Thursday, June 30, 2016

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2, Episode 7 “Kimmy Walks into a Bar” (B+)

I’m a fan of Anna Camp in pretty much anything she does, and it’s fun to see her here as Deirdre Robespierre, who really is the perfect match for Jacqueline. The fact that her reaction to Jacqueline accidentally planning a gala for the same night as her event was to be upset that she wasn’t fighting hard enough to be her nemesis was great, and just emphasized the ridiculous nature of this show. I love that the reason for the confusion was that Mimi tried to be all fancy and use the European way of writing the date, which then got flipped back the wrong way by Sting. I knew that I recognized Keith from somewhere, and I found plenty of credits for actor Sam Page, including recurring roles on “Mad Men” and “Desperate Housewives.” Kimmy getting pegged as military because of how she responds to situations based on her time in the bunker was interesting, and though I’m not sure I buy it, I did like Keith and I’d like to see if this relationship could go anywhere. Kimmy’s trick to amuse herself when people are blabbering was fun, and it certainly seemed to amuse Titus. His concern with Mike talking too much was made most hilarious by the complete silence that he experienced when the construction workers were sitting together and he definitely said “soup” instead of “sup.” Realizing that Mike feels like he can open up to someone for the first time was a nice progression in their relationship, which, against all odds, seems to be going pretty well.

Pilot Review: Wrecked

Wrecked (TBS)
Premiered June 14 at 10pm

Was someone asking for a parody of “Lost” more than five years after the show’s end that directly spoofs nearly every scene from its opening episode? I certainly wasn’t, and I’m a fan of the popular island-set thriller that had more than a few inconsistencies worth mocking over the course of its run. I would never have expected that this could actually be a series, mainly because it’s so tightly based on another show in a way that’s less than favorable. The jokes are moderately funny on occasion, but this is not the basis of a long-lasting and enjoyable series. I recognize Zach Cregger, who plays the aimless drug addict flight attendant, but couldn’t exactly place where I’ve seen him before - some brief research doesn’t help me much either. I do like Ginger Gonzaga, who was on “Togetherness” and in Tribeca hit “Dean,” and while this isn’t a superb role for her, she does a pretty good job. And then there’s the dependable Rhys Darby, who fills the apparent quota set by this show’s inspiration to represent the Oceania area and manages to be the show’s most entertaining element, chiming in that he literally can’t go because of his broken leg and offers regular humorous comments that elevate the show’s unsophisticated humor to mildly bearable. Though the actor was fun in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” he hasn’t had a great TV success since “Flight of the Conchords,” and this forgettable show surely is not going to be it.

How will it work as a series?Lost” ran for six seasons, so there’s plenty of fodder for all the comedy here. This show could go on forever, especially with installments half as long as the more serious hour-long episodes that serve as their basis. If audiences are enthralled now, there’s no reason they won’t laugh later when lamentable plotlines are parodied.
How long will it last? The ratings were fine and the reviews weren’t as bad as I might have expected, but I don’t see this being one of TBS’ long-running successes. It’s too early to tell, and two episodes was more than enough for me, so I’m sure I’ll read what ends up happening in a while.

Pilot grade: D

Take Three: Feed the Beast

Feed the Beast: Season 1, Episode 3 “Screw You, Randy” (C+)

I think I’m done with this show since it’s not showing any signs of improving and doesn’t seem to be headed in too interesting a direction. Most problematically, there’s absolutely no sense of subtlety. Every scene is articulated to such an excessive degree that absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. Tommy and Pilar’s near-romance, for instance, didn’t include too much conversation but they still managed to say everything they felt even if a good portion of it could have been left unsaid. That’s doubly true for the Tooth Fairy and his late father, who had no qualms about very loudly announcing the specifics of their extralegal exploits and telling his son just how stupid he was for not making the smart moves in business, namely allowing those who crossed him to live so that he could go around threatening to pull out their teeth. It seems foolhardy to think that there will be no implications for stealing $100,000 worth of wine from Tommy’s former employer, and Dion bringing an unstable member of Tommy’s support group with him on the job knowing nothing about him other than that he is shifty and reacts badly to surprises was not his brightest decision. The episode’s title is meant to indicate the new outlook that Tommy has on building up his business and his success, and it’s not a pretty sight, nor a terribly compelling one. This show could have been good and interesting, but it’s a pale imitation of other AMC series which it shamelessly tries to mimic with its musical cues and brooding storylines.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest (Penultimate Episode)

Person of Interest: Season 5, Episode 12 “.Exe” (B+)

It saddens me greatly that this is the second-to-last episode of this show, and it’s even worse that it’s ending while I’ve been very busy with work and haven’t had a chance to properly give it the attention it deserves. Rest assured – I will watch the finale undisturbed and give it my all, but I’ll admit that this review is being written at least a full week after I watched the episode. What I do remember is that it’s most powerful to see Finch embracing the machine as an all-seeing ally in the way that Root used to, working alongside it to move through impossible situations with ease and grace and even show up to save the day for Reese and Shaw, two heavyweights who tend to do that more often than the bespectacled engineer. Though they weren’t nearly as awesome as the simulations that the machine went through when Shaw got caught by Samaritan operatives last season, it was definitely compelling and eye-opening to see how each of the team members could have ended up, particularly Shaw as a conscienceless assassin and Root as a willing Samaritan proponent. Greer sacrificing his own life so that he could kill Finch was his downfall, as the machine was able to save Finch and help him to take that final step to bring down the system. I’m so excited to see where the final episode goes and how it ties up this show’s threads, and I’m definitely going to miss this show for a number of reasons.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pilot Review: Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom (TNT)
Premiered June 14 at 9pm

It’s possible that my standards for this show may have been a bit high considering my regard for the 2010 film on which it is based. The Australian crime thriller earned Jacki Weaver an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but it also boasted terrific turns from the likes of Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton, and Ben Mendelsohn, all of whom have increased their visibility in American cinema and television since then (Weaver has too, of course). Revisiting this premise is certainly appealing, but most of these first two hours are nearly identical to scenes from the film, as recalled by this viewer who saw it just once six years ago. There’s such an effort to mimic what was great about the movie that it can’t possibly do anything but disappoint. I understand that casting of Ellen Barkin in the Weaver role, but it does feel overdone. Shawn Hatosy, creepy as he is, doesn’t hold a candle to Mendelsohn in the original part, and this Pope feels far less layered. It’s possible this was true in the movie also, but the emphasis on this family as shaggy trailer trash seems unnecessary, and doesn’t add much to it, especially considering how Scott Speedman’s Baz is nothing like that with his styled hair and clean looks. This show absolutely wants to push the envelope, with J’s teacher telling him to call her by her first name after class while his girlfriend, who is without a doubt going to be corrupted by her new adoptive family, is just a feet few away. I want to like this show, but at this point I’m distinctly unimpressed with this imitation.

How will it work as a series? I don’t remember everything about the movie, but I think we’ve probably reached a point of divergence where new creative plotting can take over and head in a different direction. I’m somewhat curious about what lies ahead, but I can’t help but feel that it’s going to be forced and uninspired.
How long will it last? It’s hard to analyze cable ratings since the expectations and parameters just aren’t the same, but I think this show did pretty decently in its debut and successive airings. The reviews have been relatively solid, so I imagine that TNT is going to want to invest in this darker drama and see where it goes in the future.

Pilot grade: C+

Pilot Review: Uncle Buck

Uncle Buck (ABC)
Premiered June 14 at 9pm

I’ll say a few things about this show. The first is that I’m not at all familiar with the John Candy movie on which it’s based, but I do imagine that there was no one clamoring for this series to get made. This show represents a return to more traditional sitcoms based on oddball family members whose interactions with the rest of the clan are almost entirely ridiculous. I’m not too fond of that kind of show, and while I did laugh a few times, I just don’t have that much to say about it. Mike Epps seems to be having fun playing Buck, a character who managed to turn selling girl scout cookies into a drug trade and does his very best to go against every smart urge he has and do the opposite. James Lesure has tried his hand at a number of different TV gigs since “Las Vegas” ended, and something tells me this one, in which he contributes minimally, isn’t going to stick either. I liked Nia Long a lot on “House of Lies” a few years ago and I wish that she was doing something at least slightly more substantive than this show. I know I’m not the target audience for this show for a number of reasons, and I think I might have smiled once or twice over the course of the hour I spent watching this episode. I’m never going to get that hour back, however, which is a shame. I don’t have too much in the way of positivity to offer about this show.

How will it work as a series? It’s a typical sitcom, so there’s an infinite number of situations that could occur and pave the way for season after season of Uncle Buck. Having crafty kids who are more than able to get themselves into trouble helps too, though they’re not that endearing either, not enough to make me want to watch this show.
How long will it last? The first two episodes did fine, and the third installment fared less well on a not-too-crowded early summer night. Unsurprisingly poor reviews won’t help, but this show might be what ABC viewers are looking for given the other series it’s picked up in the past. I still think that this show won’t last too long, and I’d be shocked to see it on the air past this summer.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: Casual

Casual: Season 2, Episode 3 “Such Good Friends” (B+)

After she really embarrassed herself by trying to reconnect with an old friend and butting into her life, it’s fair that Valerie would tread a bit more carefully with her latest friend crush. She really is navigating it like dating, unsure about making too strong an impression and seeming needy. Meeting at the bar with Alex and the crew that he put together and then getting invited over to meet her crew was a fun moment, and it’s also nice to see that she’s coming on in such a lukewarm way that she’s not inundating Valerie with energy. Alex is in better shape than he was a few episodes ago, but he’s still not ready to let Snooger be turned into something that’s more manipulative than how he designed it to be. The notion of failing because their matches are too accurate and no one breaks up so that they can use the service again is crazy, and he’s right to recognize that. I am intrigued by Vincent Kartheiser’s character and his outlook, and I hope we’ll see him again. Alex had fun chipping away at the perfect lives of the parents in Laura’s new study group, and he nearly ruined the whole thing. Maybe this is exactly what Laura needs even if it’s filled with people who don’t like giving their kids too much positive affirmation for fear of warping their expectations and shaping their lives in an overly positive way. We’ll see how that progresses, since I can’t imagine it will last long in its current state.

Pilot Review: Braindead

Braindead (CBS)
Premiered June 13 at 9pm

A show about how alien bugs are eating the brains of members of Congress certainly stands apart from other series as creative and intriguing. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good, enticing idea, however. Opening with a title card about how, in 2016, everyone in politics seemed to be losing their minds, does make this feel highly relevant, but then you remember that, in real life, elected officials do act crazy and it’s not because bugs are chewing on or simply spitting out their brains. If this show feels and sounds a lot like “The Good Wife,” that’s because it is extremely similar and happens to also come from husband-and-wife creative team Robert and Michelle King. Their recently concluded Chicago-set law show engaged in regular parody but never reached this much of an unhinged point. There are some fun stars on this show, but I doubt they’ll put this at the top of their resume. I enjoyed Mary Elizabeth Winstead in two Sundance films from 2013, “A.C.O.D.” and “The Spectacular Now,” and she’s certainly great here, but I’d love to see her in a more solid project than this mediocre absurdist vehicle. Aaron Tveit, from the film version of “Les Miserables,” is performing at his best as political operator Gareth, but he’s also destined for much better things. It’s fun to see Tony Shalhoub in this role, and it’s no surprise that Zach Grenier, a recurring player on “The Good Wife,” was selected for his role here too. This show is moderately entertaining but nothing to write home about, and not something worthy of a second viewing in my opinion.

How will it work as a series? There aren’t many shows billed as comedy-thrillers, so this series definitely has a unique quality to it. That said, I think the first episode more than covers enough of the ridiculousness it wants to portray, and unless audiences are really laughing, there’s no reason to come back to see more of it play out.
How long will it last? I thought that this was initially supposed to just be an event series, but maybe I was wrong. The stark drop from a decent start in week one to poor numbers in week two suggests that it may only last a few episodes anyway, especially on the unforgiving CBS that I can’t imagine will fight hard for this far-out show.

Pilot grade: C-

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 2, Episode 9 “Hyena” (B)

There are times when this show seems to slow down and really invest in one possible reality, or in this case, the moment in which Jennifer Goines came into her own and led her own kind of rebellion. Choosing the hyena as the name for her merry band was very interesting, especially as later analyzed by the Pallid Man while he was being tortured for information about other primaries. While Jennifer does surround herself with legitimately mentally ill people, it’s clear that she’s come to a much better place, and that she could almost exist and survive normally in society. Reading Cole’s cues during their shouting match was the ultimate sign, and it’s a good thing that they managed to suppress the mutiny that nearly got them into trouble and cost them the Pallid Man as a valuable source. Ending the episode with the late Dr. Jones, the one who invented time travel and who we haven’t seen since the season one finale, was quite intriguing, and it’s constantly fascinating to see the emphasis on which a role someone will play in history is put. I do feel like this episode got off track a little bit, away from the impending destruction of time but also from a truly invigorating and exciting storyline. I think we need more action and some dynamic change that will enable our characters to continue traveling through time, preventing paradoxes and causing other unexpected effects on time as it continues to exist and be manipulated.

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 5, Episode 8 “Camp David” (B+)

It’s far from surprising that Selina would try to kill two birds she hates with one stone – spending time with her family and making nice to the Chinese. Marjorie being the perfect double from behind for Selina was used to great effect in this installment, as Selina’s new Eastern allies got very upset when they thought that the president was engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with her own daughter. Selina didn’t help matters at all by giving away the thoughtful gift from Catherine that she didn’t appreciate so that she could seem more gracious when the Chinese kept plying her with gift after gift. So much of the whole family dynamic is uncomfortable, but at least it’s good to see Catherine given some meager degree of personality, finally comfortable standing up for herself to her truly selfish and uncaring mother. I love that Mike picked up smoking after accidentally chewing nicotine gun and that, somehow, he’s now both having twins and getting a Chinese baby. Jonah’s win in New Hampshire was crazy after a last-minute concession, and he managed to show his adoring crowd that maybe he wasn’t the best choice for an elected position, choosing his victorious moment as the time to boast to those who used to mock him. I’m eager to see how his time as an elected official will go and what horrific actions and legislation we can expect from him in the final two episodes of this season. It’s definitely going to be entertaining.

Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Mayim Bialik, Julie Bowen, Anna Chlumsky, Gaby Hoffmann, Allison Janney, Jane Krakowski, Kate McKinnon, Niecy Nash

The competition: There were a staggering eight nominees last year, and every single one of them is eligible again this year. I feel like it’s somewhat arbitrary to pick who will be left out since I can’t imagine we’ll have eight nominees again, but I’m betting that, at the very least, Nash was a fluke. Bialik and Bowen may not be the smartest ones to cast aside, but that’s what I’m predicting. I think that Hoffman’s costar Judith Light (Transparent) will be included after being snubbed last year, and I’m not sure she has much competition. Past nominee Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) could show up again, but I doubt it, and awards favorite Dianne Wiest (Life in Pieces) could be nominated too. And it’s always possible that Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness) could score a nomination even though she’s improperly categorized here.

The predicted nominees: Anna Chlumsky, Gaby Hoffmann, Allison Janney, Jane Krakowski, Judith Light, Kate McKinnon

The predicted winner: Light

Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Andre Braugher, Tituss Burgess, Ty Burrell, Adam Driver, Tony Hale, Keagan Michael-Key

The competition: All six of last year’s nominees are in the running again. I don’t think the lineup will change too much, though Michael-Key is definitely the most vulnerable. My prediction is that Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) will benefit from positive Broadway buzz and return to the race again, and costars Ed O’Neill (Modern Family) and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) could also be back too. Louie Anderson (Baskets) seems to be high on a lot of people’s prediction lists, but I don’t think it will happen. They could have been nominated last year, but maybe this is when Laurence Fishburne (Black-ish) and Jaime Camil (Jane the Virgin) will sneak into the race. Or is there someone else altogether that we’re underestimating?

The predicted nominees: Andre Braugher, Tituss Burgess, Ty Burrell, Adam Driver, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Tony Hale

The predicted winner: Hale

Monday, June 27, 2016

Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Uzo Aduba, Christine Baranski, Emilia Clarke, Joanne Froggatt, Lena Headey, Christina Hendricks

The competition: Count out Hendricks, whose show ended, and the simplest solution is to sub back in Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), who was snubbed last year for the first time and shouldn’t have any trouble re-securing her place for the final season of her show. The likeliest to displace any of the probable nominees are Maggie Siff (Billions), now on an Emmy-bait show, and Cush Jumbo (The Good Wife), a popular addition to a proven Emmy favorite. I would be ecstatic if Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul) made the cut. The other three major threats, all of whom will have no support from their shows, are Regina King (The Leftovers), Constance Zimmer (UnReal), and Edie Falco (Horace and Pete).

The predicted nominees: Uzo Aduba, Christine Baranski, Emilia Clarke, Joanne Froggatt, Lena Headey, Maggie Smith

The predicted winner: Aduba

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Jonathan Banks, Jim Carter, Alan Cumming, Peter Dinklage, Michael Kelly, Ben Mendelsohn

The competition: One of last year’s nominees, Mendelsohn, won’t be back. It’s likely that both Carter and Cumming will benefit from it being the final year of their shows, and I expect that both Banks and Dinklage will surely be back. Kelly is more of a question mark, but he’s likely too. The easy choice for the sixth spot is Golden Globe winner Christian Slater (Mr. Robot). Other possibilities include past nominee Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) and a whole slew of other contenders like Michael McKean (Better Call Saul), Tobias Menzies (Outlander), Jussie Smollett (Empire), and freshman possibilities Ray Romano (Vinyl) and Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle). I’m sure there are also one or two contenders I’m not even thinking of since this category tends to turn over a lot.

The predicted nominees: Jonathan Banks, Jim Carter, Alan Cumming, Peter Dinklage, Michael Kelly, Christian Slater

The predicted winner: Slater

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Edie Falco, Lisa Kudrow, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Lily Tomlin

The competition: Look for change in this category, since three of the nominees – Falco, Kudrow, and Poehler – won’t be back since their shows are over. It’s a good bet that the other three will return, and it’s just a question of who will join them. Their shows air on the CW, but I’m going to predict that both Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) will show up despite historical snubs for the network. She was shut out last year while every other aspect of her show got recognized, and so it’s a good bet that Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) will get nominated this year. Other possibilities include past nominees Lena Dunham (Girls) and Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly), as well as potential first-timers like Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) and Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), and three contenders I’d be thrilled to see, Michaela Watkins (Casual) and Aya Cash (You’re the Worst).

The predicted nominees: Rachel Bloom, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ellie Kemper, Gina Rodriguez, Amy Schumer, Lily Tomlin

The predicted winner: Louis-Dreyfus

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Anthony Anderson, Louis C.K., Don Cheadle, Will Forte, Matt LeBlanc, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Tambor

The competition: There were seven nominees last year, and two – C.K. and won’t be back for sure since their series, not yet cancelled, didn’t air last season. I suspect the rest will be back, although it’s far from guaranteed for anyone except Tambor. The two top contenders to score slot number six are Aziz Ansari (Master of None) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle), and it’s also possible that two Golden Globe nominees whose shows have since been cancelled, Rob Lowe (The Grinder) and Patrick Stewart (Blunt Talk), could squeeze in. Zach Galifianakis (Baskets) is a contender, as Rob Delaney (Catastrophe) could be, as well a near-nominee who has been on the cusp of a nomination for two years now, Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), and past nominee Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory).

The predicted nominees: Anthony Anderson, Aziz Ansari, Don Cheadle, Will Forte, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Tambor

The predicted winner: Tambor

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Claire Danes, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Tatiana Maslany, Elisabeth Moss, Robin Wright

The competition: Just one of the six nominees from last year can’t return, and that’s Moss, whose show has ended. The easiest thing to do would be to sub back in Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), who has been nominated four times and won twice in the past six years, for the final season of her show. I’m most worried about Maslany coming back just because I feel that it would be too great for her to actually be honored for so many amazing performances, but I’m predicting that she will be back for the show’s fourth season. I don’t think either of the two new Golden Globe additions, Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) and Eva Green (Penny Dreadful), will pose too much of a threat, but it’s possible. Don’t count out past nominees like Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) or Kerry Washington (Scandal), as well as never-nominated Keri Russell (The Americans). It’s way too much to hope for that Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) could actually become an Emmy nominee, but I would be so overjoyed, especially if Maslany gets nominated too.

The predicted nominees: Claire Danes, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Julianna Margulies, Tatiana Maslany, Robin Wright

The predicted winner: Margulies

Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 14th. As always, chime in below in the comments with any thoughts of your own.

Last year’s nominees: Kyle Chandler, Jeff Daniels, Jon Hamm, Bob Odenkirk, Liev Schreiber, Kevin Spacey

The competition: Count out two of last year’s nominees, including the winner, since their shows have gone off the air: Daniels and Hamm. Of the remaining four, I think only two are strong contenders to come back: Odenkirk and Spacey, whose shows are still popular and well-regarded. While I think that he completely deserves it, I’m not sure that Schreiber will manage to return for nomination number two. I’m equally dubious about Chandler, who was here with costar Ben Mendelsohn last year for season one of his new Netflix drama. I expect that both Golden Globe additions, Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) and Wagner Moura (Narcos), may join the list, though the latter isn’t a lock despite being truly excellent on the Spanish-language streaming show. Looking at experts’ predictions, no one chose both Damian Lewis (Billions) and Paul Giamatti (Billions), both of whom are past Emmy winners, but many chose one or the other. I think both will make the cut. Bobby Cannavale (Vinyl) is the other new contender who may end up with a nomination, especially considering he took home an Emmy for his last HBO role on “Boardwalk Empire.” Other possibilities include Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), a past nominee, and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) or Terrence Howard (Empire), who could finally score their first nominations after being ignored in the past.

The predicted nominees: Bobby Cannavale, Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Rami Malek, Bob Odenkirk, Kevin Spacey

The predicted winner: Malek

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 3, Episode 8 “Bachman’s Earning’s Over-ride” (B+)

It’s a wonder that Erlich managed to keep his secret as long as he did, since Richard would have given it away immediately and Erlich’s ego usually leads to much boasting. I like the way that it all played out, with Richard initially suspecting Monica and then quickly getting to the root of the truth which is that it was his supposed best friend and Pied Piper stockholder who had to sell his shares to get back to a point of financial solvency. The people who interview for jobs at Pied Piper really are full of themselves, and this latest candidate was quite eager to exploit what he thought he knew about the company to his advantage. Laurie was blunt with him about what happened, and it was interesting to see Richard start to feel bad that Erlich pretty much ended up getting nothing. Appointing him Director of PR after he bared his humiliation and fell on his sword publicly was a smart move, though Erlich didn’t waste any time declaring himself Chief Evangelism Officer, which is sure to be confusing. I enjoyed the brief interaction we saw between Gavin and Jack, who were nearly friends but then agreed just to play games via their excessive internet while in the air on separate private jets to the same destination. Gavin getting fired has been a long time coming, and I hope he’ll continue to be part of the story in some way since he really is a unique and unforgettable character.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 8 “No One” (B+)

This show always catches me off guard with its short ten-episode seasons, but each installment is so packed with content that I guess it’s actually much more substantial than a lot of other series. It’s intriguing to see the different attitudes towards Tomman’s newfound submission to the faith espoused by Cersei and by Olenna. The latter was happy to celebrate that the one positive of this awful situation was that Cersei suffered and lost while the former was not content to let things sit as they are. She has an enormous uphill battle now that trial by combat has been outlawed for what it is, a way for the rich to skate by and be absolved of their misdeeds. Jaime is off conquering another kingdom, and it’s great to see him reunited with Brienne and pausing to think about whether he should be a good person or not. Their relationship is one of the most complex and terrific on this show, and it was fun to see them meet again. Tyrion did a marvelous job getting Missandei and Grey Worm to drink and tell jokes, and it seemed like it had all been interrupted by an attack until Daenerys walked in triumphant. Arya’s fate seemed bleak, but training to take out the woman she could never beat with skills she had inherited from being blinded was extremely cunning. Declaring her name and her intention to return home was a fantastic moment, and I’m excited to see where she goes next.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

What I’m Watching: House of Lies (Series Finale)

House of Lies: Season 5, Episode 10 “No es Facil”

I don’t think this episode was intended to be a series finale. This show was officially reported as cancelled with just four episodes to go about a month ago, and it seems to me that the writers might have been planning on having this show go on for a while more even though this historic trip to Cuba was exactly the kind of event fitting for a series finale. It’s great that Marty and Jeannie got married, even if the proposal was hardly romantic. And good for them for realizing that they could screw over both Monica and Skip by leaking false information via the platform they knew already that Monica had hacked, and for doing it even when they didn’t get anything out of it other than the satisfaction that their opponents hadn’t won. What didn’t impress me as much was how disjointed this episode felt, with all the “earlier” and “later” cue cards designed to help – or, more accurately, prevent – the audience from piecing together what was going on. It just seems like there wasn’t time for any of that, and it made enjoying the episode less possible. Ending with a dance sequence worthy of “Slumdog Millionaire” which showed the entire cast and crew – the “House of Lies” hat one of them was wearing was a helpful tip – dancing and celebrating the filming of this episode in Cuba was fun, and it shows that ultimately the pod found something in Cuba that they couldn’t find anywhere in America. I’m not sure exactly what that says other than that some things are more important than money. In that sense, this wasn’t a superb finale, a less enthusiastic ending note for an otherwise strong season. Nothing compares to this show’s first season, but it’s been an extravagant foul-mouthed wild ride that I won’t soon forget.

Series finale: B-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Don Cheadle as Marty
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Kristen Bell as Jeannie
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: “Family Values

What I’m Watching: Hell on Wheels (Mid-Season Premiere)

Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Episode 8 “Two Soldiers” (C+)

I would have missed the mid-season premiere of this show entirely if I hadn’t happened to see an ad. I don’t usually check Saturday listings since so few shows air then, and I had honestly forgotten that this show was still airing. This second half of the fifth season should really be considered its own standalone sixth cycle, and I certainly hope that the remaining episodes are more engaging than this one. While the quality of this episode may not have been all that bad, its pacing was torturous. I don’t really understand why it was so necessary, since Cullen had two opportunities to kill the Swede and opted not to take either of them and instead to nearly lose a leg and almost his life transporting him back to face justice, which of course meant execution. Cullen has been transformed from someone who had questionable views on ethics and their importance to someone who holds them dear and needs to see them upheld by others. However boring and pointless this episode may have been, there’s no denying its strong stylization of the Civil War-era western, best illustrated by Naomi’s lonely run for her life and the flashbacks to the Swede’s experiences as a soldier. I’m not sure what the point of all it was, however, if the Swede was just going to die in the end anyway, since it nearly happened so many times before and now is a closed-loop plotline. I recognized Jeff Fahey from “Lost” as the man who patched Cullen up in a quiet but memorable role.

What I’m Watching: Daredevil

Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 3 “New York’s Finest” (B+)

This was a cool episode, though it certainly did feel like it lasted forever just like the last hour. What was really interesting about this episode is that it permitted us an audience with the killer we’ve just seen and barely heard up until now. Matt waking up chained up by the Punisher was not a promising start, but our new villain was feeling very chatty and more than happy to spell out his reasons for doing what he does. Not taking off Matt’s mask made some sense since he really doesn’t care who he is, and his continued reference to him as Red made the conversation seem much more casual than it should have been. Arguing that they do the same thing but Matt doesn’t go far enough was certainly thought-provoking, and the notion of the two of them talking is still what’s most involving for me. Matt bursting out of his chains made for quite the finale, and his beating of the bikers the Punisher incited was quite brutal, something that I’m sure the Punisher will celebrate. Foggy did a spectacular job breaking up the fight in the hospital, showing his lawyer skills at their very best and earning him some credit from an overworked and stressed Claire. Karen is making some progress fighting the close-minded and apparently corrupt D.A. and she now seems to have found something very useful that indicates that there is something seriously wrong with the Punisher that could explain his penchant for killing.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 4, Episode 3 “Chapter 42” (B)

This was an involving episode, to be sure, but there’s a sense of this show overextending its sense of theatrics. Claire trying to undercut Frank in the same way that he did so publicly on television to her is no surprise, and getting someone to fund a highly-placed billboard that would do plenty of damage to her husband was a very smart way to do it, especially when it showed Frank’s father meeting with a member of the Ku Klux Klan just after he gave a stirring speech at a black church. Suspecting Meechum was an unnecessary step since he’s always been loyal and knows much more about Frank that would have been extremely damaging to his election chances. Imagining choking Claire and drinking blood from the tap showed how angry he was from the start, and he exploded once he realized that she was the one who tried to screw him over. Claire freely admitting it was bold, and he responded cruelly to her ambitious request to be his running mate with a harsh and truly unkind statement of contempt. Revealing that he kept the damning photo of his father because he was proud of him was enlightening, but also shows his capacity for self-destruction. Lucas made a big resurgence as a car salesman, but he didn’t stay out of trouble for long, going straight to Dunbar. She really seemed not to be interested, but I think her curiosity and her desire to take Frank down will lead to Lucas coming back in a big and important way.

Friday, June 17, 2016

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones (Season Finale)

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 13 “AKA Smile” (B+)

I’d say there’s something simplistic about this finale, but it’s only that the entire season leading up to now was just so incredibly excellent that this capper couldn’t even come close to being the best part. It was certainly great, don’t get me wrong, and in many ways this conclusion of the arc is the most fitting one possible. Not being able to control Jessica tore Kilgrave apart, to the point that he was rehearsing his comedy routine to see how many people he could influence and how far that control could reach. The bigger and most significant gain was that Jessica figured out a way to help others resist his control, snapping Trish out of his sway by uttering the words “I love you” and that coldly snapping his neck. It’s almost too easy a finale, but Jessica getting questioned by the police for murder did complicate it. Analyzing Luke as the first person she pictured a future with and also the first person she shot in the head was an interesting process, and he really did take a while to come back from the injuries that would have killed anyone with weaker skin. This show is obviously gearing up for its Marvel Netflix crossover, with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple from “Daredevil” playing a big role in the episode and Michelle Huird’s D.A. Katrina Reyes, who just made her first appearance on “Daredevil” where I am in that show’s second season, also showing up. I’m eager to see more of Jessica and Trish and anyone else who’s still alive anywhere I can, and I can’t wait for season two of this truly superb, dark, powerful show.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Krysten Ritter as Jessica

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Mitigation of Competition” (B+)

Now this is what the penultimate episode of a season is supposed to feel like. The lines were drawn between the clones and Evie, though there was plenty else going on in this hour. It did appear for a while that Rachel was planning something nefarious that proved that she wasn’t actually one of the good guys, but that was just the cleverness of the writing and direction in this episode. Ira revealing that Rachel was recording her conversation with Evie in which she freely admitted to engineering birth defects and euthanizing the results was great, and that led to a superb closing scene of the episode that allowed for a far more public display of victory than this show usually permits. Felix’s relationship with his newfound sister went downhill fast after she realized that he was lying to her about the triplets. Helena’s bad timing at Felix’s was well made up for by her showing up in the nick of time to save Allison. Poor Donnie, who is this show’s punching bag, and it only took a few hours of him getting released from prison to find himself in mortal danger once again. The last frame of the episode couldn’t have been more exciting, with a shot of Delphine to get us pumped for a season finale that’s sure to be memorable. This show has yet to be renewed for a fifth season but I think we more than deserve it. Evie is out of the picture but our clones are far from done with their battle to stay alive and find a cure.

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Chicken” (B+)

After Grace tried and failed to rekindle an old romance in the last episode, it’s fun to see Frankie try not to jump back into the dating pool and see if things could work with Jacob. There was more than enough sexual tension there already with her using his yams to make her lube, and inviting her over for an eleven-course vegetable meal definitely constituted a date. After consulting her friends, played by Mary Kay Place and Joe Morton, it was very entertaining to see her interrupt her own rant by planting a kiss on Jacob much to his delight. He’s fine with a slow progression of the relationship, so that should prove enjoyable for the next however many episodes. Grace has been severely in need of something to do, and mentoring someone to be successful like she was is just the kind of volunteer work that’s perfect for her. Billie was hardly the right first protégé for her, but she did manage to connect with her on a great level when she tried her delicious martini and learned a thing or two from the young woman who was supposed to be her mentee. Robert has been trying to avoid Sol’s watchful eye by getting him out of the house for lunch and seasoning his chicken with lots of salt and too much butter, but who would have suspected that it was all to prepare a romantic Shabbat dinner for his Jewish husband? Sol letting his guilt get the best of him at that moment probably wasn’t smart, especially considering Robert’s reaction. This fight is going to reverberate back to their wives and certainly to their children, and the tension is sure to be extremely awkward for a while.

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2, Episode 6 “Kimmy Drives a Car!” (B+)

The Reverend may have been the number one villain on this show in season one, but he doesn’t hold a candle to gentrification, which has been threatening Lillian and the neighborhood for quite some time now. The transforming of the cape shop into a vape shop is representative of much more than just one changed letter, and we got a window into what Lillian was like back when Roland, played by Kenan Thompson, was still around. Kimmy’s accidental discovery of the “wiffy” led to Titus’ decision to go sleep in the scary library and put the apartment on AirBNB, a decision that had much more serious implications than he had expected. Sue and Bob, played by real-life couple Zosia Mamet and Evan Jonigkeit, were not naïve Texans but exactly what both Lillian and Titus feared. Titus donning a disguise to make it seem like there was a secret room in the back that meant that Sue and Bob had missed their chance was brilliant, and of course there was a line out the door soon after for the opportunity to experience this nonexistent secret room. Kimmy standing up to Jacqueline after she felt mistreated as a friend was nice to see, and her unintentional Uber career was a great idea. I guess a learner’s permit lets you do plenty, especially if your Uber passengers are over twenty-five and have a license. Borrowing Jacqueline’s car whenever she’s not with her is a perfect compromise, and I’m sure her clients will provide some added wackiness.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Round Two: Cleverman

Cleverman: Season 1, Episode 2 “Containment” (B)

Like another new cable show, “Feed the Beast,” I’m still making up my mind about whether or not I’m going to become invested in watching this new summer series. In its second episode, this show proves that it is unapologetically brutal and disturbing, not content to portray any of its characters in a way that doesn’t demonstrate their capacity for evil. Pairing public debates on national television between voices of government and the representatives of the Hairypeople with forced shavings of prisoners being called “rug” and “monkey” is extremely difficult to watch, and the modern setting only adds to its unsettling nature since it feels like it could be happening in the present day. It’s the way people treat each other that’s more upsetting than the vicious mystery murders. The execution of all but the female volunteer was also shocking, and shows that this zoning goes far beyond segregation. Having one character compare her experience being persecuted as a Jew to what the Hairypeople are going through was intriguing and caught me off guard. The notion of the Cleverman adds a considerable supernatural element to all the political allegory, and I think it’s working okay even though it’s not my favorite part of the show. The cool dramatic music towards the end as Koen rushed towards the woman who was calling out for him worked well, and the revelation that it was a dead body and not a live victim only made it more interesting. I’m up for a third round – let’s see how it goes.

Round Two: Feed the Beast

Feed the Beast: Season 1, Episode 2 “Father of the Year” (B-)

I’m still deciding how I feel about this show. What continues to hold me back from becoming truly invested in it is the unfortunate manner in which villains are portrayed. That the Tooth Fairy acknowledges his nickname, carries around a pair of pliers, and intimidates people by giving them money for their next dental procedures is hard to get around, and I just don’t understand how he’s supposed to be taken seriously. I’m equally unimpressed with Detective Giardano’s chosen method of persuasion, and he’s supposed to pose just as much of a threat to Dion’s livelihood save for the fact that he’s not threatening to kill Tommy and TJ. Ultimately, it’s Dion who is putting them in danger, especially since he’s going to go ahead with the contract now that the Tooth Fairy has reviewed it despite Tommy’s objections. Aidan agreed to give them the money but did it in the harshest and most awful way possible, demanding time with the grandson he hadn’t bothered to get to know while Rie was alive and was content to take blame for hitting him even though he didn’t actually lay a finger on him. This show is all about daddy issues, as every single character, including the lawyer who wants nothing to do with Dion anywhere because her father is a character we already know, has an extraordinarily complicated relationship with their patriarch. As it happens, TJ is the best character on this show, building friendships with a graffiti artist at school and fill-in parent Dion without saying a word.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 5, Episode 11 “Synecdoche” (B+)

On any other show, I wouldn’t categorize the main characters having to save the president as irrelevant, to use a loaded word. Though it was such a grand task, I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t the best use of time within the span of the final three episodes of this show. Unsurprisingly, this episode managed to come through in a way that was better than I could ever have hoped. I’ll confess that I only remember one of the three numbers who appeared in this episode, though I did recognize Jimmi Simpson from his many other antiestablishment roles, like on “House of Cards” and “Virtuality.” What’s infinitely more fantastic than the notion of being tasked with saving the president is the idea that there are other people out there who are being sent numbers by the machine explicitly because they benefited from being numbers and being saved. Fusco said it well – “You guys do what we do? How many more of us do you think there are?” Reese and Shaw always made a good team, and I think he’s sufficiently shown that she’s not in a simulation anymore. Saying goodbye to Root at her funeral was very lonely, and it was haunting to hear her voice just seconds later as the machine spoke to Finch. Noting that she knew Root best rang true, and Finch settling on her voice as a continued and meaningful comfort felt right. When Samaritan has decided that the life of the president is no longer relevant, it’s a good thing that there are many people fighting on the right side. Bring on the last two episodes! I can’t wait.

What I’m Watching: Casual (Season Premiere)

Casual: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 1 “Phase 3” and “Trivial Pursuit” (B+)

I’m not crazy – this show did come back a lot sooner than more other series do, airing its first season from October to December and then starting its second season at the very beginning of this summer. I couldn’t be happier, since a look back at all the television from last season and I believe this may have been the best comedy (check out the AFT Awards next month!). This double-episode premiere picks up at a troubling point for its characters, namely for Tommy, who was acting suicidal after he broke things off with Emmy, and Laura, who has decided that she doesn’t want to go back to school after all the drama with her teacher. I like that Valerie went to Leon for help getting Tommy back on the right track, and that he had already come by to throw out all of Leon’s food and force him to adopt the same healthy lifestyle that he was trying. Leon managed to succeed slightly by using his own separation as a motivator for Tommy, but the soon-to-be-bought-out coder had a different distraction in mind. His absurd list of electives for an unamused Laura was very funny, and I’m glad that, within the span of the second episode, she found a tolerable alternative that will make this home-schooling thing work. Valerie showing up to her old friend’s new friend’s birthday dinner was horrifically awkward and uncomfortable, and I’m glad that she had a therapeutic moment with Drew to balance out her ill-advised attempt to disagree about parenting. Maybe Katie Aselton’s Jennifer can be a real new friend, though given her influence on “Togetherness,” I’m concerned for Valerie’s wellbeing. I look forward to enjoying this show throughout the summer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 2, Episode 8 “Lullaby” (B+)

I liked this episode a lot. The destroying time stuff has proven confusing to say the least, and I think this episode did a really solid job of exploring the repeating-day storyline, certainly leagues better than “Edge of Tomorrow.” Jones sending Cassie back to 2020 to kill her younger self so that time travel could never be created was a formidable start, and I like that, after she pulled the trigger the first time, she returned to that original moment and found Cole there with her. The best part was running into an overly excited Jennifer, who was thrilled to see them and ready to spew plenty of riddles about what was going on. I liked seeing Aaron Stanford’s former “Nikita” costar Xander Berkeley as Colonel Foster in what might be the most patient guest spot ever, stating almost the same lines over and over again. The notion that saving someone instead of killing someone is what puts time back on the right path is great, and I like that Cole was able to ask Jones before he got them all executed by firing squad to make sure that she was okay with being reunited with her daughter twenty-five years later. That was a cool reveal, and I think it’s great that the timeline rebuilds itself around its characters in that way. Now, let’s get back to less coherent business like Ramse and Cassie going after the witness in some strange place to finally kill him and reset things back to an easily solvable problem like a highly contagious virus.

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 5, Episode 7 “Congressional Ball” (B+)

It’s always some unseasonal holiday on this show, first with Thanksgiving and now with Christmas, and all that means here is that Selina is going to be especially awful in her attempts to achieve some political aim. She’s still fighting for the presidency, and it seems that, thanks to their secret meeting, her number one competitor is not O’Brien but Tom, who is lobbying congressmen to abstain from the vote so that he can become the pick instead. I enjoyed Selina’s many meetings with Stephnie Weir’s Congresswoman Nickerson, who was all about the free stuff and then was ready to play ball when Selina stopped being nice and came out with her typical vile threats. The 50 Hottest D.C. Staffers list was a fun distraction, particularly with Gary Welsh’s name being misspelled and our Gary accidentally ending up on it, while Dan also placed but seemed totally unfazed by it. I noticed both mistakes that Jonah made, the first of which was to identify Brattleboro as being in New Hampshire rather than Vermont, and the second of which was the star placed in his first name on his campaign posters. Teddy’s return was poorly-timed for their momentum, especially since Richard managed to once again turn the camera off instead of on, leaving the only version one that made Jonah seem like a truly terrible person. I wonder how many more enemies will come to try to take Jonah down, since somehow he still manages to be popular despite his many missteps and idiocies.

Pilot Review: Feed the Beast

Feed the Beast (AMC)
Premiered June 5 at 10pm

This show is the latest series that I’ve seen advertised nearly everywhere across New York City on billboards. I had very little idea what it was about aside from two guys opening up a restaurant, but wherever I first looked it up didn’t immediately point me to its two stars being Jim Sturgess and David Schwimmer. I couldn’t think of a stranger pair. Strugess is a British actor known for “Across the Universe,” “21,” “The Way Back,” “One Day,” and others. I suppose his recent role in “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken” is his best qualifier to play a criminal type, though I think that nice guy Dion has much purer intentions than his money-seeking abductor in the so-so film from last year. Schwimmer spent ten years on “Friends,” and the only time that he reappeared since then was in a well-received role on season one of “American Crime Story” playing Robert Kardashian. Putting the two of them together does feel weird, and they’re obviously from different worlds, though the drive-by shooting of Tommy’s wife connects them both to the gangster business. The opening credits were appealing with a dinner table appearing in a subway car and all across the city, and I’m definitely down for some appetizing storylines. What doesn’t get me is a villain named the Tooth Fairy who celebrates his moniker by carrying around a pair of pliers to inspire fear in those he meets. I haven’t made my mind up about this show just yet, but with another installment aired just two days after this, I’m up for another look.

How will it work as a series? The Tooth Fairy made it very clear that he is going to kill Tommy and T.J. if Dion’s restaurant idea doesn’t take off and enable Dion to make enough money to pay him back. The biggest problem is that it is sure to take a while to get it off the ground, but some creatively time representation could help get this show off the ground and to enticing action soon.
How long will it last? I think this is going to be one of the few AMC shows not to take off as a hit. Both the reviews and the ratings for “Preacher” were far better than they were for this premiere, and I think that’s going to spell a short future for this show. We’ll see how it improves over the next few episodes, but I predict one season will be it for this one.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 3, Episode 7 “To Build a Better Beta” (B+)

It’s fair to assume that, in its beta launch, Pied Piper would experience more than a few small problems. It turns out, however, that things are looking pretty good, that is, to everyone except for Monica, who has always played an interesting role on this show as a somewhat personality-free personal advocate for Richard. Her not liking the beta was important to a degree, but fortunately she gave Richard strong advice, which was to ignore her and to instead emphasize the plethora of positive reviews the beta had received. The other big issue was that Gavin’s overambitious head of security figured out a way to get his hands on a copy of the beta thanks to the preexisting e-mail surveillance Gavin was already running. Richard and Gilfoyle were smart to decide to mess with Gavin, who made the twin mistakes of opening the stolen beta on his personal laptop and phone and not recognizing the engineers he had rehired after firing them following multi-year tenures. The difficulty that everyone except for Jared had coming up with ten friends was funny, and naturally the conclusion that Jared spoke much to Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s chagrin was that they are indeed each other’s best friends. Erlich selling his shares of Pied Piper as the only way to come back from a fate worse than bankruptcy was a bittersweet development as Pied Piper took its next step without him officially on board. That’s what you get when you opt just to pay fines for not serving jury duty rather than just doing the right thing, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 7 “The Broken Man” (B+)

I had read a while ago that Ian McShane, who knows how to chew scenery better than most, was making his return to television after his famed role on “Deadwood,” his brief stint on the short-lived “Kings,” and his season-long role on “Ray Donovan.” It doesn’t really matter who he was going to play – he’s another fine actor who has been given a terrific part on this show. Introducing him in the same scene that shows us that the Hound didn’t die and is still alive, permanently trying to atone for his sons, was very effective, and it’s great to see this new dimension added to the plot. This episode was all about people marching off to war, making a renewed push to ally with another army in the quest for the throne. Davos proved the strongest advocate in his camp to Jon and Sansa’s young cousin, and he’s quickly becoming one of this show’s most valuable players. It’s great to see Yara giving Theon one hell of a pep talk, helping to rescue this character from the horrors he endured and making him back into a man again. It did appear that Margaery had fallen under the Sparrow’s spell, and it’s a relief that she chose to warn her grandmother to leave and was able to subtly communicate that she was in fact in control of her senses. Arya booked quite the passage for herself, and it’s a shame that she got stabbed during a last look at what she was leaving behind. Though she’s not in good shape, she did manage to escape, and I can’t imagine that this Stark is going to go down that easily.

What I’m Watching: House of Lies (Penultimate Episode)

House of Lies: Season 5, Episode 9 “Violent Agreement” (B+)

This is just about it, with just one more episode in this series’ five-season run, which feels like a long time even though it’s not nearly as long as some other shows get to stay on the air. I feel like this show and its characters are constantly in a state of trying to aspire to more, looking for ways to pump in the afterwork even though they have more than enough clients and more than enough money. All this talk of a buyout has them looking at their future slightly differently, but some of that comes with a rude awakening, like the news that Clyde was never in the running to go to the next level with Seth since he has no political experience. Doug is far too hapless to function on his own, and his downloading of spyware that enabled Monica to steal all their ideas is just one of the many reasons for that. As this show has shown us over the years, Marty isn’t one to give up even after he’s lost, hence his decision to have the pod fly down to Cuba of all places to make their last great stand and show that they are the ones to take the Kohl brothers into this revolutionary new market. I have no doubt that the series finale will be extremely memorable, and I think that this show has had a good, solid run, starting out with a great first season, ebbing and flowing a bit after that, and returning to a relatively consistent state of entertainment that does make for great TV.

What I’m Watching: Daredevil

Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 2 “Dogs to a Gunfight” (B)

I’ll be honest – I didn’t remember a thing about what happened in this show’s season premiere. This installment helped to firm things up by dwelling on the intense and frightening new villain who was only named halfway through the episode. I think that Jon Bernthal, who played Shane on “The Walking Dead,” is a great choice to play the Punisher, who barely appeared or even spoke in this hour other than to decide that he needed to take out the trash when a clerk trying to sell him child pornography. Foggy did a fine job standing up to the district attorney to protect their client, but there wasn’t much hope of saving him from the start. What was most interesting about this lengthy, relatively slow episode was the way that Karen responded to the reports of what the Punisher was doing. Calling him inevitable was particularly powerful, and saying that he could be any one of them was haunting and true. Matt knows that Daredevil isn’t bad, but the way that his vigilantism was applauded did frame the notion of justice in a problematic way for villains to misuse. The knowledge that one man can take on so many police officers with no problem is not good, and the fact that Matt seems to be losing his other senses is very bad news. I’m intrigued to see where this show goes in this season, though the pacing does need to pick up a bit to keep me truly interested.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 4, Episode 2 “Chapter 41” (B+)

Now that I’m finally caught up with the rest of my regularly-airing television and there isn’t much airing during this early summer season, it’s time to go back and watch the fourth season of this show in anticipation of its potential Emmy nominations and maybe even some AFT Awards love as well. I remembered how much the premiere pit Claire against Frank in her efforts to distance herself from a husband she couldn’t publicly divorce since they had made a deal that she could have what she wanted if she just stuck by him for a little bit longer. It turns out it’s the worst mistake she could have made, since trying to do an end run around him led to him announcing in his State of the Union address that Celia was going to run for Doris’ open seat and that both he and Claire would eagerly support her. Frank lecturing her about how she should have come to him was best highlighted by his assertion that he couldn’t force her to see reason but that he also wouldn’t allow her to become dangerous. The photos being taken of Jackie and Remy are bad news too, and as usual it’s Frank trying to clean up anything that could be remotely damaging to him before it becomes a problem. Claire has more than a handful in her mother, who seems very spiteful for the way that her daughter treated her and now deigns to ask for money. Neve Campbell’s Leann seems like she’s going to play an increasingly important role in this season, and I’m intrigued. Things with Russia don’t seem to be great, and Frank is all too willing to let an asylum-seeker be killed.

Monday, June 13, 2016

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 1, Episode 12 “AKA Take a Bloody Number” (B+)

I never meant to spend so much time away from this show, but I was just two episodes away from the end of its first season when I went on my honeymoon and I hadn’t yet a chance to finish watching it. I hadn’t forgotten how terrific this show, easily one of the best of the season, was, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to get back to it now. Jessica’s efforts to be specific with Luke about exactly what Kilgrave told him to do seemed excessive but it was crucial, and as it tragically turned out, Kilgrave knew much more about Luke than they thought he did, and therefore his invincibility was far from a secret. Luke and Jessica did make a great team, and it’s a shame that this episode ended on such a brutal and heartbreaking note with Luke seemingly felled by a bullet from Jessica’s gun as he refused to stop trying to kill her. Kilgrave has cast aside any hope of being a hero, returning to making innocent people kill themselves with garden shears and frightening his father into staying awake by having him stick his hand halfway down a blender. It’s good to see the side plotlines progressing forward as well, with Malcolm comforting Robyn and helping her get to as good a place as possible about her brother’s death and Trish being courted by her mother for a relationship with the promise of more information about Jessica’s past. This show was renewed for a second season long ago, and I’m sure the finale will be fascinating and intense, with plenty more ground to cover after that.

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black

Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Redesign of Natural Objects” (B+)

There is a certain darkness to this show, but it’s not one that would allow a nice guy like Donnie to be shived in a prison after being arrested and held for less than a weekend. Fortunately, he kept things pretty comical, and the call to get the dogs off his back came in before any irreversible damage was done. Leave it to this show to pair his torment in prison with Allison performing “Jesus Christ Superstar” to an adoring audience led by Felix. His sister Adele proved to be a productive if truly untraditional lawyer, and it’s good to see his newfound family providing some perks. Mrs. S seemed like she was going rogue, and I’d say that executing Duko even after he helped them and then said his family had been threatened qualifies as worrisome behavior signifying very violent tendencies. I’m enjoying this newfound Rachel and Ira partnership, both motivated by a desire to exact some form of vengeance for their mistreatment and united by Rachel’s belief that she too may be glitching. Who could blame Cosima for not wanting to work with Rachel and Ira after everything she had been put through, but the truth is that they do make a good team. This show has managed to define so many perceived villains as later more questionable heroes, from Paul to Ferdinand to Rachel and Susan, and it’s a fascinating thing to see over and over again since it demonstrates that this show has truly terrific, dynamic characters who may not even necessarily be the clones.

Pilot Review: Cleverman

Cleverman (Sundance)
Premiered June 1 at 10pm

I wouldn’t have known about this show if not for a careful perusal of TV listings, and I made sure to check it out both because the honeymoon I talk to Australia has given me an enhanced interest in its cinematic culture and because the Sundance Channel has rarely disappointed me. The revered “Rectify” and shorter hits like “The Red Road” and “Babylon” have been well worth watching, and though I’m not quite as wowed by this show, I do think it has plenty of intrigue to offer. It reminds me quite a bit of sister network AMC’s “Humans,” another international collaboration which dealt with people who weren’t exactly human and how a modern society didn’t treat them nicely at all. This show is all about addressing the political, with talking heads explaining that they’re not violating human rights since the Hairypeople aren’t humans. It’s so interesting that this is connected to Aboriginal mythology, which does make it a fantastic companion piece to the similarly spooky “The Red Road,” which existed in a far less science fiction-assisted universe. The notion of one man who had previously turned in Hairypeople he had deceived into thinking that he was helping discovering that he is in fact one of the Hairypeople is familiar but cool, and it makes the idea of watching this show worthwhile. The main recognizable face is Iain Glen from “Game of Thrones” as the producer who isn’t going to let something like an embargo prevent him from getting to the truth. Six episodes isn’t a huge commitment, especially in summer, so I feel like I want to give this show another go and see how enthralling it proves.

How will it work as a series? This show is actually pretty brutal, sparing no horrors in its showcasing of how the Australian government treats those it perceives to be subhumans, branding them and torturing them as they see fit. I think it can certainly fill six episodes, and things are sure to get increasingly intense as the Hairypeople become more sympathetic and start revolting even more against their oppressors.
How long will it last? That’s the good news – this show was already renewed for a second season, immediately after it premiered in the United States almost two weeks ago. Airing concurrently here and in Australia gives it two audiences from which to benefit, and positive reviews all around are going to give this show a promising and successful future.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Test” (B+)

This was a particularly good episode, forgetting all about Robert and Sol and only involving supporting players as far as Frankie’s sons to make her doubt whether she actually might be losing her mind. Frankie’s expired license provided a great premise for Grace to realize that she needed to start seeing other people and for Frankie to think about how her dependency on Grace made her feel helpless. It makes perfect sense that Grace’s friends would be vain and more obsessed with looking and seeming nice than actually having good intentions. To be fair, Swoosie Kurtz’s Janet was the vilest of them all, and the other two seemed relatively harmless if a bit too materially obsessed. Janet’s multiple references to Grace as a pariah who was right to shy away from society when she started having personal problems that became public were especially harsh, and kudos to Grace for taking a stand and not going back to that lifestyle, not to mention standing up for Frankie in the process. I’m all for Wii, but traditional bowling is considerably more fun. Frankie deciding that she needed to be high in order to pass the driver’s test was funny, and I’m glad that she still failed more than enough of the exam to sufficiently limit her driving abilities and ensure that the world remains safe from her vehicular influence, a fact that will surely satisfy Bud and Coyote, who were rightfully worried that their eternally kooky mother shouldn’t really be on the road.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What I’m Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2, Episode 5 “Kimmy Gives Up!” (B+)

If there’s one thing that drives this show more than anything, it’s Kimmy’s positive spirit. So little gets her down, and even her limited understanding of the world given her out-of-date “Frasier” references and all that has not kept her from seizing the day nearly every day and overcoming so much to endure in New York City. Dong choosing his green card over her was a huge blow, and that she still felt compelled to help him prop up a made-up marriage when it hurt her so much shows how she cares for him. Kimmy falling asleep during the GED and yelling at the proctor for not waking her up was funny, yet obviously a huge stumbling block for her educational development. I love that, as soon as she realized that Kimmy was just a chalk drawing, Jacqueline struggled so much to be alone with Buckley, something that had never in her life happened before. Giving him Dyziplen, a hilarious medication, did provide a perfect solution, but when her consumption of the drug led to a horrible fashion choice, she realized that she couldn’t do that to her son, no matter how much of an annoyance he was. Using Transformers commands to get him to calm down and then to wreak havoc on a saleswoman who thought she was an 8 was great, and that’s where this show manages to use its absurdity to its advantage. Titus’ obsession with awful fake musical numbers was most effective for the closing montage that revealed, among other things, that Dong hangs on to Kimmy’s scrunchie and hasn’t moved on, and wrapped all of this episode’s plotlines up quite nicely.

What I’m Watching: Transparent (Season Finale)

Transparent: Season 2, Episode 10 “Grey Green Brown and Copper” (B)

A friend told me a while ago that he really didn’t like the second half of this season, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I do think that it has been considerably less consistent. I also took a big break of about four months in the middle, so perhaps that affected my perspective. One of the things that was most disjointed about this season was the focus on the Pfefferman family back in the 1930s. It’s infinitely intriguing in so many ways, particularly in how it is symbolic and connectable to the present. But that was never explicitly explained, and therefore its unspoken transition to Maura going and having a very cathartic moment coming out to her mother isn’t as impactful since none of its characters are aware of what Rose went through. Things were relatively neatly wrapped up for each of the children, if just in a way that allows them to move forward and on to the next step of their lives. Sarah is choosing to accept her subservient side and also explore her Judaism, albeit with Rabbi Raquel, something that will surely accept Josh. The brother has found a new father figure in Buzz, who knows how to do more than just imprint his steaks, providing exactly what his adoptive son with no father needs. And Ali could have had exactly what she wanted with Leslie – but only if she dismissed her educational future. The job is obviously worth more than the relationship since that will endure and all signs point to a romance fizzling out soon. This show has already been renewed for a fourth season ahead of the third slate that should premiere this coming December, and I do think this show can go great places. This season was still good, just not as resounding and well-rounded as the first.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jeffrey Tambor as Maura

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 5, Episode 10 “The Day the World Went Away” (B+)

This was a darker episode than usual, starting with the one character we’ve never seen indulge in any violent behavior talking like he was suicidal, ready to give up on his principles to ensure that Samaritan didn’t win – or even that the machine wouldn’t survive since it too was too dangerous. Finch being identified as the new number because he went back to the coffee shop where he first took Grace ten years earlier put this team on edge, and even if Finch was the perpetrator rather than the victim, the fact that the machine let loose six hundred inmates so that he could escape is extremely worrisome. We’re at that point where irreversible things happen with just three episodes left in this show’s run, and some of them are truly devastating. Elias getting shot in the head in front of Finch was a shock simply because he seemed so in control of things and then went down with just one bullet. Finch being too valuable to be killed also made the death of those around him all the more resounding since anyone he knows is expendable. Root made a terrific point to Shaw at an inappropriate time about how they’re technically all simulations, and that kind of talk should have been a warning that something bad was going to happen to her. The machine calling Finch and choosing her voice was the most heartbreaking way to find out that she was dead, and even though it’s just for a few episodes, I’m really going to miss her. Over the course of the whole series, Root transformed from a fearsome villain to the most dynamic hero, and Amy Acker’s performance was truly fantastic. Now that she’s gone and Finch has gone rogue, I’m sure the final three episodes – now airing just once a week – are going to be incomparably intense.

What I’m Watching: Person of Interest

Person of Interest: Season 5, Episode 9 “Sotto Voce” (B+)

All this talk of the Voice brings up bad memories of the stupid villain of the same name on “Quantico,” but fortunately the writing here is substantially more sophisticated. Reese shooting everyone in the leg rather than killing them has always been a somewhat comical element of this show, but it’s an important thing since it distinguishes that our heroes don’t kill people. Those they come up against, however, are sometimes so nefarious that they have to decide whether it’s worth crossing a line, and an ally like Elias can help them make that decision very easily by pressing a button to blow up a perpetrator’s car after it seemed that he was going to walk away, at least without killing anyone else at the moment. Easton was quite the foe, hiring someone to play his kidnapped wife and taking a pre-recorded phone call with his disguised voice to dupe Detective Riley, who managed to stay alive thanks to the loyal quick thinking of one Detective Fusco. I’m glad to see that Fusco has now officially been brought into the loop, and I think he’ll do good things with the information. The best development is the return of Shaw who, so destroyed by her thousands of simulations, was ready to kill herself until Root found the perfect antidote and threatened to kill herself too. The gang is finally back together with just four episodes left on the clock, and I couldn’t be any more excited to see how this storyline plays out.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

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

The Detour: Season 1, Episodes 9 and 10 “The Track” and “The Beach” (B/B+)

These were admittedly silly episodes, but this show does manage to reign its ridiculousness in and end up in a pretty great place. Gupta, played by Maz Jobrani, who I first saw on a show far crazier than this, “The Knights of Prosperity,” provided a very legitimate defense for Nate’s antics thanks to the flashbacks to his senseless presentation about “What’s right is right” and his subsequent behavior on the track. Robin going in and impressing him with the fact that she’s actually intelligent despite his later classification of her as fifty was a lot of fun, and the way that she kept saying everything out loud to him without him actually hearing and processing it was particularly entertaining. Though it does make the whole season feel like an enormous waste, the reveal that nothing was ever afoot and that the hand sanitizer was meant exclusively for doorknobs and not for humans helped put it all in perspective and let Nate and his family return to some sense of normalcy. Delilah and Jared’s role in everything at the conference was fun too, and I really do think that they may well be the best current TV kids. The ending revelation that Robin isn’t even close to who she says she is provides the framework for the second season that I’m sure will be just as fun as this one with a different focus, which will be Robin trying to put her life back together the same way that Nate had to in this season. I’m looking forward to it! This show has been a nice, fun surprise.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Natalie Zea as Robin

Friday, June 10, 2016

What I’m Watching: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys: Season 2, Episode 7 “Meltdown” (B)

Cassie getting possessed by the witness at the end of last week’s episode was the start of much messier and more troubling business in the future after she got picked up and splintered back to 2044. The appearance of a number of time-related anomalies was confusing to say the least, especially with the soldiers transported there who considered Cole and Ramse intruders since, in their time, they weren’t authorized to be on the base. Cassie not being in control of her actions was the most disturbing part of the whole thing, particularly when she grabbed a terrified Sam and held him hostage as Cole fought desperately to tunnel in from underneath, benefitting from the sudden splintering back of the soldiers to their original time period. We barely knew him, but Dr. Eckland made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the machine got back to normal, and the way in which he seemed to evaporate out of the timestream didn’t look terribly pleasant. I wonder if we’ll see him again, considering that Sam didn’t die but instead got sent very far back in time. It seems that all traces of the witness have been eradicated from 2044 and the red forest is relatively under control, but I’m sure it can’t be that easy. We’re only halfway through this season, and while this installment feels more like something that might air right before a season finale, I’m excited that there’s plenty more ground to be covered and a lot more craziness for this show to explore.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 5, Episode 6 “C**tgate” (B)

I’m starting to think that maybe Selina is being overplayed a bit and turned into more of a monster than she’s been before. That’s not a criticism of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, more an incitement of the writing that has turned her character into such a completely detestable person who doesn’t even realize that anything is happening in the world around her. Telling Amy at the end that she knew that it was everyone who called her the c-word was one step towards self-realization, but her ignoring Catherine throughout the entire episode after she didn’t even notice that she had left to go to New Hampshire didn’t lend itself well to her audience approval rating. Truth be told, Marjorie and Catherine are perfect for each other, both devoid of emotion and generally unable to express themselves. I’m sure that her non-reaction was temporary, and Selina will find a way to tear apart her daughter’s life for this revelation that may somehow negatively affect her presidency. Flip-flopping about whether or not to bail Charlie out was excessive, and he did not take the news well. My favorite consulted expert was Karen, who argued against a gun-to-the-head situation by suggesting that the gun didn’t have any bullets. Jonah’s campaign is a hoot, especially with Dan at the helm, and my favorite part is that bands whose songs they haven’t used are preemptively reaching out with cease and desist letters. Bill returning as the campaign manager for the widow who was literally Jonah’s second grade teacher is fun, and I like that Jonah has now seen a major rise in his polls thanks to his harsh and unfiltered criticism of the president.

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 3, Episode 6 “Bachmanity Insanity” (B+)

I was laughing a lot during the episode, primarily at the fact that Richard tanked a relationship because he couldn’t stand the fact that his new girlfriend Winnie used spaces instead of tabs in her coding. The complete insignificance of that styling, especially since it all comes out the same way after it goes through the compressor, made the level to which it bothered Richard all the more entertaining. That he tripped down the stairs because he tried to take it eight steps at a time was a nice bonus. Jared managed to score too, a bizarre little plotline that I assume will eventually lead to something funnier than just the unlikelihood that he could actually find a girlfriend. Dinesh improving his code so that he could see Elisabeth more clearly was a smart move, but unfortunately it showed her that he was not in fact the Pakistani Denzel even though he liked what he was seeing. Gavin’s proclamations about the things that you used to be able to do to deal with people you didn’t like were typically absurd, but he wasn’t actually the most ridiculous egotist of the hour. That honor went to Erlich, who preposterously rented out Alcatraz and turned into Hawaii, all while lavishly spending the $20 million that Big Head got in his settlement. His one positive action was to buy the blog that could have gotten them into a lot of trouble due to Big Head’s miscomprehension of the NDA and the fact that it covering itself was far less important than his not being allowed to talk to anyone about what happened at Nucleus. I don’t think Bachmanity was headed anywhere, but now it’s going to be imploding due to its recent bankruptcy.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 6 “Blood of My Blood” (B+)

This show is getting back to a format in which certain characters are the focus of one episode and then doesn’t revisit them for an hour or two. The two female leaders from last week weren’t seen at all, and instead we had a rare focus on just a few main storylines. I didn’t comment last week on the stage play that dramatizes the events that we’ve seen play out over the past few seasons, with Ned’s execution, Joffrey’s death, and the scapegoating of Tyrion as the perpetrator. It’s strange to see everything framed in such a comedic and also archaic context, since obviously there is plenty of armor and medieval costuming on this show, but it’s a new thing to think of how the common people perceive the royal elite we saw warring for the top regal spot in the realm. Arya made her choice in saving the actress she was supposed to kill, and hopefully she’s thought her plan out well enough to avoid being eliminated by the people with no faces or whatever they’re called. It’s disturbing to see the crown and the faith united to spare Margaery and Jaime sent away, since Tommen is now a puppet of the High Sparrow. Kudos to Sam for defending Gilly to his disapproving father, and I just now realized that actress Hannah Murray was the star of 2015 Tribeca entry “Bridgend.” Daenerys is on top right now, and the triumphant, epic return of her dragon was almost extraneous considering the power of her stirring speech.