Monday, April 24, 2017

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul


Better Call Saul: Season 3, Episode 2 “Witness” (B+)

I was questioning during the extended exposition scene just how much the location of Los Pollos Hermanos and the return of Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring needed to be primed. I always argue that this show is solid enough in its own right that it needs no connection to the original as a regular reminder of its quality, but Gus was an inarguably excellent part of that show, and Esposito is terrific. I knew that was him walking by and mopping the floors without showing his face, and he was ready to dig right into the trash so that Jimmy could get his watch back. Jimmy being there means that, as Mike continues his own little test, he’s going to have one old friend and one new one to fall back on when he hits hard times very shortly. I like that Ernie came to Kim out of genuine affection and concern for Jimmy, and that Kim right away made Jimmy give her money to become his client. She wasn’t furious again about what he had done, she just wanted to look out for him and assure him that they would figure it out. Just as he was far too casual with the hire of his new assistant, who tried to sell Mike on the merits of air-conditioned fast country food, he seemed to dismiss any real threat in terms of Chuck’s words against his. And then, for possibly the first time on this show, he exploded and got so angry, kicking in Chuck’s door and demanding to see the tape. Chuck acknowledging that there were not one but two witnesses, including Howard, to his behavior was a somber ending that puts Jimmy’s entire fate in future in flux.

Pilot Review: Guerrilla


Guerrilla (Showtime)
Premiered April 16 at 10pm

There’s something about a revolution, especially one that’s already happened, that can be inspirational all on its own. Such historical events make for great cinema, whether on the big screen or the small screen, and even if the dialogue or the specific details of the story aren’t superb, it’s already starting off from a solid vantage point because of the infectious nature of fighting for social justice. This show is a joint production between Sky Atlantic in the UK and Showtime here in the United States, with each episode airing just a few days earlier across the ocean. This is very much a British story, covering the British black power movement, and that may actually be more intriguing to Americans who already have some institutional knowledge of the history of civil rights in the United States. The first half of this pilot episode wasted no time in tackling police brutality based not only on racism but also nationalism, with a white Irish woman earning a beating for standing up to cops, and the awful murder of a protester specifically commanded by the police. The second half took a different turn with the focus of breaking out a prisoner, something that’s more suspense- and drama-based rather than having to do with political uprising, more with the lengths people have to go to, like eating glass and dealing with the implications of irreversible illegal acts. There are a few familiar faces in this cast, starting with Idris Elba, who has done plenty in the United States, most notably “The Wire” and his award-winning turn in “Beasts of No Nation,” and Freida Pinto broke out on the international scene with “Slumdog Millionaire.” This drama has a lot to say about politics, race, and the way that actions cause reactions. It’s decent but also somewhat flawed in its presentation, and I think this was an effective enough of a sample for me.

How will it work as a series? This first episode confirmed that, once you’re in it, you’re in it, and that’s what Pinto’s Jas is beginning to accept and own. The remaining five episodes are likely to be full of drama and political commentary, driven by these characters, who are decent but not spectacular.
How long will it last? It’s all the rage these days for miniseries or event series that are meant to last just one season to be renewed, especially when they’re co-produced by networks from different countries. The reviews are pretty strong, so it’s very possible that will happen here. I think the initial order is probably all it will get, but who knows?

Pilot grade: B

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: Veep (Season Premiere)

Veep: Season 6, Episode 1 “Omaha” (B+)

This show is the reigning Emmy champ for Best Comedy Series, taking home the trophy the past two years. While critics and Emmy voters seem to have loved season five, I wasn’t as impressed, and therefore I’m pleased to see this season sort of rebooting things while keeping its characters just as awful. I didn’t laugh out loud more than once or twice over the course of the episode, but this was still an objectively humorous half-hour. The awkwardness on this show is, in my mind, unparalleled, and it’s clear that there is literally no one other than Selina herself who thinks that running for president again is a good idea. Having to ask Marjorie for permission to use funds after giving her AIDS to have to resolve makes things even more uncomfortable, and she manages to do a tremendous job of treating Gary and Mike terribly. She does seem to like Richard, which is a positive in my mind since he’s the best character on the show. Jonah’s new position as cancer-surviving politician suits him well, and I like Dan as a talk show host who just can’t get out of a job that seems fine for now but is sure to make him miserable due to the fury of his cohost. Andrew is especially seedy and manipulative, and for some reason he’s the literally the only person Selina seems to be listening to when she asks for advice. There’s no way that Amy’s relationship with Matt Oberg’s Buddy Calhoun can last since he’s way, way too nice for her. Here’s to a great season, I hope!

What I’m Watching: Girls (Series Finale)

Girls: Season 6, Episode 10 “Latching”

I’m not sure what I expected here, what could possibly serve to close out a very distinct and unique series on television in a way that appropriately summed up the six seasons we’ve experienced. I wouldn’t have voted to include only two of the four “girls” and just one other character, but I guess Hannah moving out of the city and leaving New York behind meant leaving everything behind. Everything, that is, except for Marnie and her mother. Now, I’m not a parent, so I can’t claim to know what people have experienced, but I do think that there were some parts of this episode that were equally predictable and hard to take seriously. Hannah has never been mature, and she was ready to completely throw in the towel when Marnie, someone who has plenty of issues but loves rules and reading things closely and therefore might make a very good mother, was clearly better at parenting than she was. Somehow, a walk down the street where a teenage girl showed her just how insignificant her problems were was able to turn everything around for her, and we’re left with the closing image of Hannah finally smiling because she got Grover to latch. I’m not sure that one small albeit significant victory is the best way for this show to close itself out, and this episode contained only one really funny moment, which was Loreen walking in on Marnie having role play phone sex, which she then briefly tried to deny having. This show had its moments, and I look forward to reflecting back on some of its more positive and satisfying times than this occasionally decent but relatively unfulfilling final season.

Series finale: B-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Andrew Rannells as Elijah
Season grade: B
Series MVP: Allison Williams as Marnie
Best Season: Season 1 and 6
Best Episode: “She Did

What I’m Watching: Billions


Billions: Season 2, Episode 9 “Sic Transit Imperium” (B+)

What’s most incredible to me about this show is not the grandeur of the undertakings that Chuck and Axe begin on an episodic basis but the quickness with which they give them up because of newly-introduced factors. Chuck made a big show of visiting Sandicott and pretending not to want press, and then he found a way to be finally able to take down Axe and score himself a big political win. But all it took was a short conversation with Jack Foley to learn that this wasn’t something he approved of, and by episode’s end, he was ready to throw in the towel completely and not going after Axe at all anymore. Letting his father meddle around with his blind trust probably isn’t a smart idea, and while you’d think that Chuck Sr. would know what he was doing, the soon-to-be-candidate shouldn’t be knowingly entering into any potential conflicts of interest, lest he become like his number one target. Axe did his due diligence to make sure that Dollar Bill’s birthday tip was legitimate, and he also just blew $500,000 on an effort to look charitable. While he’s managed to convince Taylor to take their first steps towards becoming more like him and enjoying the luxury, he’s just lost his number one supporter who’s far more stable than Wags will ever be. I liked the fact that Lara called and ended up talking to Chuck to convince Wendy to come to the party, and it was inevitable that she would end up finding out that it was Wendy who set the boundaries between them, revealing Axe to be a manipulative liar. That look on her face at the end of the episode was so telling, and Axe has no idea what’s in store for him now that she’s no longer in his corner.

What I’m Watching: The Leftovers (Season Premiere)

The Leftovers: Season 3, Episode 1 “The Book of Kevin” (B+)

The first season of this show was simply incredible, and while season two wasn’t quite as terrific, it was also pretty great. I’m sad that this show is ending after just three seasons with only eight episodes for this year, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it goes. Starting with rapture preparation in the 1800s was extremely effective, and that signature music kicking in just a few minutes in is enough to remind me of how much I love this show. Skipping ahead three years to relative tranquility was a smart idea, and it only took about half the episode for things to start turning south again. I like the instances of newfound stability with Tommy as a cop, John and Laurie happily together and conning people as a motivational tool, and Matt back to a calmer, more normative preaching with Michael as his loyal apprentice. Under the surface, however, there are some problems, like the return of Michael Gaston’s hunter, who seemed crazy at first and then actually got himself killed trying to gun down Kevin and Tommy. With just fourteen days to go until another potentially world-changing event, Mary is thinking of leaving Jasper for good, and for good reason, since Matt is still obsessive. Not only that, he’s writing a new gospel with Kevin as the immortal heir to Jesus of sorts. I have no idea what to make of the final scene with Carrie Coon in Australia as a woman named Sarah, but I’m definitely ready for the final seven episodes of this show.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 3, Episode 4 “The Burglary” (B+)

With the level of attention that Grace and Frankie give to the security of their shared living arrangement, it’s no surprise that a burglar took advantage of that to steal some of their most valuable possessions. While the class was a bit over-the-top, it’s true that Frankie is a walking target, having told numerous people her home address within minutes of meeting them. Grace wasn’t happy at all about the recommendation that potential victims soil themselves when attacked to avoid being touched, and she much preferred the idea of having her gun close to her to be able to protect her. That’s obviously going to be a big issue going forward, especially if the title of the season’s fifth episode is any indication. I like knowing what TV shows fictional characters watch, and Frankie’s condition that they could only talk about how handsome Liev Schreiber is after they finished watching “Ray Donovan” was very funny. The cop asking Grace if Mallory was single was amusing, as was his follow-up comment about the mean one, which Grace shut down right away too. Robert deciding to host drinkies at his house so that Sol could be included was a nice gesture but a terrible idea from the start, and it did go very poorly. I was glad to see that Sol stood up for himself, refusing to apologize for talking about his life as a man married to a woman, even though he went overboard sharing personal information that Robert hadn’t wanted to share. I’m sure they’ll get through this – they’ve been through much worse.

What I’m Watching: Iron Fist

Iron Fist: Season 1, Episode 5 “Under Leaf Pluck Lotus” (B-)

So it’s true that this show has definitely improved from where it was, and I laugh every time someone says something like, “Oh, you’re Danny Rand?” This installment was mildly intriguing, though I’ll admit that, by the end of it, I didn’t understand why so much time had been spent on Danny and Colleen’s surveillance of the pier. That’s something that’s pretty standard for “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage” also, exhausting unnecessary effort on showing its characters staking somewhere out before a big battle ensues. In another connection to those two shows, we got to see Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson in what must surely be one of the coolest five-series deals ever signed, for the first time on this show. Her introduction was timed perfectly since they needed someone with serious medical knowledge to come in handy when they couldn’t take their newest ally to a hospital. Danny has been training for this his whole life, but it seems that the quick-to-decapitate Hand is also well aware of this fact. What Danny isn’t quite as adept at is navigating the new business world in which he exists, since he managed to get himself caught on camera promising to make something right that was supposed to be settled in a more official, legal setting. Even Joy seems to be losing some patience, and the emergence of her humanity after her initially cold response to the loss others suffered still pales in comparison to her business savvy and her vision of the big picture.

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Hard Drive” (B)

Okay, so at least we’re away from all of the crazy sexual stuff and other ridiculousness that has defined this show for the past few episodes. Instead, we’re treated to flashbacks to a version of Alice that is pretty shocking, and that may be more because it’s not all that credible than anything else. Her first meeting with Val was quite memorable, and it’s hard to imagine that she would fall so hard for Christopher after having this unfortunate experience with Ethan which clearly led her to partner up with the former detective to start a private investigation firm. What’s most interesting is that, to keep up the soap factor, Ethan isn’t out of the picture, and Alice going to him to apologize for not believing him the first time around led to him showing up at her door just as she was reminded of the dishonest way in which she and Ben, who are now blissfully happy, came about. Ben’s right that it was an old version of him and he hasn’t done anything wrong in the present, but I suspect nothing will be quite that simple, especially in light of his newly revealed paternal status. I enjoyed seeing Rhys’ excitement at the fact that Ben was a father, and Margot made her move pretty quickly to get rid of her mother and find a way to bond with the daughter that she apparently sort of knew she had. It seems like Tessa is definitely going to be sticking around, and I’m eager to see how she contributes to the dynamic. I’m particularly looking forward to what’s sure to be an extremely awkward family dinner with Ben and Alice.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 19 “Babysit Argument Invention Butterfly” (B-)

This wasn’t my favorite episode, and I don’t think it’s really worth talking about the fourth segment at all since it represented an enormous bore. We’ve seen some touching Sophia-John bonding before, and this was by far the least interesting of it. The opening vignette presented the opportunity for two less put-together potential parents than Greg and Jen, who themselves sometimes exhibit questionable judgment, to prove that they were capable of taking care of Lark. They didn’t too so poorly, but they did drop her, get it captured on camera, have sex in Greg and Jen’s bed, confess to it, and still not manage to change a diaper in the process. I love that the advice to fight naked came from Tyler and Clementine, and that it actually turned out to be productive since they had sex rather than fighting, and I like the way that what they were arguing about ended up evolving, resulting in events having played out very differently than Tim had imagined and was trying to use as a case against his wife. Greg got way too involved in Samantha’s project, and showing up at the school basically attempting to claim credit for what she had submitted and demanding to know why she hadn’t gotten a better grade was both funny and supremely awkward. Usually it’s Matt who gets to be the inappropriate uncle, and the look of horrific embarrassment on Samantha’s face when he interrupted her class and then just kept on going making it worse spoke volumes.

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 19 “Ricky Leaks” (B+)

This episode should win an award for its great title. I was trying to figure out where I knew Ricky the IT guy from, and some quick research suggests that it was the truly awful pilot for TBS’ “Ground Floor,” which I remember seeing advertised at a Coffee Bean in New York City long after it went off the air. Jack is relatively functional in the world due to his swagger and self-confidence, and therefore it’s easy to forget – or maybe just hard to believe – that he would still be paying thirty dollars for an AOL e-mail account with no knowledge of the existence of Gmail or any of the million other free email providers. I really enjoyed the way that the dump played out, as announced in an unfortunately-phrased way every time by Ricky. The playing field was also pretty even, with everyone trying to hide something from the rest of the team. I think Emma was safest in what got revealed about her, and I was hoping that Clark’s crush on Emma would come out as part of it as it almost did. Instead, Jack got to step up and be unselfish for once, revealing his tryst with Brooke as a way of saving Clark from a crushingly embarrassing confession. Mason’s obsession with his boat was decidedly peculiar, and I love that he was the architect of a list of fifty ways to get Brooke to give you a day off. Brooke inspiring the final dump by blatantly refusing to apologize showed some nice fire, and it seems like everything worked out in the end.

What I’m Watching: Powerless

Powerless: Season 1, Episode 9 “Green Furious” (B+)

Now this is great casting. I like Natalie Morales a lot, and haven’t found her roles on “The Grinder” and “Santa Clarita Diet” to give her sufficient material following the show that I initially got to know her watching, “Parks and Recreation.” Here, having her play Green Fury, a superhero fresh off a breakup who got suckered into doing a commercial for Emily after she saved her from certain death at the hands of Jack-O-Lantern, was simply fantastic, and I do hope that she becomes a recurring character. Teddy being obsessed with trying to talk to her and then going way overboard with the guyliner to tell a story of a parent who saved Christmas was extremely entertaining, and when Ron is the reasonable one, you know that there’s a problem. Emily’s eagerness to make a name for herself was obviously going to get her into trouble, and I love that she managed to pitch something, have it corrupted by her chauvinist bosses, and then find a way to turn it into something great that solved more than one problem. The Olympian’s eagerness to be naked came in very handy, and now Emily has a go-to friend in Green Fury. Matt Oberg is playing a very different character here as the main jerk in charge than he’s going to be portraying this season on “Veep,” and it’s fun to see how unalike the two fictitious people are. I liked the Wendy-Jackie-Ruby storyline more than I thought I would, and I especially enjoyed how it was resolved with the reveal of Ruby’s reason for punching her classmate.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 1, Episode 11 “Chapter 11: Unusual Suspect” (B+)

Even though I’m over a week behind, I still wanted to make sure to review this episode on its own since it aired separately as a bonus installment. While I don’t think there’s any reason that NBC is showing this show two episodes at a time and no reason that this one aired independently without a second half-hour after it other than there being thirteen episodes ordered, I’d still like to think that this is a special extra treat for an underrated show that’s all but guaranteed to be cancelled and relegated to television oblivion. The case took a very boring turn with individual testimony about each of the shards, but fortunately that didn’t last long since Josh tried to get started on preparing his defense. Summer going on the stand was a good idea at the start, but the fact that she hated her stepmother turned out to be me more than a bit problematic. Putting Anne on the stand and having her belt her heart out for the jury was smart, and it only took one question and one innocent yet wrong response from Anne for Carol Anne to discredit her. Josh coming up with the plan to treat Summer as a suspect was brilliant, and it’s just too bad that Larry, stupid as he is, is hopelessly loyal to his daughter, and therefore decided to confess so that he could spare her being targeted. Something tells me that the throwaway revelation that Larry has a twin brother – naturally named Harry – won’t be so soon forgotten. Dwayne getting high to recreate Summer’s state of mind was predictably absurd, and Anne falling asleep while driving was pretty horrific. My favorite line of the episode came from Dwayne: “I know what you’re thinking, ghost phone!”

Round Two: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 1, Episode 3 “Kangaroo Court” (B)

This was a fine follow-up to the first two episodes that we saw last week, though it wasn’t quite as enticing. In a sense, not much happened in this episode, but I think that may be what we’re in store for going forward. I’m not familiar with the sports tradition of kangaroo court (it may not be just a sports thing), but it turned pretty explosive right away. Of course Brockmire speaks both Spanish and Japanese and was therefore the only one who was qualified to come in to mediate the situation. After assuming that Charles was gay because of pictures that he found on his computer, he and Jules deemed him to be the perfect judge because he, like me, doesn’t care about baseball at all. The revelation that it was the translator-slash-journalist who had created the whole problem in the first place was intriguing, and it seems like everything worked out well in the end, as long as that guy who said “You’re killing me” turned out to be okay. How Brockmire got to giving a history lesson on chewing tobacco and Hitler’s rise to power is beyond me, but that’s all part of his charm, as is saying “I told you so” as often as possible to a very irritated Jules. It didn’t take long for Jules to catch on to what Gary was very unapologetically up to, and good for her for calling him on it and standing up to him. Lucy showing up just as Brockmire was telling Jules that she was beautiful is quite the twist, and I’m especially excited for what comes next since Katie Finneran is the one playing her.

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 1, Episodes 9 and 10 “Chapter 9: Opening Statements” and “Chapter 10: A Hostile Jury” (B+)

The absurdity on this show reached new fantastic heights in this episode, starting with a video game simulation of Larry killing his wife which got even Larry to applaud. I loved the jingle that got written for the commercial for East Peck Glass, which managed to find the perfect way to advertise after Larry through at least one person out a window, which didn’t make him look particularly innocent. There were a lot of ups and downs in this episode regarding the case, with Rutger’s surprise non-comatose appearance in court coming at the worst possible time since Josh was trying to paint him as a monster, and then the revelation that he was faking being in a coma ended up zeroing things out since he promptly tripped and fell right into a coma. Alfonzo testifying wasn’t terrible until Larry convinced him he didn’t mean anything to him and then threw him out the window, but that was negated when Alfonso eagerly accepted Larry’s heartfelt and strangely helpful profession of affection. The very long graphic testimony read back multiple times was amusing but not as great in my mind as things like Josh being encouraged to change his hairstyle and use the word “buttload” instead of “preponderance,” and lines like Larry’s “Don’t judge me, I already have a jury for that” and Dwayne’s “I don’t think, I operate purely on instinct.” The jury being sequestered is good, but Larry being fully aware that he has Margaret’s cell phone in his drawer means that he’s definitely hiding something and not entirely guilty only of saying stupid things.

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 17 “Identity and Change” (B+)

I was getting tired of this show earlier in this season, and now I’m glad to see that putting almost every agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the framework had a point. Coulson may not be much accomplishing much aside from making his own soap, but at least he knows that he’s a good person, as is Mack, who got to be a doting, loyal father in this version of reality. In fact, almost everyone is good, with May pledging allegiance to one authority over another, not coming anywhere near the level of villainy that Fitz displayed. You’d think that it was out of affection towards Aida, or Madam Hydra, as she’s known here, but it turns out that he has somehow become inherently evil. The horror Simmons expressed when she saw him execute Agnes was real, since there’s really no turning back. Even if they somehow make it out to the real world, Fitz can’t take that back, since she’s gone for good. I like that this show is exploring themes like this, with Radcliffe no longer seeming like such a bad guy. And what they’ve done with Ward is cool too, and I’m pleased that Brett Dalton is on call to come back and reprise the role after being off the show for a while. I had almost forgotten about the existence of Director Mace, and seeing him as the brave soldier he couldn’t fully be in real life was pretty cool. There are still five episodes left this season, and I assume that we’re not going to get out of this framework anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 2, Episode 9 “The Dilemma” (B+)

This was a relatively serious episode which found Robin contemplating making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that her clearly destructive father doesn’t do any more damage to her family. It was pretty easy to see just how much J.R. messed his daughter up as a young girl and all but ensured that she would become a con woman. Her simple acceptance of the fact that he was strapping jewels to her chest so that he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on it was very much like Delilah’s adult attitude around all of these weird things. Delilah’s strange princess talent show was all kinds of awkward, and it’s probably best that her parents weren’t there to see it happen. J.R. taking the kids with him just as Nate and Robin got in the elevator to put their family back together was a worrisome and unusually dramatic finish, which is sure to set the loving if unconventional parents on a mission to take down the man who ruined both of their lives. Before he got drunk out of his mind and brought a group of angry fellow drunks with him to throw garbage at a webmaster’s window, Nate managed to pick up on a whole bunch of red flags that should have tipped them off to a company called Hoax-o-Metrics not being real. I love that Robin realized that J.R. knew Nate because he used the word quixotic, and that she was in full no-tomorrow mode, ready to offer Nate a threesome with a random and very willing stranger on a bus even though he didn’t go for it. Her advice to start a new life and get a new wife paled in comparison to the sentimental music-assisted montage that shows that this couple is much more resilient than she’d like to think.

What I’m Watching: Prison Break


Prison Break: Season 5, Episode 2 “Kaniel Outis” (C+)

It’s been far too long for me to remember what ended up happening with all of our characters, and I was pretty sure that Kellerman was dead up until the moment that I saw him not quite smiling at Sara when he turned out to be the government employee she was going to work with to find out whether Michael really was still alive. I just remember how he pursued her and tortured her to try to get information on Michael, and I can’t understand how he could have gotten himself pardoned enough to end up in such a position of power. Apparently Michael Scofield may have been the invented alias, with more data to support the existence and the corrupt nature of Kaniel Outis than anything about the man Sara married. Mark Feuerstein’s super-forgiving Jacob analyzed the situation well, talking about game theory and everyone being expendable. Michael’s antics are making him seem like a mild-mannered puppet master, saying that he wants to order a pizza and decreeing that a piece of gum is going to start a sequence of events that will finish on the other side of the world. Michael, Lincoln, and the crew have enough going against them that I think setting everything in Yemen with ISIL and the government ready to shoot at them wherever they turn feels unnecessary. I’m also unsure of how Lincoln has $500 to spare for a bribe every now and then given that he didn’t seem to be doing too well in this thug life. So far, this season isn’t terrible, but I don’t have high hopes.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 9 “Silver Linings and Vodka” (B+)

So much for Emma’s parents being terrible visitors and ruining everything. It seems like this latest trip has really improved the relationship between them and the Trakarskys, who even got identified by name when Jack was pushing his luck and succeeding decently with his usually disapproving father-in-law. After Rita had her fun making Emma think it was something more serious, it turned out to be nothing more concerning than a panic attack, something that Hal has experienced before and had been keeping from his family. Jack really did manage to stand up to his father-in-law and level the playing field, and I think it was a cathartic encounter for all involved, with a pretty standard and stirring goodbye when the RV pulled away to head to Joshua Tree and all points beyond. It feels like all the loose ends on this show are being tied up right now, with the thruple heading towards a positive next step all together, talking about everything fully thanks to a wonderfully romantic and charming proposal to move into a new home and start a family from Jack. The male member of the thruple had a flirtatious encounter once again with Ruby and, aside from some angry comments and a desire to punch him where it hurt, everything seems to be as okay as can be professionally for him. When Andy was drunk and about to go home with a one-night stand in the bar, Nina showed up at just the right moment to give him some examples of the type of gestures he wanted him to make, and they had their cinematic kiss.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 3, Episode 2 “Zombie Knows Best” (B+)

We’ve been experiencing Liv on a weekly cocktail of mood-affecting brains for two seasons now, and it’s fun to see both Liv and Major experiencing different personalities thanks to their diets and to see Ravi and Clive attempting to deal with it. Major acting like a teenage girl was certainly a blast for actor Robert Buckley, and I like that his holding the phone up to his new colleagues to prove a point with a selfie prompted him to flash. Ravi putting Liv to work fixing stuff to keep her busy was entertaining too, and I enjoyed Liv yelling at Major like she was his father. The idea of these brain tubes with mashed-up brains from a bunch of different dead people is extremely intriguing, though I like that Liv and Major are able to be helpful by recalling memories to solve murders. This case was a bit more lighthearted because of all the teenage texting elements even though it involved an age-inappropriate affair, and the revelation that the mom was almost as guilty as the stepdad was well-executed. The flashbacks to the development of Clive’s relationship with Wally were informative, and I think it’s fantastic that the nine-year-old kid managed to convince Clive, with little to no effort, to watch “Game of Thrones,” prompting the undercover detective to become obsessed. There is a war coming, and though Vivian wasn’t on track with when the civilian population would find out about the existence of zombies, she seems like she’s very prepared for the battle.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul (Season Premiere)


Better Call Saul: Season 3, Episode 1 “Mabel” (B+)

This show is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated series on television, and it’s great to have it back at a time that isn’t overstuffed with a bunch of other season premieres. This show is at its most fascinating when its completely ordinary events play out, and therefore its flash-forwards that offer a tiny glimpse of what the future holds, also present in “Breaking Bad,” aren’t the best part. Yet it was still intriguing to see Jimmy sit by on this lunch break before nodding in the direction of the thief who was hiding only to blurt out that he shouldn’t talk until he saw a lawyer as he was being dragged away before passing out while working at Cinnabon. The simplicity of Chuck and Jimmy bonding as they were talking about books while taking down all of his electricity stuff was astounding, and while Jimmy was ready to move on, Chuck made sure to remind him that he wasn’t going to let it go anytime soon. Chuck heading straight to Howard to play him the recording seemed like it was going to lead to a very direct consequence for Jimmy, but instead Howard wasn’t too impressed by their options about what to do, and it seems that Chuck is playing the long game by having Ernie accidentally overhear the recording and somehow planning to compel him to speak by telling him not to say anything. Kim seems set on keeping the clients she takes separate from Jimmy, not ready to forgive him for anything he’s done. I’m not sure what Mike is up to in the middle of the desert rebuilding cars, but clearly something big is about to happen. The best scene of the episode featured the angry captain’s visit and Jimmy’s surprising unwillingness to be the nice guy he always is, daring the captain to make him take the commercial down.

Monday, April 17, 2017

What I’m Watching: Girls (Penultimate Episode)

Girls: Season 6, Episode 9 “Goodbye Tour” (B)

I’m not really sure what to make of this second-to-last episode. There was something very nostalgic about it, particularly in its closing moments where Hannah appeared to be singing, which was strange, and packing up her life at the same time as she was digesting what was around her at the party. While Hannah and Elijah cracked up at the idea of having made great friendships in New York City, I think that the character of the city, an idea explored in shows like “Sex and the City” before this, has been extremely influential in everything that this show is. I’d actually argue that the absence of the city has produced some of the better episodes of this show, one of which was set in another city halfway across the globe. What felt weird to me was that we’ve barely seen Shoshanna all season, relegated to matchmaking for Ray and seeing his relationship from the outside, and it feels like the audience was just as in the dark about her new engagement as Hannah was. Ray not being there was odd, and the fact that Marnie and Elijah would both go without telling Hannah didn’t really track, especially since Elijah literally spent the entire day with her. Marnie’s attempted friend meeting was entertaining, and it’s nice that Jessa and Hannah decided to make up. Where Hannah is going is only a theoretical bus ride away, and I’m pretty sure that she’s really going to like it there. Caroline attributing the city as the cause of much of her hysteria is likely telling, and I think Hannah is headed for some measure of happiness.

What I’m Watching: Billions


Billions: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Kingmaker” (B+)

Forget the legal battles in which Chuck gets to gloat because he got Axe to almost admit that Chuck hurt him emotionally. Axe bursting into the club screaming for Chuck’s head is a deeply personal move, one that far outweighs Chuck showing up to shake his hand at the funeral. The fact that Chuck wasn’t the one who ruined the Sandicott deal is irrelevant, especially since he barely flinched when he confronted his father about the news he had just learned regarding his involvement in it. It’s exactly what he would have done had he been aware, and therefore he’s not excused. While he initially balked at his father’s request to get Jack Foley’s niece a clerkship, he promised to do even better when he went to Foley and explicitly asked him to make him governor. It didn’t take much effort to get his prime opponent, Bob Sweeney, to back off from his pursuit of the governorship and likely become his helpful running mate. I like Matt Servitto from his work on “Brotherhood” and “Banshee,” and I think this is the perfect role for him. Axe’s declaration of war against Chuck barely fazed him because he’s good and ready to go, and Bryan and Kate are already on their way to getting people to testify against him, since it seems like, at best, those who he has dismissed are nervous about speaking out because of nondisclosure clauses but still perfectly willing to try to cleverly get around those regulations. Wags is back in form, ready to manipulate those around him to achieve the best possible result, trying hard even though he feels underused.

What I’m Watching: Homeland (Season Finale)


Homeland: Season 6, Episode 12 “America First” (C+)

This episode’s title is a very interesting choice because of its clear connection to a slogan championed by Donald Trump in his quest for the presidency, and it’s significant because I’ve found this show to be weaker this season because it portrays a less believable alternate to what we’re actually seeing play out in reality. I understand that the final scene of this episode, in which Keane is seen tuning Carrie out as she boldly charges to a future where law and order is what she makes it, is meant to be powerful and show just how irreversibly far things have gone. But based on what we’ve seen of Keane this season, I don’t buy it. She’d want to dismantle the system that made intelligence so secretive and open up channels for diplomacy, not round people up and hold them indefinitely so that she could seize control of everything and do it her way. That she went to Carrie in the first place and asked her to take on this new role suggested that she wanted to be more transparent, not become big brother with the assistance of Linus Roaches’ chief of staff. The middle of the episode in which she was fleeing for her life with Carrie’s help constituted the most thrilling part of the entire season, but the level to which General McClendon was able to manipulate events so that she could be targeted begged an unacceptable amount of suspension of disbelief. I thought that Quinn was going to survive multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, but that was the end for him, and Max may come over when he’s not supposed to, but at least the worst he’s going to do is pass out drunk on the bed. Dar ending up in jail makes sense, but for Saul, who was loyal to Keane most of the time, to be arrested too represents a witch hunt with no goal other than to do something like, say, drain the swamp. The news that this show was renewed through season eight as of August with Claire Danes attached is disappointing since it means Carrie will somehow still be involved, and I just don’t know that there’s new solid ground to be covered here.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: Elizabeth Marvel as Keane

Pilot Review: The Son


The Son (AMC)
Premiered April 8 at 9pm

I’d consider myself to be a fan of westerns occasionally. I took a course at NYU titled “Myth of the Last Western” in which we watched classic genre films from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, some of which really blew me away. Most seemed very dated, but I think that there’s a quality that they all have which feels that way no matter when they’re released or set. “Westworld” was more sci-fi but definitely had a western focus, and “Hell on Wheels” and “Deadwood” are two recent shows that have served as functional westerns. I also enjoyed the film “In a Valley of Violence” from this past year, and I think that the wild “Django Unchained” counts too even though it’s an incredibly recognizable Tarantino product. Now this show, which for some odd reason AMC has decided to air on Saturday nights, probably because that’s when “Hell on Wheels” used to air and do well with the ratings, is a western of decidedly more epic proportions. Unfortunately, it’s also one that lacks severely in the engagement of its viewers, telling a story that’s objectively interesting but hardly at a pace that’s tolerable. Pierce Brosnan used to be James Bond, and this is a much deeper role in many ways but far less enticing. I like Jess Weixler from “The Good Wife” and I’m happy to see her in a decent part, and it’s great that Jacob Lofland, who I saw in his feature film debut in “Mud” at Sundance a few years ago, was cast in a solid role as well. Zach McClarnon has proven himself to be a reliable player on “Longmire,” and he’ll surely be that here too. While I can recognize that this show has a compelling narrative, I found myself bored to death for the entirety of these two opening hours, with absolutely no desire to check back in for more of this saga.

How will it work as a series? Narratively, this show benefits from filling in the gaps of its backstory while showing its current events, with two different eras playing out at the same time. Unfortunately, neither is all that interesting as portrayed on screen, and it’s easy to drift off with all this period storytelling.
How long will it last? Though the reviews haven’t been excellent across the board, the ratings seem to be pretty positive, and AMC is gung-ho about having another successful western series to anchor Saturday nights, so I’d expect this one to be brought back for another season.

Pilot grade: C+

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Focus Group” (B+)

While it’s clear that Grace and Frankie have an uphill battle to fight to get their product taken seriously, those who try it seem extremely satisfied. Pitching a vibrator to a church group probably wasn’t their best move, but look at how it worked out! Grace is right - Frankie’s hearing definitely hasn’t improved, and her having to repeat something that was said just inches from her ear proves that pretty well. Grace and Frankie do seem to be getting along pretty well at the moment, and it’s good to see them united as they fight together for the same cause rather than at each other’s throats because they’re disagreeing constantly. Though they’re not on the same page about retirement, Robert and Sol did both seem to feel the same way about auditioning for the local play, first hesitant and then all in. Peter delivering the news that Robert was cast as John Adams but Sol didn’t get cast at all was a prelude to some serious awkwardness, made worse by the fact that Robert pointed out, probably trying to be helpful, that there were only twenty-six male roles. We haven’t seen much of Mallory this season, and therefore it was a treat to see her show up to see Brianna and then, for once, stand her ground and call her sister out on not being nice to her and her kids. It was fun to see Brianna and Grace talking about kids and their mutual disdain for them, and Grace’s advice to pick one or two to be nice helped lead to a sweet sisterly moment between the two of them.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What I’m Watching: Iron Fist

Iron Fist: Season 1, Episode 4 “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm” (B-)

Okay, so maybe now we’re getting somewhere. I don’t think Danny once uttered his signature catchphrase - “I’m Danny Rand” - in this hour, and that in itself is a tremendous improvement over the first three installments. Far more crucially, this whole charade of people pretending that he’s not who he claims he is and trying to make him seem insane is over, and that’s a relief. I was surprised with the level of honesty that Harold shared what had happened to him, and how the way he’s portrayed changed dramatically during this episode alone. Being given the opportunity to see Joy in person for the first time by the Hand showed that he hasn’t completely lost his humanity, and asking for the one favor of killing the person who hit her demonstrated his loyalty to family above all, though clearly his preferred child is the one he’s not allowed to see. Ward is becoming extremely jealous of Danny, and he didn’t waste any time in following his father’s orders to be clear about Danny’s radical new policies that came within moments of his being announced as alive and then given some say in the company due to his majority stakeholder status. At least Joy has the patience to deal with Danny, and now she owes him a lot after he saved her life in a big way. Colleen is embracing her underground fighter status, and her students were actually very into it, though I think she would rather keep that part of her life a secret.

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Bad Girl” (B-)

This episode wasn’t quite as outlandish, and while this show is never going to return to a semi-legitimate state in which all of its plotlines aren’t way over-the-top, it’s calming down a little bit. One area in which that’s definitely not true, however, is in its use of sex and its showcasing of not-quite-seen nudity when it comes to some of its criminals. Danny and Margot are taking a break since Margot has more than enough things to worry about at the moment with both her mother and the daughter she never knew she had, but Chloe Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t care whether it’s a man or woman that she’s toying with or enjoying, and Rhys was all about it. Missi Pyle is an actress who has played many roles all across the spectrum of genres, and I’d be hard-pressed to select a signature part that immediately comes to mind when I think of her. She was great as Chloe, having a blast and providing plenty of entertainment, and Gina Torres played right into it as Agent Diaz, who continues to be an enigma whose brand of law enforcement could only exist on this show. Margot got some quick confirmation both in the form of her mother’s testimony and a strand of hair yanked from her daughter’s head that Tessa is indeed her spawn, and apparently Ben’s the father! I think he was more interested in starting a family with Alice when she called him up, but it looks like, all of a sudden, both Tessa and Margot may not be villains after all and could well team up with Val and everyone else on a regular basis. Val looking into Nick’s history probably isn’t a great idea, and I’m sure that, despite her initial promise to Alice to drop it, there’s no way she will.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 18 “Favorite Vision Miguel Matchmaker” (B)

Greg has made some very questionable parenting decisions over the course of his time as a father, and I’d say that trying to bribe Lark to like him better than her mother was one of the most extravagant and outlandish yet. I’m sure it’s something that parents do go through in real life, but there’s something about the way that Greg went about it that felt ridiculous. I was much more swayed by Jen’s immediate breakdown when she realized that Lark wasn’t just pretending to make Greg feel good about himself but that she had, at least for the moment, become the less loved parent. Heather’s deteriorating vision was a great source of entertainment, something that Tim took advantage of right away with by ordering a dessert item on the menu at a supposedly healthy restaurant that prompted the waiter to comment that no one’s wife let any husband get. Matt asking Colleen’s father for permission to marry her didn’t go too smoothly, mainly because the artist was so taken with what Matt said to him that he promptly ended his marriage to an equally vain and attractive woman named Sangria. Colleen just wanted his blessing, but the fact that it came with the judgment that he will never amount to anything artistically is definitely going to bother Matt. I’m not fond of Greg Grunberg’s obnoxious cousin Mikey on this show, and the weak link of these four vignettes was definitely the relatively obvious recurring ill-fated setups with Joan’s barista which were undermined when he hit it off with the hairdresser and even scheduled an emergency circumcision to show his loyalty to her. That’s enough of that, I think.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 18 “Party Paul” (B+)

I’d always thought that Jack’s history with Brooke was something that would come out eventually and cause some real drama, but I think I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. Jack liked to mock Paul because he truly doesn’t seem real, but he’s still loyal enough to Brooke as a friend that he’s willing to try to make Paul seem decent to Roland when he saw what it meant to her. Roland also happens to be terrible at lying and completely ignorant of how improve is supposed to work, and only once did Jack give him a taste of his own medicine by setting him up to step in it. Paul didn’t seem quite as bad – or bland – as normal, but he was still never going to live up to Roland’s expectations for his daughter, which apparently are represented well by Jack. Their constantly rotating piano reunion was odd but entertaining. It’s useful that Emma has a way to keep track of her boyfriend which helped them find out where Jack and Roland were when they were out on the town and then to find Paul when he disappeared from the bar. Jack’s efforts to be accepting of Mason being bisexual were pretty cringeworthy, and I’m surprised that Mason knew more than two words that started with “bi.” Eddie being worried about not being in great shape for his first physical in eight years and started a diet on a whim was very typical, and at least he’s good for some minor comic relief.

What I’m Watching: Powerless

Powerless: Season 1, Episode 8 “Emergency Punch-Up” (B+)

While this probably wasn’t the best week to broadcast an episode about a gas attack, fortunately everything about this episode was pretty innocuous, save for Emily taking the truth to an angry level when she was breathing in way too much of the truth gas. Bringing something specific and special for everyone for the retreat, including individual catchphrase t-shirts such as “I don’t have a catchphrase” for Teddy, was just the kind of nice thing that Emily does to go above and beyond, and putting Dorothy in their group was another, one that got them delayed enough to miss the entire thing and have to contend with nearly dying in the confined space of their office. Van getting zingers from the comedy writers was a fun subplot, particularly when the funny one got trapped outside and exposed to the gas while the one on the inside was capable only of writing dramatic speeches, one of which Van delivered impressively. The desert island game went south quickly, with Ron offending Teddy because he didn’t want his best bud’s negative attitude and Wendy describing a handful of very intense reasons she would want to bring Van with her. When Emily went out and got exposed, all of her inhibitions were gone, allowing her a rare opportunity to shout down everyone who always fails to appreciate her. Doing karaoke with their shirts on was the perfect way to get her back in there, and what a triumphant return it was following their team effort to save the one among them who wouldn’t hesitate to do anything to save them.

Pilot Review: Brockmire


Brockmire (IFC)
Premiered April 5 at 10pm

Seeing posters for a show starring Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet was enough for me to want to watch this show, and clearly enough for IFC also, which renewed the show before it premiered. Azaria has always impressed me, from his performance in the pilot episode of “Huff” (a show I really should have kept watching but never did in the infancy of my TV enthusiasm) and his recent Emmy-nominated turn on another Showtime series, “Ray Donovan.” Peet is terrific, and after a memorable role on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” a while back, she was one of the standout parts of “Togetherness.” It’s good to see the roles reversed here a bit, with Azaria as the one spiraling out of control and Peet the in-control one who still has some issues of her own. What was cool and refreshing about this series debut is that it features a plotline that’s been done many times over – a public figure having an on-air meltdown – and takes the concept and runs with it, creating something far from wholly original but still tremendously entertaining. Jim Brockmire’s new gig is far from glamorous, but I think he has just the right sentiment to announce the games in for this small-town fracking team. I love that Jim and Peet’s Jules started having sex right away and then it turned into a superstitious sports thing, then developed into a hate-filled relationship and now might end up being something more sentimental. David Walton’s ex-boyfriend also seems to have some nefarious industrial plans in store for what is currently the run-down stadium, and I’m sure that Brockmire will soon be fighting for the survival of something he would have argued against existing at all at the start of this show. I’m not usually into sports shows, but I like this one and its stars enough to see where it goes.

How will it work as a series? We’ve seen two episodes so far and the network obviously likes it enough to commission more right out of the gate, and I’m optimistic that there will be some great ground to cover thanks to strong and entertaining characters. The last scenes of the first two episodes have been cool because they’ve introduced new threads without going into them, so I’m intrigued to see what comes next.
How long will it last? Getting renewed hours before your first two episodes official air is about as good a sign as you can get. It was already well-watched in its original online release before it premiered on IFC, and so I’m sure that this show will go on however long the creative forces behind it want it to.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 1, Episodes 7 and 8 “Chapter 7: The Case Gets Bigger” and “Chapter 8: A Change in Defense” (B+)

Larry has been going on about how the cable guy never showed up since this show first started, and it’s a wonder that no one has thought of looking into that angle. The arrival of Josh’s boss Howard Mankiewicz, played by Fred Melamed, recently seen on “Casual,” prompted Josh and his team to look into that, but the bigshot lawyer himself dismissed its relevance entirely, looking to bargain down Larry’s sentence with an insanity plea and some Hamilton tickets for the judge. Inviting literally everyone except for Josh to the meeting wasn’t a great start in terms of their relationship, and it was great to see Josh step up his game and go straight to Carol Anne to negotiate with her since he knew that she wanted to make sure he got the death penalty. I love the interactions that Josh and Carol Anne have, highlighted by her repeated question about what he would have done if he had walked in to find her in the bath. Summer’s outdoor boyfriend whose blue soda Larry admitted to drinking was an entertaining subplot, as was her incredibly awkward accidental confession of love and subsequent worse attempt to make it better. Summer switching sides after she realized that Carol Anne was manipulating her was an endearing development, and being happy to not be recognized by Anne was a sign of what represents a victory on this show. Howard’s quote about reasonable doubt requiring reasonable people was extremely fitting, especially for a town where pumpkins are the third industry after tobacco and book-burning. John Lithgow’s delivery of “I don’t want the best, I want you” was also completely perfect.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 16 “What If…” (B+)

This show has been off the air for over a month, and it’s a bit disorienting to have this first hour take place exclusively in the Framework. As if what we had seen May go through while she was fighting for her life and thinking that she had broken free so many times was nothing compared to this. It’s a throwback to see Hydra in such a prominent position of power, and this alternate reality does, as Daisy and Simmons discovered, put each of the imprisoned characters in a state of misery that they would hate and surely will once they discover what is going on and that nothing about this is real. Simmons’ strategy of telling people that they don’t really exist probably isn’t the best way to go about it, and Daisy isn’t being terribly subtle either in her efforts to glean intelligence to gain the upper hand. Waking up with Ward was another major throwback, and casting him as a mole for the good guys was a cool twist. I had expected Radcliffe to be the big terrifying doctor, and having Fitz assume that role, playing so far against type, was an intriguing surprise. I should have seen Aida as the director coming, and having a relationship with Fitz is an interesting addition, especially because, in all likelihood, this may be the real Aida fully aware of what she’s doing and who she is. It’s good to see one glimmer of hope in Daisy’s ability to get through to Coulson and have him remember her name, so maybe they won’t be stuck in this world for all that long.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 2, Episode 8 “The Job” (B+)

I was very excited to see that this season contains not ten episodes like the first but twelve, especially in light of the twist in this episode, and I’m hopeful that positive reviews will lead us to a season three renewal. After a hilarious episode focused on the postal service, this episode took things in a completely new direction, with a parody of “The Usual Suspects” as Nate seemed to put together all the pieces that everything had been a lie only to exclaim that he had absolutely no idea what was going on. As if selling water pills wasn’t sketchy enough, there has always been something strange about James Cromwell’s J.R. and his company. The revelation that he is Robin’s father is a shock, though at least it doesn’t appear that she’s in cahoots with him. Nate has now been positioned as the boss and is the target of their devastation and fury at everything in the office disappearing, and that’s going to be a mess to clean up. Nate’s one attempt to make a big sale pitted him against Robin in their typical worldview argument, as he was willing to do whatever he needed to make a few small ends meet and she wasn’t ready to compromise on her beliefs just to impress someone else. The Mountain Ballad Church was pretty over-the-top and great, with impossible math to describe their ages and a wholly absurd premise that oddly found them to be much more tolerant than you’d expect. Nate walking on water before Robin fell in multiple times was fun to watch too, though I think that’s the last time we’ll be laughing so hard for at least a little bit.

What I’m Watcing: iZombie (Season Premiere)

iZombie: Season 3, Episode 1 “Heaven Just Got a Little Bit Smoother” (B+)

I didn’t realize that this show was coming back on some random date at the beginning of April, but after waiting almost all season for it, I couldn’t be more excited. I’m thrilled that it’s letting its plot drive it forward completely after a totally transformative finale, and I can only hope that positive buzz for the show can help it earn the renewal that it didn’t get when all of CW’s programs that were airing a few months ago did then. Setting this up as a new fivesome fighting to survive in what will surely be a brave new world is interesting, and now that Clive is well aware of everything, he’s a very useful asset. Major and Liv both desperately consuming more soldier brain so that they wouldn’t have to deal with what had happened demonstrated the seriousness of the situation, and the notion that Vivian has created a place where zombie children, who she saved from certain death by turning, are educated in classrooms and prepped for transport to an island paradise where they can live – if that’s the right word – without any fear of persecution from the outside world is pretty damn revolutionary and cool. Unfortunately, it seems that the human population isn’t ready for that, as Aaron Douglas’ conspiracy theorist Chuck Burd was happy to advocate. As Ravi is trying to come up with a cure formula to reverse the memory loss and Blaine is figuring out who he is, I think we’re headed for somewhere really interesting. The reintroduction of Blaine’s unfrozen father throws a wrench in all that, as does the unexpected arrival of Ravi’s old boss who he clearly dislikes due to her firing him. I’m pumped that Andrea Savage is on board for all this as Vivian, and that refrain – “You can’t kill me, I can’t die, unless you shoot me in the eye” – is going to be haunting me while it’s stuck in my head for the next few days.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 8 “Freaky Little Love Poodles” (B+)

Emma’s parents coming to visit was never going to be smooth, and I think it was just about as awkward as it could have been, ending in a very literal and unfortunate way that represented how poorly the truth landed. I don’t tend to recognize people on this show since it’s a Canadian production, and therefore I was very surprised to see a familiar face in Michael Hogan as Emma’s dad Hal. The “Battlestar Galactica” actor was the perfect choice to portray an unflinching and intolerant parent since his character on that show hated Cylons more than anything. It’s nearly impossible to imagine him being okay with a thruple, and it was clear that he didn’t have a clue what was really going on even after his wife realized that they had been lied to after she innocently entered the room to ask them to keep it down. Izzy feeding into the affection of Emma’s parents and them calling her Isabel was entertaining but also clearly problematic, and the way that this whole surrogate thing started is going to taint it going forward, even if it ends up to be the right way to go. In non-Trakarsky drama, it was very funny to see Lori ground Ava for being an asshole and breaking her promise to Izzy, turning a new leaf in how she manages to be unlikeable. Carmen made an important realization about being suburban parents while dressing a naked Dave in bed, continuing a somewhat directionless but still fun subplot.

What I’m Watching: Prison Break (Season Premiere)


Prison Break: Season 5, Episode 1 “Ogygia” (B-)

If I had been asked to pick a show that went on way too long and didn’t need to be revived, I think that “Prison Break” would have been towards the top of the list. I thoroughly enjoyed the first season and the first half of the second season, and everything after that is pretty terrible. What surprised me about this inexplicably-revived show in its fifth season premiere is that it wasn’t actually so awful. One of the incredible – maybe uncredible is a more accurate word – facets of this show is that it has killed off nearly all of its characters yet managed to revive them with a simple explanation that, oh, their death must have been faked, and now they’re alive again! I was impressed that Lincoln decided almost right away that he had to dig up Michael’s grave to know definitively that he wasn’t dead. How he got a ticket to Yemen without much effort – and no real funds to do so - returned to this show’s less believable tendencies, and that’s where the suspension of disbelief has to come in. I’ve also gotten used to seeing stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell together as best bud criminals on “Legends of Tomorrow,” so it’s jarring to see them here in the totally different and far purer roles that they originated. Having C-Note being a Muslim jihadist is an interesting twist that seems too progressive for a show of such little intellectual depth, and I enjoyed the casting of the clearly Israeli actress Inbar Lavi, currently starring on “Imposters,” as Sheeba, his Yemeni contact. I’m not overly optimistic about the enduring quality of this show, but my expectations aren’t nearly as low as they initially were. It might even be fun!

Monday, April 10, 2017

What I’m Watching: New Girl (Season Finale)


New Girl: Season 6, Episode 22 “Five Stars for Beezus” (B+)

So, after a very iffy season that was filled with lackluster and uneven episodes, I’m pleased to report that this finale was, if nothing else, entertaining and heartwarming. The notion that Jess would be moving out without much notice so that she wasn’t tempted to return after her summer away in Portland struck me as odd, and I remember just how much trouble she had the last time she tried to pack. After she was crawling around Schmidt and Cece’s house trying to outrun Nick, their end-of-episode reunion was comic in their repeated ability to miss each other, running up and down the stairs to switch places before making out in the elevator, suggesting that there’s a positive future in store for them. Everyone finding out that Cece was pregnant before she did was perfect since we as viewers got to see how genuinely elated Schmidt was to hear the news and then watch as he told Cece about it with a whole bunch of flowers. That’s going to be an entirely new storyline for season seven, though it appears that the show has yet to be renewed and this could be it. I guess everything is pretty neatly tied up, with Winston and Aly having a blast and Winston calling his father without knowing exactly what the relationship would be. I wouldn’t be sad to see this show go since it’s nowhere near as good as it once was, but I’d also be up for its return since I think it has the potential to be great again. We’ll find out next month!

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Nasim Pedrad as Aly

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow (Season Finale)

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 17 “Aruba” (B+)

I’m not sure why it is that this season ended up with only seventeen episodes, though apparently that was a top-up from its original order, but this was a fantastic finale, and I’m glad to know that this show will be back for season three and likely more beyond that. The stylized recap from Stein’s perspective at the beginning was intriguing and cool, and after that, things got crazy. Starting from the Wave River being shrunk down to atom size and plotting a course for the nearest window wasn’t promising, but once the team realized that they were the aberrations, they got more on track. Having to intervene and interfere with themselves presented some entertainment, especially when Mick’s past and present selves wanted to get into a fight, and it was a relief to see both Amaya and Ray intact after watching her get shattered into pieces and him have his heart ripped out by Eobard. Having dozens of Reverse-Flashes there to try to fight them was intense, but Sara managed to prevail with a cooler head. Having the time wraith take out Eobard was a relief, and I like that, rather than killing the bad guys, they chose instead to wipe their memories and have them resume their rightful place in the course of the timeline. Unfortunately, they seem to have done some sincere damage that led to them crash-landing in a dinosaur-infested 2017. Despite a few missteps, this season has been a lot of fun, and I like the way it all turned out in the end, leaving one hell of a mess to clean up in season three.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Maisie Richardson-Sellers as Amaya

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 6, Episode 8 “What Will We Do This Time About Adam?” (B+)

This was an extremely nostalgic episode, one that represented how far some of these characters have come and how easy it is for them to fall back into the same old patterns. We’ve been doing that all season with Marnie, who couldn’t break up with Desi and now realizes that she hasn’t gone anywhere with her life. Hannah not having air conditioning in her apartment was a simple problem that represents extensive exhaustion on her part, and therefore running into Adam while she was out buying popsicles was just the kind of cosmic sign that she needed that maybe things might not be so hard after all. Adam dove fully into the idea that they could be together and that he wanted to raise Hannah’s baby, assembling all the furniture himself and even casually proposing marriage to her. Laird’s similar offer was so genuine and borne out of passion but just made Hannah shake her head, whereas she fell head over heels for the idea that Adam was really the right thing for her. That idea blew up in an instant almost as quickly as it was first introduced. Maybe Adam and Jessa will work out after all, since Jessa’s feigned lack of emotion was obviously a front and she was destroyed by his apparent departure. And Shoshanna managed to extract herself from any possible future with Ray by introducing him to her friend Abigail, who she hilariously described as a lot, and it turns out they’re a perfect fit, exploring the historic nostalgia of Brooklyn together. My favorite line of the episode was Hannah’s objection to food coops because she finds the whole shift thing demeaning.

What I’m Watching: Billions


Billions: Season 2, Episode 7 “Victory Lap” (B+)

In the wake of the news that the town that he invested so much in to ensure that he could have a major stake in the forthcoming casino business didn’t get the contract, it’s understandable that Axe would be trying to scorch earth to figure out a way to come out ahead. The conversations about what to do with the town and whether to completely abandon it were interesting since you wouldn’t think that Axe would be all too concerned with ethics in his pursuit of more money, and naturally Taylor was the one to offer emotionless advice that just made strict logical sense with all the implications taken into account. It was strange to see a very major non-business development in Axe’s life with him and Lara catching the chef having sex by the pool, and I hardly think that cooking lunch for eight will be sufficient sucking up. Wendy is clearly doing well for herself, trying hard to hold up the boundaries she set with Axe and entering an exciting new chapter of her life by exploring a relationship with James Wolk’s Craig Heidecker. Chuck’s big speech about mutton and kangaroo was a show to bait Brian into confessing his lack of allegiance, and Brian managed to pass with flying colors by proclaiming his loyalty and, above all, ordering the mutton. Chuck’s father really wants to see him in office, and showing him that poll coupled with Chuck’s magazine photo op with his son indicate that he’s ready to make it happen.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies (Season Finale)

Big Little Lies: Season 1, Episode 7 “You Get What You Need” (B)

Well, this is it. While there’s a slight possibility that the popular of this show will help earn it a second season given the binoculars shot we saw of someone watching them, this is likely the end. As I had predicted all along, the final episode did answer questions but provided fewer answers than seemed fitting given the number of interviews we saw brief segments of over the course of all seven episodes. All of the denouement was contained to about a fifteen-minute scene, when we finally understood that the person who I’d imagine was everyone’s likeliest suspect, Perry, turned out to be the one who was dead, but we still didn’t know exactly how. The idea that, after everything, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane were joined by Renata and Bonnie in the very necessary takedown of a violent predator who also turned out to be the one who raped Jane is intriguing, since it creates a bond between them that obviously they kept to themselves. After all the squabbling, they’re the best of friends, and what happier ending could there be than that, if you think about it? Madeline’s affair is inconsequential, in theory Amabella is no longer being hurt, though that wasn’t addressed, and life is much more peaceful on the beach without any men, even the relatively good ones like Ed and Nathan. There were certainly good performances on this show, but I do wish it had been just a notch more organized and less driven by this surprise conclusion. I’d be happy to see more, and I do hope it earns some awards recognition come Emmy time and beyond.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Reese Witherspoon as Madeline

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


The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 16 “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” (B)

I’ve written before that this show tends to be highly cyclical, and when it goes off the air every March or April following the conclusion of two half-seasons, it’s important to look back to the beginning to see if anything has been accomplished. Season seven premiered in October with the big question of who Negan had killed with his baseball hat. Despite his appearance in this episode in memories or hallucinations, whichever they were, to Sasha, Abraham hasn’t been seen since then, and the same is true of Glenn, especially since Maggie just had one big episode and not too much more. Rick had finally put together a resistance force to take down Negan, and all hope of that died in an instant when their new allies turned out to have been bought at a higher price than Negan, and Dwight’s side-switch proved to be entirely false. The two things that turned the tide were Sasha’s post-iPod suicide that provided a distraction when her walker form caught Negan by surprise and the “Lord of the Rings”-style tiger backup which succeeded in saving our friends but not, most crucially, in allowing them to kill Negan once and for all. Unlike a Governor situation where he just survived to cause more harm slowly but surely, Negan is now ready to rally his forces to eviscerate those that he previously just wanted to control. I don’t know if that takes us anywhere new in season eight and beyond, since apparently the comics are so many issues ahead to provide endless source material, but at the very least I guess it’s more of the same and now there’s a tiger. Let’s hope for some worthwhile originality coming soon.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan

What I’m Watching: Homeland


Homeland: Season 6, Episode 11 “R for Romeo” (C-)

We’re six seasons in and I feel like this show is repeating itself for the sixth hundredth time. We finally got somewhere where we have incontrovertible evidence that an assumed terrorist was set up and that his attack was actually engineered by someone who went to a whole lot of trouble to frame him. Yes, Quinn did beat the guy to death with punch after punch to the face, which doesn’t help much, but important people from the government were in the home seeing what was happening and documenting it. Now, why Carrie got an inkling that they shouldn’t cut the lock to go into the garage and no one else thought that maybe there was a bomb inside is beyond me, and it’s hard to believe that this kind of thing could happen again. The president’s motorcade nearly running a guy over after he lunged into the street when the caravan was coming through hardly seems like such a momentous event, and Rob’s inability to be clear about that was puzzling and annoying. Quinn making sounds like a monkey was an especially low point of the episode that I’d rather not address further. Keane going on Brett’s show to directly counter his claims felt like something out of an entirely different series, but that’s part of this show’s disjointed nature. Dar giving Max a painful backrub to intimidate him into talking didn’t work too well, and you have to wonder how evil Dar really is or if he’s actually having Max look into something legitimate. We’ll see if next week’s surely awful finale has anything in the way of intelligence to offer.

What I’m Watching: Making History

Making History: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Touchables” (B+)

So much for any elaboration on the themes we encountered last week, like affecting your own future by going back into your past and saving someone only to have her kill another twenty years later. Instead, we get a lesson in poor planning, namely going back to the time of Al Capone without much of a cover story leading to being discovered and marked for execution within a remarkably short amount of time. I couldn’t figure out where I knew Capone portrayer Tim Robinson from, and it turns out I just saw him in the pilot of “Detroiters” a few weeks ago. I thought he was terrific here, and I loved that Capone was more concerned with not being included or thought of than actually doing any mobster business. Listing out the reasons that he had heard in the past for why he shouldn’t kill someone so that they would know what wouldn’t work was entertaining, but the best part really was his continued insistence that he be invited to join the band or be given an extra ticket. Deb bonding with his chef wife was a nice subplot, and I’m glad to see that she has her own ideas of feminism and taking charge of life that come from an incredibly chauvinistic time, with a few pieces of modernity still not filled in. I was worried that the money was going to be transported to the future with no way for them to get back, but I think I’m imagining far too dire consequences for this clear comedic interpretation of time travel.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pilot Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why (Netflix)
Premiered March 31

I go into as many shows as I can without knowing a thing about them, and these new almost-weekly streaming series are the easiest ones to do that with since it’s near impossible to keep up with them as it is. I was surprised, therefore, when I sat down to discover that this show’s title referred to the thirteen reasons that a high school teenager killed herself. It’s a heavy subject, one that isn’t really reflected in the relatively casual tone of this show, one that’s defined primarily by mystery and adventure as the tapes that the characters listen to fill them and us in on what really happened and what led Hannah to a place where she felt like she had no choice but to kill herself. What bothers me about the way in which all this is presented is that it seems to glorify suicide in a way that I remember learning so much about as a kid wasn’t right or healthy, perpetuating the idea that you can affect the world once you’re gone (like being present to see your own funeral). Apparently this show is based on a successful novel from about a decade ago, so maybe it’s not such a bad influence, but it’s hard for me to get around the topic and the way it’s presented. In the cast, we have Dylan Minnette from “Awake” in the lead role, and Brian d’Arcy James from “Smash” and Kate Walsh from “Private Practice” as Hannah’s parents. Katharine Langford, who plays Hannah, does seem like a breakout star, and she does a good job making the protagonist interesting. This show might be involving and enticing to teenagers and young adults, and aside from the subject it’s tackling, it’s not all that bad.

How will it work as a series? Here’s one title that makes a whole lot of sense, with thirteen episodes commissioned, each one constituting one side of each of the tapes that Hannah decided to record on for dramatic effect. I’m not sure it’s meant to go on longer than that, but it seems to me that there should be a perfect amount of material for what’s been ordered.
How long will it last? Netflix ratings data isn’t available, of course, or all that relevant. Reviews seem to be mostly positive, which bodes well for the show, though of course one of the first links I found when I did a quick search on Google was that the show is missing mental health resources, and that’s a problem. Ultimately, I think one season is all that was intended for this show, and that’s all it will get.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 3, Episode 2 “The Incubator” (B+)

There was an awful lot of debate at the start of this episode about just what an incubator was, and Frankie seemed to get stuck on the idea that it had to do with chickens and not just with ideas. For all their disagreements, they didn’t do a terrible job at the incubator, even with pitching two separate ideas. I for one thing that the pop-out condom may be a more marketable concept, and I’m glad that Grace is coming around to the idea, though it did involve considerable manipulation by Frankie. They’re really not a company that’s based on tech, and therefore getting rejected by the incubator made sense, and Frankie tried to make up for it by stealing the laser tag gear and a stapler, a mild consolation prize. Jacob disliking Grace is an entertaining subplot since it’s based more than anything on her drunken outburst that one time as opposed to her general coldness, and Frankie pretending that he had given the money Brianna had is a lie that’s not going to last. I loved seeing Frankie and Brianna sit together to watch people fall in the insanely large puddle, and it’s nice to know that they have a relationship of their own aside from their unfortunate professional interactions. Robert and Sol deciding to stay home and play hooky was fun, particularly when it led to them each dancing in a separate room to very loud music when a sympathetic Bud showed up with soup. Imminent retirement won’t change much since we rarely see them in a work setting anyway, but we’ll see if there’s anything unexpected that comes of it, especially if Sol doesn’t want to retire.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Take Three: Iron Fist

Iron Fist: Season 1, Episode 3 “Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch” (C)

A few minutes into this episode, I decided to start keeping a count of the number of times Danny said “I’m Danny Rand!” I found myself sadly disappointed, as, unlike the previous two episodes, it was only actually uttered once, with “it’s Danny Rand” and “it’s my name, it means something” counting for partial credit. The action on this show, which is hard to find, still leaves much to be desired, with Danny hiding on Colleen’s ceiling at the start of the episode and then finally up for some violence when he fought the man attempting to torch his records and when he smacked Colleen’s ungrateful student who made a joke of what Danny considers an art form. The leopard punch didn’t impress me too much either, and I think Colleen is a far more formidable fighter, though she did get a bit cocky while trying to take down her opponent in the underground ring, something that worked out well enough for her in the end. Danny’s not laying low at all now, trying to make a peace offering with Joy only to have her offer him a deal to walk away and change his name. I couldn’t be happier than he decided to approach a character from the Netflix Marvel universe that we already know, Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth, though she’s nowhere near as terrific as she was on “Jessica Jones.” Danny doesn’t care about money, but being recognized as who he keeps saying he is will end up happening that way. Harold’s trapped condition is an intriguing one, and it seems that he’s nowhere near as in charge of things as he makes it out to be.

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet (Season Finale)

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 10 “Baka, Bile, and Baseball Bats” (B+)

I’m really glad that this show has already been renewed since I think that the lackluster ending to an otherwise great episode might have driven me crazy if I wasn’t sure it was coming back. This show has never been one to end on a terribly definitive note, knowing that there’s more drama to come in the next half-hour, and season two will definitely be all about that given Joel’s current predicament. It stands to reason that Sheila would be offended that Joel’s first choice for how to kill her was to bash her head in with a baseball bat, and that didn’t set them up for a productive hour together, especially when Sheila went feral, thought at least the sight of Joel holding the bat helped calm her down. Getting himself committed while Sheila is chained in the basement sets things up to very bleak in season two, and I hope that the crack duo of Abby and Eric can figure out a way to help them get back to some sense of normal. Abby putting on her karate robe before being sent out to get lunch was amusing, and after a cathartic reaction following a run-in with the same dry Rite Aid employee Joel interacted it, she provided one of the episode’s best moments by managing to fool Eric and Dr. Wolf five times in a row. I’ve missed Portia de Rossi’s monotone voice since “Better Off Ted” went off the air years ago, and having her here as Dr. Wolf was a real treat. I’ve enjoyed this first season and looking forward to more next year!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Timothy Olyphant as Joel

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Family Way” (C)

We’re continuing in the realm of totally unbelievable developments here, with not quite as much wild sex – but still some – and some completely incredible resolutions to the problems brought up last episode. Ben spelled things out properly when he told Alice that of course they weren’t going to shoot each other, yet somehow they managed to work it out that everyone got the money they needed and the FBI was able to arrest both the targets of their original investigation that Ben and Rhys participated in and the mafia boss who wanted to kill Tommy. That’s a whole lot of wins, and they even had time for Val to lead the pursuit of the mysterious woman who has been trying to kill Margot. It makes no sense that Margot would have a daughter she didn’t recognize, though I suppose she could have given her up for adoption and that’s one of the reasons that she’s so mad. We got to meet Ethan, which was a big nothing, mainly because Alice’s debt that she was so worried about seems to already be paid even though Tommy just incurred it. Ben didn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s now working for the FBI from Margot, which seems like an unnecessary and potentially damaging revelation, but it also appears that everyone has forgotten that Margot is a bad guy, as is Rhys, in theory. This show is still entertaining, but I think it’s lost sight of any claims to being legitimate or credible.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 17 “Sleepover Dream Light Haze” (B)

It’s very possible that Sophia might be the smartest member of the Short family, arguing, correctly, that she gets money when her teeth fall out, so why should she brush them? Heather’s advice to Tim that if he makes a mess, he needs to clean it up, just like with sex, proved to be helpful, and he even got to see an adult woman’s breasts so many years after missing out on that very opportunity at a sleepover of his own. I can’t understand why Jen would tell Greg that she had a sex dream about someone in his family, since everything that happened after that was her fault because she shared it. It being about Matt would have made sense, and the fact that it was actually about Joan, though she told the family it was Cheeto, was just bizarre. My favorite part of the episode was Tyler’s reaction to his uncle calling him Taylor, questioning whether he really didn’t know his name. Another name mistake later in the episode, when J.B. Smoove’s Darryl couldn’t tell the difference between the names “John” and “Joan,” was also amusing, and the best part of a lackluster if not totally terrible storyline about sneaking out to eat fast food together after John indulged his wife’s paranoia. I’ve taken sleeping pills for a while, and though I am sometimes prone to some strange conversation I don’t fully remember, I’ve never done anything like what Colleen did. I’m never fond of plotlines involving Dougie, but this wasn’t all that bad since it was more about Matt and Colleen doubting each other.

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 17 “Cubicles” (B+)

As one of the few shows on CBS that didn’t score a renewal about two weeks ago, the clock is likely ticking for this show, but I’m glad to see it still on the air, especially with two episodes offered last week. Jack’s inability to get anything done at the office is nothing new, because he works with infantile millennials who don’t understand boundaries. Brooke installing cubicles in the office was an interesting idea, and of course it would be presented as the most foreign thing to these people who are used to being in each other’s faces and right next to each other the entire day. Their reactions were a bit excessive, particularly Clark cutting a hole in the cubicle to communicate with Jack, and I actually found Brooke’s enjoyment of her mean girl behavior, that came out in a big, ugly way, to be the most entertaining part of that plotline. Mason and Clark both saying the exact same thing at the same time was funny, and their friendship only got stronger as Emma obsessed over the enigma of Ashley Gordon, who turned out to be Jack! Rachel’s departure was probably inevitable but still unfortunate since I like Maggie Lawson, but at least we still have Eddie, who’s really terrible at getting out of constricting situations in his efforts to be a magician. We didn’t see Roland at all in this hour, but Brooke still had a moment worthy of her family when she told Jack that having an office was no picnic when she literally had a cheese plate on the floor next to her.

What I’m Watching: Powerless

Powerless: Season 1, Episode 6 “I’ma Friend You” (B+)

It’s been a few weeks since this show last aired, and I’m very happy to have it back. My fondness for it has grown it since it started, and I know consider it to be one of the more enjoyable and clever comedies on the air. I love Emily’s spunk and the way that it so irritates those around her, leading the trio of Teddy, Ron, and Wendy to use “Emily” as a verb again, talking down to her far more than when Teddy tried the same thing and got mocked for his failure to have it catch on. Befriending Jackie was a tall order since she so hates human interaction and banal conversation, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone prying into her personal life. Emily just didn’t let up though, getting into her Uber car and going to her daughter’s school to be nice, and somehow it worked, ending with a very quick hug and a high five from Jackie after she took the sexist hot dog guy down a peg. The three suspects did a good job resisting Van’s efforts to separate them, trying to intimidate them with the terrifying lighting in conference room B that they quickly got over as soon as they were able to swivel their chairs. I don’t think I’ve heaped enough praise on Alan Tudyk, who had a blast chewing scenery in this installment as he hunted for the culprit who had used his toilet, who turned out to be no one as well as just about everyone, as revealed by the mistaken-for-Hispanic janitor Peter in the closing moments of the episode.