Thursday, November 30, 2017

What I’m Watching: Arrow

Arrow: Season 6, Episode 8 “Crisis on Earth-X, Part 2” (B+)

I don’t usually watch this show, but I have to say this was my favorite installment since I stopped watching it way back in season one. This really wasn’t very focused on Oliver’s world, mainly featuring just Oliver and Felicity. Small talk didn’t encompass too much of the hour, and I’m not too interested in why Felicity doesn’t want to marry Olive, though I assume that her tune might change after he manages to help to defeat this evil Nazi army and his own doppelganger. I like that Felicity referred to this scenario as “Oliver in the High Castle,” an entertaining nod to pop culture that I guess also exists in this universe. Earth-X does not seem like a pretty place, and the fact that our heroes are now trapped there is very bad news. I’m impressed with how evil Kara, evil Oliver, and our very own Reverse-Flash seem different from their regular counterparts, and the actors are obviously having fun chewing scenery. Evil Oliver’s connection to his Kara is certainly strong and a weakness to be exploited, but it seems that they’re trying to save her and that she’s more than ready to sacrifice herself if he gets too emotional. Oliver carrying Kryptonite arrows was convenient but didn’t end up helping out too much, and Metallo’s arrival turned the tables definitively. Wherever they’re headed next, having just Iris, Felicity, and a few other supporting team members to save them means a major uphill battle ahead that they’re going to have to work hard to win.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 8 “Crisis on Earth-X, Part 1” (B+)

Now this is the four-show crossover we’ve been waiting for since the beginning! No aliens, no musicals, and a great chance to celebrate a wedding gone horrible, horribly wrong. Who cares about Mon-El, Reign, and anything involving the DEO when all four of our casts are headed to Central City for Barry and Iris’ wedding? I was confused at first when we saw things going on in Earth-X where Nazis are in power, but then we got the glimpses of what all our protagonists were up to before they arrived for the big day. It’s fun to think that everyone would be invited to the wedding, and even those like Alex who haven’t yet been introduced came along. Alex and Sara hooking up was fantastic, and I like that they managed to fight together and then high-five when the Nazis attacked. Mick sitting next to the cpolice chief and Barry asking Kara to sing were fun too, and Felicity saying no to Oliver’s proposal is something that I imagine will be addressed in that series’ installment of this crossover. Everyone springing into action when the Nazis showed up was awesome, though the priest was the lone casualty of the whole affair. Kara clapping out her doppelganger was intense, and knowing that evil Kara, evil Oliver, and evil Reverse-Flash Wells are plotting to take them all down means that we’re likely to experience a casualty more severe than just an unconscious Cisco. Bring on the next three hours – I’m so excited to watch them all back-to-back.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 2, Episode 3 and 4 “Paralysis” and “Suspicion” (B+)

Now that they’re back home, all four of our protagonists are existing mostly on their own, struggling to acclimate back to reality. I wasn’t expecting Chantal to have such a big part, and her sleeping with Drew was a surprise. He’s becoming a pretty unlikeable character, keeping his distance from her, being excessively rude to Dory, and sabotaging his Chinese-speaking colleague so that he can get the transfer instead. Chantal doesn’t realize just how much Dory invested in trying to find her, but she also doesn’t have a good connection to the real world. She was more than happy to talk to Julien when Dory declined. Dory tried to get her job back with Gail, a woman even less aware of what’s going on around her than Chantal, and she has a decent person to lean on even if she’s not actually listening to anything she’s saying. Getting cornered by two women connected to Keith seemed like it could end badly, but they seemed to believe her lies, and now she’s taking steps to make sure that it looks like Keith went away. Speaking of lies, Elliot is truly outrageous, and his claim that he wrote the entire book but then his laptop got stolen was a real stretch. Portia’s audition was quite unusual, and not only is she being typecast for slasher projects, but she was also forced to make a brutal phone call by Jay Duplass’ director that didn’t showcase her acting so much as her willingness to follow pretty horrific instructions.

What I’m Watching: Good Behavior

Good Behavior: Season 2, Episode 7 “Don’t Thank God, Thank Me” (B)

I wasn’t as fond of this episode as I have been of most of this season, and I think that’s because this show is stronger when its two protagonists are together rather than apart, just as they both are. Letty giving custody of Jacob back to Estelle was the only reassuring development of this whole hour since it means that he’ll be safe from the self-destruction that she’s inflicting upon herself. Carin was rightfully upset that Letty just up and disappeared, and only someone who’s used to moving around a lot and assuming other lives wouldn’t even blink at the idea that someone else was living in her home. Going out to party together wasn’t a great idea, and it got very crazy when the police showed up to raid it and Carin vomited the drugs out in front of a cop. Letty’s latest story about a celebrity – this time using Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning role in “Still Alice” to elicit sympathy – managed to work thanks to her addition of the expensive watch, but she let her guard down in a big way, opening up to Carin about everything and telling her the full truth. I don’t think that will be a mistake, but going to procure more drugs definitely. That’s a twist Christian won’t want to include in his book. Javier took out a lot of his rage on Teo, who was apparently working for his father, and after he told Ava, she was ready to let him suffer and rot. The news that his father and brother are both dead isn’t good for anyone, and it’s hard to know what’s going to come next for either of our main characters.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 9, Episode 9 “The Shucker” (B-)

Sometimes this show isn’t quite as funny as it wants to be. That’s not to suggest that this episode was bad, but rather that some of its elements didn’t work all that well. Larry going on Judge Judy was a particularly excessive instance, and you’d think that he would bother to change the locks or let go of the plant that he’s neglected for many years. The story of the shucker was also a bit of a dud, though Steven Weber is always great in whatever he does. The uncontrolled infidelity that exists on this show is mind-boggling to me, as we knew recently that Jeff was sleeping with his realtor and Susie was only into the cowboy hat because she was having an affair with the shucker. I thought that Bridget was gone after last episode, but it appears that it took one of the episode’s funnier elements, the relationship nondisclosure contract, to get her to leave the bedroom at night and storm out, presumably not to return again. Fatwa the Musical seems to be on track now that Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved, but Larry falling asleep next to America Ferrera’s Mrs. Miranda after attending the show instead of his shucker so that the fact that he fell asleep the first time wouldn’t be outed might have ruined all that. Miranda competing with Larry for the boss’ chair was mildly amusing, but I think that this episode could have been better. This show often scores, but not isn’t always a slam dunk when it casts real people as themselves.

What I’m Watching: SMILF


SMILF: Season 1, Episode 4 “Deep-Dish Pizza and a Shot of Holy Water” (B+)

Bridgette lives a pretty crazy life, investing heavily in each moment even if she isn’t always the same person in all of them. She was all about her basketball fantasy while her stuff was getting stolen and then her shoes were literally taken off her feet, and she didn’t bother to confront the thieves when she ran into them the next day. Instead, she was ready to challenge all men by participating with Nelson and Eliza in the Muscle Man Mud Run, something that people apparently train for all year and they decided to do after ingesting a few protein bars. That Craiglist encounter is still haunting her (and lingering in that disturbing scene with the guy enjoying himself in the duct above the changing room), and she’s running full force into getting past it, including seducing an unwitting supermarket employee and showing him one hell of a good time in the back of the store. After Rafi made a new friend who happened to be a sober priest at the gym, he was ready to baptize Larry, something that he knew Bridgette wouldn’t like and which her mother went along with for some reason. When Bridgette found out, she let him have it, and what a showcase of Frankie Shaw’s talents that scene was. Rafi may feel like he has the moral high ground because Bridgette got Larry vaccinated, but she’s not going to let that stand, making her a truly immutable and unsinkable protagonist who makes this show very worth watching.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead: Season 8, Episode 6 “The King, the Widow, and Rick” (C+)

This episode’s title is strange to me since I guess it’s meant to indicate some sort of unity since this episode featured three main characters all in separate, unconnected places, but this show is still so disjointed and all over the place that I’m not buying that it’s actually headed somewhere. I read recently that this show could go on forever, and I believe it, since things have been going round and round for so long now that it’s hard to see any sort of direction in the near future. I had forgotten how much I hate the Yoda-speak women, and now they have Rick boarded up, which he doesn’t seem to mind at all. Maggie is making big decisions and heeding Gregory’s advice much more than he realized, bringing the prisoners in and kicking him out. Carol is giving Ezekiel her latest pep talk, and I’m wondering now if I liked Carol more when she was obsessed with finding Sophia way back in season two. Tara and Michonne survived some ominous whistling and a near-getaway thanks to Darryl’s good timing, and Carl saved some guy in the woods that his father would have let die. There are so many threads extending from what feels like just as many centers, and the pacing of each of these episodes is just so glacial. Firing a torpedo to obliterate a person can only liven up the show so much, and with only two episodes left until this show goes on its hiatus, I don’t imagine we’ll get anywhere interesting.

What I’m Watching: Shameless


Shameless: Season 8, Episode 4 “Fuck Paying It Forward” (B+)

Saint Francis continues to inflict his newfound desire to give back upon the world, and that makes him a very unusual dad on the PTA, admonishing the other men for being attached to their phones and not invested in anything and spearheading a massively successful car wash with his youngest son. He doesn’t seem to have a sinister endgame just yet, and something tells me this new Frank may be staying put for good. Liam’s existence has just been threatened by the arrival of a new black kid who might steal his spotlight, and I’m eager to see how the youngest Gallagher proves himself to be a member of the family. Carl going after the guy who stole from a vet was entertaining, and it’s great to see the kid who used to microwave marbles really put his mind to something. Ian didn’t do anything untoward with the girl he let sleep in his bed, but Trevor is right to be concerned about lines being crossed. I love that Lip ended up having sex with the deeply uninterested woman at the body shop simply because she couldn’t stand to hear him complain about not having sex. Sean’s return was extremely unexpected, and I wonder what it’s going to do to Fiona other than to accelerate her inevitable hook-up with Nessa. I was thrilled to recognize Dale Dickey from “Winter’s Bone” as Kev’s aunt, and everything about his backwards Kentucky family has been perfectly awkward and ridiculous so far. I look forward to getting to know the whole clan.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What I’m Watching: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Season 2, Episode 7 “That Is Not Miami” (B)

I’m not nearly as fond of Wendimoor as I am of the real world and everything that has been going on in Montana recently, especially since Tina and Bart didn’t appear in this episode at all. The opening segment revealed that the boy was able to create things while he dreamed, and new boyfriend Dirk seems to have had an epiphany at the end of the episode after learning that there were two brothers. Who the other boy is remains a mystery – I suspect that maybe it’s the Mage himself – and I’m very intrigued to learn how it will all work out. Despite the younger generation’s near-success in creating peace with the assistance of Todd and Amanda on each side, the adults showed up and shot at each other in a way that definitely didn’t resemble a fairy tale. Suzie was extremely excited to arrive in Wendimoor, and after she disposed of Wakti, she transformed herself into exactly the queen witch that she’s wanted to be from the start. It’s hard to imagine how all this can be wrapped up in just the three episodes that are left this season, but at least no one is trapped in the body of a dog like last season. I think our characters have grown considerably this season, particularly Todd, who announced that he’s not going to quit for the first time in his life, and there’s some romance left in the world thanks to the love between the star-crossed Silas and Panto.

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 2 “Fever” (B+)

I’ve always appreciated the relationship between Walt and Henry on this show, starting with the punch that followed Walt’s misinterpreted warning about putting his mouth on the bubbler, and it’s still a special bond that convinced Henry to stay with Walt if only to make sure that he didn’t talk to Nighthorse. Unfortunately, he went straight to Cady, and she delivered that token Longmire blind rage by bursting onto Nighthorse’s property and then smacking him with the stake. It’s good to know that he’s on the right side of things, and I’ve always found him to be a strong and complex character. Henry explaining to Cady that she might have misunderstood Nighthorse’s presence in her vision when he was calling to her for help was very interesting, and she’s definitely going to be experiencing a crisis about what her role is thanks to these developments. The treasure hunting case was involving, and I like that Peter Weller’s Lucian was an enthusiastic participant who ended up being the one who dug up the box. I loved his line “Someone left their house without their cell phone? Sounds like a job for Walt Longmire!” Vic wasn’t going to be able to keep her pregnancy a secret from Walt for long, but I didn’t expect Travis to walk into Walt’s office with an engagement ring and tell him that maybe he should be the one to give it to Vic instead. It’s an intriguingly astute observation from a man who earlier in the episode told Vic that they should be careful considering her age without both having any idea how old she is and why he shouldn’t have said that.

Round Two: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 2 “Two Dead Men” (B+)

It’s jarring just how different the flashback segments to Frank’s happy times with his family are from the brutal violence that happens in Frank’s present-day life and is even inflicted on others by Frank himself. Most of what Frank recalls isn’t all happy, of course, as the opening segment with him smacking his son for glorifying what he would be doing in the military indicated and his many nightmares about his family being killed again and again in front of him clearly demonstrate. This second installment helped to frame what this first season is going to be about, as Frank is trying to make everyone responsible pay as multiple parties are interested in him, both in giving him information and in tracking him down. I didn’t expect that C. Thomas Howell’s Carson Wolf would be taken out so early, and at Frank’s hands no less, but he showed his allegiances in his response to Frank’s rather aggressive questioning. Micro, better known as David Lieberman, is quite an intriguing character, pretending to be dead while watching his family on many TV screens. I couldn’t place what I knew actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach from, and a moment’s worth of research reminded me that it was from his far less aware role as Desi on “Girls.” Frank tracked him down quickly, and I’m hoping that he’ll find another ally since the two friends he has won’t be enough to protect him from the number of people who want him dead. I was thrilled to see Karen return and take on a prominent role here, and I’m continually amazed by the contracts that those who star on these Marvel shows must sign to appear as main characters on multiple series.

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 2, Episode 5 “Chapter 5: Dig Dug” (B+)

I like it when all the characters on this show talk to each other, and enlisting multiple generations in missions is always going to win me over. Of course Bob would show up to try to help Will feel better when he and Mike were in the middle of working with Joyce on dealing with this whole shadow monster business, and Joyce was smart to call him back to have help them figure out the secret of his map. His reaction to finding Hopper when they jumped down into the hole was fantastic, and the simultaneous arrival of the men in white suits was ominous, mainly since they were on the same side for once. Nothing was as worrisome as Will writhing and screaming as the monster was being burned, and the hope is that this rids him of the monster’s presence without hurting him in the process. Dustin trying hard to get someone on the radio while he was in full hockey gear dealing with Dart was funny, and I love that Lucas’ sister answered and told him to shut up. Dustin grabbing the flowers from Steve and making him drive was hilarious, and I’m eager to see where that leads. Max didn’t respond well to Lucas telling her the truth, and I’m worried that Lucas is still in the crosshairs of Max’s brother. Eleven’s trip into her mom’s memory was harrowing, and I don’t know where this leaves here. The casting of Brett Gelman as conspiracy theorist Murray Bauman was brilliant, and his alcohol dilution trick presented the ultimate solution that Nancy eagerly voiced, something that I don’t imagine will go as planned but should be fascinating to watch nonetheless.

Monday, November 27, 2017

What I’m Watching: Mindhunter

Mindhunter: Season 1, Episode 7 (B+)

This was an intriguing if disturbing episode, with Holden employing unusual tactics to coerce their latest uncooperative interviewee to open up about his motivations. He was more than happy to boast about some of the things he did but none of the details, and it was only when Holden showed up with a pair of women’s shoes that they got him to start really talking. Referencing Kemper and the fact that they would believe anything suggests that they shouldn’t put as much stock in what their number one subject told them, and also shows that their study isn’t flying quite as under the radar as perhaps they had hoped. The most interesting part of this episode was how it showed the home lives of our two FBI agents, with Bill reacting badly to his wife’s response to his son finding a photo of a murder victim in his office and Holden being very sentimental with Hannah before she tried something new that didn’t go exactly as planned. I’ve read that people believe Holden has sociopathic tendencies of his own, and the way he looked at those shoes suggested that he couldn’t escape the world that he now lives in while he was in that moment of intimacy. Sharing a true moment from his childhood also got Bill upset since it made him vulnerable when he really shouldn’t have been. Wendy doesn’t seem to approve either, and she’s hitched herself to this wagon and needs to commit fully now. On a lighter note, Bill’s revenge on the guy who refused to move out of the middle sweet was entertaining.

What I’m Watching: Transparent (Season Finale)

Transparent: Season 4, Episode 10 “House Call” (B-)

My timing finishing this show’s season comes at a very interesting and unfortunate juncture in its life, as Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior and decided to quit the show as a result. I do think that Tambor’s performance continues to be excellent, though the way he acts on set apparently is not. An easy way to deal with his departure is to cast a transgender actress in his place to play Maura, though I’m not sure that this show, which had previously been renewed, is going to end up continuing at all. While I don’t think that it’s hit rock bottom, I do think there are some serious issues with this show and its ability to focus. This episode ended with two of its characters talking to imagined people that they know aren’t there, diving deeper into isolation, while the other adult child didn’t bother to listen to her husband pointing out that he might have impregnated the woman they had just broken up with before having break-up sex. This trip to Israel only seems to have made a real impact on Ali, who decided to stick around for something that’s no longer there anymore. The scenario back at the rented Pfefferman home was just plain bizarre, as Maura thought she could just throw August out and he ended up just lying down on the floor in an act of passive resistance before Shelly intimidated him into leaving. This show doesn’t flow narratively in a coherent way, and while its dreamlike nature can sometimes be captivating, it doesn’t work all that well in recommending a cohesive show. I would come back for a fifth season if it ends up existing in some form, but this show isn’t what it once was.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Jeffrey Tambor as Maura

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 3, Episode 4 “Testosterone Martyr Baked Knife” (B)

Even if this show is far from perfect, it does still manage to be very entertaining. This Thanksgiving episode was fun because it went into further detail about the same scenes we had already seen with a focus on a new character in each vignette. Greg getting excited about his high testosterone report had humorous results, and it didn’t take long for his acne to flare up and deal a serious blow to his renewed self-confidence. Jen, not usually one to play along, was into the way that he was behaving and was even ready to get behind the acne because it played into a certain fantasy of hers, but that only lasted a short time. Jen didn’t invest much in the Thanksgiving cooking that she was doing with spiritual cook Clementine – smartly relegated to supervising ice only – and Heather, who was more interested in watching TV than actually doing much. Joan’s exploration of other Thanksgiving day activities was amusing, and naturally she’d up doing what she wanted to do in the first place. The last two segments were considerably sillier, with Samantha trying not to reveal that she was high when her parents were also, and Tim slicing his own thumb while trying to cut the turkey while high. Samantha getting up to deliver her inspired speech again without remembering that she had already done it and without realizing that there were much more serious things going on was a funny and fitting way to end an utterly ridiculous half-hour.

Pilot Review: She’s Gotta Have It

She’s Gotta Have It (Netflix)
Premiered November 23

Here we have Spike Lee’s first television series, and boy does it feel like a Spike Lee Joint. I took a course in college called Comparative Directors: Scorsese, Allen, and Lee, analyzing how the three look at New York City and other subjects in their films. Scorsese made his made on “Boardwalk Empire” and Woody Allen had an Amazon show, “Crisis in Six Scenes,” last year, and so it’s about time that Lee made his way to the small screen. This is a remake of Lee’s first feature film, and, though I haven’t seen that movie, I do recognize a lot of Lee’s imprint on this pilot. The montage of verbal sexual assaults hurled at Nola felt familiar though not as impactful, and this was a visually aggressive hour with flashes of many things designed to stimulate reactions. Lee’s ego is on full display as he has his cinephile protagonist bemoan an Oscar snub for Denzel in a movie made by Lee himself, and I’d cite a few contradictory statistics, like the fact that Denzel won an Oscar prior to “Malcolm X” and that his make-up win in 2001 for “Training Day” had more to do with Russell Crowe trashing his own chances due to his violent behavior. Nola is undeniably an intriguing protagonist, and actress DeWanda Wise commands this episode. While I loved “Do the Right Thing” and “25th Hour,” Lee in this form, using gentrified characters to decry gentrification, is not something that I’ve got to have.

How will it work as a series? The flurry of hashtags and rapid-fire editing show that this series is trying to keep up with the times and provide an insightful look at what life is like today for these characters. It’s definitely going to be watchable, but these characters are a lot to take too.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be pretty good, and Lee definitely has his fans. As Netflix seeks to expand its repertoire of series, this feels like a perfect addition that shows its diversity and gives Lee a chance to revisit some of his original themes in a modern-day format. I’d expect a season two renewal shortly.

Pilot grade: B-

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Round Two: There’s Johnny

There’s Johnny: Season 1, Episode 2 “Dog Day Afternoon” (B+)

In its second episode, I’m pleased to report that this show is a light-hearted, fun bit of nostalgia. Andy is a decent guy, and even though his response to Joy telling him that seems to contradict that remark, he really means well and just has stars in his eyes. He got two tough assignments in this episode and nearly failed them both, but somehow, everything worked out. Waking up in someone else’s bed could have gone a whole lot worse, and now he has a new friend, Rasheed, who he enlisted to help him find the dog and then got to stop by the Tonight Show and almost get an acknowledgment of his existence from Joy. Who would have thought that bringing the wrong dog and then feeding him before putting him on camera to eat food would have resulted in the opportunity for a joke that Johnny loved to make? The tie-in with Albert Brooks and hearing him assure Joy over the phone that he would be an easy guest worked well, and I’m confident that format will be effective. Tony Danza’s Freddie is charismatic enough to take all of the attention, and the contents of his confidential file have now been seen by the wrong person, which is sure to lead to interesting consequences. Jane Levy continues to be the standout in the cast as Joy, and I enjoyed all the scenes featuring her in this episode. It’s great to see her get a role that fits her talents well after “Suburgatory.”

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 3, Episode 7 “eps3.6_fredrick+tanya.chk” (B+)

I haven’t been able to get this episode out of my head since I watched it. I remember a similarly disturbing moment in the fifth episode of this show’s first season, when Shayla ended up being dead in a trunk after Elliot spent the entire hour trying desperately to save her. Fortunately, her portrayer Frankie Shaw is alive and well in her own show, “SMILF,” but I can’t say the same for the two casualties of this episode. Things started off much more humorously, as the TV-obsessed Leon returned to grab Trenton and Mobley. When Trenton got out of her binds and started driving, Leon didn’t even flinch, and then she crashed the car anyway. There’s something extremely upsetting about seeing people beg for their lives, and there was nothing that was going to save Trenton or Mobley, especially since they were long dead with the Dark Army gone when the FBI finally broke in to find the staged scene. This was an extraordinary frame job, with Irving and Santiago as the chief executors on the ground playing out Whiterose’s vision, which involved a brutal undercut of Philip. Angela’s mental state is deeply worrisome since she seems to believe that she can rewind death, and it’s hard to figure out exactly where the still-menacing Mr. Robot fits in now that his stage two plan has been corrupted for evil rather than merely revolutionary purposes. I’m really pulling for Dom to go straight to Darlene and request her help in taking down the people she knows are responsible.

Pilot Review: Godless

Godless (Netflix)
Premiered November 22

It’s getting very difficult keep track of the shows Netflix is premiering these days, especially with launches on Wednesdays and Thursdays in addition to its usual Friday starting slate. I hadn’t heard anything about this show before watching it, which I find surprising because of the talent involved. Jack O’Connell has anchored films like “Unbroken” and “’71” and here gets to play a complicated character who seems a whole lot like a hero despite his villainous origins. Jeff Daniels gets the chance to ham it up as a merciless, newly one-armed bad guy, doing a formidable job in the process, with his “The Newsroom” costar Sam Waterston on the other side of the law, using his signature style of speaking to great effect. I’m impressed that Michelle Dockery has a leading role on this show while she’s also holding down the fort on “Good Behavior,” and this doesn’t seem like as strong a part. Scoot McNairy from “Frank” is the sheriff, and Merritt Wever, who won an Emmy on “The Walking Dead” and who I loved on “The Walking Dead,” also has a decent part as Mary. As for the plot of this episode, that needs a bit of work, since this show does shine when its music gets fast and its moments get more exciting. Yet its disturbing content is outdone by the extraordinary slowness of its storytelling. I’m mildly intrigued by what this show might have to offer, but this first hour and ten minutes felt truly endless.

How will it work as a series? This is a full-blown Western, and while it might make for a good movie, I don’t know how fitting it is for a TV show. One town has been destroyed and another is in the crosshairs and ready to be devastated in episode two. I’m concerned that this might be a stretch, content-wise, to fill each hourlong episode of this series, and I’m not sure where it would go from there.
How long will it last? Reviews appear to be mostly positive, which is good news for a show that I’m sure is expensive to make for a number of reasons. It’s being marketed as a limited series of just seven episodes, all of which premiered on Wednesday, so I assume that this is all we’ll see of this saga unless Netflix deems it worthy of a renewal.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 9 “Number Two” (B+)

I found this to be a much more effective episode than last week’s focus on Kevin, partially because Kate is a much stronger character than Kevin. We already knew the tragedy that was going to befall her, which made the bulk of this episode horribly devastating. The actual moment of losing the baby was so quick and seemingly inconsequential that even the thought of taking a shower was paralyzing to Kate. Toby spending the entire day at a warehouse trying to find the package that he wanted to make sure wouldn’t arrive on their doorstep was a very selfless gesture that will rightly go unnoticed, and Kate worked through things in her own way with an aborted stop at the buffet and the decision to tell her mom what was going on. Though she doesn’t usually say the right thing, Rebecca did just that in this case by telling the story of how she went after the woman who took the last bag of yellow onions at the supermarket and explaining that she didn’t take the chance to hold Kyle. It’s good to know that Kate and Toby are back on the same page after some reversed cuddling and a decision to take some much-needed healing time. Pairing these events with Rebecca listening to Kate’s demo for her Berklee application and opting not to critique but just to express her support was very effective, though as we know that didn’t go far enough since their present-day relationship is still somewhat strained. I’m not sure how Randall fits into all of this, but we’ll see in next week’s number three!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 7 “Welcome to the Jungle” (B+)

I’ve never been all that fond of Grodd as a character, but I think he worked very well in the context of this episode, which sent the legends to Vietnam for some unexpected encounters. It does appear that Grodd is going to continue to be involved with the show thanks to the all-powerful Dahrk saving him from certain death at the last moment, and now he’ll have a purpose even more nefarious than starting World War III. The most enjoyable part of this episode was Mick running into his dad, who sounded just like him and turned out to be far nicer and purer than Mick had ever thought. I’m very impressed with what this show has done with that character, who started out as the lesser member of a duo and has turned into a hilarious source of comic relief. Ray, Amaya, and Zari did a great job posing as reporters straight out of “Apocalypse Now,” and the two totem-wielders were able to relate in an important way to their foes in the jungle. Jax managed to prove that he didn’t need Firestorm to be a hero, talking an entertaining portrayal of LBJ through walking a minefield safely. I love that Stein brought the likes of Isaac Newton and Marie Curie aboard the ship to help him work on separating Firestorm, and Newton in particular came through by knocking Sara out when Grodd took control of her mind. Fortunately, Sara’s back and ready to go, and Dahrk recruiting Grodd means that they have a big battle ahead of them.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 7 “Therefore I Am” (B+)

This was an extremely informative episode that explained how the man in the wheelchair who opened the door for Barry and Joe at the end of last week’s episode is the same person we’ve been seeing all season looking a whole lot less human and much more villainously omniscient. Devoe being a professor who was tired of being ignored and underappreciated and, with the help of his loyal wife Marlize, decided to create a device that could amplify his intelligence makes some sense, and naturally some version of Harrison Wells played into his evil rise to power. Devoe knows so much because of his extraordinary intellect, and therefore he’s able to review with Barry the many threats that he’s faced in the past like Zoom and Savitar to show how he’s going to be much, much worse. The fact that he knows about Eobard Thawne means that he shouldn’t associate Barry with the real Wells’ crimes, and therefore it’s hard to know just what he has against a do-gooder meta like the Flash. Devoe has managed thus far to convince the police that Barry is crazy, and I’m not sure why it was so easy for him to convince Team Flash that he was telling the truth. All this talk of Barry and Iris getting married in just one week feels a lot like last season with Iris’ impending demise, and I do like that Iris tried to reassure Barry by saying that they were the Flash. Let’s hope they make it and are somehow able to defeat this superintelligent nemesis they’ve acquired.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Pilot Review: The Runaways

The Runaways (Hulu)
Premiered November 21

The TV world has Marvel fever, with Netflix launching its sixth series last week, and it’s no surprise that Hulu, the streaming service that made history with the first Emmy win for best series this past year, would get on board too. I’m not at all familiar with this storyline, though I had read brief summaries of what this show was about. What’s most unclear to me is whether this is meant to be a show for kids since all of its characters are teenagers with powers, or if it’s supposed to be much darker and for an adult audience. The powers that these teenagers have don’t seem to be all that exciting, and there’s not much unity among them, in terms of intelligence, social status, or anything else. I recognize only a few players in the cast, namely two of the fathers, James Marsters from “Angel” and “Smallville” and Kevin Weisman from “Alias,” and one of the mothers, Annie Wersching from “24,” though each of them only appeared in one short scene in this pilot. Before I remembered that only the first three episodes were released this past Tuesday, this struck me as the ultimate example of a show that’s probably made much better by binge-watching, since this episode only really got interesting in its last two minutes. Much as I’d like to hop aboard the Marvel bandwagon and make sure that I’m completely tuned in to all that’s happening in its cinematic universe, I’m more than content to leave this one behind since it just doesn’t compare to any of the other fare starring the Marvel Comics characters.

How will it work as a series? There are a lot of characters to keep track of, with six kids and nearly double the number of parents, so I feel like getting to know them is going to be tricky since there’s not nearly enough time to properly flesh any of them out. The question is also whether there will be flashbacks to fill in who the parents are or if we’re just going to learn things as the kids learn them.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be pretty good, but I’m not sure that’s relevant after Netflix brought back the abysmal “Iron Fist” for a second season. Rather than releasing the whole series at once, this is set to play out over the course of an otherwise relatively quiet TV time, and so I have no doubt that this will be commissioned for a second season very soon.

Pilot grade: C+

Round Two: Future Man

Future Man: Season 1, Episode 2 “Herpe: Fully Loaded” (C+)

I have to admit, this episode’s title is pretty terrific. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of the direction that this show’s humor has gone, and I think that I’ve decided I don’t need to watch this show anymore. Opening with so many family members gathering excitedly to hear news of the cop’s demise was an indicator that this show isn’t going to care at all about the casualties it inflicts on innocent people in the pursuit of saving the human race from the biotic outbreak. Wolf breaking all of the fingers of one unlucky biker who just wanted to do the secret handshake was gratuitous and more than a little absurd, and things got plenty ridiculous later when the bikers and the cops went to battle with each other. Utilizing current events as fodder for comedy can be effective, and this show has chosen its route by having Josh express shock about Bill Cosby joking about things that he has since been revealed to have actually done, and poking fun at the black fraternity’s harassment complains being constantly ignored by the police was further evidence of that. This show is overflowing with “Back to the Future” references, with the dance-off and subsequent phone call particularly reminiscent, and it doesn’t do it justice. After they made it back to the present and Josh tried to put his rathole on Tiger’s rathole, he discovered – of course – that nothing has been fixed. I’m only slightly interested in what’s still wrong, and I’m fine saying goodbye to this show.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Gifted


The Gifted: Season 1, Episode 8 “threat of eXtinction” (B+)

Okay, so now we’re getting somewhere. After seven episodes of mutants and humans wandering about without any real purpose other than to evade capture and accomplish capture, respectively, there’s finally a sense of where it’s all heading. I figured that the flashback to the destructive twins using their powers for much evil back in 1952 would be connected somehow to the events of the hour, and now it’s clear that, like in many other superhero series, having abilities that are destructive in nature can lead to inevitable corruption by even the purest people. The casting of Raymond J. Barry from “Justified” and “Ray Donovan” as Reed’s father Otto was perfect, and he had an incredibly important story to tell. Revealing that he made Reed sick so that he could make sure that he wouldn’t have the mutant gene because of how evil his parents were was extremely informative, and the fact that Lauren and Andy have exactly the same powers as his parents did is bad news, especially since they held hands for the first time when Reed returned. Something tells me they’ll be able to overcome the dark urges, but Sentinel Services and Dr. Campbell, well aware of the Strucker family’s lineage, will be all over trying to capture them and either turn them or lock them away. Let’s hope some positive allegiances are strengthened since there’s a good deal of infighting going on among the mutants, and they’re going to need a big win soon to put them far ahead of their mutant-hating pursuers.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 7 “Wake Up” (B)

Mon-El’s return may well be the least exciting thing about this episode, which doesn’t speak terribly positively about a character who I thought really managed to liven up the last season. Something about him being muted and wearing a beard didn’t feel right since it was his boyish, irresponsible energy that made him most likeable, and of course he had to go and spend seven years far in the future as a result of his wormhole travel and only return to the present time after he had married someone else. I don’t see that playing out all that well because getting over someone who’s moved on because he thought he’d never see you again is far from an easy task, even for Supergirl. I was much more appreciate of the story progression for Hank and his father, who pointed out to his son that he seemed to be a prisoner of the DEO. Hank’s decision to rent an apartment so that he and his father could build a new home together was sweet, and it’s nice to see this relationship forming anew. Sam didn’t need to ask many questions for her adoptive mother to drop the alien bombshell on her, and she got her fortress built in the middle of the desert in no time. I’m always dubious of these fate storylines, very popular on “The Flash,” where those who want to be heroes are destined to be villains because of the nature of their powers, and I sincerely hope that we see Sam shining through as Reign tries to take over and, apparently, kill the world.

What I’m Watching: Search Party (Season Premiere)

Search Party: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 “Murder!” and “Conspiracy” (B+)

I’m a big fan of this show, and I’m glad that TBS has decided to air its second season the way that I chose to watch the first one a year ago, two episodes each week rather than two per night over the course of just five days. It’s not clear what this season is going to be about now that they found Chantal, but that didn’t stop these first two episodes from being extremely interesting and entertaining. There’s not a single person in this four-person friendship that I would have recommended as the top choice to do physical labor, and it’s a wonder that they were able to accomplish anything given their collective laziness. Portia didn’t want to know much about what was going on, but it’s good that she was read in since she’s the only one who actually seems to have any sort of relationship with Chantal, who as a person is pretty lackluster. After Dory did an exceedingly poor job of trying to ditch Keith’s phone, things got more on track with the decision to use Chantal’s poem to cover their tracks. Unfortunately, they’re going to be tied to Keith whether they want to or not since she knows that Dory exists, and it’s going to drive them crazy for the rest of the season. I’m curious to see where everything goes since this show has proven itself to be one of the most unique, genre-bending shows out there right now and one that has proven to be immensely watchable.

Take Three: SMILF

SMILF: Season 1, Episode 3 “Half a Sheet Cake and a Blue-Raspberry Slushie” (B+)

I’m still not sure exactly where this show is headed, but its characters are very interesting and seem to be doing a solid enough job of steering the ship thus far. This show has started employing a device where Bridgette imagines a situation playing out one way and spends a few moments in her head with men and women alike lining up to give her sexual pleasure or dancing with a man she just met in a supermarket. It’s moderately effective, most so as an indicator of the creativity that lies within Bridgette, who up until now has utilized most of that energy writing papers for teenagers she tutors. She hasn’t made much of her life, befriending and smoking pot with the landlord’s son but still responsible for her rent, and she doesn’t have many actual job prospects since she wants to bring her son along with her. I enjoyed seeing Nelson, her roommate, Rafi, and Bridgette just chatting in the apartment, and it’s nice that there isn’t any true bad blood in that group, just honesty. What we did get was a hint of romance with the man who wanted to pay Bridgette just to meet her, but then went downhill immediately when she responded in exactly the right way to an unwanted, nonconsensual move on his part that echoes much of what has been making news headlines recently. Opening the episode with the PTSD photo shoot, the eating porn, and Nelson interviewing a sexist sports star showed this series’ surprising depth and potential to be great as it establishes itself.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: Good Behavior

Good Behavior: Season 2, Episode 6 “It’s No Fun if It’s Easy” (B+)

There was so much going on in this episode. The fact that Sean was producing “Porn Again” for Christian families with Bethenny was pretty much glossed over, and the antics on the plantation made for the majority of this episode’s events. As if Letty’s extended family wasn’t already wild enough, we got to meet its latest fantastic member, Letty’s grandmother, played by Holland Taylor. The Emmy winner was a perfect choice to play Letty’s grandmother, who apparently taught her many of the things she knows now about stealing and pulling off a con. Tasking her granddaughter with seducing her new husband Royce, played by Charles Shaughnessy from “The Nanny,” turned out to be a more difficult job than Letty expected, with an even less predictable outcome: that he would just give her the $50,000 in cash that she needed without any strings attached. Alice did get the last word with Letty after she stole the necklace back, convincing her that she couldn’t be a mother to Jacob and lead this life. Teo holding Jacob at gunpoint cemented that, and Javier and Letty are definitely better off with Jacob safely in Estelle and Rob’s care. Javier’s nieces running away and calling their uncle to complain about how Teo changed the wi-fi password was one thing, but he was obviously up to much more sinister schemes which Javier will now punish him for after he threatened Jacob. Rhonda and Christian getting married while very drunk was a much lighter development, and I’m constantly awed by just how much is going on in every episode of this show.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 9, Episode 8 “The Tribunal” (B+)

There aren’t many causes where Larry is the one to go to bat for someone else, but a person being able to go right up to get seconds instead of waiting in line all over again is one that’s close to his heart. This episode brought back up a season-long plotline that we haven’t heard about in a bit, which is the fatwa put on Larry’s head. I haven’t watched every season of this show, but it was fun to see Morsi going around to talk to many of the people who have interacted with Larry over the years, taking notes and concluding that much of what Larry has done isn’t all that misaligned with the principles of those who ordered the fatwa. I loved the casting of Navid Negahban, best known for playing terrorist Abu Nazir on “Homeland” and starring in the recent Israeli film “Baba Joon,” as Morsi, and having the members of the council bicker about things like using too much ketchup was entertaining. I’m not sure why Larry was worthy of another chance in Marilyn’s eyes, but these interactions weren’t nearly as unpleasant. I do wish Lauren Graham had a more substantial and interesting role, and it seems this might be the last we see of her on this show now that Larry had the audacity to ask the admissions staff to host his handyman’s family at their pool. The interview didn’t seem to be going all that well even before that, but Larry sure knows how to sabotage a sure thing.

What I’m Watching: The Walking Dead


The Walking Dead: Season 8, Episode 5 “The Big Scary U” (B-)

We’re back again to fractured plotlines, starting the episode out with a flashback to what happened just before the events of this season’s premiere. I’ve always found Xander Berkeley to be an excellent actor, but I’ve grown very tired of Gregory as a character. He’s just not worth all that much, not that it matters since everyone’s probably going to die anyway before the next big villain shows up to threaten all the good guys and help turn them into unsympathetic killers like everyone else on the show. There’s no denying that Negan is able to deliver speeches that could go on for hours and still remain relatively interesting, and the notion that Gabriel would want to take his confession is intriguing since, after spending almost an hour with just the two of them, Negan revealed just a bit about himself: that he used to work with kids before all of this and that he couldn’t bring himself to kill his one true wife when everything began. Other than that, all we saw was discord being sewn among his top leadership when they thought he was dead, with his return timed perfectly to quiet the chaos and return things to normal. Darryl and Rick fighting isn’t going to help anyone, though it is worthwhile to take note of which people are still wary of killing the masses, pretty much just Jesus and Rick at this point, and how everyone else is compromising their morals on a regular basis. I guess the important takeaway of this episode is that Gabriel wanted to get taken prisoner so that he could encourage Eugene to help him spring the doctor, hardly the most optimistic plan in my mind.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 8, Episode 3 “God Bless Her Rotting Soul” (B+)

We haven’t seen much of Fiona as the maternal influence of her family in a while, now that she’s off on her own kicking ass as a landlord. Yet she’s still the most responsible of all of them, and therefore she got to take her sweet time forcing her four siblings to admit that she was right and they were wrong before she would help them get the meth that she tucked into Monica’s coffin back so that they could find some way to repay the meth dealer who was very angry and managed to track them down very quickly. Frank, better known now as St. Francis, was able to talk him down impressively and somehow threaten him in the process, so that problem seems to have gone away for the moment. Fiona’s rental woes, however, have not, as she’s found a new enemy upset about her encroaching on her girlfriend who she’s ready to go to war with and fight dirty to win. Lip has found a new purpose thanks to the professor’s very destructive fifth DUI, and it’s good to see him rally to something positive. Ian is in decent shape, Carl lost his hot tub and he’ll be fine, and Debs is going to have to figure out how to get by now that she managed to alienate Neil and give him someone else to love. Kev finding out that he’s from an inbred group in Kentucky and that he has parents should prove very interesting, and I’m eager to see where that takes the owners of the Alibi as they start their collaboration with Svetlana anew.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Season 2, Episode 6 “Girl Power” (B+)

We’ve come to a point on this show, the rare juncture where things actually make sense. That love spell Suzie accidentally cast at the end of the last episode seems to have helped our friends figure out what is going on. Unfortunately, while the Mage was the horrible villain who came over from his invented world to try to kill. Dirk so that he could rule Wendamoor as planned, now it’s Suzie who has become drunk and outright vicious with power, turning her son into a frog and then shooting what looked like large picture frames out of the end of her wand to impale people who got in her way at the hospital. The boy is dead, I suppose, though we still don’t know if he really was the boy, and Dirk Gently remains very much alive and moderately ready to go after experiencing his crisis of what he probably wouldn’t call faith. Dirk is still afraid of Bart, who isn’t as optimistic as Panto Trost about their prospects. I love that Todd enthusiastically proclaimed himself to be Team Poncho, making the kind of mistake others do with characters’ name on this show. Amanda is learning what she needs to do in Wendamoor, and I hope that we’re headed for some major showdown in both worlds soon which finds Amanda as the most powerful one on either side. Priest is not having luck with those he’s chasing after not disappearing when he bursts into the room, and I like that he’s now taking orders from Ken, who I certainly hope will be epically reunited with Bart soon.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 4, Episode 6 “Chapter Seventy” (B+)

This was a big episode, ending one relationship and another life. Watching with my wife and sister, we all agreed that we were never too fond of Adam since he didn’t have the appeal of a Michael or a Rafael. Deciding not to go to her show so that he wouldn’t be in any of the pictures because he was already set on moving to Los Angeles might have seemed like the nice thing to do, but he could have gone about it in a better way. Rafael tearing up after reading Jane’s acknowledgment to him suggests some hope for the rekindling of their relationship going forward since he has also cut himself off from all of Petra’s hotel drama. Madga and Anezka were doing a pretty terrible job of running the hotel into the ground, and Petra was smart to put the pieces together and realize that Carl had been real the whole time. Turning Anezka against her mother with that particular piece of information was a great play, but it doesn’t seem to have paid off for her dear sister, who appears to be dead, likely at her mother’s hands. My sister thinks Scott is still alive, but I’m not sure why he would have any grievance with Anezka. Fabian’s appearance was silly but entertaining, and Rogelio going overboard seems to have created a new issue in his marriage to Xiomara: his revelation that he had a suspicion Jane existed and still didn’t do anything about it. Let’s hope they can overcome that particular hurdle.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3, Episode 6 “Josh Is Irrelevant.” (B+)

After last week’s very dramatic and intense finish, I think this was an important episode that shows how all of the people closer to Rebecca showed up when she needed them most, even if they were a bit too present and ready to chop down a door with an axe because she had headphones in and didn’t hear their knock. I like that she’s developed a relationship with her three female friends, led by the overprotective Paula, with the self-involved Valencia and generally apathetic Heather there for support. Most crucially, she got a diagnosis from the hot doctor played by Jay Hayden from “The Catch.” I’m going to go ahead and say that “A Diagnosis” is one of the best songs this show has produced yet, seeming and sounding a lot like a Broadway anthem and actually serving an incredibly purpose of driving the story forward by explaining the many things Rebecca could be suffering from and the joy she’ll feel from finally knowing what it is that makes her who she is. The borderline personality disorder diagnosis didn’t provide her much closure and instead made her much, much more anxious. Fortunately, she seemed to have come to a much better place by the end of the hour, and things look bright ahead. Josh is likely to experience some soul-searching after hearing that it's not about him straight from Rebecca following Hector telling him the same thing. And this was the most we saw of Valencia in a while, highlighted by a far less sophisticated song that was pretty much about a bowel movement.

What I’m Watching: Longmire (Season Premiere)

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 1 “The Eagle and the Osprey” (B+)

This marks the premiere of the final season of this show, and while I’ll be sad to go, this series has managed three seasons on another network after being cancelled by its original broadcaster, and every one of its episodes these days are a full sixty minutes. This show has come far from just being some procedural, with so much character development and multiple plotlines building from where they’ve been headed over the past few seasons. The most disconcerting situation was the one experienced by Henry, who nearly died of dehydration and heat stroke in the middle of the desert, encountering a few would-be saviors before Walt showed up to rescue him. Cady’s visions are a strange subplot since it’s indulging a somewhat supernatural mythology, which is obviously tied in to real events. I like that this case, which was far more urban than usual, was full of such complexities, and that it wasn’t revealed to be an inside job with the chatty teller but instead a man who thought he was shooting the man who had committed the robbery and shot the security guard by mistake. Vic didn’t seem too confident about taking over for Walt with the pressure being put on him, but she did a pretty solid job steering the ship and directing Ferg. As usual, Walt has an important fight ahead of him, and I look forward to experiencing the long hours of this season as he prepares to face whatever fate awaits him when this show ends.

Pilot Review: The Punisher

The Punisher (Netflix)
Premiered November 17

Here we have Netflix’s sixth original series from the Marvel cinematic universe. Though Luke Cage appeared throughout most of the first season of “Jessica Jones,” he was always intended to have his own show, whereas it seems that the popularity of the Punisher during season two of “Daredevil” was what got him his very own series. I felt strongly that he was the main reason to watch that season, since everything having to do with the Hand bordered on completely unbearable, and therefore I think this show could have potential. It’s not immediately clear from this debut installment what the focus of this show will be other than to follow Frank Castle as he goes through life taking out the trash he encounters on a daily basis. Watching him work through all that demolition with his hammer shows just how much aggression he has to get out, and the entire first hour was spent waiting for him to finally take out those obnoxious construction workers who mocked him and didn’t include the one nice guy until they got him roped into a criminal job for which he wasn’t ready at all. After he took care of all of them, he went after the mob bosses who would have tracked him down, therefore cleaning up a big mess and making sure that there aren’t bad guys left to go after innocent people. Unlike the heroes we’re used to, he isn’t concerned about how many people he kills and doesn’t bother to try to save lives of those who might be less guilty. Jon Bernthal is the perfect actor for this, capable of bottling his emotions entirely and conveying a truly lost man whose only outlet is getting rid of bad people. I’m intrigued enough to see what comes next, even though I imagine this will be considerably less tied in to the mythology of the Marvel cinematic universe than the other shows.

How will it work as a series? Like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones before him, Frank has become the subject of a police investigation by someone interested in getting the whole story behind this complicated antihero. As long as this show is focused enough on something, I think that its protagonist can make it an engaging viewing experience.
How long will it last?Daredevil” is already immensely popular with Netflix viewers, or so the limited viewer reports that have been released indicate, and fans were clamoring for this show, even if its reviews aren't that great for the extended franchise. I’m sure that, as long as there’s a story to tell, this show will return for many more seasons.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 2, Episode 4 “Chapter Four: Will the Wise” (B+)

Things are definitely not looking good for our friend Will as he’s communicating the needs of whatever that was that went inside of him in the upside down to his mother, who at least is doing a superb job of trying to tend to his needs. Suggesting that he draw instead of speak was a great idea, though I’m not sure what it is exactly that they’re going to learn. Eleven’s busy doing her own research with Hopper out of the house all day, and his attempt to ground her definitely didn’t go as planned. I’m also happy to report that Nancy was very useful for the first time in a while, as she and Jonathan got apprehended by Dr. Owens, who told them exactly what was going on, and managed to get away with a recording of him admitting to all of it. I’m not sure what they’re going to be able to accomplish in terms of getting the truth out, but maybe they can at least help Will out somehow in the process. As Dustin realizes that he’s gotten more than he bargained for with his new pet, the rest of the crew has done a good job alienating Max, whose brother seems especially concerned that she’s hanging out with the likes of Lucas. We still don’t know much about Billy, who seemed to suggest that Max isn’t her sister but has confirmed that they are family, and if he’s being obnoxious to Steve, you know that there has to be something wrong with him.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What I’m Watching: Mindhunter

Mindhunter: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

I was very puzzled when I saw that this episode was only thirty-four minutes long since every other hour has been closer to sixty. I’d argue that it was actually a positive thing for this show, since this episode felt much fuller and more engaging than the installment that came before it. Picking up right in the middle of the other case in Park City, Kansas did feel strange, and what ended up happening there was a conclusion that all three were complicit in the murder. I thought Wendy did an excellent job blunting summing up how they were all involved, but it seems that law enforcement and, more importantly, the judicial system aren’t ready for this kind of complex understanding of criminality. We got a peek into the home lives of the other two main characters that haven’t yet been featured, and Wendy’s was fascinating. Casting Lena Olin as her partner was a great choice, and she wasted no time in ripping the notion of her working more with the FBI to shreds. Wendy wears an incredible mask when she’s with Holden, who is very inquisitive, and her response to whether her colleagues knew she was a lesbian was so immediately dismissive but also tracks with her not revealing any aspect of her personal life despite many questions. Bill’s home was pretty tranquil, with his wife eagerly chatting Debbie and Holden up. It’s crazy to think that Bill has a son he comes home to, and that made his conversation with Holden about children all the more interesting.

What I’m Watching: Transparent

Transparent: Season 4, Episode 9 “They Is On the Way” (B)

This was a bit of a scattered episode, in keeping with the other installments this season has produced and following its tendencies to reduce episode runtimes so that they feel like they’ve over almost before they started. Everyone looked miserable on the bus but then they went to the Dead Sea, where it seems like they were able to let loose a bit. I enjoyed the discussion about having to wait fifteen minutes before swimming and how Len outright rejected that myth. After some arguing last episode, Sarah and Len appear to have reached an important place, which is the decision that they’re going to move forward without Lila as part of their relationship. She’ll probably shrug it off and they’ll have trouble getting over her, but I suppose a normative relationship couldn’t be the worst thing for this couple to try. Josh, who was kind enough to help his mother into the water, couldn’t get off Ali’s absence, and their conclusion that Ali was a “they” seemed like exactly the conversation Ali would admonish them for having since it assumes that they know what she’s going through (using that pronoun since Ali hasn’t otherwise expressed that she should be called they). Ali’s dip into the Dead Sea appeared to provide some fulfillment, and we’ll see how things turn out when the family gets back to the United States. We got a strange glimpse of Davina at the house, with an initially worrisome and then just plain weird interaction with the tenant, who I sincerely hope leaves as soon as they return. It’s not satisfying to check in with characters like this for just a scene every few episodes, and I’m not sure what to expect from the season finale for any of these people.

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

Better Things: Season 2, Episode 10 “Graduation” (B+)

This episode, which was a very fitting finale, offered something this show rarely does - a chance to see all the characters we know together in one room. We had the immediate family, Marion, Dormin, Rich, Tressa, Sunny, and Jeff all there to make Max feel wanted after Xander predictably bailed on one of the most important and influential days of her life. I enjoyed seeing them all interact together, and that’s an element of this often-insular show that I’d love to see more of in the future, particularly Marion’s relationships with the likes of Rich, Sunny, and his mother. We’ve come to know Duke as the adventurous one, Frankie as the rebellious one, intent on not answering the door only because her mother was yelling at her, and Max as the less-than-intelligent and mostly whiny one. Her strict demands for things like a keg weren’t all that bright, and she fell for Sam’s trick that had her bite into an onion to cure her hangover. Ultimately, Sam got her something completely unexpected, a family dance routine that had her smiling from ear to ear. Xander not showing up is inconsequential since it’s always just been Sam in this family of women, and I’m sure that’s going to be even more the case going forward as Louis C.K.’s involvement with this presumably falls off completely in season three next year. This has been a good season, and there’s no denying the strength of this cast, particularly its Emmy-nominated leading actress who has truly found a perfect role for her talents and affect.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Pamela Adlon

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 3, Episode 3 “Treasure Ride Poker Hearing” (B)

Usually, it’s Matt who’s the unaccomplished sibling no one likes, but in terms of the three siblings, Greg is definitely the one who was never on the same page. His excitement about being included in digging up the time capsule was childish but unsurprising, and his inability to comprehend that both of his pets had been killed by his own father was a familiar sitcom plot. The second segment was one that incorporated modern-day technology a lot more, with Jen concerned about her dismal 1.2 rating on Lyft that she did nothing to be able to help aside from bring Sophia along with her to charm the drivers. Sophia, never one to miss an opportunity, was all about getting the unlimited sugar, resulting in a humorous but totally absurd phone call made by the Lyft driver to report a passenger for immediate suspension. I’m sure that doesn’t exist, and there’s also a difference between someone being sick and vomiting and an obviously drunk person getting into the car and throwing up. Joan’s relationships with other people have always been a bit bizarre, and her determination not to take any of her neighbor’s lemons lest she give her an excuse to use some of her trash allocation was typically stubborn. One thing Joan doesn’t seem like is a con artist, but she managed to take everyone’s money and leave their heads spinning by pretending not to play poker. John doesn’t often seem to be on the same page as the rest of the family members, and therefore hearing what he wanted was an expected development. Turning the volume down on Tim at the table with a big smile on his face was a moderately endearing ending that allows him to live in his own volume-controlled world.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pilot Review: There’s Johnny!

There’s Johnny (Hulu)
Premiered November 16

Following its major Emmy wins for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu is making a play to be a top-tier streaming service, up there with Netflix and Amazon, offering high-quality programming. This is the second new show launched by Hulu this week alone, a period comedy about a guy who just wants to have the chance to work on Johnny Carson. His Nebraska enthusiasm took him to the set for what he thought was a live taping, and from there things just started happening around him, as George Carlin was nearly not present and he was able to stand-in as a runner with no experience whatsoever. The choice to have Carson and his guests appear only in archive footage as themselves, similar the way Joseph McCarthy was portrayed in “Good Night, and Good Luck,” is an intriguing one, since it helps the supporting players to stand out but also almost guarantees that there will be no interaction with the big dogs, at least nothing substantive since they aren’t likely to ever appear in non-taped scenes. Ian Nelson seems affable and excitable enough as Ian, and it’s good to see familiar faces like Roger Bart and Tony Danza in the cast, both having a great time playing their characters. I’m happiest to see the always-superb Jane Levy, who stole this entire pilot episode as Joy, who puts up with a lot and also manages to get a lot done. I’m not overly familiar with Carson, so the nostalgia factor doesn’t work as well on me as I’m sure it does on others, but I’ll give this show another chance to see where it goes.

How will it work as a series? Andy may have found himself a permanent job at the lowest level as a result of his misunderstanding and his curious attitude, and something tells me his positivity is going to propel him through all of the misery that might affect others, though it’s going to be a complicated journey with all the jokes he doesn’t get and the relationships that he can’t hope to comprehend.
How long will it last? Like “Future Man,” which premiered earlier this week, the entire first season – which here consists of seven episodes – was released on day one. Reviews seem to be pretty good, if not as strong as some of the network’s other shows, and it will just be a question of whether it manages to achieve any popularity. I think it’s possible, and I’d learn toward this one being renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: Back

Back (Sundance Now)
Premiered November 16

Here we have the latest British import to air on the Sundance streaming service, this one without any recognizable actors in the cast but with an influential name in comedy at the helm. Simon Blackwell was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the screenplay for “In the Loop,” is an Emmy-winning writer and producer on “Veep,” and was also involved in a lesser-known movie that I really like, “Four Lions.” Here, he’s created a comedy that isn’t quite as outrageous in nature but definitely features a sad sap trying to make it through life with so many obstacles being thrown at him. Struggling to figure out how to talk to his dead dad seemed hard enough before a foster brother who lived with them years earlier for only five months showed up to steal his spotlight, and the fact that everyone loves Andrew just makes things much less bearable for Stephen. He really is the unluckiest guy in the world, gifted a dog he didn’t want by a woman who purported that she was just leaving it for him to watch for a moment. This show employs some creative and intriguing devices like showing Stephen as a young boy remembering his interactions as a child in particular moments, and that makes its relatively entertaining plot a bit more clever. This is a show that I could take or leave, and given that its British humor isn’t raucously funny, I think I’m perfectly happy to leave it for now.

How will it work as a series? Andrew has already won over everyone in the family, and the fact that he’s had such an easy time fitting in is surely going to drive Stephen mad as he continues to try to wrap his head around the fact that his father is gone and that he’s not the preferred son anymore. That should make for some fun antics, but this show is more subdued than anything else.
How long will it last? Six episodes were commissioned for the first season, which aired over the course of six weeks beginning in September on Channel 4 in the UK and are all available as of Thursday to stream on Sundance Now. While it appears to have been well-reviewed, I don’t believe it made much of a splash back home, and so this is likely all we’ll see of the show.

B

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst (Season Finale)

You’re the Worst: Season 4, Episodes 12 and 13 “Like People” and “It’s Always Been This Way” (B+)

It’s always a relief to go into a season finale knowing that the show you’re watching is definitely slated to come back, and fortunately that was the case here, since this series earned a fifth and final season pickup. While I’ll be sad to see it go, I think that five seasons is an awful lot for a show that switched networks, and it’s still been a fun ride along the way. It’s hard to believe the season is over already, and I was glad to see that there was a good deal of honesty to be found in this episode. Gretchen was right to panic when Jimmy wasn’t there in the morning even though he just went out to get breakfast, and she shouldn’t have so readily accepted Boone’s offer to move in with him, especially since he only proposed that since Lindsay tried to scare him away when she hid in the trash can. Lindsay was an unexpected problem solver in this episode, recognizing that Gretchen was going to become Olivia’s La Bamba dad and then proposing a solution to Paul’s baby dreams which would also manage to help keep the completely hapless and apparently narcoleptic Vernon from going bankrupt as a result of his botched surgery. It was no surprise that Max asked not to work with Edgar anymore, but at least he wasn’t so horrible about it. I don’t care much what happens there since I don’t think this was an especially interesting season for Edgar. After Jimmy got chewed out by a jogger for shouting out that she had dropped something, he actually came and fought for Gretchen, punching the wrong guy and proving to Gretchen in the process that he cares for her. I was pulling for Boone since I think that Colin Ferguson was the best thing to happen to this season, but I suppose Gretchen and Jimmy starting over together can’t be all bad. I look forward to season five next year - despite its title, this show is always much more like the best.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Colin Ferguson as Boone

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 3, Episode 6 “eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc” (B+)

I’m really liking the narrative format that the recent episodes have followed, and it’s clear that this show is capable of delivering enormously when it follows a standard timeline instead of just trying to piece together different pieces of information that are difficult to understand. What’s most fascinating is the dynamic that exists between Elliot and Mr. Robot, as he felt himself switching over and losing time over and over again as he was trying to stop the attack. When Mr. Robot resorted to just trying to physically stop him in his tracks, Elliot opted to go a different route. The fact that they were able to collaborate to stop the attack and that they might be on the same side now is immensely interesting, though of course Elliot wasn’t able to see the bigger picture which involved taking down seventy-one other facilities around the world. So much for Whiterose playing nice and laughing at Phillip’s jokes. Flashing back to Angela talking to Elliot’s real father when she was a child demonstrated her warped perception of what death means and how to undo it, and her fearlessness in the face of an armed robber on the subway shows that she doesn’t think anything can kill her. Darlene barging into her apartment doesn’t seem to have accomplished much, and their relationship has obviously changed since we first saw them going to yoga together. I love the great pounding music that scored the three separate plotlines throughout this episode, and watching Dom work is always thrilling. She managed to find the cellar and then end up right there when Tyrell got arrested, but she still doesn’t know that her duplicitous boss knew exactly what was supposed to happen that Elliot and his alter ego stopped.

Friday, November 17, 2017

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 8 “Number One” (B-)

Plotting out this show must be a very interesting process, since there are so many time periods and points in our characters’ lives to spotlight. Seeing what the next two episodes are titled, it’s clear that we’re doing a deep dive on each of the three children, starting with the bastion of self-pity, Kevin. His attitude as a teenager when he felt like he was too good to have to try to get into a lesser college was pretty awful, and he wasn’t much better in the present when he was drinking his way through a return to his hometown high school for an honor. Sleeping with a classmate he didn’t even remember could have given him some perspective, but instead he used the opportunity to steal a sheet from her prescription pad and run out, returning later to try to claim the one thing he had to remind him of his father, with whom he had a complicated relationship that was explored in detail in this episode. Jack telling an injured Kevin that he could be whatever he wanted was inspiring, and it was nice to see him high-five Randall and hold Kate’s hand on his way out of the hospital. He obviously waited too long to reach out to either of his siblings, and now he was hit with the devastating news that Kate has lost the baby, a tragic development that’s sure to be covered in the next episode which I hope will be a bit more even.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 6 “Helen Hunt” (B+)

I was confused about the title of this episode because I didn’t think this should would feature someone like Helen Hunt, but instead it was another Helen who proved to be difficult for the legends to catch. This was a strong episode for female empowerment, with not one but two female guest stars from history who turned out to be capable of much more than their contemporary men gave them credit for. Like how both “Timeless” and this show went back to the space race around this time last year when “Hidden Figures” was released, I enjoyed an appearance by Hedy Lamarr in this episode just as a really great documentary about the actress and inventor is opening in theaters next week. It was cool that her role in history was much more than just acting in movies, and that her technological innovations led, in this universe’s timeline, to everything that made the Wave Runner run. Helen was more sophisticated than she seemed too, and it was nice that Zari dropped her off somewhere far from the war that she had accidentally caused when she returned her to her time. I’m having some trouble understanding how Dahrk, who is a great villain, won’t just kill each of the legends without much trouble given his near-omniscient powers, but I suppose there will be compromises and parlays and all that which pit the legends against their chosen nemeses in his new entourage. Kuasa revealing herself to be Amaya’s granddaughter changes things, and I’m sure their next run-in will be considerably more intense. Stein and Jax switching bodies was fun, and they each had a great time speaking like the other. Stein flirting with Hedy as Jax was especially entertaining - Victor Garber will surely be missed when he leaves this show for Broadway.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 6 “When Harry Met Harry…” (B+)

Let’s start by addressing this episode’s title and the fact that, eager to prove that he had friends, Harry invited three hilarious versions of himself from the multiverse to be part of his think tank. I can’t decide which one of them was my favorite, but it was definitely fun to see them together. They made quick work once they stopped bickering in finding out which Devoe they were looking for, leading to a bizarrely calm final scene in which Devoe appeared like a normal human and answered the door for Barry and Joe. I’m not sure what he’s up to, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. This episode’s Sioux plotline wasn’t all that engaging, but the villain of the Black Bison had some awesome, freaky powers, able to animate objects and use them against those in pursuit of her. Bringing the t-rex to life was probably the highlight, though each one of her reanimations was presented in a formidable way. As he got upset about the dreary, boring look of the suit that Cisco made for him, Ralph found some cool ways to use his powers, like absorbing bullets and accidentally redirecting them back to the person who shot them, and he struggled to learn that saving people’s lives is more important than always getting to catch the bad guy. He’s especially prone to hypnosis, apparently, but he’s also good with kids, capable of using his stretchiness to make balloon animals out of his skin for one little girl.

Pilot Review: Future Man

Future Man (Hulu)
Premiered November 14

I didn’t know anything about this show going on, and, the way it started, I would have expected it to be a much more kid-friendly show. That was far from the case thanks to the violence of its signature video game, the strong language featured throughout, and of course Josh’s unforgettably unfortunate introduction to the two very real soldiers from the game. This concept is a cool one, with an expert video gamer without any other real accomplishments to speak of regarded as a highly intelligent and capable savior thanks to his ability to master a video game which was actually a simulation sent to find the one person who could beat it. There are a number of fun references to other well-known instances of time travel in popular culture, though this show shouldn’t be confused for anything like “Back to the Future.” It’s far from the smartest show around, but its brilliance makes more sense when put into the context of producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who made “Superbad,” a movie that was much smarter than it looked or sounded. Josh Hutcherson is making a leap from action fare for teenagers to a far less censored kind of series, one that allows him to use its know-how to keep his future friends from completely giving themselves away and killing everyone in their path, guilty or not. I’m most excited about the casting of Eliza Coupe from “Scrubs” and “Happy Endings” in a role that’s perfect for her as the impatient, no-nonsense Tiger. Ed Begley Jr. is also great as Josh’s father, and the late Gleanne Headly was a good scene partner for him as his mother. I didn’t expect to like this show, but I look forward to seeing what episode two has to offer.

How will it work as a series? They went back to 1969 and have to stop Keith David’s Dr. Kronish from contracting herpes – an outrageous mission in itself – and I assume they’ll encounter many things that the future soldiers won’t be able to understand, leading Josh to enlighten them with his particular brand of wisdom. That should manage to be pretty fun, though it could get ridiculous.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be pretty good, and, with the recent cancellation of “Difficult People,” this is now one of Hulu’s only comedy series. I think it’s going to attract a good enough audience for the streaming service, and I have little doubt that it will be renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pilot Review: Ill Behaviour


Ill Behaviour (Showtime)
Premiered November 13 at 10:30pm

I watch so many shows that it’s fair to assume that I’ll see the same actors at least a few times. It’s rare that there’s an actor I know from just one role, and Chris Geere, so great at playing a terrible person on “You’re the Worst,” fits that bill. I can’t think of a more fitting project for him to star in than what’s being described as a comedy-thriller about two friends who kidnap another friend to forcibly give him chemotherapy. It’s an odd premise to be sure, and one that sort of works given that it’s mainly focused on the comedy angle and not as much on the fact that there are going to be serious repercussions for this illegal act for those who committed it if Charlie somehow miraculously survives. One thing he sort of has going for him is the involvement of the completely crazy Nadia, played by the always excellent Lizzy Caplan. She was more subdued and less funny on “Masters of Sex,” and it’s fun to see her playing this kind of part. I’m also impressed with Jessica Regan as Tess, and I think she provides a good balance for Geere’s Joel. Together, they’re a nutty combination sure to terrorize and likely make Charlie miserable, which could prove entertaining if it’s not too disturbing. This is an experimental format, one that I think could have the potential to work but doesn’t feel like it manages to be either all that funny or all that serious, and as a result not as memorable as it should be.

How will it work as a series? We haven’t really gotten to the “thriller” part of this show yet, just the “really bad ideas.” I’m not sure how this show can possibly end, and I guess it’s all about just how absurd the journey is and whether Charlie actually survives and is happy about the treatment he’s been forced to receive.
How long will it last? This show has already finished airing on the BBC in the UK, and it’s slated to air over the course of just six weeks on Showtime. I don’t see it being something that’s going to continue past that, though I assume it’s always possible that it could be extended. The reviews don’t seem to be too great, and I think it’s likely to be divisive.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: The Gifted


The Gifted: Season 1, Episode 7 “eXtreme measures” (B)

I don’t think we’re really getting anywhere here, with Jace preparing to completely get rid of any remaining civil liberties afforded to mutants and infighting among the Mutant Underground threatening to be its undoing. It’s very clear that Dr. Campbell is suggesting very sinister measures, and Jace’s only concern seems to be with convincing others that this is the right way to move forward to contain the mutant threat. It is true that there are those mutants who make the others look back, namely Carmen and her associates, and Eclipse in the process when he used his abilities for nefarious purposes to serve her aims. A flashback to three years earlier helped clue in the fact that Polaris was one of the originals and Eclipse was brought in somewhat unwillingly to help out, and the connection they’ve made should be able to overcome the fact that Eclipse lied to her. Now that she has a few free minutes from performing emergency surgery on every mutant in her immediate vicinity, Caitlin is putting education first, and her style is a little less forward-thinking than Polaris’ blindfolded, rock-hurling training. I’d think that Reed, humbled by the revelation that both of his children are mutants after he spent years working to bring their kind in, would be a little slower to judge those with surprising pasts, and Wes did just fine when he took responsibility for what he had done. Now, let’s get everyone united and working to give mutants a fighting chance of winning or at least surviving this war.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 6 “Midvale” (B)

Towards the start of this episode, when Kara drove off in Hank’s car with a heartbroken Alex in the passenger seat, I was thinking that this episode didn’t feel a lot like a regular installment. It turns out that was true since it was almost entirely a flashback hour, one that helped to shed some light on how Kara and Alex came to be close after an initially icy relationship. The most impressive thing about this episode was how those responsible for casting found two young actresses who looked just like Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh – Izabela Vidovic and Olivia Nikkanen. This teenage mystery saga presented some serious issues, like a student-teacher relationship and a local sheriff murdering a kid, but it was treated in more lighthearted terms dealing with bullying and Alex’s slowly-emerging nice side as she broke with the popular girls and started hanging out with her adopted sister. It was sweet to see them bonding and for a young Alex to ask her sister if she could use the bathroom first the next day rather than Kara using her powers to rush ahead of her and get in there first. I’m not sure how much a day really did, especially since neither sister opened up about what losing these relationships have done to them, but I think it’s fine if we get back to more important things like saving the planet from extraterrestrial threats and the likes of human threats like Morgan Edge and whatever Sam is becoming.

What I’m Watching: Vice Principals (Series Finale)

Vice Principals: Season 2, Episode 9 “The Union of the Wizard and The Warrior”

I don’t think this show could have ended any other way. I was glad to find out that Lee wasn’t the one who shoot Neal after all, but we saw a whole lot of Ms. Abbott acting pretty crazy. Releasing a live tiger during a graduation so that she could get revenge on the close relationship that Lee and Neal had with each other was nuts, and only a show like this would there ever have been a live tiger at a graduation. After Gale and Ray expressed shock that Amanda was able to actually get Neal to listen to reason and then she nearly got killed in the bathroom by Ms. Abbott, Neal sprang into action the only way he knew how by evacuating the graduation with calm and poise. I loved that the only way to block Ms. Abbott from escaping in her car was to plow right into it, and that things got so messy in the process. Seeing Neal become principal in a new school while Lee ended up in middle management for a role that suited him a whole lot more than being around kids, with Amanda able to pursue her love of writing and actually make something it, was very sweet. That knowing nod between the two of them when they were in the same food court was great, and I like that this is how things ended. I would have loved to see many more seasons of this show, but this was a superb note for the show to go out on. Additionally, casting Steve Little as Neal’s vice-principal was really fun since it helped to link this show with “Eastbound and Down,” lending hope to the idea that we’ll see another series with Danny McBride as an educator of children soon. And wouldn’t it be great to have Walton Goggins back in a role like this too? Maybe HBO will decide that this show is worth revisiting – one can only hope!

Series finale: B+
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: McBride and Goggins
Season grade: A-
Series MVP: McBride and Goggins
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: The Foundation of Learning

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Round Two: SMILF


SMILF: Season 1, Episode 2 “1800 Filet-o-Fishes and One Small Diet Coke” (B+)

I wasn’t sure what to make of this episode for a while, and then it all came together in a really interesting way by the end. This show is blunt and honest, and the way its characters behave isn’t some huge secret they’re all keeping from each other. The fact that Bridgette let the kids each macaroni and cheese again, took a bath in Ally’s bathwater, and had sex with her son on the bed didn’t faze Ally at all, not that she knew about the last item, because she was going through some of her own things. And I would have thought that Ally felt bad about not being able to care for her son because she had to work late, but she didn’t have any issue relaxing while his father did some of the work. Best of all, his aversion to vaccinations was overridden by the surprisingly sweet and sincere Nelly. I’ve been confusing her storyline with that of John Hawkes’ new wife Penelope in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and that’s possibly because it’s the same actress, Samara Weaving, playing both of them! I guess it’s a similar role, although she’s far more intelligent and full of depth here. Bridgette is infusing her personality into all of Larry’s experiences, like saying “a woman” when everyone else says “amen.” Even her relationship with her mother is complex and well played-out on screen. I think I’ll be back to watch more of this show since it’s piqued my interest much more in this episode than it did in the pilot.

What I’m Watching: Good Behavior

Good Behavior: Season 2, Episode 5 “You Could Discover Me” (B+)

As always, this show just rolls with the punches, with Letty deciding that she needs to dress up as a drag queen so that she can get into the club where all of the money the FBI is about to seize is being stashed. I found the scenes at the FBI to be the weakest featured by this show in a while, thanks in large part to the simplicity of their writing. Rhonda is better as an enigma who is determined to get her job done with or without orders, firing texts to “Lefty” and using her AOL e-mail account. Javier just wanted to eat as if he had actually been to jail, and he got to play a different role of his own in this hour after coming back from an unsuccessful confrontation with Ava and Teo. The revelation that Mickey and Rose were the same person complicated things, but Letty still managed to distract Rose and the entire club with her show-stopping number. I love that Javier said she sounded great to which she had to point out that she was lip-synching, something he pretended didn’t matter. As Estelle used a fake Jacob emergency to get Letty to pick up the phone, she got some of her best advice from her dim-witted husband, who really is showing just how good a guy he is even if he doesn’t present as all that’s bright: “It’s not like if Jacob doesn’t eat all his green beans, Javier was going to murder him.” And I don’t think that has anything to do with Jacob not having money.