Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What I’m Watching: The OA

The OA: Season 1, Episode 7 “Empire of Light” (B-)

It seems to me a strange decision not to feature any flashbacks at all in the penultimate episode of this show’s first (and possibly only) season. That’s mainly because everything we’ve experienced back in Hap’s basement has been far more engaging than Prairie’s adventures in the present, and it feels like the show is trying to change course when it’s just about at the end. The most worthwhile development of the hour, which was Prairie getting recognized and photographed without her consent at a restaurant, provided evidence that Prairie hasn’t shared her narrative with her parents because they also haven’t been a part of hers or of the show. Alice Krige and Scott Wilson are both talented and haven’t been put to much use on this show, with Nancy’s outburst the first real instance of her getting some serious material. Prairie answering that she was one of the first angels was hardly helpful, and I suspect she won’t soon be reunited with her parents after that. It’s still better than Steve’s situation, where, upon learning of his violent throat punch, he promptly got signed off to be abducted by a reform school. Betty earns some points for following him to the gas station and paying $50,000 to get him released, but her character is still weird and doesn’t quite fit in with everyone else. Prairie is finally about to complete her story – let’s hope it was all worth it and this all leads somewhere resounding and satisfying, or to somewhere new for a second season to explore.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 7 “Land O’ Smiles” (B)

Opening this episode with Frank reading in very forced Hebrew from the Haggadah during a Passover seder with his family felt like a strange place to start, and after seeing the episode I think that it was there only to allow him to come up with the idea to put a plague on the pharaohs (and utter that line). Frank’s debate with his new ally Sarah was interesting because it showed what it’s really like to be associated either with a religious or ethnic group in this world. Frank spotting the radiation on the buses was awfully convenient, and now with the Yakuza threat gone, he can focus fully on his activities with the resistance. I didn’t comment when he showed up earlier this season, but I’m very pleased with the casting of Michael Hogan from “Battlestar Galactica” as a former reverend whose faith has been very much lost. Frank and Ed are best buds now after Ed swooped in with that intense story about Abraham Lincoln to convince the buyer that he shouldn’t walk away, and then the timing couldn’t have been any better for their visit with the Yakuza. I was surprised that Kido just pulled out his gun and started executing all of the Yakuza, and he just got in trouble for not filling General Onada in and watching too many Western movies. In New York, it was unsettling to see the Nazi Queen Bees preparing a giant swastika flower arrangement. John delivered an intense eulogy for the man he killed, and though the doctor’s wife is hysterical, I don’t think she’s truly suspicious. The Smiths are lucky that Juliana was the one who saw Thomas spasm, but they have bigger things to worry about now that Hitler’s health is in serious jeopardy.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 2, Episode 12 “Is Josh Free in Two Weeks?” (C+)

I don’t particularly love the direction that this show is going in at the moment, and I’m grateful that we’re going to have a third season that’s presumably going to go in a very different direction since a married Rebecca doesn’t seem like a realistic thing. Rebecca was in full meltdown mode in this episode, planning her wedding by herself by cobbling together DIY ideas and not letting Josh make any of the decisions. Father Brah’s suggestion that he needed to make sure that the wedding was happening with him not to him was smart, and I think even he can understand that. Hiring Valencia as their wedding planner is the opposite of what Josh would want since he now has two women from his past telling him what he should do, and I think he’s going to bail when the time comes because he just can’t handle it. After an unfortunate incident related to his cleanse and getting caught by his father napping at the office, Nathaniel apparently grew up and thought that the best thing to do for the girl that he likes was to fly her father in on his private jet. I wouldn’t have even thought that Nathaniel would be invited to the wedding, but at this rate I bet even Seth Green’s deliveryman is on the guest list. I hope that the wedding episode isn’t too awkward and that it at least contains a few songs, and that this show goes out on a positive note as it signs off so early in the year.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pilot Review: Riverdale

Riverdale (The CW)
Premiered January 26 at 9pm

I don’t think I’ve ever actually sat down to read a full issue of Archie. I remember my cousins having it when I was growing up, but I always tended towards Marvel Comics and the various X-Men series. It took me at least half of this episode to realize what the characters’ names were and draw from that tiny place in the back of my brain where I had stored the information that Archie, Betty, and Veronica were coming to TV in a regular live-action series. I just thought that this was the CW’s latest attempt at a successful young adult mystery series. This show feels a lot like a lot of the programming that I don’t watch rather than the six series on the network that I do regularly watch – a number much higher than I ever thought it would be. A lot of this pilot has to do with introducing its staple characters in a creative way, adding drama with the recent death that turns out to be a murder, inserting Archie into a love triangle that also includes his secret affair with a teacher, and setting the whole thing in high school to boot, which makes everything considerably more scandalous and petty. The only actor I recognized was Luke Perry, though it turns out that there are two other established adults in the cast, Madchen Amick from “Twin Peaks” and Marisol Nichols from a number of series including “24.” There’s also Cole Sprouse, one of the twins who played Ben on “Friends,” as Jughead. This show is soapy and actually relatively entertaining, but it’s something I need to start watching.

How will it work as a series? Our narrator has already given hints about what’s going to happen, like “the first arrest would be made,” which means that most of the drama is going to be previewed and anticipated on this show. That doesn’t allow it to be too creative, but this show literally has hundreds of issue from which to draw inspiration, and I think it fits the older teenage target audience for this network well.
How long will it last? The ratings weren’t all that spectacular, but the reviews have been pretty strong. This feels like exactly the kind of show that the CW wants to have as one of its flagship series, and so I suspect that the network is going to give it a renewal soon, joining all the rest of its shows it recently announced would be back next season.

Pilot grade: B-

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 11 “Wake Up” (B)

This whole android-May thing is taking a while to play itself out, and every time someone figures a piece of it out, they don’t even really come close. Aida calmly asking Radcliffe why they don’t just kill the real May was disconcerting, but I think what we found out by the end of the episode – that Radcliffe is in league with Senator Nadeer – suggests that’s he really not much of a good guy. You’d think that Fitz could have found a safer way to test out his theory that the Radcliffe in custody was an android than shooting him in the head, since that would have been a problematic mess to clean up, and it’s a shame that he doesn’t realize that May is also an android, something that she realized but can’t share because of her mission-driven programming. The notion that anyone can be replaced by an android version of themselves is a new direction for this show after its previous focus on what it means to be inhuman. It’s unlikely that, after going through the same simulation endless times, May is going to be able to break out of her situation now that she’s trapped in the memory of rescuing Daisy in Bahrain, close enough to what actually happened for her not to suspect that something is wrong. Out in the real world, S.H.I.E.L.D. is not in good shape, and even Talbot isn’t in a position to be able to help them out. I’m not sure why we’re getting this focus on the newfound relationship between Yo-Yo and Mac, but I suppose it’s interesting to see another side of them.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 13 “Three Sentences” (B-)

I had seen before I watched this episode – unfortunately, since I don’t like spoilers – that this show was finally going to address Jack’s death. That happened, a little bit, enough that we saw pictures of Jack at his funeral, and his children, that showed that he wasn’t much older than at their first separate birthday parties. Jack pushing the idea of having another kid while they were juggling three different celebrations at the same time did seem inopportune, and that didn’t end up leading to anything, though it does seem like Jack was alive for a few more years after that. Seeing both Randall and Kate ostracized at their own parties explained how they grew up to be isolated in their own ways, Randall so hyper-competitive and Kate having trouble forming connections with people because they like others better. The best part of this episode was that Toby didn’t let Kevin just whine about how great his wonderful life is and the many women he has to choose from, and instead pushed him to make a grand gesture for the woman he loves. Not going to either Sloane or Olivia and instead to Sophie, who turned out to be both his ex-wife and Kate’s childhood best friend, was a nice twist, and I’m looking forward to seeing him get serious with her both in the past and the present. Randall teaching William to drive was somewhat sweet, but it wasn’t the most effective plotline. What I really didn’t like was Kate’s trip to a “fat camp,” as she called it, where she met an obnoxious, petty character played by Adam Bartley. I was excited to see him since I like Ferg on “Longmire,” but his insistence on breaking up Kate’s engagement is totally unnecessary and annoying, and not at all what Kate or this show need right now.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2, Episode 9 “Raiders of the Lost Art” (C+)

There’s a point at which this show gets too current. I understand dealing with Nazis and with Albert Einstein, but featuring George Lucas a guest character felt awfully casual. The notion that he inspired both Ray and Nate to become scientists is interesting, and the fact that Ray didn’t have his suit and Nate couldn’t use his powers because Lucas described to drop out of film school took it a bit over the top. Sure, having Amara say “You’re our only hope” and them getting trapped in the trash compactor served as clever references to things that later made it into “Star Wars,” but you’d think that Darhk and Merlyn wouldn’t bother using such silly intimidation techniques. The Reverse-Flash’s “on-time” arrival also didn’t make much sense, since you’d think a speedster who can travel through time wouldn’t need to be late. What really didn’t work for me was that, somehow, Rip has been transplanted to 1967 and forgotten everything about the Wave Rider, though he is directing a movie about Rip Hunter and Vandal Savage. His American accent is puzzling, but mainly he’s just annoying, constantly crying out for help when Sara tried to take him out of police custody and then insisting that he’s not Rip when he’s about to be tortured. I wasn’t too fond of Mick hallucinating Snart and forcibly asking Stein to examine him to figure out what was wrong with him since the joke of Mick having feelings got old quickly. Let’s get back to regular excitement on this show – this was an ill-fated distraction.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 14 “The Hike” (B-)

It’s possible that I’m totally off, but I feel like moving things mostly out of the loft has weakened this show. It’s not that there was a wealth of material to be covered in there, but now it just feels a lot more random and less focused. I’m not sure why it is that Aly needs to be such an infrequently-seen character, and I hope that the next time she appears (soon, ideally) will just be a regular instance of her having fun with Winston. Leave it to her over-the-top boyfriend to think that she’d want to see her entire family upon her return, but it ended up being pretty sweet since she saw that he was totally into her regardless of whatever craziness she had with her sister. The two of them were fun together, and seeing Aly being competitive and even a bit mean was probably the highlight of the episode. Schmidt and Cece fretting about having no rules in the house was a nice boding opportunity for them, and I like that the cops they called to break up the party knew Winston and Aly and just came on in to be part of the fun. I’m glad that the relationship between Robby and Jess is finally over, and of course it would have to end because they had too much in common, or that they were actually related to each other and had met years earlier at a family reunion without knowing it. Let’s move on, please.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 3, Episode 10 “Borrowing Problems from the Future” (B+)

After a six-week hiatus, I noticed that the intro to this episode featured a new mantra: “I’m the only one fast enough to keep her alive.” As usual on this show, once the beans are spilled, everyone knows about something and then they’re working hard to prevent it from happening. Barry showing Iris the article and tells her that he saw Savatar kill her set a grim tone for the episode, and seeing Iris cry when she asked how much time she had left was more dramatic than this show tends to get. The idea that the future can be changed if just one headline is prevented is an interesting one, and while I don’t think it works that way, I can’t imagine this show will actually let Iris be killed, at least not permanently. HR turning Star Labs into a museum was actually pretty cool, particularly with the hologram of Cisco as a tour guide. It’s a shame no one showed up, although it looks like someone who wants to find him did just pop into this universe, which isn’t a positive development. It’s nice that Wally is turning into a real superhero, officially becoming Kid Flash, and that Barry was able to apologize for lashing out at him. Caitlin inviting Julian to join the crew is an interesting turn of events, but ultimately it’s going to best to have him as an asset rather than an outcast. And he even designed a solar-charging replacement for Caitlin’s power cuffs!

What I’m Watching: Timeless

Timeless: Season 1, Episode 12 “The Murder of Jesse James” (B+)

I wrote recently that this show was a cool launching platform for lesser-known actors who get to play famous historical figures. That wasn’t the case in this hour where I recognized not one but three of the main guest stars. The Lone Ranger, a.k.a. Bass Reeves, was Colman Domingo from “Fear the Walking Dead,” Tonto was Zahn McClarnon from “Longmire,” and our newly alive pilot Emma was Annie Wersching from “24.” The only one I didn’t know was Daniel Lissing, who starred in “Last Resort,” and here played the outlaw Jesse James. Having Wyatt and Lucy decide that Jesse needed to die even though he had been spared and the lawmen of the time wanted just to take him in was an interesting moral debate, and it seems that Flynn was just there to pick up his pilot rather than actually prolong Jesse’s life. After identifying Rittenhouse as the real enemy earlier, Mason is now making it seem like maybe he’s worth being afraid of considering his threat to Jiya, whose hacking isn’t too subtle. I think Rufus is going to read her in sooner rather than later despite wanting to protect her, but he’s currently busy contemplating another ethical choice about whether to help Wyatt prevent his wife’s murder. Lucy hallucinating her sister is a sign that she’s losing patience with what they’re doing and, like Wyatt, might soon decide that she needs to go back with the aim of preventing someone from disappearing from her life, something Rittenhouse surely won’t approve and let happen.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 3, Episode 8 “Chapter Fifty-Two” (B+)

It’s been almost two months since this show was last on the air, and I had almost forgotten completely about it. That’s probably why the “previously on” segment felt so long, but that’s a good thing since I definitely valued the recap, and enjoyed the recap-within-the-recap that the narrator added about Anezka paralyzing Petra. There was a lot going on in this hour with all fronts, centered on Jane being told that she shouldn’t meddle despite her constant desire to do so. While her visit to meet Tess was extremely awkward, ultimately it seems like she helped. I can’t imagine that Xiomara and Bruce are going to last long, but at least Alba, who is feeling awfully forgiving lately, is giving them a chance. Michael’s comedy career was short-lived, and it was sweet to see Jane go up there to coach him through the start of his bad joke. I did enjoy his impressions of people as other people, like the Godfather Batman, Jerry Seinfeld as ET, and Spongebob Captain Phillips. Rogelio’s attempt to have a baby with the perfect woman is working out a bit too well, and something tells me that Darcy is not going to be into the complication of a romance. It’s funny that Ricardo Chavira and Justina Machado are both on this show right now since they starred in a few “Six Feet Under” installments together over a decade ago. Whatever con Catalina is running on Rafael is the least of his worries since he’s once again decided to break the law and conceal the amendment to his father’s will that negates his claim to any money. Crossing Petra is also a bad idea, and she’s winning the award right now for the sneakiest character, dressing up as Anezka to get Scott to confirm that he’s in league with Rafael against her. I can only imagine what she has planned.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 2, Episode 9 “Supergirl Lives” (B)

I’m definitely happy to have this show back along with all the other CW shows returning this week, but this was hardly the most memorable or spectacular episode. Traveling through a portal to another planet was awfully easy, and reopening that gateway after it was closed didn’t take too much effort either. As tends to be the case with DC superheroes, the same villains come back over and over again, and, unhappy with her control on Earth, Dichen Lachman’s Roulette was excited to go to Slaver’s Bay to continue her criminal enterprises. I recognized the actor playing the doctor by his voice – James Urbaniak, who I know as Arthur from “Difficult People” – though he didn’t have much of a part to play by episode’s end, when he got taken out by an obviously much more dangerous threat. It’s nice to know that Supergirl is able to be inspiring even without her powers, and that she could compel the captured humans to take action and help get them freed. Mon-El isn’t so bad either, though he’s now the target of whoever it was who killed the doctor. Alex was very ready to break off her relationship with Maggie as soon as she thought it was adversely affecting her relationship with her sister, but fortunately her cop girlfriend is both understanding and intelligent, putting two and two together to determine that Kara is Supergirl. I’m not too invested in Snapper Carr as a character, but at least he’s providing the teeniest bit of encouragement for Kara in her quest to become a good reporter and go head-to-head for coverage of her superhero with James and Guardian.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 3, Episode 9 (C+)

It’s always hard to negotiate a twist that you don’t like with a show’s quality, but in this case, I’m pretty sure that we’d be better off without it. Even back in season one, I thought that the mystery of what happened with whoever it was that got run off the road late at night and both Noah and Alison being suspects was the least engaging and compelling part, and that’s triply true now in season three. I think most had probably begun to suspect that there was no way that what Noah was experiencing could be real, with his hallucinations at Helen’s house being the most telling. But to learn that he built up this relationship with a guard who barely even knew or spoke to him while he was in prison suggests that he’s had a total break with sanity. Before, Noah was a terrible person who couldn’t stay with any woman because of his selfishness and desire to do what he wanted, but now he can’t really be blamed because he’s not in control of his actions. I don’t know where we go from here, since the revelation that he was the one who attacked himself isn’t going to go over well with any of the many women in his life. We got to see a different kind of crazy on full display as Helen’s parents dragged her into their panic room to lock her up before she could go tell the world that she was driving the car – which she ended up doing, just to make sure that someone hears her and ends up turning her in. With just one episode left, I don’t know where this show can possibly go, and I think I’ll be headed into season four considerably less excited than I have been in the past after this disappointing redirection.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 2 “The Man in the Basement” (B-)

I don’t think I like the direction that a number of this show’s threads are headed. It seemed in the premiere that Carrie had turned a new leaf, working solely on advocating for those who were being wrongly targeted by intelligence agencies and the government to atone for many of her past sins. Saul’s visit during which he told her that it would be bad if it came out that she was secretly advising the president-elect on foreign policy and dealing with terrorism cases didn’t strike me as a realistic possibility, but of course that’s exactly what she was doing! I have some trouble believing that, since it’s a very influential position and one that I can’t imagine anyone in intelligence would have recommended for her, especially since Saul and Dar didn’t know about it. On that note, Dar is doing his very best to intimidate Hill Harper’s Rob, and while it’s not scaring him, it is forcing President Keane to be very reactive. Carrie’s suggestion of Saul is a good one, and hopefully he can help come back around to a place where he’s okay with what he’s doing. The discovery that Sekou was set up by an FBI agent calls everything into question since it’s the epitome of what Carrie’s organization looks for – someone completely innocent framed by the government for the purposes of scoring wins against terror. I wish that there wasn’t such a focus on Quinn since that whole plotline is really dragging. Ending the episode with Carrie crying after going back through what happened to Quinn with him felt like such an unenthusiastic whimper, and while the usual move to have Carrie get abducted in the middle of the night from her home, or something like that, might have seemed over-the-top, this was just underwhelming and indicative of a sluggish season ahead.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The competition: The Big Bang Theory, Black-ish, Modern Family, Orange is the New Black, Veep

For your information: We have four returning contenders, joined by sophomore series “Black-ish” with its first nomination. “Modern Family” is on its eight nomination, “The Big Bang Theory” is on its fifth, “Veep” is on its fourth, and “Orange is the New Black” is on its third. “Orange is the New Black” has won the past two years and “Modern Family” won four times in a row before that. All but “The Big Bang Theory” have exactly one performer nominated.

Who should win: I’d vote for Orange is the New Black without much hesitation.

Who will win: It might be “Veep,” but I think Orange is the New Black takes it for the third time.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

The competition: The Crown, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Westworld

For your information: This is the fifth nomination for departing series “Downton Abbey,” which has won three times, including the past two years. This is also the fifth nomination for “Game of Thrones.” We have three freshmen in the bunch this year. “Stranger Things” has two players nominated, and all the others but “Downton Abbey” have one each.

Who should win: I don’t watch two of these shows, but I’d be excited to see “Westworld” win this.

Who will win: I’ll put my money on Downton Abbey winning again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Uzo Aduba’s hyperactive inmate (Orange is the New Black), Jane Fonda’s retired socialite (Grace and Frankie), Ellie Kemper’s impressionable cult escapee (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ sarcastic vice-president (Veep), and Lily Tomlin’s frou-frou senior citizen (Grace and Frankie).

For your information: Aduba has won this award the past two years. This is Kemper’s second nomination. This is Louis-Dreyfus’ fourth consecutive nomination for this role, and her eleventh overall. She won in 2014 for “Veep” and twice for “Seinfeld.” Tomlin was nominated in 2002 for “The West Wing.” Surprisingly, this is Fonda’s first nomination. Aduba and Louis-Dreyfus are both nominated as part of their ensembles.

Who should win: I like Aduba or Kemper.

Who will win: I think Aduba makes it three in a row.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Anthony Anderson’s proud patriarch (Black-ish), Tituss Burgess’ flamboyant performer (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Ty Burrell’s goofy dad (Modern Family), William H. Macy’s depraved patriarch (Shameless), and Jeffrey Tambor’s transgender parent (Transparent).

For your information: Tambor, who won last year, is on his second consecutive nomination. Macy, who won the year before that, is on number three. Burrell, who won the year before that, is now on his seventh consecutive nomination. Anderson and Burgess are new to the race. Only Anderson and Burrell are also nominated as part of their ensembles.

Who should win: This is a fun list. I think I’d vote for Macy, Burgess, or Tambor this year.

Who will win: I suspect that Anderson may triumph, though Tambor could easily repeat.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Millie Bobby Brown’s superpowered child (Stranger Things), Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth (The Crown), Thandie Newton’s advanced host (Westworld), Winona Ryder’s frantic mother (Stranger Things), and Robin Wright’s cutthroat First Lady (House of Cards).

For your information: Only one nominee is a returning contender, and that’s Wright, who earns her third consecutive bid this year. Ryder was nominated once before, in 2011 for TV movie “When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story.” This is the first nomination for Brown, Foy, and Newton. All but Wright are also nominated as part of their ensembles.

Who should win: I’ve only seen Newton and Wright, but they’re both spectacular choices.

Who will win: While I’d love to say Newton, I think that Wright is likelier to triumph as the one familiar face. I could be wrong, of course.

Monday, January 23, 2017

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Sterling K. Brown’s driven son (This Is Us), Peter Dinklage’s talkative heir (Game of Thrones), John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill (The Crown), Rami Malek’s antisocial hacker (Mr. Robot), and Kevin Spacey’s corrupt politician (House of Cards).

For your information: This is Spacey’s fourth consecutive nomination, and he has won the past two years. This is also the fourth consecutive nomination for Dinklage. Malek was nominated last year, and Brown is a double nominee this year, also recognized for his performance in “The People vs. OJ Simpson.” Lithgow has been nominated three times before, winning twice for “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Dinklage and Lithgow are both also contending as part of the ensembles for their shows.

Who should win: I haven’t seen Lithgow’s performance. I’d vote for Dinklage or Malek.

Who will win: Given the way this category usually goes – to returning nominees – I’d bet on Dinklage to win this year.

Pilot Review: Frontier

Frontier (Netflix)
Premiered January 20

The latest of Netflix’s almost weekly new series is actually an import from Canada that was broadcast originally on the country’s Discovery Channel, marking their first original scripted series. It’s a recent trend that networks which previously have been home exclusively to nonfiction and reality series are beginning to enter into the increasingly popular are of scripted television. The opening credits reminded me a lot of “Game of Thrones,” the series that made this show’s star, Jason Mamoa, famous. I’ve seen him since in “The Red Road,” which I liked a lot, and here he’s taking on a very villainous role as an infamous fur trapper known for brutally dealing with anyone that crosses his path. The slow exposition of this pilot got a would-be thief indebted to his imperial captors, and now it looks like he’s going to switch sides and try to work against the British, though his motives are still to protect everyone from harm. As usual, actor Christian McKay is well above his material, and at least he’s elevating his drunk priest to become the second most magnetic character on the show, after Mamoa’s skilled torturer. Captain Chesterfield, who initially seemed like one of the good guys, is particularly despicable, just one of the many characters whose low likeability factor makes this show unappealing. I think this show is designed for people who really liked “The Revenant,” but it’s not as finely-made and its characters are considerably weaker and pettier, probably because they weren’t real people. I’ll take a pass.

How will it work as a series? It sure didn’t take them long to find one of the most wanted men, so I’m not sure what that says about what this show has in store for the future. This first season is only six episodes, so I guess time is a luxury that doesn’t really exist here. Things are sure to be gratuitous when it comes to sex and violence, and I don’t think the quality of this show’s writing back all that up the same way “Game of Thrones” can.
How long will it last? Netflix and Discovery actually renewed this show for a second season back in October before it premiered the following month on Discovery in Canada, which is obviously good news. Reviews in the United States haven’t been great, but I think if people like watching this, which I think some might, it should do fine for a few seasons.

Pilot grade: C-

Round Two: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete: Season 1, Episode 2 “Safe” (B+)

I’m pleased to report that this second installment was just as involving as the first, if not more, and solidified that this show is going to be great. I thought we might have a slow burn reveal of what happened with Marius getting mixed up with Vince, but instead it all played out over the course of just this one episode, with Marius and his brother presenting a terrific con that was actually being run on their big whale. Vince made a tremendous show of force by alternating between blanks and a real gun to execute the partner that they had set up to con him at the poker table, and, earning his name, the future Sneaky Pete ran rather than stick around to find out what Marius had planned for him. It seems that his arrest for armed robbery may have been what landed him behind bars, and now his latest con, to help his brother out of a tight spot, has been discovered. The secrecy and deceit I enjoyed most in this hour was finding out that Audrey was the one who hired someone to tail her alleged grandson, and that she knew that he might have been honest with her about going out to White Plains because he suspected that she was on to him. I knew as soon as I found out that this show was created by Graham Yost that Margo Martindale, who took home a well-deserved Emmy for “Justified,” had to have a great role with a dark side that she put on full display when she threatened Persikof’s mother. I couldn’t figure out where I knew Lance, Julia’s ex, from, and it turns out he’s played by none other than “Justified” cast member Jacob Pitts. I don’t know that we need to see him again, but it was great to see such a ferocious side of Julia, so fantastically portrayed by Marin Ireland.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What I’m Watching: The OA

The OA: Season 1, Episode 6 “Forking Paths” (B)

This show is getting trippier and trippier, as the prisoners have taken to physically carving things into their bodies to remember movements and Hap thinks that Prairie has just traveled to the rings of Saturn during her latest NDE. It was captivating, however, to see Hap be so open and honest with someone, seeming like the more human of the two when talking with his mentor Leon, who causally discussed how important it is to distance yourself from your subjects before pointing a gun at Hap for having discovered something transformative. Hap killing his mentor was a cold act of self-defense, and telling the nurse to go look for the people who needed help was far more generous. Hap considers himself close to his prisoners but Prairie gave him a harsh, stern reminder of the fact that just because he feels that way doesn’t mean they’re sympathetic to him given all that he has put them through. Prairie has become so complacent, strapping herself in and outfitting herself for the experience, that it no longer fazes her. Prairie suggesting that, if he really wants to learn something about NDEs, he should put himself in the machine, was an enlightening suggestion that is sure not to be taken. Instead, Hap is so involved in what he’s doing that he left the door open and let the sheriff right in to see what he’s doing, an event that is very unlikely to turn out in the sheriff’s favor even if it seems like he has the upper hand at the moment.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 6 “Kintsugi” (B-)

Who isn’t dreaming about Juliana? For someone who’s not really all that dynamic, she takes up a good portion of attention on this show. Joe hallucinating her during a major trip at a party in Berlin was definitely her wildest appearance, though the site of her as Tagomi’s daughter-in-law holding his grandson in her arms was particularly jarring. It’s strange to see Tagomi spend the entire hour in a different universe, learning about what values his family members have in an alternate America. Ending the episode with a speech by JFK was strange, and didn’t feel so appropriate since, whatever place Juliana and Joe have started to find for themselves in this world, it’s not actually headed towards any greater sense of liberty. Joe realizing who he is supposed to be in Berlin is a journey filled with paranoia about his true purpose, but I think he’s approaching an important realization that may not send him down the path he thinks it will. Both he and Juliana are infiltrating social circles in different ways, and Juliana is starting to care about the Nazis she is getting to know despite their inherent ignorance and outright xenophobia. I’m not too enthralled with John’s plan to spirit away his younger son by making him the alleged victim of a made-up kidnapping plot in South America, mainly because the idea of John being able to divert an entire investigation and fail to figure out what happened is entirely impossible to believe. I suspect a far more tragic fate will befall his son and their family before that plan can be put into action.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 2, Episode 11 “Josh Is the Man of My Dreams, Right?” (B)

I guess the way that this episode played out made some sense, but I think that we’re losing track of what’s going on. Maybe that’s the point, since Rebecca accepting Josh’s proposal wasn’t actually her doing in terms of accelerating a relationship way beyond the place that it’s supposed to be, but freaking out after kissing a guy she got goosebumps around and paying someone an exorbitant amount of money to score a wedding date just two weeks away is exactly the kind of crazy that got her into trouble in the first place. Her therapist was devastated that she was slipping back into the illusion of a perfect life, but it’s much worse than that, as she’s constructing lies to keep the reality of it going. These Santa Ana winds got everyone a little bit on edge, and of course Nathaniel didn’t have any qualms about suggesting that they just have sex to get over everything, something that Rebecca initially resisted before giving in and kissing him, then panicking and doing something irreversible to make up for it rather than come clean with Josh about what happened. Having weatherman Gavin Johnson double as the wind was fun, and his song was pretty entertaining. Darryl’s acknowledgment of his friendship level with Paula was sweet, and how great that he called Scott to come and grovel so that the happy couple could again have a shot at success with some orchestrated forgiveness. George getting his revenge on his coworkers for not knowing his name was well-timed, and I like that our last scene (maybe) with him had him ignoring the fact that he got fired because he was celebrating the joy that Nathaniel had actually learned his name.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 11 “Tailgate Spiral Souvenir Seating” (B+)

Even though I’m not a fan of sports, it was cool that this entire episode took place in the same location. I’d say that the opening segment was by far the weakest, though it wasn’t so bad. It was fun to see Colleen try so hard for tailgaiting to be their thing despite her lack of attention to the importance of the clam dip (which might have been sent to spam because of the word clam), and Matt’s suggestion that maybe their thing can be not hosting anything was probably the right one. Everyone mishearing and thinking there was steak was funny, and Matt’s subsequent location of impolite kleptomaniac Kurt Warner proved to be an enormously effective distraction. Greg being selected to participate in a halftime fan challenge could have been a recipe for physical comedy, but instead it was a hilarious overview of all the things that Matt taught him wrong to balance them out, like a white border on a stop sign meaning it’s optional and that putting chewing gum behind your ear improves your balance. The fact that Greg managed to throw a spiral but didn’t hear the actual rules was a great coda. Tim taking Sophia to the bathroom and entertaining her during the game made for a very sweet moment where he connected with her by teaching her about football. Jen bringing Joan down to better seats under the pretense that she knew that her company owned them was great, and I much preferred her intimidation of two would-be seat-snatchers over Joan freaking out when the mascot tried to get her to dance.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 11 “Mason Blows Up” (B+)

This storyline was coming since the show started, and though much of it was pretty predictable, I’m pretty happy with how it all played out. Jack was keeping all of the good stories for himself because he didn’t think that any of his mentees were competent enough to really put the work in to do well and didn’t deserve to because of their millennial attitude. Mason scoring big with his exposé about the missing tiger was completely dominated by his obnoxious “Y’busted” catchphrase, something with Brooke hilariously insisted on defining for Jack while wearing the shirt and generally getting into the vibe of being up with what’s hip. Mason being asked to do a reedit of Jack’s piece and getting all the credit was the last straw, and their appearance on the radio show hosted by a whispering Ravi Patel in his most subdued guest spot ever was a real low point. Jack agreeing to give him real things to do was an important moment of growth, though he’s clearly not ready to listen to Clark recount his dreams. It was fun to see Clark, after unwillingly encouraging Emma stay with her boyfriend, start helping out at Eddie’s bar and recommending that every customer give up on their relationship. Accidentally guiding Emma’s boyfriend in the right direction was an unfortunate if totally foreseeable development, and now his likelihood of romancing her is considerably more diminished. My favorite part was Roland’s wild metaphorical lesson that involved threatening to shoot a real parrot with a water gun, a truly odd show of force indeed.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place (Season Finale)

The Good Place: Season 1, Episodes 12 and 13 “Mindy St. Claire” and “Michael’s Gambit” (B+)

It’s disheartening to see this show sign off so early in the season without any confirmation that it will be back for season two. This two-part finale had a major twist that I didn’t see coming and I’m not sure that it needed, but I do think it was interesting, and I’m not sure where the show would have gone otherwise. Sean the Judge retreating into a cocoon every time he detecting any feelings in your voice was entertaining, and I liked watching everyone step in to volunteer to go to the bad place. As we saw more of Eleanor being terrible during her life, she actually became a great, selfless person who couldn’t let her friends suffer for her misdeeds, and, better than that, she figured out what was really going on. What’s cool about this development, which I wasn’t initially so into, is that we only really ever got to know those four characters, and the notion that they were the only real people in a game is actually pretty awesome. Janet was who she was, Michael was an architect but not in a good way, and real Eleanor was nothing but an actress putting on a big show. It was great to see Kristen Bell use Eleanor’s knowledge as a weapon in this season-best performance, and I love that she wrote a note and put it in Janet’s mouth so that she could give herself a hint to figure out what to do next time when she got put with a totally different soulmate. Erasing Eleanor’s memories won’t have the effect of resetting her to being a bad person, and hopefully that learned goodness will help her to get back to a point of knowledge that can help her beat this thing. Everything about this twist ultimately makes sense, and I really hope we get to see where it goes. After a so-so start with the first two installments, every episode of this show has been great, as has the whole cast. Though it’s not the best performance (they’re all so good), Jianyu is definitely my favorite character. I’m really pulling for a season two renewal.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Kristen Bell as Eleanor

Pilot Review: Six

Six (History)
Premiered January 19 at 10pm

I don’t think I’ve watched a show on the History Channel, known simply as History since 2008, before. That’s mainly because I tend to watch only scripted television, even if history does appeal to me quite a bit. I’ve seen a number of series on History’s sister network A & E, though they cancelled my favorite, “Longmire,” so I haven’t tuned in for a while. Now, History is producing a relatively high-profile drama series about Navy SEAL Team Six, best known for taking out Osama Bin Laden as shown in the spectacular film “Zero Dark Thirty.” Unfortunately, this show can’t come close to that, showing the lives of a number of team members which are all filled with the inability to keep up relationships, money problems, and a general sense that they’re not themselves unless they’re “over there” doing what they do best. The big name at the head of all this is Walton Goggins, famous for “The Shield” and “Justified,” and I think that while he’s usually really great, his talents are relatively wasted here as a now captive, sometimes coolly psychotic SEAL whose identity has just been revealed to the entire world on television. I prefer him in his current role on HBO’s “Vice Principals.” There’s no one else from the cast that stands out, and this show can’t decide if it wants to be a military action drama or a more sentimental story about life on the homefront. Neither is all that compelling. This first episode was directed by “Homeland” regular Lesli Linka Glatter, but the influence that’s much more felt is that of high-powered producer Harvey Weinstein, who wants to make something grand here but doesn’t manage to accomplish that.

How will it work as a series? There’s the big twist that there’s an American involved on the other side of the operation here, and I find that relatively hard to believe, especially because the guy talking about being from Detroit before he was so casually executed by Goggins’ Rip felt very out of place. Apparently Harvey has discussed how each season will feature a different war, but that could mean a totally different set of characters if these ones doesn’t survive this war.
How long will it last? I’m not sure this is what Americans want to be watching right now, though those who enjoy watching History regularly may find that it’s right up their alley. The reviews haven’t been great, and I’m not sure exactly what to make of the ratings. With Harvey behind it, I suspect that this will be able to make it to a second season and beyond if he so decrees.

Pilot grade: C

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Patriot” (B+)

It’s interesting to see just how publicly S.H.I.E.L.D. is operating right now, and that openness makes them especially vulnerable to the threats that are currently facing them. After proclaiming an embarrassed Daisy as a national hero, things got crazy and Mace did have a superb social media moment when he lifted up the podium and threw it in the air to distance the explosion from the crowd. Everything just went south from there, and then we got the surprising news that Mace isn’t actually an inhuman after all, and that briefcase he keeps nearby all the time holds the serum that gives him his abilities. You’d think they might have a more sophisticated solution to keep him amped up than having to carry something so clunky, but fortunately Coulson and Mac were up to the task of keeping the illusion of his invincibility alive long enough to stall for reinforcements to arrive. It’s good to know that Holden isn’t actually evil and doesn’t want Aida to act on her killer instinct, and it’s disconcerting to see that Aida resists his commands to stop using force and does whatever she needs to in order to accomplish what she sees as her prime directive. Hopefully the decoy May will realize that she’s not real and act on that rather than go through with her mission. Maybe Fitz will figure out what’s going on before the severed Aida head gives anyone too much trouble, and this whole robot business can be put to rest for good.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 12 “The Big Day” (B-)

It’s strange to me that this show would choose to devote an entire hour to nothing but the parents’ narrative, focusing on Rebecca not being terribly friendly to her husband at the height of her pregnancy. What we’ve learned from this show already is that Jack is inherently a good guy, and we know that, by the time the big three were around, he was completely and totally loyal even if he had a bit of a problem with his drinking that came about from all the stress. What we had in this hour was a supreme test of Jack’s ability to put up with being constantly berated by a seemingly ungrateful wife who, on top of everything, didn’t remember that it was her husband’s birthday. This episode had a very dated feel, and Rebecca making her way to the liquor store to purchase anything she could to make up for the way that she had treated him was a sentimental if slow-moving journey. There was a peculiar focus on two fringe characters, the doctor who delivered the two babies and the fireman who found the third, with them receiving their own backstories. Dr. K’s inability to get over the death was obviously sad, whereas the marital woes of the fireman being improved by his offer to adopt a baby was sweet. I’m not sure why we needed a full detour from the adult children here to spotlight all of this stuff, but hopefully in the next episode we’ll be back to the present for a more centered installment.

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 13 “Cece’s Boys” (B-)

This show isn’t always sophisticated, though it does still manage to be entertaining. Both Donovan and Dean are so dumb that it seems like they almost couldn’t exist, yet they’re on full display here to frustrate Cece with their inane ability to comprehend even the most basic truth about life. There was never a point at which Jess, who thinks it’s “heads in” rather than “hands in,” was going to be able to find good candidates to be male models in Nick’s bar, though you’d think that the more socially astute Reagan might have had better luck. It was somewhat fun to see them compete and then come together to try to help Cece out, though it was more about the sweetness that these two schlubs were actually right for the job because of their genuine appreciation for food. That didn’t help them get the gig, of course, but it’s all about doing the right thing and helping friends out. You’d think that even Schmidt, a lover of luxury and extravagance, would have thought of a better bonding experience than a scrotum wax. I enjoyed Nick’s comment that it was easier when men went to war and his need to wear shirt during the message. Winston’s excitement about the free cucumbers that he could pickle was predictably odd, but when he gets into something, he really gets into it. I’m glad that Coach didn’t need to make a personal appearance to make his presence – or rather, absence – felt, and that just referencing him was enough for this episode.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What I’m Watching: Timeless

Timeless: Season 1, Episode 11 “The World’s Columbian Exposition” (B)

The cliffhanger that this show left off on when it signed off the air in December for a brief hiatus suggested that big things might be happening when it came back, but that’s not really the case. Instead, we saw Lucy being reunited with Wyatt and Rufus within the span of just one hour, and not too many stakes during that time. Sure, they were nearly murdered by the first recorded serial killer and she almost suffocated in a box, but then she mustered up some courage and managed to pose as a witch to distract him long enough to be saved by her pals from the future. The best part of the episode was inarguably the affable Michael Drayer as Harry Houdini, who in addition to being fairly down to earth also came through in a big way when Lucy advised him to pull one of his signature moves and pickpocket Flynn’s gun to put him at a disadvantage and turn the situation in a different direction. H.H. Holmes was quite the villain for our heroes to encounter, and apparently the real guy is believed to have killed over 200 people, which is nuts. Speaking of murder, Flynn calling to deliver the identity of his wife’s killer was an interesting development, and I’m tentatively curious to see what he’ll do with that information. Rufus’ show of defiance doesn’t strike me as a great plan, and Mason seems like he’s doing absolutely nothing to help other than just stand there sheepishly.

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 3, Episode 8 (A-)

This was the best episode this show has produced in a long time, and I think the main reason for that may have been that we didn’t see Noah at all. I don’t think that he’s necessarily the problem, but his current plotline involving a mystery assailant, probably a vindictive guard, being after him, just isn’t as good as the rest of what this show has to offer. Luisa being the one to go on the stand and say that she’s not a fan of Alison but that she deserves to have shared custody was a game changer, and I think it’s because she’s finally able to separate Alison from Cole. The fact that, after lashing out at Alison because he didn’t think he could trust her and then jumping down her throat when she came to share good news about her new job prospect, he still can’t get her out of his head, and the only reason that he won’t stop pretending not to love her is because he’s not Noah doesn’t make him a particularly good man. It’s also not terribly fair to Luisa, but this was an episode of general female forgiveness for Alison as Helen too came to share a drink with her and barely lob any intense accusations her way. I think that Alison’s advice to Cole about trying to be a happy asshole instead of a miserable hero could work well, and coming from her, it means a lot considering how miserable she’s been for so long. Noah is obviously not the solution, but I think everyone on this show needs to decide what could really make them happy and stop focusing on what makes them unhappy.

Pilot Review: The Young Pope

The Young Pope (HBO)
Premiered January 15 at 9pm

I tuned into this pilot not knowing what to expect after hearing about this show back in October when it premiered in Italy. In addition to being a truly global coproduction, it’s also the first foray into television for director Paolo Sorrentino, who won an Oscar for “The Great Beauty” and then made “Youth” in 2015. You’d expect a certain artistry from him in any project that he makes, and that was certainly on display during the first half of this debut episode. After that, this present-day imagining of what it would look like to have an American pope got way too casual for my tastes, infusing what I guess was supposed to be humor into a previously dramatic narrative. It’s hardly a time to be championing the idea of being American, but I do think that this portrayal of how slick, unsophisticated, and entirely self-involved an American would be in such a place of power is relatively offensive. The initial scene in which the new pope tells his adoring audience that maybe they should be open to things that go against the principles of the church was cool because it represented a potential new take on what it means to be a religious authority, but that was just a dream. Still, a man who can have such dreams and who ends the episode by joking about not believing in God is immensely unbelievable as a character, and his outright humiliation of the man who is supposed to be his closest advisor underscores him as a terrible person. I like Law but don’t like his performance here, and Diane Keaton is just as unappealing. There’s plenty not to like about this show, and the plot direction it took over the course of the first hour doesn’t entice me at all.

How will it work as a series? Who the hell knows? I suspect that, rather than actually getting to any of the papal business he is supposed to be administering, Pius is going to spend more time ruining relationships with important people and showing just how uncivilized Americans can be when imported into the Vatican. I have no interest in seeing that.
How long will it last? Apparently it took three years to film the first season, and I’d think you need one hell of a return on investment to ask for more of that. Well, it scored its original Italian network its highest ratings ever and already earned a renewal. I think that three seasons is probably what it will get for creative and budgetary reasons, but this show, which earned decent reviews in the United States, does have a promising future for reasons I can’t begin to understand.

Pilot grade: D

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What I’m Watching: Homeland (Season Premiere)

Homeland: Season 6, Episode 1 “Fair Game” (B)

I almost forgot that this show was still on, mainly because I’ve been so consistently disappointed in its quality since its first two fantastic seasons. What’s good about this show is that it has the opportunity to reboot at the start of every season, and it does seem like it’s trying to take advantage of that here. Let’s start with the good: it was hard to tell exactly what Muslim upstart Sekou Bah, a far better role for actor J. Mallory McCree than the one he played on “Quantico,” was up to going around New York City chronicling the sites of extremist acts of terror, and what proved most interesting about it was, when he got arrested by the FBI, it was Carrie who was there to defend rather than interrogate him. Even though Otto doesn’t think she has a clear idea of what she wants, she is doing something she cares about, and as Saul becomes the representative of a more careful and less controlling government, she has other things going on in her life. I like the casting of Elizabeth Marvel as the president-elect, especially since she played a top candidate for that office on “House of Cards,” and it looks like she’s in good company with Hill Harper from “Limitless” as her chief of staff and Robert Knepper from “Prison Break” as a general who might end up playing a bigger part. That’s all intriguing and could head somewhere, even though it doesn’t amount to much of a bombshell or cliffhanger ending. I’m not at all fond of anything related to Peter and his completely drugged-out state, and I hope that he’ll get much better soon under Carrie’s supervision. This show already tried this route and failed, so let’s get this wrapped up as soon as possible so that this show can get good again.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 2, Episode 10 “Will Scarsdale Like Josh’s Shayna Punim?” (B+)

If I had seen this episode’s title before I watched it, I think I would have known what I was in for much more. I think it’s fantastic that this episode had so much Jewish content, and even though most of it is about how much Rebecca hates religion and associates everything bad with her Jewish upbringing. The most enjoyable part of all of it was Josh’s excitement about learning about Jewish things, including learning how to make challah French toast even though he can’t pronounce it, thinking whitefish and fish sticks are the same thing, and ending the trip with “hashtag shalom means both hello and goodbye.” Seeing the two of them compete for hashtags to celebrate their relationship suggested that they might actually make it, but the clear difference between the two of them is that Josh just tries to make the best of any situation, making friends including enemy Audra’s husband, and Rebecca instead wallows in her misery when she’s back in her own life. That first song with Josh and Rebecca enthusiastically singing about love after telling Heather to shut up was so wonderfully incorporated into this show’s more optimistic trajectory at the start of the episode, and then Rebecca soured the mood with a hora-themed song of suffering. Rebecca’s therapist was ecstatic to hear that Rebecca was finally coming to a point of realization about her issues, and instead Josh came in to propose and then take her back a few steps to a happy place so that she couldn’t acknowledge that she was always headed for somewhere dark. I enjoyed Darryl’s candy rebellion against Nathaniel, and I like that he succeeded in getting Nathaniel to relax a bit and finding a place for himself not be seeming serious but instead being totally affable and just what Nathaniel needed in that moment. I’m sure we’ll have lots of craziness when the two big plotlines we had in this episode reunite for the show’s final three episodes of the season.

Pilot Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Premiered January 13

I debated whether to watch the first installment on Netflix’s newest series since I wasn’t sure whether it was meant for children or for adult audiences. I never saw the 2004 film with Jim Carrey that earned a handful of technical Oscar nominations, and I didn’t have much of a desire to find out what I missed. I learned about this show’s existence when I saw a poster in Times Square biking home on day, and I didn’t think I was going to watch it, but I figured that I should give it a chance given that it wasn’t clear what audience it was intended for and it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot. After doing a bit of quick reading up, I found out that this show comes from creator Barry Sonnenfeld, and his influence was immediately clear from the first frame of this show. The colors, the energy, and the style of the show are all wonderfully reminiscent of the short-lived and unique classic “Pushing Daisies,” and it’s nice to get a reminder of that show. This series has much darker undertones, of course, in its portrayal of three orphans who are psychologically and even physically tormented by Neil Patrick Harris’ horrible Count Olaf. The dialogue is inventive and enticing, and the characters have a certain impossible maturity that is certainly fantastical but also very appealing. Harris is over-the-top, to be sure, but that’s what the role calls for, and I like Joan Cusack as his judicial neighbor and Patrick Warburton as the titular narrator. I don’t think I need to keep watching this show, but it was much better than I expected.

How will it work as a series? The show is based on a book series, and so there is plenty of source material to draw from to fill the plot of each episode. Ending with Olaf slapping Klaus emphasized this show’s tone, reminding viewers that the themes here are actually pretty grim. I think it can work well, but I don’t feel compelled to watch it on a weekly basis.
How long will it last? Well, it appears that it’s already been renewed for a second season and might even end up with a third, so I think its future will actually be pretty bright even if its content won’t be. The reviews are pretty good too, so consider this one a hit.

Pilot grade: B

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pilot Review: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete (Amazon)
Premiered January 12

I never seem to be able to catch Amazon’s pilot season when it launches, with the exception of two times over the past few years. This show actually debuted with its first installment way back in October 2015, and now it finally premiered as a series of ten episodes this past Thursday. I knew nothing about this show going into it other than the fact that it starred Giovanni Ribisi, who I first remember as Phoebe’s socially awkward brother Frank on “Friends” twenty years ago. The last show that I saw about a man getting out of prison and taking someone else’s identity was the fantastically dark “Banshee,” and this is a very, very different show. Fortunately, it’s just as intriguing, and I agree with the Amazon pilot audience that voted to turn this into a full-fledged series. Ribisi definitely has what it takes to carry a show like this, and he also does a great job emulating Ethan Embry, who plays the real extremely talkative Pete whose life he takes after hearing countless details and stories about his childhood and his family. The best pairing this show could possibly have produced is casting Marin Ireland opposite Ribisi’s Marius as Julia, who is more than capable of anchoring her own scenes and not giving in to what her newfound relative wants to do in every case. Joining someone else’s family business to act as a bail bondsman should be very interesting, especially as he tries to find a way to save his brother from getting his fingers sliced off one at a time by Bryan Cranston’s big bad guy. This pilot was very strong, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

How will it work as a series? The first case that Marius and Julia tackled was definitely pretty awesome, and I like how they handled all aspects of it. That bodes well for any future assignments they’ll approach together, and as Marius’ past catches up with him, it’s sure to create much more enticing drama, especially since no one particularly likes him all that much right now and they don’t think that’s he lying about who he is yet.
How long will it last? Unlike Netflix, Amazon puts most of its original series online as pilots to be voted on by users before making a whole season of a show, so that already says something. The reviews have been very strong for the whole first season, so I expect that this one is going to be back for a second season and beyond.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: The OA

The OA: Season 1, Episode 5 “Paradise” (B-)

Now we’re getting back to a very strange idea of this show that transcends reality and moves much more towards something supernatural that sounds pretty crazy. The opening of this episode was hypnotic, as we saw Hap in the outside world scouting his latest prospect and entranced by the music he heard playing from Renata, played by Paz Vega, in Cuba. Bringing Hunter with him to Cuba was quite the voyage, and the way that Prairie narrated his immersion back into the world was intense. Understandably, he didn’t know what to do when he had the opportunity to run free and tell those around him that there was someone after him, but Hap was ready for such an attempt at betrayal and reacted calmly and nonchalantly to express to him that there was nothing he could do to earn a rescue for himself and his friends. I also don’t think he could have done anything to prevent Hap from abducting Renata, especially with Hap threatening the very likely truth that if anything happened to him, those imprisoned in the basement would surely die of starvation. Scott cracked in a big way before he died, but then of course people don’t tend to die when you think they do on this show, and therefore his unexpected reincarnation was quite the spectacle. Homer and Prairie have been practicing their movements and seem to think that they brought him back to life, so now apparently that’s what Prairie wants to do with her five new friends? That seems to suggest that everyone else is still alive, as far as she knows, but I don’t think this new plan recommends itself as being terribly sane or likely to work, though who knows with this show.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 5 “Duck and Cover” (B)

My interest in this show wanes every episode or two, and I found this installment to be considerably less engaging, though I am now halfway through the season. This show just got picked up for a third season, so it’s obviously headed somewhere, and I may just have to stick around for the whole thing since I still want to like it so much. What was cool about this episode and by far its most compelling moment was when Inspector Kido traveled to New York and met with John, marking the first meeting we’ve had between our top two villains who are also humanized in their own ways. John was right to point out that Kido could never have expected him to grant his request, and it’s intriguing that he traveled all that way to ask. As John is earning the ire of his wife for not focusing on protecting their son, it’s incredible just how many people are obsessed with Juliana. I was confused about Tate Donovan’s age when I recognized him after seeing his name on the credits last week as the man playing George Dixon, but the math does work out for him to be Trudy’s father and to be considerably older than Alexa Davalos even though he doesn’t necessarily look it. Him having to protect her from the good guys who want her dead makes her a dangerous target, and it’s a wonder that she’s still alive. Joe’s newfound information has changed his perspective already, and I’m not sure whether it will make him more or less in favor of helping the Nazi cause. Frank is getting in way over his head, but since the beginning it’s been clear that he needs to do something and make a difference, so it seems like he’s found both the cause and the avenue now.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 10 “Musical Motel Property Bingo” (B+)

Overall, this episode was actually pretty funny. I’m most impressed by the commitment to the creation of a “Silence of the Lambs” musical that preserves all of the creepiness from the fantastic movie and how that was somehow woven into this relatively family-friendly show. Heather was right to suspect that there was something afoot when Samantha didn’t get the role despite her singing talents when it went to the daughter of a big donor instead, but hearing her terrible accent for just a second confirmed the director’s choice. I like that she brought Jen along as her lawyer under the pretense that they were having lunch, which of course resulted in Jen not eating at all. I wasn’t too fond of the second segment, which brought us back to the unnecessary Joan-teacher plotline, and the most enjoyable part of it was seeing the three siblings act like kids, particularly with Heather making Matt the driver so that she could reset the rules of shotgun. Clementine and Tyler are a pretty dumb couple, and getting a drawing of a duck as a representation of what they could afford was hilarious. When Tim is the one who tells you that you have no clue what you’re talking about, you know there’s a problem. I wonder how long this backyard home is going to last if it’s even meant to be taken seriously. Family bingo was a fun diversion, and I love that Tim managed to win even after a late start. Though the Shorts are great characters, I think I do like the three outsiders the best.

What I’m Watching: The Great Indoors

The Great Indoors: Season 1, Episode 10 “The Explorers’ Club” (B+)

While most of this show takes place in an office, a big part of it has to do with the larger-than-life stories that its characters tell about their time spent in nature. Roland’s invitation to speak introduced our millennial employees - and us as viewers - to a world in which Jack is the Clark, constantly trying to fit in and subject to endless barbs about his appearance, character, and so much more. Fortunately, Joel McHale is great at assuming a certain role, and seeing him get awkward and desperate is entertaining. Roland was also more than capable of dishing out his own insults directed at Mather, the haughty president of the Chicago Adventure Society played by Barry Bostwick. Roland’s incredible story about how his friend Arturo died was torpedoed by Mather’s attempt to discredit him, and what we saw after that was not great. Roland wasn’t down for long however, as his graphic tale of hollowing out birds to sleep in them and dying from explosive diarrhea helped to vindicate him, and even inspired the millennials to write an article to clear his name, actually putting in effort for once. Emma serving as a mentor to someone because she felt like she already had so much insight to offer at age twenty-six, and naturally the younger person would accomplish enough to make her think that she was becoming obsolete. Eddie thinking everyone was planning a surprise for his birthday was plenty uncomfortable, but at least they eventually did something so he didn’t feel totally unvalued.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 1, Episode 11 “What’s My Motivation” (B+)

I’m really not happy with the way some of the networks this year are airing shows, giving them long breaks between December and January only to finish up only immediately upon their return. This episode was great and made me look forward to a whole long rest of the season, only to discover that the two-part season finale is airing this coming Thursday. That’s truly devastating to me, since I’m worried that NBC might not renew this show. Back to more positive things, however, since there’s nothing to be done about that right now. Eleanor trying hard to achieve real points for doing good things was fun, and recreating the party that made everyone start to hate her was a brilliant idea. It’s great to see that Tahani is getting excited about helping Eleanor become a better person and win favor among the other residents of the Good Place, and that they’re starting to genuinely care about each other. Eleanor making everyone laugh by saying “Pobody’s nerfect” was hardly the most sophisticated act of repentance, but it seems to have partly done the trick. Chidi struggling with what to do when Real Eleanor told him that she loved him in an extremely sweet way during their breakfast routine was nothing new given his crippling indecision last week, and it’s at least good to see him connecting with someone on an intellectual level. Jianyu finding out how Jason died was an eye-opening moment for him, and realizing how dumb he is motivated him to inspire Janet, of all “people,” to process that she didn’t want to be rebooted and have to start over. I laughed at the way in which Jianyu and Janet were unable to hide their marriage from Michael for more than a second and his constant recalling of Janet when Michael kept trying to dismiss her. Her sudden suggestion of Mindy’s house as a place to go - the medium place that Eleanor has been looking for - is enticing, and Eleanor really has to leave now that the judge is there. I imagine we’ll see more of him in the season finale, and I’m excited because he’s played by Marc Evan Jackson, who was the lawyer on “Parks and Recreation” who requested Tom’s thinking pajamas on behalf of his client.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pilot Review: Taboo

Taboo (FX)
Premiered January 10 at 10pm

I’m trying to do better about giving every pilot a chance since I made the unfortunate decision not to watch or finish watching two of the biggest new shows of the year. Technically, this is a miniseries, but I also know that it’s one of the buzzier things on TV and therefore didn’t want to miss it, I could immediately tell that the tone and density of this show wasn’t going to appeal to me just a few minutes into the pilot, and I’m not so sure that the plot does either. After watching the entire hour, I did a bit of research and found out that this miniseries was created by Steven Knight. I heard him speak at a Q and A following a public screening of “Locke,” a film starring none other than Tom Hardy, at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. That was a particularly great movie and a superb pairing between Knight and Hardy, and therefore I can understand why anyone would be clamoring for them to work together again. Unfortunately, this show, which feels like a less fantastical version of “Penny Dreadful,” doesn’t have much to offer in the way of enticements for me. It’s Hardy at his gruffest, and only Jonathan Pryce, recently of “Game of Thrones,” stands out in the supporting cast. This show will be airing eight episodes over the course of the next two months, and I think this one deep dive into period England was more than enough for me.

How will it work as a series? James is not at all interested in giving up this land that his father bequeathed him, and he’s going to be fighting for his life as well as defending himself from the likes of his brother-in-law and plenty of others who will come at him. He doesn’t seem scared at all, and that should make this show heavy and potentially thrilling, though I don’t think it’s quite fast-paced enough to be truly invigorating.
How long will it last? The show is a coproduction of BBC One and FX, which is definitely a plus since both networks are going to be gung-ho about it. The ratings in the U.S. on FX were pretty good, and even though it’s meant to be a self-contained miniseries, I suspect that, like so many other shows, it’s going to end up being renewed for at least another round.

Pilot grade: C+

Friday, January 13, 2017

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

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season 4, Episode 9 “Broken Promises” (B)

This show has a pretty incredible ability to immerse and inundate itself in one intense plotline at a moment’s notice, and after we saw Aida kill an agent and reveal that she was holding May captive at the end of the previous episode, now she’s enemy number one trying to destroy the team. Shutting down May at exactly the moment she needed to came in handy, and having Coulson get the location of the book from her while she was watching and listening to them was a great plan. Fortunately, Mac and Yo-Yo were both on the same page thanks to all the movies they had seen about robots being intelligent and taking power, and Mac was ready to slice Aida’s head off, shout “Roll credits!” and first-bump Yo-Yo in a triumphant show of human perseverance that also ranked as the most entertaining development of the hour. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the book that corrupted Aida but her original programmer, who is back to his selfish ways and trying to gain infinite knowledge thanks to the book. Having a May robot is about the best weapon he has, but the other thing that’s helpful is that no one realizes there’s still a threat. There’s also the case of Senator Nadeer, who initially seemed to go soft on her brother but had no problem putting a bullet in him herself when she saw his formidable powers in action. She’s another villain not to be underestimated who is sure to be even less kind to those she doesn’t consider family.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 1, Episode 11 “The Right Thing To Do” (B)

After a month-long hiatus following the strongest episode this highly acclaimed show has produced, it’s back for the new year with a decent opener. I’m glad to see that Toby didn’t code as December’s episode had suggested, though I’m now realizing that this show was never going to do something like that. Playing strip poker with Kate in the hospital and disregarding the seriousness of his heart arrhythmia was typical silliness on his part, and it was sweet to see that, after Kate confessed her love for him while she thought he was unconscious, he decided to pop the question. I’m not sure how official the engagement really is, and I’m sure that plenty of drama will follow. Kevin seems to always manage to do the wrong thing, and while he was right to tell Olivia off when she came back to restart their romance where they left off, he could have been much smarter than to so casually justify it within earshot of his new girlfriend. Randall is back to the same routine of getting far too invested in things, and offering William the chance to die in his home is a typical instance of his intensity. His attempts to get to know Jesse are also pretty poor. Back in the past, seeing Jack go and grovel to his father to get money from him so that they won’t have to move in with Rebecca’s parents demonstrated his humility and his willingness to do anything for his wife, and fortunately we know that it all turned out pretty well, even if he didn’t make it to see them as adults.

What I’m Watching: Good Behavior (Season Finale)

Good Behavior: Season 1, Episode 10 “All the Things” (B+)

When the judge came in to hear Letty’s case and she panicked because he knew her well from her juvenile delinquencies, I totally forgot that she had cut a deal with the FBI to turn on Javier that would ensure that she got custody. Given the arguments made by Sean’s lawyer and the many things going against Letty, it was a shock to everyone that she was awarded full custody, and we got to see that play out in a less triumphant and far scarier way as Sean reacted to the news, with Letty describing the look in his eyes as the same one he used to have when he was about to hit her. Estelle stood her ground against him when he stopped by, and through all this, Jacob is pretty much taking it in stride. Letty’s late attempts to protect Javier and stop him from walking into a trap were not greeted positively, and him having sex with her then throwing her out was harsh. But she didn’t give up, and she managed to get the message through to him even if he didn’t want to hear it. Him showing up at her door and telling her that they had to go right away led to the best ending this show could possibly have offered, especially in light of its uncertain future since it has yet to be renewed for a second season. Letty realizing that she was happy as sirens blared in the distance was a fantastic way to end things. I was also really pleased to see Rob step up to defend Jacob when Sean was there, and then so hilariously unable to decide which of Javier’s cars he wanted to keep. Even Christian and Rhonda got to be happy together in whatever way they could, further proving this show’s enduring worth. I do hope this show will be back for more since it was really good, but I feel like I’m the only one who was watching.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Michelle Dockery as Letty

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What I’m Watching: New Girl

New Girl: Season 6, Episode 12 “The Cubicle” (B-)

It’s definitely true that only a few of these characters ever really appear at work, and Jess is pretty much the only one who actually does anything when she’s at her job. I suppose Winston is a cop, but when he’s being celebrated with song and dance by his colleagues as the COW, it’s hard to take him and his work ethic seriously. Cece is someone we almost never see at her job, and therefore this was an unexpected spotlight on her new career managing male models. Hiring Donovan to be the face of the police academy was relatively clever, yet somehow he managed to get inspired to quit his job and apply to police school, a short-lived notion that Cece managed to talk him out of with a stirring speech just in time to get him to show up to save the day at Schmidt’s workplace. Schmidt getting her a home office was sweet, though his performance spectacle obviously wasn’t what she wanted when she finally had a chance to focus. There’s a whole lot of separation between $400 and $200,000, and I’m not sure why Robby couldn’t have picked a less suspiciously low number. It’s also not clear why he wouldn’t just pay it all outright if he really does have all this money. As it progresses, I’m not becoming more fond of Robby and Jess as a couple, with him idealizing her representing their latest big problem. Reagan and Nick didn’t accomplish much in this installment, but the idea of Reagan falling asleep when she finally read Nick’s book was mildly entertaining and served its purpose well enough.

What I’m Watching: The Affair

The Affair: Season 3, Episode 7 (B-)

I wasn’t too fond of this episode, mainly because it didn’t really take us anywhere, dwelling on one major event with Noah at Helen’s apartment and flashing back a good deal to the past without confirming what really happened in the present. Helen’s version of events showed just how much she’s still in love with Noah and doesn’t want to let him go, giving him medicine and other coddling even though he was being pretty grumpy and horrible. She didn’t seem to care that Vic was furious about it, and it’s no wonder he started packing his things. Whitney was typically unkind when she showed up, but it’s not as if Noah didn’t deserve it. The way he saw things, however, was so completely different. Maura Tierney continues to be the best performer on this show, playing Helen so differently in his take, waving medicine bottles at him seductively and powerfully enchanting him with her intense care. Vic was much more than frustrated, telling Noah to get out as soon as Helen wasn’t within earshot. And Whitney’s adult boyfriend completely clocked Noah without being provoked at all, which is definitely different than what we were led to believe happened. I think that we have to accept that, even if it’s not his fault, Noah is no longer a reliable narrator (if he ever was) since he’s clearly hallucinating and seeing his tormentor Gunther when he’s not there. It’s also not totally obvious that Gunther is the one trying to kill him even if he did threaten to follow him after he got out, and I’m not honestly sure what clarity we can expect over the course of the rest of the season.

Pilot Review: Emerald City

Emerald City (NBC)
Premiered January 6 at 9pm

I feel like we’ve seen every possible incarnation of “The Wizard of Oz” there is. That’s the problem, of course, since each reimaging tries to envision things in a whole new way, and it’s getting very, very tired. Meeting Dorothy as a full-fledged adult doctor, who becomes known as a “healer” once she gets to Oz, is just the first of many modifications in this especially dark and gloomy interpretation. I can understand why this show tends towards darkness, but it’s so unappealing in the way that it presents all of it. The focus on witchcraft is grim, and actually pretty creepy, and I can’t find anything to latch on to and show me that any part of this show is worthwhile. It doesn’t have the same camp factor as “Once Upon a Time” but still seems just as skimpy on some of its storytelling. I recognized only Joely Richardson in the cast in an admittedly meaty role as one hell of a scary Glinda. I couldn’t figure out why the Wizard sounded so painfully American and casual, and then I realized he was played by Vincent D’Onofrio, doing a giddier version of what he did far more effectively on “Daredevil” in a truly unfortunate part that makes this show even less enticing. I try to commit to watching the full debut installments but it was hard to get through this two-hour premiere. All that I left this show thinking about was how much I’d rather be watching “Wicked” instead of this.

How will it work as a series? I don’t think Dorothy is going back to Kansas anytime soon, and there’s so much trouble she can get into in this dark version of Oz. I feel like everything is so volatile that it’s going to be hard for anyone to stay alive, and so much treachery is going to make this a place no one wants to visit, no matter how many knock knock jokes they try to tell.
How long will it last? I’m not too sure. The reviews aren’t strong, and while the ratings were pretty good, airing on Friday nights isn’t a great thing unless your network is CBS. Maybe this will be what changes it, especially since it’s airing after “Grimm,” which shares its genre and hopefully its audience. I’m betting it doesn’t make it to season two.

Pilot grade: D

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 2, Episodes 8 and 9 “Who Is Josh's Soup Fairy?” and “When Do I Get to Spend Time with Josh?” (B+)

At first, I was excited by the unexpected double dose of this show, and then it hit me that it might be the CW’s attempt to burn off as many episodes as possible to finish the season early for no reason. Sadly, that is sort of the case, as season two wraps on February 3rd after just thirteen episodes, but the fabulous news is that this show has been renewed for a third season, so we’ll definitely have more of it. These episodes were surprisingly transformative in their content, with Josh getting so excited that his girlfriend had sent him soup when he was sick, and after his fashion show debut, he got hit over the head with the news that she wasn’t into him and the stuff he likes at all. Truth be told, Josh and Rebecca really aren’t that similar either, as evidenced by his inability to deal with her having to work and running out on his parents (his mom still likes her more than Valencia). But there is a simplicity to the two of them and the way that they care about each other that just works, and the fact that it took this long and that Josh was the one who came running back to Rebecca, who for once chose something over Josh Chan, suggests that they might even be able to work. I suspect that Valencia might soon reappear and be less than excited that her new best friend is dating their old ex-boyfriend, and I’m sure that will provide awkward entertainment. I don’t particularly like Nathaniel, which I realize is the point, but more importantly I’m not sure how good he’ll be for the show in the long run. I was thrilled to see Danny Jolles, who I went to NYU with and remember very well, appear as George and get his own hilariously interrupted solo after his minor character got fired. Good work, Danny!

Pilot Review: One Day at a Time

One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Premiered January 6

Netflix is big in the TV game now, and it stands to reason that the network would feature shows of many different genres. Most modern-day comedies don’t have laugh tracks anymore, but I do believe that there still exists a fan base for more traditional sitcoms. We also live in an era of countless remakes and reboots, and often attempts to revive series with a whole new cast and fresh premise fail miserably. Though I can’t say I’ve seen an episode of the long-running hit show “One Day at a Time,” which ran on CBS from 1975 to 1984, I think that this offering qualifies as a decent success. I’m not sure anyone was clamoring for it (they so rarely are - “Gilmore Girls” might be the one exception), but it’s still cool to see a show about a single mom who, like her ex-husband, served in Afghanistan and can assemble a rifle in thirteen seconds, something that others don’t get about her just from looking at her. I’ve been a fan of Justina Machado ever since her recurring and later series regular role as Vanessa, Federico’s wife, on what may well be the best show ever made, “Six Feet Under.” That was obviously a supporting, sometimes background part, and as a result it’s great to see her take center stage here and accept the responsibility with full commitment and energy. Rita Moreno gets a big showcase, and I think that’s fun for a certain audience and lends a degree of credibility to this show. Some of the jokes are familiar and unoriginal, but for the most part, this specialty family sitcom actually works pretty well. I won’t be watching, but I wouldn’t hate the idea of seeing an episode every now and then.

How will it work as a series? There’s plenty of material here for any kind of family, and the Cuban heritage, immigrant culture, and so much more assure that this series could go on forever. Thirteen episodes premiered all at once last week, and I have to imagine that they’re filled with the same kind of humor as this episode and work just fine.
How long will it last? Ratings data is unavailable and not too helpful anyway since Netflix really just does what it wants (and has renewed basically every adult-targeted series it’s premiered). Reviews have been largely positive, so I’d expect this to be one of their token sitcoms, and it’s a hell of a lot better than “The Ranch.”

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: The OA

The OA: Season 1, Episode 4 “Away” (B)

Perhaps it’s purposeful, but I have absolutely no sense of time when it comes to the events of this show. It’s easy to forget since she doesn’t look any different that she was missing for seven years. Now that we’ve experienced two episodes of waiting and trying and failing and then going back to square one, the extent of Prairie’s captivity is clear. Hap has a remarkable ability to remain calm, and he’s extraordinarily manipulative in the way that he speaks to his prisoners, making them feel as if they deserve the worst and he gives them slightly better than that. It was impressive how all the prisoners worked together to figure out just what he was doing when he was sending gas into their cells, and the answer is not pleasant. Learning that it took them three years to really figure out what was happening is beyond disheartening, and though Prairie has now officially decided her new name (in hardly the most convincing way), they still seem to be very, very far from getting away. I’m also relatively certain that none of them are going to be alive anymore, since Prairie is taking plenty of time to explain what happened and doesn’t seem to be in a rush, at least not since her urgent convening of the five friends, to go back and rescue her friends. In the present, we’re seeing the most of Betty, who is finally dealing with the aftermath of her brother’s death, a fact that is complicated by the revelation that she turned him in, he went to rehab, and then he died. Enlisting her out-of-work colleagues to drive her there in their van was an interesting development, and if nothing else, Prairie is now helping to connect those who would otherwise not interact in the service of a common good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 4 “Escalation” (B)

Things have certainly intensified when it comes to Frank and his involvement with the resistance, going from someone not at all interested in having his life and those of the people he cares about adversely affected by his activities to someone who is now fully invested and actively causing problems for the Japanese. Seeing innocent people killed is definitely what triggered him, and though he doesn’t seem to think it’s a good idea, Ed doesn’t resist too much and is now helping his best bud in both that and his other illegal enterprise of antique forgery with their unamused partner Robert. We’re seeing a civil war of sorts play out between Inspector Kido and General Onada, and some unexpected tricks played during the battle. Tagomi is continuing to try to figure out how he can stop this world from continuing on its course and get back to somewhere better, and thus far he’s not having too much permanent luck. As Joe tries to leave Berlin but finds something keeping him there, Juliana is busy back in New York trying to find clues. She’s apparently a natural for the Reich’s form of the ACT (very different from the standardized test I took to help me get into college), and she even has time to track down George Dixon, who found her pretty quickly. As usual, it’s the drama related to John that feels most poignant and stirring, as he tried not to let his wife know what was going on and then saw even more fear in her eyes when she learned the truth about her son.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 2, Episode 9 “#TBT: Y2K Sophia Honeymoon Critter” (B-)

These vignettes weren’t so bad, but it did seem a bit random to flash back to scenes from the past that feel hopelessly dated and unrealistic given the wigs that all of the actors were wearing. It was definitely fun to see Heather trying to advocate for how smart her guy Tim was and for John to constantly respond with the same refrain about him not being smart enough to wear a condom. I didn’t buy Heather and Tim as hippie, health-conscious parents who didn’t own a TV and didn’t let their kids eat anything bad, but Matt taking them to a bar and filling their heads with music ideas and french fries made a whole lot more sense. Those parents are the kind to overindulge in something, and therefore their break with manufactured tradition and descent back into unhealthy living was predictably grand and excessive. Greg’s inability to realize that he’s far too connected to his mother was nothing new, and of course he would fail to pack properly for his honeymoon and end up not bringing many items that he needed was an expected consequence. I’ll admit that I’ve done that in the past to a lesser extent - really just the collared shirt and dress pants. Matt being encouraged by his father to get a job that paid in peanuts (I think that was a metaphor) led him to a place that wasn’t too bright, but he did manage to meet Colleen, which as we know is the happiest ending of all to come from all of this that happened a while ago.