over the place. I think the next family step is a proposal from Greg to Colleen, but I imagine that’s going to be fraught with drama and obstacles rather than a simple and sweet gesture that will result in a certain yes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 4 “White Knights” (B+)

It turns out that it's worth spending plenty of time in the recent past with this group since they're more than capable of getting themselves into trouble and developing into a true team along the way. The most interesting pairing is that of Sara and Kendra, who both have some serious rage issues that result in dead people and who can really help each other become more balanced people. The dynamic between Ray and Snart is fun too, though Ray's do-gooder nature paled in comparison to Snart's criminal instinct, resulting in both Ray and Professor Stein getting captured by the Russians. Mick and Rip are also becoming good pals, which was helpful since Martin Donovan's supposed ally Zaman Druce, who we'll probably see again, tried to kill him instead of following through on the pardon he had offered. That's one recurring thread that is powering this show forward - the Time Masters who are not happy at all with all the damage that Rip has caused by stealing the ship and traipsing through time with a handful of heroes and villains from the twenty-first century. We didn't even see Vandal Savage in this hour, but we got all the villainry needed from Valentina, who seemed to be as wowed by Snart's flirting as she did by Ray's failure at the same, and then turned into a mega bad-guy when she used Snart as a hostage when Ray tried to save her life. I like the gadgets this show employs like the edible auto-translator, and that Professor Stein was excited by the kind of mission for which he was uniquely most qualified.

What I’m Watching: Modern Family

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 12 “Clean for a Day” (B-)

It feels like it’s been forever since this show aired – about a month – and I haven’t really missed it in that time. It still hasn’t reached a point of being truly terrible, but there’s nothing about it that really makes it immensely watchable. The one line that I liked a lot in this installment was when Alex asked about an alternate universe and Phil responded about a storage unit that parallels the freeway, a humorous phrasing for a great concept – Phil’s solution to Claire’s obsessive and obnoxious cleaning drives that resulted in them getting rid of childhood treasures that didn’t need to be thrown out. Jay taking a flying lesson made sense, and Cam coming along to knock the pilot out was more than a bit silly and unnecessary. I like that Gloria tried golf lessons only to have Jay tell her that they could never play together since it would ruin one pastime and that they should instead find a shared activity they both enjoyed with each other. Gloria firing “Red” was somewhat funny, more so than Manny being able to teach Lily how to play when Mitchell failed pretty miserably. I liked that Haley encouraged Alex to move on from her relationship with Sanjay and then took her over to his house, where she cringed at the geeky verbal foreplay and then hastily left once Sanjay made it clear that his parents weren’t home. Haley and Alex are very different people, but as sisters they sometimes know exactly what the other needs.

What I’m Watching: Limitless

Limitless: Season 1, Episode 14 “Fundamentals of Naked Portraiture” (B+)

I used to find when I watched “Elementary” that if I was trying to do something else while watching or I let my mind wander for a moment, I was almost completely lost on the episode-specific plotline and had to depend instead on the strength of the characters and their interactions to carry me through the episode. That’s true here too, so I have to make a note to concentrate heavily next time I sit down to watch. What I did notice and enjoy in this episode was that Brian got so excited about all the technology in a plotline that seemed to mirror “Ex Machina” a little and allowed him to interface with something truly cool again. I was so excited to see Mike and Ike interviewing a third agent to work with Brian, who was promptly named Spike. He was very loyal and overly friendly, and I love that it was Ike who decided to put cameras on him and caught him red-handed working for ADIC Johnson. Ike being hurt that Mike wanted to leave was sweet, and it’s great to see the two of them becoming real fleshed-out characters. Rebecca is hot on Senator Morra’s trail, and it seems like the latest action that Mr. Sands has taken to cover his tracks went too far since it’s only piqued Rebecca’s curiosity and suspicions. It also demonstrates how easily Sands is willing to kill to ensure that Senator Morra’s secrets stay secret, which presents a serious risk to Rebecca’s livelihood.

What I’m Watching: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 14 “The Retooling of Dean Sanderson” (B+)

Eventually, Dean had to realize a bit of his own ridiculousness, but naturally that was going to happen on his own terms and still be something that would infuriate and annoy Stewart since it was still over-the-top. Insisting on being at the meeting with the prospective client and then ruining it due to his delusional theatrics was a great impetus for Stewart to recommend that Dean try therapy, something that backfired right away. Maya Rudolph, who used to be on TV but has graduated to film roles recently, was a fun choice to play Jillian, the therapist who Stewart loved so much before his brother went to see her and then found was constantly turned against him but refused to admit it at any point to him. The new Dean doesn’t look all that different from the old Dean, but it was still a delight to watch it happen. The biggest surprise of the episode was that Debbie, who has consistently been a background player even to her own children, took inspiration from Dean and from Jillian and decided to take the reins of her life, quitting her job when she got too frustrated by her bosses that didn’t speak to each other. I hope that she’ll become more of a central figure now, trying to decide what to do with her life and her career after so many years of a frustrating job. Something tells me that Dean is going to have some ideas, some of which could actually be good.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 15 “The Biter” (B+)

This episode was most fun not because of the specific plotlines it featured but more due to the way that they brought its characters together. Jimmy pretending to be one of Edie’s emergency contacts despite quite obviously not having gotten a call was funny, but his involvement and interest in wanting to find out who had bitten Edie was far more entertaining. Sara was all over that as well, and they both went quite far to try to find the culprit. It hardly seems like a productive policy to tell parents that an incident occurred without identifying those involved, especially when it turns out that Edie was also guilty of something herself that had precipitated the biting. What I love most is that Jimmy is realizing just how attracted to Sara he is, and though he keeps encouraging her to keep dating, he really wants to be with her. Another couple that isn’t a couple anymore, Gerald and Vanessa, did pretty well being on the same page after meeting with the very obnoxious Kirk Kelly, seeing how he treated Ravi and them, telling him off, and then accepting his offer when he doubled his initial investment. Though the meeting for their parent communication app caused them to both be out of contact and both serve as absent co-parents, I think that their idea could actually take off, and I’m eager to watch them work together and see how that goes. I’m all for seeing the two of them succeed, especially if they’re doing it together.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 12 “Physician, Heal Thy Selfie” (B+)

This was no erotica novelist, but it was still fun to see Liv immediately inherit the social media trigger fingers of her latest brain, in an episode that didn’t feature her zombie tendencies nearly as much as many other hours. Instead, we got to move forward on a number of fronts with a whole bunch of characters. Peyton didn’t waste any time in pretending with Blaine, and instead invited Liv to drop by her office to end the charade right away and clue him in to the fact that she knew everything she needed to. Peyton took out her frustration on Ravi, who was not nearly equipped enough to be a drinking buddy for her. I’m really pleased to see the direction that Liv’s love life with Drake is going, as he was serious about needing to go see his mom, and she came along to be given makeup that made her look less pale and zombie-like. At least Drake isn’t a bad guy even if Liv now realizes that he works for Blaine, which is bad news. Blaine isn’t in terrific shape either, though he handled himself quite well when Stacey Boss demanded $80,000 from as payment for not giving two weeks’ notice. Major is in way over his head, with Vaughn demonstrating the lengths he’ll go to and demanding frequent murders, and it’s only a matter of time before Drake ends up on his list or he comes face-to-face with Liv when he’s about to off another unsuspecting zombie.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 5, Episode 6 “Reagan” (B-)

I had read a while ago that Megan Fox was going to be taking over for Zooey Deschanel for a few episodes this season, and it does make some sense given that it fits with the title of this show, much more so than Jess has for the past few years. The problem is, Fox is known to be a terrible actress, and naturally she rested on the laurels of her physical attractiveness more than anything in this introductory installment. That said, she wasn’t as bad as I might have thought, but the plotlines here are much weaker than they’ve been previously. Naturally, the notion of Cece and Reagan having hooked up would be exciting to Schmidt, but I would think that Cece might have mentioned a lesbian past before and that she would have expected Schmidt to respond that way. The “Drumline” dance was a bit much, but Schmidt always tends to be pretty over-the-top. The best part of Nick going for Reagan is that he was ready to not go after all, but making him the perfect drink just made him all the more interested since she really is perfect for him. All this time, Winston was on the sidelines just being obnoxious, a new role for him after he used to be off on his own planet each episode. My favorite current recurring guest star is Nasim Pedrad as Aly, who infuses some serious deadpan into her every scene that manages to be much more intelligent than Winston’s also entertaining attempts at witticism.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 13 “Welcome to Earth-2” (B+)

I’ve always said that the only thing I love more than time travel is alternate universes, and this episode was an excellent instance of that. It also showed what Earth-1 looks like without the Flash, and luckily it was just one lousy criminal who tried to wreak havoc and show the world that the Flash had abandoned them. It’s cool to see that Earth-2 looks different and feels much more dated, with a bow-tie wearing Barry and a much classier Central City. Barry realizing that he was married to Iris, also known as the trigger-happy Detective West, was fun, and it was at first amusing and then sad to learn that Joe, or Joseph, hated him as a trade-off for his happiness with Iris. I enjoyed seeing the evil version of Caitlin, called Killer Frost, and the return of Ronnie, who here was Deathstorm, Killer Frost’s heat-wielding companion. But the biggest surprise of all was Cisco’s doppelganger, who was using his powers like the Cisco we know has never been able to, though Doppel-Cisco and Deathstorm weren’t long for that world as Zoom arrived to kill them both for trying to hurt the Flash. I wonder whether Iris and Cisco will try to track down Killer Frost to assist them in hunting for a very imprisoned and screwed Barry. Back on Earth-1, it was great to see the Caitlin we know and don’t fear help Jay get his speed back enough to be the Flash for a moment, especially after he confessed that he lost his speed on his own due to his greed.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 11 “Chapter Thirty-Three” (B+)

This was quite a romantically progressive hour, moving ahead three of the major romances currently on this show, only one of which has really persisted throughout the history of the series. That one was actually the saddest, since I don’t think anyone was ever rooting against Rogelio and Xiomara. Things did not look good throughout this episode when Jane found the ring his mother had given to him and Rogelio told her it was a gift for Jane and not for Xiomara, but that was explained away by Rogelio wanting to get his own stone, which Mateo accidentally ate because Rogelio held it too close to him. Xiomara got over Rogelio acting selfishly about the party right away, but she can’t shake the feeling that, to prevent incidents like her spitting in Jane’s hair while brushing her teeth, she needs to focus on herself and doesn’t want to have any more kids, which was a heartbreaking blow to Rogelio. Jane’s love life was dominated by more sex dreams about Professor Chavez, her accidental insertion of his name into her reading, and the incomparably awkward moment in which she kissed his sweater. As expected, once she told him she needed a new advisor, he was more than happy to ask her out, which is great. I for one am happy to see Petra being redefined and Rafael putting the moves on her, since I was always on #teamrafael but now it appears that Jane genuinely isn’t interested so he deserves to be happy with someone else for the time being. Susanna seemed genuinely hurt that Luisa was still in love with Rose, a character with an unexpected connection to Mutter who now appears to be back with the same face but a new haircut.

What I’m Watching: The X-Files

The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 4 “Home Again” (C)

I’m not too huge on monster episodes, and I also don’t remember too much of Scully’s family life other than the fact that her brother’s name is Bill. The combination of those two plotlines didn’t make for a terribly satisfying episode, especially since it ended on such a bleak note. There’s something about the modern-day Mulder and Scully that just doesn’t feel as authentic as it did twenty years ago when the show first aired. Scully’s mother having a heart attack came out of nowhere, and asking for a brother that I don’t think was ever mentioned on the show before also seemed rather random. It’s obvious that giving up the baby that she and Mulder had together is haunting her in an unshakeable way, and I am curious to see what has become of the child and if we’ll meet him anytime soon. Alessandro Juliani of “Battlestar Galactica” fame (and who I saw on a cruise between Vancouver and Victoria back in September) was the poor man who got torn apart by the mindless and terrifying trash man at the start of the episode, and there was plenty more disturbing and pointless ripping of human limbs over the course of the episode. Identifying him as a golem of sorts conjured up by an artist to protect the homeless and voiceless wasn’t nearly as impactful a plotline as it should have been. With only six episodes in this renewed slate, this hardly seemed like a necessary one, even less so than last week’s comedic farce.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 13 “For the Girl Who Has Everything” (B+)

This show keeps ending on big cliffhangers that I forget to address when reviewing episodes, and so it was helpful to have the reminder that some weird entity had swarmed towards Kara at the end of last week’s installment. It looked like a sea specimen or poisonous mutant flower, and it turns out that it was a Black Mercy, an alien plant that hypnotizes the person it’s latched onto into thinking they’re living the perfect life while slowing killing them. A quick Google search indicates that this was adopted from a Superman comic book called “For the Man Who Has Everything,” further confirming that much of this show is Superman mythology transposed to apply to his cousin. We actually got to see Kal-El in younger form in Kara’s imagined Krypton life, which included both of her parents and a redeemed Astra free from the evil Nan. Alex jumping in headfirst with a surprisingly cooperative Max Lord’s help to go in to save Kara was brave, and the drama really got heightened with some intense music and Alex struggling against her Kryptonian captors not to be sent to the Phantom Zone. Kara was not happy when she woke up, and it’s truly sad that Astra had to be the one to die just as she had proven that she wasn’t all bad while Nan continues to live, more vengeful than ever before. Alex not telling Kara that she was the one who killed Astra will surely come back to haunt her, though for now it’s all ice cream and happiness for that crew.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 1, Episode 11 “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!” (B)

Admittedly, this episode was a bit sillier than others, but it still managed to rebound well by the end with some fantastic developments not all related to Rebecca. Sending that message about being in love with Josh to Paula wasn’t a great idea in the first place, and the realization that she had actually sent it to Josh himself was an equally fantastic and horrifying moment. I love that Paula opted to share what happened with everyone involved in the case because she knew that they would understand, and Rebecca even ended up with a police escort to Josh’s house to save time! She covered pretty well when he showed up, but his insistence on going back to her house to deal with the broken glass situation caused some problems. The best part of the entire episode was that going along on the adventure was the perfect catalyst for Paula and Scott to reinvigorate their marriage, and she was so touched that he actually listened that it really renewed things, leading to a handful of sentimental and then downright inappropriate text messages. Paula and Scott speaking the theme song was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Scott’s use of the perfect rock clued Josh in to the fact that there was something not right and caused him to skip out on the romantic fondue date that Rebecca had engineered. And then Greg couldn’t stand being a stand-in for Josh, leaving her all alone. She’ll recover, undoubtedly, because, while there are many Josh Chans, there’s only one Becs.

Friday, February 19, 2016

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 1, Episode 4 “Short Squeeze” (B+)

This show has done a fascinating show of characterizing its two protagonists, and this episode was especially effective in getting to the root of who Axe is by showing him in action while Decker described how he sees him. There is so much scenery being chewed on this show, and the way that Axe is painted definitely suggests that he is a god of sorts. But this episode managed to ground him, showing that he is determined to always get what he wants, and that he is going to do it in a way that sends a message. When Noah Emmerich’s Freddie got himself into a mess after eavesdropping on Axe’s conversation, Axe bailed him out right away but then left him behind the next day after the short paid off. I knew I recognized Kerry Bishé from “Scrubs” and “Virtuality” as Elise, the singer who hit on Axe, and what great scenes they shared together as he proved that his marriage was basically more sacred to him than anything else. The end of the episode was highly alarming since Axe appears to be taking a major risk to change his entire life, and though I’m sure he has a plan, it’s still worrisome. Chuck has been known to be harsh with those who disappoint him, and forcing his father to take a loss of nearly $500,000 as punishment for foolishly trying to screw Axe over without considering the implications was typically harsh. Tara got off relatively easy considering the height of her betrayal.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What I’m Watching: Shameless

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

So it really happened – they lost the house. Poor white supremacist Chucky tried to get in to the padlocked door because no one told him that all their stuff had been thrown out in the yard, but the Gallaghers are officially one. Fortunately, Veronica and Kev are feeling awfully charitable, and they’ve taken in a few Gallaghers along with their child soldiers from Myanmar who, naturally, Kev misunderstood to be from Miami. It was a trying hour for the family, Fiona most of all, especially since she had to get two reality checks, one from Sean about her family not being welcome around his son and the other from Svetlana about earning a living and working for it. Carl, or White Chocolate, trying to rent an apartment didn’t work out so well, and I’m worried that he’s going to create a whole army with his new bunkmates. It was fun to watch Ian start a brawl between the gay firemen and the gay cops, which included Tony, and then actually consider dating a man instead of just having sex with him. Everything seemed so perfect with Helene, and it’s terrible to think that allowing Amanda to take a picture in his dorm room could ruin the entire thing forever. I do hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of her, but I think that it may be. Debs isn’t having the easiest time winning over her future husband, but she made some progress, though it’s nothing compared to Frank, who found Erica to be an entirely different person than he expected.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

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

Opening up Downton Abbey to the general public was always going to be a game-changing decision, and it managed to go off without too many hitches and with no one getting hurt, even though Carson was at the ready with his cane to run after a thief should the occasion present itself. And Robert even survived a conversation with a philosophical youngster who snuck into his bedroom. Carson dug himself into an even bigger hole with Mrs. Hughes, and I have to imagine that she’s going to burst sometime soon and tell him that he just can’t keep treating her like that. Romance is brewing between Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason, much to the chagrin of Daisy, who should be focusing on her exams. It’s great to see Molesley approached as a potential teaching candidate, and he so deserves a happy ending. Thomas doesn’t seem set for one, and though he did so much to merit his current treatment, it’s hard to watch him get kicked around so much. Both Mary and Edith seem fated for true love after all, with both of their suitors making moves on them in rather romantic scenes. They still manage to be terrible to each other, with Edith responding with the only defense that Mary would never be genuinely happy for her. The most memorable plotline of the hour was Cora’s unfortunate appointment that undercut and infuriated Violet, who made a scene in front of strangers and is sure not to get over this particular development anytime soon.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 1, Episode 15 “Soccer Gigi TV Mikey” (C+)

This wasn’t my favorite episode of this show, with a few funny moments that didn’t make for a solid outing. Matt volunteering to be the soccer coach was good for a couple laughs, mainly the kids’ assertion that they would rather win and get a pizza party than actually play in the game and Sophia’s friend’s comment that he needed a positive role model because his father was an unemployed artist that lived in his grandparents’ garage. Tyler and Clementine going to visit Gigi was mildly amusing if nothing else, and it was sweet to see them decide to miss their concert and stay with her even if her memory proved selectively reliable. Greg wanting to sleep on the couch was the strongest segment of the night, as he managed to fall asleep instantly in every situation, infuriating Jen, and then wake up the next morning with unbelievable energy that let him do so much more than usual. Taking the pillows from the couch and putting them on the bed was a fun solution compromise that let them keep their marriage alive while also allowing both of them to get some much-needed rest. I like Greg Grunberg back from his days on “Alias,” and it’s sad to say that his performance in this episode was much more akin to the recent wreck that was “Heroes Reborn.” Every family has a black sheep, but Mikey was so over the top with the roasting schedule for his purchased pig and his creepy crush on Heather. Seven minutes was more than enough Mikey.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Take Three: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 3 “Blood Ties” (B+)

This show spent some more time in 1975 in this hour, but it seems like that’s the last of it for now as the 1980s are up next. After Professor Stein met young Marty last week, this time it was Leonard Snart who got to see his younger self as he tried to change his timeline and ensure that his father didn’t go to prison for stealing a diamond by delivering it right to him. I’m not sure what happens if the timeline does change other than a wedding ring disappearing, but it seems like most things are set in stone, and others, like Savage knowing the name of Rip’s wife and son, may have already been destined to happen. It makes sense that Rip would have gone back to the beginning to try to kill Savage before he became immortal, and that it would be impossible for him to try again since he might disrupt the timeline by being there twice. The fact that Carter’s blood could give Savage’s minions added life is worrisome, and it’s a good thing that they got his body back. Rip and Sara made a great team, though it would behoove them to have more allies by their side in future encounters. Professor Stein and Ray arguing about the teacher not remembering the student was entertaining, and ultimately they managed to pull off a very daring rescue attempt that resulted in Kendra being well on her way to getting strong enough to take down Savage once and for all.

Pilot Review: American Crime Story

American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson (FX) Premiered February 2 at 10pm

Don’t confuse this show with “American Crime,” another limited series that focuses on a different crime each season. Instead, think of “American Horror Story” and creator Ryan Murphy’s continued expansion into new genres after finding success with “Glee” and this show’s horror companion, which has already completed five seasons. While neither of those highly successful series purported to be based on truth, this show definitely does. I’ll start with the qualifier that I wasn’t even ten years old at the time of the OJ Simpson trial, so I don’t remember any of it other than stories that I’ve heard or read since then, most notably that of the glove fitting perfectly. As a result, I can’t comment on whether any of the portrayals or performances are true to life, but I can simply judge them based on their objective merits. Cuba Gooding Jr. is an actor who delivered a fantastic performance that won him an Oscar in “Jerry Maguire” and hasn’t done much since. It’s possible that he was the right person to play OJ, but I’m not too convinced based on his work in this first episode. Similarly, David Schwimmer feels hopelessly lost in a dramatic role as Robert Kardashian, whose young daughters and future heirheads (people famous for being famous) made a brief appearance. There are so many familiar faces here, including “American Horror Story” alums Connie Britton and Sarah Paulson, both of who go a bit over the top in their characterizations. That’s the rule here, and John Travolta is the biggest offender, barely moving any part of his face in an attempt to create a character unlike his usually excitable persona. The style of this show is intensely dramatic and designed to be suspenseful, and I’m not sure this case quite merits it. I’m minimally intrigued, though the great reviews this show has gotten make me think that maybe I should stick around even though I’m not inclined to.

How will it work as a series? How this actually played out is documented fact, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of developments along the way that can make for great television. With so many actors and characters, I’m sure that a season of this show could prove riveting, if it comes down from being so overdramatic and tries to be a bit more personable.
How long will it last? It didn’t need strong reviews and equally strong ratings to guarantee it a second season. Limited series with different plotlines each season are all the rage these days, and FX has popularized that with “American Horror Story.” Investing in another Ryan Murphy production is surely what they will do with a renewal of this show assuredly coming very soon.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 13 “Grinder V Grinder” (B+)

Sometimes, real law needs to be put on hold for the sake of some truly entertaining theatrics involving two people who everyone agrees are not real lawyers. Timothy Olyphant has been hanging around the show now for a while, and this was a fantastic opportunity to put him to use and for Stewart and Claire to use it to their advantage to keep both of the television lawyers at bay. Dean reacted to Olyphant doing the same things he does on a regular basis in quite an irritated way, and Stewart and Claire enjoyed seeing that as they egged both of them on. Through it all, Olyphant wasn’t that much of a villain, and he still turned to Dean for counsel on how to be a better actor. The fact that Claire was finding Olyphant too clingy provided an added bit of entertainment to the whole situation, and even allowed Olyphant to elicit some unfortunate truths from Claire during the trial that put his score ahead of Dean’s for uncertified legal abilities. Naturally, Dean was able to one-up his opponent in the end thanks to his token ability to hear something said and then link it to a huge eureka realization, as the Grinder did in the opening scene featuring Tony Sirico from “The Sopranos.” Tying it all in with the senior Dean’s impending reelection was fun, and it was nice to see him unanimously approved for another term after it appeared that his chances weren’t looking so good at first.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 2, Episode 11 “Fifty Shades of Grey Matter” (B+)

Starting this episode out in a library did not prepare for me for its rather explicit content, but of course Rose McIver was more than able to convincingly up the romance and excitement factor of every scene as her erotica novelist brain compelled her to find the sex in every possible situation. Hitting on Ravi and Clive staring at her cleavage were highlights, but the best moment of all was when she asked if Ravi and Major had ever wrestled and then asked them to film it if they did. Liv nearly got some action of her own as she opened up to her new zombie pal and asked him if he had ever been handcuffed, but, being the good person that she is, she couldn’t go through with it in the heat of the moment because she had essentially drugged him. Peyton and Blaine got very close, and her coming in to declare his immunity was a short-lived moment of triumph. It didn’t take long for her to come to Liv and realize who he was, but the mistake was already made. The episode ended on an unexpected note as Liv revealed that she too had decided to go the distance with another unknown entity. I don’t think that will work out too terribly, though I worry that he’s in danger of biting the dust permanently soon. It would have been great for her to reconnect with Major, but he was too busy getting rid of Minor to cover the evidence that nearly led Clive right to him.

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 14 “Budget Spa” (B+)

It shouldn’t surprise viewers to learn what type of man Jimmy is, and that’s because it’s been clear from the beginning. Yet he seems to have surprisingly little insight into himself, and he needed to see a younger female version of himself who constantly believes that he lives in London to comprehend just how vain and predictable he is. That said, a night at the spa with the boys from the restaurant is far from exciting, and the fact that the highlight was food poisoning says something about the experience. Gerald and Ravi competing to see who could eat the most free stuff was fun, especially when they found out that the new policy meant that none of the things they indulged in for the spirit of competition were actually free. The girls’ night out with Sara, Annelise, and Vanessa was a blast, with highlights from each of their experiences. Sara flirting with Brian Van Holt’s married man only to learn that he was practicing a little innocent catch-and-release was entertaining, particularly for the reaction it produced in all three of them. Annelise actually having a connection only to ruin it by her inability to turn Jimmy off was a shame, but I think seeing her fully happy would be disconcerting since she wouldn’t be nearly as sarcastic. I have to agree wholeheartedly with Vanessa about artichokes, though I’m not as fond of the heart as she is. That eating artichokes defined her experience was great, and another strong reminder that she is a quality underused player on this show.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 5, Episode 5 “Bob and Carol and Nick and Schmidt” (B-)

Without Jess, this show feels a bit scattered, forcing its other characters to stick to each other to ensure that they’re able to have credible plotlines while she’s on jury duty. Nick and Schmidt do a lot together, but in this case Schmidt was practically glued to him as he tried to ensure that his best friend didn’t first make the mistake of giving his grubby family members money and then that he didn’t give them his sperm to make a baby. Nick’s cousins were drowning in their Boston accents, a fact horribly highlighted by Schmidt’s awkward attempt to mimic their way of speaking, and there wasn’t much to like about them. For me, the only really worthwhile part of that plotline was that Schmidt revealed that he had a plan for Nick’s life and where he was headed, which included being frozen during the 2050s so that he wouldn’t have to experience that decade. Winston stepping up to help Cece with her wedding dress shopping was a sincere and sweet gesture, but the excess amount of champagne he brought to the fitting was a very poor idea. It’s no surprise that you can’t return a wedding dress, but it’s much more appalling to think that something with flashing lights would ever make it to the racks of a fancy establishment with a six-month waiting list that would have pushed the wedding to August. Even the stand-in for Jess who was hitting behind posters in her hotel room knew that it was really bad news.

Monday, February 15, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Muppets

The Muppets: Season 1, Episode 11 “Swine Song” (B+)

I had almost completely forgotten about this show, and I just happened to notice that it was coming back after a pretty long time off the air. I’m not someone who felt that this show needed major retooling, and it’s interesting that this half-hour directly addressed that by refocusing the show-within-a-show as a result of a network executive’s orders. Having Key and Peele guest star and claim that Pizza (not spelled like it’s pronounced) showed up and then their show was cancelled was a great setup, and I enjoyed seeing Key and Peele having fun pretending that they are very poor now after the demise of their sketch show. What was also fun was seeing the cast band together and figure out a good way to all participate so that changes wouldn’t be forced down their throats. Some were more successful than others, but it was all enjoyable to watch. After Piggy came back with a smuggled penguin (my wife wants to take one from Australia!) and a new lease on life, it was good to see her come down to earth and not prove difficult when the show needed adjustments. Even better, she and Kermit did a great job with an impromptu song duo that proved to be a real winner. Though I did enjoy this episode, I would feel completely comfortable in giving up on this show since it just doesn’t feel like something I need to watch every week. As it’s one of the series that I watch regularly with my wife, I don’t think I’ll be abandoning it just yet, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see a review next time it airs.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 12 “Fast Lane” (B+)

This show has so many characters that it could easily get rid of some of them, and I like that it’s not going that route, instead offering up challenges that suggest exits but then going in a different and altogether more exciting direction. Harry moving to steal the Flash’s speed had immediate and unfortunate consequences with Barry not being fast enough to stop the shard from injuring Iris, and he confessed very quickly to having done it. A bit of immediate anger from the team was speedily quelled by Barry’s good nature, and I’m pumped for the fact that our friends are going to Earth Two with Harry to help stop Zoom once and for all. Barry reading books at lightning speed to learn the science Harry was working on was fun, and Harry really is acting as a father figure to Barry in the intellectual way that Joe never occupied. Speaking of Joe, it’s good to see the shift in Wally’s behavior after Iris’ undercover attempt and his new acceptance of his situation and the family that wants to get to know him. Tar Pit was quite the villain, transforming and appearing like the T-1000 in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and proving to be an easily quashable villain due mainly to the fact that there was plenty else going on this hour that there just wasn’t enough time to focus on him. The connection between Wally’s racing world and the freak of the week was unexpected, and I suspect that Wally may soon be the next person to learn that Barry isn’t just as ordinary forensic scientist.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 10 “Chapter Thirty-Two” (B+)

Leave it to this show to end on a cliffhanger like the one we got last week with Mutter being revealed as Rafael’s mother and then injecting him and then barely address it this week. That’s because everyone is dealing with something else, and it’s hard to stay focused on just one threat when there’s so much going on. It’s interesting to watch Rafael and Petra reconnect, as he slowly realizes why she’s acting the way she is about her nurses. It’s pretty convenient timing for Rafael to learn that Jane is just starting to date, even if it’s not going nearly as well as he’s been made to think. Kissing the computer guy at the skate park didn’t feel like Jane at all, and casually mentioning his girlfriend was the perfect way to ruin it. Realizing that her professor is the right fit was a long time coming, though I feel like that will eventually fizzle if it ever gets off the ground. It’s nice to see Xiomara have a win with Rafael’s mother as his decision to hire her as his manager quickly imploded. This show has a bit more blood than usual as Michael came to the very delayed realization that Nadine very cleverly and subtly hit him with a beer bottle to put the drive that he thought she gave to Rose inside his leg. Now we’re getting somewhere, and I suspect that the next run-in with both Mutter and Rose won’t be too far off.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What I’m Watching: The X-Files

The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 3 “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” (C+)

It’s looking like this show could do well and will therefore return for another slate of episodes, but if six is all this show gets, I’m not sure we need an hour like this, which reminds me of the installment where Mulder and Scully were a married couples, the Petries, who said that their last name was pronounced like the dish. Part of the episode’s silliness comes from casting Kumail Nanjiani from “Silicon Valley” and “Franklin and Bash” and Rhys Darby from “Flight of the Conchords” as the two featured players of the hour, one who actually turned out to be the killer and the other who was suspected the whole time. This episode was all about the silliness, and that was exemplified most strongly in the recounting Darby’s character gave about how he was transformed from being a were-lizard of sorts into a human rather than the other way around. It’s hard to know what’s real, but the sight of him turning into the were-monster as he shook Mulder’s hand was pretty funny. His retelling of how Scully rushed at him to have sex with him was a bit more ridiculous, but I suppose this show deserves a bit of lightheartedness sometimes, especially as it pokes fun at Mulder’s use of technology, like the rapid-photo app that would work a lot better if he had the camera turned the right way. Now, with this absurdity out of the way, let’s get back to aliens and, more importantly, the saga of government conspiracies that made this show great.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 12 “Bizarro” (B+)

I’m not too familiar with Supergirl mythology, and so I don’t know if Bizarro was also a construct of her universe or if that’s just a concept borrowed and modified from Superman. Still, it worked pretty well into the plot here, confirming that Maxwell Lord is just as evil as initially suspected, attempting to revive seven women in the pursuit of creating Supergirl’s alter ego and exact opposite. He doesn’t even try to hide it, freely admitting to Alex that he’s guilty. Arresting him and locking him up in the basement of the DEO may not be the best long-term plan, but it at least ensures that he can’t continue with his research and create another Bizarro to come after Kara while he’s in custody. It’s a good thing that Kara was able to save the unfortunate girl who was transformed into Bizarro, and that definitely counts as a win for the good guys. It’s a shame, however, that it meant the fizzling out of Kara’s budding relationship with Cat’s son, and the cessation of their work dynamic being a little more equitable. Cat bringing Kara coffee was unsettling, so maybe it’s better that things are back to normal. Winn’s heart-to-heart with James, on the other hand, was quite eye-opening and affecting, and I can’t imagine that he’ll be able to move forward with Lucy now that he’s confessed the way he feels about Kara out loud and had them essentially confirmed by someone who feels the same way she does.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 1, Episode 10 “I’m Back at Camp with Josh!” (B+)

I wasn’t so sure about this episode at first because it seemed that, more than usual, Rebecca was being so painfully awkward and oblivious that nothing could be taken seriously. Giving a big check to the camp so that she could go made some sense since she doesn’t exactly put much money into anything other than trying to get closer to Josh, and her inability to comprehend the meaning of Blowie Point was cringe-worthy and then some thanks to her repeated references to bringing a windbreaker. But what made this episode great, as with the installments before it, was that it didn’t stop at an easy point and instead took things much further to really develop its characters. The mean girls helped give Rebecca a makeover and cheer her on when they found out she liked Josh instead of continuing to taunt her, and she had a few friendly people to confide in about her crush aside from just Paula. And Josh, who laughed at her when she read the letter, then asked her if he could keep it because no one had ever validated him like that, and it even prompted him to stand up to Valencia and tell her that he’s going back to camp for the foreseeable future. Greg getting a kiss on the cheek from White Josh and trying to figure out what it meant as Rebecca sought wisdom about the same subject from Paula was fun. It’s entertaining to see Heather turn into a real person, as Greg scrambles to atone for his missteps by taking “Commitment for Dummies” out of the library. Who would have thought that relationship would last?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Take Three: Billions

Billions: Season 1, Episode 3 “YumTime” (B+)

As Axe moved in on and completely eviscerated another company, it’s becoming clear that his actions are not entirely motivated by revenge but also designed to have a very specific impact. He was disappointed in the taste of the sweet that reminded him of the value of hard work from his childhood, and then he found out that the formula had been changed to cut costs, so he forced his way in and made sure that the formula was changed back and the costs could be cut elsewhere. In doing that, he not only removed the CEO but also an uncooperative board member who just happens to be the mistress of Chuck’s father, an additional bit of spite that will leave a sting. It’s extremely complicated since Wendy works for him, and she’s also crossing lines of her own, interfering in the therapy of one employee because she knows that Wags is going to make her life miserable, and then going the extra step to put money with her as she moves to a new company. Lara is not above getting her way forcefully either, as was made painfully clear by the ease with which she ruined the life of a potential threat, and then got her to offer to sign a nondisclosure agreement that she just happened to have lying around. Chuck got to have his own power trip walking his dog when he made his careless neighbor pick up his dog’s poop with his hands, and he needs that kind of distraction since his new hapless colleague is ready to ruin the chances of what will surely prove to be a difficult takedown of Axe. Even being dominated by Wendy isn’t helping him to focus, and I’m sure things are only going to intensity as the case moves forward.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 6, Episode 4 “Going Once, Going Twice” (B+)

Aside from them all being depraved people, the one constant when it comes to the Gallagher family is that they live in a house right under the L train filled with way too many people and plenty of deplorable activity. It was a rollercoaster of an hour for Fiona to figure out the best way to be able to keep the house, first rejecting Carl’s instant offer of $3,000 in drug money and then ultimately accepting Sean’s savings stipend to get to the finish. Still, it couldn’t prepare her for the opportunity to be outbid by a very nice-seeming couple who just want to live in a new home, and I can imagine it’s going to get very ugly from here since the Gallaghers will fight to keep their home and someone is going to pay for the injustice of what happened to them when Patrick tried to get out of paying back money that he owed. That Sean confessing to having killed someone is not the most memorable development of the hour is a credit to this show’s ability to juggle so many plotlines and characters at once. Ian’s new firehouse obsession should be interesting, and hopefully it will help him get better rather than make him too attached to something unattainable. Helene confessing to Lip that this wasn’t just a fling was made so much more heartbreaking when she wrote it off as drunken nonsense the next morning, and now I think he won’t give up which will only get him hurt in the end. Frank is trying harder than ever to pull off his latest scheme, fixing Debs up with a man whose wife is dying from cancer, returning him from brief hopeless romantic to the hopeless depravity he’s mastered so well.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Good Wife

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 13 “Judged” (B)

There had to be a point at which Alicia’s new firm really got itself into trouble, and a handful of outstanding bills are now the least of her problems. Judge Schachowsky is an unapologetically corrupt and despicable man, and he’s due to be taken down. That’s what makes it all the more agonizing to see countless evidence thrown out by another judge who, to his credit, seems to be acting relatively impartially. That he needed to provide consent to be recorded by an employee in his own courtroom is unfortunate, and Alicia getting countersued for misrepresentation is a truly bad turn. Cary has made countless offers for her and Lucca to come back to whatever used to be Lockhart Gardner, and something tells me that may be in the cards since there is nowhere else to turn at this point. Lucca has definitely become the new Kalinda, a less mysterious but equally competent and capable ally for Alicia who has no trouble calling her out if she’s acting unhinged or out of line. They’re much closer now that Alicia has let everything out and opened up completely to her new confidante. Contrasting Alicia’s attempted lawsuit with Diane ending up in mediation with a familiar peacemaking face in a case of campus freedoms made for an interesting comparison, and a rather effective one as Diane defended the rights of someone to have an unpopular opinion and remain unregulated since the powers of the campus professionals had only previously been selectively enforced anyway.

What I’m Watching: Downton Abbey

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

The stakes on this show have rarely been high, except for when Sybil and William both died. The fact that things so infrequently get ultra-serious made the sight of Robert vomiting up a concerning amount of blood all the more worrisome. I’d hope that if burst an ulcer, it wouldn’t play out quite as gruesomely as that. Fortunately, all seems to be well, though it did give everyone a big scare. The presence of Neville Chamberlain at that meal was intriguing, and he certainly had an unforgettable experience. I like the rapport that he and Tom formed, and that he confided in Tom the real reason that Violet had been able to persuade him to come and listen to the divided pleas for different hospital futures. Carson and Mrs. Hughes’ new marriage isn’t without its problems, and Carson so casually criticizing her cooking is not going to start them off on a good foot. Andy eagerly offering to help Mr. Mason and learn his craft was kind, and it’s nice to see Thomas being genuine and good for once and agreeing to keep the fact that he can’t read secret while helping him to learn. It’s a treat to see Edith experience some happiness again in the form of a kiss, while Mary got called out by Tom for always having to come up with an excuse to hang out with her new beau aside from the fact that they’re attracted to each other despite their class differences, which are a major stumbling block to Mary.

What I’m Watching: Galavant (Season Finale)

Galavant: Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10 “Battle of the Three Armies” and “The One True King (To Unite Them All)” (B/B+)

It’s very possible that what may be this show’s final two episodes were also its best. I’ve come to enjoy this show a lot, and I think it’s probably better than I give it credit for. I enjoy musical television shows, and given that this is about half of what’s on now – “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” being the other, superior series – I’m grateful for this show’s existence. These episodes, particularly the finale, made no secret of the fact that the showrunners and everyone involved never expected a second season, and the concluding song even proclaimed that this would be the last anyone would ever see of it unless it got another surprise renewal. I liked the introductory song at the start of the first episode recapping the battle that was about to begin, and this show really has done a fine job of telling its absurd narrative. Galavant showing up with a shockingly handy Richard and Sid appearing with his gay army to save the day were predictable but entertaining moments, and I love that Gareth immediately abandoned Madalena and stood by his friend Richard and that the former king refused to let his onetime bodyguard go into battle for him without being there by his side. Isabella delivered a great takedown of Madalena, and Galavant didn’t have to try hard to win Isabella back after the fart comment situation had been cleared up. Things were tied up in a pretty good bow, though the ending scenes with Madalena yearning for darker power and Richard finally seeing his dragon breathe fire were fun teasers for a third season that I’d really quite like to see.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Timothy Omundson as Richard and Vinnie Jones as Gareth

Monday, February 8, 2016

Honeymoon Hiatus

I'm currently on my honeymoon in New Zealand and Australia! Every review I wrote before I left is now up, so you can look forward to plenty of catching up on three weeks' worth of television when I return in late February. Watching TV comes fourth after sightseeing, eating, and sleeping while I enjoy traveling with my wife! I'll figure out the best way to catch up as I slowly make my way through all the TV that will air during that time.

For now, head over to for a number of categories from the 9th Annual AFT Awards that are still being announced!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 11 “AKA I’ve Got the Blues” (B+)

This show, or at least its protagonist, doesn’t stop for anything, not even sleep. That’s extremely detrimental, of course, as she managed to get hit by a car among other incidents over the course of the hour and definitely wasn’t operating at full capacity. I found the flashbacks shown in this episode to be among the most effective ones yet showcased on this show, mainly because it explained how Jessica and Trish became the close friends with harsh outlooks on the world that they are today. The abuse Trish’s mother inflicted on her daughter had seemed purely emotional up until this point, but it’s clear that it was very physical and psychological too. Trish discovering Jessica’s powers and calling her a “good kind of freak” was a nice moment, and Jessica chose exactly the right time and way to show her adoptive mother what she could do. That background was especially helpful as it related to Trish bravely ingesting the red pill Will had taken to go toe-to-toe with him even with the risk of not remembering to breathe, which of course kicked in just a few minutes later. We didn’t have to see Kilgrave for his presence to be felt in this hour, though Jessica had to first deal with Will and then with trying to warn the invincible friend of hers we haven’t seen in a while: Luke, who is just about the best ally she could want at this point. Malcolm not doing anything when he saw that someone was in Jessica’s apartment was a sad moment since his worldview and optimism has been irreparably shattered.

Round Two: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pilot, Part 2” (B+)

I could definitely get attached to this show, though I’m realizing that it’s not necessarily as attached to some of its characters. Hawkman’s demise was a surprising one since I thought he was an integral part of the story, but I don’t mind too much since Kendra was always the stronger character of the two of them. I’m not too enthralled by the idea of Savage being a consistent villain for the crew, but it’s actually getting better and it might not be so bad if he was always enemy number one. It didn’t take long for the crew to be recognized and identified as not fitting in with the times, and that was due more to Professor Stein’s actions than anything else. It was a treat to meet Marty, the young, energetic version of Professor Stein who was able to talk to his older self and not immediately go catatonic like in “Back to the Future II.” The dynamic of the entire group is a lot of fun, and even the more peripheral elements, like Jefferson, are finding their way in. Leonard and Mick had a fun role to play in this hour, and I look forward to seeing them take the lead again in the future. What continues to be best about this show is its action scenes, which in this episode were highlighted by Ray zooming out of Professor Stein’s pocket to attack his opponents. I’m on board for this show, and excited to see where it goes and how it plays out in the future.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Grinder

The Grinder: Season 1, Episode 12 “Blood Is Thicker Than Justice” (B+)

I really enjoyed this episode, and I think it did a great job of mending the rift between the Sanderson brothers in a very entertaining way. Dean being certified by his new employers as a legal intern was a smart way to get him to be able to talk in court, and it seemed like things were going great for a while as he impressed the partners with his mumbo jumbo and grandstanding speeches. It didn’t take long for them to sideline him, however, and what was more egregious than them using him for his fame, which was to be expected, was how quickly and completely they dismissed him when it became clear that his celebrity wouldn’t do anything to help their case. I loved his initial objections and comments during Stewart’s opening arguments, and the best part of the episode was when the brothers apologized to each other as if they were speaking for their feuding clients who definitely did not echo their conciliatory sentiments. Claire did a spectacular job of dealing with Todd’s overzealous observation that they were primed to be the next potential office couple, and she scared him so badly that he nearly hyperventilated and ending up trying to talk her out of it. Dean buying and knocking down the houses next to Stewart’s, which included relocating some of the residents, is just the kind of ambitious, brazen move he tends to make, and it’s guaranteed to keep him close by and create plenty of headaches for the whole family as well as some positive developments to go along with them.

What I’m Watching: Grandfathered

Grandfathered: Season 1, Episode 13 “Tableside Guacamole” (B)

This episode, unlike many others, had just one central theme: Jimmy trying to get the restaurant back on track. It’s very true that Jimmy has not been focused since he found out about his family, and logically Annelise is the one who doesn’t see that as a good thing since her whole life is about work. I can’t imagine that Gerald’s idea of a celebrity would have worked out too well, but the airheaded musician they got wasn’t too terrific either. I like Ryan Hansen from his time on “Party Down,” and he was exactly the right actor for this part, even if it didn’t give him as much opportunity to show his trademark stupidity and instead just to be carefree and obnoxious. Gerald getting ready to give him a piece of his mind and getting interrupted after firing off a few opening compliments was funny, and it didn’t take long for him to be nearly ready to get a tattoo and compromise all of his principles to make his dad proud. Jimmy wasn’t exactly subtle about what he wanted, and that’s part of what made Chasen leave in a huff. Sarah thriving on her 80s knowledge was fun, and good for her for bringing the eighteen-year-old who asked her out over to the girls who said she was old to rub their clueless faces in it. Vanessa getting her own tattoo while Jimmy got his modified was amusing, and it’s good to get reminders every once in a while that she and Gerald couldn’t be more different.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 5, Episode 4 “No Girl” (B-)

This episode was actually pretty entertaining, though it was pretty stupid too. Jess’ absence is definitely going to have an impact on this show, and we’re seeing it right away as her not being there means disastrous things for anyone who needs female advice and also that her room is available for what quickly became a full-on bed and breakfast being run by the most hapless host of all, one Nick Miller. It was fun to watch Schmidt scramble to adhere to every little thing that was asked of him, including being given a heap of underwear to wash. Nick didn’t have an easy time communicating with one guest in particular, and then their relationship got sexual, and asking for her money made him seem like a prostitute, a predictably ridiculous mess that only Nick could wander his way into. Fred Armisen’s guest was particularly peculiar, and seeing him dressed up in Jess’ clothing was certainly strange, though it’s nothing new for the “Portlandia” star. Not having Jess around means that we’re seeing a whole lot more of Cece, and her engagement to Schmidt didn’t play too much of a part in this episode. She did, however, have the fantastic opportunity to give terrible advice to Winston that led to his breakup, but she also scored in a major way by helping him to get exactly the revenge he needed to move on from that toxic relationship. For the man who likes to prank either way too big or way too small, popping out after his ex-girlfriend was told that he was dead was just right.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 11 “The Reverse-Flash Returns” (B+)

I’ll admit that I’m not sure that this show’s concept of time travel makes all that much sense, but the characters speak with such scientific authority that I’m inclined to value it so much more than on “Heroes Reborn,” which completely butchered any logical interpretation of the science fiction idea. I don’t quite understand how Thawne disappeared immediately when Eddie killed himself in the present moment yet continued to exist in his own past enough to show up in Barry’s future. One explanation is that the timeline continues to exist based on what Barry and others have experienced, but it still doesn’t quite track. I’m willing to forgive it because I’m all for predestination and playing into creating the future, as done here when Wells spelled out the fact that this was the moment when he learned everything that he needed to know about the Flash to come back in time and create the past as Barry and everyone knew it. It was also cool to see Wells interacting with him, and I think that their brief interaction was very likely the basis for how Thawne when he took over his life. Cisco harnessing his powers with Wells’ help was cool, and I’m eager to see where that leads. There’s so much going on with the vast array of characters we have, and I like that Jay is still thinking about getting his speed back with Caitlin’s help. Wally and Iris bonding as their mother is on her deathbed should help to get them closer, and I’m excited to see what that relationship and Wally’s newfound dynamic with his father will look like. Patty figured out pretty easily that Barry was the Flash, and calling him with a fake emergency to say goodbye was a great way to part, and it leaves the door open for some future interaction that I so hope will happen, though we know that Barry is destined to end up with Iris.

Pilot Review: Lucifer

Lucifer (FOX)
Premiered January 25 at 9pm

I’m not a huge fan of sentences that start with “What if the devil..?” I don’t have much interest in the devil, and just about every cinematic interpretation of the demonic entity that I’ve seen has not been good. “Little Nicky” comes to mind as one particularly horrendous example, and “Spawn” on the opposite end of the spectrum was horrifying, traumatizing, and not at all good. Therefore, I’m pleased to report that this show is nowhere near as insufferable, and dare I say it might actually be decent. Now there’s no risk that I’ll actually watch another installment, but I did enjoy it more than I thought. I can’t quite comprehend why Tom Ellis’ Lucifer decided to leave hell and why he didn’t end up doing something a bit more glamorous, and why D.B. Woodside’s Amenadiel doesn’t have any power to compel him back to hell aside from spreading his wings in public. Lucifer’s ability to get people to confess things to him is interesting, and the sex appeal that goes along with it makes it considerably racier than it might otherwise be, especially when you bring in the fantastic Rachael Harris as the therapist who was ready to jump his bones the moment she laid eyes on him. Lauren German makes a fine companion to Ellis as Detective Chloe Decker, and they went from being permanently at odds to trusting each other pretty well as a dynamic duo awfully quickly, which undoes the need for much exposition going forward. This show might have a devilish appeal to some, and I’m more than content to say it wasn’t a complete waste of an hour.

How will it work as a series? Lucifer clearly has some connections in his current life, and with demons coming for him, it’s unlikely that his life will be peaceful or pleasant anytime soon. This show won’t be your typical police procedural, but it does follow the recent format of people with special abilities assisting cops in being able to save crimes. I’m sure this show has its target audience and they’re loving it.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot were good, considerably better than the almost certainly defunct “Minority Report” in the same timeslot this past fall, and premiering with “The X-Files” definitely helps. I think this show will do very well for FOX, and they’ll be excited to see it succeed with a second season sometime soon.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 9 “Chapter Thirty-One” (B+)

As usual, every episode of this show covers some familiar territory - in this case, Jane trying to work on her educational aspirations while dealing with an inconsistently-sleeping baby at home - and drops a handful of plot-altering bombshells. The main reveal, of course, is that, while Luisa’s mother faked her death, she died and is not Mutter, but Rafael’s mother is! Stabbing him in the neck with a syringe was a fearsome way to end the episode, and now all bets are off, since only Michael, who may or may not be Rafael’s mortal enemy, knows Mutter’s true identity. It makes sense that it’s another spouse of Rafael’s father since they tend to go into crime, and I’m sure there will be plenty of drama now. Susanna kissing Luisa was a surprise since that was never her intention and Luisa even asked her if she was flirting just to get her to trust her, but I suppose other characters deserve some relationship drama too. Jane friending Michael’s new girlfriend by accident while trying to sleep-train Mateo was a low point for her, and Michael coming by to explain that he needs her out of his life was harsh. Failing the basketball star who plagiarized his paper was bold but right, and kudos to Jane for finding a creative way to compel him to actually do the assignment. Her lack of basketball skills came in just as handy as her incomparable persistence. It’s hard to find anyone flashier and more dramatic than Rogelio, but Glamma and his gay father certainly come close. It seems their relationship is much more complicated than anyone thought, and I’m sure that will continue to play itself out in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What I’m Watching: The X-Files

The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 2 “Founder’s Mutation” (C+)

Part of me feels like every episode of this reboot really needs to count, but I also realize that if this show does well, which it has thus far, it’s all but guaranteed that FOX, which has just recommissioned both “24” and “Prison Break,” will bring it back for more episodes. It’s hard to believe that a show can air for nine years, go off the air for thirteen and a half years, and then just start up again like nothing happened. This episode was very much a freak-of-the-week installment, though the plot was a bit grander than that in terms of the genetic study it featured. I’m always much more for aliens and strange powers, and this was a bit too relational and based on these people who might somehow be possessed and connected. I guess I’m longing for the days when someone drowned in the backseat of a car because she was able to swallow the water that should have killed someone else, or for the cerulean blue that helped the pusher escape from prison. We got a glimpse of the Cigarette-Smoking Man at the end of the previous episode, and now we don’t get to see him at all. Instead, there’s a bit of Skinner, who honestly is not a terribly interesting or exciting character except when he’s really given something to do. I have higher hopes for the remaining four installments, which I’d like to see get back to what was really best about this show and what I’d like to think inspired FOX to revive it.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 11 “Strange Visitor from Another Planet” (B)

I wasn’t in love with this episode, but what I did like is that it featured Hank, or J’onn J’onzz, more accurately, in a big and heroic way. I was immediately happy with David Harewood playing a less buttoned-up character than he portrayed on the first two seasons of “Homeland,” but it’s good to see the Martian Manhunter opening up even more. His story and that of the White Martians conquering the Green Martians felt very much like an alien version of slavery or the Holocaust, which was unsettling since the type of world extermination and all that usually featured on this show and others like it feels removed and less realistic, which I think is a welcome thing since this is not supposed to be dark, depressing television. Yet, ultimately it all ended on a redeeming note, with Senator Crane going back on her militant anti-alien stance and considering the positive aspects of working with extraterrestrial entities for the greater good. Kara was busy multitasking throughout the episode, working to repair the damage she did by finishing and mailing one of Cat’s unsent letters to her son, who has quite an axe to grind with the socially-challenged egotist. Things seem to be going relatively well at this point, though I suspect that Adam’s infatuation with Kara, which Cat seems to be encouraging, won’t end well since getting close will only strain her already awkward working relationship. I doubt it will help patch things up with Winn either, and Lucy’s new role in the office doesn’t make the love quintangle any easier.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 1, Episode 9 “I'm Going to the Beach with Josh and His Friends!” (B+)

This is the first episode this show has aired since Rachel Bloom won a very well-deserved Golden Globe for her performance as Rebecca, and this episode is another shining instance of her talent and commitment to the role. It started out on a very sentimental and melancholy note, with Rebecca singing softly that she totally had friends, and then being called over by the crew she’d love to be a part of and invited by Valencia to spend the day at the beach with them. Hiring a party bus for the group was a great idea if a bit extravagant, but that only made things worse when Rebecca ended up all by herself with the two couples and the unexpected pair that formed when she invited along someone she fully expected to be on her side. This was inarguably the show’s best use of Darryl, who was even more desperate than Rebecca to be included but then easily bonded with his fitness idol, White Josh, in a way that she wasn’t able to because she just doesn’t care about what he likes. Rebecca’s pole-dancing display was certainly something - Bloom in full form - but the result of that was an unfortunate attack by all parties that resulted in everyone except for Josh shunning Rebecca, including those she thought might stick by her - Greg and his new girlfriend, also known as Rebecca’s neighbor Heather - abandoning her. Her confession to Paula about loving Josh was so wonderfully genuine, and it’s true that they really are so right for each other. While loving him was a major reason that she moved to West Covina, her speech about happiness was quite convincing and I think pretty rooted in truth.