Sunday, November 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 5 “All Souled Out” (B+)

It was jarring to see Luke wearing a suit in the opening scene of this episode, dealing with the legal ramifications of beating up Cockroach. It was fun to see Foggy, an unexpected crossover from another Marvel series that has already dropped its third season, which I’ll probably watch sometime next year given how much more of this show I have left. I like how he interacts with Luke, who opted to triple his rate with Piranha so that he can recoup the cost of the settlement with Cockroach and have some money left over for himself. What’s always been one of the most interesting facets of this show is that allegiances really do shift, with Bushmaster becoming the main villain and Shades stepping to protect Luke when someone tried to hit him with a few bullets. Luke serving as a bodyguard of sorts for his number one fan Piranha will be a different look on him, and it should put him into contact not only with Shades but also with Mariah, whose big medical center launch got seriously derailed by all of the heads on spikes that the press got to witness right alongside her. Misty being fitted with a robotic arm should help get her back to her fullest self, and it’s intriguing to see her flash back to positives memories of Scarfe, who we haven’t seen in a really long time. This show does well with its more serious villains, but it’s good to see a focus on a bad guy like Cockroach who Misty is determined to take care of too.

Pilot Review: The Bisexual

The Bisexual (Hulu)
Premiered November 16

I had no idea that Desiree Akhavan had made a television series, but if I had imagined what one would be like, this would definitely be it. Akhavan made her feature film debut behind the camera and in front of it in “Appropriate Behavior” in 2014, portraying her discomfort navigating the world as a bisexual Persian-American. This year, she returned as director for “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a compelling story of a teenage girl sent to a gay conversion therapy camp. It’s interesting but not at all unexpected that she would choose a British network and setting for her first foray into television, with this series premiering on Channel 4 in the UK a little over a month ago and then dropping all six of its episodes on Hulu this past Friday. As Leila, Akhavan is just as awkward and unapologetically blunt as she was in her debut film, ready to break off a serious relationship because her girlfriend proposed marriage and then jumping to re-propose to her when a heterosexual encounter led to terrible confusion. Opposite her, Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan Gleeson, is terrific as her roommate Gabe, who of course asked about “Blue is the Warmest Color” as soon as he was around lesbians only to have them mention “The L Word” before warning him of its context. This is a great showcase for Akhavan whose “No, stay, she says” was the highlight of this half-hour for me. I’m up for another episode or maybe even all five.

How will it work as a series? Sticking gum in a black girl’s hair is probably going to come back to haunt her, especially because she’s still working for Sadie on a creative basis every day. I’m hopeful that she and Gabe won’t sleep together, but I do look forward to them navigating the complicated world of romance and love together as friends.
How long will it last? Reviews are good, even better in fact that they have been for Akhavan’s two narrative films. British television, by its nature, is usually short-form and unlikely to last too many seasons, and broadcasting to American audiences via Hulu should help grow its audience. I’d predict two seasons of this show before Akhavan moves on to bigger projects.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Premiered November 16

When I sit down to watch a Chuck Lorre sitcom, I expect to chuck a bit and maybe even laugh loudly once or twice. I don’t, however, expect something mature and sentimental. After making a name for himself with “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” among others, Lorre went to Netflix a couple years ago with “Disjointed,” another laugh-track comedy starring Kathy Bates as a weed dispensary operator, that didn’t suggest much creativity and ended up being quickly cancelled. Now, unexpectedly, Lorre is teaming with two veteran Oscars who are also Oscar winners for something that’s much more sophisticate and successful on a number of levels. We’ve seen plenty of shows about those who are way past the prime of their lives trying to stay relevant by being acting coaches, including another one just this year, “Barry.” This one is nice because it features two much older actors, Michael Douglas, who is 74, and Alan Arkin, who is 84. The best part is that they’re both great, and this show serves as a slightly more dramatic counterpart to the similarly charming “Grace and Frankie.” I’m also very happy to see Sarah Baker from “Louie” as Sandy’s daughter, and Nancy Travis, most recently seen on “Last Man Standing,” seems like a great addition as Sandy’s new date who’s going to do a deep dive into their relationship. I didn’t recognize Emily Osment as Theresa, the student who did the “Steel Magnolias” scene, but she was great. I didn’t have high expectations for this one despite seeing Douglas’ name listed on Golden Globe predictions list, but now I’m more than ready to settle in for its eight-episode first season.

How will it work as a series? Eileen dying at the end of the episode was certainly a sad direction to go, but it’s going to help Sandy realize that he’s mortal and that he should be thinking more about what he’s really doing with his life. Following his relationship with Lisa and his difficulty relating to these young, entitled acting students should prove to be a lot of fun, with some drama mixed in along the way.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be mostly positive, but given how popular Lorre is and how respected his stars are, I assume this one will keep going as long as he and the actors are interested in continuing to produce it. I’d expect a renewal very, very soon.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 6 “Kid ‘n Play” (B+)

This is the best episode this show has produced in a long time. Getting away from all the political stuff and back to the characters actually worked tremendously well here, as Grace’s relationship with Noah hit a bit of a snag when Will found out some information and Karen tried to use Jack’s perpetual ability to implode his acting career to create a tax shelter for herself. David Schwimmer’s Noah is definitely tough cookie, one who has managed to win over Grace in part because of his curmudgeonly nature, and it stands to reason that Will would be intimidated by him. It was entertaining to hear him immediately insult “West Side Story,” prompting Will to decide to watch the film then and there, and I’m glad that it was something like a secret child rather than a secret separate girlfriend. Confessing his love for Grace was a big deal, and it’s good that things aren’t so rosy right away and that he’s not too interested in having Grace meet his daughter anytime soon. Jack’s Gaybraham Twincoln concept was pretty hilarious, and this show’s gay puns were strong in this half-hour. Karen recording herself pretending to be Jack saying that she could replace him at any time was funny, and having Jon Cryer, just announced as the future Lex Luthor on “Supergirl,” show up to play himself was a fun way of referencing Karen’s universal connections that didn’t include someone like Ivanka who would never actually guest-star on this show. Let’s have more episodes like this, please!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 9 “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” (B+)

I wasn’t sure what was going on when we saw Michael McKean from “Better Call Saul” at the start of this episode, but he turned out to be the perfect choice to play Doug, the theoretical blueprint for what living a perfect life really was. “One man’s waste is another’s man water” was a terrific anthem representing just how overly nice Doug was to a fault, sort of like how Chidi could never make a decision in his life, which earned him a spot in the bad place. Eleanor spotted the demons and Jason tried to make a Molotov cocktail for their getaway, but Shawn and his crew were ready to take them on and drag them back to hell. Luckily, Janet kicked ass even before she touched the door to the afterlife and managed to get her powers back, helping to clean up the room and ensure the safety of our human friends. The return of more demons, including a Bad Janet, is bad news indeed, and I’m curious to see what it will be like for them in Janet’s void. Any chance to see Derek again would be highly welcome. Eleanor telling Chidi that they once loved each other and that she thinks she might again was urgent and sweet, and I love that Jason, of all people, was able to help Chidi relax and focus by teaching him the special Jacksonville-style pool with no rules and the ability to make up your own points before Michael had to send him off to fetch for a moment of clarity.

What I’m Watching: Bodyguard

Bodyguard: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

I know this is technically considered a miniseries, and I don’t want to look into whether its prospects for a second season are good for fear of encountering spoilers for the remaining two episodes. Regardless of its length, killing off one of the two main characters halfway through its run is still a brave move. I was thinking for most of this hour that it’s a real shame we won’t get to see Julia anymore, though it’s possible she’ll be an even more powerful presence now that she’s no longer alive. She was so attached to David in a way that no one besides him knows, and now he’s being looked at as a potential suspect in the multiple attacks that he tried to stave off while he was protecting her. He was understandably defensive, and the fact that they know that he searched for her voting record means that they can’t be too far away from uncovering his political leanings, not to mention his ties to the assassin who killed himself after failing to kill Julia. I thought this show was going to complete astound by having both main characters die in one episode, but there wouldn’t be much left after that. David pulling the trigger and having notes written to his children shows just how far he’s gone and how little hope he feels, and while that would never affect his ability to do his job, it’s really not clear what that job is right now other than smoothly interrogating Nadia.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 7 “Sometimes” (B-)

This episode was full of flashes between multiple time periods, tracking Jack at war trying in vain to help his brother, when he first drove across the country with Rebecca, and then returning home racked with guilt about what happened over there. Of course, in typical fashion, instead of Jack saying goodbye to Nicky when he was first told that he couldn’t be enlisted in the same unit as his brother, now we’re going to get to know him as a character, someone who hates Jack because of what the war has done to him, before he’s inevitably killed in some tragic fashion. Finally letting his guard down and crying when Rebecca sang to him in the car was sweet, and it was just the sign of encouragement that she needed after cruelly being told that was “Pittsburgh good” after giving it her best shot. Kevin is trying so hard to get to know his father, but as usual, he’s really not in tune with his surroundings at all, unsurprised that Zoe might be vomiting after excitedly eating bat and not for a moment suspecting that there was a real reason that she didn’t want to engage in a relationship with her father. He’s confused enough about what he wants, chasing after a necklace which apparently is so commonplace that it means nothing, though I guess we’ll find that out now that one of the many Jacks were seeing is coming face-to-face with the woman he saw in the picture. And maybe we’ll even check in with some of the other characters who aren’t stuck in the past in the next episode.

Friday, November 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 5 “All Doll’d Up” (B)

I’ll go ahead and say that I don’t believe I’ve seen a villain this terrifying in a long time on a TV show, even in Halloween episodes or from among the many demons recently featured on “Legends of Tomorrow.” It’s something about the way that Merkel moved with his head screwed on the wrong way that was just unnecessarily freaky, and it was strange to see him ultimately captured when Ralph pretty much swallowed him up. The horror elements of this hour really took a backseat to the plot development related to Cisco getting back to his stronger and more assured self after some nasty injuries to his weakened hands and Barry and Iris get back to a good place with their daughter. We’re getting closer and closer to the mystery of who Caitlin’s father is and what the circumstances were around his alleged death, and I hope that the payoff is good there, including the long-awaited return of Killer Frost. Each member of the team is proving their worth, including Ralph and Sherloque, and it’s good to see that unity in an episode that didn’t feature Cicada at all. Nora truly is a brat, and I think her future sayings are designed to make her more irritating. Cecile knew exactly what to do to trick her into listening to stories about her mother by pretending that they were about Barry, and hopefully our speedsters can work together to defeat their latest enemy in no time so that this whole season isn’t just about one villain again.

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Separation of Church and Dan” (B)

It’s continually interesting to see how this show is moving past the departure of the lead character that used to anchor this family without really including her. Dan’s grief is extremely present, but it’s not like Roseanne or her ideals are still around. Instead, Dan is as stubborn as ever, determined to move on - or refuse to - in his own way and own time. Naturally, he would resist the notion that he needs some help, and he lasted just a few minutes and a few sentences into another guy’s story when he went to a support group, led by M.C. Gainey, who usually plays much meaner characters. Playing cards with his friends and singing is probably the best medicine, since that represents a return to normal behavior for him which would have happened just the same way when Roseanne was around. Geena trying to get everyone to go to church was an enjoyable exercise, one that elicited many jokes from the unwilling, unreligious clan. Probably the most entertaining plotline in this episode was Mark’s assignment which Jackie, representing everything about liberalism, got way too into and completely ruined by trolling the Republican respondent who had some very prepared answers to each of her pointed challenges. As the only cast member to receive an Emmy nomination for last year’s reboot, Metcalf definitely does a superb job of mirroring the people who likely don’t account for much of this show’s audience in a hilarious and not terribly offensive manner.

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 8 “S.N.A.F.U.” (C)

Ben has to be the least subtle spy ever, and it’s a wonder that he didn’t get caught the moment that he went in to apply for a job for which he was woefully overqualified. Obviously, he would push for more influence and access right away, and then, after he spilled coffee on the IT guy he had gotten to like him by pretending to geek out for his work, he did what only happens in movies and on television, inserting a flash drive into the computer to magically copy everything off that could download in mere moments. I was then expecting him to have a decoy flash drive so that Vance would confiscate the wrong one, but I guess we’re now supposed to believe that Vance isn’t sharing what he knows with the NSA either because he actually wants to help or he’s doing something more sinister. Ben sure had time for a lot in this hour, attending poker night at the office, going to a lecture where he and Saanvi were immediately recognized by the presenter, and having a heart-to-heart with Danny about parenting Olive. Michaela also had time for some socialization, going to an extremely awkward dinner hosted by Lourdes and then bailing because of the telltale heart she couldn’t stop hearing. Jared shouldn’t be able to deny that Michaela has a powerful ability anymore after what he saw, and her finding out that Carlos got Evie’s heart should only confirm for her that she really, really has to listen to whatever she hears.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 4 “Wet Hot American Bummer” (B-)

This show is getting sillier and sillier, and I guess I’m going to have to get on board with that if I want to continue enjoying it. I’m not a big summer camp person, and therefore I don’t think I liked this episode as much as many others likely did. It is admittedly clever that this show continues to reframe common tropes like hippies hallucinating at Woodstock and campers sneaking off into the woods to make out into opportunities for demons to try to mess with history. It was amusing to see how different Sara and Ava approached dealing with their campers, with Ava being the victim of a prank because she was far too serious and didn’t understand how to deal with kids in the way that Sara was apparently excellent at thanks to her own experience as a counselor. I suppose that Zari stayed behind because she definitely didn’t go to camp, while Constantine had to come because he’s the only one who can cast spells, which is the major way that the legends are going to deal with all of their nemeses this season. I enjoyed seeing Mick bond with Charlie, who appears to have accepted her fate and will now, post-makeover, help the legends as the new Amaya. We all knew that another familiar face, Nora, would be back eventually, and I’m eager to see how she gets involved with the legends on an official basis and whether she’ll be happy to see them again.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pilot Review: Sally4Ever

Sally4Ever (HBO)
Premiered November 11 at 10:30pm

There’s a certain style that British comedies have, especially when they’re focused on one woman exploring her years as a young professional struggling in both life and love. I was a huge fan of “Fleabag,” which will finally return next year after a nearly three-year hiatus, and it’s interesting to see a show that seems similar if even a bit more extreme. What’s cool about it is that it’s created by Julia Davis, who plays Emma, the woman that Sally meets and who argues that she’s definitely into being a lesbian even though she purports that it’s just a diversion from the fear of her straight relationship with a guy who’s incredibly boring and meticulous. It’s always intriguing to me when the writer of a show plays the supporting character rather than the lead. David definitely failed at trying to spice things up when he put on a ski mask and attacked Sally when she showed up, and the degree to which he manages to be uninteresting is truly incredible. The sex scene that also included him working on his own personal grooming of sorts was pretty intense, and I think that’s indicative of the way that Sally is going to go through life, weaving between the monotony of what she’s used to with the explosive ecstasy of that which she’s nervously trying for the first time. It’s an appealing premise in many ways – I’m not sure it enticed me the same way that “Fleabag” did, but it could be worth another shot.

How will it work as a series? David is devastated, but it doesn’t feel like Sally is the type of person who makes bold decisions and then sticks with them, which suggests that he’ll stick around for a while miserably trying to win her back. I don’t expect that to go well, but it should be entertaining to watch her try to reconcile her two lives.
How long will it last? This show started a few weeks ago on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom, and is airing just a couple episodes ahead of it on HBO. The reviews seem to be good, though I can’t find too much ratings data. I’d expect that this show will last exactly as long as its creator wants it to, and two seasons is my prediction.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Kidding (Season Finale)

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 10 “Some Day” (B)

At one point during this episode, I was starting to think that maybe it was going to have a normative ending. Tara didn’t die as a result of her sister horrifyingly slicing her throat during their performance, and Jeff’s off-script speech in which he said he killed his son and told kids to find and open their Christmas presents early may have actually had some positive implications. Kids lining up to see Jeff so that he could just listen, sort of like Santa, was very inspiring to see, and even Will and Sebastian got on line for a chance to hear the real Mr. Pickles say “I’m listening.” But then there’s all the weirdness of this half-hour, like Pickles-San coming on stage and greeting the crowd with “Allah Hu Akbar,” prompting his immediate tackling by security, and Jeff remembering all of these moments in his life with puppets and other animated forces rather than the actual people. Peter going next door to find Will and his friends partying led to a very sincere moment between Peter and Jeff in which he confessed that he couldn’t have been happier for a guy like him to be a new father to Will and husband to Jill. But then he had to go ahead and offer him marijuana, which prompted Jeff to run Peter over with his car. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I think I might check back in with a second season even though its unapologetic strangeness hasn’t quite felt worth it to me just yet.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Jim Carrey as Jeff

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 3 “He Be Tight. He Be Mean” (B)

Ray is back, and he couldn’t have picked a more crucial time. What a world he lives in that he can just tell Sam that, in order for him to work for her, he needs to have Lena moved to New York and an apartment ready for him to live. He’s definitely gentler than he’s been in the past, taking productive steps to help the people he cares about, including Lena and Bridget, both of who responded to him with surprise. He worked expertly to help swing the debate away from Anita’s opponent, played by Zach Grenier from “The Good Wife,” and is even starting to have a relationship that looks something like friendship with a fellow employee of Sam’s. He’s there when he needs to be for Mac, and he even trained with Terry, who’s contemplating a boxing comeback, during that well-paced “New York State of Mind” montage. As Bunchy was being triggered like crazy having to dress up as a priest by the truly bizarre Sandy and Daryll was dealing with a very unruly Jai, Mickey’s real reason for breaking out of prison became clear. Calling Ray at the end of the episode was extremely foreboding, and after so much reshaping of his character since he was the bad guy in season one, it’s interesting to see him become so immensely villainous again in this, which isn’t currently but I feel like might be the final season of this show. At least it’s something new, and I am more curious to see where things go than I have been in a while.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Prodigal Son” (B)

If nothing else, this show manages to modify its premise slightly in each episode, with a new twist on whatever’s going on with the God account helping to keep things feeling relatively fresh. Getting a friend suggestion for his Uncle Terrance while he was just a few feet away from him had Miles very confused, and of course he went about his usual well-meaning invasive tour to get to the bottom of just what he was supposed to do to help. He managed to learn a lot, and as always, things turned out rosy in the end with Terrance heading upstate to try to win back his wife after offering himself up to the board when Arthur was ready to fall on his sword to rectify the situation. Miles also gave his father a big ego boost when he showed up to take his uncle’s seat at the front of the church after Arthur expressed just how formative Terrance’s influence on him had been, though I can’t help noting that, dramatic as it may have been, he was pretty late to the service. Parenting was on full display with Michael Vartan showing up as Cara’s dad, which seems crazy to me even though “Alias” finished airing thirteen years ago, making him a possible age fit to play this adult journalist’s parent. Now that Cara has a decent relationship with both of her parents, maybe we’ll see them more frequently. Rakesh’s hacker friend seems like a possible new love interest for him, which isn’t such a bad thing given that Miles and Cara are still playing hard to get with each other.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 5 “Parasite Lost” (B+)

This season is all about paralleling society and the direction it’s headed today, and I’m not sure I had mentioned previously how Kara describes herself as a refugee at the start of each episode. This episode was all about subtle hatred and how it can be pervasive even within those who are good, making the world far from a black-and-white place. James seeing Guardian being praised by hate groups got him thinking about what being unbiased really means, and maybe talking to Agent Liberty will give him some insight into stopping the incitement of anti-alien hate, even if his new friend is far more intricately involved in all this activity than he knows. The more surprising and disturbing display of discrimination came from Alex’s new boss, who earned her respect when she commended her for both her reorganization of the DEO and her actions under pressure but then revealed that her first priority is to get the DEO back to its core mission of protecting Earth from all aliens, not just those who seek to do harm. There’s still some hope since Alex was able to talk Jensen down when he was going to kill everyone at the vigil, and other humans can be similarly inspired by the writings of Kara and James to reconsider their own prejudices. On a lighter note, it was fun to see Brainy drunk because he thought he was drinking vegetable juice instead of a cocktail and then so proud of himself for having found rather than called Nia after she challenged him to do so when they first met.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 5 “I’m So Happy For You” (B)

It feels like we’re getting very close to the end here, even though there are thirteen episodes left. Heather moving just a couple hours away with Hector makes some sense since it might give Rebecca the opportunity to interact with a new roommate or two since it doesn’t seem likely that the first one will be the right fit. Valencia, on the other hand, has been a fringe character for a while now, and hopefully her returning back for the holidays from her New York shoebox will mean that we’ll actually see her just as much as we do now. I enjoyed her brief scene with Josh in which she told him that he needed to stop referring to Hector’s mom as such because that’s what made it weird. I can also appreciate the continuation of the plotline involving Paula feeling closer to her kids, and that her family knew exactly what she would do to try to keep Brendan from moving to Africa and set it all up so that they could pull off an elaborate prank. Her song about always never believing in him was clever, and my favorite line was “You were never a teacher’s pet but you did kill a teacher’s pet.” I like that Darryl threw his water in White Josh’s face and that he may end up getting along a little too well with the date that White Josh brought to the goodbye party, which should hopefully confirm what everyone already knows, which is that they belong together. Rebecca’s attempts to be young and hip with a new friend group so that she could win the contest with her friends that Dr. Akopian hilariously said made her nuts were probably the least entertaining part of this show, and I’d love to see Rebecca just get to enjoy life with things like her pretzel wine pairings for a bit while things happen to other people around her instead.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 5 “Who’s Gabriel” (B-)

Opening this episode with a hand-drawn cartoon with subtitles to give some backstory was certainly strange, and it’s hard to find a common style on this show. This season, which has just three episodes left, isn’t in a much of a rush to get anywhere, with repeated threats being delivered and received multiple times an hour from so many of the characters to each other. The crucial turning point in this hour is that, even though he didn’t show the first time, Roman decided to change sides and tell a very furious Hakeem what he knew. He didn’t catch on to the fact that Danny was following him, and Danny in turn tried to hold off telling Tom that he knew exactly who the leak was and was then somehow surprised when Tom matter-of-factly ordered him to kill his best friend. Tom really did open up to Brittany, who seems to be completely enchanted by him and more than willing to fulfill his fantasies, and he, like Marisol, was way too obvious about his allegedly casual interest in the case. Elena probably could have guessed what Gabriel’s question about prayer meant, and Marisol seemed spooked enough to fire her on the spot and, puzzlingly, bring Billy with her down to Mexico to meet him face-to-face. I have no idea what’s going to come of that. Patty had a whole intense speech prepared to scare Jeff off, but he didn’t take the bait at all and might even have scored a point or two with her in the process.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 8 “The Worst Possible Use of Free Will” (B)

This episode was perfectly fine, but I don’t feel that we’re getting to a completely vital place right now. Michael telling Eleanor that, in one version of events in the afterlife, she and Chidi fell in love doesn’t seem entirely purposeful, though I guess it is meant to show her that she is capable of love, which represents a huge step for her and the potential that she has to be a good person. I like that, after seeing everything, Eleanor came to the conclusion that there was indeed no free will, and that everything that she had done was actually influenced, if only slightly in some cases, by what something else had done first. Michael pouring his iced tea on her was a great way to wake her up, and now they’re on to the next hair-brained scheme to be able to save as many souls as possible. Seeing flashes of our human friends back in the good place was fun, though the centaur Tahani was definitely strange. I was talking to friends recently who stopped watching this show after season one, and to me it’s still been terrific, but this season hasn’t quite matched the first two. Reintroducing both Shawn and Denise at the end of the episode as they built their own illegal portal to Earth was a very welcome step, and I can’t wait to see what they try to do to sabotage Michael and the humans, who are far more equipped for their arrival than they could possibly realize.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pilot Review: The Cry

The Cry (Sundance Now)
Premiered November 8

Four-episode limited series continue to be extremely popular and prolific overseas, and they are increasingly coming over to the United States thanks to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Sundance Now. The latest import comes from the United Kingdom, and originally aired there from September through October. I knew that something was going to happen to their baby but I didn’t know what, and therefore this pilot was full of dread as current court proceedings and flashbacks to happier – but equally stressful – times gradually started to reveal what led to how things were when we first met Joanna. The events here were relatively simple, and I applaud this show for being able to dramatize a lengthy flight from Scotland to Australia in such an intense and foreboding manner. Jenna isn’t exactly likeable, though it’s easy to have sympathy for her given the way that she was treated on that flight and the way in which Alistair stepped in to be the hero after sleeping for the majority of the time while she had to get yelled at by everyone for not being a competent mother since her child wouldn’t stop crying. This is a show that’s likely to be as much about the specific events of the baby’s disappearance as it is about the unraveling of Joanna’s mental state, whether or not she has actually suffered a break from reality. It’s not the most enticing of these shows that I’ve watched thus far, but it is decently intriguing and works well thanks to its pacing.

How will it work as a series? It took until the end of this episode for the specific incident that prompted all this attention to be revealed, and it’s not clear if the subsequent installments will be presented in a similarly splintered fashion or if they’ll just follow the proceedings of the court. Flashbacks will likely be crucial for filling in information, and four episodes seems like a proper amount of time to cover this story.
How long will it last? The ratings back in the UK were great, landing this show one of the top spots among new series. The reviews aren’t quite as consistent, with some objections to the non-linear narrative, but this does rate as one of the more successful such endeavors. Based on the subject matter, I don’t think it’s meant to go more than four episodes, but it should help prompt production of other series like this.

Pilot grade: B

Friday, November 9, 2018

Take Three: Bodyguard

Bodyguard: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I was going to comment that this episode was as compelling as the first two hours but far less action-packed. That changed, of course, when David, after spotting two false threats, ran right after the guy charging up to the podium who prompted to set off a bomb that appears to have seriously injured the woman whose bed he’s sharing and who he’s charged with protecting. I suppose that it’s a good thing that, bad as our political discourse is in the United States right now, our leaders aren’t subject to constant threats of assassination, but this is television, after all. There’s plenty more intrigue to be found in this hour, starting with David being questioned about why the shooter killed himself and definitely not selling his story of not having spoken with him at all. As he’s listening through the wall to Julia’s private conversations, he’s also having a hard time doing his job when Julia is trying to jump his bones in the bathroom during an alleged pee break and enticing him to follow her into the bedroom from her doorway. It’s still so difficult to figure out where his allegiances ultimately lie, and Julia telling him that his kids’ school was on her possible list of targets might help to shift his position since she’s trying to open up and be honest even though she really doesn’t have to be. Before that penultimate scene, the most intense part of this episode was when David nearly strangled Julia when she half woke him up in the middle of the night, showing her that it’s much better to have him on her team than the other way around.

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 6 “Off Radar” (C)

It’s time now to forget about the adults hearing things and helping to save people as a result of their newly-gifted powers. That said, now both Ben and Michaela decided to share with their partners what they can do, which went poorly on both fronts. It would have been much more convenient for them to experience these inklings in those very moments so that they could prove what they could do instead of seeming crazy and just pissing Grace and Jared off more. Cal manifesting the reactions of Marko and rambling in Bulgarian was its own kind of disturbing, and naturally he was miraculously healed without the medical help that was proposed and nearly utilized despite the threat that it posed to his health. Ben went straight to the man in charge to air his theories and threaten public action if he wasn’t heard, and it’s apparent that he’s not the only one who doesn’t know what’s happening with all the passengers on the flight. The notion of an unlisted fifth bus including those who couldn’t legally stay in the United States has its own greater political implications that won’t be addressed at all on this show but could play to the current landscape, and instead it’s just going to be another mystery plot point in the seemingly endless saga of what happened to these passengers on that plane. It’s hard to believe we’re only six episodes in – it feels like this show has been going on forever without getting anywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 3 “Dancing Queen” (B-)

This episode didn’t do much for me, and I’m really starting to feel that having only five legends around, one of whom is Constantine, is considerably less exciting than everything up until this point. Ray trying to infiltrate a punk rock band that was going to rewrite history by sending the Queen of England to a psychiatric ward wasn’t nearly as enticing as even the disco effort by the legends a while ago that showed up on the front of a newspaper in this hour to blow Ray’s cover. After Ray tried to out one of them as a leprechaun, the more plausible (at least for this show) explanation of Charlie being a shapeshifter was revealed, leading to a clever reintroduction of one familiar face in a completely new role. I thought Maisie Richardson-Sellers was one of the best parts of this show as Amaya, and though it’s not clear how long she’s still around as Charlie’s frozen face following Constantine’s spell-casting, I think it should be a lot of fun to see her in a totally different part. It is probably the worst possible time for Nate to try to get back out there following his many misadventures in time with Gary, who’s probably my least favorite character right now after Constantine. I’m finding Zari’s many barbs to be a bit anachronistic given when she’s supposed to come from, but I guess there needs to be someone smart and sarcastic aboard the Wave Rider aside from Sara, whose alleged unprofessionalism according to Ava was quite entertaining.

What I’m Watching: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 9 “Lt. Pickles” (B-)

Jeff is the definition of a ticking time bomb, not acknowledging that he completely trashed the office and then channeling all of his pent-up frustration into the copyright-infringing Lt. Pickles game that Sebastian was so worried he was going to go ballistic about when he discovered its existence. It was weird to see him and Jill switch into co-parenting mode after Jill brought the chickens he bought to school and got into trouble. Jill wanted to defend him as an asshole while Jeff sought to find the beauty and inspiration in his behavior, hardly the response that the principal would have expected. Peter got taken up on his selfless offer to let them have some alone family time, and their trip to the restaurant got pretty trippy when it became clear that Jeff was experiencing Will’s magic trick in a truly mind-boggling way. What, unfortunately, was not an instance of Jeff losing himself in his own mind was the performance on ice that Sebastian pushed through by encouraging Sara to step into the spotlight. I still can’t decide what to make of the horrifying sight of Sara accidentally slicing Tara’s throat during a show that was up until that point going so well. In another reality-defying moment, Scott pretending that he was totally straight and had never had a coded conversation about not continuing his extramarital activities, and it says something about the state of their marriage that Deirdre’s immediate response was to grab a puppet and tell Pickles-San that they should have sex. This is an undeniably bizarre series.

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 2 “Staten Island, Part Two” (B)

There were two moments in this episode that were far too literal for my tastes, in which criminal Donovan sons had their illegal activities spelled out explicitly by others. Daryll couldn’t believe that Jay responded to K’Lei that he had blackmailed him after he helped him clean up a murder, though that didn’t matter too much since they ended up getting her on board, so he’s just going to have to worry now about his father having it out for him if he can stay conscious long enough. Ray wasn’t at all amused when he was called out for buying supplies to cut up a body, and he was very frustrated with being called back into the same line of work that he’s been trying to leave behind. It was reassuring to see him eventually return to what he’s good at, telling Anita not to worry about what he was going to do and then finding a clever way to solve two of his problems with two bodies in one place. Bridget getting engaged to Smitty was an interesting development, but I have a hard time believing that their wedding could ever be attended by members of the Donovan family, namely Ray who tried to kill him. Mickey’s escape plan seems to have worked, though it’s really a shame that he roped poor Bunchy into it. Mickey doesn’t have much left to lose given his age and mental capacity, but Bunchy is considerably sweeter and more well-intentioned, even if he’s not as resourceful or obviously intelligent. Let’s hope Ray can help with that one too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 6 “A House Divided” (B-)

The sentimentality that is so intrinsic to this show makes it less effective than it could be, and the knowledge that everything is going to work out so neatly causes more eye-rolling than genuine smiling, at least on my part. What this episode did do that was positive was compound the nature of the God account and its influence by incorporating the religious beliefs of the latest friend suggestion into what its relevance to Miles’ life should be. I immediately recognized Navid Negahban from “Homeland” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as Hasan, the friendly cab driver who ended up taking them to his home because things were getting bad with his son, who turned out not to be the child with the issue. I have a hard time believing that Hasan would be so familiar with Jewish marriage customs like the ketubah if he wasn’t open to an interfaith marriage, and I’d be equally shocked that the two lovebirds would want to incorporate religious customs into what was going to be a shotgun wedding due specifically to their parents’ refusal to approve of it. Miles is also way too pushy when it comes to just showing up and trying to influence other people’s lives, and having a smile on his face the whole time doesn’t make his actions any better. Arthur awkwardly asking Trisha out was sweet, and that relationship seems like a much more productive idea than Cara deciding to give Eli a second chance when everyone knows that she should really be with Miles.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 4 “Ahimsa” (B)

It’s interesting to see how this show uses masks, with Agent Liberty more than happy to remove what he claims is a way of universalizing his cause and Supergirl hidden behind something that makes her look like the robot from “Lost in Space” because it was keeping her alive. And then we have Guardian, whose mask no longer serves any purpose since everyone knows his identity, and it would actually have been smarter for him to don a different helmet so that he couldn’t be re-prosecuted for the same crime. The horizontal pole on the bottom of the motorcycle was a nice trick, and one that helped to defeat his enemies in the moment. There is something warped about Mercy and Owen Graves using aliens’ powers against them, but vilifying the other by exaggerating the threat they pose is a common tactic throughout history. Mercy shooting a human also goes against Agent Liberty’s very specific code of only killing aliens is likely to be a breaking point between the two of them eventually. It’s good to see Brainy and Lena teaming up and helping each other alternately suppress and channel emotions, but the biggest new piece of help is Manchester Black, whose worldview doesn’t include the same resistance to violence that Hank’s does, though that’s fading each day, especially with the confirmation that Fiona did in fact die as soon as they found her. Our heroes are getting worn down a lot lately, and hopefully there’s a turning point coming sometime in the near future.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 4 “Sabra” (B-)

I had the return of a character thought by most to be dead spoiled by reading the opening lines of an article in the Jewish Journal discussing the increased focus on Judaism in this season. I’ve never been a fan of Frank Frink, and I thought that his being gone was actually a positive for the show. Instead, we find out that he’s the artist behind the rainbow resistance image, living in a community of secret Jews pretending to be Christians that nearly got compromised by the man who forced Mark to bring him back to his home. It’s difficult to watch that when there’s so much anti-Semitism roaring its ugly head in the real world, and here it’s state-sanctioned, which means that if they get caught, they’re all going to be killed and it won’t even be considered a crime. While Frank being alive may have been a surprise to audiences, the Kempeitai seems to be fully aware that he is likely out there. Before he and Robert were robbed of their bus and all their possessions by the biker gang, Ed got to experience true happiness in a surprisingly public way, one that was also indulged by the creator of propaganda herself, Nicole. I know how being a “gender traitor” is handled on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but I can’t imagine it’s something that the Reich takes kindly to even if it’s not their most despised trait. As he tries to handle Helen, John is getting more and more disturbed by the films and the dreams about Thomas, and I wonder where it’s all going to lead. Joe may be wooing Juliana, but he’s sure killing a lot of people, the latest of which may be Tagomi.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What I’m Watching: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 4 “Furs by Sebastian” (B-)

I don’t really know what to make of this episode. I’m aware that both Jonah Hill and Emma Stone are credited as playing three different people on this show, but I don’t think I expected an installment fully devoted to their joint dream of being Bruce and Linda Marino. I don’t see what the point of this was, portraying Bruce as a loyal but less than intelligent spouse without too many ambitions, and Linda as a self-centered woman with her own strange aims. Linda was living out a different fantasy than Bruce, and I guess, in the end, it was Bruce who paid for it by sacrificing himself to the police and Linda who was left lying on the couch without having to bear any responsibility for her actions. Bruce is certainly more talkative and self-assured than Owen, while Linda looks much more similar to Annie, who is more than happy to lie and manipulate others if she feels it will be to her advantage. I appreciated seeing guest actor Glenn Fleshler, a ubiquitous TV player who has also appeared in “Billions,” “Barry,” and “Waco” this year, as Sebastian, who initially played a throwaway part as the owner of the fur store but then went out with a literal bang when the Fish and Wildlife officers showed up. This episode felt even more eccentric than the three that came before it, but it also felt pointless in a way that doesn’t make me feel great about investing in it. Seeing them both asleep and dreaming at the end of the episode gives me some confidence that the next episode will course-correct.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 4 “I’m the Talking Ass” (B)

We’re starting to settle into a new normal here, and there are elements of it that I just don’t like. Badison is the ultimate example, mainly because we’ve gotten to know these characters over the years, and while there have been a few new additions, largely it’s worked well with the same people. It’s understandable that, after an entire season devoted to a riot, this one would be devoted to its aftermath. What we’re seeing is the discrepancy in representation and, as a result, the future prospects of a handful of the inmates. Flashing back to Nicky’s childhood and how she transformed her Bat Mitzvah speech into a biting takedown of the two parents that didn’t have any interest in taking responsibility for her was informative of how she’s developed loyalty over the years and why she felt so bad for what’s going to happen to Red, who truly doesn’t deserve her fate. Taystee was also horrified to learn the charges that she was facing, and calling Caputo was a smart idea since he can vouch for her to a degree. It was nice to see some old familiar faces like Aleida, who was so annoyed that the shake saleswoman used one of the selling techniques on her, which she proceeded to do to the guard that stepped in to pacify her when things nearly got very bad following her shortened conversation with Daya. Luschek isn’t nearly as endearing, and of course he’s going to be the one to make this whole “Fantasy Inmate” thing implode. Though Badison is still there to ruin things, it’s great to see Piper back with a spring in her step now that Alex has been safely found and reunited with her fiancée. The most enjoyable part of the hour was definitely watching Pennsatucky, Donuts, and Dixon having a blast at the theme park, with Dixon stepping in to defend his allegedly gay friends, something that may very well lead to their being caught. 4

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 4 “I Get Physical” (B+)

There aren’t many shows aside from musicals that can get away with essentially featuring a concert midway through an episode. That proved especially effective as Mariah tried to confront Bushmaster and wish him well as he headed back to Jamaica, only to be condescendingly called by the last name Stokes, which really got her angry. In this season’s exploration of social media as a boosting factor for Luke’s persona, it’s interesting to see just how much people in Harlem are entertained by the video of Luke getting knocked out by Bushmaster. Having it covered on ESPN and compared to famous boxers being defeated made this all feel like a sporting event, one which Luke is definitely losing. Misty could tell that he was out of it when he didn’t fight her quite enough to be in charge when they went in together and then didn’t argue at all when she had to go to ICE with Tomas and couldn’t take him because he’s an ex-con. Claire leaving is really bad for him since she was a certain kind of support, and Bobby tried to offer some sage advice before jetting off to California to be a hero of another sort. Comanche seemed to be going out of his way to try to piss Mariah off, and therefore the revelation that he’s actually working as an informant for the police is huge news. We don’t yet know who is suing Luke, but that look on his face shows that he’s not at all happy about it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 4 “Alo” (B-)

I’m getting a bit tired of how much we need to see of how Tom isn’t nearly as bad as the men that he’s working for, with new limbs being amputated on screen and then even the victims of his depraved fantasies being executed just to scare him a little en route to Mexico. I’m still perplexed by the casting of Mark Duplass in that role, especially after he arrived to rescue an all-too comedic scene with an equally strange choice, David Cross, before predictably beating Loomis with his racket. The turning point that may have been accomplished by episode’s end, after Billy got Roman really riled up by marching into the police station with the severed head in the box, he showed up to spell out for him that he has no interest in seeing Roman dead, and being at the bottom of the food chain means that he may want to consider switching sides. Hopefully, Billy is finally starting to realize that Marisol doesn’t have his best interests in mind, after she refused to answer his legitimate questions and then showed up to convince Denise to push for details about the case. The case is ultimately this show’s focus, and they may have scored a win by convincing Judge Wallace that they have more behind them than she initially thought. Brittany telling Tom that she googled him means that she should realize that he’s trouble, but that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon given how committed he is to getting what he wants, especially when he’s the one in control. I enjoyed Patty’s swift rejection of Jeff trying to take her out for a drink, even though he was really quite passive and far politer than most of the people in her life.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 4 “I’m Making Up for Lost Time” (C+)

Two weeks ago, this show had a Halloween episode, and now we have yet another hour that doesn’t feel entirely purposeful. I couldn’t remember if we had seen Tucker before, and, after spending a whole episode with him, I don’t feel that it’s improved my life at all. Rebecca, for all her eccentricities, is far too trusting, and unfortunately, many of the people in her life don’t have her best interests at heart. The ultimate conclusion of this hour was that Tucker, instead of being devious, manipulative, and pretending to be her younger half-twin, should have just told her that he wanted to audition for the musical and she would have happily helped him. His audition song about wanting to become a teenage Hollywood trainwreck was moderately entertaining but perfectly clever and self-aware in the way that this show always wants to be. Rebecca admonishing Nathaniel for the way in which he tried to win her back was an important development, and I’m not sure where that leaves him as he continues to pine for her but more now in a rejected way, which probably won’t be good for anyone. Having Sunil follow Rebecca around so that he could win the case from Nathaniel was unnecessary, continuing to make the office dynamic the least compelling aspect of this show. Paula bonding with her sons during the escape room was endearing, but we’ve barely met them over the course of this show’s run, and as a result it felt somewhat random just like the main part of this episode did.

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

House of Cards: Season 6, Episode 1 “Chapter 66” (B)

A lot has happened since the fifth season of this show was released. It’s hard to believe that it netted star Kevin Spacey another Emmy nomination since, only a few months later, he ended up being one of the biggest pariahs in Hollywood and one of the top two examples of why the #metoo movement exploded like it did. Now, a little over a year later, this show is back for its final round with Spacey and his lead character Frank Underwood decidedly out of sight. That creates an entirely new tone for this swan song, which had already reshaped itself to focus on Claire as the one in power, declaring “My turn” defiantly in the closing moments of the finale. She doesn’t have particularly kind words to say about the late Frank, assuring the audience through direct address that he has been lying to them for five years, and she’s determined to write her own narrative now that he’s gone. She definitely made an impression in the opening scene, and she’s not going to let being the first female president shape her presidency in any sort of negative way, brushing aside challenges from female soldiers and female reporters under the guise of equal treatment for all critics. This show can’t hope to hold a mirror to our president-day society since it’s still more about being a paranoid thriller, with the new Shepherd characters played by Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear actively working to sabotage Claire even if they didn’t actually hire the assassin who failed to kill her. I’m not sure why Doug needs to be involved any more either since his story is far too much a reminder of plotlines that should have been let go a while ago. I’m in no matter what for the remaining seven episodes since I’ve stuck around this long, and I’m hopeful that they’ll be interesting and make this entire rollercoaster journey feel like it’s been worth it.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Pilot Review: Homecoming

Homecoming (Amazon)
Premiered November 2

Julia Roberts doing TV is big news – she’s the latest in a lengthy series of actors and actresses known for being movie stars giving it a shot on the small screen. She also has a December movie, “Ben is Back,” coming out that might garner her some Oscar buzz. Roberts is just one of the noteworthy names affiliated with this project. As a big fan of “Mr. Robot,” a show that shouldn’t have been victim of such a downturn in critical enthusiasm after its first season and is slated to end after its fourth next year, I’m extremely interested in what creator Sam Esmail does next. There are parts of this show, more than just the introductory font, that feel so much like that show, though the vibe here is considerably more small-scale. There’s a foreboding feeling of dread as we see Heidi a few years into the future working as a waitress and being interrogated by the investigator played by Shea Whigham, a fantastic supporting player from “Boardwalk Empire” and much more. It’s no surprise that Bobby Cannavale, a recent and fantastic addition to “Mr. Robot,” is portraying Colin, the magnanimous mind behind Homecoming, and we also have Jeremy Allen White from “Shameless” as one of the soldiers, Alex Karpovsky from “Girls” as the interview simulator, and Dermot Mulroney as the boyfriend who just didn’t get that Heidi had no interest whatsoever in moving their relationship forward. Roberts seems very well-cast, and though I don’t know quite yet what to make of this odd half-hour drama, I’m interested enough for a second round.

How will it work as a series? It’s always a gamble to have glimpses of the future since we know to a degree how things are going to turn out, but I think that the structure of this show is very nuanced and plotted out, meaning that we’re going to follow Heidi down the rabbit hole as things begin to unravel. It’s sure to be an energizing and haunting trip.
How long will it last? The reviews are strong, which is something that’s far for guaranteed both for the many streaming shows that premiere these days and for movie star TV efforts. Most crucially, Amazon already opted to renew this show for a second season last month. That’s rarely good news for most shows since the ratings/viewer numbers can’t hope to hold up, but it worked well enough for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I’ll predict the same here, with three seasons airing in total.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 5 “Grace’s Secret” (B)

It can be jarring when sitcoms try to tackle serious issues like the death of a parent, and I think it’s much less common that a show deals with something in a completely unfunny way like this one did. It was always ahead of the curve two decades ago when it first began, so I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be out front dealing with sexual harassment and assault. Dreading the road trip with her father turned into an opportunity for Grace to call him out on what he described as harmless, flattering flirting and to confess, when egged on by him, her very harrowing and traumatizing experience at a young age that he never knew about. Framing it within the context of the rest of this episode didn’t feel quite as effective, though I guess there’s something to be said about life going on and no one else stopping to live in the horror of the experience, with the awkward waitress Patty, played by Martha Kelly from “Baskets,” demonstrating that with her ill-timed shrimp delivery. This show also managed to get away with some very suggestive sentiments thanks to Grace texting Will what she really wanted to say to him but can’t on network television. The lip-sync battle between Will and Karen was somewhat worthwhile, particularly for Will’s very involved “Leave Britney Alone” performance, but I think we all knew going into it that Jack was going to choose to have both of them as his best man for what’s sure to be a very showy and over-the-top wedding.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 7 “A Fractured Inheritance” (B)

I’ve commended this series for constantly recreating its premise as it goes on, but I found this episode to be among the least engaging this show has produced. Part of that is because, when it tricked us in the first season into not realizing that there were only four human main characters, we had unintentionally grown attached as an audience to them. Now, we have all these new characters who are just showing up for an episode as our friends help to get them into the good place. I was excited to see who was going to play Eleanor’s mom without realizing that she had actually already appeared in two episodes in previous seasons, and while I’m not familiar with Leslie Grossman as an actress, I do like Andy Daly a lot, who played her boyfriend Dave, who Michael bonded with because of the so-called architect’s code. Michael trying to be Eleanor’s father figure was entertaining, and he made a good point when he noted that both he and Eleanor had changed, and therefore it wasn’t so out of the question that her mother had too. Helping to convince her that she should invest in this life without an exit strategy was sweet, and it was a win for Eleanor as a person too. Kamilah really did seem horrible, closing down an omelet-as-art station because Tahani refused to order one and offering no refunds, but Tahani realizing that their parents had always pitted them against each other and that she just needed a hug was sweet. I enjoyed Chidi being so happy that Kamilah had taken all of his fears before he got them right back, and Janet was pretty proud that she got pulled over and commended for her perfect driving. Now, I’m quite eager to see what Eleanor does with this new information about her brief relationship with Chidi.

Pilot Review: Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story (CBS All Access)
Premiered October 31

I debated whether to watch this show at all since it looked like a horror series, launching on Halloween, and I know that the term psychological thriller, theoretically my favorite genre if actually done right, is often code for horror which features dead people coming back to life and all of the things that I hate. I saw that this was billed as a modern-day fairy tale vehicle, something that was done recently in a more family-friendly setting on ABC with “Once Upon a Time.” In fact, that’s the same name in Spanish as the Mexican series that this one is based on, with both of them depicting the present-day political situation in their countries. I do find it strange to focus a series quite this much around real-life events like Trump’s presidency and the all-too-frequent mass shootings that happen, and the way it’s done here feels particularly disingenuous. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention or maybe it just wasn’t done very well, but the parallels to the Three Little Pigs just didn’t feel terribly poignant or effective. I did recognize a handful of actors, including James Wolk, from “Mad Men” and “Lone Star,” Michael Raymond-James from “True Blood,” Paul Wesley from “The Vampire Diaries,” Sam Jaeger from “Parenthood,” and Billy Magnussen from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” I was thrilled to notice Becki Newton from “Ugly Betty” in a small role, but I wish she had better parts on better shows. I expected to find this show to be far from appealing, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as uninteresting and unengaging as it was.

How will it work as a series? I presumed that every episode would feature different characters as they covered new fairy tales, but that’s not the case, apparently. Instead, this will be more like “One Dollar,” an overarching story based around the same people and the consequences of decisions and actions. Ending with that fatal gunshot ensures that anyone mildly interested will tune back in, but that’s not me.
How long will it last? This is the fifth original drama series to premiere on the relatively new CBS All Access channel, and it has the least positive reviews thus far. It doesn’t have a big name at the helm despite is enormous cast with many moderately-known members, and though ratings data is likely not be released in a helpful way, I imagine this will be cancelled as soon as its first season concludes.

Pilot grade: C-

Round Two: Bodyguard

Bodyguard: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

Well, consider this a fitting follow-up. I wasn’t sure what could top the extended scene in which David talked down the female bomber on the train, but that happened a couple of times in this hour. I didn’t realize how closely an attempted terrorist attack would be played out here, and while it probably hit a bit too close to home with recent events, at least the truck was stopped and the explosion happened far away from the school. I couldn’t describe anything more intense than Julia’s driver being shot in the head while he was driving and then David continuing to repeat that she should remain calm while she was covered in blood. The fact that he got out of the car and used his phone as a mirror to find the shooter was pretty incredible, and then he was willing to head up to the roof where he came face to face with the shooter, who turned out to be none other than his friend. The two of them having sex was probably inevitable, but then things really got complicated when David was told that she knew his children’s school might be a target and did nothing to prevent it. The fact that he went in to sleep with her again in their adjoining hotel rooms knowing that means that it’s so hard to know where he’s ultimately going to end up, since he’s all about protection above all else and probably wouldn’t be able to switch off that drive even if he completely detests the woman whose life is in his hands.

Friday, November 2, 2018

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 6 “Kamsahamnida” (B)

Every member of the Pearson family is exploring very different parts of themselves, and it’s hard to find many connections in this multi-tasking hour. Jack coming home with a black eye seemed like it was going to be a much bigger deal related to his alcoholism, but instead it was just an opportunity for Randall to speak up about wanting to learn how to box so that he could feel like just as much of a son to Jack as he perceived Kevin to be. Every moment in which Rebecca sees Jack for the wonderful man that he is seems designed explicitly to tug at viewers’ heartstrings, but there was some unexpected fresh poignancy in his casual mention of how he used to box with his brother, something he never discusses that caught Rebecca off guard. Solomon welcoming Randall to the church as a first-time visitor and clear outsider was a cunning and cruel act, and Randall realizing that Kevin was extremely popular with the Korean community helped to change his odds in a big way. He even managed to win over his new campaign manager Jae-won with his sincerity, and bringing Beth onto his team is another excellent decision, one that’s sure to give her a sense of purpose much more than trying – and failing – to help her daughters sell Girl Scout cookies. Kevin never seems to want to give Zoe any space, but we know from the glimpses we saw at the end of last season that she goes to Vietnam with him, so hopefully that will be therapeutic for both of them. A depressed Toby getting mad at Kate for not seeing their dog swallow a rock turned into something very positive when she insisted on him coming for a walk and they both saw him poop together – a small but heartwarming step in the right direction for their longstanding relationship that neither of them are going to give up on.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 4 “News Flash” (B+)

I like how this season is playing out already, as the investigation into who Sicada is continues while other events happen in the background, namely a meta of the week who has much more power than it initially seems. We finally got to see why it is that Nora doesn’t have positive feelings towards Iris, which has to do with much more than the fact that she’s truly terrible at cooking breakfast. Nora behaving like a teenager and getting really into a rival reporter’s blog didn’t help matters at all, and I thought it was going to go all the way to Nora beginning to date Spencer, or something like that. Instead, it just resulted in Spencer trying to get another story in which XS killed the Flash, something that would have happened had it not been for Iris springing into action to protect her family. Telling Nora that she could understand why she would suppress her powers was honest but not helpful in the moment, and Barry siding with her, while affirming to their relationship, seems to have shaken Nora in a way that may send her over to the dark side, provided that Joe and Cecile can’t continue to maintain a good influence over her. Sherloque was indeed irritating to Ralph as they searched together for Sicada, and fortunately he figured out something big – that Sicada was injured and has a lot of trouble breathing – and gave a pleasantly shocked Ralph all the credit for that crucial deduction.

Take Three: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 3 “There Won’t Be Blood” (B)

This is actually the way to do a Halloween episode: have characters dress up in costumes that mostly serve as fodder for one-liners or figure more specifically into the plot. It’s interesting to have Darlene and Dan remaining on this show as opposite political figures, and in this case of political correctness that Dan decried, Darlene actually ended up arguing against it because she saw it stifling Mark’s creativity and the incredible effort he put in to make his Frida Kahlo costume. That felt to me like a pretty legitimate and unoffensive way to deal with the topic of just how much is too much to censor without providing a decisive answer, since Mark ultimately wasn’t let in to the carnival. Becky’s costume was entertaining, as was her commitment to it. I was surprised to see Matthew Broderick as Jackie’s new boyfriend Peter, who was incredibly boring with his pre-prepared facts about Halloween. It was pretty funny to watch Darlene try to score a job as a waitress insulting diners as she obliterated David Paymer’s self-esteem with her genuinely mean comments. Dan, on the other hand, did his best to hold his tongue and dance around what he really wanted to say about Peter even though Jackie was begging him for something reminiscent of how Roseanne might have skewered him. Harris passing her driver’s test by some miracle helped show a much more mature side of her as she came up with an impressive and adult plan of how she would be able to afford the car and everything related to it.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 2 “Witch Hunt” (C+)

This show has gone out on a limb a few times in a way that many others wouldn’t, and usually it works okay even if it’s a little silly. I was been impressed with Helen of Troy causing studio wars in Hollywood and tolerated the legends conjuring up Beebo to basically sit on Mallus and destroy him, but this still feels like a little much. The notion of having to send a fairy godmother to hell is one that baffles me, and it didn’t work particularly well here. I guess I’m glad that Constantine offering to be her host was something that she didn’t want to do since that means we won’t have to see her again. More importantly, Sara should deal with the fact that Zari once again completely ignored her directives and opted to go back in time and change history when they knew it wasn’t supposed to change. Of the many comic moments featured in this hour, I preferred Ray describing how peaceful crows were before they killed all the witch hunters to him and Mick being literally turned into swine. If Constantine has to be around, which I still don’t like, at least he’s driving Mick crazy with everything he’s doing. After Nate tried to pay for dinner with a credit card that expired in 1953, his relationship with his dad got seriously repaired when he stepped in to do much-needed damage control for Ava and Gary and show him that he had actually accomplished a whole lot.

Take Three: Camping

Camping: Season 1, Episode 3 “Fishing Trip” (C+)

I make a point to watch every pilot, and if I’m intrigued by a show, I usually stick around for a few episodes. Three episodes in, the question is whether I have a genuine interest in what these characters do and where they end up. At this point on this show, I really don’t. While this is a unique and odd series, there are still some very archetypal characters who dominate too much of the energy, namely Kathryn and Jandice. Kathryn is the controlling element who is so buttoned-up that she would never dream of doing anything that didn’t fit with her meticulously-prepared plan and Jandice is all about whatever she wants to do, corrupting every element she comes into contact with just for the hell of it. We got to see a bit of the men being together fishing, but then it was all about Joe and his feeling left out since the group was isolating him with inside jokes and making him feel like an outsider for his poorly-conceived Bond references. He’s hardly the easiest to get along with, throwing a wad of paper into Carleen’s open mouth to wake her up and being decidedly not into the camping experience if he thought using the bathroom at Burger King was a real treat. Lines like “Don’t pout, it makes your face look rounder than it already is” and “Who wants oatmeal in a cookie? I barely want oatmeal in my oatmeal” are certainly memorable, but this show as a whole is all over the place and I don’t think that I need to keep watching it.

What I’m Watching: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 8 “Philliam” (B+)

Flashback episodes are usually an effective tool on any show, and on this one it felt especially powerful, mainly because it brings some of the dynamics we hadn’t really seen before to the forefront and explains, in part, why Jeff acts the way he does. We know that Will is a strange kid, so precocious and independent, while Phil has just been a memory of something gone. Opening with the two sons doing a magic show that Jeff wasn’t really focused on help provide a look into the relationship between Jeff and Phil, which was filled with expectations and disappointment, plus plenty of rules like no contact sports. Jeff’s desire to go the execution of his pen pal the Wendy’s Killer was unsurprisingly met with objections from his family, but we know Jeff well enough that he wouldn’t be able to resist that final act of charity. Derrell’s explanation of how his father got to where he was and then snapped when he got a cheeseburger that wasn’t round was powerful, and provided extraordinary insight from someone who has had a very different life from the members of the Pickles family. The microphone being broken so that his last words weren’t audible felt particularly depressing, but then Jeff went and got Derrell a job working on the show, which was extremely sweet, and fitting given that he was the one who, at the end of the previous episode, discovered Jeff after his breakdown. Seeing Jill meet Peter for the first time was an interesting tidbit, and I love that Jeff, upon learning that whatever dish at the diner he ordered would be named after him, decided to get a salad rather than the franks and beans he really wanted since it was healthier.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan (Season Premiere)

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 1 “Staten Island, Part One” (B+)

I didn’t realize that this show was coming back until I saw a billboard for it a couple weeks ago. I’ve always respected this series and thought that its ensemble was underrated, with only Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight singled out for accolades, but I do feel strongly that season five dragged on a bit and didn’t need to play Abby’s death out over the course of an entire year the way that it did. A reboot of sorts is a great way to kick this show’s latest season off, and this feels like the freshest kind of start. Of course Ray would try to beat up the cop, played by Domenick Lombardozzi from “Entourage,” who saved him after he jumped. I like that he refused to simply accept that he had been released, thanks to some strings being pulled by Sam, and tracked Ray down to understand his motive. Ray moving in with him is an interesting twist, and now he’s getting back to being a fixer, a term others use but he never would, in a more subdued way than before, buried under a grizzled beard and even more reserved attitude. Lola Glaudini’s Anita Novak seems like a worthwhile client, one who, as clients of Ray’s tend to do, is now in way over her head after accidentally killing the man who taped her. I’ve always found Lena to be extremely underfeatured on this show, and I like that she angrily reflected on Ray never saying thank you before he called back and shocked her by actually thanking her for once. Mickey making some sort of disgusting concoction to make himself sick seems like just another big scheme, and I don’t think that he wants to be part of this mess that Darryl is now observing with real lions so that Jai can be the king of the concrete jungle. We barely saw any of the rest of the Donovan clan in this hour aside from Mickey finding out that he only has custody one day now and Bridget seeming to do pretty well with Smitty. I’m optimistic about what this season could be, and I hope the bicoastal focus will work well.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 3 “Man of Steel” (B+)

Apparently, this character of Agent Liberty first appeared in comics decades ago, but this version is extremely prescient today, representing all of the anti-immigrant xenophobia that has led to so much hate and violence. The way in which the story of Agent Liberty was told in this episode was very effective, explaining his motivations as inspired by events that we’ve seen already, like Supergirl helping people get out of their hypnotic daze with her televised speech, the Daxomite invasion, and interactions with all of the characters we know well. I appreciated the casting of Xander Berkeley, alumnus of “24,” “Nikita,” and much more, as Ben’s spiteful father, who transmitted his disdain with the fact that alien influences were taking away human jobs to his son long before Ben ever became radicalized. Watching him start to believe that progress is not a good thing because it erases achievements from the past and proudly give a lecture about nativism with multiple alien students in his class was powerful and disturbing, and this show really does hold up a mirror to our own society. What that means in the long term for Supergirl and the fight to keep Earth safe from all threats will be resolved eventually, but for now, we have a dedicated resistance fighter who is eloquent and feels like much more of a formidable villain than the stunt-heavy Graves siblings since he can, has, and will articulate his sentiments in a stirring fashion designed specifically to encourage others to adopt his worldview.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 5 “Unfriended” (B-)

It didn’t take long for this show’s primary device to be turned on its head, with Miles mysteriously unfriended by the God account only after it spat out another name for him obsess over and research. I’m not sure why that needed to occur, though I suppose that Miles choosing to send a friend request on his own means that he’s accepted that this is a crucial part of his life that he can’t run away from no matter how hard he tries. Discovering that Rachel’s sister is the one who pulled her from the car was indeed a productive way for Miles to do the only thing that Rachel had told him would help: to repair the last moment between them and show her that it was something done out of love. I was actually proud of this show for a moment for leaving one friend suggestion unresolved and unhappy, but then she had to show up and thank Miles explicitly for the help he gave that she expressly said she didn’t want. Sappiness is the prime goal here, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I imagine that Miles’ Uncle Terrance, played by Malik Yoba from “Alphas,” will play a bigger role in future episodes, especially since he seems to have a better relationship with his nephew than his brother does with his son. Jaya’s news about leaving seems a bit abrupt for the show since she and Rakesh were just starting to get serious, and I’m not sure it’s going to be a positive change to have her away and Rakesh lonely in her absence.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 3 “Sensô Kôi” (B)

It’s certainly more disturbing than usual to watch this show in the wake of the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning. One aspect of this show that hasn’t really been explored is how the Nazis, upon learning that there exist other worlds, might reconsider their beliefs. I say this because we’re starting to see even more sympathetic portrayals of the primary Nazi characters, with the Smith family in particular starting to question their allegiances following the release of the propaganda film that attempts to erase American history and paint Thomas as an American hero, one fully worthy of the Nazi salute in his honor. I’ve always found John Smith to be the strongest character on this show, and I think his newfound attitude is due only to his state of mourning and not a question of his principles. Seeing Thomas in one of the movies definitely threw him for a loop, and we’re about to get to a new and important point as Juliana starts to think that she can make a difference with her memories connected to the movies. As Hoover spreads his (correct) theories about the Smiths being responsible for the deaths of the Adlers and Kido gets to interrogate the located Priest Hagan, we got to see the reunion between Juliana and Joe, whose motivations still remain somewhat unclear. Mark’s interest in Robert unsubtly peddling Judaica has apparently gotten him into trouble, and hopefully it won’t lead to anyone getting hurt or killed.

Take Three: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 3 “Having a Day” (B+)

This show is definitely unique. There are people, or at least consciousnesses, that live within computers, capable of emitting real tears that can drip onto something else, but it’s not possible to accurately monitor what’s happening within someone’s brain. Owen got quickly flagged for not taking the pill, which he purported he did so that he would be ready if Annie needed to activate him. After all the background we got about Annie’s past in the previous episode, it was nice to see her lighten up to a degree in this installment, coming clean with Owen about just trying to get him out of her way by telling him what he wanted to hear, and then she actually went and brought him in when Dr. Muramoto just went and died right on his desk. You’d think that the employees in this study would be a bit more on top of what the subjects were doing, to the point that a doctor couldn’t die and have his drawer raided by two subjects without them noticing. The peculiar – and apparently agoraphobic – Dr. Fujita didn’t waste in time in bringing Justin Theroux’s Dr. Mantleray back into the operation to head the study, and we got to see another technological development with its own purposes in the form of his half-animated sex simulation. Owen and Annie may be taking their pills own and experiencing their miseries, but that short-circuit is definitely not something that was supposed to happen and is sure to influence things in an unpredictable way.

Take Three: Forever

Forever: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Lake House” (B)

This episode feels like a much more proper template for what this show is going to be like for its subsequent episodes, with Oscar overjoyed to be reunited with June in the afterlife. There are some bizarre rules in whatever this in-between place is, namely that the neighborhood that they live in has been condemned and is occasionally visited and urinated in, but they’re still able to cook and do normal things, just not when it influences the living humans who are there? I have plenty of questions that I don’t think I need to bother asking since it’s not all that relevant. What’s clear is that June isn’t nearly as happy as Oscar, since his famous trout almandine is representative of the boring stability that she just couldn’t stand. June is definitely much more strong-willed than Oscar, whose very willingness to cook Mark dinner for a month was enough to get him to negate the entire request since he found him so irritatingly agreeable. Oscar struggled so much with conducting enough energy through his body to turn on a light switch, and June was able to do it repeatedly without trying. I don’t know what that means for them, but I’m not all that interested to find out. This brand of comedy and performance is right up Fred Armisen’s alley, but I think that Maya Rudolph is capable of more, and if each episode of this show was just moments like their sitting conversation that showed them truly bonding, I think I’d be much more into it. I’m still on the fence about whether to watch episode four.

Monday, October 29, 2018

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 3 “Look Out for Number One” (B)

I’m understanding why it can be more appealing for people to binge-watch shows like this since we don’t get to see all the characters each episode. We were positively reintroduced to Linda in this hour, who got her head shaved because of lice despite her ardent protests and then demanded a crazy promotion and pay increase to make up for what she endured. I can’t wait for her first meeting with Fig and to see how they both react when they realize their shared romantic history with Caputo. It’s interesting to see how each of the inmates are going about their interrogations, with Nicky’s father bringing a fancy lawyer and fiancée with him, played by Michelle Hicks from “The Shield.” Just as Gloria got everyone to turn on Maria, it seems like that’s what happening with Red, who found out about Piscatella being dead and tried to transmit the message to everyone, failing only in one instance: Piper. Her obsession with Alex made her turn dark and mournful, throwing Red under the bus because she thought there wasn’t any reason left to keep going. I am curious where Alex is and eager for her return. I’m not overly fond of the urine shampoo initiation, though I am amused by the grouping of Lorna, Cindy, Flaca, and Daya. Additionally, Daya seems to have earned an admirer who may able to help make things better with her as guards continue to mistreat her as revenge. The flashbacks to Frieda’s youth were informative, and though they didn’t actually speak, her locking eyes with Carol so many years after ratting her out was intense. Her arrival into the Florida block with Crazy Eyes was indeed cause for celebration, and maybe things will be smooth and wonderful for her from here on out.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 3 “Wig Out” (B+)

You can never say that this show doesn’t have style. The way Luke walks in after knocking a door clean off and invites bullets being shot at him is unparalleled, though I did enjoy the look that Misty and Colleen gave each other before they cleaned up the bar. I liked that Luke just started to roll his eyes when people kept repeating this claim he never made that he’s faster than Usain Bolt, and he earned himself a nice knockout punch from the new Jamaican boss after taking out all of his goons. The best scene of this hour was the very open, honest argument between Luke and Claire which included lines like “I’m a black man with a hood, people have always been afraid of me.” She reacted very strongly to his punching a hole in the wall, and I think they’re in serious trouble as a couple, especially since she went to go see his father. Mariah’s daughter was not at all happy to be invoked as part of her mother’s event, and Shades is getting angrier and angrier about being cast aside when Mariah wants real family time. Misty continues to push and go where no one wants her to, and now she has Colleen back, on loan from “Iron Fist,” to show her that she shouldn’t feel sorry for herself and that she’s capable of plenty even if no one thinks she is. Refusing to step in to help her when she tried to use her missing arm was a good motivator, and luckily she didn’t sit the whole fight out.

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 3 “Fresh Flower” (B)

This case is not going well at all, and that’s because there are so many different players stepping up to mess things up. On the casting side, I recognized Alexandra Billings from “Transparent” as the judge, who has a history with Billy that helped her to consider his plan, and also James Wolk from “Mad Men,” “Lone Star,” and “Zoo” as FBI Agent Jeff Clayton. We’re seeing a very clear threat from the corrupt cops who got Tito back from Mexico to be cut into pieces and had no problem physically strongarming Patty, who ended up with a bad bruise but isn’t likely to tell anyone about it. Billy seems more subdued than usual, almost unalarmed at someone breaking in overnight and then having a disgruntled woman show up in the middle of the night banging on the door about a handwritten restraining order. It was entertaining to see Denise’s starstruck reaction to finding Marisol coming out of his room, but she has no idea just how bad it is that they’re involved. Though she’s loyal to Julio, she went straight to Tom to report the problem to him and ensure that Tito wouldn’t make it back to serve as a witness. Marisol held her own against Tom when he tried to intimidate her at work, and he refused to give up and pursued her right to her meeting with Billy. I don’t know why we needed that final scene with Tom masturbating, other than I guess to show that he’s depraved and eager to control things? I’m much more intrigued – and worried – by his crashing Brittany’s AA meeting. On a much lighter note, I enjoyed Patti asking Rashad’s co-counsel if she was okay just being there to listen.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 3 “I’m On My Own Path” (B)

If you had asked me what I thought Rebecca might be up to in the final season of this show, I don’t know I would have come up with working at a pretzel store as a possibility. As the clever opening credits that I neglected to mention last time indicate, Rebecca is someone who is hard to summarize, but every time she gets into something, she goes all in. Creating entirely new types of pretzels and paying for them herself because she sees how happy the customers are to receive them is very much up her alley, and the “previously on” segment showing Rebecca backing out of the law office as soon as she got her promotion was obviously included to show how quickly she similarly bailed this time. Not being a lawyer is a great choice for her, and I’m eager to see what she does. I thought I recognized Nia Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame as Wendy, the top-tier client who wasn’t getting what she wanted from the firm. I must commend this hour for its two very creative songs, namely Jim’s “Don’t Be a Lawyer,” complete with a great beat and terrific lines like “No one ever said let’s kill all the tailors” and “So many other professions that don’t turn you into Jeff Sessions.” The network representative jumping out the window after trying to declare that this didn’t represent its political views was a bit much for me. The pretzel song was decidedly weird but also perfectly effective. Josh dating is entertaining, and I enjoyed both the fact that all of his hobbies are shirtless and that he bought the “My Uber is calling” excuse. Hector and Heather getting married so that he could use her health insurance felt a bit random, but their sweet wedding ceremony at the end was a nice and unexpected touch for two supporting players not featured often enough.

Pilot Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)
Premiered October 26

I remember watching “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” back when it was airing about two decades ago. I never really liked it, partially because I’m not so into magic. In the age of infinite reboots, this one doesn’t seem so bad, mainly because it takes a concept that was popular and reimagines it in a very different and much darker way. The title is a clear enough indication, and though this supernatural stuff isn’t my cup of brew, I think it’s a better fit here than it would have been on its original network, the CW. Kiernan Shipka was always great on “Mad Men,” and it’s good to see her taking on this lead role here, empowering Sabrina as a champion of rights in this modern age, blazing ahead to stop bullying, racism, and so many other things. I was curious since Shipka looks much younger than Hart, but she’s actually eighteen, only two years younger than Hart was in 1996 when the original series premiered. I also recognized Richard Coyle from “Covert Affairs” as Father Blackwood, and of course the two aunts, played by Miranda Otto, recently of “Homeland,” and Lucy Davis from the original British version of “The Office.” Though this was never a show I planned to watch, I did find myself fully engaged during this opening hour, and I think this show has plenty of potential. Check this off on the list of positive instances of shows being restarted today and making a good case for the notion of new series not all having to be original.

How will it work as a series? I expected Sabrina to come back home and find her aunts in serious trouble, but instead it’s just Satan’s number two there to help convince her to have her dark baptism. Going to that boarding school doesn’t seem likely, but she’s still going to have to navigate her two identities in a way that doesn’t cause serious harm to the people in both her witch and human lives.
How long will it last? The reviews are very good, and a message of support from the cast of the original series wishing them “Best Witches” means that it’s also approved, which isn’t always the case these days. Even if reception wasn’t great, this show got renewed for a second season right away before it debuted, and therefore I think it’s going to have a long and productive run as the latest successful Netflix reboot.

Pilot grade: B