Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: Vice Principals (Season Premiere)

Vice Principals: Season 2, Episode 1 “Tiger Town” (B+)

I actually just rewatched this show’s pilot a few weeks ago with my wife and some friends, none of whom were quite as enchanted with it as I found myself. It’s great to see how much this show has grown in season two, opening from a similarly dramatic standpoint of Neal recovering from his gunshot wound and laced with just as much infantile behavior from its two main adults. Neal has come full-circle in regards to Ray, who he now likes, while he’s not so into his ex-wife, who has hated him for a while. Lee has gotten himself very comfortable at school, turning it into exactly the operation he’s always wanted it to be, but he’s missing something crucial, which is Neal’s presence. The triumphant return of Mr. Gamby the disciplinarian at the very end of the episode was fantastic, and I like how the new vice principal, Dayshaun, and Amanda were all excited about it. Neal’s reaction to the celebrations in his honor was typical, and even though he’s become mellowed by his injury, he’s the same man he’s always been. Tracking down Belinda and accidentally throwing the gun across the floor made for a magnificent moment that I assume will be the last we’ll see of her, featuring her proudly revealing the tattoo of Neal and Lee that she got on her back so that she can literally put the shit behind her. Only on this show would that fly, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next six episodes of this show play out since, sadly, that’s all we’re going to get of it.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 5, Episode 4 “Episode 504” (B+)

We learned at the end of the last episode that Merc was actually with Morning despite telling Carol that he wanted to start over with her and do things right this time, and it was absolutely worth it to learn it all over again when our three protagonists found out. As usual, Matt was cold to his former costar, and I love that Morning accidentally let slip that she used to have a thing with Merc based in the 70s, an always amusing reference made funnier by the fact that actress Mircea Monroe wasn’t born until 1982. Beverly seemed very upset and concerned about her friend while the boys could do nothing but talk about her breasts, and of course that translated to her being very awkward on the phone when she should have used her token bluntness to tell Carol what’s going on, since their friendship will surely be in trouble once Carol finds out that Beverly knew and didn’t tell her. Everything has changed now, and Kathleen Rose Perkins once again deserves the awards attention she never gets just for the physical comedy involved with accidentally putting the pregnancy test in her mouth when she went to answer the phone. The getaway at the ranch house was most worthwhile for Matt’s complete inability to concentrate and his insistence on writing on the board and then ordering lunch. The shooting scenario wasn’t as exciting, and watching them lift a pig up to rush it to the vet only to abandon it when they found out how much it would cost was far from the most worthwhile plot point of the episode.

Round Two: The Deuce

The Deuce: Season 1, Episode 2 “Show and Prove” (C+)

Well, a second shot at this show didn’t turn out to be enlightening at all, with more of a foray into the porn industry proving to be less than engaging. Sure, this show has its moments, like Candy’s naïve guess that the movie they were filming would be nine hours long instead of eight minutes, and Darlene’s realization that a movie she thought she filmed for a private audience of one was actually being sold in a store, which was promptly raided by some amused policemen looking to give the owner a really hard time. Overall, however, this show is still hopelessly dense, and its access points aren’t appealing. James Franco is an undeniably charismatic actor, who handed in a career-best performance in “127 Hours,” but he’s just too casual here in his dual roles, which are becoming much more clearly intertwined with the mob, especially as Vincent got an offer he couldn’t refuse to own his own business with only a minor monthly debt to his investor-realtors. I knew I recognized Rudy from somewhere, and I mistakenly thought he might be Adam Ferrara from “Rescue Me.” It turns out that he’s one of the more influential if infrequently-seen figures from “The Sopranos,” Jackie Aprile portrayer Michael Rispoli. This show isn’t afraid to be violent, as evidenced by the stabbing of the fake cop by one quick-thinking pimp. I don’t think there’s much more to be gleaned from watching this show, which has already been renewed for a second season, and while I’m sure I’ll regret it if it ends up being an awards juggernaut, something tells me this show will go the way of his predecessors “Treme” and “The Wire” and earn precious little Emmy attention.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 5, Episode 6 “Shelley Duvall” (B+)

Ray’s in better shape than he was at the end of the last episode, but he still doesn’t have a good handle on what’s going on around him. He went to Winslow to ask for payment for unexpected consequences of his work like having a gun pointed at his head, and in the process saw that she had the Oscar that should have been in the hands of the dead man found hanging in a motel room. Lena is a loyal right-hand woman for Ray, but she seems to be growing tired of hiding in car trunks and helping to stash away beautiful women in Ray’s apartment. Doug was not at all pleased when he found out via the news that Natalie was holed up there, and Ray’s attempt to deny it failed almost instantaneously. It was haunting to see him return from that first initial dalliance with his neighbor to Bridget, unimpressed that he had somewhere else to be, as Abby decided that she didn’t want treatment, much to the misery of those around her. Bridget was pretty thrilled when her uncle Terry showed up to see her, and we got to see him loosen up much more than he usually does, smoking and laughing with Bridget and Smitty in an effort to cope with the unforgivable deed he helped to commit. Bunchy’s stint in jail seems to be getting more serious than expected, though it has also provided the opportunity for him to come face-to-face with one of the men who ruined his life, a circumstance I imagine he’ll find a way to turn to his advantage.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pilot Review: American Vandal

American Vandal (Netflix)
Premiered September 15

I couldn’t tell at first if this was meant to be a documentary or something scripted, but it didn’t take more than a few seconds of watching to realize that this was a satire of hugely childish proportions. I actually just listened to the first episode of “Serial” a few weeks ago during a long drive, and while I know I’m late to the party (and not hooked only because I don’t drive regularly and prefer to watch TV when I can), I think it was perfect timing so that I could fully appreciate what this show is trying to do in parodying it. Appreciating it and liking it are two different things, however, since I can respect it without thinking there’s actually all that much to it. I don’t think anyone is pretending that this is supposed to be taken seriously, and instead it’s taking a lot of jabs at the excessive drama portrayed in this kind of long-form exposé. That the subject, Dylan, is on trial for drawing many, many penises on staff cars, says it all. Naturally, that’s part of the investigation, since, while Dylan was a known penis-drawer, his style and form is considerably different from what was found all over the cars, which means that maybe he’s…innocent? It is possible that this show could have been a bit more sophisticated, but I suppose then the comedy factor would have been impacted and the absurdity of it all would be lessened. Still, this isn’t something I can bear to watch for even another episode, and I’m surprised that it seems to have been so widely well-received.

How will it work as a series? I can’t imagine what’s going to take place over the next seven episodes, since that seems like an awfully long time to spend on these characters and this silly crime. At least each installment is only half an hour rather than a full hour, but that’s only some consolation.
How long will it last? The reviews appear to be pretty good, and ratings data isn’t something that Netflix tends to release. I’d hedge my bets on this show getting renewed, albeit for a second and totally different anthology chapter with something equally immature and ridiculous meant to send up pop culture and the excitement of this type of series.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Narcos

Narcos: Season 3, Episode 3 “Follow the Money” (B+)

This season really is revving up, with Pena doing his best to really make some progress in taking down the Cali cartel while his American comrades are actively working against him to ensure a continuation of the status quo. To think that such violence is permitted is especially disturbing considering the real-life news that a location manager for the show’s fourth season was recently killed in Mexico. The two senators who came down to find out where their money is going were familiar TV faces, Glenn Morshower, best known as Agent Aaron Pierce on “24,” and Louis Herthum, who played Dolores’ father on “Westworld.” Pena didn’t need much information to realize the scene of destruction he was seeing was staged, but it doesn’t matter, since he’s not receiving any kind of support. His agents are indeed smarter than they look, as Feistl and Van Ness toured around with a man who definitely isn’t the most honest cop in Medellin and then surprised him with a warrant. It was pretty intense to see Jorge, who is the definition of calm under pressure, get out of his car and bolt inside the building after Guillermo repeatedly refused to heed his warnings to then literally hold the dirty money in his hands behind the door so that the agents wouldn’t find it. Hearing his accent was a big win, but not as incredible as being led to the very hiding place where Gilberto was. Pena’s already on to his own leads, following Miguel Angel Silvestre’s cleaner Jurado and his wife American wife Kerry Bishé, whose passport is like gold. I’m eager to see what happens next.

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the twelfth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Sasha Alexander, Eliza Coupe, Claire Danes, Regina Hall, Callie Thorne

Emmy nominees: Becky Ann Baker, Angela Bassett, Carrie Fisher, Melissa McCarthy, Wanda Sykes, Kristen Wiig

Semi-finalists: Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black), Amanda Stephen (Orange is the New Black), Amy Landecker (People of Earth), Anna Camp (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Becky Ann Baker (Girls), Condola Rashad (Master of None), Gabrielle Ruiz (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Katie Aselton (Casual), Leisha Hailey (Silicon Valley), Lesley Nicol (The Catch), Lindsey Kraft (Grace and Frankie), Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), Maggie Lawson (The Great Indoors), Marceline Hugot (The Detour), Maya Rudolph (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet), Olivia Colman (Fleabag), Samara Wiley (You're the Worst), Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Tiya Sircar (Master of None)

Finalists: June Squibb (Shameless) was endearing and entertaining as an aging woman without too much memory recall or much in the way of social skills. Collette Wolfe (You're the Worst) was a shining star on her show, never meant to stay long due to her kindness and genuine excitement. Tiya Sircar (The Good Place) did a marvelous job representing what it means to be good, sticking out among a group of terrible people. Katie Finneran (Brockmire) went head-to-head with Hank Azaria for command of their scenes and left quite an impression with her formidable appearances. Blair Brown (Orange is the New Black) brought some celebrity Southern charm to a place where it definitely didn’t belong.

The nominees:

Britt Robertson (Casual) presented herself initially as a professional colleague and then became something altogether more unforgettable very quickly. Rebecca Naomi Jones (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll) jived well with Gigi right away and helped to liven up the energy of her show in an unexpected way. Portia de Rossi (Santa Clarita Diet) used her signature style of speaking to tremendous effect in a memorable, matter-of-fact role. Jane Adams (Atlanta) was hard to forget as an agent who definitely didn’t remember the person she was talking to correctly.

The winner:

Laura Benanti (The Detour) was relentless and excessively exuberant in all the right ways, taking her role as a member of the mail police so incredibly seriously. “Mail, mail, we will not fail” is still stuck in my head.

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the eleventh category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Peter Gallagher, Jake Lacy, Dermot Mulroney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Steven Weber

Emmy nominees: Riz Ahmed, Dave Chappelle, Tom Hanks, Hugh Laurie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Matthew Rhys

Semi-finalists: Andrew Leeds (The Great Indoors), Billy Magnussen (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Bobby Cannavale (Master of None), Brett Dier (Jane the Virgin), Brett Gelman (Making History), Chris Williams (Silicon Valley), Erik King (The Detour), Fred Melamed (Casual), Graham Rogers (Silicon Valley), Haley Joel Osment (Silicon Valley), James Cromwell (The Detour), Jason Dohring (iZombie), Julian McMahon (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), Matt Oberg (Veep), Michael Torpey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Michal Hogan (You, Me, Her), Ricardo Chavira (Santa Clarita Diet), Scott Adsit (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Thomas Lennon (Santa Clarita Diet)

Finalists: Adam Scott (The Good Place) definitely had a great time playing the embodiment of hellish obnoxiousness. Brad William Henke (Orange is the New Black) committed strongly to being a vigilant enforcer with no sympathy for anyone who got in his way. Mamoudou Athie (The Detour) was the quieter of two investigating agents, always at the ready to take the next leap. Riz Ahmed (Girls) was at ease and very peaceful in his affable portrayal of a surfing instructor. Josh Charles (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) got to be as immature and revolting as he could be, taking his place in his absurdist universe.

The nominees:

Peter Gallagher (Grace and Frankie) was suave and charming in the most aggressive way, making him a fantastic fit for Grace. Jemaine Clement (Divorce) was very hilariously not French, a somewhat dim-witted player in a game he didn’t know all that much about. Allan McLeod (You're the Worst) and Todd Robert Anderson (You're the Worst) have spent most of their time on their show in the background and had a great chance to shine when the hapless husbands were featured.

The winner:

Tim Robinson (Making History) was a superb Al Capone, a mobster who was very into his jokes and being included in plans, probably the most definitive aspect of how his short-lived show worked well.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Monday, September 18, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

This is the tenth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Lauren Ambrose, Kerry Bishe, Judy Greer, Merritt Wever, Alicia Witt

Emmy nominees: Alexis Bledel, Laverne Cox, Ann Dowd, Shannon Purser, Cicely Tyson, Alison Wright

Semi-finalists: Lisa Bonet (Ray Donovan), Sarah Baker (Goliath)

Finalists: Judy Greer (Masters of Sex) left an impression as a previously scorned wife who found just the right way to gloat about the ultimate state of her marriage. Jacqueline Byers (Timeless) infused Bonnie Parker with a sense of authenticity and youthful passion. Christina Brucato (Legends of Tomorrow) made a great case for existence, not to blame for the circumstances of her creation. Anne Dudek (The Flash) was a wonderful fit for her show’s universe, a woman of such consequence without any notion that she would ever be recognized. Calista Flockhart (Supergirl) made a magnificent return to her show that was better than her entire first season gig, swooping in to save the day at exactly the right moment.

The nominees:

Jennifer Esposito (The Affair) wasn’t seen nearly enough, but in every one of her scenes she was loyal, passionate, and relentless. Caitlin FitzGerald (Rectify) felt like she was created just for Daniel, ready to see the world through an entirely different lens without the traditional confines of society keeping her down. Catalina Sandino Moreno (The Affair) moved into a new role and wasn’t about to give it up when it looked like her dominance might be threatened. Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) was back for one final time playing a different character, seamlessly moving with the tone and pace of her memorable episode.

The winner:

Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid's Tale) wasn’t the title character of her show, but her rebellious spirit was emblematic of any semblance of resistance in her dark world, shown both in unbridled joy and in utter devastation.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

This is the ninth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Josh Charles, John Carroll Lynch, Ian McShane, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Pryce

Emmy nominees: Hank Azaria, Gerald McRaney, Brian Tyree Henry, Ben Mendelsohn, Denis O’Hare, BD Wong

Semi-finalists: Brett Cullen (Narcos), Bruno Bichir (Narcos), Eric Lange (Narcos), Gregg Henry (Supergirl), Hank Azaria (Ray Donovan), Jeff Kober (Timeless), Lonnie Chavis (Supergirl), Michael Gaston (The Leftovers), Stacy Keach (Ray Donovan), Ted Levine (Ray Donovan)

Finalists: Sam Strike (Timeless) and Colman Domingo (Timeless) made two historical figures on opposite sides of the law - Clyde Barrow and Bass Reeves - memorable and endearing. Dylan Walsh (Longmire) struck a villainous chord as an enemy without any fear of the stoic sheriff. Rich Sommer (Masters of Sex) wore his discomfort with the public nature of his condition on his face, making one patient very relatable. Danny Strong (Billions) showed what it looks like to celebrate excessively and prematurely and then be completely crushed by defeat only seconds later.

The nominees:

Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) made a welcome return as a far purer version of the man he once was, an eager hero without an ounce of evil in him. Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Sneaky Pete) was a formidable element of the law who wasn’t about to messed with, and a fierce match for the title character. Sean Maguire (Timeless) made Ian Fleming into a real-life James Bond. Hamish Linklater (Legion) was a mysterious figure throughout his appearances with an intense determination to understand the incomprehensible.

The winner:

James Callis (12 Monkeys) was born to play the man who may have witnessed it all but was also quite bored with the mundane and repetitive nature of time travel, something that only the charismatic Callis could convey.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy Awards: The Morning After

It’s come and gone – the big night that represents the best of TV as honored by the members of its academy. I had a blast making some themed food with my wife, my parents, and some friends, which helped add to the general celebratory feel of the night. Enjoy a few pictures below!

I remember previous Emmy ceremonies where the awards were split up into different sections based on genres, which to me makes at least some sense since there’s no real logic to the way things go. That said, there are some stretches with just reality shows that don’t appeal at all, and so maybe mixing it up is the smarter move. The only thing you can count on is that supporting actor will be the first category to be announced. There weren’t a lot of montages, which was a shame, but overall the ceremony was pretty entertaining, starting with a jovial number featuring host Stephen Colbert and nominees Anthony Anderson and Allison Janney.

In a way, this wasn’t a very exciting show since there were few surprises. I made the wrong call on Best Drama Series, betting that “Stranger Things,” which went unrewarded in this primetime ceremony, would eclipse “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which picked up a very impressive five trophies. I hedged my bets on Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow while my second-place picks, which most people went with, Donald Glover and Ron Cephas Jones, ended up winning. “Veep” scored its third straight win for Best Comedy Series, and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus picked up her sixth consecutive award. And no one was surprised to see Kate McKinnon pick up a second award, joined by costar Alec Baldwin for his skewering of Donald Trump. I got 100% on my limited series and TV movie predictions, but that’s because only three programs – “Big Little Lies,” “The Night Of,” and “Black Mirror: San Junipero” – won anything. I watched the first two shows and really need to check out the last one. Overall, I got 21/27, also missing Best Reality-Competition Program, which ranks least on the list of anything on this show that interests me.

And then we have the one win that counts as a substantial surprise. Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series was an extremely competitive category, with Thandie Newton, Chrissy Metz, and Millie Bobby Brown all contending for a win for three very hot new shows. Yet when the category was announced, it was actress Ann Dowd who scored the win. I was really rooting for Newton since I thought her performance was exceptional, but Dowd is a fantastic actress who was really terrific – and terrifying – in her show. She was superb in “The Leftovers” in its first season (my runner-up for the AFT Award) and should have been Oscar-nominated for her performance in the film “Compliance” a few years ago (she won the AFT Award), so it’s great to see her rewarded, especially considering the humble nature of her speech.

I’m sad that “Westworld,” which was one of the best new shows of the season, second only to “The Handmaid’s Tale” in terms of those series heaped with Emmy love this year, earned the most nominations but not a single major award. There wasn’t anyone aside from Newton I was really rooting for this year who had any shot at winning, and I do think that, of the choices, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was the best one. Though I would have preferred “Silicon Valley” to be honored for Best Comedy Series, I’m fine with a win for “Veep” since this was a good season and I don’t think it’s reached a point where it’s way beyond any initial concept of quality, especially with the announcement of one more season to wrap it up.

As for the show itself, I think what most people are talking about is the entirely unexpected appearance of Sean Spicer. You certainly can’t say that it wasn’t completely shocking, and the look on Anna Chlumsky’s face said it all. It’s true that bringing him in there after his appalling term in Trump’s administration simply because he’s no longer a part of it feels odd, and, unlike past subjects of mockery like Sarah Palin and Bernie Sanders, the members of his White House attack those involved with the variety series rather than join in on the fun. It was undeniably entertainment, and I’m not sure how I feel beyond that. The in memoriam montage with the picture frames was effective, and sad, and I’d say overall this show ran pretty well and featured some fun presenters, including Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda together, the cast of “Big Little Lies,” and last year’s winner Tatiana Maslany.

What’s next? The AFT Awards continue and should wrap up within the next week and a half, representing my choices for the best in TV from the 2016-2017 season. And check out reviews aplenty coming soon for all the new pilots from the 2017-2018 season as well as a number of returning shows. Over at Movies with Abe, I’ll be covering the New York Film Festival soon and then moving on to Oscar season. Stick around – it’s a great time!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Emmy Winner Predictions

Okay, so the Emmys are tonight. I didn’t do all that well in my predictions for the categories that have been announced thus far, getting just 1/4 in the guest acting races. As expected, Alexis Bledel triumphed for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while Gerald McRaney won for “This Is Us.” And both Dave Chappelle, who I had in second place, and Melissa McCarthy, who I should have predicted, took home comedy honors for “Saturday Night Live,” indicating strong support for the late-night sketch series. These categories don’t usually honor the fan favorite or the best performance, and I think overall that worked out better this year.

This is a big year for the Emmys, with five new shows contending for Best Drama Series and last year’s winner out of the running, and a hip new comedy threatening to take down the two-time champ for Best Comedy Series. Having just caught up on two of the most buzzed-about series, “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” I can say that, while I think that “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Westworld” are two of the top five dramas of the year, I’d be okay with “Stranger Things” winning because I understand the appeal. I would, not however, be pleased if “This Is Us” takes it since I don’t feel it’s anywhere near the caliber of the other nominees. It also saddens me that “Westworld” apparently has no shot even though it’s the most-nominated series and also one of the best. The real question is whether Ron Cephas Jones can beat John Lithgow and if Thandie Newton can beat Chrissy Metz and Millie Bobby Brown. I’m saying yes on both with the expectation that I might be wrong. I’m not pulling especially for any of the nominees aside from Newton since I think she’s so deserving, and I’d also prefer Elisabeth Moss over Claire Foy. On the comedy side of things, I am strongly of the belief that “Atlanta” won’t win the top two prizes. I’m sticking with Jeffrey Tambor for Best Actor even though I have a sneaking suspicion that Anthony Anderson will upset due to his episode submission. I think that Baldwin and McKinnon are solidly ahead of their competition, and the directing and writing prizes seem somewhat sewn up as well.

I didn’t offer official predictions in the limited series and TV movie categories, but since I did watch “Big Little Lies,” “Fargo,” and “The Night Of,” as well as the pilot episodes of “Feud: Bette and Joan” and “Genius,” I have more knowledge in those races than I’ve had in years. It would be nice to see Riz Ahmed rewarded for his performance in “The Night Of,” though I’m actually pulling for Bill Camp, who I noted as the MVP of the show, to win in the supporting actor race, where Alexander Skarsgard, also a solid performer, is expected to prevail for “Big Little Lies.” If I had to choose between Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, I’d pick Witherspoon, and between Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley, I’d pick Woodley, though most prognosticators are going with the opposite. I didn’t love any of the three miniseries seasons mentioned above, and I can’t believe that Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn’t nominated for her work on “Fargo.” I’ll be paying attention to these categories more than I do usually, but I’m still in this for the drama and comedy series.

As always, I’m excited for the show, and will post some brief reactions either immediately afterwards or the next morning. Enjoy the show, and leave your thoughts in the comments! For detailed predictions in all applicable categories, click on the hyperlinked category name.

No guts, no glory:
Ann Dowd wins for “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Stranger Things

Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us)

Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers (Stranger Things)

Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale)


Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live)

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

B.A.N. (Atlanta)

Thanksgiving (Master of None)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Defenders

The Defenders: Season 1, Episode 5 “Take Shelter” (B+)

If there’s one thing you can’t argue with this show about, it’s that it has a solid cast. I’m not a fan of anything related to Danny Rand and his particular superhero show, but Colleen is far from the most idiotic of the characters in his world. After they realized that the lives of their loved ones were in danger, it was great to see Matt go warn Karen, Luke find Misty, and Jessica grab Trish to ensure that they would all be safe. Claire, the one who connects them all, seems to me to be the most likely to fend for herself, though we’ve seen all of those people stand their ground when confronted by much stronger and more superpowered enemies. Luke’s captivity didn’t last long, and he even returned with a hostage of his own, who proved to be difficult before stupidly trying to harm the Iron Fist, resulting in Stick cutting off his head, which was a bit brutal. Matt does seem to be getting through to Elektra, which is a good thing, though Alexandra and her buddies, including Bakuto, are only renewing and doubling-down on their efforts for world domination as they realize that the Black Sky may indeed be a defective weapon. Matt’s back in the Daredevil costume, and I like that Jessica told him the scarf looked better. With just three episodes left, I now do feel like I’m getting into this show, though I’m not as pumped about the action as I am about all the different character interactions, particularly between Matt and Jessica.

What I’m Watching: Atypical

Atypical: Season 1, Episode 6 “The D-Train to Bone Town” (B+)

I can’t picture Sam at a dance, but it certainly looks like he might be going. His initial reaction was exactly what I would have expected, which was to point out all the terrible things that would be around him at such an event. There are times where Paige doesn’t seem to get Sam at all, but I think she also wants to push him to be comfortable in certain situations where she knows he wouldn’t normally be, and therefore it was very sweet to see her suggest a silent disco so that he could come too (I was thinking the same thing as soon as he mentioned wearing headphones!). The notion that girls’ hair would be all messed up after being done was hardly a convincing argument, and I for one am never a fan of the excuse that so many other people have to be inconvenienced just to accommodate one person. Elsa did get quite a harsh reaction about her apparent selfishness due to Casey’s impending departure for another school and Sam being the subject of the dance, and I think she just needs to try being a bit more discreet about, say, wandering around the area where her new boyfriend lives. Casey getting iced out and having her clothes stolen was an unfortunate development, and it’s a good thing that her one friendship was quickly renewed. I enjoyed how Sam processed the information about having to visit all the bases first, and that Zahid knew him well enough to remind him that he knew all about otters as a reference point. Taking him to a strip club wasn’t a great sensory experience, but meeting a friendly stripper outside did prove to be helpful. Julia was angry enough about her ex leaving, and the news that she’s pregnant is something that I can’t imagine is going to sit well.

What I’m Watching: Better Things (Season Premiere)

Better Things: Season 2, Episode 1 “September” (B+)

This show is back just in time for star Pamela Adlon to contend for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series this weekend at the Emmys. It’s very unlikely that she’ll win, but I think that this premiere is even more evidence that she’s a great actress fully deserving of having her own show. I wasn’t sure if I had missed something since everything was pretty chaotic at the start of this episode, but it was all revealed in due time. Max, referred to by Sam to Frankie as “the shitty one,” dating a thirty-five-year-old man who used to be involved with Lucy Davis’ Macy before meeting and literally falling for Max at her play was not a good situation for anyone to be in, and Sam fending off his younger brother was quite awkward. It was good for Sam to get the victory of Max confiding in her that she couldn’t stand going to parties with forty-year-olds, which in itself is a rather immature statement, and that she got to be the one to tell Arturo to get the hell out. As if Max wasn’t being inappropriate enough with this relationship, it turns out that Duke, the innocent one, has moved into shockingly vulgar territory, making an unfortunate Monopoly-related suggestion during what could have been an innocent game of truth or dare with her friends. When shouting “penis” at the top of your lungs in a house full of people isn’t the worst thing a group of young girls can do, you know that things have gotten bad.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pilot Review: Riviera

Riviera (SundanceNow)
Premiered September 14

Pilots are meant to be expository, and especially when a show is released in a format where it’s meant to be binged, not much of the show’s continuing plot needs to be addressed since viewers are likely to find out within hours or days anyway. I’m not a fan of such setups, and I’ve also seen a fair number of pilots that completely fizzle after their debuts, from disappointments like “Terra Nova” to disasters like “The Event.” This show isn’t nearly as bad as the latter, of course, but it’s pretty deathly boring. The world of art curation isn’t one that’s meant to be captured in a television thriller format, though dropping twenty million dollars like it’s nothing does suggest that those with means might be using those funds for more nefarious purposes. Julia Stiles in an actress who achieved early success in films like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Save the Last Dance,” earned a deserved Emmy nomination for her recurring role on “Dexter,” and has actual been starring on a web series called “Blue” for the past few years. It’s her experience in the Jason Bourne movies that makes her seem like the best fit for this role, yet she doesn’t manage to be engaging as a lead at all. She’s not sympathetic or particularly dynamic, and her performance pales in comparison to Lena Olin’s opportunistic ex-wife. I knew Constantine looked familiar, but I had no idea that he was played by Anthony LaPaglia since he looks very different from when he was big on TV for “Without a Trace.” This pilot was dense and uninvolving, and I have no desire whatsoever to screen the next nine episodes.

How will it work as a series? Stiles’ Georgina has gone from a clueless widow to someone who’s all about toting a gun and trying to take charge of her situation in order to make sense of it. That’s a character transformation I didn’t quite buy, much like a lot of things about this show. Maybe there are some interesting revelations to be uncovered, but I doubt it.
How long will it last? Reviews were mixed back when the show premiered in England on Sky Atlantic in June, though the ratings were pretty great. Stateside, the reviews aren’t great, and ratings aren’t as relevant since the entire season was released on SundanceNOW this past Thursday. I think that this will be all of this show that we’ll see.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 4, Episode 3 “Odysseus” (B+)

Jimmy’s no longer at the retirement trailer park, but some of his niceness seems to have stuck around, with him actually able to apologize, even if it’s not always for the right things. Walking in to find Edgar and Lindsay having sex in his bed produced a reaction in him, and I’m not sure that he even heard Edgar putting on the British accent and pretending to be him. He did seem to be sincere in his apology to Edgar, and I guess the two of them are fine now since Edgar isn’t really capable of standing up to the manboy he considers his best friend. Gretchen had quite the day, trying to get out of sticking around to meet Ty’s friends and then earning herself a ride home from Boone, played by Colin Ferguson, who I recognized from ads for a show I’ve never seen, “Eureka.” They’re quite an interesting pair, and given the headlines I’ve seen when I searched Ferguson’s name and this show on Google, I suspect Boone will be sticking around a bit more. Gretchen freaked out when she saw Jimmy and made Boone keep driving, and then she returned to give him another shot which he almost didn’t mess up. His apology, once again, was decent, but then he had to add a caveat about her saying the word “family.” It was painful to watch him excitedly accept her fake apology for that, and not moving her arms when he tossed the book to her was a pretty effective way of showing him that she was tuning him out. Whatever comes after this is going to be messy, but what else can we expect on this show?

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Unabomber (Season Finale)

Manhunt: Unabomber: Season 1, Episode 8 “USA vs. Theodore J. Kaczynski” (B+)

I guess this is a season finale though we all know that there won’t be a second season and that this is really more of a miniseries. I actually found myself wishing that there was more time spent on the trial since it was pretty fascinating, yet I guess the idea is that we’ve seen all of the evidence presented in its original form, as in when it happened over the course of the last seven episodes. What’s most intriguing about this show aside from its subject matter is the way in which its characters play such a minor role on some occasions, with Fitz figuring in somewhat to this episode but otherwise all of the legal and investigative figures we’ve come to know over the course of the season just showing up for mostly non-speaking roles. Fitz didn’t get all the credit for bringing him down, and no one needed that, since David had to make the difficult statement that what happened was right, even though both he and his mother do still care for Ted. And then there’s Ted, who was very involved in his own legal defense and was hellbent on not claiming insanity, something his lawyers were set on doing despite his objections. It was interesting how this episode really painted Ted in a sympathetic light, the lone person confident in what he was saying yet deemed crazy by all around him. At the very least, this was an extremely involving show featuring a powerhouse performance by Paul Bettany, who I very much hope wins some awards next year. I now feel like I want to learn more about this case, particularly by visiting the exhibit at the Newseum that previously was of no interest to me. The forensic linguistics part really is very cool, and this was a solid show.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Paul Bettany as Ted

What I’m Watching: People of Earth

People of Earth: Season 2, Episode 8 “Alien Experiencer Expo” (B+)

I had seen a preview for this episode and wasn’t sure how having an alien expo on a show that confirms the existence of aliens almost more than any other comedy I’ve seen would play, but I’m happy to report that, as usual for this show, it was a resounding success. I think the main reason for that is that all of the characters, save for Alex of course, went in with the attitude that this was research and a great learning opportunity. Author Leonard Bechdal, who Gina was a big fan of, was a fraud only because he stole his wife’s story, not because he wasn’t actually abducted by aliens. And my absolute favorite reaction came from Don, who went around to each of the booths to discuss the accuracy and ethical nature of each of the exhibits. Jeff didn’t seem very excited by Don’s gift for him, even though the White really did mean well by it. Slipping Alex an envelope with the phone number for her family was a sweet move on Don’s part, but I can only imagine that it’s going to lead to some questions when her mother theoretically confirms her very lucid abduction by aliens many years earlier. Chelsea’s pregnancy was confirmed very quickly despite Margaret’s efforts to make it seem like far from a done deal, and let’s hope that it is indeed Father Doug’s and not some alien artificially inseminated by our friends on the ship. Ozzie still hasn’t been brought back yet, and I wonder whether that’s something being saved for the season finale of this awesome show that fortunately has just been renewed for season three!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What I’m Watching: Insecure (Season Finale)

Insecure: Season 2, Episode 8 “Hella Perspective” (B+)

The opening and general structure of this episode made it feel more artsy than it usually does, but in a very good way, with Issa noticing that her neighborhood is being gentrified at an alarming rate. I think it speaks to the potential of this series to rise well above being just a comedy, though it has already inspired plenty of goodwill in my mind, with this second season serving as an improvement on the still perfectly great first year. I didn’t know where the “thirty days with” intro was headed, and I like that it all started from the run where Lawrence, Molly, and Issa were all present with their lives continuing from there. Issa and Lawrence’s relationship was fully on display in this episode, with the latter realizing that he missed the former when he kept seeing her, while she was obviously pining for him since she isn’t even close to over him after she screwed things up by sleeping with Daniel. Waiting around for her rather than just taking the couch was a sign that he was willing to consider something, and he looked like he was getting choked up when Issa was honest about how it was the worst thing she ever did. I didn’t think that him getting down on one knee and proposing, following by a flash-forward to them having a kid together, felt right, and of course it was just Issa’s imagination running wild again. She’ll have to settle for a friend request from him and a somewhat surprising decision to come stay with Daniel, who she seemed like she was never going to talk to just a few episodes ago. Issa’s career took a big hit when Joanne reacted poorly to her owning up to what Joanne unfortunately called “segregated sessions,” and at least Frieda has developed as a character, making her promotion over Issa an understandable if lamentable development. Molly’s hard work getting other offers didn’t pay off at all, with a measly rising star award as her reward rather than a track towards partnership. She’s also dressing in lingerie and answering the door to Dro, indicating that their relationship has turned more into an affair than an acceptable open-marriage situation. This has been a very solid year, and I look forward to revisiting all three of these characters and their extended worlds next season.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Issa Rae

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 5, Episode 3 “Episode 503” (B+)

This episode made me very happy, at least early on before it was clear where things were headed. We got to know Merc and Carol at such different points in their life when they were both in power and high up at the studio, both responsible for tearing apart some of Beverly and Sean’s dreams. They’ve both fallen so much now that it’s easy to see why they might recall only the best of times. After Carol finding ventured outside of the house to buy a donut and was horrified to run into Helen and Elliot, it was sweet to see Merc show up at her door with all the food he knows that she loved because he heard how lonely she was on the phone and just wanted to be with her. Now, it could have been a happy ending, but that’s not what this show is known for, and thus we have Morning, one of the best characters on this show, back and apparently in a serious relationship with Merc, an important fact he conveniently forget to mention to Carol when he said he wanted to give their relationship another much more legitimate shot. It was fun to see Sean as the one who exploded at Tim since he often lets Beverly fight his battles, and he delivered a terrific takedown of the idiotic writer after they found out about his duplicitous casting move. I laughed for a minute or two after Matt went through all the different show ideas that he had been pitched and was disappointed to realize that playing a ghost was the only remaining option. His speech to his sons after they saw the video was pretty funny and far from on-point, which produced some hilarious visual reactions from his angry ex-wife.

Pilot Review: The Deuce

The Deuce (HBO)
Premiered September 10 at 9pm

As you can probably tell if you’re even an occasional reader of this blog, I like to go into shows without knowing anything if I can. In some cases, that’s a detriment since I don’t know what’s supposed to be going on. In the opening half hour of this extended episode, I looked back to see what other HBO shows had been set in the recent past, and concluded that it doesn’t usually work out for the likes of “Vinyl” or other similar shows on other networks like “Good Girls Revolt” and “Magic City,” with the major exception being of course “Mad Men.” What I missed completely and had to discover online afterwards is that this show is meant to focus on the rise of the porn industry in New York City. While there were a handful of mob-related activities and plenty of prostitutes in this opening hour and a half, there wasn’t any mention of pornography, which I count as a demerit since I wouldn’t have had any interest in coming back at all based on this sampling. Most of the characters feel overly familiar and unoriginal, save for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Candy, who did one hell of a job defending what she had to do in her job. I don’t know how much more we’ll see of Zoe Kazan as Vincent’s (ex?) wife Andrea, who was the other standout here. Like many HBO pilots, this felt very crowded and not very clear, and the way it ended didn’t make me want to revisit it at all.

How will it work as a series? I’d sort of like to know. Not really, but the premise does sound more appealing than whatever this was, which didn’t feel very focused or aware of where it wants to go. I’d be willing to give it another shot just to see if it’s all expository or if it actually takes these characters on an interesting collision course.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be more positive that what I’ve written above, and therefore I’d put this squarely in the win column for the network, which also values creator David Simon’s creative vision. I don’t think ratings will need to factor in all that much since this one is likely to benefit from a renewal very soon.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 5, Episode 5 “Shabbos Goy” (B+)

It’s very jarring and disconcerting to see Ray in such rough shape, and though he’s been headed down this path for a while now, in this episode he got actual confirmation that there are so many reasons to believe that he is depressed. Answering yes to every single question posed to him by his therapist was an indisputable wake-up call that, of course, is just putting him into more of a slumber. He barely reacted when Adina Porter’s Vicky pointed a gun at his head after he vomited and took the money, and then he appeared shell-shocked when her car got hit by an oncoming driver just moments later. This isn’t the Ray we’re used to at all. He’s certainly not in the right frame of mind to be providing safe harbor for the pregnant Natalie who is trying hard to get away from Doug, who isn’t just interested in having his lead actress back on set. Bunchy telling Mickey what happened wasn’t a great move, though something tells me that if anyone can get his money back right now, it’s Mickey. That doesn’t mean going after the guys that robbed him, but rather teaming up with Avi to double-cross Frank. Avi’s Israeli heritage somehow translates into a fluency in Yiddish, which doesn’t make all that much sense, and he’s also a far cry from the henchman we knew him as before. Frank doesn’t seem to be messing around, however, and arresting Bunchy in front of his daughter to get Mickey to play ball is a serious move that isn’t likely to have positive consequences.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pilot Review: The Orville

The Orville (FOX)
Premiered September 10 at 8pm

I knew just two things about this show going into it: its status as the first fall broadcast show to premiere and a very negative Facebook post from a good friend and fellow TV watcher from earlier in the day about how the show was an unfunny and unnecessary imitation of “Star Trek.” Unfortunately, I have to agree with him, since I always wonder when new shows premiere what the point is and what audience the show is attempting to attract. With “Star Trek: Discovery” premiering just two weeks after this show’s debut on a new streaming-only network, it seems like an odd time to launch this semi-parody that includes such biting lines as “Happy Arbor Day!” and doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be an adventure series or a comedy. I don’t like “Family Guy” but I thought Seth MacFarlane was a decent Oscars host back in 2012. What he’s done here is not managed to be too offensive but also not managed to be too funny. An ace pilot being well-known for drawing a lot of penises is far from sophisticated, and the excitement about a pizza party for office birthdays was mildly amusing but also not a real winner. In the cast, I was surprised to recognize Penny Johnson Jerald, who I haven’t seen since her much more dramatic role on “24” over a decade ago, as the chief medical officer, and it pains me to see the usually excellent Adrianne Palicki, recently of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” relegated to a far from worthwhile part, even if it’s one of the best to be found on this show. I like space travel, but I’d rather do it with a different crew, probably like the one I’ll meet in a week and a half.

How will it work as a series? FOX is making a big show of airing the first two episodes on Sunday night before moving it to its regularly-scheduled Wednesday timeslot, so clearly they think it’s the show to watch. I think that the childish banter and only meagerly exciting action is what we have to look forward to in whatever will remain of this mediocre show.
How long will it last? Ratings data doesn’t seem to be available as a result of Hurricane Irma, but I’d say that the dismal 35 that this show earned on Metacritic is enough to seal its fate. It is a typical FOX show, and it might do well in its many airings this month, but I still don’t think it will make it beyond season one or even until its proscribed end.

Pilot grade: C

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the eighth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Tara Lynne Barr, Paget Brewster, Elaine Hendrix, Zoe Lister-Jones, Noel Wells

Emmy nominees: Vanessa Bayer, Anna Chlumsky, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Jones, Judith Light, Kate McKinnon

Semi-finalists: Alice Wetterlund (People of Earth), Allison Williams (Girls), Amy Landecker (Transparent), Andrea Navedo (Jane the Virgin), Anna Chlumsky (Veep), Ashley Gerasinovich (The Detour), Brooklyn Decker (Grace and Frankie), Busy Phillips (Vice Principals), Christine Ko (The Great Indoors), D'Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Donna Lynne Champlin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Elaine Hendrix (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll), Gaby Hoffmann (Transparent), Georga King (Vice Principals), Hannah Marks (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), Ivonne Coll (Jane the Virgin), Jameela Jamil (The Good Place), Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Judith Light (Transparent), June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie), Kathryn Hahn (Transparent), Kether Donohue (You're the Worst), Kimberly Hebert Gregory (Vice Principals), Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet), Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Santa Clarita Diet), Philippa Coulthard (The Catch), Sian Clifford (Fleabag), Sonya Walger (The Catch), Susannah Fielding (The Great Indoors), Vella Lovell (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Yael Grobglas (Jane the Virgin), Zazie Beetz (Atlanta), Zoe Lister-Jones (Life in Pieces)

Finalists: It still doesn’t feel entirely right putting them in this category, but Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black) and Samara Wiley (Orange is the New Black) were the standouts from a massive ensemble as the most genuine, politically proactive prisoners who took stands based on their beliefs. Tara Lynne Barr (Casual) continued to compellingly make mistake after mistake as she navigated into new areas without much knowledge of what she was doing. Emma Kenney (Shameless) entered a new stage of her life with a surprising outlook and plan for success. Meredith Hagner (Search Party) made her lack of self-awareness an asset, energizing an otherwise lackluster and almost nonexistent investigation with her acting enthusiasm.

The nominees:

Jade Eshete (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency) was soft-spoken but intelligent and resilient, staying true to her commitments as the quietest of her colorful cast. Yvonne Orji (Insecure) complemented Issa well as a woman with a successful job struggling just as much to get by. Sherri Shepherd (Trial and Error) and Jayma Mays (Trial and Error) were wondrous elements of East Peck, the former afflicted with every possible minor condition and the latter eager to embrace the particular absurdities of her town to her advantage.

The winner:

Fiona Dourif (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency) was the perfect counterpart to the show’s title character, doing things just to do them and seeing what happens as a result. Her demeanor was particularly memorable, and she’s one holistic assassin you’d never want to meet.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the seventh category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Nathaniel Buzolic, Liam Carroll, Vinnie Jones, Timothy Omundson, Sam Richardson

Emmy nominees: Louie Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Tituss Burgess, Ty Burrell, Tony Hale, Matt Walsh

Semi-finalists: Andrew Rannells (Girls), Baron Vaughn (Grace and Frankie), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Chris Williams (The Great Indoors), Colin Hanks (Life in Pieces), Desmin Borges (You're the Worst), Ethan Embry (Grace and Frankie), Jaime Camil (Jane the Virgin), John Ales (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll), John Corbett (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll), John Early (Search Party), John Reynolds (Search Party), John Simm (The Catch), Justin Baldoni (Jane the Virgin), Keith Stanfield (Atlanta), Ken Hall (People of Earth), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), Liam Carroll (The Detour), Malcolm Goodwin (iZombie), Martin Starr (Silicon Valley), Matt Ross (Silicon Valley), Matt Walsh (Veep), Michael Cassidy (People of Earth), Robert Kelly (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll), Shaun Brown (The Great Indoors), Shea Whigham (Vice Principals), Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet), Stephen Fry (The Great Indoors), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Tony Hale (Veep), Tyrel Jackson Williams (Brockmire), Vincent Rodriguez III (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

Finalists: Brian Huskey (People of Earth) and Björn Gustafsson (People of Earth) were completely different parts of the same show, one rightfully paranoid about alien invasion and the other the nicest possible face of said real invasion. Mpho Koaho (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency) was, more than anyone, a man caught in an unthinkable situation, and watching his calm demeanor evolve and his attitude change over the course of the season was quite a ride. William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) was so committed to goodness, and watching him scramble to stay good in a heaven that didn’t seem all that incredible was quite entertaining. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (The Great Indoors) was the natural choice for a part practically written for him, allowing him to channel his nerdy nature into a sweet and winning performance.

The nominees:

Steven Boyer (Trial and Error) was a superbly loyal, dimwitted, and always overexcited deputy who was the embodiment of the backwards nature of East Peck. Timothy Simons (Veep) made the most of his new position in politics, hilariously taking on Daylight Saving Time as his number one agenda item. Sam Richardson (Veep) achieved new popularity within his work circle and continued to shine with his unique perception of the world. Josh Brener (Silicon Valley) tried to embark on new adventures but got himself way in over his big head with a few hilarious misunderstandings.

The winner:

Manny Jacinto (The Good Place) turned what could have been the stupidest character on his show into the funniest, imbuing him with the most childlike sense of wonder and appreciation of the simplest things.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

This is the sixth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Jamie Clayton, Regina King, Rhea Seehorn, Rachael Taylor, Maura Tierney

Emmy nominees: Uzo Aduba, Millie Bobby Brown, Ann Dowd, Chrissy Metz, Thandie Newton, Samara Wiley

Semi-finalists: Abigail Spencer (Rectify), Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers), Andrea Riseborough (National Treasure), Ann Dowd (The Handmaid's Tale), Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex), Cassidy Freeman (Longmire), Emily Berrington (Humans), Emily Hampshire (12 Monkeys), Floriana Lima (Supergirl), J. Smith-Cameron (Rectify), Jamie Clayton (Sense8), Julie Walters (National Treasure), Katee Sackhoff (Longmire), Katherine Parkinson (Humans), Katie McGrath (Supergirl), Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Legends of Tomorrow), Margo Martindale (Sneaky Pete), Maria Bello (Goliath), Maura Tierney (The Affair), Melanie Liburd (Dark Matter), Molly Parker (Goliath), Olivia Thirlby (Goliath), Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Samara Wiley (The Handmaid's Tale), Shannon Woodward (Westworld), Simone Missick (Luke Cage), Tania Raymonde (Goliath), Tena Desae (Sense8), Tessa Thompson (Westworld), Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid's Tale), Zoie Palmer (Dark Matter)

Finalists: Marin Ireland (Sneaky Pete) was a great sarcastic foil to the title character, much more tuned into what was going on around her than most of her family. Jean Smart (Legion) is wonderful in so many different roles, and her part here was perfect for her, full of confident wisdom yet still so in awe of what was happening around her. Betty Gilpin (Masters of Sex) changed her new workplace dramatically with her presence and became one of her show’s most interesting characters. Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) was a huge breakout thanks to her shy, focused performance contradicted so majestically by her immense power. Mallory Jansen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) turned what could have been a very one-note character into a formidable and dynamic entity overwhelmed by the amazing power of emotions and life.

The nominees:

Aubrey Plaza (Legion) made the leap from comedy to terrifying drama as a dangerous mental construct with frightening abilities. Grace Gummer (Mr. Robot) and Carly Chaikin (Mr. Robot) were incredibly watchable elements of a show dominated by a magnetic central character, each on opposite sides of a fierce battle for what they believed to be democracy. Nina Arianda (Goliath) was a fantastic and funny outspoken personality not consent to be stifled or trampled on and more than willing to let anyone know it.

The winner:

Thandie Newton (Westworld) captured the unknowable feeling of achieving consciousness from mind control, and watching her realize her surroundings and then take terrifying advantage of them was amazing.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This is the fifth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Liam Cunningham, Peter Dinklage, Michael McKean, Rufus Sewell, David Tennant

Emmy nominees: Jonathan Banks, David Harbour, Ron Cephas Jones, Michael Kelly, John Lithgow, Mandy Patinkin, Jeffrey Wright

Semi-finalists: Alex Mallari Jr. (Dark Matter), Anthony Lemke (Dark Matter), Asia Kate Dillon (Billions), Bill Irwin (Legion), Bryan Cranston (Sneaky Pete), Campbell Scott (House of Cards), Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers), Clayne Crawford (Rectify), Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan), Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul), Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Jason Isaacs (The OA), Jeremie Harris (Legion), Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid's Tale), Juan Diego Botto (Good Behavior), Lou Diamond Phillips (Longmire), Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage), Nick Zano (Legends of Tomorrow), Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle), Terry Kinney (Good Behavior), Tom Cavanagh (The Flash)

Finalists: Jimmi Simpson (Westworld) represented a sense of innocence and wonder in his obsession with a fantasy world, while Ed Harris (Westworld) was a bitter, disgruntled man made evil by his own misery. Jeremy Strong (Masters of Sex) was a devoted scientist whose own happiness took a backseat to his work and the illusion of his marriage. Jason O'Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) was an emblem of strength and hope, driven by a commitment to serve others. Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) was transformed into a completely unrecognizable person and was a true force for terror.

The nominees:

Michael McKean (Better Call Saul) set out to take charge of his life and punish those who had wronged him, painfully pushing through his condition, be it real or imagined. Gaten Matarazzo (Stranger Things) was a wondrous representation of youthful energy and positivity, keeping the gang together when disputes threatened to tear them apart. Joel Kinnaman (House of Cards) charged forward as a candidate with the knowledge that he was best for the job, and his fury when faced with opposition was hard to shake. Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) treated his role as a programmer as that of a pioneering scientist, and the way in which he digested new information gleaned was mesmerizing.

The winner:

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead) was a villain for the ages, one fully aware of just how horrible he was and that no one had any power to stop him.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the fourth category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Rachel Blanchard, Rachel Bloom, Priscilla Faia, Michaela Watkins, Natalie Zea

Emmy nominees: Pamela Adlon, Jane Fonda, Allison Janney, Ellie Kemper, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tracie Ellis Ross, Lily Tomlin

Semi-finalists: Amanda Peet (Brockmire), Ana Gasteyer (People of Earth), Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet), Elizabeth Gillies (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll), Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Lena Dunham (Girls), Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie), Mireille Enos (The Catch), Pamela Adlon (Better Things), Priscilla Faia (You, Me, Her), Rachel Blanchard (You, Me, Her), Sarah Jessica Parker (Divorce)

Finalists: They’re not pictured, but I have to acknowledge the singular commitments to comedy made by Alia Shawkat (Search Party) and Aya Cash (You're the Worst) this past year. Natalie Zea (The Detour) got a bigger backstory and only became more appealing in her outspoken boldness. Rose McIver (iZombie) was entertaining as ever in her many different brain-addled orientations. Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) struggled to hold it together in the face of much adversity and remained charming and lovable throughout. Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) went even more off the deep end in season two, singing her way through all of her zaniness. Michaela Watkins (Casual) tried hard to become an adult while raising one and continued to encounter plenty of hurdles.

The nominees:

Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) was at her spunkiest, embracing the idea of being a human task rabbit with all of its gusto as she learned so many new things about the world. Issa Rae (Insecure) was a fiery, individualistic protagonist putting on a decent front that she knew what she was doing. Kristen Bell (The Good Place) was great at playing a terrible person who, despite her best efforts, actually turned into an okay human being. Leighton Meester (Making History) was the embodiment of time-displaced joy, enjoying the simple wonders of life like ice cream and something closer to gender equality than existed in revolutionary times.

The winner:

Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) was instantly fantastic as an aptly-named protagonist devoid of typical emotions who was so much more complicated and magnificent than she initially seemed.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the third category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Aziz Ansari, Tommy Dewey, Denis Leary, Rob Lowe, John Stamos

Emmy nominees: Anthony Anderson, Aziz Ansari, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Tambor

Semi-finalists: Adam Pally (Making History), Chris Geere (You're the Worst), Denis Leary (Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll), Donald Glover (Atlanta), Greg Poehler (You, Me, Her), Hank Azaria (Brockmire), Jason Jones (The Detour), Joel McHale (The Great Indoors), Peter Krause (The Catch), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet), Tommy Dewey (Casual), William H. Macy (Shameless), Wyatt Cenac (People of Earth)

Finalists: Ted Danson (The Good Place) was a jovial delight, enjoying his created paradise and scrambling to keep everything from falling apart. Elijah Wood (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency) and Samuel Barnett (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency) were great partners with completely different outlooks on life and a wonderful unlikely friendship. Nick D'Agosto (Trial and Error) was a great fish out of water, the lone stand-in for the audience to react to the utter absurdity of everything around him. Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) helped Maura find herself more as she dealt with new successes and new setbacks.

The nominees:

John Lithgow (Trial and Error) is getting plenty of praise for another TV role this year, but his portrayal of an accused killer remarkably skilled at saying things to make himself sound guilty was much more memorable. Thomas Haden Church (Divorce) was fantastically bitter and extremely entertaining as quite possibly the grumpiest character on television. Danny McBride (Vice Principals) and Walton Goggins (Vice Principals) were hilarious together as childish administrators more committed to the destruction of their joint rival than their actual jobs.

The winner:

Aziz Ansari (Master of None) charmed his way through Italy and then back in New York, navigating the world of TV fame, great meals, and being unlucky in love.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

This is the second category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Carrie Coon, Melissa Benoist, Krysten Ritter, Tatiana Maslany, Ruth WIlson

Emmy nominees: Viola Davis, Claire Foy, Elisabeth Moss, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood, Robin Wright

Semi-finalists: Abigail Spencer (Timeless), Brit Marling (The OA), Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Gemma Chan (Humans), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Melissa O'Neil (Dark Matter), Ruth Wilson (The Affair)

Finalists: Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) was the driving force for the sane and grounded in this season, always remembering that perception isn’t everything. Claire Foy (The Crown) was a compelling young figure thrust into a position of regal prominence singularly capable of understanding her new role. Amanda Schull (12 Monkeys) is now as comfortable a time-traveler as anyone from her future who managed to be even more on-mission than those initially sent to find her. Carrie Coon (The Leftovers) evolved to a new level of self-discovery, no longer content to just the let the world happen to her. Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) kept up her peppy spirit as she embarked upon a new career and continued to serve as a beacon of hope.

The nominees:

Rachel Keller (Legion) was possibly the subtlest element of her show, sent in on a mission and taken in by its subject, guided by a true sense of wonder. Michelle Dockery (Good Behavior) followed up a popular turn as a cruel heiress with an even more magnetic one as an equally desperate and daring con artist. Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) was focused and formidable as a programmed robot coming to life. Robin Wright (House of Cards) took on a new importance in this season as she became more and more like her husband.

The winner:

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) was a tremendous force for resilience as the central figure hanging on to some sense of sanity in a horrific nightmare of a world.

Next up: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Monday, September 11, 2017

AFT Awards: Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

This is the first category of the 11th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2016-2017 season. Finalists and semi-finalists are included to recognize more of the impressive work done on television today. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Rami Malek, Jake McDorman, Wagner Moura, Bob Odenkirk, Liev Schreiber, Justin Theroux

Emmy nominees: Sterling K. Brown, Anthony Hopkins, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Liev Schreiber, Kevin Spacey, Milo Ventimiglia

Semi-finalists: Aaron Stanford (12 Monkeys), Aden Young (Rectify), Anthony Hopkins (Westworld), Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Grant Gustin (The Flash), Justin Theroux (The Leftovers), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Paul Giammati (Billions), Pedro Pescal (Narcos), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)

Finalists: Robbie Coltrane (National Treasure) grasped such depth of his disgraced, aging celebrity that even he wasn’t sure of his innocence. Wagner Moura (Narcos) was a shell of his former self, on the run but just as mesmerizingly commanding. Damian Lewis (Billions) didn’t let up on his quest for dominance of every domain, letting the fire of furious ambition guide him to victory after victory. Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) was electric to watch as he dove right into a new career without ever stopping to acknowledge what was really going on around him. Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) pivoted his stone-cold fixer towards a more centered, compassionate person unsure of how much he could continue to invest in his work.

The nominees:

Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) remained marvelously trapped within his own fractured perception of the world, tunneling further into his tech-centered self. Billy Bob Thornton (Goliath) charged headfirst into every fight he could find with a fearless and incomparably calm arrogance. Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) was a great hero for his show, always committed to doing the right thing and sticking by his friends above all. Giovanni Ribisi (Sneaky Pete) was a true chameleon, assuming new identities with ease and embedding himself deep in the con.

The winner:

Dan Stevens (Legion) has come a long way from being dressed by a butler on “Downton Abbey,” now completely captivating as a schizophrenic whose own amazement at new revelations about his true mental state was one of his most fascinating traits.

Next up: Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Comedy Series

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of major spoilers for listed episodes.

B.A.N.,” “The Big Bang,” “The Jacket,” “Streets on Lock,” “The Streisand Effect,” “Value

Last year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy Series didn’t even earn any Emmy nominations, and now this year’s is up for the top prize as well as Best Actor, directing, and two writing entries. I’m not nearly as fond of this show as many others are, and the best of these six episodes is “Value,” which takes a step back from what it’s centered on and makes a decent point about society. “The Streisand Effect” was also a more fun episode. “The Big Bang” and “Streets on Lock” served as the two-part pilot and “The Jacket” was the season finale, and they do a good job bookending this season and showing what it’s about. I really wasn’t a fan of “B.A.N.” which is also up for directing and writing and creates a far too literal parody, but clearly Emmy voters loved it. I don’t think this show is in the same league - or maybe category - as the others here, but it’s possible that it could win just like it did at the Globes. I wouldn’t count on it though.

Being Bow-racial,” “40 Acres and a Vote,” “God,” “Lemons,” “The Name Game,” “One Angry Man

This is the second nomination in this category for this show and my second year watching a handful of episodes. I’d say these six are on par with last year’s, with “Lemons” as the obvious standout due to its election theme and its selection by Anthony Anderson and Wanda Sykes as their submissions. These comedic episodes do feel politically relevant, covering the right to vote, mixed heritage, religion, babies, and the justice system in America. Is this show strong enough to knock out all of its competition? Surely not. But it’s a fun inclusion, and Anderson may well win in his category..

The Dinner Party,” “First Date,” “New York, I Love You,” “Religion,” “Thanksgiving,” “The Thief

I really like this show, but I can’t believe that “Amarsi Un Po,” which I found to be incredible, wasn’t submitted. I guess it’s because that would have counted as two episodes, but where’s the season finale, which was also great? I loved “First Date” and thought that “Religion” was a serious improvement on the overrated season one episode “Parents.” The season premiere, “The Thief,” was terrific, and that paired with “First Date” would probably make me vote for this show over many others. “The Dinner Party” is fine, but not in the same league as the rest. The two most highly-talked about episodes of the season, “Thanksgiving” and “New York, I Love You,” are here, and I appreciate the first but didn’t love the latter, which I found to be less poignant than episodes focused on the actual characters. This show may never return for season three, and I’d be shocked if these episodes were enough to give it the win this year.

The Alliance,” “Five Minutes,” “The Graduates,” “Pig Moon Rising,” “Ringmaster Keifth,” “Weathering Heights

This show is here for an unbelievable - and undeserved - eighth time after winning five consecutive trophies for its first five seasons. I gave up on this show back in December, and therefore I had to sit down to watch four of the episodes just recently. The highest grade I gave to any of these installments was a B-, and only “Five Minutes” showed any glimmer of what this show used to be like back when it was great. I’m surprised that this show is even still here, and it’s not worth delving into its repetitive nature (read the individual reviews for that). This show doesn’t have a shot at all, and those involved should feel lucky that it’s even here at all.

Customer Service,” “Hooli-Con,” “The Keenan Vortex,” “Server Error,” “Success Failure,” “Terms of Service

I really liked this season of this show. I feel like it’s very highly-regarded but it’s managed to win just two technical trophies out of twenty-three nominations over the past four years. Every installment submitted this year represents the completely awesome and hilarious cyclical nature of the tech industry, with fortunes changing tremendously over the course of just one half-hour. I don't think this show has any momentum to win, and it's doomed to countless nominations and no major trophies for the rest of its run.

Kimmy Gets Divorced,” “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades,” “Kimmy is a Feminist,” “Kimmy Does a Puzzle,” “Kimmy Pulls Off a Heist,” “Kimmy Googles the Internet

This is the third consecutive nomination for this show, which has yet to win an Emmy in any category. Season three was actually great, which is why I don't understand the submission of the first two episodes, which were weaker in my mind. The other four are all very solid, highlighted by hijinks to use a gas station bathroom without paying, fearing the Internet, joint consent, and eating Dionne Warwick, part of what convinced me that this show has gotten better, but ultimately this show doesn't stand a chance of winning despite succeeding as an absurdist parody of society.

Blurb,” “Georgia,” “Groundbreaking,” “Justice,” “Omaha,” “A Woman First

This show is back for its sixth consecutive nomination after two back-to-back wins. I didn't love season five, and I'm pleased to say that these submissions are all great, representative of a strong season six. I especially appreciate the focus of two of these on Jonah's fight against Daylight Saving Time, and the focus on elections and rumors works very well. I don't see why this show wouldn't be propelled to a threepeat.

What should win (based on entire season): None of these make my list, but "Silicon Valley" would probably be my pick.
What should win (based on individual episodes): Either "Silicon Valley" or "Veep" would be fine by me.
What will win: Let's start by counting out "Modern Family," "Silicon Valley," and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." I don't think "Master of None" can pull off a win, and I'm not sure "Black-ish" is strong enough either. That leaves the Golden Globe winner, "Atlanta," and two-time defending champ "Veep." Actually, only two Globe winners in the past fifteen years, went on to win the top Emmy, and those were juggernauts "30 Rock" and "Modern Family." I'm going to stay conservative and opt for Veep to score another win.

Next up: That’s a wrap!