Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 3, Episode 12 “Chapter Fifty-Six” (B+)

I’ve written about this many times before, but I don’t think it’s come up yet on this show. I love when characters that never interact share scenes, and therefore Petra and Rogelio sitting together to watch archive footage and failing entirely to understand each other made me so happy. It’s really true that both of them speak very quickly, and I was laughing quite a bit and their miscommunications. We may never see them together again, but this was well worth it. It’s funny but also incredibly strange that Rafael’s girlfriend just happens to be there in every scene that the narrator introduces as just between him and someone else, and so far we haven’t really seen anything of substance from her. We did get to learn a lot about Jane and the aftermath of Michael’s death, when she learned how to deal with her panic attacks. Mateo’s ability to read that she was thinking about Michael was very sweet, and I love that he also suggested that Rogelio send a Ropology basket to the people who were suing him for $10 million. The neverending saga that is Rogelio’s reality show took a turn for the more extreme in this episode with the proof that Rogelio knowing allowed Xiomara to be turned into a monster meme, and the best part of the whole thing was his fully Spanish heart-to-heart with Alba. Jane’s quitting was pretty epic, and I’m glad that Rafael, who is going to be less zen and also much more criminal, came up with a great idea for her to have a new job. Now let’s just hope that Petra isn’t racked by too much guilt for what seems like an effective solution to a tricky situation that wasn’t going to work itself out on its own.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 13 “Mr. and Mrs. Mxyzptlk” (B)

There are times that this show feels right on-point and like it’s headed somewhere, and there are other times when it just feels completely random, inserting some bizarre plotline right in the middle of other action (or when there’s nothing else going on). While I don’t feel that a superhero show needs to have a Valentine’s Day episode at all, it didn’t help that I watched this episode nearly two full weeks after the romantic holiday. I found Mxyzptlk to be thoroughly annoying – which I know he’s supposed to be – and I think he was only really there to help foster the romance between Kara and Mon-El, which was on full display in a very intense final scene in which Kara was very surprisingly not wearing her glasses and was speaking volumes with her eyes as she and Mon-El finally got to take action on their feelings. Mon-El’s eagerness for a duel with his fifth-dimensional rival turned far too literal, and playing Alexander Hamilton was about to turn very bad for him. Kara was uncharacteristically combative and angry in her takedown of her would-be suitor, and it’s good to see her get a happy ending for the moment. Maggie responded very poorly to Alex’s attempt at a romantic gesture, and fortunately they made up just fine. Winn was in for quite a ride with his aggressive alien mate, and even Hank got sentimental for the holiday and penned his own version of a valentine to the closest thing he has left to family a whole planet away.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pilot Review: The Good Fight

The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Premiered February 19

When a show lasts seven seasons and runs for more than 150 episodes, that’s usually considered a success. “The Good Wife” began in 2009 and just wrapped last year, and I would think that story had run its course. Yet it seems that the market these days is always looking for the next big reboot or spinoff, and therefore it’s back to the world of Chicago law with a new show on CBS’ new streaming service. Taking supporting characters who work well and then promoting them to lead status is a risky idea, and it doesn’t always lead to success. What we have here is a show built around two players, one who was Emmy-nominated for the first six seasons of the original series and the other who joined in its final season. I like Christine Baranski and I like Cush Jumbo, and putting them with Rose Leslie from “Downton Abbey” and “Game of Thrones” seems like a smart move. What I’m less excited about is the fact that this show is built around a scandal the same way that the original show was, one that I feel might hold it back since Leslie’s Maia Rindell is going to be obsessed with overcoming her own family drama which seems awfully excessive. I don’t know what to think of Delroy Lindo’s Robert Boseman, and Sarah Steele’s Marissa Gold feels different from who she was on the original show. I couldn’t figure out where I knew Barbara from, and it turns out it’s Erica Tazel, who played Rachel on “Justified.” I don’t feel like I need to watch this show but I’m going to give it a least a little bit longer since I already invested seven years in this universe.

How will it work as a series? Despite some initial setbacks, Diane managed to get to a place of good standing pretty quickly, and the second episode introduced an involving case that demonstrates that this show does know what it’s doing and doesn’t require the same kind of exposition because of preexisting characters and narratives. That should serve it well and should entice fans of the CBS series.
How long will it last? This premiere aired on CBS and didn’t do so well with the ratings, but its status as the flagship series of a new streaming service should allow it to write its own legacy. I think that this show could go on for a while given the parent company’s enthusiasm to keep it on the air, and so I wouldn’t write it off just yet.

Pilot grade: B

Pilot Review: Crashing

Crashing (HBO)
Premiered February 19 at 10:30pm

HBO is an enormously successful network that has produced a number of hit comedies. A few years ago, some of its best shows were axed to make way for the likes of “Girls” and “Veep,” both of which turned out to be huge. Now, with both of those shows well into their runs, HBO is using them as launching pads for new fare. Lately, a popular comedian or an established talent who previously headlined a series has served as the anchor. The former is true for this show, though I don’t have any familiarity with Pete Holmes. I’m actually very distracted watching him since he bears a striking resemblance to Ike Barinholtz, an actor I found mostly annoying but sometimes funny on “The Mindy Project” back when I used to watch it, and I kept picturing him and expecting him to sound the same every time he spoke. I’m also not too familiar with Artie Lange, and therefore pairing the two together doesn’t do much for me. I’m much more excited about seeing Lauren Lapkus in a regular TV role after watching her on “Orange is the New Black,” and her two brief scenes in this pilot were the highlight of it for me. This reminds me in a way of “Enlightened,” a show that set itself up as chronicling someone going through a huge breakdown and then turned into something completely different. I’m not optimistic, but maybe it can follow that model. I might be willing to give it another shot.

How will it work as a series? I’m not sure where it’s headed and whether Pete is just going to move on with his life and not go back to try to be with Jess after encountering Leif the last time, and I suspect that Artie will lead him on plenty of misadventures along the way. It could be appealing, but I’m not all that enticed.
How long will it last? Reviews for this show look pretty good, and it did well in comparison to other shows on the network that launched recently without a major star or buzz. I don’t know that I see this one being all that enduring, but HBO may be up for investing in it for at least a little bit.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 6, Episode 2 “Hostage Situation” (B+)

I had expected that we were going to spend at least a few episodes with Hannah undercover at the surf club with her new semi-boyfriend Paul-Louis, a trip away for New York City comparable to the show’s several episodes that had her in Iowa in season four. Instead, she’s back right away and at the service of her best friend, Marnie in her latest instance of cyclical self-destruction. The two of them really have had a rocky road, and since that first great season two episode “Bad Friend,” it’s clear that both of them have made mistakes and done things that they wish they could take back. It took so little time for Marnie to go from being on a romantic secret getaway weekend with Desi (and Hannah in tow) to realizing that the man that she was still carrying on with was actually addicted – quite severely – to oxycodone and ready to go ballistic the second she suggested withholding it from him. Hannah came through for her in a big way, and she also had the chance to meet a true enigma in the form of Joy Bryant’s relaxed third-rail hippie Marlowe. The enduring strength of Hannah and Marnie’s friendship stands in stark contrast to that of Shoshanna and Jessa, since the newly blonde chatterbox finally stood up to her carefree British cousin and told her that she was tired of her ruining everything. The fact that Shoshanna’s friends were maddest at her for making them split a hotel room two ways instead of three was predictably petty, but it’s true that she hasn’t gone too far since that point. While Elijah was busy entertaining himself at the WEMUN event, he did show that he was a better friend to Shoshanna despite his inherent selfishness.

What I’m Watching: Billions (Season Premiere)

Billions: Season 2, Episode 1 “Risk Management” (B+)

This was one of the best new shows of early last year, and because it finished its first season at the beginning of April, it’s been a long time since it was last on. Instead of flashing forward to a time much in the future, this opener takes place shortly after everything that happened in the finale, namely Wendy making a break from both her personal life with Chuck and her professional relationship with Axe. Chuck, with a cleaner goatee, is just as cutthroat and vengeful as ever, ready for the investigator who showed up intent on proving his corruption and freely calling in favors to those still in power. Those under him are making moves to ensure that their careers aren’t entirely linked to his, and apparently Bryan may have had a much more direct role in this latest development, calling for the inquiry into Chuck after his meeting with Axe. Just as Chuck is trying to recover, Axe is playing very close to the vest, trusting only a select few and requiring much more stringent protocols for his employees. Wags seems to be in bad shape, but that only adds to his paranoia instead of making him sloppy. And then there’s Wendy, who seems to have come out of this ahead, getting great lecture gigs and turning the arrogance of her audience members to her advantage, still seen by both men who played tug-of-war over her in season one as the only person who really understands them and can help them move forward.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pilot Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Premiered February 19 at 9pm

I’m really doing my best to watch every single new series that premieres this year, whether it’s defined officially as a miniseries or a regular series meant to return for season after season pending a renewal. This HBO miniseries certainly has a stacked and crowded cast, and, if nothing else, there are a lot of players involved and plenty of room for drama. It’s interesting to see who the top-billed actors are since they all come from different backgrounds and different mini-eras of popularity. Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar a decade ago and used to make many movies, and now isn’t doing quite as much but fits the role of a mother with a teenage daughter, while Shailene Woodley, who is nearly fifteen years younger than Witherspoon, is the kind of mother who could easily be confused for the nanny because of her age and appearance. Laura Dern played Witherspoon’s mom two years ago in “Wild” and she and Nicole Kidman are both the older moms, actually only about a decade older than Witherspoon. All four have contended for major awards and are more than qualified for the roles they’ve been given, demonstrating great talent in this premiere installment. The men include an interesting array of mostly TV names – Adam Scott, Alexander Skarsgard, James Tupper, and Jeffrey Nordling – none of whom seem to have nearly as interesting parts to play given this pilot. There are a number of others in the supporting/recurring cast, like Sarah Baker, Sarah Burns, Kelen Coleman, Merrin Dungey, all of whom I remember from impactful supporting or guest TV roles in recent years. Beyond the cast, this show has an intense documentary format that I don’t necessarily love, inundating viewers with interviews interrupting almost every moment. We don’t yet know who it is who has been killed, and I sincerely hope that it’s not a child given the brutality described when the details of the murder are described. The contradiction between the seeming simplicity of this premise and the clear complexity of its characters is alluring, and I’m curious enough to come back for at least a second round.

How will it work as a series? I’m hopeful that it won’t take forever to figure out what happened, though I know that’s sort of the point, and that what we’ll learn in the meantime will be immensely interesting. There’s so much talent here that it has to work out well, and it’s just a matter of if the pacing and if the denouement will prove to be satisfying.
How long will it last? It seems like the show has received pretty good reviews, and the first episode did well in the ratings, besting pretty much everything HBO has premiered recently except for “Westworld,” which was a huge smash. I don’t know if there’s material available for a second season, but I have a feeling that this could run more than the seven episodes for which it’s been initially commissioned.

Pilot grade: B+

Friday, February 24, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 10 “New Best Friends” (B+)

Look at this, a multitasking episode that features more than just one plotline and set of characters! I was genuinely shocked when, after dwelling on Richard and Morgan as they tried to keep peace between Ezekiel’s kingdom and the saviors despite their troublemaking actions, we got to see Rick and his new friends. It’s time for the Saviors to be taken down, and after the only consequence of Richard’s backtalk was Morgan getting his stick taken away, it seems like things may finally be turning in the right direction. Rick smiling is always an eerie sight, and the fact that he demanded to see Gabriel and had his request granted by the creepy hive mind was a great start to negotiations. Getting pushed off a trash heap and forced to defend himself against an armored walker of sorts was an intriguing test of loyalty, and I like that Rick was confident enough after surviving the experience to push back and insist that Jadis only get a third of what they’ll eventually take from the Saviors and not half. I feel like the nonplussed demeanor that this collective has is just what’s needed to fearlessly take on the Saviors once and for all. Darryl’s reunion with Carol was another nice tender moment, and Morgan was right to pick up on the fact that Darryl had lied to Carol so as not to make her dive back into a depression and also to keep her away from the conflict that he knows is on the horizon.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 5 “Casus Belli” (D+)

It seems to me that it would be hard enough to perpetrate a terrorist attack (one would hope, at least) that framing an innocent person for it would come with way too many unknowns and chances for it to fail. On top of that, to presume that someone high up in government intelligence would set up a notoriously unreliable CIA officer and a completely innocent Muslim activist is pretty ludicrous. Both in the fictional world in which this show exists and the real world with more than enough conflict and controversial religious persecution going on, this seems both unbelievable and highly unnecessary. Worse still, this episode quickly devolved into an exploration of Quinn’s deteriorating mental health, as he decided to be really helpful and push a reporter down the stairs of Carrie’s building and then shoot a protestor just to make things better. It didn’t take long at all for news crews to show up at Carrie’s private residence and appear at every entrance to make Quinn even more paranoid, and then the cops set up shop all around as soon as night fell and the equally speedy and severe protests were dispelled by the sound of Quinn’s gunshot. Carrie sat by and didn’t do anything for a long time, which isn’t like her at all, and then she managed to save his life when her basement was breached, only to find out that, after all this, Quinn isn’t actually crazy and she was being watched. The President-Elect not being allowed to see her staff is puzzling, but I’m growing less and less curious by the minute.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Farting Sex Tourist” (B)

This show has such a peculiar way that it looks at the zombie problem its characters are currently facing, with Joel stopping by a number of antique bookstores to research cult books on zombies and Sheila going to Eric for answers that for some reason are deemed definitive even though there’s no proven factual basis for any of the things that he knows. What’s good is that Sheila got through an entire episode without eating people, and she even got up in the miserable principal’s face, close enough to take a bite out of him, to threaten him and make sure that he wasn’t going to penalize her daughter for going through what she described, inaccurately of course, as normal teenager angst. The casting of Thomas Lennon, who currently stars on “The Odd Couple” and who I remember from his role in “I Love You, Man,” as Principal Novak was perfect. I’m also really happy to see Mary Elizabeth Ellis getting featured a lot as Lisa since I felt that she should have been more in the spotlight on “The Grinder,” and it’s nice that this new Sheila is spending so much time with her newfound best buds Lisa and Alondra, played by Joy Osmanski who I always associate with her first credited role a decade ago on “The Loop,” even if the advice she’s giving isn’t always sensible or helpful. At the very least, there’s so optimism to be found in the knowledge that love can still triumph over all, and it was Joel’s declaration that stopped Sheila from turning a problem into her next meal.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 6 “Coyote is Always Hungry” (B+)

It’s hard to keep with up with Pete, or rather Marius, since he’s always up to something and working with any number of people on his next con. It’s incredible to see some of his partners in action, as Karolina tried her hardest to lose her tail and then cut herself so that she would have a moment alone with Eddie to assure him that she was working with his brother on a way to get him out. Eddie did a decent job of being fearless, but Vince being furious and totally ready to take him up on his bluff to have his finger cut off right there and then shut down his bravery pretty quickly. Pete pickpocketing two petty thieves to show them how good he was and that he wanted their help was interesting, and I wonder whether he’ll have a new apprentice if she follows his advice to “drop 150 pounds” and go solo. Lance’s reminder to pay Victoria’s rent couldn’t have gone off at a worse time after Julia spent the night following her sour reaction to his boat purchase, and it turns out that everything is much more connected than we thought. Lance is involved in a major way, and Audrey is trying to get her money back from him since she’s in the hole. No one wanted to listen to Carly’s evidence about her so-called-cousin Pete, and it seems that her grandparents did when she told them that he was a criminal. Naturally, he’s already ready with a story, and, without missing a beat, is using their unexpected visit to his advantage to move ahead with the next con.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Man in the High Castle (Season Finale)

The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 10 “Fallout” (B+)

I was thrilled to see that this show was finally reaching its potential at the end of its second season, and this transformative finale didn’t disappoint. I’ve expressed frustration at the notion that Juliana is the center of the world, but apparently that’s true - she was in all of the films and played such a vital role. I never would have expected her to shoot George since she doesn’t always follow through when other people tell her that she can’t do what she wants, and fending off an assassination attempt and walking away clean showed her inner strength. Finding Stephen Root’s Hawthorne acting like the man behind the curtain demonstrated her success, and who would have thought that, after all this, Trudy is still alive? We didn’t see any of supporting characters like Ed or Robert, and Frank is long gone, and so instead we got to watch two of this show’s most notorious and magnetic villains, Inspector Kido and Obergruppenf├╝hrer Smith, come together to act in the service of both of their countries, preventing catastrophic war based on totally false pretenses. It was stirring to see John honored in Berlin, and a harsh reminder that, decent as some of these people may be, they’re still Nazis. Thomas giving himself up didn’t seem all that honorable since it accomplishes nothing, and better for him to achieve greatness in spite of the limitations he is supposed to have given his condition. I have no idea what comes next but after these two strong episodes, I’m more than willing to come back for what I hope will be a better-defined and more satisfying season three.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Rufus Sewell as John Smith

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 14 “Facebook Fish Planner Backstage” (B)

Getting John and Joan online couldn’t have gone worse, and I don’t know what could possibly have improved the experience. What proved most entertaining was Jen fielding their questions about where their accounts would be updated, noting right away that everywhere covered every single one of their subsequent queries. Greg got in the zone and didn’t pay much attention to the fact that they kept coming to Jen for help, stopping by her office in the middle of the day with a supposed emergency because Greg was hanging out in the garage coming up with his next idea. Inviting everyone, including Greg’s ex-girlfriend and Joan’s doppelganger, to brunch by accident was a crucial moment in the life of their social media accounts to tell them that they needed to slow down. Heather trying to revive a dead fish to keep her bond with her daughter strong was a sweet effort, and the most worthwhile part of that whole plotline was Tim saying it was okay to let them die sometimes with a terrified patient in his room. Colleen and Matt’s wedding plans are a mess since they’re both so intent on not repeating past romantic decisions, and hiring a funeral home director was probably their first mistake. I’m sure they’ll find happiness eventually. Tim breaking famous musicians’ instruments backstage at a concert wasn’t the strongest of concepts, but it was fun to see him try to bond with a very angry Samantha who wasn’t responding well to being broken up with by a boy who didn’t even invite her to his bar mitzvah.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 13 “DTR” (B)

This show is, more than anything else, about just how different millennials are from their elders, and therefore it was inevitable that we would see Jack trying so hard not to become the thing he hates so much. Hooking up with a younger woman wasn’t the best idea to begin with, and then it turned out that she was Mason’s roommate. Jack’s horrified reaction to the sight of first Mason, then Clark, then Emma in her apartment in the morning was funny, and of course these three spend so much time together outside of work that they carpool to the office. Jack’s efforts to keep up with the young lifestyle didn’t go too well, and his inability to understand basic parts of modern culture that he probably should have - like what “molly” actually means - did him a true disservice. Brooke had the chance to join in on the fun and mock Jack along with the millennials, and I can’t wait until their past romance comes to light and she gets to go back on the defensive. Eddie also got to offer some commentary, mainly pointing out that Jack wasn’t keeping up with what was going on, since he’s considerably more in-tune with the hipper vibes simply because they come to spend money at his bar. After learning that everyone and their best friend was in a relationship with his new girlfriend, Jack made a much smarter choice - to reach back out to the woman we met at the start of the episode. I’ve been a fan of Maggie Lawson since she first appeared on “Crumbs” over a decade ago and enjoyed her most on “Psych.” I hope that she’ll prove to be a great addition here and that she’ll have the chance to come out of her handshake-driven shell a bit too.

Take Three: Powerless

Powerless: Season 1, Episode 3 “Sinking Day” (B+)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned just how much I love the opening credits on this show, which provide a fantastic new perspective on famed superhero moments in comic book history, with the unknown, powerless humans hiding in the background. This show is actually moving away from that concept and more to cleverer interpretations of this superpowered world, with Atlantis a real place as the home of not only Aquaman but also William H. Macy and Ron. I like that Sinking Day is a major holiday and that Van was able to do research into all the top execs to find out exactly what gifts would please them greatly, and the only thing that he got very wrong was the celebratory tuna, which is apparently a valued friend to them and not the centerpiece for a party meal. Van’s continued desire to please his relatives remains entertaining, and though I couldn’t have possibly guessed who would have been cast to play his father, I can’t think of a better choice than Corbin Bernsen, who has plenty of experience as a sarcastic dad on “Psych.” The common trope of people disappearing at the exact moments that superheroes showed up was a great diversion for Ron and Jackie in this installment as Teddy proved to be the reasonable one who thought their surveillance methods were a bit extreme. I enjoyed the way that he was ultimately shown not to be the super-man they thought he was, a remarkably simple and relatively stupid demonstration of normal strength as displayed in full view of everyone in the office.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pilot Review: Doubt

Doubt (CBS)
Premiered February 16 at 10pm

I wasn’t sure what to make of this show since I presumed ahead of time that it was just going to be a normal procedural, and then I read a summary about how it had more to do with the protagonist of this show falling in love with the man who may or may not have killed his girlfriend twenty-four years earlier. It turns out it’s both, though as always my first question has to be whether it really constitutes something that can go on for a whole season or even more than that. This feels like a pretty standard legal show with one particularly high-profile case mixed in that’s going to draw most of its attention. This series has managed to attract a lot of strong acting talent. I’m not Katherine Heigl’s biggest fan, often finding her appealing but not nearly as much as the diehard “Grey’s Anatomy” fans and Emmy voters who gave her a trophy for her performance. I liked Steven Pasquale best in his stint as a dim-witted firefighter on “Rescue Me,” and this part feels more like his less enticing gigs on “The Good Wife” and “Do No Harm.” There are three other members of the cast with great TV backgrounds who stand out much more: Dul├ę Hill from “The West Wing” and “Psych,” Dreama Walker from “Apartment 23,” and Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black,” all playing lawyers with some decent personality. And then there’s Elliott Gould, who has a great role and even a deeply personal connection to Heigl’s Sadie, namely having fallen in love with her revolutionary mother, who just happens to be in prison for the murder she committed years earlier. There’s more intrigue here than there is on similarly-themed shows, but I still don’t think it’s enough to distinguish it from many other series of the same sort.

How will it work as a series? The question is what the time split is going to be between Billy’s case and everything else that’s going on, and how many lawyers are going to play a part since Sadie has now recused herself to take a separate interest in the case’s central figure. This episode’s subway pusher was a decent subplot, and so I think this show could replicate it well in the future.
How long will it last? The ratings for this pilot weren’t great, and neither were the reviews. The former is a much bigger problem given CBS’ high demands on its programs to perform. I wouldn’t give up on this one just yet, but I think it’s going to need to improve its viewership soon if it wants to live a long life.

Pilot grade: B-

Round Two: Legion

Legion: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter 2” (B+)

I’m completely astounded by this show, and I think it’s going to require a much higher level of concentration than I’m used to giving to even my top shows at the moment. It’s most comparable to “Mr. Robot,” a show that, through its main character, told a narrative that we weren’t sure we could trust but was nonetheless totally captivating and compelling. To see the world through David Haller’s eyes is incredible, and it’s doubly fascinating since we’re looking back at the memories with Ptonomy trying to navigate David back through them with Melanie, and he’s resisting them by keeping some of his darker and more disturbing recollections hidden. It’s extremely enlightening to see events that David considers formative to his diagnosis of schizophrenia analyzed again as him hearing real voices rather than hallucinating them. Hearing someone call out while he was being examined by Kerry and Cary – quite a confusing duo, I’ll admit – showed the strength of his telepathy, since it was Amy going in to visit her brother as usual and being told, quite suspiciously, that he was never there. We didn’t know much about who the Eye was in episode one since our attention was much more focused on Hamish Linklater’s dogged interrogator, and even his name is enough to make him seem evil. Amy being captured – and potentially tortured – makes those who work against whatever Melanie’s operation is all the more nefarious, and though I can’t imagine we’ll have definitive answers anytime soon, I am very interested to find out what they’re up to.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her (Season Premiere)

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 1 “Sex Fairy and the Eternal Flames” (B+)

I had almost forgotten about this show, which was one of my favorites last year, and I’m so happy that it came back when I wasn’t even expecting it. Both my wife and I were grateful for the recap of season one that preceded the episode since we didn’t remember how things had ended, with Izzy leaving to fly home and then her beloved couple showing up at the airport in romantic fashion to stop her from going. This episode was very much a “recovery mode” installment, starting when the three of them woke up in bed together to discover that they had matching tattoos and then rewinding to (mostly) cover the events that got them there. What was particularly useful and different about this episode was that it gave all three members of the thruple a confidante to encourage them that what they were doing was a bad idea. Carmen, Dave, and Nina all had different ways of trying to convince their best friends that they couldn’t possibly go ahead as they wanted, and none of the conversations ended well. I think that Izzy and Nina’s friendship is most at risk since they fought badly. Nina’s newfound relationship with Andy feels especially hurtful, and the fact that Izzy doesn’t seem to care just makes it worse. Lori is determined to find out what’s up with her neighbors, and the three of them showing up arm-in-arm-in-arm to a party is going to make her job a whole lot easier. I’m eager to find out what’s next.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 14 “The Man Behind the Shield” (B-)

I’ll admit that things are getting very confusing here, and with all these android replicas of characters showing up, it’s hard to keep track of who is really who, and it could create seasons-long issues of people not really being who they say they are, negating developments that are crucial to the storyline. The conclusion of this episode is that we have two agents – Fitz and Simmons – who are actually who they claim to be, and their fellow agents and assumed allies – Coulson, Daisy, Mac, and Mace – have all been replaced by androids. It’s not clear at all how Radcliffe is able to manufacture exactly replicas of people at such a quick and regular pace, and what’s most interesting about it is that they believe that they are who they’re programmed to be, and only when Radcliffe needs them to follow some programmed directive do they do something that might open their eyes to consider that they may not be who they think they are. My head is spinning writing this, but I’m more concerned that it’s not going to hold up once it’s all over at some point. Keeping the originals alive is obviously important for the continuity of the show and its ability to pick back up once order is restored, but it doesn’t make nearly as much sense for Radcliffe since they will inevitably escape or be rescued. I’m not sure whether the Superior has actually been taken out or not, but until we get more clarification on who is who, I don’t think anything else really matters.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 15 “Jack Pearson’s Son” (B)

As usual, we’re covering the same material over and over, with a bit of extra information every time. I did enjoy some of the subtle new things we found out in this episode, like a young Kate accidentally blurting out that Kevin was having sex with Sophie in front of her parents, prompting some awkward parenting from Rebecca and Jack about him making smart decisions. I couldn’t have been happier than to find out that Duke’s family owns the place where Kate was, and that her chewing him out meant her immediate dismissal from the program. Her conversations with Toby that dug into deeper issues included a very funny joke about Aladdin and an understanding that they’re going to work on getting closer before they get married, confirming that Kate isn’t yet able to talk about her dad’s death, information that this show holds dear and wants to prolong revealing to its audience as long as possible. Miguel of all people gave Kevin a great motivational speech referencing Jack, and it was sweet that Kevin acknowledged that he doesn’t not like his stepfather. Even though there is a lot going on in his life and it would be fair for Randall to be stressed, it’s clear that it’s completely crippling him, leaving him staring blankly into space in front of him and unable to move. Kevin bailing on his opening seemed overly predictable, but finding out that he was rushing to the aid of the brother he hasn’t always gotten along with was a considerably more sentimental ending.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 16 “Operation: Bobcat” (B-)

There are certain things on this show that have been done to death and that I’m not sure need to be covered anymore. One example is Jess – or any character, for that matter – trying to pretend that she’s okay after a major life event, insisting over and over again that she’s not reacting as anyone would expect her to. I’m mostly surprised that she was able to redeem her celebrity chef prize on such late notice for what I would assume would be a very popular and requested date. Gordon Ramsay was a mildly entertaining guest star, obsessing about his own food, expressing shock that she wouldn’t want to share his world-famous cooking with anyone, and then ultimately giving her good advice about what she was really experiencing. That proved very helpful in terms of timing to show up and compel Winston to fast-forward his lengthy proposal plan after Aly casually suggested that they should get married, and even though it didn’t go exactly as planned, it was sweet, and it’s great that they’re finally engaged! In his needless effort to impress his monster boss, Kim, it appears that Schmidt, nearly derailed by a totally inappropriate visit from Cece which was racy beyond belief, caught her in a weak moment and then blew her away by standing up for himself for the first time. I can’t imagine he’ll be all that much happier with his slow-closing automatic door, but at least he made a smart decision that can make him feel like it’s worth putting up with all the misery.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

What I’m Watching: Humans (Season Premiere)

Humans: Season 2, Episode 1 (B+)

In its absence, I had forgotten how much I like this show, which wrapped its second season run in the UK in December. It’s such a distinctly British show, yet there are even more Americans – and other foreigners – aboard now that we’re entering into some new territory and new plotlines. I’m so happy that Niska is being featured so prominently since I’ve always found her to be the best character, and seeing her experience a relationship for the first time was fascinating. She had no problems with the fact that it was with a woman, but more so because it was with a human and it made her start to feel. Her question about whether life wants to be created was fantastic. Seeing a few random synths wake up was enormously interesting, and it’s clear that the right to be more than you’re meant to be is going to be the major theme in this season. I like the addition of Carrie-Anne Moss’ brilliant scientific mind, who is no-nonsense but is also keeping a few secrets of her own. Joe getting laid off (or made redundant, as they say in England) isn’t too consequential, but it is important that the whole family is united. Niska showing up to face trial as a human is an intriguing twist, and while I can’t imagine it’s going to go too well, I’m definitely ready and excited to see how it all plays out and what happens in the run-up to something that a lot of people – and maybe even a few synths – won’t like.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I’m Watching: Timeless

Timeless: Season 1, Episode 15 “Public Enemy No. 1” (B-)

I know I’ve written about this at least a few times since this show started - it’s confusing watching multiple shows about time travelers going back to certain points where more nefarious elements are trying to disrupt the timestream and recast events in a way that they weren’t supposed to happen. It’s even harder to keep track when both shows have their characters go back to the same crucial moment in history and air the episodes just a few weeks apart. I have to say that I enjoyed the “Legends of Tomorrowtake on this much more since they commented that Eliot Ness, who they didn’t allow to be killed, didn’t look like Kevin Costner. Obviously we haven’t seen the future that they return to just yet since Rufus decided to pass out and possibly die before piloting the lifeboat back to the present in his delirious state, but I’d have to imagine that Al Capone being killed by his brother the prohibition agent rather than going to jail for tax evasion had to have changed things in some major way. It’s also illogical that, as fugitives from the government and from the program that employed them, Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus are still trying to stop Flynn rather than really understand what he’s doing to fight Rittenhouse. As Jiya is left to defend all that is good and not shady as the one ally on the team not currently working against orders, Mason is seeming like a serious villain, which is a surprise, and I realized watching the guest credits that I recognize the new boss, played by Jim Beaver, from his memorable role on “Justified.” I have no idea what happens next on this show, but it’s definitely going a bit off course.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 3, Episode 11 “Chapter Fifty-Five” (B+)

We’re officially in the first chapter of “Jane the Widow,” which could be a truly depressing story, but instead we’re on to much more normal problems than the dramatic death of a beloved partner for our likeable protagonist. It was sweet to see Michael’s face in their photo booth roll talking to Jane and providing her with encouragement the way other inanimate objects have frequently spoken to her in the past, and for her to have changed her first novel to be about true love - albeit with a happier ending - based on her life with Michael. What was most impressive about this episode was that, thanks in large part to the affable and energetic narrator, it managed to reveal all of its surprise twists about who’s doing what now without seeming inauthentic and kitschy. Rogelio marrying Darcy was a nice fake-out since they don’t get along at all but are instead just doing it for the cameras, and Rogelio was sweet enough to turn down the third season of the reality show even though it would have meant the greenlighting of “The Passions of Steve” to spare Xiomara’s feelings. It was entertaining seeing her reaction to watching the show, and obviously she and Bruce have worked out. Petra’s affair with her competitor Chuck is interesting, and she’s become quite the queen bee of the PTA. I like relaxed Rafael and his beard, and he and Jane make a great co-parenting team with Mateo’s frequent tantrums and three claps of thunder behavior chart. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this future.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Take Three: 24: Legacy

24: Legacy: Season 1, Episode 3 “2:00pm-3:00pm” (F)

I think I need to stop watching this show. There’s absolutely nothing about it that I find appealing, and no traces of the original show to latch on to or look forward to. The format that’s supposed to make this show so unique is barely even being utilized, since things are happening so fast that we don’t even get to see them, which makes let them considerably less exciting and satisfying. When Carter was trapped and was able to talk one of the cops into believing him and helping him, all of a sudden he managed to get out of the situation thanks to a well-timed phone call from Rebecca to the police captain. A splitscreen could have informed us that was happening and that maybe she wouldn’t get through in time before some heroic cop tried to take a shot at him, but instead we’re treated to traditional and very uninvolving storytelling. Since the President being the mole wasn’t enough in season five, now we’re back to such high-level treachery with Henry framing Nilaa for his own act of treason. The problem is probably that CTU is prioritizing tracking calls a drug dealer’s girlfriend made without asking why Nicole was entitled to it and why it wsa relevant, and as a result they’re missing the important stuff that’s going on. You’d think the four terrorists would be a bit more subtle and that one of them would be close enough to cut Ben off when all the shooting started, but the terrorists still managed to get the list and Eric, not to be deterred by, you know, getting hit by a car, wasn’t fast enough to stop them, which means terrorist actions are imminent and there’s no hope to stop them. I don’t need to see this – I’ve had enough of this show.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 12 “Luthors” (B+)

One of the important themes of this show is what being a hero really means and what actually makes someone complicit in evil. The Luthors have been tangential characters on this show since most of it mirrors the Superman mythology and creates storylines that are duplicates and variations rather than purely adopted and made applicable to Supergirl. We haven’t – and surely won’t – see Lex on this show, but Lillian was first introduced as an unknown villain before being revealed as the matriarch of the most notorious family in this universe, while Lena was framed as the innocent one who always drew the short straw and got cast in a bad light with the press and the public. Kara has seen past that, and sticking by a friend she believes in was an important act over the course of this episode especially as no one else agreed with her. Getting to tell Snapper “I told you so” was a nice moment, if hardly the most realistic instance of intrepid young journalism outsmarting high-ranking veteran editors. Since Alex and Maggie got together, there haven’t been many obstacles to their happiness having to do with their gender, and their relationship went over pretty well with all of their friends. Kara gave a nice big speech about having it all before leaning it for what surely would have been a passionate kiss with Mon-El – finally – and then some weird lover apparition thing showed up with an almost unpronounceable, certainly unspellable name who I’m sure will play a major role in the next episode.

What I’m Watching: Girls (Season Premiere)

Girls: Season 6, Episode 1 “All I Ever Wanted” (B+)

This show has had its ups and downs over the course of its past five seasons, and as it starts its final year, I think it’s achieved a really great sense of itself. Who would have thought that Adam and Jessa getting together would propel Hannah to a level of success she’s never before achieved, getting an article published and then earning herself a follow-up assignment for which she seems woefully ill-equipped. It’s not that her lack of energy to try to surf and her exaggerated awkwardness putting on a wetsuit make her stand out from the other rich housewives taking the class, but rather that her judgment isn’t always (or ever) the best, and sleeping with her instructor after she finds out that he’s in an open relationship. She’s going to compromise her story, and I think that her assignment suggests that she’s not supposed to be a part of it in that way. I’m thrilled with the casting of Riz Ahmed, who has delivered excellent performances in “Four Lions” and “Nightcrawler” and achieved more fame recently with “Rogue One” and “The Night Of,” as the very genuine and casual surfer-rapper Paul-Louis. We didn’t see much of Shosh, but she seems to be doing okay. Marnie, on the other hand, doesn’t want Ray to move in because she’s still in the middle of her divorce, and given that she’s doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over, like sleeping with Desi, indicate that she’s not ready for another real relationship. Jessa and Adam, on the other hand, are having a blast together, not wearing many clothes and living quite freely, entirely unconcerned that their roommate Ray might be back for good. I’m eager to see how the rest of this season plays out.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 9 “Rock in the Road” (B+)

I don’t usually come out of this show’s frequent forays into hiatus feeling like I want to see more of it since it tends to be very cyclical in nature. Fortunately, this mid-season premiere suggested that things are finally picking up pace as Rick, reunited with Darryl before the show took its most recent break, is now resolved to fight against the Saviors after sitting back and taking it for the first half of the season. Gregory is useless, as fantastically portrayed by Xander Berkeley, but everyone is determined enough, even Jesus, that they don’t need him. It turns out that they were well aware of the existence of King Ezekiel and Morgan was just around relaxing, ready to put in a good word for his old friends even if he doesn’t support their latest idea which will bring much bloodshed upon all kingdoms. Hearing Negan on the radio ready to come hunt for Darryl was an excellent opportunity for the core group to band together and pull off an impressive and successful mission, leading Michonne of all people to utter the show’s new anthem: “We’re the ones who live.” Negan’s people coming to toss the place and promise to punish everyone if they ever find Darryl there seemed like more of a nuisance than a real threat, and the eerie sight of Rick smiling at the end of the episode indicates that things might actually be looking up, though those people really don’t look like new friends. And what is Gabriel up to?

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 4 “A Flash of Light” (C+)

It continues to be surprising how willing this show is to kill off its characters early in the season, starting with Sandy and Aayan in season four. Sekou seemed like an important player in this season, yet apparently it’s enough for him to be framed and arrested, released from custody thanks to some manipulative strong-arming by Carrie, and then purposely disregard the conditions of his release by recording another video in which he outed an FBI informant before getting himself blown up in a very similar move to what happened at the end of season two with Brody being set up as the bomber. It’s an unfortunate development, and one that came as one of only two interesting moments in this entire hour. The other notable scene involved the unexpected reappearance of Majid, a despicable character we haven’t seen since season three after he ascended to a position of power in Iran and then did nothing to prevent Brody’s execution. Saul making him come to Israel to meet him was risky, and he got found out pretty quickly not just by his sister but also by his old pal Etai. It’s irritating to me that Quinn is acting crazy but, like Carrie before him, he’s actually on to something, and I wish that either he would snap back to normal or would be killed off as a regular character since he’s contributing nothing useful to the story. Dar showing up at Franny’s school to have a chat with Carrie was ominous, and it’s a good thing that she’s not backing down, though what President-Elect Keane is asking is quite a big deal.

Pilot Review: The Collection

The Collection (Netflix)
Premiered February 10

Fashion is, in many ways, something timeless. Even though the fashion of the current moment is always changing, the obsession with what people wear and how fancy it is dates back centuries. As a result, there are many films and television shows made about the people behind famous fashion lines both before and while they are at the height of their fame. To some, such premises are extremely interesting, and even to those who might not typically find such things appealing, if the story is intriguing enough, it can work well. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. The setting should present a dated Parisian appeal, but instead it’s just one of the many reasons that this show is far from lively and enticing. I recognized a few cast members and found that as my only way to stay focused during this initial hour that felt like it lasted forever. Richard Coyle is familiar to me from his roles in the film “5 Days of War” and the TV show “Covert Affairs,” and while he’s a good actor, it’s not the most dynamic role. I’m always fond of Mamie Gummer, from “The Good Wife” and “Emily Owens, M.D.” and she seems like the most positive contributor here, along with Frances de la Tour from “The History Boys” and so much more in a part that’s perfect for her. There were a few twists and turns along the way in this pilot, but not one of them was anywhere near enthralling or engaging enough to convince me that this show is worth any more of my time in my collection of weekly series.

How will it work as a series? This global production is billed as an eight-part series, and so I’m sure they’ll be plenty of betrayal, drama, and intrigue - as promised by the show’s summary - over the course of the next seven hours. If this first one is any indication, I don’t think any of it will be all that interesting or worthwhile.
How long will it last? I’m not finding many reviews - and, of course, no ratings data - about how this show has gone over with others, but the few snippets I am seeing are all mostly negative, just like my take. I think that this show might be more popular abroad, but I still think that it will probably remain as was originally intended and not be commissioned for any more designs past its initial order.

Pilot grade: D-

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Round Two: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 2 “We Can’t Kill People!” (B)

I’m still not sure what to make of this show since its tone is impossible to decipher, but I am finding it to be pretty entertaining. This episode helped to solidify one important truth, which is that raw beef and chicken isn’t going to cut it to satisfy Sheila’s hunger. Joel’s quickly-concocted solution to buy a very pricey dead foot was both gross and ineffective, and so it seems they’re back to killing people on purpose going forward. These two are far from subtle, traipsing around in blood-soaked clothing and spraying their grass in the middle of the night in full view of their suspicious cop neighbor. Working with their daughter Abby and her next-door neighbor and new friend Eric doesn’t make them any less obvious, even if the two youngsters seem awfully calm and nonchalant about everything that’s going on. I didn’t realize that it was Skyler Gisondo, who was young Shawn on “Psych” and who I met personally for a moment through other interests a few years ago. He’s pretty great, and I like how the first place he suggested they go was to a comic book shop, where Abby showed the owner that it’s not such a big deal to read a comic book for more than thirty seconds. I like that Joel and Sheila are realtors and that they’re finding productive ways to turn their new situation into something that can work in tandem with their careers, even though they haven’t quite finessed how to merge the two just yet.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 5 “Sam” (B+)

It’s seemed clear since the start of this show that Marius’ quick con as Pete was never going to work out so smoothly, and I like that things are only getting much, much more interesting as time goes on. Otto catching Pete tailing Audrey could have been an easy way for him to get found out, but it turns out that there are severe problems in their marriage – which prompted Audrey to tell Pete to resist the urge to get married if he ever gets close to anyone – and Otto enjoyed the opportunity to work with Pete and run a con together with his grandson. I appreciated the casting of Jay O. Sanders from “Person of Interest” and other projects as Sam, who had more than enough answers ready for an angry Otto and then called Audrey to connote that they do have some sort of relationship, but her money troubles run much deeper than even he knows. Carly is on to Pete, and his quick acceptance of her reference to a birthday event that never happened confirmed that he isn’t who he says he is. We didn’t see his parole officer at all in this hour, but I’m sure Bagwell will be back to catch Pete in the middle of something that he’s not going to be explain. I like that Julia reconnected with Lance, and I’m curious how that’s going to play out for Pete. Vince suggesting using Eddie again to spot a con is intriguing, and I don’t see that going entirely well for anyone.

What I’m Watching: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 9 “Detonation” (B+)

And here we have it, nineteen episodes into this show’s run. This was the best episode this show has produced yet, and a sign that this has all been worth it. After spending nearly the whole season in New York cozying up to the Smith family, Juliana has definitely created a useful pipeline with Thomas coming directly to her to ask what’s wrong with him, but I think she’s crossed a line that she won’t be able to uncross. Helping to blackmail Henry for George accelerated events in a major way, with Henry announcing Hitler’s death on live TV and then being shot on camera seconds later. While it seemed that the Nazis weren’t prepared for that, it turns out that it was their plan all along to use Hitler’s death to start a war with the Japanese, which presents enormous uncertainty for whatever comes next for the American people with their two conquerors preparing for the next world war. Frank shooting Inspector Kido and detonating an explosive was interestingly-timed because it weakens the Japanese when they’ve already been caught by surprise. Flashing back to Frank first introducing Ed to Juliana was effective since it framed him in the most positive light he’s ever been in since the start of the show, and made him seem like a real hero. Robert and Ed made it out of San Francisco just in time, and I’m now looking forward to an episode of this more than I ever have before. The season finale is sure to be impactful and eventful, and hopefully it can redirect season three to be much more engaging.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 12 “Chef Rescue Necklace Negotiation” (B)

This episode was full of guest stars, with one notable and reputable TV comedian per segment. First, we had Molly Shannon in a humorous role as a very troubled chef who was a great cook for Greg and Jen’s Valentine Day dinner but had a tendency to overshare and then made a memorable entrance by walking straight through a glass door to offer them dessert. Then, it was Angela Kinsey from “The Office” in a perfect role for her that found her adhering very strictly to the procedures for a couple to adopt a dog, had the audacity to suggest that Matt and Colleen weren’t going to last, and then had the last laugh – though she was far from amused – when they lost the dog within minutes of bringing him home. We saw Gillian Vigman from “Sons of Daughters” once before in a season one episode as mom Tabitha, and here she was extremely angry and judgmental, apparently for good reason given Sophia did in fact steal the necklace. Last up was Leslie David Baker, best known as Stanley from “The Office,” as a car salesman who didn’t want to sell the car that John wanted to buy but ended up just being sentimental – and apparently divorced from the Shannon’s chef, a cool and subtle twist. It was a sweet way to tie things together, and I think mentioning these guest stars and framing my review around them is the most fitting way to pay tribute to a decent if hardly noteworthy episode.

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 12 “Paul’s Surprise” (B+)

So, twelve episodes in, we finally got to meet Paul, who it turns out is very real. I like that, stupid as it may seem, this show is committed to making Paul seem like a cat, giving Jack enormous uncontrollable satisfaction for having a joke he made actually come true. Paul was definitely very annoying, cracking unfunny jokes one after another and then saying “gotcha” to prove that he had absolutely no sense of comic timing. Being asked to read Roland’s incredibly long toast with an intermission was an unfortunate development that Jack probably would have been smart to turn down, and instead he managed to get all three of his adoring underlings to not talk to him since they truly couldn’t believe how mean he had been. Even Esther wouldn’t overshare with Jack because she was so mad at him. The interpretation of Jack as an emotional otter seemed appropriate, and his enthusiasm for apologies was, as Eddie pointed out, proof that he wasn’t doing it right. Having the millennials prepare a very weird version of New Orleans was a sweet way of making up for his behavior, and getting them a ride on a private jet to the real thing was even more selfless and kind. I enjoyed the subplot of Clark, Mason, and Emma trying to figure out which one of them was in charge, leading to their eventual discovery, as summed up by Clark, that they were part of a “rock paper scissors management style” that actually proved to be quite effective.

Round Two: Powerless

Powerless: Season 1, Episode 2 “Wayne Dream Team” (B)

I enjoyed this show’s second outing, and there’s something about Vanessa Hudgens’ energy as Emily that really makes it work. It doesn’t surprise me a bit that her easily-distracted employees are into a Fantasy Superhero League, something which makes total sense in a universe like this where villains with superpowers dominate just about everything. This was a classic example of someone good-natured and hard-working like Emily not understanding why her employees don’t want to be friends with the boss, and because she’s determined to make things happen the way that she thinks they should, she took multiple steps to motivate them. Of course they became obsessed with figuring out why the internet went down, putting aside their actual work, once she had a very biting representation of HR cut out that element of distraction from their lives. Watching the six-hour anti-bullying video four times to spare everyone else was a fitting sacrifice, and she seems to have ingratiated herself into their club and even lucked out with Crimson Fox scoring a big win for her in her fantasy league. It’s a big step up for Emily, who up until that point made it a regular thing of riding up and down the elevator just to try to meet people, an act that apparently got captured and mocked by those very people she was trying to court for friendships. Van fretting over being cropped out of the dream team picture was entertaining, and I like his rapport with Jackie which essentially involves two totally separate conversations going on at once.

Pilot Review: Legion

Legion (FX)
Premiered February 8 at 10pm

Now this is an inventive and original pilot. Legion is actually an important character in my favorite X-Men comic plotline, the Age of Apocalypse, in which Charles Xavier’s son goes back in time to kill Magneto and accidentally kills his own father, Xavier’s Professor X, when he jumps in front of his best friend to save his life. We’re a long way off from that in this opener, but the identifiable X that adorns the O in the title hints that there’s a crucial connection to the X-Men that’s sure to be explored later. What was really cool about this dizzying debut is that it’s really hard to tell what’s real and what’s not, and David Heller is completely aware of his inability to distinguish between the two. The way in which he sees the world is pretty incredible, but I found the scenes in which his powers were triggered even more impressive. Making everything in the room move was intense, and the execution of those two scenes, the one in his apartment and the other in interrogation, was very strong. Switching bodies with the object of his affection was equally mesmerizing, and her showing up in his memory was pretty damn cool. I especially loved the escape sequence at the end of the episode, and the way in which the mutants rescuing him used their powers without any explanation, just as part of the getaway. I’m happy to see the terrific Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” in the lead role, with Aubrey Plaza of “Parks and Recreation” and Rachel Keller of “Fargo” perfectly cast and providing tremendous support. Hamish Linklater was also great in what may be a one-off appearance, and I’m eager to see what part Jean Smart’s Melanie Bird has to play in all this. Color me extremely interested, and definitely up for a second round.

How will it work as a series? We still don’t really know what’s real and what’s not, but I think that’s going to be part of the appeal of this enormously captivating show. Keeping the X-Men universe at bay seems to be an easy task, and this show should be able to develop a feel all its own as it tells this extremely involving and interesting story.
How long will it last? Reviews for this show has been extremely positive, and the fact that it comes from “Fargo” creator Noah Hawley, a respected name at FX, is sure to convince the network to give this one a chance. It has definitely been received better than a few of FX’s recent efforts, and I’m sure that a second season is going to be in the works given critical response.

Pilot grade: A-

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pilot Review: Imposters

Imposters (Bravo)
Premiered February 7 at 10pm

If I don’t tend to watch Comedy Central, I definitely don’t watch Bravo. In fact, it’s very possible that the only time that I’ve watched a show on the network was when the “Project Runway” pilot was screened in a history of television class I took in college. In my continued efforts to at least sample every single series in 2017, I tuned into this show without knowing anything about it. It’s a much darker, more depressing version of “The Catch,” with a man so attached to his new wife who is devastated – and at such a loss – when she up and disappears and reveals herself to be a con artist. The twist here is that she’s been married before, and done this a number of times, meaning that there’s more than one person eager to find the woman he fell in love with. I’m only familiar with one actor in this cast – Parker Young from “Suburgatory” and “Enlisted” – though I do think that Israeli actress Inbar Lavi, whose accent definitely isn’t Belgian, is pretty terrific as chameleon Maddie. I’m not quite as convinced by Rob Heaps’ Ezra, but I think that the cast as a whole is good. This show’s premise is cool, and the fact that Maddie has leverage on Ezra and his family means that they’ll have to be very subversive in how they go after her. I’m actually somewhat intrigued, but I’m not sure I can invest in this show right now. We’ll see how I feel next week.

How will it work as a series? Having Maddie immediately begin another long con where she’s going to try to seduce Aaron Douglas’ monster boss means that she’ll be distracted while her two ex-husbands are after her, and the preview for the rest of the season that I saw suggests that there’s even more drama to make this show exciting and hopefully worthwhile.
How long will it last? Bravo doesn’t have an established track record with scripted originals, and so I think the strong buzz and generally positive reviews this show has attracted should do well to propel it to a second season. It’s certainly attention-grabbing, and I think that Bravo would love to champion it as a hit.

Pilot grade: B

Pilot Review: Detroiters

Detroiters (Comedy Central)
Premiered February 7 at 10pm

I’m making an effort to really watch every single new pilot that airs this year, though I feel like it’s crazy that we’re already up to so many and it’s barely even February. I don’t regularly watch anything on Comedy Central, but what pushed me to check this pilot out more than anything was the fact that it stars Sam Richardson. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite live up to his past work, and I followed up my viewing of this pilot with a visit to YouTube to enjoy clips of the best moments of Richardson’s character Richard Splett on “Veep,” a far better use of his talents. Here, he and Tim Robinson do have a great partnership, playing off each other to portray two best buds who do a good job sharing the same viewpoints and making speeches, but aren’t always in tune with what’s actually going on around them. Their hot tub commercial wasn’t great to begin with, and giving their art student employee final cut was a poor decision, even if it did manage to spice up the salesman’s marriage. Tracking down Jason Sudeikis’ executive and bringing along stained ties and a receipt to prove that they ate at the restaurant was the height of silliness, and while there were a few laughs to be found, it’s not the most sophisticated humor. These guys did spend a full scene throwing whatever they could at a glass wall just to amaze themselves with how unbreakable it was. That’s only funny up to a certain point.

How will it work as a series? It’s not clear to me whether Sudeikis will be a regular player on this show and they’re going to go toe-to-toe with him on an episodic basis, but I think there’s more than enough Detroit pride to go around for these two to be able to carry every half-hour and have fun doing it, even if it’s not always all that enthralling.
How long will it last? This show seems to have received a good deal of positive reviews, and while I’m not too good at reading cable ratings reports, it looks like the show did okay in its premiere. I think this show has a fun vibe that may work for some and it should be able to become a solid staple for its network.

Pilot grade: C+

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 13 “BOOM” (B+)

In this episode, we got a big shock, something that maybe we should have seen coming. Seeing a woman with Aida’s face who wasn’t an android was a surprise, and it turns out that Agnes is a sweet, endearing woman. Coulson coming to see her to tell her that Radcliffe took May and that she means everything to him was an important admission, and it’s just a shame that she was swayed by Radcliffe’s offer to give her a peaceful life, something that he didn’t deliver on when her body gave up just moments after Aida plugged her in. It’s a shame since she could have changed the game, but I assume there’s something that’s going to have to happen soon to give the good guys a big win. The captain reading the book wasn’t it, and Senator Nadeer getting killed after Shockley tried to prove that she was an inhuman didn’t matter all that much either. Shockley lived up to his name with a fitting power that proved enormously useful – and irritating – and Daisy going head-to-head with him served its purpose when Fitz and Simmons showed up to lock him in some handy contraption they had rigged up to the back of their vehicle. I like that Mace was so bothered by not being Captain America and that he sacrificed himself so that the rest of the team could get away with Shockley. Hopefully, it will turn out to be a good thing that the new high-value inhuman captive isn’t actually an inhuman at all.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 14 “I Call Marriage” (B-)

This show is nothing if not consistent. We’ve seen all of this happen before, with Toby trying to break into one of Kate’s solo traditions and not having enough sense to realize that she needs to do it the way she wants, Jack and Rebecca affirm their love for each other, and Randall insists on being hyper-competitive even though he’s just not delivering on the absurd work ethic that he’s created for himself. Toby showing up to surprise Kate was a nice gesture, but of course it didn’t pan out that well since Kate really needed him not to be there. He brought up a good point that he flew out from California to be with her, but at least he met Duke and realized just how terrible a person he is. If something happens between Duke and Kate in the end, I’ll be really mad simply because it’s so totally unbelievable. Flashing back to Miguel announcing his divorce was far from encouraging, but good for Rebecca for not giving in to her flirtatious colleague and standing up for Jack, who proved his worth with a big romantic gesture. I don’t have much to say about Randall other than it’s a relief that he made the right choice and he’s going to have to adjust to doing work the way a normal person does. Kevin’s pursuit of Sophie was very sweet, but you have to wonder whether this is just a phase or if he can actually return to being a really good guy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 11 “Turncoat” (B-)

Okay, so now Rip’s memories have been altered so that he thinks that he’s in league with the Legion of Doom? It seems that this former Time Master would have had better safeguards in place than to remove his own memories and leave them susceptible to such manipulation upon retrieval by an unknown other party. It appears that was not the case, and now he’s quickly become a supervillain, all the more dangerous because he knows all the legends so well. Sara getting injured early on and then seemingly killed by Rip was a major blow, and Jax being personally hunted by Rip on the ship was an unnerving process. The team not being able to use their powers wasn’t terribly helpful, especially since they were stuck in a volatile moment in the history of the American Revolution. Of course Mick would have the sophistication to teach a fellow prisoner the word “ka-boom” for him to utter as an introduction to their formidable escape. It’s about time that some romance happened on this show after Kendra’s departure, and it’s nice that it’s our two newbies, Amaya and Nate, who had the chance to bond over the fact that they’re both familiar with “The Wizard of Oz.” I’m not sure what comes next after this since Rip seems way too far gone to be brought back to the good side, but he was a hapless American just a week ago, so I imagine it won’t be too much of a stretch for things to change just as dramatically by the next episode.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 15 “Glue” (B-)

This episode was the epitome of what this show is like right now, well-intentioned and not all that poorly conceived but hardly executed in the most productive manner. Nick writing his novel has been one of the most long-standing plotlines on this show, something that was never really headed anywhere since he’s not the most motivated person and gets caught up in ridiculous things like being told that Schmidt had no notes for him. It’s big news that he sent it in to a publisher, and naturally he would react in a totally inappropriate way to his first rejection letter, shutting down his emotions, retreating inside himself, and going for a run. Jess’ ability to be able to read him was impressive, but it was Reagan’s enterprising nature that got him a place to sell his book and even read some of it. Jess was on the right track trying to help him make the books, but she should have used a less potent clue. It’s no surprise that Winston’s proposal would be an absurd, drawn-out affair, but having Aly go paint Schmidt and Cece’s house when he knows they’re such perfectionists was hardly the best plan, particularly because she all too freely admitted that she had suspected there were problems in their marriage. It’s probably a better solution to have Schmidt and Cece outright tell Aly that they’re distracting her in preparation for a prank or romantic gesture going forward, because this proposal is going to take a while.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 12 “Untouchable” (B)

It’s still confusing to me how Flashpoint continues to exist and that a man who was arrested in that alternate timeline is going after people who treated him poorly in a different life and didn’t do anything to him in this timeline. Still, any chance to see a glimpse of things in a different light is cool, and Cisco vibing Flashpoint thanks to Barry’s time spent there was definitely a neat trick. Barry training Wally to be the best Kid Flash he can be is important, and obviously it’s going to create a bit of rivalry. Iris’ brush with death in this episode courtesy of the meta villain with a pretty terrifying power was disconcerting and certainly contradicted the strong, self-assured, fearless Iris we saw in last week’s episode. Joe getting so upset that no one told him that Iris was going to die was understandable, but it seems that Savatar is going to be on the sidelines while other emergencies present themselves. Caitlin befriending Julian – and maybe more – is a positive step since convincing Caitlin that she shouldn’t give in to Killer Frost is the same kind of thing that will prove helpful when Julian becomes Alchemy. This show does love to bring back dormant and long-forgotten plotlines, and Jesse showing up to interrupt Wally’s training was an excellent instance of that. I’m not a big fan of killer gorillas and all that, but I do like Jesse and I think it will be good to get an Earth-Two distraction to keep this team focused on working together.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pilot Review: APB

Premiered February 6 at 9pm

It’s possible that there are more medical or lawyer shows, but I’d argue that cop shows are the most common on television right now. As a result, seeing pilot after pilot that tries to be cutting-edge with a new take on law enforcement can become very tiring. I’ve stopped getting my hopes up that there will be any originality in any of these new shows, and therefore this one caught me by surprise in a great way. It wasn’t the opening display of recklessness by Justin Kirk’s billionaire engineer Gideon Reed. Kirk’s energy, however, is fantastic, and I’m so happy to see him in a role like this after serving as an MVP for years on “Weeds” and then being relegated to recurring irrelevance on “Tyrant.” The notion of a rich man taking over the police force in part of Chicago might be worrisome to those who are having trouble dealing with the current state of a rich man being in charge of the country, but this is a different story. Gideon’s technology is cool and seems to actually be beneficial, and Natalie Martinez’s Amelia seems to be there to remind him that you need to continue to have the human element to ensure proper thought and execution go into every operation. Ernie Hudson, Kevin Chapman, and Taylor Handley are three actors I never expected to star in a show together, and I think they’ll have much less exciting roles than Kirk and Martinez. The dialogue isn’t all that great, and I still don’t think I’ll watch this show, but this premiere was much better and much more satisfyingly action-packed than I had expected.

How will it work as a series? Clearly the initial display of the capabilities of the ABP app was impressive enough to inspire mass participation by Chicago residents, and Gideon is going to have his hands full going forward, with problems sure to present themselves and more action sure to transpire.
How long will it last? The ratings seem to be pretty good, and premiering with “24: Legacy” was a positive move for FOX. It seems that I liked this show a lot more than most did since it received poorer reviews than FOX’s real-time reboot. I think this show could do well but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a second season just yet.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Timeless

Timeless: Season 1, Episode 14 “The Lost Generation” (B)

So what we had in the first episode of this show was our friends going back in time and returning to a world that was substantially different, even just due to the conspicuous non-existence of Lucy’s sister Amy. Since then, we’ve seen almost no major changes, which doesn’t really make sense given how much Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus have affected, like becoming characters in a major James Bond movie, delaying the Hindenburg disaster, and changing when Lincoln got assassinated. For them to go back to change the course of history by setting Charles Lindbergh in a different direction and return to nothing been different is hard to believe, and it makes you wonder whether there’s anything that they can do to actually accomplish what they want to. Going back in time to gush at and meet celebrities isn’t going to take them far, and now Rittenhouse is running the show, which bodes ominously for everyone. Lucy’s mom giving her the journal is a momentous event, but this show is going to get itself caught in one confounding time loop since Flynn has now gone back in time to change events based on what Lucy wrote in her journal, which she only wrote after all of her experiences involving meeting Flynn. Wyatt breaking out of his cell and the team now colluding with Agent Christopher are also developments that I can’t imagine the omniscient Rittenhouse should be able to let happen, but I have a feeling that they’ll remain remarkably unopposed in their efforts to fight back.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 3, Episode 10 “Chapter Fifty-Four” (B+)

Well, this is a true shock. This show has always featured betrayal and violence, to a degree, but never suffered any real, sincere pain that it can’t come back from. Killing off a major character, not to mention one of the leads, with absolutely no warning is unusual, especially in the middle of the season! I’ve always been on #teamrafael, but having Michael die right after completing a major test that was causing him so much anxiety is so completely tragic. There was no other move than to jump forward a few years since we couldn’t possibly bear the sight of Jane dealing with so much grief, and now Mateo is all grown up and someone is getting married. Perhaps it’s a clever way to skip past Rafael’s time in prison, and I suspect that it’s Xiomara and Bruce who are having the wedding. I don’t think this show needed this jolt forward, but I’m hopeful that it’s a positive thing and that there’s plenty of interesting material to cover in the future. Revealing that Rose is back and living with a new face as Luisa’s new girlfriend could have led to some tricky follow-up, and now we’ll just see whether they’re still together and happy after three years of secrecy. Maybe Rogelio and Darci have a baby, and what if Jane and Tess are really good friends? I’m not sure about this gamble, but at this point there’s no turning back, so let’s hope it was a smart move!

Round Two: 24: Legacy

24: Legacy: Season 1, Episode 2 “1:00pm-2:00pm” (D-)

Has nobody learned from years of existence and secrets being spilled that whispering to someone without thinking that the person you’re talking about might hear you is a terrible plan? That happened on at least two separate instances in this episode, resulting in Nicole being put in danger because Isaac’s girlfriend is jealous and wants to set him up to get killed, and the student-teacher couple had to kill a snooping kid because they couldn’t find a closet in which to have some fun. I forgot to mention a few unfortunate things about the pilot episode of this show from Sunday night, namely that it’s completely dumb that Ben thinks that his only option is to sell the list either to the United States government or to the terrorists, so those are obviously the people who would pay the most for it, not, say, a news outlet trying to break a big story. This is “24,” of course, and so Eric doesn’t even have half an hour to wait, though he did have the gall to ask for a forty-five-minute extension after his police station heist didn’t go as planned (because that was a great idea in the first place). You’d think that his drug dealer brother would be able to provide a small sum of cash given the manpower he is, but of course it’s been a bad year and he’s strapped for cash. As if the future president being married to a now criminal former CTU director wasn’t problematic enough for PR, it turns out his campaign manager might actually be (but probably isn’t) the very traitor who used Rebecca’s access code to get Eric’s team killed. Keith didn’t even try not to give up his own access code, so you’d think that Rebecca could have trusted him to avoid ending up in the very situation she’s now created for Eric, who I’m sure will find some impossible way to get himself out of this situation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 11 “The Martian Chronicles” (B)

After a few multi-tasking episodes, this hour pretty much just concentrated on one plotline, and that was the Martian hunt for Megan, which took a dark turn very quickly. This show has dealt with people impersonating other people – and aliens – in the past, but this was the first time that we really haven’t known who how to trust and seen how that makes people turn on each other. Of course the murderous Martians weren’t going to choose the random “red shirts” – not the most applicable term given that we’re dealing with white and green Martians and they were both dressed in black – to impersonate, and going after Winn and Alex felt a whole lot more personal. It’s convenient that they’re able to read minds and access the memories of those whose form they’ve taken, and I wasn’t too impressed with dialogue like “You guys are so dumb!” You’d hope that other planets would at least feature more high-tech vocabulary. Megan going back to Mars doesn’t ultimately help the overarching plot in any way since she was the closest that Hank came to a love interest, and her leaving doesn’t accomplish much that will affect the show going forward. Instead, Kara managed to bond with both Winn and Alex about the former putting himself in danger to be a hero and the latter living her human life and taking much more of a leap romantically than Kara is by missing her shot with Mon-el. He might be going out on a date with a random girl from the office, but I’m sure he’ll come back around once he finds out that she’s interested.

Pilot Review: 24: Legacy

24: Legacy (FOX)
Premiered February 5 at 10:30pm

I’m not sure whether to classify this is a pilot or a season premiere, but, sadly, it’s a shadow of a once-great thriller and therefore should be considered as part of that original show. Granted, it’s not as bad as “Heroes Reborn,” partially because “Heroes” was never as good as “24” was in its first season, but it doesn’t have much to recommend it. Now, I should note that the first season of “24” was incredible, seasons two through four were pretty good, and everything after that was absolute garbage which pretty much defines jumping the shark, over and over and over again. What we have here is an attempt to reboot a show that signed off long after it stopped being engaging, and it’s back without its best asset, Kiefer Sutherland, love him or hate him. The real-time aspect is cool, sure, but when it’s a truncated twelve-season episode that doesn’t actually chronicle a day, the appeal is reduced considerably. The bigger problem is that the story is far from intelligent, and it’s only thrilling because there are people running around with guns and the music is fast-paced. We’ve gone from Jack Bauer insisting that people had to trust him to Corey Hawkins’ Eric Carter deciding that he’s the only one who can trust. In such an insular world, it’s hard to get attached to anyone. There are a few familiar faces in the cast, like Miranda Otto playing a somewhat similar role to the one she played on “Homeland” last year, Jimmy Smits, Dan Bucatinsky, and Teddy Sears. I think it’s probably better than I don’t start watching this show, but given my initial enthusiasm for “24,” I’m going to give it at least one more hour.

How will it work as a series? Just in this first episode, there have been at least a dozen people executed for no reason, which doesn’t make this storyline inviting, we have a poor student-teacher-terrorist plotline, and Otto’s Rebecca essentially did the same thing to the head of CTU that Jack did in the first-ever hour of the original show. That doesn’t suggest much potential for strength and quality in the future.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t great, but that’s partially because I don’t think anyone was really clamoring for a reboot of this show after it went off the air less than a decade ago. Sutherland’s absence doesn’t help. Scoring the headline “lowest-rated post-Super Bowl debut in years” doesn’t recommend its enduring nature, and performing equally unimpressively in its time slot premiere in episode two is bad news too. Twelve episodes will be all this show gets.

Pilot grade: D

Pilot Review: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix)
Premiered February 3

Netflix is premiering shows on a near-weekly basis these days, and there’s no one set genre that the network is known for. I think I saw one promo for this show, possibly during the Golden Globes, which indicated to me that it was a dark comedy, and I knew it had something to do with Drew Barrymore’s character being a cannibal or a vampire, or something like this. It turns out that I was close, since she’s apparently becoming a zombie, a transformation that isn’t explained by anything other than an incredible personality shift and her sudden desire to eat lots of raw meat, particularly that belonging to humans. We’ve seen a recent example of a fully functional zombie on the CW’s “iZombie,” and that’s a far more stylized, somehow credible take on the subject. This show doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be other than a casual comedy about a family living in between two cops, with the mother just happening to be a zombie. Barrymore is into the role, to be sure, but the real star of the show is Timothy Olyphant, so great on “Justified,” getting fully into the part of the indecisive husband who can’t choose a toaster and just wants to get some help for his clearly troubled wife. Nathan Fillion was a great guest star, but ending the episode with his fingers getting bitten off before she really went to town on him was more than a little off-putting. I’m willing to give this show another shot, but it’s going to have to find a better idea of what it wants to be.

How will it work as a series? This family couldn’t have picked a worse play to live considering the public nature of Sheila’s excessive vomiting incident and her decision to feed on flesh in the middle of her backyard during the day. I suspect that they’re going to do their best to cover it all up and that’s going to result in some entertainment, some awkwardness, and likely some people getting eaten.
How long will it last? It looks like the reviews have been pretty good so far, and we won’t know anything about how the ratings were for a long time, if ever, since Netflix doesn’t report and release that information like regular networks do. I think this is a new direction for them and something the network would like to try, so I imagine it will be gifted a second season.

Pilot grade: B-