Friday, March 31, 2017

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie (Season Premiere)

Grace and Frankie: Season 3, Episode 1 “The Art Show” (B+)

I had no idea this show was coming back until I saw it in the TV listings, and I couldn’t believe that it’s been almost a full two years since it debuted its first season back in May 2015. This show is a pleasant, relatively mindless distraction, and it was fun to see things start back up in a way that incorporated all of the characters. While I do like Grace and Frankie, I’ve always enjoyed spending time with the kids even more. I love that Bud brought his new girlfriend to the art show and the others, including Brianna’s all-too-nice colleague slash temporary boyfriend, took shots very obviously every time she did or said something weird, which was just about every second. Brianna failed the test of whether she and Barry could ever turn into something more, and it’s a shame since she might be, as her family says, a bit nicer if she was with someone that didn’t have a heart of stone. Saying hello to Mitch as if he was there was particularly harsh. The opening scene with Grace and Frankie trying to pitch their product to a shocked and awkward loan officer was extremely entertaining, and I also liked the brief interaction we saw between a desperate Saul and a far more calm and collected Jacob, who was just there to support Frankie. Selling the painting was a great accomplishment for Frankie, especially since it was on her terms, and the shot of the sticker being moved at the end was a nice and endearing way to close the episode.

Round Two: Iron Fist

Iron Fist: Season 1, Episode 2 “Shadow Hawk Takes Flight” (C)

Well, this wasn’t much of an improvement. After a more than shaky and unenthusiastic start, this second episode was quite plodding and only broke through – literally with a punch to a wall – at the end of the episode after 58 minutes of boredom. For how quickly and effectively the Meechums were able to get Danny committed and locked up, it didn’t take much longer for it to become clear to everyone involved that Danny was in fact Danny. His repeated insistence that he is who he says he is doesn’t do him much credit and just make him seem whiny, and I’m glad that people are now starting to finally believing him. The doctor got there with just a quick confirmation of details from Joy, yet he still wanted to classify Danny as crazy, unwilling to believe everything that he said. Ward going to visit and intimidate Colleen after Danny called him was the best possible confirmation that something suspicious was going on that he could have given, and he really doesn’t understand subtlety. I’ve been trying to figure out how I know Ward, and a visit to IMDB reveals that actor Tom Pelphrey played Kurt Bunker on “Banshee,” a far better show than this. Something tells me that, after being put in a mental ward and forced to take medication, Danny might enjoy eating a few of the M and Ms rather than just taking the brown ones out to prove his identity, passing an admittedly clever test set up by the one non-evil member of the Meechum family.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Book!” (B+)

The news that a streaming show has been renewed always seems to come at a perfect time in my viewing schedule, with the announcement of a second season for this show occurring about six weeks after it started but just when I’m finishing up the first great season. I’m glad it will be back for more, and I don’t even know how it’s going to end yet! I love that Joel took Eric with him to the paranormal convention to serve as a translator of sorts, and the relationship the two of them have is fantastic. Joel refusing to be defined by the one he murdered someone is very entertaining, and the part of the episode that made me laugh the most was when he forced Anton, who wasn’t really who said he was, to stop peeing at the urinal, something that he wasn’t actually able to do for very long. I enjoyed the fact that Joel being able to catch a water bottle and having nice hair meant that he was a government agent, and him telling Eric that he’s not a squid but a boy who smells like a baby was another odd but superb line. Ravi Patel’s lackey and Portia de Rossi’s mysterious doctors may have answers for Joel and Sheila, but it also seems like they’re pretty nefarious. Apparently, Eric writing about Sheila on forums was productive after all. Sheila and Abby’s mother-daughter bonding was fun, and I like that they played Rafi to try to get the brother out of the storage locker and then using tear gas to smoke him out only to realize that it was the wrong locker was pretty great. Abby may turn okay after all.

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 3 “The Dining Hall” (C+)

If there was ever a more appropriate time to use the phrase “jump the shark,” this would be it. I don’t think it represents an enormous reduction in quality; more just a recognition that this show isn’t meant to be taken seriously at all anymore. There is so much flirtation on this show it’s unbelievable, and it’s hard to decide what’s the most ridiculous. It’s also impossible to determine what allegiances there really are, since Rhys teamed up with Tommy, who was then indebted to the cartel, who Alice agreed to get money for, while Ben agreed to get that same money to save Rhys’ life from a very angry son of a diplomat who also just happens to be in the drug-running business. That ending scene showed me that not everyone should be allowed to hold guns, as I think no one’s under any illusion that Ben or Alice would actually shoot each other, no matter how dedicated they are to their respective figurative and real brothers. Going back to the love world, I can’t fathom why it is that Danny and Margot needed to get together, but apparently some combination of her calling him the B-team and wanting to lash out at Sophie compelled him to get into bed with the number one criminal on this show, and something about his boyish innocence charmed him? I’m not so sure about the latter. And the Hammer, who all of a sudden works for Margot, was so overwhelmed by the kindness of Sophie’s gift of a finger from a morgue that he stopped by her office to give her a $3,000 bottle of bourbon as a thank you. Not only that, but Agent Diaz, who insisted that she couldn’t be part of Ben and Rhys’ operation, not only showed up but was flirting off the charts with the two men to the point that they were shocked when she revealed she had a husband. I’m not giving up on this show right now, but it’s a lot to take.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 1, Episode 7 “Chapter 7” (B+)

This was the second consecutive episode that took place almost entirely within our protagonist’s mind, and what a mesmerizing journey it was to watch them all, including David, fight their way back to reality. I loved the interactions between Cary and Oliver, who definitely has gotten lost within the astral plane, unsure about what saving daylight meant and convinced that his wife was Asian. It’s incredible to see Melanie as she watches the man she loved who is an on-the-spot poet and can’t be bothered to understand what their connection was, and she’s so happy to see him that she’s all for being enchanted by his disconnect. I really liked the glasses that they gave to Syd, who was so on point that she already knew exactly what was going on and what to do about it when Cary tried to read her in. I don’t know what to say about the silent-movie style black-and-white which included subtitles, but what a thrill it was for them to move their bodies and escape both the prison of David’s mind and certain death. Unfortunately, just as soon as they were free and had mostly trapped Lenny inside the very same coffin David found himself in earlier in the episode, a new threat emerged in the form of a very badly burned, very angry Hamish Linklater, who instructed his forces to kill everyone except for David. That worrisome ending even suggested that maybe Lenny breaking out of the coffin was a good since he/she/it could save everyone out of sheer fury and self-preservation. On a lighter note, I find it funny that British actors always seem to want to use their real accents as Dan Stevens did in this episode, though I’ll admit that the tutorial about who his father was proved to be quite informative and helpful.

Pilot Review: Shots Fired

Shots Fired (FOX)
Premiered March 22 at 8pm

If there are two professions that TV doesn’t need any more of at the moment, cops and lawyers would be it. I’m all for creative series, like “Goliath,” but network procedurals tend to be very tiring these days. I was actually impressed with “APB,” which premiered earlier this midseason on the same network, and I can’t say that this show offers the same kind of novel approach. While yes, it does have the major hook of a black cop killing a white kid, beyond that, there’s nothing terribly inviting about this show. It is very racially charged, with conversations like “Do only black lives matter,” and Aisha Hinds’ Mohawk-sporting pastor is all about uniting everyone by bringing in the mother of the white victim to their black church. But the format of the show isn’t particularly inviting, and it’s not nearly as interesting or engaging as it wants to be. I was a big fan of Sanaa Lathan during season two of “Boss,” and I don’t think that this role, which finds her doing her job incredibly well but struggling considerably more to be a mother, utilizes her talents properly. A trio of familiar TV faces – Stephen Moyer, Jill Hennessy, and Helen Hunt – offer credibility but don’t add much, and this show, like so many others, is so much about sex and flashiness rather than actual content. I can understand why people would want to watch this show and why they might be drawn to it, and I’m hopeful that others found this opening “hour one” to be a more positive and memorable experience than I did.

How will it work as a series? The personal drama is going to be a mere subplot to everything else, which has to do with the racial politics of the south, complications involving both legal remedies and law enforcement, and just generally people wanting to hurt other people because they don’t like them. It’s pretty standard fare that’s sure to be sensational as much as it can.
How long will it last? Most people seem to have enjoyed this pilot more than I did given the positive reviews I’m seeing, but the ratings weren’t much to write home about. Airing after the very popular “Empire,” this show didn’t impress ratings-wise in its debut airing, and I’m not too sure that it’s going to be able to improve. I’m sure it has those who would like to see it succeed, so I wouldn’t give up hope just yet.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: National Treasure (Season Finale)

National Treasure: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

I’m certain that this is actually the series finale since I don’t see how this could continue, and what an effective four-episode series it’s been. After all the run-up to the trial, we got to see everything play out very bluntly and bleakly, with both of the women accusing Paul of assault and abuse brutally torn apart by the defense and then Paul subject to the same vicious approach from the prosecution when he was on the stand. It was particularly moving and effective to watch Paul’s face and Marie’s face while listening to the testimonies, and hearing how monetary compensation and an affectionate letter written a year after the fact could undo such powerful and horrifying accounts of treatment. Marie telling Paul in the middle of the trial that she thinks he did it was intense, and he didn’t seem the least bit apologetic when he took the stand, against the advice of his legal counsel, admitting to sex with prostitutes and insisting that he wasn’t perfect but he didn’t do this. Seeing what actually happened as remembered by one of the victims right before the not-guilty verdict was announced, much to her horror, was deeply affecting, and Paul harshly telling his daughter that they shouldn’t do family therapy on his big day served as a reminder that, much as he might be endearing in his later years, he isn’t a good guy. Ending with him calling out for Marie and realizing, somewhat angrily, that he’s all alone, was a haunting way to close this show that I’d recommend highly to sophisticated viewers not too averse to its subject matter.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Round Two: Trial and Error

Trial and Error: Season 1, Episodes 3 and 4 “The Other Man” and “An Unwelcome Distraction” (B)

This show is airing two episodes a week, and I feel like I’m enjoying it enough that I can stick with it throughout its run. It continues to be entertaining, with newly absurd facets of the case presented almost every minute. Larry’s brother-in-law having “Taken from us too soon…by Larry Henderson” written on his sister’s casket was hilarious, and just about everything in the legal system of this backwards town seems prejudiced against Larry and any hope of getting him off. Larry himself isn’t helping any, constantly insisting on providing information that will only help lead to his conviction, like a hit-and-run he got away with a year earlier, and celebrating being set free when it was just the latest hiccup in the case averted while he was, as Josh put it, very much still on trial for murder. I like that Josh managed to achieve a brief victory by getting into Carol Anne’s head after she tricked him into giving her a damning piece of evidence. Dwayne continues to provide his idiocy, though both he and Ann actually helped in a minor way with their contributions. It was disappointing to see Kevin Durand, who played a much more serious role on “Lost,” appear for just a brief couple of scenes before getting killed off, and I like the casting of Ginger Gonzaga as a murder-loving stalker who even managed to set off an alarm with Larry that there was something seriously wrong with her. I hope that we’ll see her again, and the sight of her trimming his hedges suggests we very well might.

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Tournament” (B)

This wasn’t the best episode of the season, but it did still have some funny moments as the story progressed forward and we got an important link in the major investigation that’s been underway for the whole series into Nate and Robin’s behavior. The paternity test made things a little bit more serious because the hold that Nate and Robin have on their kids with their wild antics is tenuous enough as it is, and though Jareb wouldn’t really be able to understand it, it would still represent an unfortunate barrier to closeness. Fortunately, Nate is in fact his father, and he also managed to do a terrific job of taking down and beating up Carlos, whose accent is fake and whose lawyer was pretty sure that Nate could take him in a fight. I do love that, since Nate stopped paying attention after he was potty-trained, Jareb makes a big show of not only taking off all his clothes whenever he goes to the bathroom but also hanging them over the door of a public restroom. As usual, everyone is focused on Jareb and not on his sister, and her belt ceremony was the perfect time for Delilah to get out some of her anger, which of course made things seem very bad for Nate when people were only hearing part of the conversation. It’s going to take a lot for Nate to be able to trust Robin again, but something tells me they’ll get through it to arrive at the point that we see at the start of each episode. And now we’ve seen one of the interrogators moving in next door and drilling quite a bit, finally explaining how all this surveillance happened.

What I'm Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 6 "What the F Is Wrong With You Trakarskys?" (B+)

If season one of this show was about a whimsical relationship that redefined a marriage, season two is about the harsh reality check that all three members of the thruple are getting. Dave articulated it best when he made clear to Jack that if he didn't come to Emma's rescue knowing her parents were coming to town after Carmen sent him to tell him with Em mama knowledge, things were going to be seriously irreparable. It's not as if Emma and Izzy are having a wild affair with him out of the house, and in fact they're back to mundane relationship things like an attempted cleanse to curb Izzy's excessive pot habit and her subsequent rebellion that included an interaction with Ava, who was still trying desperately not to be as awful as her mother. Emma did mention to Izzy that her parents were coming to town, but she didn't seem to react and something tells me that she wouldn't impress the hyper-conservative parental units we're about to meet. Though Emma isn't blameless in this situation, I think Jack has evolved from a place of being somewhat on the right side of this to a far less sympathetic stage, since he was actively preparing for a date with a woman who wasn't his wife or his girlfriend, and he seems to have chosen her over both of them in the episode's final scene. I do hope we'll at least see the once-happy couple back tougher for as little as a conversation soon, but I'm not too optimistic at this particular moment.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What I'm Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 15 "The Fellowship of the Spear" (B)

This is the second time in just a few weeks that this show has invoked a recent piece of pop culture in a way that is meant to be so crucial and relevant to the very fabric of its characters' existence. I would never have predicted any sort of connection between J.R.R. Tolkien and the blood of Jesus Christ, but I guess I don't know very much. The episode's title was clever, but it wasn't as fun as seeing Ian Fleming as James Bond precursor in a similarly-themed "Timeless" episode earlier this season. That's partly because of the violent setting of this quest which was awfully innocuous thanks to the apparent invincibility of the legends and their impressive establishment of a ceasefire on the battlefield. After Mick thought it was a hallucination, it turns out that Snart is really back, plucked from the past to do as much destruction as he could. I always thought that he was more well-intentioned and not as bad as Mick, but now he's fully loving the carnage and encouraging Mick to join him too. Not that there was ever much risk that she would, I'm glad that Amaya made the definitive choice not to join the bad guys but instead to stick to her convictions, even knowing what her future held. I hope she'll stick around next season - she's been a great addition to the show. The now five-member Legion of Doom is set to manipulative events to their will after activating the spear, and it's going to be an uphill battle for the legends to topple them.

What I'm Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 20 "Misery" (B)

I understand that this episode's title is meant to serve as a parody of the Oscar-winning 1990 film helmed by Rob Reiner, who got to have fun played the bed bound character here whose caretaker, under the guise of keeping up his health and speeding along his recovery, wouldn't let him out. Like many of Jess' plotlines of late, it fell flat, and it's better just to ignore and forget it altogether. I enjoyed the fact that Schmidt and Cece just showed up at the loft and found that every single person, including Winston's mom, made mention of them having moved out and asked what they were doing there. They were so eager to still be involved in their lives since living in a house wasn't all they had hoped it would be, and I laughed when Cece reacted to Nick not having her number in his phone. Egging Nick on to assert himself in Reagan's life a bit wasn't an initially intelligent idea, but I think it pushed him far enough to be able to realize that he and Reagan just don't work. If Jess ever answered her phone, maybe they could get started on getting back together since anything else seems inevitable at this point. Winston hosting a fake radio show just so that his mom wouldn't know that he was a cop was the epitome of ridiculousness, and I'm glad that Aly found something different - bargain shopping - to bond with his mom about which led to some serious honesty and included a few funny moments.

What I'm Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 17 "Music Meister" (C+)

So I don't really read much about shows or episodes before they air, and as a result some major crossover events like this one come as a surprise to me. I'm not sure I would have been any more excited had I known what was in store. The entire existence of the Music Meister felt unnecessary, and showing up to teach them a lesson about the power of love was far from a convincing legitimization of his appearance. I'm also not sure why we needed a musical episode, though I can understand that the talent involved makes it seem like a no-brainer. I remember seeing Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, and Victor Garber in musicals back when I first heard of each of them, and it suddenly occurred to me halfway through the episode that the Meister was played by Darren Criss, who had a thread with Gustin during his breakout role on "Glee." Having Cisco, Stein, Winn, and Merlyn play parts in the musical was moderately fun, but I've seen the same thing done better in other projects in the past. I honestly would have preferred to see Kara and Barry get together before going back to the old inevitable couples from their respective shows. Barry re-proposing to Iris while belting out an incredibly operatic tune was one way to reignite the romance, and at least it means that they'll be back on the right track, united to finally try to defeat Savitar once and for all by the end of the season. This musical diversion shouldn't last past this episode, and I think there's more to be done to cover the team in its own universe without the need for more musical tunes.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What I’m Watching: Humans

Humans: Season 2, Episode 7 (B+)

Okay, so I know that AMC actually aired the eighth and final episode of this season right after the seventh, but I’d prefer to stretch this show out longer, especially since this hour was really good. It’s hard to decipher who the good guys and who the bad guys are when the one at the top is actually Dr. Morrow, whose feelings about synths come from a much more personal place and who isn’t intent on making the sentient ones suffer the same way as some of her colleagues are. After Hester nearly intimidated Mattie into cooperation by force at the start of the episode, she showed a cool, calculating demeanor when she didn’t let herself be talked down by a surprisingly adept Pete and instead killed both the doctor and Pete. I’ll admit that Pete’s death caught me off-guard since I hadn’t imagined that he would be killed and certainly not like this, and the most intense part of it was seeing Karen sob with such sadness and then reveal no trace of any emotion just seconds later. The devastation that Leo and Anita felt when all of the freed synths collapsed behind them after they had been broken out was poignant, and it’s easy to forget that they too can be simply switched off with a mere touch or click. As they are immersing themselves fully into the battle, Niska is deciding that she doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore, preferring instead to spend time with her girlfriend, someone who makes her feel human. The news that Renie isn’t really a synth probably shouldn’t be too surprising, and it’s just the latest interesting comment about what kind of behavior passes for normal in this new world.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 2, Episode 14 “Chapter Fifty-Eight” (B)

I’m usually all for this show and its imagined diversions enthusiastically described by the narrator, but I wasn’t too fond of the election parody that served as the meat of this episode. Having Jane and Petra fight to be room mom was dramatic enough on its own, and the “I’m with her” ending, which mildly amusing, wasn’t worth the whole thing. I do like the fact that Rafael ended up being the choice, though I’m not sure what that says about patriarchy in society (not much, I assume, just a bit of food for thought). Mateo’s new aide seemed a little casual and laidback, ready to clash with Jane on everything, but he turned out to be just the right dose of optimism for both Jane and Rafael, who were feeling insecure in the face of Mateo’s behavior. I enjoyed Rogelio having a Sunday Funday with Mateo which involved being fitted for suits, and clearly Rogelio’s inappropriate communication was well-timed since Bruce got the hint that Xiomara wasn’t over her ex, who may now have moved past his kid condition. It’s nice to see Alba reinvesting in her romance with Jorge, despite an unfortunate mishap. As the narrator would say, she’s not the only one jumping back into the dating scene, with Jane declaring herself ready to think about it and Rafael and Petra going down a very familiar road for what’s now probably the third or fourth time. Will it stick this time? I’m betting not, but I’m eager to see how it plays out and what happens when it comes out.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 16 “Star-Crossed” (B-)

I didn’t find this episode to be all that great, mainly because, once again, characters jumped to conclusions and assumed that personalities had changed overnight when that couldn’t be further from the case. Yes, it’s true that Mon-El lied to Kara about who he was, but that’s also because Daxomerites and Kryptonians apparently really hate each other. I didn’t recognize Teri Hatcher, famous for her own part in a Superman series, at the end of the last episode, and if I hadn’t seen her name before Kevin Sorbo’s in the credits I may not even have recognized her. It’s a fun idea to have the likes of Hatcher, Dean Cain, Lynda Carter, and Laura Vandervoort take on guest roles on this show, but this was the most lackluster such spot thus far. I’m not sure the whole plotline added much, other than leading to Kara’s breakup with Mon-El, which was immediately followed by the appearance of yet another otherworldly disruptor to trap Kara in a trance of sorts and lead to the very exciting end titles declaring that this story would be continued on “The Flash,” an unexpected but welcome crossover just a few months after the last CW multi-show event. Lyra turning into a con woman felt like it came from out of nowhere, and of course she was just doing it for her kidnapped younger brother, a device that seems to be used very often. Let’s hope a visit to Earth-One will help improve the quality once this show picks back up next week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 6, Episode 6 “Full Disclosure” (B+)

This episode was a return to more of the conversations that have helped to define this show throughout its run, and the content of this half-hour constituted what this show should be covering right now. Hannah isn’t being too subtle about her pregnancy, telling the world in a blunt way and almost always receiving laughter as a response since no one can believe that she would actually be seeing considering having a baby. I enjoyed the fact that even the likes of Keith, her father’s boyfriend, decided to weigh in on whether she should tell the father, something she apparently considered at the end of the episode even if it didn’t lead to much since the operator couldn’t connect her to Jean-Louis. Jessa coming by to tell her that she was hurt was interesting, and her choice of the word “dear” to describe her friendship with Hannah was telling, since it didn’t indicate any sort of real or true closeness but rather an enduring presence devoid of substance or strength. Adam was obsessed, predictably since it’s his nature, with Hannah watching the movie to tell him if it was real, and the lingering shot of him calling her back to the bed at the end of the episode suggests that he may well be where she’s headed in the end. Desi showing up high was a predictable development, and the more telling thing is that, as articulated by her mom, Marnie still can’t tell when she’s around someone who’s not in his right mind and clearly under the influence of drugs. I’m not sure that we needed to see Marnie’s mom as her partner slash fake sister, since this seemed like a ripe opportunity to focus in on Marnie’s revitalized career as a solo artist.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 2, Episode 5 “Currency” (B)

I’ll admit, I didn’t exactly follow what happened in this episode and who was playing who. Axe is all about risking it all for a huge return, and he nearly got screwed over – I think – by one of his former allies, and then managed to bait his other friends-slash-enemies into sticking with it to ensure he could still make a boatload of money. Not telling Boyd about his impending arrest after he found out was a calculated move, and he managed to get the upper hand with Chuck by telling him that he definitely expected to see more of Chuck arresting people with him looking on and getting to walk away. I’m not sure why we needed so much time devoted to Wags on his personal journey back to a place of soundness and mental fitness, and anyone should have been able to realize that he was feeling inferior because he was no longer Axe’s only right-hand man. It was jarring to see Axe exhibit such cruelty towards Lara, someone he has always supported up to this point, and I think it’s something that she’s not going to soon get over since he clearly doesn’t want her to be successful, certainly not as much as him. Despite the church status update, it doesn’t seem that the world’s least friendly and social internal auditor Oliver is really headed anywhere with his case, still determined to find a smoking gun that may not be there in the way he wants it to be if he hasn’t been able to stumble upon it yet.

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies: Season 1, Episode 5 “Once Bitten” (B)

There were a lot of flashes happening at the beginning and end of this episode, and a few throughout as well, and they’re not providing all that much information and absolutely no answers. We had our first bit of true danger with Madeline, who was confronted by the man who was ready to run away with her and then was involved in a pretty major car accident that luckily didn’t cause her any damage and didn’t even make anyone close to her wonder why she was in that car in the first place. Celeste reached an important point in her secret solo therapy when she acknowledged that Perry hurts her and started to realize that maybe it wasn’t right or something that she had to stay in, but hugging Perry so tightly when she went to surprise him with the kids at the airport didn’t show any more progress in that area. Jane outright lied to her new friends about her intentions with the father of her son, and it’s a good thing that she decided not to use that gun she brought with her even if she was pretty frenzied on her drive home, erratic enough to get herself pulled over. Ziggy didn’t cause any trouble in this episode, and in fact seemed perfectly content and elated to spend some extra time with his friend Chloe when Madeline picked them up from school, and it was Amabella’s turn to be seen as a child who might have some issues dealing with society by her extremely concerned parents who have little patience left for the way the situation at school is being handled.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 14 “The Other Side” (B-)

We’re getting closer to what’s sure to be an explosive end to the season, but we’re still inching towards it piece by piece with a continually segmented approach. We haven’t visited the Hilltop in a bit, and therefore it’s somewhat stirring to see the intensity of the training that’s going on to ensure that, when everyone finally decides that it’s time to rise up, they know how to fight. The dramatic music to go along with that was pretty effective, and unfortunately the rest of the episode didn’t quite match it. I think we’ve seen Maggie, Sasha, and Rosita plan to trek over to the Saviors’ compound and take their revenge enough times already, and it was remarkably simple for them to get there and have Negan in their crosshairs within moments of arrival. The shot wasn’t taken, of course, and then Eugene didn’t even want to leave with them despite a clear path of escape. It’s hard to tell whether Gregory is going to give the mutineers up or if he’s playing them so that he can allow his people to take them out by seeming like he’s cooperating, but I’m betting on the former, which is bad news for everyone involved. I’m getting very tired of seeing the Saviors show up and tell the good guys how great they have it, and how they should be grateful for the privilege of not having every single thing they have and find immediately pillaged from them by the more powerful.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 9 “Sock Puppets” (C)

I’m not amused by this episode’s title, which references the scheme being put on by Brett O’Keefe’s people. His character makes some sense as a conspiracy theorist, and it is mildly interesting to see that he’s directing his minions to troll the Internet with his ideas and ensure that mass chaos and disruption are created whenever possible. Yet Max having the perfect resume and just being his own antisocial self to get the job without so much as a background check or a reference doesn’t track at all, since, even if Brett didn’t trust those avenues, he’d still need to do something to research his hire before letting him have unfettered access to everything, exposing himself in a big way. We’ve learned from this show that paranoia is worthwhile, and no one is immune from it. Dar should be watching his back as he literally has Quinn in his home demanding answers and Carrie gunning for him with Keane’s full support after she completely flip-flopped and decided to trust Carrie implicitly after writing her off last week. The notion that Saul goes down for all of this even though he’s always been pure of heart and intention is miserable, and I’d be far more impressed if the action was more compelling and involving. This show doesn’t seem to have a point other than to show how broken the homeland security system is, and rare moments of tangential relief, like Carrie getting visitation with Franny – which of course immediately struck me as a trap engineered by Dar – are meant to be the only light in an otherwise very dark world.

Take Three: Making History

Making History: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Boyfriend Experience” (B+)

This show continues to be a lot of fun going into episode three, and it didn’t take long for some of Dan’s lies about all the things from the future that he invented to come back to haunt him. It’s funny that he was surprised that Deborah was listening so closely to him while he was yammering on about everything that existed in the future, and watching her react to the wonder of Dan’s brilliance was very entertaining. She’s not nearly as clueless as she often seems, as her rejection of Chris’ assertion that there are different kinds of smart indicated. It’s totally true that dressing up as someone whose appearance she wasn’t familiar with as a romantic gesture was hopelessly misguided, but at least it managed to impress her enough after he fell into one of her traps and apparently drank his own fake breast milk to survive the hour or two that he spent in there. My favorite line of the episode, highlighted by exceptional delivery, was Dan’s reply of “Yon woods?” Chris fighting for tenure does seem to be a little more intense of a battle in a literal way than you’d expect, but it appears that he’s forever tethered to his good friend Dan, which is all but guaranteed to keep his academic future from being too bright. I like that Dan went back to the past to get some sage advice from his friends, who were supportive of his plan but not appreciative of the fact that he didn’t ask them anything about how their revolution was going.

Pilot Review: Iron Fist

Iron Fist (Netflix)
Premiered March 17

I feel like I need to be watching all of these new Marvel series, partly because I know that I’m going to want to follow “The Defenders” when it premieres and won’t want to miss anything from the mythology. While I was completely enthralled with “Jessica Jones” from the first episode, it took me considerably longer to warm to both “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage.” This show, on the other hand, seems markedly different, and much, much less sophisticated and impressive. This introductory exposition felt like it dragged so much, with the nonchalant and mysteriously alive Danny Rand insisting over and over that he was who he said he was while two people from his past refused to even acknowledge the possibility before eventually turning much more sinister, making their intentions to keep his potential existence quiet clear. The one scene in which Danny did something impressive, flipping himself out of the way when a taxi nearly took him out, also felt somewhat forced and out of place, and I can only hope whatever action awaits going forward will be far more convincing and compelling. I feel like I need to give this show another try just to see if there’s anything of interest to be found, but at this point, I’m not at all optimistic given this extremely lackluster and plodding start. No one in the cast did much to help that, and I’m finding Danny more irritating than anything else, hardly what you want to be saying about your main character from the very beginning.

How will it work as a series? We know that there’s more to Danny than he’s letting on and that he is indeed who he says he is, and so I assume we’re going to learn a lot more about what turned him into who he is today and why everyone seems to want him did. It might be a bit interesting, but I’m not sold.
How long will it last? Premiering this show last was probably smart for Netflix since, seeing the dismal reviews that it has gotten across the board, I assume there’s going to settle for Iron Fist being a character on an ensemble show and not getting another showcase season of his own.

Pilot grade: C

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 8 “How Much Vomit?” (B+)

Of course on this show the killer who they accidentally turned into a zombie instead of taking him out would want to “kill with music” rather than go on a literal killing spree. I enjoyed the fact that Sheila immediately took to Loke and that they bonded because there was no one else they knew who could relate to what they were going through. Sure, things got a little weird when he brought a literal food locker for Sheila to go through, but I like that he kept recording things he said because he thought that they would make great lyrics. Falling for Sheila and determining that he had to murder Joel wasn’t a great development, but they managed to make use of the extra stuff that they bought when they went shopping – even though it wasn’t on the list – to take him out and solve that problem once and for all. Abby and Eric got into shenanigans of their own when they sold Joel’s bike, which was promptly chopped up for parts, and then had to figure out how to best dismember it so that they could kill two birds with one stone and show Sheila and Joel that Abby was ready to be on board with their new lifestyle. The ending scene was comic and disgusting at the same time, with Joel humorously indulging Sheila’s efforts to turn her missing toe into something sexy before her eye decided that it was the right time to drop out of its socket. Oh, what it must be like to film this show.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete (Season Finale)

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Longest Day” (B+)

Well, this concluding hour didn’t disappoint. I’m relieved to know that it was Winslow and not Audrey who got himself shot when the gun went off, though it clearly put her in a state of shock as her walking out in front of the car when Otto and Taylor pulled up indicated. For as goofy and unserious as Taylor has seemed throughout this season, he sprang into action in an impressive way, calmly figuring out what to do to ensure that Audrey and Otto wouldn’t be incriminated in any way by what had happened with Winslow. Lance looked like one hell of a fool trying to turn the tables on Chayton and insist that the land was worth so much because of the uranium, and Julia was not in the mood to humor him even for a moment. She really has been a crucial part of this show, and still ranks as my favorite character. Things played out differently than I expected with the whole Vince situation, with Pete stepping in to play cards and then getting caught cheating with the other guy, implicating all of them in yet another con on Vince. Fortunately, there were so many layers that even with Vince shooting someone he managed to get shot and they all got away safe. Eddie was hurt that he didn’t know what was going on, but Pete was smart not to let him in on everything since he did confess right away to try to save his brother. Saying goodbye to the family wasn’t too definitive, which is good, but it looks he has entirely different troubles, in the form of Desmond Harrington from “Dexter,” waiting for him next season. I look forward to it – this has been a great season!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Marin Ireland as Julia

What I’m Watching: The Catch

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Hammer” (B-)

There’s a certain silliness to this show that doesn’t quite feel appropriate for the rather serious and deadly content that does happen on this show, both with the assassination of Margot’s most loyal henchman and Tommy’s precarious predicament. I can’t understand why Margot would think to hire Alice and Val, and I’m just as puzzled by the fact that they didn’t try to ensnare her in a trap so that they could send her back to jail. Somehow, they pulled this off without the FBI catching on or even noticing that anything was up since Justine was too busy mocking Ben and Rhys for thinking that they knew better regarding how to execute a job. They’re both being awfully casual about this informant-undercover work they’re doing, and just as unsubtle with impromptu dinner parties complete with Rhys wearing an apron and preparing a home-cooked meal. I’m not growing too fond of Tommy the more we get to know him, and tracking down Rhys to do something illicit with the money that we’ve just learned is very dangerous is a twist that just serves to complicate matters. Their plan to smoke out the sniper was admittedly pretty cool, and it worked very well even if he did get off a few shots at the decoys. Sophie being mad at Danny for not checking in on her might have been more compelling if the two were more fully-established characters, and instead we just got to see Sophie jump way in to an ill-advised romance with Tommy.

Pilot Review: Snatch

Snatch (Crackle)
Premiered March 16

I have a somewhat foggy memory of watching the film “Snatch” probably a few years after it came out. What I remember is that it was fast-paced, frantic, and near-impossible to understand. I didn’t expect too much from a show that serves as a remake of the film, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a relatively involving pilot that wasn’t all that hard to understand and structured itself pretty well. I enjoyed the introduction of someone as an “upstanding citizen,” immediately followed by a shot of him disposing of a body. The music is also a very commendable part of the show, getting very intense when the match went the other way and then again towards the end when they realized that there were two trucks. Having their big gain be caught on camera and promptly uploaded to the Internet is a very bad thing, and it’s just those kind of antics that are going to define this show. In the cast, aside from Ed Westwick from “Gossip Girl,” Marc Warren from “The Good Wife,” and Dougray Scott from “Mission: Impossible II,” Rupert Grint, best known as Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” movies, is clearly having fun playing against type as Charlie. This is actually a show I might not mind which could be engaging, but I don’t think that I need to get involved with it right now. I can be more than content knowing that it surpassed my expectations and served as more than decent entertainment for the one hour of it that I watched.

How will it work as a series? This world has more than enough craziness and intrigue to populate a season if not a number of seasons, and ending the episode with this big discovery assures that the fallout should be well worth it and capable of maintaining viewers’ interest.
How long will it last? I think this one might be a hit despite the fact that the reviews haven’t been overwhelmingly positive. Ratings data isn’t really published or available by the streaming service, which premiere all ten episodes last week. My bet is that this will be renewed.

Pilot grade: B

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: Underground

Underground: Season 2, Episode 2 “Things Unsaid” (B)

I’m not sure it’s that the quality of this show is changing, but I think I’m becoming less and less drawn to it. There’s no denying the strength and effectiveness of the music, which was used a few times throughout this episode to propel its characters along and amplify their stories. We’re shifting now to a story that’s much more about constantly being on the run and about trying to keep the Underground Railroad functional, with a new slavecatcher with a reputation introduced to make things as difficult as possible. Harriet Tubman is becoming an important figure, and Rosalee is also being framed as a major leader. I was surprised when Rosalee got shot by the woman who vowed to take her and Tubman down since it felt like this show was literally just cleaning out all its characters and introducing a new slate, but not only did she survive, but now we have a familiar face – Cato – returned to make Noah’s suffering considerably more personal and vindictive. While I am curious to see how he got there, the prospect of not knowing doesn’t seem disappointing to me. This show is holding up okay with much of its infrastructure toppled, Elizabeth mourning the death of her husband and no stable place of either safety from the slavecatchers or reliable misery, and I imagine it can continue to tell a decent story for some time to go. I still think that I’m ready to bid this show goodbye and consider what I’ve seen satisfactory.

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 1, Episode 6 “Chapter 6” (B+)

If I’m understanding things correctly – and I think I am – this entire episode took place inside David’s mind. Lenny is the manifestation of the much more powerful, evil mutant that exists within him, and therefore she got to play the doctor sitting down and diagnosing all of her patients with whatever they didn’t want to hear to make them feel inferior and incompetent. It’s a terrifying concept, but it was extraordinarily well-executed, and a superb showcase for Aubrey Plaza, who I thought was perfect back when she was supposed to be just an actually disturbed inmate at the mental institution and not a villain who uses intimidation, seduction, and manipulation to her advantage. Syd seemed to be the most aware that something was wrong, noting the strangeness of David confusing their conditions. Explained as a dream that doesn’t quite seem right, this makes total sense since none of them, including the Eye, who had a few humorous moments interacting with Dr. Lenny, were able to realize that they were in the wrong place and that things didn’t add up. Lenny telling Cary and Kerry that it wasn’t healthy for them to be so inseparable was amusing, particularly with their reaction to that comment. Maybe the man in the mask can help them get out of there, because we saw how difficult it was to wake David up after they all got trapped in his head the first time, and I don’t see how anyone else is going to be able to turn that door into a real existent door that’s consistently there.

Take Three: National Treasure

National Treasure: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I’m relieved to see that Dee’s vehicular incident wasn’t in fact a fatal one, though she’s still going through a lot. It seems that it has actually opened up a dialogue with her father for him to talk about what he may have done and for us to see back into the past for more damning evidence against him. Marie’s visit to the set to find Paul didn’t recommend his character all that much, but there was nothing more memorable in this hour than the death stare that Dee gave her mother when her father came to hug her after her overdose. Evidently, things have changed after so many years when, as an adult, she wants to move back home, but it’s just as obvious that she has always preferred her father, something that surely doesn’t sit well with her mother. Paul describing his father’s abuse of him and how it would paint him in a bad light didn’t do anything to help his case, and the casual nature of his recounting was disturbing. Offering to go to the police to tell them that he remembers something was an empty gesture both because the police were no longer the ones in charge and because all Marie wanted to know was whether he actually remembered doing it or if he was just saying it to be perceived more favorably. I can’t imagine we’ll get too much resolution in the one remaining episode, but this has undoubtedly been one of the more moving and involving shows that I’ve seen recently even with just a few episodes.

Pilot Review: Trial and Error

Trial and Error (NBC)
Premiered March 14 at 10pm

The mockumentary-style sitcom has become increasingly popular in recent years since “The Office” used it and many others followed suit. Such a format can be used in any setting, and we don’t even see it played out in a courtroom. This show is probably most comparable to “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in the absurdity of all of its events and the backwards laws – like “death by bear” – that couldn’t have ever been even remotely legal in less sophisticated times. The insistence that a “Northeasterner” – code for “Jewish” – represent John Lithgow’s Larry was just the tip of the iceberg, with the guards at the courthouse allowing in a firearm that they complimented and confiscating lip balm because they heard the word “balm” serving as among the most ridiculous. The team that Nick D’Agosto’s Josh has assembled is also absurd, with a private investigator who used to be a cop but left his patrol car in reverse and a secretary who can’t recognize faces and passes out whenever she sees anything beautiful. Add to that a client who cares more about his skate wrench than his murdered wife, may have killed his first wife, and always seems to say something incriminating and unhelpful when given the opportunity. This show is pretty wild, but it’s not all that bad. I like D’Agosto here much more than I did on “Heroes” or “Masters of Sex,” and there’s no question that Lithgow is right for this role. I also like Jayma Mays (who used to be on “Heroes” too), and this is a fun part for her. I might be back to check out a third episode of this decent comedy – we’ll see.

How will it work as a series? My first thought was that it’s meant to be a weekly series, and so I’m not sure how that’s going to jive with a murder case that’s eventually going to run its course and will in all likelihood end with the defendant being executed. While it lasts it should be fun though!
How long will it last? I expected the reviews to be a lot worse than they are, with people having mostly positive things to say about the show. Premiering this show immediately following the season finale of “This Is Us” seems like an odd choice because the audience isn’t the same, and hopefully week two moved to the 9pm hour should prove than the debut airing which wasn’t watched by all that many people.

Pilot grade: B

Monday, March 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Birth” (B+)

We’re going back far into the past on this show, spending very little time in the present, with just the episode’s final scene returning us to the trial in motion. I like the brief glimpse of the future that we saw with both interogators realizing that Nate and Robin might both know more about the other’s stories than they’re letting on. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Nate would dress up as a blood-covered doctor with a chainsaw on Halloween while Robin was inside on the couch very pregnant with the twins, and that he got a comment from a concerned parent that he was going to be a terrible father. After contending with two women who couldn’t believe that he was with someone as hot as Robin, he had the quite epic journey to the hospital, highlighted by some other guy at the club being named Nate and trying desperately to injure himself so that the cops would give him a ride to the hospital. There’s a certain sweetness to the moments that he and Robin share that are defined by absurdity yet grounded in a nice connection, one that can set things back on course after a certain unwelcome husband showed up to try to claim fatherhood. I’m not even going to ask about this science regarding one woman having sex with two men during the same twenty-four hour period resulting in two different fathers of twins, but given how this show works, it seems pretty clear that Jareb may not be Nate’s son, a fact that isn’t ultimately going to matter because this family sticks through everything, no matter how crazy, together.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 5 “Stoner Sensai’s Secrets of Love” (B+)

Okay, so now it’s seeming like maybe Jack didn’t sleep with Ruby, and he’s attempting to take the moral high ground camping out on this brother’s couch. It’s interesting that the first thing that happened when Izzy showed up was them ripping off each other’s clothes and having sex, but that’s also been how their one-on-one relationship has been defined. Izzy likes to deal head-on with problems and disagreements without necessarily considering the big picture and how things will be affected going forward. Trying to advocate and apologize on behalf of Emma was good-natured, but Jack was right to note that it wasn’t really coming from her. With Izzy out trying to win Jack back, Emma turned to a strange ally – Lori – who is becoming more and more sympathetic. Carmen had some trouble getting through her own attempt to spice things up in the bedroom with Dave because she couldn’t get the safety of her kids and what Emma was doing socially with Lori out of her mind. Even though she isn’t supportive of Emma’s recent life-love decisions, she still wants to be her go-to friend and doesn’t want to be sidelined of favor of someone she really doesn’t like at all. I like that Ava is trying so hard not to be her mother that she literally analyzes each situation to do the opposite of what her mother would do, including giving someone a hug, which made Lori giving someone else a hug a damaging blow to everything she thought she knew to be true.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 14 “Moonshot” (B)

I’ve written before about how this show is covering a lot of the same content as “Timeless” has this past season, but I think it’s fair to say that this moon-centered episode is very different from what that show presented. Rip dropping Nate’s grandfather off back in 1965 so that he could protect his portion of the Spear of Destiny was cool, and I like that he worked his way up the chain in NASA so that he could use the flag planted on the moon as a hiding place. Amaya insisting that he couldn’t return to the timeline caused some drama and may have inspired Henry to sacrifice himself, and the idea that Henry invited his son to the control room so that he could meet him and then couldn’t because he was never there makes me think this show has a great understanding of time travel (not that I’m the expert, of course, but based on my understanding of it). What’s less convincing is Eobard’s reference to having worked with Cisco and Caitlin, because as far as I comprehend, this Eobard is the one who traveled straight from the future back to the past to kill Barry’s mother and never assumed Harrison Wells’ identity. I’ll have to do some research on that, because maybe I’m wrong. Amaya looking at her future is definitely not a good thing, and I hope she sticks with this group since I find her to be a very positive addition. Ray channeling Matt Damon in “The Martian” was fun, and about as serious as Stein’s chosen distraction activity with his impromptu solo in the control room.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us (Season Finale)

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 18 “Moonshadow” (B)

And this is it, the end of the first season of one of the biggest crowdpleasers to hit network television in a few years. The show was renewed for not one but two additional seasons a while ago, but this first year was kept at just eighteen episodes. I’ve found myself to be as impressed as everyone else just a few times throughout this season, and therefore I don’t mind it signing off early. I’m not convinced that having this entire episode, save for the closing moments where we got a brief update on each of the adult children, set in the past was the way to go, though I can appreciate the effectiveness of showing someone like Jack at a younger age before he met Rebecca when their marriage is in serious trouble and we know that he’s going to die soon. Their blowup fight was huge, and it seems like coming back from that is going to be very difficult. Jack had a certain sweetness to him that came from working hard despite his father’s disapproval, and the fact that he didn’t go through with a cash register robbery because he was entranced by Rebecca’s singing only makes their love story stronger. Just like Randall’s story was defined by his parents meeting, even if that was just a brief flicker of the history of William and his family, Jack and Rebecca’s union is crucial to how all these grown-up children live their lives. On that note, I think Randall planning to adopt is the biggest news we got. It’s going to be a long wait for this show to return, something I assume will happen in September, and I imagine that I’ll be watching if only for the general hype and enthusiasm others have heaped upon this decent series that’s nowhere near as good as the somewhat similar “Parenthood” was when it was on.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Ron Cephas Jones as William

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 19 “Socalyalcon VI” (B)

I laughed a good deal throughout this episode, and I’d say that my only real objection to its quality is that Jess should have figured out long, long ago that she’s really the glue that’s holding the relationship between Nick and Reagan together. It’s true that Reagan wants Nick to succeed, but that’s more about him becoming a productive member of his society than him being happy. Her inability to answer Nick’s question about the book was the best and simplest demonstration of her involvement, whereas Jess throws herself into it wholeheartedly. Now I’m not sure it would really be any different for a friend, but the point is that she does have feelings for Nick that are not going away anytime soon. I think it will be easy enough for Reagan to leave and disappear from the show’s narrative completely, but I’m not sure what that accomplishes since we’ve already seen Jess and Nick together. I do believe that some of their time as a couple was the height of this show’s quality, but I don’t know about going down that road again. Schmidt becoming paranoid about the many points of entry to their new home was predictable, and locking them out of the house thanks to a complex electronic system is a frequent sitcom plotline that was made most entertaining here by the sight of him opening the door after getting in through the chimney. Winston trying to reveal secrets from his past failed miserably, and Aly definitely won that war with her storage unit full of stuff from the Asian game shows that enabled them to be completely unserious and distracted from their real-life work as police officers.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 16 “Into the Speed Force” (B)

This episode was markedly better than the last time our main speedster got himself trapped in the speed force, though it’s still odd that it’s able to take the form of people in Barry’s life to truly torment him. I’m also not sure why a speedster needs to be trapped there, but it’s a convenient way for Jay to make a big sacrifice for now so that Savitar can eventually be put back to where he needs to be so that all worlds are safe. It was fun to see two characters who are now dead, Eddie Thawne and Leonard Snart, and though they were nowhere near as freaky as the time wraith that loves pursuing Barry and any others who mess with the timeline too much, they were nowhere near as warm as they used to be in real life. For those watching “Legends of Tomorrow,” the easy solution here would be to get a former main player from this show stuck in the speed force to help everyone out, but I assume we’ll get to that in time (or not, because time can be manipulated). Getting Wally back did seem pretty easy, and hooray for HR for figuring out that Savitar is a human being – who, I wonder? – and therefore venerable to pain if directed the right way. Barry moving out to give Iris some space is a sad development, and I can only hope that it will help things, allowing him to focus on taking on this big threat so that they can get back to run-of-the-mill metahuman criminals who can’t travel through time or dimensions.

What I’m Watching: Humans

Humans: Season 2, Episodes 5 and 6 (B+)

A double dose of this show is never a bad thing, though it does mean that we’re closer to the end of the season, which is now just two episodes away, and the show has yet to be renewed for a third season. The most momentous event from both hours was Niska declaring that she no longer accepted the authority of the court that was about to rule on her humanity, which was promptly followed by a well-executed escape. I like the idea that Anita or Mattie could help reverse the order that’s out there for all synths to immediately radio in when they see her, but it seems that going to one human that she knows she can trust is probably the smartest plan, especially since said human refused to acknowledge that Niska could be anything but human. Karen’s new take on things, not wanting to have to pretend, is intriguing, and it’s cool that she and Pete are now investigating Dr. Morrow. The death of her daughter is sad, certainly, but it’s even more worrisome since it means that she’s going to fight harder to be with what’s left of her daughter, who can apparently now feel fear. Leo and Hester having sex does seem to have changed their relationship, as Leo warned, and Max finding out that the man they kidnapped was found dead means that he may be switching sides, which isn’t good for anyone. Anita quickly reprogramming herself was brilliant, and it was just a little terrifying to see her start back up after the entire Hawkins family panicked when Mia was nowhere to be found. Sophie acting like a synth is strange, and it’s definitely getting to both of her parents. Odi going to church for confession was not something I ever would have imagined, and he really is trying to be as helpful as he can now that he has all these feelings.

What I’m Watching: Girls

Girls: Season 6, Episode 5 “Gummies” (B)

There’s a lot to this show, and for me it’s about friendships and relationships and the notion of someone just deciding to have a baby when she gets pregnant without thinking much about what it actually means. Its title has a more direct reference to the drug usage that takes place in this hour, not played up to much effect but still serving to direct its plot as Hannah spent the better part of the half-hour searching for her gummy-eating mother with Elijah’s help after breaking the news to her about being an expectant mother. Becky Ann Baker is undeniably excellent, and I hope that she earns an Emmy nomination to go along with her onscreen ex-husband, Peter Scolari, who won last year. It feels both insightful and inappropriate to be re-watching some of the show’s most iconic scenes as reinterpreted by Adam, who is having the time of his life filming his story. Jessa, on the other hand, doesn’t want to put nearly as much weight into it, partially because she sees Hannah as a supporting rather than driving player in Adam’s life, which clearly he doesn’t. Ray breaking up with Marnie was an inevitability that should have happened long ago, and good for him for standing up for himself when Marnie had to make up an excuse to avoid being with him for just a few minutes during an admittedly boring and indulgent activity that has Ray getting very nostalgic about what it means to be alive. Hannah meeting the actress playing her, who apparently has a few kids and loves being pregnant, was a poignant end to the episode that served as a far better way for her to find out about this movie than I would ever have expected.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Round Two: Feud

Feud: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Other Woman” (B)

So many people told me that I was crazy to have not stuck with “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” past its initial episode, which didn’t do much for me. I understand the power of Ryan Murphy in the industry and the fact that shows like that are going to dominate awards cycles for years to come. I watched this second hour out of obligation, to see if it piqued my interest any more than the first one or if it would just be worthwhile for me to conclude that it’s a strong show I’m sure others will enjoy but I don’t need to be watching. Given the number of shows currently are to keep with on a weekly basis, I’m going to defer to the latter opinion going forward. It is interesting to see how quickly Joan and Bette slipped back into hating each other when Robert made his dastardly move to divide them. He’s also the one they call, and the fact that he slept with Bette after turning down Joan’s advances is sure to eventually come to light and made things torrentially worse. I do like the casting of Kiernan Shipka from “Mad Men” as Bette’s daughter, and Dominic Burgess seems like he’s having fun as the “unexpectedly homosexual” Victor Buono. I imagine I may encounter this show again sometime soon, in Emmy episode viewing or in its already-announced second season, but for now I think I’ll have to acknowledge the quality of its storytelling and acting that others will be able to benefit from enjoying.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Oath” (B+)

I wrote just last week about the dangers of gloating in Axe’s presence. He doesn’t like to lose, but he hates being told that he’s lost even more than that. It was foolish from the start for Chuck to come along to the deposition, and Axe was made to realize right away from his newly-shaven lawyer that he could very easily get caught in a lie if he answered too arrogantly. What ended up happening was pretty fantastic, with Ira positioning Axe to have to admit that Chuck had hurt him either emotionally or mentally in order to get what he wanted. Unfortunately for Chuck, Axe got a call moments later that his dismissive treatment of someone’s faith-based ethics had cost him the NFL deal he so wanted and thought he had in the bag, and he’s going to blame Chuck for that. While I’m not sure that will hold up, it is a game-changer (purposeful pun!). I’m intrigued that Chuck knows – or at least thinks he knows, since it doesn’t appear to be true – that Brian betrayed him and hasn’t done anything about it, but I am finding the antics of that office to be less and less engaging. I did enjoy how Chuck literally startled Dollar Bill, who promptly started waving his arms in front of the computer so that the attorney couldn’t see what he was working on. Wags going back to Wendy for treatment at Axe’s behest is probably a positive development since it will rein him in from all of the craziness that has defined him lately.

What I’m Watching: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies: Season 1, Episode 4 “Push Comes to Shove” (B)

We’re still no closer to finding out who has been killed and who is responsible, but the drama continues with a specifically legal showdown with Madeline and Renata on opposing sides. Having Celeste on Madeline’s side really helped, though it’s very unfortunate to see Perry react violently to the news that, in his mind, she lied to him, and that she may in fact continue doing something that doesn’t just constitute raising his children and could give her some happiness in life. Her going to see the therapist on her own was a big step, but it doesn’t seem likely that the destructive cycle Celeste is caught in is going to stop anytime soon. There is so much hostility between Madeline and Nathan, and Ed paying Bonnie a visit didn’t seem to help the situation at all. We got to see a side of Madeline with her guard down, as her coconspirator in all things “Avenue Q” made a move on her that she definitely didn’t resist at all and now wants to go public with it rather than leave it as a one-shot (or two-shot) dalliance. It’s worrisome that Ziggy’s teacher is continuing to watch him so closely, though obviously Jane thinks there’s cause enough for concern to have him go see and talk to someone. An interesting bit of news is that actor Iain Armitage, who plays Ziggy, will soon play a nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper in the likely ill-fated CBS spinoff “The Young Sheldon.” The easy conclusion would be that either Ziggy killed someone or got killed by someone, but I suspect that there’s a reason we haven’t seen our main characters interviewed about the incident. My current bet is on Perry as the victim with Renata as the runner-up.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 13 “Bury Me Here” (B-)

It seems to me that we are headed toward an inevitable conclusion to this entire Negan saga, in which everyone either bands together against the oppressive dictator or they become a casualty along the way. Each time we see Ezekiel the king brought down a couple hundred pegs by the unkind and disrespectful treatment by the Saviors, the likelihood that he will soon revolt against their oppression increases. It’s just as true that Morgan won’t be able to be nonviolent forever since he doesn’t exist in a world where others play by those rules, and while he can survive without resorting to violence, he won’t be able to protect others. I’ll admit that I didn’t expect him to beat Richard to death just to show how far he’s descended, but it’s all representative of the same general idea. People can only take so much before they either kill or are killed, particularly in a world overrun with zombies. Carol learning the truth was an important but also predictable moment, and I think we’ve been ambling along for way too long, and it’s about time we see some definitive and transformative action on the part of our main characters. The difference that remains between the “us” that constitutes everyone aside from those within Negan’s camp is that they still hold to different standards; they do what they need to do but not to excess and not punitively. It’s just a matter of how long they can last before they all explode like Morgan, and hopefully they’ll stop killing their owns and focus their efforts on the true threats.

Friday, March 17, 2017

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 8 “alt.truth” (C-)

A friend and colleague asked me yesterday whether I was still watching this show, and, ready for him to agree that it has gone so far downhill, I was shocked to hear him argue for how strong it is this season. Every episode, we’re reminded that this show is no longer about actual threats to the country and more about the broken inner workings of the system, with a heaping dose of family and mental drama mixed in. Now both Saul and Carrie have been made to look like fools by an ally they should never have trusted, and Keane was unwise to dismiss Carrie outright because she knows her history and should be well aware that she’s going to trigger a major relapse on her part, especially after Franny was taken away, a devastating reality Saul helped to mediate by showing and assuring her that she was safe. Quinn, on the other hand, continues to be number one distraction on this show, and there is no way that he could hold his breath underwater for a longer period of time then his would-be assassin was willing to wait given the state he’s in. It reminds me of the absurd scene in the movie “The Gunman” where Sean Penn’s protagonist literally passes out in the middle of a chase scene yet still manages to get the upper hand on his pursuers. To tie this show in to the real world again, I keep thinking that Jake Weber’s conspiracy theorist host Brett O’Keefe would be either not heard at all or brutally tweeted against by the president-elect, but the fact that Dar is working directly with them gives way to a whole new slate of unbelievable theories of collusion against those in power.

Round Two: Making History

Making History: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Shot Heard Round the World” (B+)

I wasn’t sure how this show was going to work week-to-week, but this very funny second installment really impressed me and gave me confidence. The way that some history is preserved, like Dan and Chris struggling over the gun so they actually couldn’t tell who fired the first shot and Deborah going riding disguised as her father telling everyone that the British were coming (to take their guns), is fun because it isn’t meant to be serious but does make a little bit of sense, especially in this show’s reality. The mockery of olden times is fantastic, with the inability of Sam Adams and John Hancock to take Chris seriously because he wasn’t wearing a wig and talking about what plans people had the next few fortnights. Deborah being so inspired by the wrapper of a Peppermint Patty was great, and she seems very set to explore the future, even if most of the things she wants to see haven’t yet been invented, and it’s logical given how horrible her father is, relieved to learn that she is still alive because that means that she can now do his laundry. The casting of Brett Gelman from “Married” as Paul Revere was spot-on, and it’s probably the best use of that actor that I’ve seen yet. The parody of the colonial Americans being so obsessed with their guns was entertaining if all too realistic, and it turns out that those same guns had immediate negative consequences, with Chris’ new best friend Davey being the first casualty of reckless shooting.

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1, Episode 7 “Strange or Just Inconsiderate?” (B+)

Say what you will about this show being weird or excessively gory, but I think it has some of the best and most memorable lines on TV these days. While “Men can kill too” was enhanced by its delivery, I think I appreciated a few of Joel’s lines in this hours more, namely “In another time, they would have been cowboys,” “I see things I feel are true and I share them,” and of course, the winner, “You never know when your neighbor might kill you with a shovel – I don’t have to tell half of you that.” I didn’t think that Dan was dead already, but it turns out that it was great fodder for some physical comedy involving Sheila and Joel having to hide the body while bickering about using the garage as a home office, something they both ultimately decided they liked, and Eric getting his chance to come share his true feelings with Dan postmortem. It took me a minute to recognize Natalie Morales from “Parks and Recreation” and “The Grinder” as Dan’s partner, who sounds emotionless but harbors quite a bit of affection for Lisa, who didn’t seem at all devastated by Dan’s disappearance. Casting Dan as the one who killed Gary and Loki is convenient, though after the disgusting scene in which Sheila demonstrated just how hairy Dan was, seeing her find her own severed toe in the bathtub is disquieting news at best. This episode’s title was a slam dunk, referencing the humorously shameless description that Sheila and Joel adopted for themselves to avoid something much worse.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Turn” (B+)

I wasn’t keeping track of where we were in the season, and it now makes total sense that this was the second-to-last episode, ending on an extremely intense note and sure to produce a very memorable finale. Things at the office at the start of the episode were tense to say the least, and it was interesting to see the alliances that formed as Pete figured out a way to salvage the situation only to have Detective Winslow show up and lead him to his death, leaving Otto and Lance to join forces with what should have been a foolproof plan to get out of jail free, so to speak. Unfortunately, Pete grabbed the money, and all Winslow wanted to do was execute him in the woods and keep them money. Enter Audrey, who was angry at Otto but more intent on protecting her grandson. The fact that she wouldn’t even hear his repeated assertion that Pete wasn’t actually Pete shows her loyalty to family, even if he isn’t that, and she was ready to intimidate Winslow into submission all on her own, offering him the choice to ride inside or outside the car, and ending the episode with a gunshot and a splattering of blood doesn’t mean anything good, even if it’s likely the corrupt cop and not Audrey who is dead. Carly held her own against Winslow even if she couldn’t keep him out of the house, and now Taylor is plenty suspicious of things going on. Eddie being able to tell that their mark was cheating without knowing how wasn’t as helpful as it should have been, and Vince sitting down to play at his own table is an intriguing development. Hopefully Pete can arrive and sort things out to save Eddie, and I have no idea where and how that will lead into season two.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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

The Catch: Season 2, Episode 1 “The New Deal” (B)

I almost forgot entirely about this show, one of the midseason surprises from last year, and it’s nice to have it back. I’m not sure I’m totally on board with all of its developments, but it’s undeniably fun. Ben surrendering himself to serve his three to five years in prison wasn’t nearly as simple as he wanted it to be, with the government offering him the chance to get out right away and go undercover and his old pal Reese, who is suddenly one of the good guys, getting him stabbed so that he could break out of prison. I don’t think that Margot engineering a hostile takeover negates the fact that Reese is a violent psychopath who shouldn’t be trusted and certainly shouldn’t be given the information about Ben’s undercover assignment. After a season of playing cat and mouse, Agent Dao is now firmly on the side of Anderson Vaughan, but now we have Agent Justine Diaz, played by Gina Torres of “Firefly” fame, to go toe-to-toe with the private investigators and continue the dance. I’m less taken with the other new character, Alice’s brother Tommy, played by Shonda Rhimes regular T.R. Knight, who seems like bad news all around and ready to make lots of trouble for everyone involved. Margot showing up asking for Alice’s help at the end of the episode was quite the twist, and I really am curious to see exactly what she wants to propose and in what way they’re going to be able to work together.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 16 “Dirtbike Old Mechanic Earthquake” (B)

The Short family has a bunch of dynamics that have been explored over the course of this show’s one and a half seasons. One of the themes that has been revisited time and time again is that Matt is the black sheep and Greg can do no wrong. It’s not too surprising, therefore, that Greg would be hanging on to the fact that Matt stole his birthday money decades earlier and that he would try to relive the excitement of a kids’ gift that he would have bought then, only to then assume that Matt had gone ahead and stolen it again and blame him preemptively without realizing that Jen was in fact the one who took it. I didn’t find the exploration of Joan starting to feel ignored and presumed incompetent by her children and grandchildren to be all that funny, though Joan did embrace the opportunity to appear senile to make her point. Colleen’s inability to be mean despite wanting to stand up for what she knew she was seeing and hearing was amusing, and rating the employee five stars after trying to take him down in blistering fashion was a highlight of that. Showing up with three female family members in tow proved to be somewhat effective, but unfortunately that led to the reveal that it was her vibrator stuck between the seats making all that noise. I love that Tim forces his children to do earthquake survival drills, and that, after suffering through a day of testing involving lots of begging for money, his kids knew exactly what to do to get him back for making them endure all of that.

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 15 “Relationship Jack” (B+)

We’ve seen how Jack responds in a handful of situations, but I don’t think we’ve ever really seen him happy. It was Eddie’s initial reaction to hearing him use the word “blankies” that first sounded the alarm, and things only got worse from there. I kept waiting for Jack to suddenly snap out of it and start being mean again, but even his insults were tempered to the point of secret cuddling time. I was pleased to see that even Rachel found it to be too much, and that she was desperate to work with Roland to figure out a way to get the regular Jack back. It’s completely true that Jack immerses himself in everything he does if he likes it, and the allure of staying on a couch barely moving for two full days doesn’t seem like something that would normally be up hi alley, but apparently it enabled him to fully change his behavior, even stooping to the level of asking Esther a follow-up question to her morning anecdote. Clark slipping into the Jack persona was an entertaining if highly unbelievable experience, and the way that he managed to appeal to Esther, Emma, and Brooke just by dressing and speaking differently was pretty absurd. I hope that somehow he’ll be able to keep a bit of that to pursue the relationship with Emma that seems to have been put on hold recently. Roland’s alcohol references, if repetitive, remain consistently amusing, but not as much as the fact that he couldn’t remember the exact number of times that he’d been married.

What I’m Watching: Powerless

Powerless: Season 1, Episode 5 “Cold Season” (B+)

This episode was really funny, and I like how it incorporated elements of the show’s universe into it. Emily’s response to the impending cold season made sense, but of course in this world, it’s right in the middle of the summer when all the icy supervillains come to town and start freezing things. Teddy’s heat gloves were pretty cool, able to pop popcorn and then eventually able to be used by Crimson Fox to defeat the villains. I love that Emily motivated Teddy to initially consider submitting to the Wayne Innovation contest by comparing him to the “Hobbit” movies, and that he had offended her earlier by describing something as “Emily Exciting.” I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that Lena Dunham exists in this show’s universe. While Emily thinks she understands how her younger dog walker sister feels having to live up to her expectations, Teddy living in the shadow of his space doctor brother who gets calls from the president is a considerably bigger deal. I love that Van thought that there was a ransom note in the toy box and that he turned to Ron to follow the instructions to put everything together. It’s great that he was assembling an invisible jet that, of course, Emily couldn’t see when she just walked right through it, and finally he let it all bottle up, resulting in quite the explosion at Van, thanks in part to the news that Dylan is actually a girl and he had to build something else entirely. I like the dynamic that Ron and Van have, even if they’re never going to really know each other.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What I’m Watching: Underground (Season Premiere)

Underground: Season 2, Episode 1 “Contraband” (B)

This show isn’t like most of the other fare that I watch, set in the past where slavery was still lawful and a few were starting to revolt and try to change the times. The season finale was extremely eventful, and we’re now starting this year off a few characters down. This show does do a great job of using music to underscore its events and give it its own feel, and that was truer than ever during the extended opening scene of this episode. It’s interesting to see John using his position as a white lawyer to try to defend property theft rather than murder, using legal means to ensure that he has control over where the slaves that he’s trying to save are. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work too well, with the judge ruling against him and ordering a hanging. Fortunately, the runaway slaves are doing a good job of intimidating the catchers who are after them and engineering a series of explosions to try to rescue Noah as he literally had a rope around his neck. That plan wasn’t all that well thought-out since the cavalry was on them right away, and Rosalee was clearly distraught by not being able to save Noah. The far more troubling development came at the very end of the episode when John emerged triumphant from the courthouse with Elizabeth on his arm ready to make a much bigger impact as a judge and then promptly got shot in the head. I’m not sure what comes next – I’m not feeling like I need to stick with this show but will probably give it another shot.

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 1, Episode 5 “Chapter 5” (B+)

The scope of David’s powers is still unknown, and there was something incredibly theatrical about the way that he marched through the facility where Amy was being held performing for the cameras, taking out a whole group of guards with nothing more than a wave of his hand. What Cary identified in this episode is very important since it recognizes the terrifying man we’ve seen before in David’s mind as another mutant who somehow was separated from his consciousness and now exists as part of David to wreak havoc and destruction. It seems that Lenny is one of his forms, and it was downright scary to see her show up and then morph into something much more frightening when Syd tried to flee the moment with David to his white place. It’s incredible that he can just disappear into an imaginary getaway when a bullet is coming and that he and Syd have gotten so close, eager to be devious together wearing black, planning rescue missions, and going to invented realities where they can touch and have sex. This show continues to have excellent, purposeful lighting and terrific cinematography, and they’re complemented well by oddly subdued scenes like the one featuring David singing “The Rainbow Connection.” Cary and Kerry healing each other was a cool process, and I’m glad that they’re already action-ready. The transition from red strawberries in David’s white place to Kerry’s bloody wound was very effective, and this show’s music continues to be superb. Ending the episode with Syd trapped in some weird hell of her own with Lenny as the doctor leading group therapy is disconcerting, and I’m worried about how susceptible those other than David are to the menacing aspects of his mind.

Round Two: National Treasure

National Treasure: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

This really is an exceptional series. What’s most fascinating about it is the way the main characters who are at the certain of this whole thing turn inwards on themselves to think back and try to figure out what they really know. While their lawyer is busy swearing a lot so that the reporters can’t use anything, Paul is thanking people for believing in and standing by him. There are no issues skirted around – he went on a radio show to discuss his innocence, explaining that a presumption of guilt has been encouraged with the announcer bringing up the counterargument about whether the law should be protecting possible perpetrators or possible victims. Dee described her behavior not as a cry for help but as a cry for clarity, and the flashbacks to a far more menacing Paul playing with his young daughter and then eagerly watching as the babysitter walked in indicate that he’s more guilty than he remembers. The layered nature of the memories presents a complex version of events, with the babysitter purposely flirting with Paul to cover up what she and Dee were doing, one that still doesn’t excuse his behavior. Marie’s comment that he is never unfaithful in an important way, one that matters, is an interesting if all too forgiving perspective. What’s clear is that this has all taken a tremendous toll on Dee, who is afraid of losing her own kids, and her destructive driving at the end of the episode doesn’t indicate anything good.

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Court” (B+)

This show is knocking it out of the park this season. It may well be the strangest comedy on television, but it’s so incredibly aware of what it is and doesn’t tend to leave things, or supporting players behind. While this episode provided a rare showcase for Vanessa, who argued for her relevance as a character, it also had some fantastic moments with Delilah and Jareb where the somewhat precocious daughter pointed out that they’re almost always there when the parents are talking, Jareb ordered a cheeseburger in court, and Delilah ran back into the court just in time to hear that her brother might actually have a different father – something that wouldn’t surprise me at all on this show. I love how Robin sarcastically suggested a series of flashbacks and then precisely that happened, with Nate and the judge making numerous appearances to object to the absurdity of what was going on. My favorite lines included “That’s a trick question because adults don’t have favorite colors” and “Grills – who discusses that kind of stuff?” Serving as a green card spouse for hire is quite the profession, and so much of Robin’s storied past was revealed in this episode. Nate’s entry wasn’t exactly noble, as he was the least boring guy in Syracuse for Vanessa to randomly hook up with and then bring to a funeral. I’m excited to see what comes next with Carlos’ wild assertion, and I enjoyed the ending shot of Nate angrily breaking the pencil in half.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her

You, Me, Her: Season 2, Episode 4 “Cat in the Box” (B)

Seeing characters do drugs on shows and in movies is rarely a positive sight, since it usually creates unserious comedy that dilutes from the project’s effectiveness. I remember reading about how great it was that, on “Six Feet Under,” the main players would just smoke and then go on with their lives, and while that is what happens here too, I don’t love that the young ones – Izzy, Nina, and Andy – all got so silly and stupid listening to Lori go on about her miserable life. There was enough in the way of ridiculousness already with Lori begging to be invited to girls’ night and then just complaining about how awful things were for her when she did show up. I don’t quite understand how Andy was allowed to attend, though he proved to be an effective bartender and is getting to a very good place with both Nina, who doesn’t want to confess her deep affection for him, and Izzy, who is doing considerably better than Jack in terms of feeling included in the relationship. His interaction with Ruby while he was out with the boys was wholly inappropriate, and I don’t think that feeling like a third wheel is any excuse for that. Coming home to find Emma and Izzy taking a bubble bath together was unfortunate, since it was innocent enough but was just about the worst thing that could have happened in the moment to make him feel once again like he was on the outside, sending him right to Ruby’s door, a choice that can’t possibly have positive consequences.