Thursday, August 31, 2017

Emmy Episodes: Mom

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Mom: Season 4, Episode 18 “Tush Push and Some Radishes” (C+)

I’ve watched a few episodes of this show over the years, starting with the pilot and then each year when Allison Janney was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She won for the show’s first two years and then was nominated again last year, and now she’s been promoted to the lead race. That worked for her back when she made a similar switch for “The West Wing,” and she’s not the only laugh track-assisted nominee thanks to Tracee Ellis Ross from “Black-ish.” This show has never been great, but it has gotten into a certain rhythm with Janney milking most of the material but allowing her onscreen daughter, played by Anna Faris, to get in more than a few digs at Bonnie’s expense as well. Last year’s submitted episode found Bonnie meeting her mother, played at first by June Squibb in a case of mistaken identity and then by Ellen Burstyn. Now, she’s suddenly gone, and all that exists is negativity from Bonnie and apparently a black son that she didn’t give away but who resents her just as much as his new half-sister. Janney is good with the quick jokes, like fabricating a totally incorrect number when asked how much money she had just counted, and I’d still argue that this is hardly the best use of her talents given her dramatic prowess that works well when mixed with biting sarcasm, which is on full display all by itself here. I feel no reason to watch this show, but it’s more bearable than some of the Emmy episodes I sample.

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber: Season 1, Episode 6 “Ted” (B+)

Take out the first part of the show’s title in this episode, since this was all about the creation of the Unabomber, a deep dive into Ted’s past and to what turned him into the recluse that he has become. Only he’s not quite as removed from society as we might have thought, still interacting with other intellectuals and trying to inspire the continuation of knowledge in those with pure hearts and minds. The way that this show manages to tell its story really is impressive, since Ted’s childhood appeared idyllic at first as he spent time playing in the woods and experiencing adventures with his one friend, who all of a sudden got interested in a girl and then was cruel enough to throw rocks at him when he dared to be near them in a formerly shared spot. Getting to college two years early had him full of promise, as he looked up to his new professor Henry Murray, played by Brian d’Arcy James, who I know best from his role in the over-the-top musical series “Smash” and the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight.” He was very good here as an intellectual who nurtured a promising young mind and fed it, only to completely betray Ted by subjecting him to a horrific brainwashing study during which he read an awful letter purported to have been written by his mother and undercut everything he thought made him an individual. It makes sense that Ted would turn out this way, angry at the world for not turning out the way he expected - and not close to it either - and I’m interested in seeing what happened between then and the present time on the show, though I think the glimpses of him building the house with his brother were about all we’ll get before we return to the manhunt.

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 7 “Scientia Potentia Est” (B+)

To me, this is the hour where Elizabeth really becomes interesting. She’s played a much more background role in this show than I might have expected, partially because of Churchill’s gravitas and also just because there’s so much going on than others know how to do better than she does. A lot of what she’s pushed thus far has to do with what her husband wants and her desire to keep the peace in a marriage that she knows has to be unequal because she is the heir to the throne and will always occupy a position more respected than him in the eyes of her people. Insisting on Martin to be her private secretary was one of efficiency and practicality, since he was warmer and more attuned to her needs than the man rightfully in line for the job. Remembering her lack of education and wishing that she had learned more about the world was also a productive exercise directly applicable to her role, as she wanted to be able to engage Eisenhower in conversation about something interesting to him that she could speak about with some degree of authority. She was clearly relieved when his visit was cancelled, since it meant that this particular research project could be cancelled in favor of some other general knowledge inquiry in the near future. Churchill’s efforts to hide his strokes didn’t go over well, even if Eisenhower was game to come to England instead, and Elizabeth gave him a well-deserved admonishment, complete with the legal defense of what she was required to do with the information that he presented to her.

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 1, Episode 7 “Chapter Seven: The Bathtub” (B+)

Now, this was a cool episode. I’m not so into the monster stuff, though I guess that is what guides this show a bit, and I’m much more into the fact that, in just half of one episode, everyone who’s well aware that Will is alive came together and is finally on the same page. Hopper was more willing to listen to what Jonathan expected would be taken as the ravings of a madman than he thought, and connecting those two pairs was a great first step. Hopper showing up to the bus to save the day was very satisfying, and now they’re all together, pursuing the same goal. Eleven saving Mike in the last episode was cool, but not quite as much as lifting and then flipping over one of the trucks when they were being pursued. I absolutely love that Dustin called his teacher at night for help building a sensory deprivation tank and that he shot back at his dismissal of the urgency of the situation by reminding him of his motto to never stop being curious. Eleven met Will, which is great, but it sure looks as if he’s about to get snatched by that monster. With just one episode left this season - fortunately, my late start means that season two is just two months away - I’m wondering how much fringe characters like Steve, who may not be as bad as we all thought, will actually play into everything. And are they going to be able to save Will?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What I’m Watching: People of Earth

People of Earth: Season 2, Episode 6 “Aftermath” (B+)

I definitely didn’t realize that Ozzie was supposed to be dead, though I guess he did utter “Trust...Walsh” as what appeared to be his last words. I’m just surprised that Wyatt Cenac would leave the show - not that it couldn’t survive without him, more just that he’s a great part of it. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’s actually going anywhere, since the sudden reanimation of Kurt has inspired Walsh to do the same thing with his late friend, even though there hasn’t been any time to determine if there are lasting effects of such a revival that could be detrimental to one’s physical or mental health. While the humans on Earth are busy grieving through bickering about who should be able to take care of Ozzie’s fish and cursing at the aliens within earshot of a children’s birthday party, the aliens up on the ship are getting ready for a good old-fashioned mutiny, led by Walsh and eagerly supported by Jeff, who was not at all happy to learn that Eric really hates him. I enjoyed seeing Walsh and Jeff interact with the former trying to have secretive conversations, something the latter clearly didn’t comprehend. Agent Saunders put on a show like he doesn’t believe Agent Foster, but his follow-up call to the Assessor demonstrates that he does, and the members of Star-Crossed are now in more danger than before. Gerry being hypnotized by the moon thanks to the box is equally disconcerting, especially since we don’t know what mission he’s ultimately meant to carry out.

What I’m Watching: Loaded

Loaded: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Expo” (A-)

What an action-packed and terrific episode this was. I love the relationship that’s building between Naomi and Watto, and that she asked a question he had already pondered about wanting to throw all the money in the air. Leaking the game online early was a strange move and not one that went over well with any of the other guys. Leon kept secret the fact that Casey was working on a sequel that she had already commanded him to announce, and having all the promo material ready to go was an easy indicator that more effort had gone into this passion project than just coming up with it on that very day. Ewan’s severe heel gave him a bit of confidence when he went up on stage, and it seems that his side game idea may actually have gotten him noticed, earning him both a promotion and a ride on the jet that Leon was supposed to take. Watto and Naomi interrupting the launch by showing up with cannons full of money was pretty epic, though things did devolve into chaos immediately following their arrival. Casey breaking a computer was one sign of anger, but the guys getting mad at each other felt infinitely more personal. Ewan standing up for himself and Watto expressing sincere disappointment that no one tried to get him to stay made for a melancholy parting of ways, and it looks like Abi is going with Josh even if she’s furious about the news that Leon clued her into just to be sure everyone was properly sabotaged. This could easily have been the season finale, and I’m sure that it’s not since I really want at least more episode if not many more seasons of this show.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 2, Episode 6 “Hella Blows” (B+)

Issa’s rotation is not working well at all, and she’s putting in, as she would say, hella effort. She just wants to have some fun, and a guy who won’t even make out with her on her couch because he wants to get dinner so that he can get to know her isn’t what she’s interested in at all. Telling him “no” firmly when he asked if she wanted to go to the restaurant was harsh, but at least it’s direct. Her visit to the sexposition with her friends and that class she took seemed like it was propelling her in a positive direction with Daniel, but her attempt to do something outside of her comfort zone and her normal routine ended disastrously. Walking out of Daniel’s apartment in fury was a formidable move, and getting into an Uber pool to a joke about her name while she was covering her eye was a pretty unfortunate way to end an unsatisfying night. Molly seemed to be getting used to the idea of participating in one side of an open relationship, constantly ending up back in bed with Dro, who was in the middle of showing her a great time during a bath before leaving abruptly to return to the woman he’s actually with. Lawrence is at least creating a great bond with Aparna after she made it very clear to him that the reason he wasn’t getting any feedback about his truly strong pitch was because the two guys in charge didn’t want to deliver bad news to a black guy whose shoes they kept complimenting.

What I’m Watching: Episodes

Episodes: Season 5, Episode 2 “Episode 502” (B+)

I don’t think anyone expected the fallout from Matt’s unknowingly-televised sex act to be pretty, but this was quite extreme, with the clip making the rounds and everyone reacting at the same moment when something evidently quite explicit transpired. Matt was sleeping peacefully, blissfully unaware of what was happening, for a good deal of time, and then things went downhill for him fast. Matt’s agent dodging Helen’s calls while she was dodging Elliot Salad’s was entertaining, and Elliot told one hell of a profane story before telling Helen to fire Matt since he shouldn’t be hosting a show for families. Merc was thrilled about this latest development, coming to gloat as he packed up, and Matt got his revenge by inviting Merc into his office to see his newly cut window (into a hallway) thanks to his immediate rehiring following the release of some truly terrific overnights. Matt may not seem like the brightest guy - and he certainly isn’t - but sometimes he knows exactly how to play a certain situation, which he did very well here. Carol isn’t in much better shape, and smoking pot with her maid was therapeutic and social, but she still hasn’t left the house in some time. Beverly and Sean seem to at least be getting into a different rhythm, and I’m not sure I love where this wheelchair-audition plotline is heading. This show is capable of being depraved and funny enough without trying to offend the disabled, so I’m more than okay with that thread going nowhere.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 5, Episode 4 “Sold” (B)

I don’t feel like this show is at its most interesting right now, though it’s certainly not all that bad. Every memory of Abby continues to be relatively dreamlike and entirely foreboding about her fate, thanks in no small part in this episode to the emphasis put on the outfit she was wearing to her oncology appointment and Ray telling the oncologist that he had to do something to help her even though it was clear that it was too late for any sort of effective treatment. Watching Abby smash parts of the diner bar with a baseball bat did make Ray chuckle, and now he’s so far removed from everything that he’s showing even less affect than usual. Daryll, on the other hand, has moved into full Ray mode, save for his inability to contain his stomach contents when he saw the severed head of the sensei Jay White accidentally killed. Brian White sure has it less together here than when he joined the Strike Team on “The Shield” over a decade ago. But it is good to see Daryll following in Ray’s footsteps, with Mickey stepping in as the calm, collected partner to cut up the body and put it in cement before slipping his screenplay to Jay as a form of billing, following his time spent hitting the poor script reader played by Todd Robert Anderson from “You’re the Worst.” Terry is probably rightly concerned about Damon’s father being back in the picture, but he’s going to drive away his new protege every time he expresses doubt about his motives. The most lamentable development was Bunchy deciding to go grab some fast food with his $1.2 million on his shoulder while the place was being held up, and you have to hope that he’ll put Ray on the case to get his money back since things are going to implode otherwise. Bridget chose the wrong moment to confess her true motives for getting close to Smitty, and he didn’t take it well at all.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Season Finale)

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 7 “The Dragon and the Wolf” (B+)

As usual, the second-to-last episode of the season was the most exciting, but I made sure to plant myself in front of my TV right at 9pm to watch this episode as soon as it premiered to avoid anything being spoiled. Last year, I waited a full two weeks after the finale aired to watch it, and I didn’t get anything ruined, and there was plenty that could have been revealed to me and affected my experience. The intensity of the shocking moments in this episode weren’t as crazy as last year’s, but they’re still quite notable. The opening shot of the army marching on King’s Landing conveyed the grandeur of what we’re experiencing, and Cersei shooting daggers at Tyrion when she first saw him was a signal that this wasn’t going to be easy. Euron also tried to sabotage things by focusing on humiliating his nephew rather than helping the cause, and it seems that Theon finally found his courage when he stood up for Yara and rallied his army to go find her. Bringing the white walker back definitely worked, and it’s just a shame that Jon is such an honorable guy that he won’t swear falsely. Brienne pushed Jaime, but it was ultimately Tyrion who, begging for execution, won Cersei over - only he didn’t. She’s so selfish and eager to win that she’s thinking only of her child and not its father, who she didn’t seem to have any problem ordering her bodyguard to kill him. Jaime’s response was formidable, and I think he’s going to be noble and go fight alongside those he’s pledged to serve, whether or not that means he’ll reveal Cersei’s duplicity. With new allegiances proven to be false on one front, it was reassuring and satisfying to see Sansa and Arya team up to turn the tables on Littlefinger, who couldn’t talk his way out of a swift execution by Arya. It’s good to see the Starks united, especially with the reveal, or confirmation, I guess, that Jon is actually a Targaryen, which means that he just had sex with his aunt. I suppose there’s not enough incest on this show just yet, and that long-awaited hookup now can’t be nearly as celebrated as it should have been. More importantly, that zombie dragon wasted no time in bringing down the entire wall, which means a whole new game is about to be played against the human race in the show’s eighth and final season, which will be back sometime in the future. I think that this was the show’s best season since its second, and I’m eager for its return, whenever that may be.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Peter Dinklage as Tyrion

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 42, Episode 21 “Dwayne Johnson/Katy Perry” (B)

I know I fast-forwarded through this season, going from episode seven to twenty, but I had all the context I needed to see that this show was parodying itself. Opening with Baldwin’s Trump playing “Hallelujah” on the piano surrounded by Kellyanne, Pence, and his whole family was a great throwback to what I’m sure was the show’s most powerful moment of the season, with Trump announcing, “I’m not giving up, because I didn’t do anything wrong, but I can’t speak for all of these people.” Dwayne Johnson is an affable guy, and apparently he’s on his fifth time hosting. I didn’t find his bit about running for president with Tom Hanks, though I did appreciate the cameo return of David S. Pumpkins. I think the child-molesting robot skit fell flat, somewhat obviously given its nature, and some of the other sketches like the threesome/fivesome and the wrestler revealing personal info in a video, weren’t nearly as strong as they do. His prescription story commercial was probably the best sketch of the episode. Johnson isn’t Emmy-nominated, but this episode was the selected showcase for cast member Vanessa Bayer. When it comes to physical comedy, it’s hard to match her getting watched dumped all over her at least a dozen times during the Jurassic Park ride. Farting a lot during the filming of a period movie and serving as an incomprehensible meteorologist weren’t the best showcases for her talents, unfortunately. This episode wasn’t all that even, and the single best line, as always, came from Weekend Update, referring to our country’s leader as President-for-now Trump.

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 42, Episode 20 “Melissa McCarthy/HAIM” (B)

I skipped a handful of episodes here to finish out the season with its final two nominated episodes. Melissa McCarthy has been nominated previously four times for guest-hosting this show, and it seems almost like a default reflex at this point. There’s no denying that McCarthy is skilled at physical comedy. I didn’t count, but I’d estimate that she got pied in the face about twenty times during the Just Desserts game show, and that’s a lot to have to take and then keep on going. I wasn’t all that fond of the weird animal sketch and the Lighthouse Features opening, and the film center talk was a bit stronger. The new recipient of the five-timers jacket earns the most points, however, for her appearance as Sean Spicer in this episode. Making out with Alec Baldwin’s Trump wasn’t the most memorable part even if it was the most outrageous, and watching this episode after Spicer has been fired makes his antics all the more absurd. Baldwin also submitted this episode as his Emmy sampler, and honestly I think he’d win for just about anything because of the hilarious commitment of his parody performance. I really enjoyed the opening sketch with its narrative – “Did I get him? Is this all over? Wait, nothing matters?” Baldwin’s delivery of “I sit on every chair like it’s a toilet” was particularly terrific. As usual, Weekend Update was one of my favorite parts, with picking apart everything Trump tweets as a great highlight.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 42, Episode 7 “Kristen Wiig/The xx” (B)

Wiig is no stranger to this show, nominated for four Emmys as a regular cast member from 2009 to 2012 and then again the next year for hosting. She’s back again as a beloved returner to the show, earning another Emmy nomination in the guest acting category this year. Her opening Thanksgiving sketch about being a real Turkeyhead was a bit strange, though not quite as much as the giant parade sketch. The cat show and the QVC audition ads were both a bit odd, and Wiig got to bring back sweater-wearing Sue in the last sketch, way too excited for the surprise and even eating a pillow to stop herself – unsuccessfully – from ruining it. The Secret Word scene was a bit funnier, and the Bubble ad was funny too. The Target commercial was great, and I also liked how Anderson Cooper interviewing all of the pundits turned into a promo for “Westworld.” This show is all about the guest stars, and it was fun to have Steve Martin and Will Forte show up in the opening number to interrupt Wiig and her incorrect Thanksgiving facts. Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney was fun too, and shaking hands with Trump forever before deciding it wasn’t going to work was great. And if you thought that Kate McKinnon had nothing to do now that Clinton lost, Kellyanne having it all on her shoulders was the perfect way for her to bounce back and embody another personality so well, having a blast in the process.

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 42, Episode 6 “Dave Chappelle/A Tribe Called Quest” (B+)

I had already seen the cold open of this episode, which I think is the most fitting way this show could possibly have handled Donald Trump’s shocking win. You have to imagine that the writers and performers on this show didn’t have a contingency plan for if he won, and for them to put this together is all the more impressive. Both Kate McKinnon and Dave Chappelle are nominated for this episode. It’s easy to predict that McKinnon will win for that piano-playing segment in the cold open, and she also did a great job with physical comedy as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, pouring a whole lot of Emergen-C powder into her mouth without any water, which was quite a sight that didn’t let up. She really is very funny, and after her win last year, I think she’s a safe bet to repeat. Chappelle also did a pretty commendable job, interjecting a few jokes into a mostly serious opening monologue about shootings, saying Obama did a great job, and wishing Trump good luck. The stand-up comedian was solid as the black guy watching the election with Chris Rock and presumably entertained his fans with a throwback to his old show with a parody of Negan and “The Walking Dead.” One of the last segments was a great showcase for both McKinnon and Chappelle as they played depraved people flirting in a bar who pretty physical at the end of it, showing their desire to go the distance for a joke.

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 42, Episode 4 “Tom Hanks/Lady Gaga” (B+)

Watching six episodes of SNL back-to-back means lots of nostalgia and also lots of laughs if you can get past the fact that everyone expected making jokes about Trump to be a thing of the past rather than a daily hellish reality. Clinton getting bingo in the debate was funny, but my favorite was Trump calling the Mexican president “Senor Guacamole.” This episode is the Emmy submission for two performers: host Tom Hanks and supporting actress Leslie Jones. Hanks is back for the ninth time and feels perfectly at home, going straight into a humorous bit where he plays America’s dad. He was great as the white man in the Trump hat on “Black Jeopardy,” and he was obviously having fun as David Pumpkins in the weird and not scary haunted house. Playing Sully as a pilot who wants all the glory was the real highlight. Jones, a considerably louder presence, wasn’t in all that many skits and certainly not in prominent roles, but she got the chance to come out on Weekend Update and proudly declare that she keeps her porn in a folder labeled “porn” and that the only person who can hack her is her. It’s a very definitive Jones moment, and if voters like her, this is a superb showcase of her talking directly to the camera. Some other highlights from this enjoyable hour were the trailer for CBS’ new “Transparent” ripoff and two terrific Weekend Update quips: “If you’re a person who loves Michael Moore and you’re still on the fence about Donald Trump, you don’t exist” and “Trump is so cheap, he’s low-balling people on their 15 minutes of fame.”

Emmy Episodes: Saturday Night Live

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Saturday Night Live: Season 42, Episode 2 “Lin-Manuel Miranda / Twenty One Pilots” (B+)

NBC’s very long-running sketch show did better than ever before this year, earning twenty-two nominations setting a record for the most nominations for any show in history with 231. It’s bittersweet and sort of tragic watching this show and all of its election coverage knowing how it all turns out, with everyone making repeated references to how Trump had officially cost himself the election with everything he did. Starting with him “aplogizing" for the Billy Bush tape scandal, which was breaking news at the time, was pretty funny, and it’s very easy to see that both Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon are headed for Emmy wins this year. McKinnon is great as Clinton as always, but she was also pretty hilarious as Kellyanne Conway, whose day off was constantly interrupted by Trump saying and tweeting increasingly ridiculous things, which started out as true occurrences and then just went off the deep end. But this episode is actually Emmy-nominated for its host, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Tony winner starts out by joking that no one knows him and trying not to sing his famous “Hamilton” song, but quickly gets into that since that’s where his talents lie. He’s not nearly as prominent as a lot of other hosts, doing a lot of rapping and playing a substitute teacher trying to embody all the inspirational clichés. I did enjoy “Diego Calls His Mom,” which was pretty much the only real Miranda showcase aside from “My Shot.” I was distracted during the “Wells Fargo Wagon” parody since I know the lyrics better as “The Ten Plagues are a Comin’,” a Passover song written by my mom. My favorite segment from this episode was the “Stranger Things” segment, which was very well-timed as I’m almost done with the first season.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Emmy Episodes: Bloodline

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Bloodline: Season 3, Episode 9 “Part 32” (C-)

Here’s a great example of an episode not to watch when you aren’t a regular viewer. I watched a few episodes of season one back when it first started then the Emmy submissions for the end of the season and season two when both Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn were nominated. After winning the supporting actor trophy for his part in flashbacks in season two, Mendelsohn is back again as a nominee in the guest actor race for, again, appearing in flashbacks. This episode was dizzyingly disorienting, and not in a good way. It’s clear that something happened to Chandler’s John, possibly from a drug overdose, possibly from taking Ambien, and possibly from just having endured some trauma related to the death of his brother or something else. He met no less than three different doctors all with the same last name and hallucinated so many things while traveling through his memory banks full of real and imagined events from his past. I’ll be honest – I don’t really know what happened and, based on the pacing and general plotting, I just don’t care. Mendelsohn is and has always been a strong actor, but I’ll take his performance in “Animal Kingdom,” “Mississippi Grind,” or the forthcoming “Una” any day over this mediocre role that he effortlessly pulls off. This show was ended after its third season, allegedly due to entertainment tax incentives being cut in Florida, but I think that this once-promising drama with a great cast never really lived up to its premise and I’m not sad to see that it’s over.

Emmy Episodes: How to Get Away with Murder

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

How to Get Away with Murder: Season 3, Episode 12 “Go Cry Somewhere Else” (F)
How to Get Away with Murder: Season 3, Episode 15 “Wes” (F)

This show is so, so bad. I got confused at first because I recalled watching “Scandal” for its entire first season and Liza Weil’s character getting killed off, but then I remembered that this show is much, much worse. It’s a good thing that this show is only nominated for acting and not writing since I don’t think I’ve ever encountered dialogue as bad anywhere else. I also think that this show needs a serious title change since obviously Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating is in jail and presumably wasn’t able to get away with murder. I’m also really not a fan of when a character’s demise is revealed at the beginning of the season but it takes the whole time for how they die to be revealed. Nothing concrete seemed to be accomplished between episodes twelve and fifteen, which was the season finale, and both hours were equally insufferable. “Go Cry Somewhere Else” is the submission for guest actress Cicely Tyson, who was last nominated for this role two years ago. She’s ninety-two years old and still working hard. I didn’t buy much of the performance mainly because of the writing, but the material does allow her to confess to Annalise’s supposed crimes and react to seeing her daughter in prison garb and then brutally beaten. The season finale is Davis’ submission. She won two years ago and was nominated again last year. I can’t comprehend how she can go from winning an Oscar for a sophisticated, serious performance in “Fences” and then return to film this dreck. There was plenty for her to do, but the performance and the show don’t belong in consideration with any of the other nominees. I hope never to need to encounter this show again – it’s awful.

Emmy Episodes: The Americans

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the second year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

The Americans: Season 5, Episode 6 “Crossbreed” (B-)
The Americans: Season 5, Episode 11 “Dyatkovo” (B-)
The Americans: Season 5, Episode 13 “The Soviet Division” (C+)

I watched more of this show last year than ever before since it cracked the Best Drama Series race, and I and everyone else expected the same thing to happen this year. The fact that it didn’t is strange, since the most comparable show – “Friday Night Lights” – finally made the cut in the top acting races its penultimate year and then the drama series category for its last one. Season six will be this show’s last, so maybe it will return again then. For now, here are the three episodes nominated. The first, “Crossbreed,” is Matthew Rhys’ submission for Best Actor. It is indeed a Philip-centric episode, as he contends with the revelation that his father was a prison camp guard and not what he had always thought he was. For a casual viewer, that doesn’t mean much, but Rhys is decent in the hour. “Dyatkovo,” which is Keri Russell’s submission, reminds me of the season three Emmy-nominated hour “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip was with Elizabeth while she was threatening an old woman this time around, and it was Elizabeth who didn’t seem to have any sympathy for a woman who might not have been a Nazi traitor. She’s still the one who took the shot evn after the sob story and killed the woman’s husband. The season finale earned two nominations, one for writing and one for guest star Alison Wright, who barely even appeared in it. Based on the “previously on” segment, I thought that they were going to go to Russia and encounter Martha in person, but this slow-moving episode didn’t actually accomplish anything, ending on a whimper. Honestly, Paige contemplating ethics is the best part of it all, but this show just doesn’t do it for me. These episodes weren’t bad but they weren’t all that good either, and I wouldn’t give the show any of its four nominations this year.

What I’m Watching: Dark Matter (Season Finale)

Dark Matter: Season 3, Episode 13 “Nowhere to Go” (B+)

It’s always nerve-wracking to watch a season finale without knowing whether the show will be back for another go. I still contend that this is one of the most underrated shows on television, and definitely a perfect fit for Syfy, yet I known just one person – my friend Sean – who actually watches it. The ending of this episode was big, and I do hope that we’ll get to see what this world looks like in season four. Two’s execution of Four got postponed and then became rather irrelevant, with Four ultimately stepping in to stop Two once they realized that she had become infected and was being controlled by the aliens. It seems that in this world it’s still very much a human-dominated space game, and the arrival of these mind-controlling beings is cause for great alarm. The return of Wexler was welcome since he did manage to be handy and it’s nice to see people switching sides a bit, though it’s hard to keep track with Four wanting to kill them and Portia deciding to team up with her captive Three when she realized that they were better off working together to prevent certain annihilation. The emergence of the black ships seems like an irreversible event, and Six may have sacrificed his life in the process. I wish that this season was ending on a more definitive note specifically because we don’t know what’s out there and if there’s a future for this show. It’s been a great season – let’s hope there’s more coming.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Zoie Palmer as the Android

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Pilot Review: Disjointed

Disjointed (Netflix)
Premiered August 25

Netflix is churning out show after show these days, and most of them are intellectual explorations of different themes, some new and some old. And then a few of them, for unknown reasons, are laugh-track comedies that feel like they should have been made decades ago yet manage to exist in the present as new productions. I read the title of this show and a very short synopsis before going into it, and it was even worse than I expected. The barrage of pot jokes was overwhelming, and there were even dated black and Jewish jokes that hardly felt necessary. Oscar winner Kathy Bates has been nominated for an Emmy fourteen times, and unfortunately this role hews closest to the only one that actually won her the award, her guest spot on “Two and a Half Men.” Though Chuck Lorre has created a number of other successful sitcoms, like “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s easy to tie him to that one long-running CBS show, thanks in no small part to Charlie Sheen’s much-publicized hatred for him, which led to Bates playing his ghost. This show is far too reminiscent of that often effortless comedy, and all of the painfully-constructed humor here is pretty unbearable. I’m not sure if anything more profound or based in quality was to be expected from a show set in a marijuana dispensary, since it does lend itself to lazy humor since its characters often find themselves completely unmotivated to do anything. I find myself unmotivated to watch.

How will it work as a series? This show doesn’t have a great rhythm to it, freefalling from conversations about the industry to commercials for the law firm that specializes in delayed food cases. It’s hard to find much of a hint of seriousness anywhere on this show, and that makes the supposedly sincere moments all the more unconvincing. Maybe if you’re high while watching this show, it would prove more enjoyable.
How long will it last? Reviews aren’t great for this show, as expected, but they weren’t particularly good for “The Ranch” either, and that show got renewed. I’d expect this one to be cancelled shortly given Netflix’s recent penchant for dismissing its underperformers.

Pilot grade: F

Round Two: The Defenders

The Defenders: Season 1, Episode 2 “Mean Right Hook” (B)

I still found this episode to be awfully expository, but we finally have our heroes meeting each other, and they’re hardly the warmest of initial interactions. It was somewhat satisfying to see Danny flail around as he repeatedly tried to inflict some damage on Luke to no avail, and I suppose an Iron Fist punch to the face was decent payback for being thrown around like a rag doll. Matt marching in to tell Jessica to stop talking since he was her lawyer was a more exciting moment, and I look forward to hearing more of their conversations. We saw two familiar faces from Matt’s world in this hour where he ran out to save some people without his suit, Stick as Alexandra’s captive and Elektra back from the dead as an enemy hunting John Raymond who was able to make Jessica bleed. There’s plenty of nefarious goings-on at work here, with Trish tasking Foggy with keeping an eye on Jessica and Trish being told that she can’t talk about the earthquake on her show. It’s still not clear what Alexandra is up to in between private symphony performances in her penthouse, and there’s so much darkness present on this show that it’s hard to make out who all the bleeding bodies belong to in each scene. Bringing the protagonists together, at least in pairs, is a positive development, since we’re now a quarter of the way through this season and not much has been accomplished. Bring on the team excitement – let’s get this show on the road!

Take Three: Atypical

Atypical: Season 1, Episode 3 “Julia Says” (B+)

Sam has moved on from obsessing directly over Julia and is now trying to figure out how best to go about impressing his practice girlfriend. Neither Zahid nor Elsa have too much idea of what Sam actually wants to wear, with Zahid dressing him in things that make him uncomfortable and Elsa treating him like a child, getting herself banned from the store allegedly for being a good mother, though really for pushing way too hard when the place wasn’t willing to accommodate what she thought Sam needed. My favorite line of the episode was “it’s one hundred percent cotton, which is my favorite percentage of cotton.” That terrible leather jacket made him very uncomfortable later on in the episode, and he didn’t even bother to acknowledge the girl who complimented his shirt aside from a quick thank you. Casey was pretty open with her father about her new relationship, and he of course overreacted when his colleague told him that he’d love being a grandfather. Unfortunately, looking at one family photo album was enough for Evan to point out that her father wasn’t in one photo, which it turns out was because he left the family for almost a year, something Sam was well aware of but was enough to crush Casey, who now wants to run on her own. It doesn’t help that Elsa actually did sleep with Nick, and her mind isn’t anywhere close to her family at the moment since they’re not paying much attention to her anyway.

Friday, August 25, 2017

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 5, Episode 12 “Tattoo You” (B+)

The riot’s just about over, and it’s not ending the way anyone wanted it to. The governor agreeing to give in to all of the demands because of the leaked Piscatella video was a real victory, but Taystee, who was the one who started the riot, still hasn’t achieved the recognition for Poussey that has always been most important to her. She has no idea, of course, that Bailey actually paid a visit to Poussey’s father to apologize for killing her, and he’s racked by so much guilt that he would be fine turning himself over and being punished for his crime. But the hostages made it out, much to everyone’s confusion, and now the army with the riot gear is ready to go in. Maria, who helped the guards escape, isn’t going to get what she was promised, and Gloria is in particularly bad shape inside the prison, now confined to the cell with Luschek. Nicky was pretty surprised when she found out that Lorna was indeed pregnant, and calling Vinnie was a great show of formidable friendship. Linda’s secret is out, and Big Boo knew exactly how to punish her for lying. The former star of this show took center stage again in this episode as Piper was treated to some flashbacks of her going through a rough patch with Alex and then calling her drunk when she was with Larry. Proposing to Alex was quite the about-face from her poorly-received curiosity earlier in the episode, and let’s hope their happiness can continue once reality sets back in as the riot ends.

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

I’m Sorry: Season 1, Episode 8 “Butt Bumpers” (B+)

I guess that’s the story of this show: Andrea turning situations that didn’t need to be quite as awkward as they are and making them much, much worse. There’s no denying that Andrea’s single-parent play date with Ben was incredibly uncomfortable, but it was infinitely more cringe-worthy to hear her bring it up and for it to become immediately clear that Ben hadn’t shared it with Caroline, making it into a much bigger deal than it should have been. Their excitement about thinking that waiters looked like famous people also came to a shattering end as their friendship quickly dissipated, a real shame for the overeager Andrea and Mike who were so thrilled to have made friends like this. The next most horrifying moment of the episode was when Amelia went up to Jocelyn and asked her what she did, replying to her answer with “That’s not enough, what else do you do?” I think that Andrea is going way overboard in her efforts to counterprogram the negative messages that Amelia is getting about female empowerment, and it’s starting to show in some unfortunate ways. I liked everyone’s reactions to Sharon’s description of feeding Leon dinner in bed, and seeing it in action was just about as bad as could be expected, though I’m sure Andrea’s father will be celebrating since it doesn’t speak too well to Leon’s autonomy. The shorts neighbor hasn’t gotten any further than that, and I think it’s a real shame given Steve Zissis’ potential. I’d like to hope that there’s more in store for him in the future.

What I’m Watching: Manhunt Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber: Season 1, Episode 5 “Abri” (B+)

Once again, we didn’t see Ted at all, and this entire episode took place in the same time period. Yet this was easily the most gripping hour yet, showing how easy it was for the Unabomber to be identified when the right person saw exactly what they needed to see. I don’t think that Mark Duplass, a great quiet straight man in some more serious comedies like “Togetherness” and “Your Sister’s Sister,” would have been my first choice to play the brother of the Unabomber, but in the context of this episode it makes some sense, since it’s a pretty straightforward portrayal of a man who is concerned about his brother’s wellbeing even if he is a mass murderer. Fitz was more than ready to abandon his kids at the movies when he got the call about a letter that was too close to what the Unabomber wrote to be anything but the man himself, and Ellie isn’t anywhere close to ready to forgive him. He pushed Natalie away when they collected all the evidence and she misread the moment, and then he threw Tabby under the bus by refusing to stick up for her since her alleged misdeeds directly benefited him. Now, an isolated Fitz is finally being listened to and everyone knows that Ted is the Unabomber, but there are still three episodes left in this season, so I’m really curious to see how the capture plays out and to learn more about what transformed Ted from who he was into the Unabomber.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 6 “Gelignite” (B+)

This show really gets into the feeling of the times, with the news that the queen’s sister was marrying a commoner eclipsed completely by the fact that he was a divorcé. To think that a newspaper owner would have the time to give a heads-up to those connected to the crown that a damaging article was soon going to break is hard to believe, since such news would be all over the internet in seconds these days. Margaret made an interesting point that Elizabeth got exactly what she wanted in marrying Philip, who wasn’t the least bit supportive of his sister-in-law’s desire to be happy. Elizabeth tried to go about it in the best way possible, offering her sincere congratulations and then inviting Peter along for a world tour where she was greeted as an adored celebrity and he too achieved some popularity. Peter tried to stand his own ground and argue that it was good publicity for the crown to embrace true love like what he and Margaret had, but that fell on deaf ears as he was admonished for calling a member of the royal family by her first name. Being sent to Brussels without even a moment to say goodbye to her was harsh, and while his reaction was calm and collected, hers was full of fury and spite for the way that her sister treated her. Elizabeth watching Philip run out to enjoy his life while she’s left there with the weight of the crown was a powerful way to end the episode and show how powerless she can feel sometimes.

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 1, Episode 6 “Chapter Six: The Monster” (B+)

This is what I like to see – every faction of intrepid question-askers coming up with theories and taking proactive steps to do the one thing they’re most obsessed with – find Will! Hopper is telling Joyce everything, and they’re realizing that the “little boy” was probably Jane, whose mother can’t get anywhere else to believe was actually born. Nancy isn’t wasting any time presenting her idea of what’s going on, and she’s more than ready to create a situation where blood can be detected so that they can lure this monster out into the open. Unfortunately, people in this 1980s world are really mean, and Steve got his revenge by writing on a movie marquee, something that got Nancy’s blood boiling and helped lead to Jonathan getting arrested. It only brought them closer together, and imagine how Mike will react when he finds out that his sister is with Will’s brother. I’m a big fan of Eleven, but I think that Dustin is actually my favorite character. In trying to keep the peace and unite everyone, he still was forced to acknowledge that Eleven making Lucas fly through the air was a little awesome. Just like Steve, the bullies who pick on the boys are really cruel, and therefore Eleven showing up to levitate Mike up from certain self-sacrificing doom was pretty damn cool and satisfying. Grabbing a bunch of food from the supermarket freezer and then crashing the door on the obnoxious employee who tried to follow her out showed how she’d function alone, and it’s good that they’re all together now, even if they’re about to be apprehended by the bad guys, unless Lucas can figure out a way to warn them in time.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards (Season Finale)

House of Cards: Season 5, Episode 13 “Chapter 65” (B)

Well, we got here, but I’m not sure this whole season was a real justification for where things ended up. As I’ve written several times, what I liked best about this show this year was when it focused on the election and featured Conway, who I found to be a very believable flawed character. In the last couple of episodes, things have shifted to Frank’s impending resignation since, after everything, his big plan to stay in the White House for decades has suddenly evaporated. Worse than that, Frank has apparently been plotting this the whole time, serving as the leak and setting Doug up to willingly take the fall for Zoe’s murder so that his crimes can be limited to corruption and easily be pardoned by the new president. Frank vowing to kill her if she doesn’t pardon him shows his viciousness, and her ignoring his call suggests that she’s not willing to give him the credit he demands for getting her where she is. Those who came along, like Seth and Leanne, also lost out, with Leanne suffering a far worse fate after Frank apparently independently had her killed. Jane and Mark made it to the top, but it’s an isolating place, as evidenced by the ending shot of Claire all alone in the oval office, declaring angrily to the audience that it’s her turn. So much of this show is over-the-top that it’s hard to take seriously, and I think that there is some sense buried in here that shone at points throughout the season. Overall, this season was fine, but it was the weakest this show has delivered thus far. Maybe Claire can unify it in season six.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Joel Kinnaman as Conway

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: People of Earth

People of Earth: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Truth Hurts” (B+)

Walsh isn’t holding anything back from Wyatt, and it’s great to see the two of them teaming up as Wyatt took whatever kind of alien technology bullet that was for him and then told Agent Foster that she could trust him. Taking off his human mask was very helpful in skipping over any sort of doubt and triggering flashbacks for Wyatt of the formative moments in his life where Walsh really did seem like a friend to him. It was sweet to see that he flashed his frightening alien eyes at the bullies who stole his yo-yo so that they would stop picking on him, and they’ve now come quite a long way. Agent Foster was furious that they had gotten her drunk and distracted her with karaoke, and she was ready to go with her buttering up of Richard to get him to take her to where he knew Wyatt was. Nancy being there was an unfortunate coincidence – though of course we know it’s not – and I suspect he’s going to be in bad, bad shape when he inevitably sees her again. Earlier in the episode, he walked into work with donuts as if he was everyone’s best friend, but all that’s changed is that he took a whole long time off work without any permission. I like the notion that there are other rebel aliens out have developed empathy for humans, and I’m eager to see more of those, especially since we know that Don has come around to similar thinking.

What I’m Watching: Loaded

Loaded: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Red List” (B+)

There’s a clear lack of equality when it comes to the workload that our four friends do, and it’s pretty obvious that Ewan is the lowest-ranking. I don’t think that calling him the Moby of coding was necessarily a compliment, but Ewan is also in exactly the right place. Callum coming to his workplace and telling him how he should feel was a great impetus for Ewan to work up some courage to tell him that he needed to leave. Watto was lonely for the entirety of the episode, trying to get a random guy on the street to come fishing with him and then adopting a dog that died immediately. Josh was probably looking for something to be wrong with whatever investor decided to back Abi’s idea, and watching her get groped and then shake it off as a necessary evil of the industry only made matters much worse. Let’s hope that he respects what she said to him about doing this on her own and on the merit of her ideas and calls off Naomi’s guy. Leon making it onto the list was an extraneous boost to his already inflated ego, and getting to tell Casey that she didn’t make it at all after he hit her in the face with a golf club should have been a fantastic opportunity. Yet his casual conversation with a guy who made shorts – films not cargo – revealed that a place on the list is meaningless, as gloriously announced by Casey in her formative takedown of everyone at the party. Her backup operation seems quite robust, and I wonder how that’s going to affect our team as the season closes out with its final two episodes.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 2, Episode 5 “Hella Shook” (B+)

I feel like people either have way too much fun at a work retreat or it’s completely miserable. It would have helped if Issa and Frieda were speaking to each other, but Frieda’s assertion that black people could be racist too didn’t sit well with her and caused extraordinary friction in their relationship. Out of all the people at their work who don’t get it, I think Frieda is actually far more attuned to what’s going on around her, at times even more so than Issa. She’s actually building something real with Daniel, yet her desire to create a roster of men is leading her to blow him off when he obviously cares about her, offering to come pick her up after he heard about her car accident. She’s not doing what she wants to be on her dates, and Daniel seems to make her happy. Lawrence is starting to get jealous, spotting Issa and Daniel in the back of a picture, which turned out to be more than just a distraction that helped him seem apathetic enough to get out of jury duty. Seeing Molly in a family context was very interesting, and she lost it as soon as she found out that her father had cheated on her mother and, worse still, she had forgiven him. Giving in to what she really wanted but had sworn she wouldn’t go for him was a clear sign that she just needed something to help her let go and blow off some steam.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: Episodes (Season Premiere)

Episodes: Season 5, Episode 1 “Episode 501” (B+)

I love this show, which I consider to be one of the most underrated on television, and I was wondering why it seemed like it hadn’t been on forever. That’s because season four ended in March 2015, nearly two and a half years ago. It’s great to have this show back for one final round after so long, even if it’s only for seven episodes and if all the characters are miserable. “The Box” really is a stupid show, and we know that this Matt LeBlanc values sophistication and good roles, which he can’t seem to get now that he’s been pigeonholed into this talentless hosting job. His misery and boredom led him to bring alcohol onto a set – never a good start – and then perform simulated sex acts which, thanks to Merc’s vengeful nature, have now appeared on live television. Normally, he’d be fired, but something tells me this is only going to improve the ratings. Tim’s awfulness does seem a bit exaggerated, as he comes up with the worst ideas and then seems to dwell on the most mundane of minutia just to be annoying. Sean and especially Beverly are made out to be the crazy ones since everyone else seems to be okay with working late every single night, and so I hope that people wise up to his inadequacy soon. Beverly checking in on Carol is nice, demonstrating how their friendship has evolved, and the onetime powerful executive has really fallen a lot lately. Her banter with Beverly about being Jewish was entertaining, and I hope to see her in whatever state she’ll be in the rest of this season.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 5, Episode 3 “Dogwalker” (B)

I can’t help but feel like this season isn’t quite as enticing as this show has been in the past, with a bit of mystery, a bit of misery, and no clear path to happiness for any member of the extended Donovan tribe. Natalie is turning out to be more trouble than she’s worth, serving as the cause of the car accident that injured Abby and then a distraction for Ray, who was in bad shape when Abby got sick, going out to walk the dog with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. She’s also not great at killing people, not even coming close to finishing the job with her husband, who was in decent enough condition to be patched up by a vet. Ray’s intimidation tactics have worked as always, but Rob is very much alive, which is cause for concern. Maureen seems pretty upset that Terry lied to her, an act that was worse than him sleeping with a prostitute the night before he proposed. Saying that he couldn’t live without her wasn’t much of an apology, and it’s hard to see Terry so dejected. I had no idea that Maureen was played by Tara Buck, who played a totally different character, Ginger, on “True Blood.” Let’s hope that Bunchy really got the same kind of business proposal that would have been given to Ray since it’s very easy to see him being taken advantage of. Mickey didn’t take his rejection well, which is understandable given the harshness of the insults leveled at him in that letter.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall” (A-)

If I wasn’t already aware that this show’s season finale was the next episode, I think I would have known based on the high-intensity scale of this hour, which follows a historical trend of many shows and this show especially of being the craziest and most epic episode of the season. Starting with some seemingly aimless traipsing beyond the wall was deceptive since this was in I’d say all ways the most action-packed hour we’ve seen in a long time. I can see this episode being nominated and winning an Emmy for its directing, and I’ve had to imagine for those visual effects too. The dread that filled the air when the bear appeared and when they realized that the dead were coming was strong, and watching all the dead fall into the melting ice as they surrounded our human friends was chilling. Tyrion, who Daenerys praised for not being a hero, didn’t manage to talk Daenerys out of putting herself in harm’s way by flying beyond the wall with her dragons to save the day, and the only thing she appears to have lost is one of her children. I thought that the spear so carefully thrown by the white walker meant that they wouldn’t make it out alive, and Jon was heroic enough to turn down two attempts at salvation to stay behind and fight. Somehow, it looks like he survived too, since either you die once on this show or you’re pretty much invincible. What a triumphant return that was for Jon at the end of the episode, and you bet that Daenerys is happy to see him. She’s going to be pissed – and horrified – when she learns that the dead have reanimated one of her dragons! On a less action-oriented note, I was glad to see that Arya came right out with it and read Sansa her letter, and that they both got righteous and angry with each other for their actions. Arya took it pretty far with the creepiness, and I wonder if Sansa is going to strike preemptively knowing what a threat her sister has become.

Monday, August 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: Dark Matter

Dark Matter: Season 3, Episode 12 “My Final Gift to You” (B+)

How quickly things change on this show after people have vowed to kill each other. Boone delivered Two straight to Four, who seemed more than ready to execute her if the crew of the Raza didn’t give him the blink drive. Two was able to gain the upper hand but got undercut by an assassination attempt on the emperor and then, by episode’s end, she was saving him from certain death at a treacherous Misaki’s hand and then getting ready to shoot him back on the Raza. After he got his memories back, Four changed, and it’s not clear what’s gotten him back to some semblance of the person he was. Obviously whatever he told Three about his role in Sara’s death was scarring enough for Three to get his clone body shot so that he wouldn’t remember it, and the revelation that Two had a daughter with the Android’s creator is huge news that changes everything considering the fact that a criminal space-marauding ship is hardly the place for a young child. Five recognizing Teku and seeing a kindred spirit in him thanks to Four’s memories was interesting, and I suppose it’s helpful to have a guide on who to trust in a royal court filled with deceptive and murderous elements. Nyx has now been avenged, so I see no reason that Four couldn’t rejoin the crew if he does some serious atonement, though I’d imagine Three will have something to say about that. And the Android really has to warn her human friends, who just acknowledged that they value her opinion as a member of the crew, about the impending android revolt.

Pilot Review: The Defenders

The Defenders (Netflix)
Premiered August 18

We’ve been waiting for this for a long time – me and everyone else who enjoys the Marvel universe. This is the reason that I suffered through all thirteen episodes of “Iron Fist.” I fear that this show is designed more than other to be binged, since this opening hour did little if nothing to indicate what it will be about – we have no idea what the purpose of this earthquake planned by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra was – or how our four heroes (not that they use that word) will come together. There’s a good amount of talent be found here from all three shows (as well as some holdovers from the fourth awful one), and some easy ways to see how they’ll be united. Claire is the obvious connector since she’s appeared on all four shows, and even though she doesn’t really know Jessica, Luke sure does. I’m most thrilled to see Jessica and Trish back, though I still feel that show is so much better than the other three that it will be weird to see her in the same place and universe as the others. This is a direct continuation of the first season of “Iron Fist” picking up a decent amount of time after we left the other three shows, and all four are coming back for another season after this, so let’s hope it’s all worthwhile. I think things will improve once they have the chance to find each other and realize that they’re the only ones who can stop Alexandra from fulfilling her nefarious plan, whatever it may be. There’s no way I’m not watching now, but this wasn’t the thrilling start I was anticipating.

How will it work as a series? All four of the protagonists here are very different in how they approach things, with two being invulnerable and extremely strong and the other two possessing important secret abilities. I’m curious to see how they interact since, like “The Avengers,” that’s probably going to be the most fun part. And, with any luck, Danny Rand won’t be featured much.
How long will it last? Given the success of the Marvel brand on Netflix and that fact that all shows that fed into this one are returning for another go, I’m sure that this show will be back for a second round as well regardless of ratings and whether it’s deemed creatively sound. Good reviews don’t hurt, and so I’d consider this one very primed for a renewal.

Pilot grade: B

Round Two: Atypical

Atypical: Season 1, Episode 2 “A Human Female” (B+)

This show continues to demonstrate its strength in episode two as Sam dove fully in to his newfound affection for Julia, conducting lots of research and egged on by his father until he realized just who it was that he was going after. It didn’t take long for Sam to discover that Julia had a boyfriend, and who worse for him to go interrogate than the girl that his sister punched when he saw her kissing different boys two days in a row. I think it’s hard if not impossible to really convey how Sam is feeling, and watching him experience sensory overload as everyone was laughing at him and he didn’t know why seemed like as good a way as any to represent it. Sam’s insistence that he is “all there” shows that he’s well aware of what’s going on, he’s just not always able to interpret the connotations and insinuations of a given moment or conversation. Doug was enjoying the opportunity to bond with his son and should probably have asked to know a thing or two about the girl that his son had a crush on since he could have stopped it prior to the breaking-and-entering which identified her as an adult. At least the advice he gave him once he realized was smart. Elsa is hung up on this bartender thing, even after getting shot in the arm with a dart, telling her support group about it and hanging up in panic when Doug called with him on the other end of the line. And Casey appears to be getting into her newfound relationship mostly because of Evan’s willingness to be fully honest with her when prompted for the truth.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 5, Episode 11 “Breaking the Fiberboard Ceiling” (B+)

We’re getting close to the end of the season, and I have to imagine that the riot is almost over. It’s hard to believe that it’s lasted so long, and even though the guards have made it out, there are still a few of them, namely Luschek and Humphreys, who are still being held hostage. Those waiting to storm the prison don’t even know that Piscatella is inside, and it’s probably for the best that he was unconscious for the entirety of this episode. At least most of his former captives weren’t up for the idea of torturing him while Red was ready to get started. It would be hard to imagine that, once guards or police got inside the prison, they’d be able to find everyone given that there are so many different places everyone is hiding. Gloria was actually doing a great job of sneaking the guards out to the porter potty area, but then they managed to get away, and now she’s been caught and will surely be punished for her treachery. Maria’s attitude on the whole thing was very interesting, and she’s come full circle in a big way. Linda’s honeymoon period with Boo didn’t last long thanks to that photo of her and Caputo, and the warden wasn’t getting too far in his negotiations with Fig, who I feel like everyone has forgotten about. My favorite moment of the episode was the conversation between Cindy and Alison talking about olam haba and paradise, their versions of heaven.

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

I’m Sorry: Season 1, Episode 7 “Divorce Fantasy” (B+)

I’m thrilled to open this review by confirming the terrific news that this show has been renewed for a second season by TruTV. I don’t imagine it as the time of show that’s being broadly watched simply because of the network it airs on, and so I’m excited that said network has decided to bring it back for another round since I do enjoy it a lot. Leave it to Andrea to have a divorce fantasy despite being happily married, and for her to picture the life of a divorcee as so glamorous and enthralling rather than prone to lead a waitress to being on the verge of tears while serving customers. Andrea is never one to let anything go, and as a result she just had to pry and ask the waitress if she was okay, despite her friend Jennifer’s insistence that she should just leave it be. This was a better showcase for Allison Tolman as Jennifer as she tried to wade slowly back into the dating pool while Andrea was trying to push her all the way in right away. Getting roofied the first night they went out was bad news, and of course Andrea would try to downplay the seriousness and miserable nature of the situation. Martin telling Andrea about his clubbing enthusiasm was a bit random, and he was quite a stickler for owning his idea despite Andrea’s attempts to throw a party for him that might speak to his eccentric new interests. Changing decades turned out to be a great and simple solution, one that made her eyes roll all the way back into her head as she actually got angry with someone and was on the right side of an argument for once.

Pilot Review: Marlon

Marlon (NBC)
Premiered August 16 at 9pm

It’s never a great sign when a show premieres in the middle of August on a non-cable network since it easily could have been held for a few weeks later when other fall sitcoms start. But I guess NBC wanted to get Marlon out early, and this show is more than capable of speaking for itself. It’s certainly true that Marlon is obnoxious, and so is this show, but you can’t say that he’s not committed. This is a familiar premise in many ways, with a goofball dad who gets along great with his kids and can’t move past his ex, who finds him endearing enough to keep him around even though she’s no longer interested in any romance. There are typical clichés, like Marlon and Ashley’s best friends, who are each screw-ups in their own ways. The theme song, which basically just consists of Marlon’s name said quickly over and over again, is irritating, to be sure, and this show’s web show subplot is only referenced occasionally and not very consistently. Wayans takes the spotlight here, having a blast embracing his strengths and acting crazy whenever he damn well feels like it. The plotlines, like him being a hoarder and needing an intervention, and him spying on Ashley’s date when a very handsome gentleman comes to pick her up, are far from original, but this show isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. I enjoyed the repeated mentions of Steve’s terrible predictions about the future, none of which panned out and all of which were superbly contradicted by what actually ended up happening. Will I watch this show again? No. Were these two half-hours better than I thought? A little bit.

How will it work as a series? This is a traditional sitcom, so every episode is going to find Marlon facing – or fabricating – some challenge that he needs to address and possibly overcome. I’m sure there’s a wealth of material to be milked and plenty of characters to play off and interact with on an episodic basis.
How long will it last? Well, this show could actually be around for a while. Without other competition, this show scored what’s being reported as the second best summer comedy broadcast network debut in a decade. The reviews aren’t as bad as they could be – just like the show – so I’d expect that this show will be renewed soon.

Pilot grade: C+

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Take Three: Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt: Unabomber: Season 1, Episode 4 “Publish or Perish” (B+)

We didn’t get to see Ted at all in this episode, which took place entirely in the same time period, as things intensified with the search and Fitz suggested a very risky gamble. This episode showed, more than anything, how times and technology have evolved in the past twenty years. The idea that you could print something in a newspaper and know that it was only sold at own newsstand in a given city is so foreign to what happens today, and on top of that, announcing that the manifesto would be posted a few days later on the website is a distant relic of the past, since now it’s impossible to find something that isn’t immediately online somewhere, and then reposted everywhere, within moments of it happening. Unfortunately, the grand plan didn’t work out all that well, with Tabby’s foot chase on the subway turning out to be a false lead. I had seen Jane Lynch’s name in the cast list before, and this was one of the more serious roles I’ve ever seen her in as Janet Reno, who didn’t want to hear too much from Don but was willing to trust him, and then concluded that this was a sad development. Ellie doesn’t seem pleased at all with Fitz’s intense involvement in the case, and getting fired doesn’t seem to have affected his work ethic at all, which is a bit of a concern. The end of the episode presented the first sincere lead we’ve seen, with the introduction of Mark Duplass as someone who appears to be a relative of Ted and whose wife thought she recognized some of the language in the manifesto.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 1, Episode 5 “Smoke and Mirrors” (B)

This show’s title really is fitting, since the crown seems to be an entity all its own. The Duke of Windsor returned again for what ended up being his mother’s funeral, and it’s strange to see how things are different when he comes home. His fate – having to watch the coronation on TV like everyone else, describing how the anointment is so important that the guests don’t get to see it – served to remind him that he has to be a commoner like everyone else. I understand that Elizabeth is trying to keep the peace at home, but placing Philip in charge of her coronation hardly seemed like the best idea. Wanting to televise the coronation makes some sense since his point about the public desiring to be a part of the ceremony and feel like they’re connected is well-taken, but refusing to bow was yet another reminder that he doesn’t understand the role he needs to take on. “Are you my queen or my wife?” was a relatively childish question, and this is obviously going to be an enduring issue between the two of them, and really between him and the whole country. Making comments about how the queen mother’s funeral was awfully similar to the late king’s hardly seemed sensitive, thinking of the events as merely ceremonial and not designed to mourn the loss of people who were around for most of her life and whom she likely needed to say goodbye to instead of him making the moment about him.

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 1, Episode 5 “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (B+)

We’re getting somewhere – after a trippy but productive visit and what I expected to be a memory wipe, Hopper went straight to Joyce’s house to tell her that he knew he was being listened to and that Will was indeed very much alive, somewhere. Lonnie’s visit wasn’t helpful to anybody, and Jonathan was not happy to see him. I worry that Joyce was too easily convinced that she might be crazy, and all this grief could be driving her insane. Fortunately, she now has an ally who is the last person who would have ever thought such a thing possible. I like that Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are tackling the problem of where Will is by looking to intellectual literature and comic books, interrogating their teacher about the upside down. Dustin trying to explain what a compass is and how it works was very funny, and it’s good to see that he knows what he’s talking about. Eleven knows that where they’re trying to go is a bad place, and the fact that she was redirecting the compass so that the boys wouldn’t head into dangerous territory was unfortunate since it once again seems like a betrayal to Mike, who has given Eleven a chance when Dustin and especially Lucas don’t particularly like her or want her around. The flashbacks are all very helpful and informative in showing Eleven how she got to where she is, and there’s definitely some creepiness in there, a sentiment I certainly feel towards whatever fate has now befallen Nancy as she wandered through the woods at night with Jonathan.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 5, Episode 12 “Chapter 64” (B)

This was another episode that made things feel very insular, with the president and vice-president no longer watching their underlings via covert video surveillance but instead speaking directly to them about the lies they want them to tell for the sake of the country and their presidency. The way that both Frank and Claire said “Poor Doug” was a harbinger of terrible things to come, and just when it seemed like he was going to come clean with Leanne as the one person in his life he could speak to, he told her the same lie he was ready to tell everyone. It makes complete sense that this would be Michael Kelly’s Emmy submission, with my hopeful nominee Joel Kinnaman’s Conway a far and distant memory. It was rightly pointed out that, much like our current administration, the revelation of Doug having killed Zoe isn’t relevant to any of the legion of accusations publicly leveled against Frank. He did, at one point, stop to acknowledge what was being said in a press conference but then immediately claimed he wouldn’t be indicted. The ending of the episode was superbly exciting, with notable uproar both onscreen and on my face when Frank announced his intention to resign, even though he then added as an aside that he didn’t think it would come to that. It’s an important note that Frank being out of the presidency still means he’ll be very close to the White House given that Claire will take over. Speaking of the ambitious wife, what a way to kill someone, on top of him in the middle of passionate sex when he realizes that he’s been poisoned. What a terrible, murderous duo these people are. Who won’t they asphyxiate or push down a flight of stairs?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What I’m Watching: Casual (Season Finale)

Casual: Season 3, Episode 13 “The Hermit and the Moon” (B+)

I do hope this isn’t the series finale, with no news about a fourth season on the horizon, but I suppose this would be a fitting way to wrap things up. There’s no point at which things will work out neatly for anyone, and they’re all likely to fall back into the same cycles of behavior no matter how much they come to epiphanies and try to change their lives. I guess I, like Alex, didn’t realize that Judy was breaking up with him when she said they needed space, but I think that was the helpful deceptive nature of the flashbacks, since his girlfriend at the time wasn’t aware of what he was really talking about and then he was just as oblivious so many years later. It didn’t end badly or messily, and she seemed most upset about having to interview more nerds. Rae revealed her pregnancy very bluntly, and I like that they had a discussion about it which included her telling him that she wanted his opinion just as much as he tried to defer to her. There’s no decision as of yet on what they’ll do, but it’s an interesting place to leave off. Val decided she can live with her brother and that’s fine, and for now Laura is just going to have to be her own person, drinking her grandmother’s Kool-Aid until that spell wears off. And Leon can now be the type of friend for Alex that he needs to be, with Leah less excited about the idea of a camping trip now. I didn’t like the first few episodes of this season but it recovered after that, and still serves as a great show even if it’s not the strongest year the show has produced. I’m hoping for season four since I want to spend more time with these characters.

What I’m Watching: People of Earth

People of Earth: Season 2, Episode 4 “Always a Day Away” (B+)

The group made quite the effort to help Ozzie sneak away to go meet Walsh, and what a scene it was seeing Agent Foster go up on stage and sing a very heartfelt and obviously emotional karaoke rendition. One of the things I love most about this show is that its characters manage to help each other, and I think that Gina’s offer to help Agent Foster work through her issues with being an orphan is sincere, and even though right now she’s furious about being deceived, she may end up taking her up on it. It was also cool to see Don in the distance and have Agent Foster realize that she knew him from a memory since she too is apparently an experiencer! Don coming down to Earth to talk to Kelly was really great, and the fact that she reacted so poorly every single time when he kept erasing her memory, in the style of “Men in Black,” and telling her that he was married wasn’t the best resolution but seemed to be the only one that didn’t end with her freaking out. Father Doug and Chelsea were looking to move forward with their relationship, but it seems that leaving the church isn’t something that’s so simple. The most surprising development of all came from the Cube’s attempt to test Jeff by forcing him to get rid of Kurt’s body. Only it turns out that Kurt isn’t dead after all, and, now that he’s back, he doesn’t feel the same way that Jeff does about him.

What I’m Watching: Loaded

Loaded: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Boat” (B+)

Spending 3.9 million pounds on a boat – excuse me, yacht – isn’t going to solve the problems that this team is having. But putting them in a new environment was helpful in drawing out some other issues and having them all talk about them. Ewan doing a terrible job flirting led to the ground crew member being more aggressive, only Ewan hilariously had to pretend to be their butler so that he would think of him on the same level. Getting exposed by an extremely high Watto was unfortunate, but it was sweet that, thanks in part to Leon putting in a good word, they took a little swim together and maybe this relationship could go somewhere. Leon didn’t get much good news, particularly when he discovered where the red stain on the couch came from. Putting acid in the water so that they could be a bit more amped-up was a terrible idea, though it did seem that Watto took some comfort in the conversation he had with the Chinese fisherman he thought was his mom. Josh was initially furious to hear that Leon had an ex-Mossad agent following Abi, but then he was all too eager to use the drone once he got suspicious. Fortunately, he didn’t blow that, and it seems like they’ll be fine going forward. Naomi got herself busted pretty quickly when she tried to e-mail Casey from Leon’s computer, and good for her for letting loose and standing up to Casey, which immediately got her a raise while she continues doing the same thing.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 2, Episode 4 “Hella La” (B+)

Issa can’t seem to catch much of a break, but she keeps ending each episode on a positive note. It’s disheartening to see her turned away repeatedly in the most impolite of ways, and the guy who she met who immediately asked if she could change both her hair and her voice was particularly offensive. Going clubbing with Molly and Kelli wasn’t the best solution, mainly because she ran into Daniel right away and, as this season’s titles would agree, she made it hella awkward by trying to talk to him privately. Moving over to his table after he texted her to point out that Kelli was enjoying herself way too much under the table was a nice step, and maybe they could work out after all. Lawrence had a disconcerting encounter with a cop who pulled him over that turned out to be nothing, but it was enough for two eager white girls to buy his alcohol for him and then invite him over for what should have been a fantastic threesome but was ruined equally by his inability to power through a second round of sex seconds after the first one and their generally being terrible people. Molly actually wins for the most bizarre sexual-ish encounter, as she was coming way too close for comfort with Dro only to find out that he’s in an open marriage. She contemplated it for a minute but then retreated back to her more buttoned-up sense of proper relationships, which is properly a better way not to get hurt.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pilot Review: Get Shorty

Get Shorty (Epix)
Premiered August 13 at 10pm

I’m a big fan of the 1995 film starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, and Dennis Farina that itself was based on a book by Elmore Leonard, who wrote the books that were made into “Jackie Brown,” “Justified,” and others. I was excited to see the poster for this show since I’m a big fan of Chris O’Dowd from his previous TV show, “Family Tree,” and I liked Ray Romano a lot in his most recent film role in “The Big Sick.” Unfortunately, this show was off-putting from the first scene, where for some reason we had to watch – and hear - some guy’s tongue getting cut out. I remember Farina getting shot multiple times in the movie, which was considerably tamer and much funnier. This pilot was a mess, and there are so many characters, most of whom don’t need to exist. I started liking it a lot towards the end when O’Dowd’s Miles worked up some courage to pitch Romano’s Rick on his movie script, but then he decided to get back in league with the goons who are going to make his life miserable, even though he came up with a brilliant money-washing idea. In addition to the stars, we also saw Paul Sparks from “House of Cards” as the writer offed mid-sentence and Topher Grace as the demanding actor, but otherwise most of the cast wasn’t familiar to me. I preferred both lead actors in previous roles, and I just don’t think there’s much of an appeal if this clunky, slow start is any indication.

How will it work as a series? Miles’ partner is right – it’s a bad idea for him to get into business with people he knows regularly kill anyone that they no longer find to be valuable to their organization. Such a project, with a star like John Stamos, is also going to be way over Rick’s head based on what he usually does. This is going to be a disaster, and not an entertaining one, in my opinion.
How long will it last? Both of Epix’s first two original series, “Berlin Station” and “Graves,” were renewed. Ratings aren’t available for those shows, so the only real comparison is reviews, which seem to be pretty similar for all three programs. I think that this show should be able to earn a renewal though it’s hardly guaranteed.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 5, Episode 2 “Las Vegas” (B+)

There’s something strange and a bit eerily dreamlike about these flashbacks to Ray and Abby spending happy time together, and it just doesn’t feel real. I think that’s because, even at his most romantic, Ray is still pretty cold and unemotional. He’s clearly so distraught about having lost his wife, but I’m not sure he ever truly valued her when she was alive, even in this more idyllic time. Abby knows what’s going on, and she wasn’t okay with the idea that Terry had sex with another woman and then proposed to Maureen on the same night, especially since she knew that Ray might do the same sort of thing. They had fun together getting Ray’s mother’s ring back, but then she had a seizure, and things just went downhill from there. This season’s prominent mess of a star appears to be Natalie James, played by Lili Simmons, who spoke about as much on “Banshee” and in this episode nearly made Ray miss his brother’s wedding and then shot her soon-to-be-ex, plays by Rhys Coiro of “Entourage,” when she went back for her dog. It’s too bad that the wedding didn’t go well even with the Donovan brothers behaving themselves, and it was the cops who started trouble that quickly turned into a brawl thanks to Bunchy jumping in to defend his brother with his fists. Terry does seem to have undergone a pretty positive physical transformation, but unfortunately happiness is a much more elusive thing for those in the Donovan family.

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 5 “Eastwatch” (B+)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been caught up enough on my TV to watch an episode of this show while it was actually airing. I was noting to a friend that I’ve never been a fan of the White Walkers as a plotline on this show, but I guess you don’t get to choose what you like and what you don’t like. There’s something intense and exciting about seeing Jon, Davos, the Hound, and a few others head out into the snowy abyss to, apparently, try to catch a White Walker to bring to Cersei as proof of their existence. She did seem much more amenable to the idea of accepting some sort of truce with Daenerys, which I didn’t expect at all, though she’s still pretty angry at Jaime for giving Olenna a peaceful death, especially after learning that she was the one who killed Joffrey. Jaime wasn’t happy at all to see Tyrion, who is increasingly becoming one of the lone beacons of positive humanity. Daenerys is no longer listening to him, opting to have her dragon burn the Tarly men alive so that every other member of Cersei’s army will bend the knee. Discord is sowing between Arya and Sanda, and no one needs that given the many threats facing them. It’s good to have Jorah back and to see him joined with Davos and the others, healed by Sam, who continues to be underused despite having infinitely more knowledge than those who tell him to continue serving silently.

What I’m Watching: Orphan Black (Series Finale)

Orphan Black: Season 5, Episode 10 “To Right the Wrongs of Many”

I remember when I almost accidentally missed the premiere of this show because I wasn’t too aware of BBC America, but I did manage to catch it four and a half years ago when I moved back to New York. I’m so glad I did. Seasons one and two were all about the clones figuring out who they are, season three was about the Castor clones and how they turned out very differently, and seasons four and five were about figuring out how the clones will continue to exist and what purpose they were meant to serve. I wasn’t sure if this show would be able to provide a satisfying finale since it’s covered so much ground, but I think that it did. I’m always all for flashbacks to pivotal moments from years earlier, and Mrs. S talking to Sarah as she was about to have an abortion was extremely powerful as it transitioned directly into Sarah helping Helena as she was giving birth. Something about Sarah saying to Helena “Look at me, just keeping looking at me” really resonated, since they have the same face but they’re such different people. I’m not sure we’ll ever see a performance like the one Tatiana Maslany gave on this show ever again, though I’m so curious to see what she does next. It was also good to have Art back, knocking out and tying up his partner and then hilariously reacting to Virginia forcing him to serve as midwife. Ultimately, all the clones had to do was take out the two remaining threats to them – Virginia, stabbed in the neck by Helena, and Westmoreland, whose face was crushed by Sarah – and that was all that was left for them to be happy. Seeing the family unit reunited as Sarah prepared to sell her house was great, with everyone having a partner of some sort and highlighted by Art showing up and giving Helena a hug. It’s great to see everyone turn out so happy, and what better gift for Felix to give from Rachel than a list of the 274 Lida clones still out there. The notion that Cosima and Delphine are traveling the world to help cure all the clones that look like Cosima is wonderful, and what a great ending for them too. Finishing with Helena describing the title of the show as an untranslatable Ukrainian expression was perfect. What a great series – I’ll continue to recommend this to anyone and everyone I know.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Tatiana Maslany
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Tatiana Maslany
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Conditions of Existence

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I’m Watching: Dark Matter

Dark Matter: Season 3, Episode 11 “The Dwarf Star Conspiracy” (B+)

This show continues to jump around, but at least now we’re coming back to something that we looked at before, involving the aliens coming through the anomaly and inhabiting human hosts. After Three’s nightmare made him take a stand against the rest of the crew about their mission since he had a very bad feeling about it, they went anyway and he did not end up in good shape. Fortunately, both Two and Six think on their feet very well, and they were able to talk to Commander Tarkanian and Dr. Aaron and tell them the truth about what was going on. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Sajen wasn’t quite on the good side of things, and she managed to escape with a few other hosts who are sure to cause problems in the future for the crew. Dr. Aaron calling in a nuclear strike and then shooting himself in the head was not good news for Two, but she did get knocked out and dragged out just before the explosion. The fact that it was Boone who saved her and is now taking her to wherever he plans to is disconcerting, and I’m sure that a face-to-face with the other crew is going to account for a good portion of the content of the final two episodes. I like that the Android got a new suit and talked to Two about boobs, inserting big-word terms that go together like humanity and instrumentality, sexuality and functionality in the conversation to celebrate that the very fact that she can choose a new look should make her happy. Six is always ready to give people the benefit of the doubt, even if they’re not exactly people.

Pilot Review: Atypical

Atypical (Netflix)
Premiered August 11

As soon as I saw that Keir Gilchrist was starring in a new show, I immediately remembered a great movie I saw in 2010 called “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” He carried that film exceptionally as a teenager experiencing a life in a different way than others, and what better item to have on his resume for this project? This show has a cool premise, following the life of an eighteen-year-old on the autism spectrum who doesn’t have a lot of friends and spends most of his time either at his job at a geek squad or talking to his therapist. Sam speaks his mind and discusses how he processes everything differently, and he really loves his research. I like that his sister isn’t too fond of other people but is deeply protective of her brother and anyone else that she sees as being threatened. They’re both exploring dating at the same time, which is going pretty poorly even though Sam is putting his best foot forward and did fine until he accidentally hit the redhead who expressed some interest in him. I was initially unsure of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport as the actors chosen to play Sam and Casey’s parents, remembering them from “The Hateful Eight” and “The War at Home,” respectively, but by episode’s end, I was pretty confident in their abilities, with Leigh’s Elsa showing that she might want something else but knowing not to do it and Rapaport’s Doug standing up for himself when he seemed to be an uninterested dud. I think this show is set up for success, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

How will it work as a series? His first date wasn’t great, and now it seems that he’s become fixated on his therapist, something that’s not going to go well at all. But this show seems like it’s invested in all of its characters, not just Sam, and I imagine that will make it a strong comedic drama.
How long will it last? The reviews are pretty good, and even though Netflix has recently cancelled three of its shows after their first seasons, I think that this is right up the network’s alley in terms of originality and individuality. Expect a renewal sometime soon.

Pilot grade: B+