Monday, October 31, 2016

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

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

This was an important episode about moving on for all of our characters, something that’s always much easier said than done. Rafael announcing to Jane that he is finally over her caught her by surprise in a big way, and the immediate aftereffects weren’t too productive for their parenting dynamic. Rafael wanting to think about himself for the first time since he was no longer solely interested in pleasing her wasn’t exactly fair since no one had told him previously that he had to take her feelings into account in such an overarching way, and his nonchalant relaying of that news didn’t help matters at all. That they found a place that was insanely hippy-dippy but helped them to fix the problems that they needed to was nice, and I hope it won’t create too many unnecessary issues going forward. Michael really is acting very angelic, and ending the episode with the long-awaited announcement that Jane is no longer going to be a virgin was truly refreshing and rewarding. Rogelio coming to terms with his American trajectory in the middle of a scene rewriting American history and Emma Lazarus’ famed poem writing was fun, and I like that he and Xiomara have reached a great point in their friendship. I’m glad that Alba forgave Xiomara so quickly and chose to move past their different feelings about her abortion. Anezka sleeping with Scott was initially a simple mistake, but now she’s turning it into an opportunity that could well help her and her mother complete their nefarious plot to take down Rafael.

Pilot: Man with a Plan

Man with a Plan (CBS)
Premiered October 24 at 8:30pm

CBS is one network that hasn’t really moved on to the next generation of sitcoms and still premieres new series with laugh tracks every season. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but usually they all fit a certain format which doesn’t tend to make them especially creative or exciting. Most notable about this series is that it marks Matt LeBlanc’s return to network television after the disastrous spinoff “Joey” immediately following what may be the most endearing show of the past few decades, “Friends.” During his time off, LeBlanc has been starring in and earning Emmy nominations for Showtime’s fantastic “Episodes,” which is for much more mature audiences, and it’s a disappointment in a sense to see return to a broadcast network comedy. That said, he has shared in interviews that it’s easier to spend time with his family with a less demanding schedule on this kind of show, and though it’s not sophisticated, he’s great at playing this kind of role. We’ve seen dads try to raise kids on sitcoms before, and the results are about as expected. What’s nice is that this relatively missable comedy manages to be pretty entertaining and even a little funny in its chronicling of LeBlanc’s Adam as he has to start stepping up and taking on what are traditionally perceived as maternal roles. He’s not apologetic about his lack of interest, and he’s already found effective ways to enforce compliance, like installing a rolling wi-fi password to motivate his kids to do chores and keep their hands out of their pants. This show may not be great, but it’s about as good as it was ever going to be.

How will it work as a series? Andi has done a sufficient job of motivating Adam to take charge and realize that he can contribute positively to raising their children despite forgetting them numerous times in the pantry. Now it’s going to be a struggle for Adam to stay optimistic and deal with every challenge that comes his way, typical tried-and-true sitcom stuff.
How long will it last? I think CBS would be very excited if LeBlanc could become a successful carrier of one of its shows, and while the premiere numbers were okay, I’m not sure it’s going to happen. Reviews were particularly poor (mine is on the high end), and so while this show could make it to a second season and beyond, I don’t think it’s too likely.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 3 “Welcome to Earth” (B+)

It seems that this is the season of aliens, having most past Kryptonian foes and on to complex subjects like alien rights. Kara’s excitement to meet the President was entertaining, and the casting of Lynda Carter in the role really is perfect since it’s a nice nod to her “Wonder Woman” history and just the latest instance of bringing revered DC universe stars from the past back in a fun parts decades after they wore the costumes of the superheroes. Hank’s response to Kara’s question about getting a blowout was the best part, and having a country leader who wants to grant uniform rights to all aliens is a real asset. The revelation that she’s actually an alien is a bit much, but I suppose it couldn’t have been that simple that a human would want to embrace alien life so fully. The introduction of this alien bar is cool, and Maggie seems like she’s going to prove to be a formidable addition to the show, especially in terms of awakening some energy from Alex. Hank going into the bar as J’onn at the end of the episode seemed like it was going to grant him some much-needed peace, and instead it didn’t even take one minute for him to freak out the bartender who just happens to also be a Martian. Snapper is pretty irritating, and it was nice to see James take him down a peg by rewriting his article and showing him that he can’t walk all over him.

Take Three: Insecure

Insecure: Season 1, Episode 3 “Racist as F**k” (B+)

This show was very promising from the start, and I’m glad to see that, as it’s getting to know its characters, it’s continuing to improve its comedic and dramatic content. Focusing a bit on Lawrence and his job search was interesting, and after learning that he might want to consider entry-level positions, it didn’t take him long to accept that he needed to do that, starting a position at Best Buy until something better came along. Making jokes about her not coming home and him finding her at Rite-Aid again was indeed too soon, but the moving couch montage did a superb job chronicling their relationship from excited move-in to growing apart to leading separate lives, and getting rid of it at the end of the episode was an important representative step forward. Lawrence’s work situation was sharply contrasted by Issa’s, since she has a great job but finds herself constantly doubted by coworkers who have secret white meetings and send secret white e-mails. That the event was a roaring success with kids coming up to her and thanking her was a fantastic win for Issa, and triumphantly giving the big cooler to her obnoxious coworker to carry by herself was the icing on top of that. Molly auditioning Jared for her friends actually went pretty well, but she’s more interested in being part of this top-tier elite dating site than giving something that might actually work a shot since he doesn’t have a college education and check off all the things on her list.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Take Three: Divorce

Divorce: Season 1, Episode 3 “Counseling” (B+)

I’m glad I stuck with this show since, by episode three, it’s reached a great point where it’s really found its footing. Starting out with Frances telling a prospective client that being headhunted could lead to devastating failure summarized the whole mood of this series. From there, we got to see Frances and Robert together at counseling, which was extremely insightful and highly entertaining. Robert’s obsession with Julian being French and his unwillingness to let that go paled in comparison to the shocking revelation that Frances believes she slept with him a whopping 32 times. The marriage counselor sided with Frances in a big way, and her turning the conversation into one about his emotional affair that involved him lying about delivering water to first responders on 9/11 showed that he was equally guilty of contributing to the dissolution of the marriage as he was. We saw Frances struggling to catch a break in episode two, and in this installment we got to see Robert trying hard to make his life interesting since, as he confided to Nick, he doesn’t even have Frances to talk to about what he’s currently going through. I like that Nick’s first words when we woke up from his coma were to tell Robert to shut up, and he’s jumping right back into the same bed of crazy with his warm, forgiving embrace of the wife who shot him. Deciding not to continue in therapy since neither of them liked it was a serious reminder of what’s really going on, and saying that they’d have the lawyers call each other when neither of them actually had lawyers was an important transition to the meat of this action, which at least now seems like it won’t be nearly as volatile as Robert promised.

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 4, Episode 7 “In to Me You See” (B+)

Virginia’s ploy to get closer to Bill seemed like it was going to work out perfectly well when she suggested it to Art, but Bill turned it on its head when he instead posited the idea of him partnering with Art and her being with Nancy. It turns out that Art and Bill did pretty well together, and Bill let him run with Bob’s particular situation and help to resolve it in a productive way that got Barton interested after Guy alerted him to what seemed like gay conversion therapy. Nancy and Virginia, on the other hand, are very poorly suited for each other, and it’s entirely Virginia’s fault since she refuses to do the one thing Nancy has explicitly requested of her – treat her with respect. It doesn’t help that Virginia is so paranoid, and rightfully so, that there are people out to get them, and revealing what she thought to be gotcha journalists as wannabe sex therapists trying to do research was just the tip of the iceberg. It turns out that her new plan to go undercover and figure out what their competition is up to works out very well for Bill, who, prompted by the story he told Betty, decided to contact the one who got away and ended up learning that her husband has a very different perspective on what happened than he does. I can’t imagine that will lead to a happy ending for either of them, but I am interested to see where it goes. Betty getting Austin to file a petition for custody of her baby predictably went over very poorly with Helen’s parents, and it’s very sad to see Betty in such bad shape with no hope of hanging on to any piece of what she had with Helen. Bill’s AA supervisor coming to him for help with her paralyzed husband was an intriguing and unexpected development, though it appears that’s gone as far as it can.

What I’m Watching: Westworld

Westworld: Season 1, Episode 4 “Dissonance Theory” (B+)

This show is evolving as it gets more comfortable with its overarching storyline, less focused on the preplanned plots set up for the hosts to act out and more on what’s really happening. We’re getting a few hints about who the Man in Black is with a moment in which other guests acknowledging his prominence in the real world and with a request for pyrotechnics sent to the engineers so that he could complete a showy prison break. Freeing Hector and bringing him back to town turned out to be less relevant for what he was trying to do and much more so for developments related to Maeve, who has finally started to put everything together after she woke up in the middle of a system reboot. Finding all the other drawings of the technician under her floorboards shows that she’s really figuring it out, and digging out the bullet was the ultimate confirmation, which led her to declare that none of it matters because she knows that her world is just going to be refreshed. William continues to be an appropriate representation of the outlier – someone who isn’t depraved and just wants to have fun in a theme park – and he’s trying to play along unlike his new relation who is more than happy to be blunt around the hosts about what their reality is. Robert recreating a memory from Theresa’s childhood during their sit-down was a subtle power play, conveying that he has grander designs for his fabricated world than just monetization and the fulfillment of fantasies.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 7, Episode 4 “I Am a Storm” (B+)

It’s rare that we get to see all the Gallaghers together in one place outside the home, and even though Debs and Father Frank were missing, the bootleg party at the diner was really something. I’m concerned about the illicit serving of alcohol without a liquor license since that could get her into trouble later, but otherwise Fiona is fully on point trying to make something of her life and turn an enormous profit at a dump considered immediately dismissible by those with true influence. Lip’s senior intern promotion didn’t last long, and his chance to be a whistleblower passed him by too. Confronting his mentor about the kind of place he worked was an important reality check, and it’s hard to know just what Lip will make of his life. Ian is being introduced to a whole new world that I think he’s going to like a lot, and after getting past some unintentionally offensive statements, he’s already fitting right in. Debs trying to find a life partner is hardly the permanent solution she needs, and she’d probably be better off finding volunteer childcare, possibly from a new Russian neighbor, so that she can go on job interviews without having her daughter dropped on her lap. I love that Carl has gone from a horny teenager to a committed military cadet-wannabe who is going to the shooting range with his new father figure who just happens to be Dom’s father. Kev and Veronica went a little far in their panic when their children went missing, but Svetlana is way too casual about her father spending time with the kids and doing whatever he wants. It appears that the happy couple is more interested in sexual roleplay with their new wife than actually maintaining friendships with the likes of their lifelong neighbor. The episode’s closing shot of everyone in the bar throwing food at the TV with Frank playing the martyr was entertaining, and I’m eager to see how that plays out.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

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

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 1 “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” (B+)

I would posit that this premiere was easily the most anticipated season opener of the year, and it surely was an engaging episode. I was thinking at the start that we’re back in captivity mode, where the whole crew is being held hostage by the latest nefarious villain and just waiting to make their big escape. I think the point of the display Negan made is that he’s not going anywhere, and even if Maggie has sworn revenge on him, he’s set on ensuring that his new friends will be loyal earners and work tirelessly for him out of sheer terror. I was wondering to myself why it is that this show has to feature some brutal murders of two of its most beloved characters and why it is that audiences enjoy watching that and waiting to find out who Negan beat to death with his bat. I couldn’t help seeing a parallel between Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son and Negan stopping Rick just short of cutting Carl’s arm off, a horrifying moment that, had it been completed, would have signaled that this show went too far. Losing both Abraham and Glenn was tough, and the question is always whether the impact of their deaths is worth them not being alive and on the show anymore. It’s hard to know exactly where this show goes from here, especially with the addition of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a full-time cast member, assuring that Negan is going to be around for a while and keeping strict tabs on his new employees.

Pilot Review: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America)
Premiered October 22 at 9pm

I nearly missed this premiere altogether, and I’m just that I saw the show advertised on the side of a bus to remind myself about its existence. Its title is inarguably intriguing, and finding out that it’s based on books by Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” only makes it more appealing. I’ve commented before about the notion of BBC America producing original series, British fare designed exclusively for American audiences. This show is best described as exactly the kind of show that Elijah Wood would star in after completing a four-season role on “Wilfred.” This show is undeniably and unapologetically strange, but it’s also funny and extremely clever. The nature of the crimes shown is actually quite brutal, but this show takes a far more fanciful and lighthearted tone. I love that there are not one but two sets of hapless law enforcement officials tailing the equally inept Todd Brotzman, and that Richard Schiff’s eyebrow-raising Zimmerfield emerged for the gun standoff still wearing his bib. Everything about Dirk Gently’s worldview is fantastic, describing himself as a holistic detective who doesn’t do any of the normal things like look for clues or evidence yet still manages to solve cases anyway. The fact that there’s also a holistic assassin who kills whoever she feels like and then they turn out to be her targets is just as great, though it’s unclear how she and Dirk are connected. This reminds me of “Magnolia,” particularly the two fateful gunshots that took out the imprisoner of the woman chained to the bed above Todd’s apartment and the firer of the second bullet who was just trying to make a microwave stop beeping. I loved that, on his way up to the bloody penthouse, Todd encountered what appeared to be a version of himself swearing about time travel, which makes me very excited for the prospect of what’s to come. His lottery win only ups the anticipation.

How will it work as a series? I have no idea. Right now I’m very interested to see what comes next, but part of this show’s success, if not most of it, rests on it being irreverent, which doesn’t always lead to consistency. I’m optimistic that eight episodes shouldn’t be a problem to weave a compelling – and dizzying – narrative.
How long will it last? It looks like reviews were decent for the pilot, and the show will definitely find a certain audience. BBC America has different standards than other networks, so it’s hard to know how long the show will continue, but I figure a season or two, dictated by creative direction, is about what it’s going to get.

Pilot grade: B+

Round Two: Goliath

Goliath: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pride and Prejudice” (B+)

This episode got off to a slower start with Billy emerging from jail after being drunk and missing the hearing, resulting in the case being dismissed. Patty read him the riot act for missing it, and she really is a fantastically fiery character, later refusing to accept his apology when he showed up to disrupt her latest realty effort. Billy’s heartfelt speech at AA felt genuine, and seemed far more realistic and honest than a lot of television and movie scenes like that, mainly because he was accepting what he felt needed to be accepted while not admitting to too much transcendence. After he was late again, Billy did a tremendous job accusing Harold Perrineau’s Judge Keller of being biased and then baiting him until he combatively agreed to a bias hearing that would serve to prolong the case indefinitely, something that Daniel was not at all happy to observe. There are a lot of rumors swirling around about what happened to Daniel that makes him spend all of his time in a dark backroom operating in very shadowy fashion, and I wonder how soon that will be definitively answered. I’m continually intrigued by the Mouse, and I’m glad that she’s going to be taking on a bigger role in the case. Rachel being hit, seemingly purposely, by a van outside the courtroom deals a serious blow to Billy and Patty, who now don’t have a client but have a case that they know seems like it’s more than just a suicide.

What I’m Watching: Crisis in Six Scenes

Crisis in Six Scenes: Season 1, Episode 4 (C+)

I feel like I made it halfway through this show’s run, and so I may as well see it through to the end. Fortunately, this episode was just a tiny bit better than the third episode, with one part of its plotline headed in a positive direction. Sidney spent the opening scene whining about how Lennie ate his Fig Newtons, which has happened so many times already in less than 100 minutes that I can’t stand it anymore. It was a relief, therefore, to see some Allen-free scenes that felt very much like Allen’s more classic work starring Kay as a newly-awakened revolutionary. Trying to get her book club to talk about serious things didn’t go so well, with conversation continually returning to the likes of department stores and green tea being healthy and tasting bad. To me, that constitutes far more entertaining and biting social commentary, and Allen’s ability to create compelling material without him in a scene is remarkable. Inexplicably, Lennie’s sway continues to take hold over Alan, who is now at risk of abandoning his fiancée for someone who doesn’t even have time to read a comic book. Like Kay with her book club, Alan’s political enthusiasm came as a surprise to Ellie, and I was glad to see that she fought back at his sudden notions of self-importance. Ending with Sidney looking guilty after Lennie hung up because she realized that he had just picked up the phone was hardly the most sophisticated representation of the episode, but perhaps the show can do better in its two final installments.

Friday, October 28, 2016

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 1, Episode 4 “Step in the Arena” (B)

This was an origin story episode if ever there was one, getting back to the first day that Luke, then Carl Lucas, arrived in prison. The hair on his face and on his head didn’t look particularly real, but that’s part of what makes him seem like a completely different person. The guard with a sadistic obsession with making him miserable by forcing him to fight or watch those he cares about be hurt felt like a familiar character, which just suggests that I’ve watched too many prison-themed television series and movies. After Luke got beaten up the first time and thrown in solitary, he was ready to get his revenge, but it wasn’t until he got thrown into the tank by the experimenting prison doctor that he was imbued with his unbreakable exoskeleton, a formidable event that allowed him to literally punch his way out of the prison. That served as an appropriate transition to him in the present saving Connie from certain death and severe limb impairment, carving a miraculous path to safety. Misty greeted him with appropriate reverence, and she’s onto him even though he’d rather just put on his hood and disappear into the night. Reva was painted as truly insightful, sensitive, and caring in the way that she helped Luke in prison, and seeing them on the outside after he broke out was one of the first times Luke hasn’t seemed so lonely. Unfortunately, anyone who has seen “Jessica Jones” knows that things don’t work out well for her.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 5, Episode 5 “Pure Peckinpah” (B+)

This episode has a truly great title, but the unfortunate part of that is that it means Ferg may not be long for this world, the victim of an intense shootout where there’s absolutely no way that he would be able to make it out alive. It was obvious as soon as Ferg offered to drive that something bad was going to happen, and what terrible timing given the bit of romance we saw at the hospital. These new villains are bad news, and I like the casting of Dylan Walsh from “Nip/Tuck” as Shane, who spends his time fishing when he’s not ordering hits on those who have failed to come up with the money to pay him. Robert Clendenin’s Jamie, who we first saw way back in season one, was entertaining as an overactor helping to catch the newly freed drug dealer who was also in the middle of some suspicious fishing. Bringing back recurring player Travis Murphy was well worth it for his enthusiastic citizen’s arrest, and I like that he was just one of the several random people Vic asked for help with her RV after she ended up with a whole lot of oil on her face trying to fix it herself. Malachi is making a big power play trying to take down Hector and save himself, and the myth of Hector is becoming quite the character. I enjoyed Mathias’ reaction to the news of his being suspected by Walt to be Hector, though it wasn’t as priceless as Henry’s.

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 3, Episode 5 “Oh Holy Night” (B+)

This was a cool episode, one that brought everyone together for a religious event and allowed them to interact in a different kind of space. After freaking out during her spanking session in the last episode, Sarah was fully put back together as she bonded with a very kind and warm Len and then organized a totally awesome Hineni event. The way that this show is incorporating Judaism is really interesting, and though some things feel very inappropriate – like Maura’s recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish in the middle of Havdalah – they’re acknowledged as such, and Moshav Band melodies and established traditions are much more smoothly integrated in a subtle and effective way. Leslie making a stink about the coffee coming from Israel was an interesting development in her relationship with Ali, and a very fitting point of view for her antiestablishment liberalism, and it’s unsettling to see how she showers Ali with compliments and emotion whenever they start to approach troublesome territory. I don’t think that relationship is fated to last long, and for the best, in my opinion. Josh was in bad shape after Rita’s death, and reuniting with Raquel was obviously very powerful, though it caught her completely off-guard. Ending with him watching a stripper who looked a whole lot like Raquel showed just how alone he feels, and the way that his family has reacted to him and to the news of Rita’s death didn’t provide him the support he needs. He and Raquel never made that much sense, but she’s just about the only thing left in his life right now.

What I’m Watching: Fleabag (Season Finale)

Fleabag: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

I really hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see of this show. I forget that the entirety of this series premiered on Amazon over a month ago, and so there’s no reason that my finishing up the six short episodes should mean news of any kind would be released. This was a very fitting finale in so many ways, and though I’d be sad to see this show not come back for a second season, this did wrap up a few arcs in a great way. Leave it to Fleabag to be concerned that her boyfriend was losing his passion for her because he was falling in love only to discover that he was in fact falling in love with another woman, inspired by the small size of her breasts. Her godmother was a monster at the sexhibition, forcing her to serve drinks and then cruelly telling her to clean it up after she made a mess to show just how much she didn’t like her. Her father scolding her was particularly hard to watch, and the fact that Claire sided with Martin rather than her own sister stung too. Seeing Henry at the sexhibition with a new girlfriend only added to the pile of hurt she was experiencing. Going to the same spot as Boo was extremely worrisome, and the bank manager showed up at just the right moment. Restarting the interview and giving her another chance made for a wonderful happy ending, and I like the line she quoted from Boo about erasers (or rubbers, as they call them on this show) being on pencils because people make mistakes. That’s a great sentiment on a truly involving and entertaining show.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, obviously

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 2, Episode 8 “Exit El Patron” (B+)

The tide has definitely turned against Pablo, and it’s changed the whole feeling of this show. We’re past Los Pepes being vigilantes and wreaking havoc in Colombia, and now everyone feels that Pablo has gone off the deep end. Even the members of his ever-shrinking loyal inner circle seem less inclined to die by his side and for his cause, since it’s so much revenge-driven and no longer about expanding the business empire, which took a considerable hit with the murder of the Lion in this hour. The most substantial development was the apprehension of La Quica, Pablo’s most devoted henchman, who was quick to turn on his boss for the promise of a new life in America only to ask just enough questions to tip him off and ensure that he steered clear of the meeting point to avoid capture and assassination. The notion that Pablo has to be killed rather than captured is an intense idea, and the emphasis placed on a cop being the one to kill him shows just how much law and order needs a win, prompting even de Greiff to consider changing his tune on Colombia’s most wanted man. Enlisting Valeria’s help to smuggle a communications device to his wife was a smart and unexpected ploy, and the new open line between husband and wife was made all the more empathic by the tragic news of the murder of Valeria and her television crew. With just two episodes left this season, I can imagine the intensity is only beginning to build.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season Premiere)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 2, Episode 1 “Where is Josh’s Friend?” (B+)

I love this show, and waiting until the end of October for it to return has only made it more fantastic. This premiere was an important test of its enduring quality since the season one finale changed everything and finally put Rebecca together with Josh, attaining everything she had wanted and worked for over the course of the entire season. It’s interesting to see how they sort of skipped past the relationship stage and went instead to a friends-with-benefits situation, one that Rebecca took way too far by getting Josh the most decked-out drawer ever. Rebecca did a fantastic job making Josh seem like the crazy one, and Josh was feeling plenty of pressure to go in the right direction, both ethically with his friend Greg and to not end up living at home and moving backwards in his adult life. I like that Josh and Rebecca were both set on being on the same page about not having sex, and the ensuing song was fun. Paula not believing in Rebecca and Josh anymore is a serious blow, and making Rebecca sign an admittedly well-written contract not to involve her in schemes anymore is a serious transformation of their friendship. As usual, this show’s antics are the most entertaining part, with some clever recapping of the events we missed and a note about the production budget being cut and Darryl now being played by a broom on a stand. I’m not in love with the opening number but I’m open to getting used to it, and the “love kernels” song was fittingly weird. I couldn’t be more excited to have this show back, and I look forward to a season of musical zaniness!

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 1, Episode 7 “Duke’s Chorus” (B+)

I wouldn’t have expected Sam to being into going to church at all, but I think this visit was surprisingly therapeutic for reasons I didn’t see coming. I recognized Sarah Baker right away from her guest-starring title role in the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of “Louie” as Mormon mom Tritiny, who forced a playdate with her daughter on Sam and then might her feel like she was the one being inconvenienced by it. Frankie was extremely eager to ensure that Sam had no excuse to get out of going to church, and when they were there, it was Duke who had some pretty depressing conversations about the impending coming of “the Jesus” that meant that they couldn’t keep being alive. Sam responding to Trinity’s attacks on her and chewing her out for her power play was fair, and it was great to hear Trinity let loose too, opening up about her divorce and cursing, clearly doing some much-needed venting. It’s nice that Sam made a new friend, especially since she could warn her about her latest crush Ned being very generous. Sam shutting off Max’s Lyft account was smart, and her response to being told “I hate you” so many times was pretty perfect. The way that Sam shouted for her to get off the boy and come with her was terrific, and making her come to church with her seemed like a fitting punishment, even if it put them back on the same side when her inappropriate clothing helped Sam score a win by offending Trinity’s judgmental husband.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Eternal Shriek” (B+)

This episode felt like it flew by, probably because it really only dealt with one plotline. Fortunately, said plotline worked very well and proved to be extremely entertaining. Michael announcing that he had to leave motivated Eleanor more than ever before to find a way to make things right, and of course in this twisted version of things that would mean killing Janet so that the train to an eternal purgatory couldn’t be operated. Janet really is a fantastic character, and I love that she announced before anything happened that she was programmed to beg for her life if anyone tried to shut her down, and she did just that, even holding up a stock photo with three kids on it to play to their emotions. The sheer absurdity of it all, namely that they could forget that she wasn’t actually human and was just making all this up, worked particularly well in this context. Of course, Jianyu’s disappointment wouldn’t be that he forced Chidi’s hand and made her inadvertently push the button but instead that he didn’t have the pleasure of pushing the button himself. His back and forth greetings with Janet were a great moment too. Seeing into Chidi’s life and how just one lie ate away at him so much showed just how much a problem keeping Janet’s murder a secret was going to be, but I didn’t expect Eleanor to stand up and throw herself on the fire, and I’m very eager to see what happens now that she’s said enough to make it impossible to take back.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Justice Society of America” (B+)

This show has always felt very crowded in a great way, with so many characters part of the team, and therefore it’s great to add even more for one hour. The opening action scene with the members of the Justice Society of America taking down all the legends was great, and the relationships formed over the course of the episode were very entertaining too. I guess I had forgotten that we already met Patrick J. Adams of “Suits” fame in the season one finale as effortlessly calm team leader Rex Tyler, and he exuded an incredible sense of leadership for a team that felt far more united than the legends ever have. The fact that they presumed that Stein was the captain was interesting, and I like that he ultimately ceded that honor to Sara when push came to shave. Impersonating Hitler’s famous singer was quite the gamble, but it did give Victor Garber a chance to show off his musical talents, which I remember first experiencing in the TV movie “Cinderella” back nearly twenty years ago. Nate is turning out to be a very interesting character, honored to meet his grandfather and spend some time with him. Not needing an ingestible translator because he already speaks like eight languages was impressive, and now he may actually have some superpowers, which is cool. Jax flirting was a highlight of the episode, but the best relationship of the episode was between Vixen and Ray, who did a great job escaping certain torture and death together. I would be happy to see this team guest star anytime.

What I’m Watching: Easy

Easy: Season 1, Episode 5 “Art and Life” (B-)

With only three episodes left to go and the most exciting guest stars yet to appear, I feel like I need to stick with this show until the end of its run. This episode was a moderate improvement over the past two installments, and it did deal with a more normative sense of romance that came about in an unexpected way. I’ve heard of IFC’s show “Maron” but had no idea who its star and creator, Marc Maron, was and what he looked like. In the opening scene of the episode, he looked a lot like Robert DeNiro, though listening to his voice for even a moment demonstrated that it was not the case. Maron’s Jacob showed himself to be an utterly unlikeable, self-involved illustrator whose use of his real life as inspiration for his published works is far from endearing. That was drawn out in a big way when Allison took a photo of him without his permission and used it in her show, prompting some spirited debate between the two of them – and captured on a handful of smartphones – about what constitutes art and how relevant privacy is in this day and age. I’m not familiar with actress Emily Ratajkowski either, but I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see Jane Adams, who should really star in everything, as Annabelle Jones. The conversations in this episode were intriguing and speak to what this show is supposed to be about, but I’m still waiting for an episode that, like the first two, feels much more rounded and romantic.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 3, Episode 8 “Genetically Inferior Beta Males” (B+)

Gretchen going to therapy has to be one of the best things to happen on this show, though I’m sure that Justina wouldn’t agree since she’s literally ruining her life by turning their sessions around on her and trying to prove to her that she’s more than capable of taking care of herself. Attempting to exert control over all of her friends had mixed to extremely poor results, and I think that should have obvious from the start. Jimmy was prompted to go out and explore the world instead of farming his electronic zoo, and for a man who is extremely intelligent and learned, it’s astonishing just how little he knows about the real world and how it functions. There’s something about the way Jimmy talks that makes his observations infinitely more entertaining. Vernon’s podcast was fantastic, and who would have thought that he and Becca would have been the ones to make him realize that being an author isn’t necessarily his path, and he was just doing up until to this point for his father. Edgar’s Dr. Weed segment seemed to be working decently, and now he’s a mouthpiece for the extremist marijuana people. The worst thing that happened was the result of Paul’s enthusiasm to understand Lindsay’s fetish and to go along with it, which resulted not only in him ruining it for her but also in him apparently getting quite wounded by a certain pain-creating device he was wearing while watching his wife have sex with two men.

Take Three: Frequency

Frequency: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Near Far Problem” (B-)

As I sat down to watch this episode, I had just counted how many shows I’m currently watching, and I wanted this episode to really wow me to convince me to keep it on my list. Unfortunately, I don’t think it did that, and though I want to be loyal to a series that has to do with alternate realities and changing timelines, I just don’t think I can right now. Part of the problem is that Peyton List’s Raimy is becoming so immensely unlikeable because she refuses to adjust to the way that things have become, confident that she can direct events in the past to the way that they were supposed to be and save everyone. Not expressing an interest at all in attending her mother’s memorial service isn’t going to win her any points, and going after suspected criminals with absolutely no proof of their guilt – all the more astonishing when they disappear while she’s beating the crap out of them – is probably going to get her into serious trouble with the law that her father twenty years earlier won’t be able to assist her with at all. Her attitude contrasts very much with the way that she talks to Daniel when she sees him, romanticizing a relationship that he doesn’t remember and making herself seem like a stalker. I’d like to stick around and see where this show goes, but at this point it hasn’t proven itself worthwhile and likely to head in a rewarding direction.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What I’m Watching: Blindspot

Blindspot: Season 2, Episode 6 “Her Spy’s Harmed” (B-)

This is going to have my last episode of this show. I had the opportunity to count how many shows I’m currently watching on a weekly basis and realized that it’s just not sustainable, and this series – which I felt I’ve just been keeping up with because it’s a popular show everyone else is watching – is definitely first on the list of those that need to go. It’s actually becoming more intriguing in a lot of ways, particularly when it comes to Jane recalling bits and pieces of her past that make her more sympathetic to Roman and Shepherd. Abandoning her mission to upload the contents of the drive to Patterson and instead save Roman from the latest gang of people trying to hurt him was an interesting twist, and it’s one that threatens to make Jane contemplate her loyalty to the right organization, something she had already started doing. Nas and Kurt’s side trip to Bulgaria was intense but managed to go the way it needed to in the end, though I do question the professionalism of them sleeping together, especially considering Kurt has already been romantically involved with two women he works with on a regular basis. Them connecting made sense, but doing so in such a sexual way didn’t seem like something Nas would do since it makes her very vulnerable, with the discovery of one of her bugs immediately complicating that. Patterson seems woefully unaware of how she’s treating Dr. Borden, and it’s a good thing that he’s literally the most understanding person in the world. I’m more than happy to say goodbye to the Edgar-murder-suspect plotline, which has now become more than a mere distraction. I’m mildly cautious about letting this show go, but I really don’t think I’ll miss it much.

Pilot Review: Chance

Chance (Hulu)
Premiered October 19

It stands to reason that Hugh Laurie’s new series would once again feature a title that refers not to any of its actual definitions but instead happens to be the last name of its medically-qualified protagonist. It’s only been four years since the highly popular “House” went off the air, but it’s clear from the start in this new show from Hulu that this is a different character altogether that we’re seeing from Laurie. Dr. Elden Chance is so much nicer than House ever was, but he’s also much more hardened, introducing each of his patients by the miserable events that have affected their lives and sent them his way for care and treatment. Some of their stories are particularly harrowing and off-putting, and Chance seems truly at a loss as to how to truly help them despite his best efforts. His foray into the world of furniture fraud is especially peculiar, especially since it’s something that feels so far down the list of crimes that no one could possibly come after him for it, and it introduces two of the show’s most magnetic characters, Ethan Suplee’s D, a role made for the often intimidating and gruff actor, and Clarke Peters’ Carl. The wisdom spoken by D, specifically in relation to the fight that he started, was mesmerizing. This show is populated by great actors, including Diane Farr as his ex-wife. The two who really got me, however, were Gretchen Mol from “Boardwalk Empire” and Paul Adelstein from “Prison Break,” as Jaclyn and Raymond Blackstone, two people who both possess multiple personalities in different senses of the term. Jaclyn is endlessly fascinating, and there’s a lot more to her than it initially seems, and Raymond knows exactly how to cover his tracks and stay one step ahead of those things that might cause him any trouble or inconvenience. I think this show has some interesting things to offer, but given the enormous amount of television I’m already watching, I’m not sure it has a clear hook to get me started as a regular viewer right now.

How will it work as a series? That’s what’s most puzzling to me, since while D seems like an understandable regular player, I can’t comprehend how an entire season (or series) can deal with unraveling Jaclyn while Raymond stays in the picture. It’s likelier to be a show that just goes wherever its plot takes it, but I’m not sure how well that’s going work or if this show is going to be too all over the place.
How long will it last? Hulu commissioned this show with a two-season-order from the start, which means that twenty episodes are already in the cards. Reviews have been pretty good, and I think this will just come down to the question of whether this is the kind of fare that Hulu wants to have defining its brand. Something tells me this is exactly it.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Atlanta

Atlanta: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Club” (B)

This was a solid improvement over the previous episode which was far too outwardly satirical and over-the-top for my tastes, even if not all that much happens. Earn scheduling Paper Boi for a public appearance at a club played out like most of the things in his personal and work life do, which is that a great idea and intention can end up turning into pointless monotony. Earn just trying to get paid led him through a repetitive maze that ended with him ingesting way too many shots and then casually throwing up while asking Chris for his money, which, due to expenses, ended up being less than a fifth of what was promised. I love that Paper Boi marched in there upon hearing that news and smacked Chris and just took the money from him. His time at the club really was a waste, even if he had a nice chat with the woman who was going to listen to his music but had a boyfriend. I like that Darius was so into Marcus Miles and his pictures of his invisible car, just the kind of thing that would get Darius excited. Ending the episode with shots fired outside the club and everyone making a running for it helped to return the show to a certain inevitable seriousness, followed by our three protagonists sitting together in a diner and eating a meal. Not much changes for these guys, and a failed club outing is just the latest attempt to seem relevant and try to engage with the world.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Pool” (B)

I can understand what this show is trying to do by isolating one memorable event from its characters’ childhood and using it to frame three distinctly separate plotlines and trajectories in the present. One fateful day at the pools seems like an overly significant representation of Kate being bullied because of her weight, Randall feeling lost because his skin color doesn’t match the rest of his family’s, and Kevin just trying to get some attention since he doesn’t have any particular struggles to overcome. The most poignant part of all that was Randall keeping track of the black people he met and Rebecca doing the right thing and asking her fellow pool-visiting mother for a barbershop for Randall. His childhood loneliness is coming through a lot in his reaction to William’s chronicles of his society-challenging activities in the 80s, and there’s really no way for him to make up for not being there during that time. Kate spent the episode focusing on something else other than her weight, though her stalkerish behavior with Toby’s ex-wife stemmed from the fact that she was so noticeably skinny and in shape. Toby’s reaction was priceless, and hopefully that’s one situation that Kate will be able to talk herself out of. Kevin’s audition went quite poorly, but his stammering seems to have helped him land a major role opposite an entirely unamused British actress. I liked Janet Montgomery a lot on “Human Target,” and hopefully this foray into network television will be infinitely more successful for her than the ill-conceived “Made in Jersey” was.

Monday, October 24, 2016

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 4 “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire” (B+)

It’s good to see everyone coming back together, even if that wasn’t really anyone’s intention. Daisy tapping into Simmons’ search history to lure her to a potential new home so that she could get her on board with an illicit plan designed to do the same thing S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to do – save inhumans – was a great way to reincorporate her back into the storyline. She’s clearly in bad shape, and even though she doesn’t want to work with the agency anymore, it makes sense that she should. It’s also good that Robbie may be coming on board since, even though he made a deal with the devil, he could be a solid ally, especially if he’s able to stop himself from killing when directed. The car chase where Coulson was right behind him was pretty thrilling, and the invisible ship never gets old, particularly when it serves to catch someone totally off guard and not damage his car at all. Coulson’s fearlessness came in handy, and letting Robbie loose turned out to be a good call. Jose Zuniga, a regular TV guest star whose role on “Dexter” immediately comes to mind, is a perfect choice to play Uncle Eli, who seems to have his family’s best interests in mind and who could also help S.H.I.E.L.D. out a great deal. James switching sides and working to help track down inhumans shouldn’t come as a surprise given his willingness to go along with Hive last season. Aida is quite something, and I love that she fooled everyone except for Simmons, who thought that Fitz didn’t realize that she was an android.

Round Two: American Housewife

American Housewife: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Nap” (B)

I want to like this show, especially because I think Katy Mixon is great, and this second episode was pretty much exactly like the first, appealing and sort of funny while not being totally well-rounded. Centering the episode on Katie wanting to get a nap was somewhat simplistic, but it represented just how much of a nonstop job her role as a mother is. Greg’s part in the whole thing was initially quite deplorable, as he stayed home because he thought he was getting sick, forcing her to take more things on when she was already exhausted, and then failed to appreciate just how she was feeling before eventually doing the right thing and letting her get some rest. This is hardly the first time a TV mom has stopped the car and made her children get out, but you have to give her credit for assigning appropriate punishments, like picking up trash for her son and not picking up trash for her daughter who needs to spend more time studying and less time on physical activities. Going to war with Kate Flannery’s Crossing Guard Sandy proved very funny, and she really doesn’t seem to be learning her lesson at all, pouring her heart out to Sandy when she got the boot put on but then being threatened with even harsher consequences on her next offense. Pants-unbuttoning aside, this episode was less full of references to Katie’s size, which I take as a positive since it was able to focus on better and more worthwhile things.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 5 “Jaipur Aviv” (B+)

I should note that, almost every week when I’m watching this show there’s a scene or two that makes me laugh out loud for at least thirty seconds or so. At this point, I don’t think there’s any other show on the air that regularly makes me crack up that same way, though this show’s quality isn’t exactly consistent from week to week. That moment for me in this episode was Schmidt’s concerned reaction to the fact that Cece couldn’t tell the difference between metal and wood as evidenced by her questionable interior design choices. There wasn’t much made of the episode’s title that served as a compromise between Schmidt’s idea for what to name their house and Cece’s response that a house doesn’t need to have a name, but it is pretty funny in concept. Using the unfurnished house as a setting for the voting on whether Nick should ask Reagan to move into the loft was entertaining, and I like that Jess had the little pictures of them as a backup gift that she could put on the impressively magnetic wall. Jess really is being a good friend to Nick, and it’s nice that they came to a good understanding about his trepidation with moving forward. Winston thinking that the house was used for a major porn movie was funny, and the notion of only being able to keep five secrets a time with Nick and having to reveal one in order to enter this into the archives is quite entertaining and very much unique to those two characters.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 3 “Magenta” (B+)

You’d think that the number of speedsters on this show would get old, yet somehow this manages to keep things interesting. Jesse showing up with the most excited look on her face made her newfound powers all the more fun, and I like how casual this new Harry is, using the “not!” thing a lot and chastising Barry for messing with the timeline. Jesse’s timing couldn’t have been any better since Barry needed a second speedster to stop a tanker from taking out an entire hospital. I knew I recognized the actress playing Magenta but I couldn’t figure it out to the point that it was really bothering me, and a quick visit to reveals that it was Joey King, recently seen in the first season of “Fargo.” Alchemy really is wreaking havoc on this world, and something tells me that Caitlin might be next even though her powers seem to be returning gradually and without any prompting. The existence of the speed lab in this newly constructed reality is cool, and I like that all these subtle differences exist. Wally’s need for speed is causing him to be very reckless, standing in front of cars to try to trigger the manifestation of his powers, and I do hope that Kid Flash is soon going to show up here. Joe calling Barry a second daughter was random but funny, and I enjoyed his reaction. Barry trying to be romantic didn’t come off exactly as he intended, but Iris’ ultimate acceptance of him as the Flash was really sweet.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Take Three: Timeless

Timeless: Season 1, Episode 3 “Atomic City” (B)

This was the first episode to reference an event that isn’t historically significant on its own, and while I don’t know that it was too problematic, it definitely wasn’t as engaging as the excitement of the Hindenburg or Lincoln’s assassination. I do like that this show continues to feature very interesting people who are extremely compelling, serving as strong representatives of their times. Judith Campbell had quite the personality, and she was more than a match for both Lucy intellectually and Wyatt operationally, giving him a hard time for threatening to tie her up and then double-crossing them all in service of protecting herself rather than her bedmate the president. I like the banter between Lucy and Wyatt, with him assigning saving history as her job and telling her that he can’t be worried about knocking over sideshakers. Trying to emulate one of the best time travel movies ever, “Back to the Future II,” and sending a telegram to his wife fifty years in the future was sweet, but it seems like it wasn’t enough to create such a monumental change for Wyatt. Lucy telling her mysterious fiancé that she needs space from him went over pretty well, and who knows whether he’ll be a regular fixture in the present she returns to. Rufus running into Anthony, played by Matt Frewer, better known as Dr. Leekie on “Orphan Black,” in 1962 confirmed that he wasn’t the victim but instead a somewhat willing participant in Flynn’s latest diabolical plan that involves a worrisome amount of plutonium.

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

Jane the Virgin: Season 3, Episode 1 “Chapter Forty-Five” (B+)

This show is premiering so late this year that I almost forgot all about it, and its return is a nice treat. This show has been consistent for pretty much its entire run, and that same expected quality is on display here as the show begins its third act. Flashing back to a young Jane who believes in HEA endings to romance novels made a lot of sense, but it was more jarring to see a twenty-one-year-old Jane pining for a guy we’ve never heard about and not at all ready to start things up with Michael, who was summarily dismissed with a fake text about being sick that got ruined when Michael was thoughtful enough to show up with some homemade soup. Pulling them over and making her get out of the car was clever, and kudos to Michael for refusing to give up even after he called Jane a jackass and she responded in kind. How different things are years later when Michael is in critical condition and Jane has to fight with Michael’s mom for who knows what’s best for him. The situation is causing plenty of stress for those around them, like Rogelio, who got misidentified by two lowlifes in the waiting room and then was ready to offer up his urine to keep the whole thing from being scandalized. Xiomara led her pregnancy slip, but Rogelio appears to have reacted better than I would have anticipated. Anezka is not doing a terrific job acting cool under pressure, but she does appear to have come up with a foolproof solution to keep her sister immobilized and is now charging ahead with a nefarious plan against Rafael since he said he doesn’t love her. The closing shot of Luisa waking up on a submarine with Rose was a nice tease for whatever soapiness lies ahead with this show’s superb villain and its craziest character, who just happen to be in love with each other.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Last Children of Krypton” (B+)

Though everyone in National City wanted to kill Kara because she was being far too eager and annoying about her newly restarted bond with her cousin, it was really sweet to see her having so much fun and throwing around hashtags that weren’t at all amusing to Hank. The Martian Manhunter’s hatred for Clark was very obvious, and the fact that this episode’s villains were able to shoot Kryptonite from their chests was hardly a coincidence. It was definitely helpful to have Superman around so that Supergirl didn’t get stretched too thin, and Hank and Alex came in handy to sever as Kryptonite-repellant allies when they needed to take down the two Metallos. I had no idea that Calista Flockhart was leaving the show because it’s not being shot in Canada, though I can’t say I’m sad to see her go since I’ve never found her to be the strongest element of the series. It seems that a newly sentimental Cat is being replaced by the even grumpier Snapper Carr, played by Ian Gomez from “Cougar Town,” and hopefully her angrier side that demands to be heard will shine through and help her become a great reporter. The sudden awakening of the mysterious Kryptonian being housed at the DEO should change things in a big way, and I imagine it’s going to distract considerably from Kara’s new career. Promoting James to Cat’s old job is a smart move, and Winn being a star player at the DEO helps put all our familiar characters in very fitting roles that should serve them well.

Take Three: The Bureau

The Bureau: Season 1, Episode 3 (B-)

This third episode took things in a new direction by filling in more information about Nadia and what she’s up to and showing how the Bureau treats those who have been loyal for years but may have been swayed by foreign influences. Malotru played a much more supporting role in this hour than he has up to this point, and his intense interrogation of Nadia at the end of the episode may have been meant to help give him intel about what she’s really up to, but instead it just provoked her. She held up very well under his questioning and didn’t give anything away, but then as soon as she returned home, she revealed his name, which, while a cover, is still going to put him in the crosshairs in a very dangerous way. Though she’s far from emotive, Marina seems to be doing well in her new cover, barely reacting to the invitation to prepare a lengthy presentation on a subject she knew absolutely nothing about and then learning twenty-five pages worth of information in five hours so that she knew what she was talking about, only to find that she wasn’t the only one given that assignment. Gherbi was tested in a major way, and he was clearly more than prepared for interrogation, ready to spin a made-up story just to get out of being hit and then pretty damn angry that his own agency rewarded his hard work and his return home. This show is definitely intriguing, but for now I think I’ll move on to the plentiful American fare currently airing.

Round Two: Insecure

Insecure: Season 1, Episode 2 “Messy as F**k” (B+)

I’m glad to see that the second installment of this show was just as solid as the first, representing more humor in Issa and Molly’s life but also plenty of new challenges that are slightly more serious. The most memorable part was actually Issa’s pitch, which ahead of time seemed like such a revolutionary and commendable idea and then fell part immediately upon its presentation. It’s nice that Frieda has her back and didn’t throw her under the bus when her pitch was being torn apart, and in return Issa used her suggestion of community service to incorporate it into a great plan inspired by the fact that, somehow, Molly had never been to the beach. Molly didn’t have much luck in the dating pool, but being identified by Issa’s rap outside the club while she was hardly dressed for the occasion turned out to be a high point after a failed date with someone who really didn’t like his experience on Coffee Meets Bagel but wasn’t all that great himself. Issa did her best to ignore Lawrence throughout the day, and running into him at Rite-Aid was an unfortunate coincidence. Acting out their future fight in the mirror was quite a sight, and Issa is definitely capable of carrying a scene, especially when she’s serving as both players. Going back to Lawrence and having a good, honest conversation was a nice ending to the episode, and while it doesn’t guarantee any lasting success in their relationship, at least it’s a positive step.

Pilot Review: Graves

Graves (Epix)
Premiered October 16 at 10pm

The second of Epix’s first two original new series is a half-hour comedy starring Nick Nolte, whose only regular television experience was in the ensemble cast of HBO’s short-lived horse racing drama a few years ago. Now he’s prominent as the front-and-center lead on this series about a former president of the United States who has reached a point of exasperation with what his life has become. The White House and its primary resident are the subjects of more and more shows these days, and therefore in a way it’s refreshing to find a series that deals with the commander-in-chief long after he’s left office. This, however, doesn’t offer all that much in the way of enticing content. Nolte’s Richard Graves is a determined curmudgeon who doesn’t seem to enjoy much of anything anymore, and it’s hard to figure out why those who don’t think that he was the worst president in history admire him so much. His wife, played by two-time Emmy winner Sela Ward, is a power player who knows what she wants and knows how to manage her husband, with some help from Roger Bart’s political operator and Ernie Hudson’s fixer. I’m not sure why Skyler Astin’s new assistant is needed, especially since he’s a particularly irritating and overly excitable addition to the cast. Graves getting a new lease on life and deciding that he’s going to undo all the bad things he’s done in the name of goodness and the American people is an interesting call to action, but it’s hard to take Graves’ statement of “I am awake!” seriously when Nolte look anything but energized.

How will it work as a series? Graves is a handful himself, and his blowtorch-happy daughter seems to have more than enough crazy boiled up within her for the whole family. Now that he’s changed his tune, it should be entertaining – and possibly moving – to see Graves defend honorable positions, but I think this show is a bit too much of an uninspired mess to really be sincere.
How long will it last? Epix doesn’t have anything to measure this show’s success against, and decent reviews may help it to sustain itself going forward. At this point, it’s way too early to tell given the network’s lack of experience in original TV programming, but I think this may just get a second season for ingenuity alone.

Pilot grade: C+

Pilot Review: Eyewitness

Eyewitness (USA)
Premiered October 16 at 10pm

There are some shows I’ve heard plenty about this fall, and then others, like this one, that catch me completely by surprise. Unsurprisingly, this is the umpteenth adaptation of a Norwegian show, adapting a format that worked well in another language but doesn’t translate nearly as compellingly to English. This feels very much like an anthology series, one that couldn’t possibly take more than a short season to resolve. I actually wasn’t clear exactly what it was going to be about at the start despite the title, and it didn’t help that it took a long time for it to get going. We have two teenage boys, one of whom is a popular kid who doesn’t want his secret gay life to become public and another who is living with foster parents and isn’t quite so good at keeping things quiet. Their forbidden cabin dalliance came at absolutely the wrong time, and a major bloodbath involving an executed FBI agent and a barefoot survivor made for one bad situation that is going to plague them for a while. It didn’t take long for the kids to be found, and I don’t understand the pacing of this show and how it’s going to work. I’m glad to see that Julianne Nicholson has found a new role, but after seeing her on “The Red Road,” “Masters of Sex,” and “Boardwalk Empire,” I’m disappointed by her potential here. This show is dark and uninviting, and it’s one anthology that I really don’t have any interest in seeing through to its conclusion.

How will it work as a series? It seems rather narrowly-focused, with the sheriff just happening to be the forest mother of one of the witnesses to a crime whose committer is definitely going to make sure no one can talk. I don’t know how well that can be sustained, and ten episodes seems like an awfully long time to play that out.
How long will it last? This show premiered to slightly better ratings and slightly better reviews than USA’s other new series, “Falling Water,” but it’s still nothing compared to the network’s veteran offerings and other new shows from earlier this year. Don’t count on this one to last for more than a single season.

Pilot grade: C

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Round Two: Divorce

Divorce: Season 1, Episode 2 “Next Day” (B)

I was talking with a friend about the pilot of this show a few days ago and remarking how I didn’t like it. He responded that it might have been because I hadn’t expected it to be funny, and he had laughed a lot at Robert’s actions and the way that he reacted to Frances. I’m pleased to report that episode two is a substantial improvement over the opening installment, and I did find it to be considerably funnier and more inviting despite the continually grim premise. Robert refusing to let Frances into the house or even talk to her was more entertaining this time around, and the way in which he went out of his way to make her feel bad was in a way funny and in another way truly awful. Frances isn’t doing a particularly good job of advocating for herself, swearing loudly when she used the phone in the home of the neighbors they still hadn’t invited over and then saying the wrong thing on multiple occasions. Referring to Jemaine Clement’s Julian based on his homemade granola – which was not a metaphor – turned out to be quite helpful in allowing a clearly jealous Richard to look him up online. By episode’s end, things were going much better with Frances back in the house with a plausible excuse to sleep apart from Richard, and let’s hope that they can be as presentable and parental as possible in front of their children while they work on what their next steps are.

What I’m Watching: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: Season 4, Episode 6 “Family Only” (B+)

This episode was all about the relationships we think we know between established couples and how they’re not actually anything like they used to be. Virginia showing up to drink and celebrate with Bill indicated her willingness to restart what they had, and he seems ready to come up with any excuse not to be around her. She has it out for Nancy, and forcing Art to tell her that they didn’t have sex didn’t have the effect she hoped it would at all, but that’s mainly because Art realizes that Nancy is into him having sex with other women even if he’s really not. Nancy and Art are actually doing great things in their new roles even if they’re not getting the recognition they deserve. Bob is playing a much bigger part in the show than I expected, and he truly does have a split personality right now, going from casual and in control to a complete drunk mess. I’m proud of Libby for not letting Keller out of their date by going with him to a nudist colony, and for realizing the liberty she needed and getting rewarded with some very passionate naked chemistry with a man who may be right for her. It was good to see Barton again, but his return was marred by a devastating tragedy. Helen’s C-section went fine, but its aftermath was heartbreaking, with Betty permitted to enter the room only to have to say goodbye to her love and then see her baby taken away by Helen’s parents.

Pilot Review: Berlin Station

Berlin Station (Epix)
Premiered October 16 at 9pm

This series marks the first foray for relatively new network Epix into original programming, along with “Graves,” which I’ll review shortly. This is arguably the less buzzed-about series, mainly because star Richard Armitage, a Brit not so well-known in the United States, adorns the poster, and Nick Nolte has a far more recognizable face. Armitage, however unfamiliar to American audiences, is joined by an impressive cast of veterans who, individually, are all quite impressive. Michelle Forbes was terrific on “True Blood” and received an Emmy nomination for her role on “The Killing.” Leland Orser recently recurred on “Ray Donovan” and is letting his rage bubble over in this role. Rhys Ifans, well known for comedic turns in “The Replacements” and “Notting Hill,” played a shady government part in “Snowden” and now gets to tone it down to a far more relatable handler. And Oscar winner Richard Jenkins was a fantastic part of “Six Feet Under” and has delivered many solid performances since then. With so many great actors in the cast, this show should be great, but unfortunately it just doesn’t deliver. Its casual opening credits were the first indication, much lighter than expected, and while tis show wants to be a sleek spy drama, it just doesn’t contain stirring dialogue or the energy that it needs to in order to fit that bill. Shaw is this mysterious whistleblower wreaking havoc on foreign intelligence in Germany, but he’s not nearly as compelling a figure as he’s meant to be. The dramatic music finally kicks in when Armitage’s Daniel is tailing someone, but by that point, it’s far too late to salvage interest.

How will it work as a series? Ten episodes should be ample time to weave a narrative related to the pursuit of Shaw and mix in the various elements related to each of the handlers and agents that complicate their work. It could become intriguing as it goes on, but I don’t see much hope for this becoming must-see television.
How long will it last? As the first original show on its network, it’s impossible to know what standards Epix will hold it to in terms of ratings. The reviews have been pretty good, and at this juncture it’s just as likely that it will be back as that it won’t since it’s really anyone’s guess.

Pilot grade: C

Take Three: Westworld

Westworld: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Stray” (B+)

I’ve commented already on the vastness of this show’s theme park and the craziness that anything can happen there without its monitors really knowing. That was on display more than ever before when Elsie got herself trapped and at the mercy of a rabid host in the middle of the darkness. We know that the guests can’t be killed, but I have to imagine that having a rock tossed on you doesn’t feel great. Experiencing the park through William’s eyes is truly fascinating, since he got a great thrill from playing the hero and saving the day, but he had no desire to sleep with Clementine despite her generous offer. It’s enormously disquieting to see that a number of the hosts are remembering their past lives, not to mention the murderous milkman who may have been holding grudges and killing those who had killed him in previous storylines. Maeve and Dolores seem to be recalling an awful lot and it’s forcing them to pause and become very disengaged from each scene. The new storyline is considerably darker and more violent, and I appreciate the stirring flashbacks for backstories, like Teddy’s soldier past. Arnold’s story is an important cautionary tale, one that Dr. Ford told knowingly because he realizes that Bernard is experiencing a deeper connection to the hosts than perhaps he should. This show has a lot going on, and I’m eager to see all of that revealed as the show progresses, with Bernard and the loss of his son the first one to be explored in some depth.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 7, Episode 3 “Home Sweet Homeless Shelter” (B+)

The opening of this episode had Lip and Fiona returning home smiling from separate one-night stands, and it’s such an interesting juxtaposition with the end of the hour, in which both of them declared a new determination to make something of themselves. Lip’s internship is beyond humiliating, with the removal of the “piss bag” as his main responsibility, but, at least for now, he’s going to do what it takes to get to the top. Fiona, on the other hand, was already making strides running her business properly in order to achieve the best possible success, and now she wants her home to run the same way, with each person paying their share. It’s a formidable system, though I can’t imagine any of them will be thrilled at the idea of her requesting to be last on their emergency contact lists. Deb is going to have the most trouble adjusting to this new way of thinking, if her reaction to being caught trying to shoplift over $2,000 worth of baby clothes is any indication. It’s great that Ian recorded a video to talk himself down when he’s becoming imbalanced, and it was quite a sight to see him spring into action and talk someone down only to make a crucial mistake moments later. The arrival of Pavel Lychnikoff, who appeared in this same timeslot as Ivan Belikov on “Ray Donovan” earlier this season, as Svetlana’s father should make things interesting, and I love that Kev’s business plan has already shifted to guilt money rather than actual cleaning. It’s a shame that Carl’s relationship with Dominique ended this way, but kudos to him for showing up at her father’s house with an STD test in one hand and a damning photo in the other. Frank recreating his family with lookalikes and stand-ins and forcibly taking over a house to be a homeless shelter is a stunt even larger and crazier than what he’s done before, and his uncrushable cockroach spirit is truly driving him to new low heights.

Pilot Review: Haters Back Off

Haters Back Off (Netflix)
Premiered October 14

Within the opening moments of this show, it’s clear that it’s a certain type of series. It’s not one that’s meant to be taken seriously, and the notion that there are people who live entirely within a world like the one that Miranda Sings inhabits is hard to believe. In a way, there are those who think that they have talent when they absolutely don’t and will subsequently stop at nothing to share that perceived gift with the world. They may also be quite so intense and obnoxious as to talk down to those who can’t grasp their innate brilliance. But this show is unquestionably a parody of such elements and the whole notion of internet stardom. I’m not familiar at all with comedian Colleen Ballinger or with the YouTube videos that she has been posting as Miranda Sings since 2008. While I found myself rolling my eyes throughout most of this episode even more than I do whenever I watch “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” I did note something spectacular about the way that the opening song number, “Defying Gravity,” was filmed, displaying Miranda in all her unabashed glory. The world in which she lives is a lonely but thrilling one, and this show manages to get at that in a magnificent way. Ballinger is extraordinarily committed to the role, and I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect for the role of her uncle than Steve Little, who previously appeared on “Eastbound and Down” and “The Grinder” and has never found a more fitting part. Angela Kinsey from “The Office” is also superb as her clueless mother, and Francesca Reade rounds out the cast nicely as Emily, the smart sister that Alex from “Modern Family” wishes she could be. I see the appeal of this show and its quality, but it’s not something I need to watch.

How will it work as a series? We’ve already seen a few dramatic meltdowns from Miranda, but also an ability for her to recognize, in whatever minimal way, that not everyone wants what she’s selling, as evidenced by her sweet deal with her sister not to acknowledge her in public. This show should be entertaining, awkward, horrifying, miserable, and hilarious all at the same time.
How long will it last? It seems like there was such a build-up for the series that the character of Miranda Sings should attract enough of an audience, even if the show hasn’t received such warm reviews from critics. I think it’s an interesting experiment, and something tells me that Netflix is going to want to give it another shot even if it didn’t launch so strongly.

Pilot grade: B-

Pilot Review: Goliath

Goliath (Amazon)
Premiered October 14

Billy Bob Thornton is a great actor with a very distinctive face and style who often plays sly, devilish characters. He took that to a whole new level for this last regular TV gig, his Golden Globe-winning role as troublemaker –slash-hitman Lorne Malvo on “Fargo.” It’s only natural that anyone who saw him in FX’s stunning series would want to get him on TV full-time, and now he’s back on this direct-to-series order from Amazon, a streaming service that usually premieres a handful of pilots and asks voters to decide which should be regular shows. Based on this pilot, it seems likely that most would vote to commission it for a full run. Describing it might make it sound less solid than it is, the story of an alcoholic lawyer who gets back on track by going up against his old firm, representing the David and Goliath story in a big way. What I like most about it is its insular nature, reminiscent of “Billions,” where those who interact on a professional level on opposite sides of the table have much deeper personal connections that threaten to complicate everything. And then there’s the cast. Thornton is terrific, not nearly as angry as I would expect and still enormously compelling. Maria Bello is a great choice to play his ex-wife Julie, with “A History of Violence” coming to mind immediately as the most fitting qualifier. Molly Parker, who earned an Emmy nomination for playing a politician who wasn’t nearly as cutthroat as she wanted to be, is the perfect actress to play her partner at the firm. I recognized Nina Arianda from “Florence Foster Jenkins,” and I think she’s my favorite cast member, so unapologetically blunt and standoffish as Billy’s new partner of sorts. Olivia Thirlby, a great actress who appeared in the likes of “Juno” and “The Wackness,” seems like she’ll be terrific as “The Mouse.” I haven’t had such spectacular TV experiences with Sarah Wynter from “24” and William Hurt on “Damages,” but I think they’ll play their parts well. I’ll definitely be back for episode two of this above-average drama.

How will it work as a series? The show’s title and the framing of the first episode present the show, or at least its first season, as a one-case arc, which has worked well for other legal thrillers recently. The emphasis on characters and the strong cast suggest that there is an abundant amount of material to cover and this show, from veteran David E. Kelley, is more than up to the task of keeping it interesting.
How long will it last? A straight-to-series order from Amazon is about the best recommender of this show’s lifespan since streaming services can be overenthusiastic from the start in a way that TV-housed networks can’t be since their efforts may backfire. Reviews are good and Thornton should garner awards buzz, so I’d expect this one to be back after its initial eight episodes for a second season.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Take Three: Crisis in Six Scenes

Crisis in Six Scenes: Season 1, Episode 3 (C)

More and more, I’m becoming convinced that this series might have worked better as just six scenes rather than six half-hour episodes. Everything about this show is becoming tiresome, and I’m wondering whether it’s even going to be worth it to see the series through to the end. Alan being introduced to Lennie was boiled down to her giving him pot to mellow him out, which thus far has just meant he’s been talked out of passive resistance and that he’s now fascinated by her rather than the woman he’s supposed to marry. Sidney, in trying to argue with Lennie, found himself completely unable to win, noting that of course Lennie was politically against his waffle iron before admitting to never cheating on his income taxes but simply not declaring anything. Things took a turn after Sidney stopped emphasizing how much of his food his revolutionary guest was eating and she revealed that her most productive therapy session involved her shrink dying three minutes in. It didn’t get much better from there, with Sidney’s pilot pitch proving particularly underwhelming. Trying to redirect the conversation from anything related to his hidden houseguest to the fact that there were no clams in his clam chowder didn’t work too well, and he just sounded obsessive. Telling his friend not to talk into his taco was the height of his paranoia, and quoting Lennie’s egg omelet analogy didn’t help matters at well. Episode four is going to need a shot of energy and something different to make it and the rest of this show worth watching.

Take Three: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 1, Episode 3 “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” (B)

I’m realizing more and more than this show is one that’s probably meant to be binge-watched like “Daredevil” since it’s an origin story in a lot of ways that takes plenty of time to develop and really get going. The one exception to that, of course, is that Luke was outed as the one who ripped off a car door to burst through another door and then used it as a shield from the gunfire coming his way. Cottonmouth’s response was to personally take the shot to blow up Luke’s home life, and I imagine that he’ll be pretty surprised to learn that Luke won’t be at all harmed by the major explosion. This episode was much less about action than it was about offering worldviews and perspectives on what justice is supposed to be. The most unfortunate revelation is that Rafael, after espousing the attitude that they should thank vigilantes for cleaning up the streets, is on Cottonmouth’s payroll and has no qualms about strangling a witness with his tie just when he’s really ready to talk. That explains his perception of cops as irrelevant, and it makes me very worried about Misty’s livelihood given these Marvel Netflix shows’ penchants for killing off major supporting characters during their freshman seasons. Misty is on to Luke, but that just means that she’s behind since apparently everyone else already knows his secret. You can tell that Luke is enjoying this a little bit, waving his enemies towards him to tempt him, though I imagine he’ll be much less positive about the endeavor going forward. I’m glad to see Mariah demonstrated some personality, letting Cottonmouth know that she’s in this just as much as he is.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 5, Episode 4 “The Judas Wolf” (B+)

I’ve noticed that these episodes are getting longer and longer, going from somewhere between 40 and 45 minutes when the show used to air on network television up to just over an hour now that it’s available exclusively for streaming. That allows for longer storytelling, and I don’t know that there’s another show that can get away with this pacing and still remain interesting. Walt being referenced as being on his way out was marvelously contrasted by the sight of Walt running quickly on the treadmill after responding to the joke about being pregnant. It’s always exciting when most people are rooting for the alleged victims to be kidnapped or killed, and there wasn’t much affection to be found for the missing hunters. The situation turned out to be, in usual fashion, much more complicated than expected, with a kidney transplant and a signed permission slip to ensure that there wouldn’t be prosecuted for the offense. There were a number of guest stars in this hour, including Louis Herthum from “Westworld,” Eric Ladin from “The Killing,” and Shannon Lucio from “The O.C.” Walt pursuing his legal case rather than settling should prove both frustrating and entertaining, and while it’s a shame Cady won’t be representing him, she seems to have recommended someone with a whole lot more personality. Henry and Mathias experienced a share sense of dismay and devastation when they found the boy dead, and I imagine they’re going to be working together much more purposefully going forward to prevent such a horrible thing from happening again.

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 3, Episode 4 “Just the Facts” (B+)

In watching a few shows in succession, I described this as the series that would balance drama and comedy, but this was an exceptionally brutal episode, at least as it related to a few plotlines. It was clear at the end of the episode that Rita wasn’t headed anywhere good as she ascended the escalators at the mall, and hearing her hit the ground was almost worse than seeing her jump would have been. Josh is sinking into loneliness despite his positive relationship with Ali, and hearing him play his sweet song all by himself in the house showed just how solitary he’s keeping his emotions. Ali, on the other hand, is trying to share every moment with Leslie, in a relationship that’s not just age-inappropriate but also not fated to work out given their extremely different expectations of what their connection is supposed to be. Sarah seemed to be trying something fun and different by assuming the “top” position, but she ended up really scaring Pony by going too far and unleashing an anger that I don’t think she knew she had inside her. Somehow, that led her to think about creating a new synagogue space that the cantor is excited about, an awfully strange transition. Vicki is raising some solid concerns about Maura going all the way in her path to becoming a woman, though I was honestly thinking more about the unreliability of her doctor since he was played by Matt McCoy, who was the truly unstable and unhelpful lawyer on “Silicon Valley.”

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What I’m Watching: Fleabag

Fleabag: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

Leave it to Fleabag to be incredibly awkward while having her breasts checked by a doctor. That wasn’t the most uncomfortable part of the episode, however. That honor goes not to Fleabag, the expected choice, but instead to Olivia Colman’s Godmother. I don’t think I wrote much about how great an actress Colman is, one of the best parts of the disappointing “Hyde Park on Hudson” a few years back and a standout performer in the cast of “The Lobster” earlier this year. This role comes somewhere in between those two, with infinitely more selfishness in there, using a day designed to memorialize a woman who was her husband’s wife and her stepdaughter’s mother to think about her own ex and make it all about her. Just as we’ve learned something new about how Fleabag isn’t quite as bad in some ways as other people in her life, in this episode we see that the Godmother is pretty awful to Fleabag, starting things with her on a regular basis and baiting her just for the hell of it. Suggesting that she close down her little restaurant was particularly crass, and the subsequent flashback to Fleabag promising Boo she’d never close the café only made the impoliteness sting more. Her sex-hibiton is pretty horrifying, and I’m glad that, after everything, it was Claire who, after Fleabag revealed her secret big news and without any other prompting, announced that she was leaving Martin, giving Fleabag the money for the café, going to Finland, and had even stolen the sculpture back in a wonderful show of support for her sister over their tyrannical stepmother.

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 2, Episode 7 “Deutschland 93” (B+)

Pablo being angry at those who he feels have wronged him is a very dangerous thing. Opening with all of the bombing of the drug stores and the retaliatory acts by Los Pepes indicated an unfortunate cycle of violence that continues to pervade the streets of Colombia, but the transformation that happened at the end of the episode when Pablo’s family returned was far more horrifying. Choosing an anonymous man mourning the devastating loss of his daughter was a very effective representation of the senseless bombing that Pablo had executed so that Gaviria could feel his wrath which makes the major jump from targeted executions and bombings for retribution to the murder of innocents unlucky enough to be in a certain place at the wrong time, not even affiliated with anyone sordid. Judy clashing with her allies is bad news also, and there’s not going to be any winner in this scenario. Steve was very much up for the task to just pick up and fly to Germany, and his close proximity to Escobar’s family makes his continued safety a true concern. Javier calling Messina instead of his Los Pepes contact was a positive step, but it still wasn’t enough to stop Duque and his son from being murdered, with the assistance of the CIA, no less. There’s very little good currently going on in Colombia, and the distrust between Javier and Steve isn’t good for either of them. With just three episodes left this season, I have to hope that things are going to get better soon.

Pilot Review: Falling Water

Falling Water (USA)
Premiered October 13 at 10pm

I read a short description of this show a few weeks ago and was immediately intrigued by the premise but just as skeptical of its execution. People’s dreams are an obviously interesting subject for television or film, but it’s hard to find an example that manages to tackle them in a way that proves both engaging and reasonable. “Inception” is the exception to the rule, one that, however complex, proved to be incredibly cool and exciting even if some of the suggested science didn’t hold up. A TV example that works relatively well is “Sense8,” though it’s hard to find much logic or clarity on that incredibly confusing show that takes dreams to the next level and instead establishes the kind of deep conscious connection that this show is going for. On this show, an incredibly overeager Zak Orth seems to want to unite people during their dreams and help to understand more about our minds that way, though one of his subjects is already trying to subvert him, telling the “guest” in his dream to lie to Orth’s Bill. Regardless of what high-minded intellectual notions this show has, the way it plays out is extremely dense, uninviting, and confusing in a way that doesn’t command return viewing. I find it strange that a noted trendspotter is the first candidate to go under and figure out how to help with all this, but she also apparently has a baby she doesn’t remember having for which a miscellaneous $10 hospital charge is the only evidence. None of the actors are particularly impressive, and this show’s pacing is not a plus. This show might get interesting a few episodes in, but I’m not up for the long ride it will take to potentially get there.

How will it work as a series? So far, only Tess is aware of what Bill is trying to do and that there’s something worth taking away from her dreams that isn’t just in her head. My assumption is that Burton and Taka will soon get there, but how much will happen before then is another question that I’m not too attached to having answered since this show is already so muddled.
How long will it last? This pilot first aired a few weeks ago after the “Mr. Robot” season finale at 11pm, a late hour to debut a new show, before airing again last Thursday night. The reviews weren’t great, and USA is trying to delve into darker territory with this kind of show. I don’t think it holds a candle to the network’s other offerings, and I wouldn’t expect this to survive to season two.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 1, Episode 6 “Alarms” (B+)

As this show goes on, it’s becoming more and more about Sam’s life and her dealing with whatever is thrown at her. While that’s what a lot of shows are technically about, I’m paying this series a compliment since it’s less structured and instead just goes with the flow and tackles the latest obstacle in Sam’s happiness. The first part of the episode had to do with her being one of the peers, interacting with friends like Diedrich Bader’s Pats and Alysia Reiner’s Sunny, who are all on the same level as she is. The casual talk of disease and dating felt very comfortable, yet there’s still plenty of disagreement to be found, even among friends. It felt strange to watch Sam in a sitcom, though it was quickly revealed that she was just shooting a pilot, one that she cared far less about than her cocky TV husband and her horny TV son, both of whom made very inappropriate comments to her about how attractive she was. Telling Sam that it was weird that she was playing his mom since he would hook up with her was awkward enough, but getting overly excited in the car was pretty horrifying. Sam just moved on with her life, and then had to deal with her mother, a unique influence who didn’t bother to deprogram her alarm when she walked in to her house and couldn’t be bothered to clean off even one surface. If the end of the episode was any indication, some good old American vodka might do the trick.