Monday, December 31, 2018

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 10 “Baby” (B)

Things have certainly taken a dark turn, with allegiances continue to shift moment to moment. Bridget seemed like she was ready to leave Smitty without any notice, and then she ended up getting taken by the corrupt cops who want to make sure that Ray doesn’t do anything with the incriminating recording of Ferrati. Mac, who has been Ray’s most dependable ally this whole season, is now the villain who’s only treating Bridget slightly more sentimentally than someone who has no connection to our title protagonist would. Mickey’s attitude changed completely when he showed up to demand his money back from Ray, and now he and Daryll are doing the dirty work to beat the location out of the guy they decided to abduct from the bar. Sam telling Ray that she wouldn’t release the tape and then doing exactly that felt like unnecessary revenge since she may have sealed Bridget’s fate, though that turn of events would feel a bit too disturbing for this show, which only offs minor recurring players like Justine. Bunchy getting arrested by the FBI is a long time coming, though I’m still mesmerized that Mickey is free and clear. With two episodes left, we have to hope Bridget isn’t dead, but my question remains, what happens after that? Does this show really deserve a seventh season at this point, or has this story been milked for all it’s worth? No matter how this plays out, there’s not much coming back for Ray after the one member of his family he truly cares about has been put in such clear and sever danger.

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 4 “We’re Going to the Catskills!” (B+)

Each week, I comment on the writing quality and flow of this show, but getting out of the city – be it New York or Paris – really shows just how incredible the visual production values on this show are. That final scene with the fireworks going off in the distance was particularly poignant. Seeing the Weissman family away in the Catskills could have been a bit too much, and at times it seemed to be heading that way, but overall it was completely worth it for the standout moments this episode offered. Abe was thrilled to get his signature drink which served as the very taste of vacation, until one of his most dependable routines was disrupted by the departure of a familiar face. His eagerness to show his unexpected roommate Joel his romper was pretty entertaining, as was his poorly calibrated alcohol indexes. Joel going up on stage the moment he arrived to tell people to stop staring at him and Midge was bold and actually quite sweet, and they seem like they’re doing better as a couple now that they’re not together. I was pleasantly surprised to see Zachary Levi from “Chuck” as Ben, the bad match for Midge who wouldn’t even paddle, reminiscent of the banter he demonstrated in the Broadway show “She Loves Me,” and I’m curious if we’ll see him again since he, at the very least, wouldn’t be like most of the men of his era and be open to Midge’s independence. Suzie showing up after not realizing that Midge was going to the Catskills for two months was hilarious, carrying around a plunger so that she could get free food and a place to sleep.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical

The competition:
Barry aired its first season on HBO. Stars Bill Hader and Henry Winkler are nominated for their performances. Both took home Emmys this past summer and contend for SAG Awards both individually and as part of their ensemble.

The Good Place aired the end of its second season and a good chunk of its third season on NBC, joining this list for the first time this year. Star Kristen Bell is nominated, and Ted Danson contended for an Emmy this past year.

Kidding aired its first season on Showtime. Star Jim Carrey is nominated for his performance.

The Kominsky Method aired its first season on Netflix. Stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin are nominated for their performances, and contend for SAG Awards both individually and as part of their ensemble.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel aired its second season on Amazon. It won this award last year as well as the Emmy for Best Comedy Series. Stars Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, also Emmy winners, are nominated for their performances, and they contend along with Tony Shalhoub and the ensemble at the SAG Awards.

Additional notes: This award usually goes to a freshman series. “Atlanta” won for its first season two years ago but was snubbed for its second season this year. “The Good Place” is the sole representative of broadcast television nominated for a top award this year.
Who should win? I actually watch all these shows! I’m halfway through “The Kominsky Method” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and love both. “Kidding” is good but certainly the weakest and weirdest of this bunch. I’m a huge fan of “Barry,” but nothing would make me happier than “The Good Place” winning a long-deserved trophy.
Who will win? I think that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel triumphs again in the absence of a clear freshman favorite.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best TV Series – Drama

The competition:
The Americans aired its sixth and final season on FX, earning its very first bid in this category. Stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are nominated for the second time after bids in 2016. Rhys won the Emmy this past year, and the show contended twice for Best Drama Series at the Emmys. The ensemble is nominated at the SAG Awards.

Bodyguard aired domestically on Netflix after its British premiere run and has yet to be renewed for a likely second season. Star Richard Madden is nominated.

Homecoming aired its first season on Amazon. Stars Stephan James and Julia Roberts are both nominated for their performances. Creator Sam Esmail’s series “Mr. Robot” won this award in 2015.

Killing Eve aired its first season on BBC America. Star Sandra Oh is nominated for her performance, contending this past summer at the Emmys and currently at the SAG Awards.

Pose aired its first season on FX. Star Billy Porter is nominated for his performance. Creator Ryan Murphy won this award in 2004 for his series “Nip/Tuck.”

Additional notes: Last year’s winner, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” was snubbed this year. Freshman series very often win this award, though it’s rare for a show to earn its first bid multiple years into its run.
Who should win? I only watched the first episode of “Pose,” and sampled most of “The Americans.” I’m halfway through “Homecoming,” which is interesting but not entirely even, and I don’t love “Killing Eve” nearly as much as most seem to. “Bodyguard,” on the other hand, was fully engaging for the entirety of its six episodes.
Who will win? Four hot new shows will go head-to-head. Though “Pose” may benefit from its incorporation of Donald Trump as a negative figure in its plot, I think that Homecoming will ultimately win.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Miniseries or Television Film

The competition:
The Alienist aired on TNT as a limited series. A sequel series has been commissioned. Star Daniel Bruhl is nominated for his lead performance. It was previously nominated for an Emmy for Best Limited Series this past summer.

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace aired on FX as the second season of an anthology series. Its first part, “The People vs. OJ Simpson,” won this award in 2016. Stars Darren Criss, Edgar Ramirez, and Penelope Cruz are all nominated, and Criss took home the Emmy this past year, along with the show winning the top award. Criss and Cruz both contend for SAG Awards.

Escape at Dannemora aired on HBO as a limited series. Star Patricia Arquette is nominated, and also contends at the SAG Awards.

Sharp Objects aired on HBO as a limited series. Stars Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson are nominated, and also contend at the SAG Awards.

A Very English Scandal aired on Amazon as a limited series. Stars Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw are nominated, and Grant also contends at the SAG Awards.

Additional notes: There are no television films in contention this year despite the name of the category. “American Crime,” “American Horror Story,” and “Fargo” have all been nominated for multiple seasons but a show has yet to win for anything other than its first iteration.
Who should win? I loved “A Very English Scandal” and I’m very happy to see it earning so much positive recognition. I watched exactly one hour of the other four and wasn’t interested enough to continue with any of them.
Who will win? I would count out “The Alienist” and “Escape at Dannemora,” but the other three all stand a decent chance. I’ll be bold and back A Very English Scandal over the smart choice, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.”

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series

The competition:
Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) plays Susie Myerson, an aspiring talent manager in the second season of the period Amazon comedy. Her costar Rachel Brosnahan is also nominated, and her show contends for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. Both won the Globes last year, and Borstein took home an Emmy for this role this summer. This is her first Globe nomination. She also contends both individually and as a member of her ensemble at the SAG Awards.

Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects) plays Adora Crellin, an intense and domineering mother, in the dark HBO limited series. Her costar Amy Adams is also nominated for a Globe this year, and her show contends for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Clarkson was previously nominated for the film “Pieces of April” in 2003. She also contends for a SAG Award for this role.

Penelope Cruz (American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace) plays fashion designer Donatella Versace in the second season of the FX anthology series. Her costars Darren Criss and Edgar Ramirez are also nominated this year, and her show contends for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Cruz has three previous film nominations at the Globes. She was nominated for an Emmy for this role this past summer and also contends for a SAG Award.

Thandie Newton (Westworld) plays Maeve Millay, a powerful host in a dangerous theme park in the second season of the mysterious HBO drama. Newton was nominated two years ago for her show’s first season, and took home an Emmy this past summer for this role. She is the lone representative of her show this time around after it contended for Best TV Series – Drama last time.

Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) plays Serena Joy Waterford, a high-placed wife in the second season of Hulu’s dystopian drama. This is her first Globe nomination, and she is joined by costar Elisabeth Moss, who won last year. She was nominated for an Emmy for this role this past summer and contends for a SAG Award as part of the ensemble.

Additional notes: Though Newton and Strahovski are nominated without their series being recognized in the top races, they shouldn’t be counted out because of how much their performances stood out this past season. This category often rewards limited series players but doesn’t really discriminate.
Who should win? I’ve only watched the first episodes of Clarkson and Cruz’s work. In the three episodes of Borstein’s performance I’ve seen so far this season, I will say that she’s absolutely hilarious. I wanted Newton to win so badly two years ago, and while I’d welcome it now, it’s Strahovski who truly deserves it for excellence this year.
Who will win? Feasibly, any of them could, and comparing these five extraordinarily different performances is going to be a challenge. I’m going to optimistically say Strahovski with minimal confidence.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series

The competition:
Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method) plays Norman Newlander, an agent mourning the death of his wife in the first season of the Netflix comedy. His costar Michael Douglas is nominated, as is the show for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. Arkin won a Globe in 1966 in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” and has been nominated four times since. He contends for SAG Awards for both his individual performance and as part of his ensemble.

Kieran Culkin (Succession) plays Roman Roy, one of multiple children heir to a successful company, in the first season of the HBO drama. Culkin was previously nominated for a Globe for his starring role in the film “Igby Goes Down” in 2002. He is the lone representative of his show at the Globes this year.

Edgar Ramirez (American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace) plays fashion designer Gianni Versace in the second season of the FX anthology series. His costars Darren Criss and Penelope Cruz are also nominated this year, as is his show for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Ramirez was previously nominated for the miniseries “Carlos” in 2010 and contended for an Emmy this past year for this role.

Ben Whishaw (A Very English Scandal) plays Norman Scott, a model who begins an affair with a member of Parliament in the Amazon limited series. His costar Hugh Grant is also nominated this year, as is his show for Best Miniseries or Television Film. This is his first Globe nomination.

Henry Winkler (Barry) plays Gene Cousineau, an acting teacher in the first season of the HBO comedy. His costar Bill Hader is also nominated this year, as is his show for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. Winkler won two Globes for “Happy Days” decades ago and has two other nominations. He won the Emmy for this role earlier this year, and also contends individually and as part of his ensemble at the SAG Awards.

Additional notes: None of these men have faced off against each other before for these roles. This category is not consistent in rewarding dramas, comedies, miniseries, or TV movies, and the three regular series nominees are all from freshman series this year, which makes the chances of all in this category about even.
Who should win? I only watched the first episode of Culkin and Ramirez’s projects. I’ve seen four episodes of Arkin’s show and I think he’s great. Winkler is certainly good, though I wish his costar Anthony Carrigan was getting anywhere near as much recognition. Whishaw is a great choice, and I’d be happy to see him win too.
Who will win? It’s a stacked category, but I think nostalgia for Winkler will give him the win.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie

The competition:
Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) plays Camille Preaker, a disturbed reporter, in the dark HBO miniseries. Her costar Patricia Clarkson is nominated, and her series contends for Best Miniseries or Television Film. She is also up for her supporting role in the film “Vice” this year. She has seven previous film nominations and two wins, for “Big Eyes” and “American Hustle.” She also contends for a SAG Award for this role.

Patricia Arquette (Escape at Dannemora) plays Tilly Mitchel, a duplicitous prison employee, in the HBO miniseries. Her series is nominated for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Arquette previously won a Globe in 2014 for “Boyhood” and was nominated three times for the TV show “Medium.” She also contends for a SAG Award for this role.

Connie Britton (Dirty John) plays Debra Newell, an interior designer who falls in love with the wrong man in the first season of the Bravo anthology series. She was nominated for a Globe in 2012 for her work on the TV show “Nashville.”

Laura Dern (The Tale) plays Jennifer Fox, a journalist recalling disturbing events from her childhood, in the HBO movie that premiered at Sundance. Dern has won four Globes for her TV work, the most recent of which was in the supporting race last year for “Big Little Lies.” She has two additional nominations and served as Miss Golden Globe back in 1981. She contended for an Emmy for this role earlier this year.

Regina King (Seven Seconds) plays Latrice Butler, a teacher mourning her son’s death, in the first season of the Netflix drama that didn’t end up getting renewed. King, who won an Emmy for this role earlier this year, was previously nominated for “American Crime” in 2015 and also contends this year for another Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the film “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Additional notes: King won her third Emmy this summer, beating Dern, and the other three might contend next summer. Adams and King are both double nominees in the same two categories.
Who should win? I saw Dern’s work at Sundance and watched the first episode of the other four actresses’ series. I’d probably vote for Dern with Adams and Arquette as decent choices too, though of course I don’t feel qualified to say that given how little I’ve actually seen.
Who will win? Unless Arquette or King surprise, I think that Adams is the clear frontrunner here.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie

The competition:
Antonio Banderas (Genius: Picasso) plays the tortured painter Pablo Picasso in the second season of the National Geographic anthology series. He has three previous Globe nominations, for TV movie “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself,” comedy “The Mask of Zorro,” and musical “Evita.” He was also honored by the Emmys and SAG with bids for this role.

Daniel Bruhl (The Alienist) plays Dr. Lazlo Kreizler, a psychologist investigating murders in the TNT limited series. His show is up for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Bruhl was nominated for a Globe once before for the 2013 film “Rush.”

Darren Criss (American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace) plays Andrew Cunanan, a disgruntled killer in the second season of the FX anthology series. This is his first Globe nomination, though he’s coming off an Emmy win for this role. He contends for a SAG Award for this part, and is joined at the Globes by costars Edgar Ramirez and Penelope Cruz, as well as his series being nominated for Best Miniseries or Television Film.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose) plays the title character, a troubled addict in the Showtime miniseries. He was nominated in this category in 2012 for “Sherlock” and for his film work in “The Imitation Game” in 2014. He was up for an Emmy for this role earlier this year.

Hugh Grant (A Very English Scandal) plays Jeremy Thorpe, an embattled member of Parliament in the Amazon limited series. Grant won a Globe in 1994 for “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and has three more film nominations. He contends for a SAG for this role as well.

Additional notes: Criss beat Banderas and Cumberbatch for the Emmy, where Bruhl wasn’t nominated. Grant may contend this coming year.
Who should win? I’ve only seen Grant’s work in its entirety, and he’s great. I sampled Bruhl, Criss, and Cumberbatch through the first episodes of their shows, with Cumberbatch impressing me most, and haven’t seen Banderas’ performance at all.
Who will win? I’m going to go ahead and predict Grant based on this awards body even though Criss is probably the smarter choice.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical

The competition:
Kristen Bell (The Good Place) plays Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman trying to ensure her eternal fate, in the second and third seasons of the NBC afterlife comedy. This is Bell’s first Golden Globe nomination, and her show also contends for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical for the first time.

Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) plays the title character, a television journalist, in the eleventh season of ABC’s revived comedy series. She contended eight times during the show’s original run, winning in 1988 and 1991, with three additional nominations between 1966 and 2006. She also won five Emmys for playing this character between 1988 and 1994.

Alison Brie (GLOW) plays Ruth Wilder, an actress playing a wrestler in the second season of the Netflix comedy. For the second year in a row, she is the lone representative of her show. After being snubbed for an Emmy nomination, Brie contends for the second time both individually and as part of her ensemble at the SAG Awards.

Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) plays Midge Maisel, a 1950s housewife moonlighting as a stand-up comedian in the second season of the popular Amazon series. She won this award last year, and is joined by her costar Alex Borstein and her show in the top race, which it won, this year. She is nominated for SAG Awards both individually and as part of her ensemble.

Debra Messing (Will and Grace) plays Grace Adler, an interior designer living with her gay best friend in the ninth and tenth seasons of NBC’s revived comedy series. Though her show and costar Eric McCormack were nominated last year, Messing was last nominated for her work on this series in 2004, marking her sixth bid, and has two additional nominations for “The Starter Wife.”

Additional notes: This category almost always rewards actress from freshman series, with rare repeat winners, the most recent of which was Tina Fey in 2008. Interestingly, Messing’s show has been singled out with one performer only by each major awards body, with McCormack being nominated here last year and Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally being cited by SAG and Emmy, respectively.
Who should win? I stopped watching Bergen’s show a few episodes in and I’m honestly surprised that she was nominated, especially since her show has pretty much been cancelled. I haven’t seen any of the second season of Brie’s show, but I liked her work in season one. Messing is funny and probably a solid choice for this calendar year. Brosnahan is terrific as always, and I’m fine with her repeating a win, but I would be absolutely thrilled if the criminally underrated Bell won.
Who will win? I think that Brosnahan wins again since there’s no one strong enough to take her down.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a TV Series – Comedy/Musical

The competition:
Sacha Baron Cohen (Who Is America?) plays many characters in the first season of the political series. Cohen’s surprise bid comes twelve years after he won a Golden Globe for portraying a character cultivated on his previous variety series in the film “Borat.”

Jim Carrey (Kidding) plays Jeff Piccirillo, better known as TV star Mr. Pickles, in the first season of the dark comedy on Showtime. His show is also nominated for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. Though this is Carrey’s first television nomination, he has six previous film nominations. He won in 1998 for “The Truman Show” and in 1999 for “Man in the Moon.”

Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method) plays aging acting teacher Sandy Kominsky in the first season of the Netflix comedy. His costar Alan Arkin is also nominated, and the show contends for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. Douglas is nominated both individually and as part of his ensemble cast at the SAG Awards. Douglas won a TV Globe in 2013 for “Behind the Candelabra,” a film Globe in 1987 for “Wall Street,” and the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2003. He has six other previous nominations.

Donald Glover (Atlanta) plays Earn Marks, a middling music manager in the second season of the social commentary series on FX. He won this award two years ago for his show’s first season, when the series was also rewarded in the top race, though it is absent there this year. Glover also won Emmys for directing and starring in the show’s first season, and contends as part of his ensemble cast at the SAG Awards.

Bill Hader (Barry) plays Barry Berkman, a hitman who takes up an interest in acting, in the first season of the HBO comedy. His costar Henry Winkler is also nominated, and the show contends for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical. This is Hader’s first Golden Globe bid. He took home the Emmy this past year, and is nominated both individually and along with his ensemble cast at the SAG Awards.

Additional notes: I don’t think there’s been a variety series winner in a comedy acting category since Tracey Ullman in 1987 for “The Tracey Ullman Show.” Last year’s winner, Aziz Ansari (Master of None), wasn’t eligible since his show didn’t air in 2018. This category rarely sees repeat winners, with Alec Baldwin the last to triumph again in 2009.
Who should win? I haven’t seen Cohen’s show and don’t have all that much interest. I can appreciate Glover but don’t think he should be winning this award. Carrey does great work but it’s about as off-kilter as his show. I’m about halfway through Douglas’ episodes, and he’s pretty funny. Hader really wowed me though in a fantastic lead performance in his series.
Who will win? It’s likely a battle between Douglas and Hader, and although the former’s show is recent and popular, I think the latter will win out based on overall positive feelings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a TV Series – Drama

The competition:
Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) plays Claire Randall, a time-transplanted nurse in the fourth season of the Starz drama. This is her fourth consecutive Globe nomination in this category. Her show was nominated for Best TV Series – Drama back in season one, and she’s managed to remain here despite no love from either the Emmys or SAG since her show started.

Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) plays June, a woman forced to live as handmaid Offred in the second season of the Hulu dystopian drama. She won this award last year after a previous win for “Top of the Lake” and a nomination for “Mad Men.” She is joined by costar Yvonne Strahovski, nominated in the supporting category, while her show, which took home the Best TV Series – Drama award last year, is absent from that list this time.

Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) plays Eve Polastri, an MI-5 agent tracking a female assassin in the first season of the BBC America drama. Oh’s show is nominated for Best TV Series – Drama. Oh won a Golden Globe for “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2005.

Julia Roberts (Homecoming) plays Heidi Bergman, a caseworker at a privately-funded military research program in the first season of Amazon’s drama series. Her costar Stephan James is nominated, as is her series in the top category. This is her first time contending for television despite eight previous bids for her film work. She has won three times, for “Steel Magnolias,” “Pretty Woman,” and “Erin Brockovich.”

Keri Russell (The Americans) plays Elizabeth Jennings, a Russian sleeper agent posing as an American mother in the sixth and final season of the acclaimed FX drama. Her costar Matthew Rhys, who took home an Emmy this past year, is also nominated, as is her show for the first time in the top category. She was nominated two years ago for this role, and won this award nineteen years ago for “Felicity.”

Additional notes: Four previous winners – Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Ruth Wilson (The Affair), Robin Wright (House of Cards), and Claire Danes (Homeland) – were eligible but weren’t nominated this year. Danes was the last and only actress ever to score repeat wins in this category, in 2011 and 2012. The star of a freshman series has won this award for the past five years in a row.
Who should win? I’m halfway through Roberts’ show, and she certainly is good. I’ve still never seen Balfe’s work, though I hear great things. I watched most of Russell’s work this season and still don’t find her to be as terrific as everyone else does. I’m much more partial to Oh’s costar Jodie Comer, who continues to miss out on nominations regardless of how well-liked her show is. The clear winner for me is Moss, who continued to be excellent in her show’s second season.
Who will win? In a face-off between new series stars, Roberts should be able to best Oh.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a TV Series – Drama

The competition:
Jason Bateman (Ozark) plays Marty Byrde, a reluctant money launderer trying to save his family in the second season of the Netflix crime series. After picking up Emmy bids for acting and directing in season one, Bateman was joined by two female co-stars and his ensemble on this year’s SAG nominee list. This is his second consecutive Globe bid for this role, once again as the sole representative of his series. He was twice nominated for his starring role in “Arrested Development,” taking home the comedy actor trophy in 2004.

Stephan James (Homecoming) plays Walter Cruz, a soldier returning home to participate in a privately-funded study in the first season of the Amazon drama series. His show and costar Julia Roberts are also nominated. This is James’ first nomination, and he also stars in Best Motion Picture – Drama nominee “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Richard Madden (Bodyguard) plays David Budd, a police sergeant serving as head of security for the British Home Secretary in the first season of the BBC-Netflix series. His show is up for Best TV Series – Drama. This is the first Golden Globe nomination for the Scottish star most well-known for his portrayal of Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones.”

Billy Porter (Pose) plays Pray Tell, a ball emcee in the first season of the popular FX series set in the late 1980s. His show is up for Best TV Series – Drama. This is the first Golden Globe nomination for Porter.

Matthew Rhys (The Americans) plays Philip Jennings, a Russian sleeper agent posing as an American father in the sixth and final season of the acclaimed FX drama. Rhys was nominated two years ago for a Golden Globe, and took home an Emmy earlier this year on his third nomination. His series contends for Best TV Series – Drama, and costar Keri Russell is also nominated.

Additional notes: The past two winners, Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) and Billy Bob Thornton (Goliath) aren’t in contention despite their shows still being on, which means that we’re looking at new champion this year. While other categories tend to favor freshman series, this one doesn’t always do that. Jon Hamm (Mad Men) winning for the final season of his show in 2015 is the likeliest indicator that Rhys has an advantage, even though Hamm did win for the first season also, unlike Rhys.
Who should win? I’m halfway through James’ show, haven’t seen any of season two of Bateman’s, and didn’t watch past the pilot of Porter’s. I watched a good deal of Rhys’ impressive work in the final season of his show, but Madden is the one who really wowed me this year.
Who will win? It will very likely be Rhys, but I’m going to go ahead and predict freshman fever with Madden taking it.

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 2, Episode 3 “Something Borrowed” (B+)

This was an intense and transformative episode, one that demonstrated that J.K. Simmons isn’t the only one who deserves praise for seamless portrayals of two people in the same episode. I’m not talking about Guy Burnet as Claude Lambert, whose two identities have an interesting relationship that involves snuggling in bed and one taking pleasure out of watching the other have sex with a woman. Olivia Williams is really coming into focus this season as Emily, who is pressing on despite obstacles to learn the truth about what caused what is currently going on on their side, and who is slowly remembering things in our world that indicate that she was really one of the most powerful and influential actors within the agency. Naya coming over to read her back in was an unexpected development, one that helped the new investigation leader understand the scope of what’s happening, including the crucial reveal that the shadow is a woman. Peter’s attempt to use intelligence garnered from listening to Clare’s secret meeting backfired immensely, and now their Howard is in damage control mode to try to fix the situation for all of them, including the problem of Baldwin. In prison on their side, our Howard is holding strong but realizing that he can’t control what people think of him. James Cromwell’s intelligence extractor wants to use him to their advantage, and he too is understanding the lengths that their side will go to so that they can get into the mindset of their others on our side.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 9 “Dream On” (B-)

News broke recently that this show has been renewed for a seventh season, which comes as somewhat of a surprise given the decline in quality, but I guess if the ratings are still strong, Showtime should keep one of its strongest juggernauts on the air. I for one wouldn’t be sad to see the show go at this point, as it has felt for a while like it’s dragging. I was not expecting to see Alan Alda as the doctor who came to feed Ray an egg salad sandwich and then told him he shouldn’t be leaving for his own sake, and while it is a good thing for the show that Ray only spent a short time in the mental hospital, he did get out of there real quick without doing anything to help improve his mental state. Ray can’t even tell what’s real, affirming his own sanity when one patient told him to drink from the toilet and another thought he had an identical twin, only to see that very same twin stopping in to visit his brother as he was leaving. Lena telling Bridget that Ray jumped off the bridge did not do good things for their relationship, though it’s good that she felt she wanted to stick around to make sure her father was alright. Ray’s plan in this hour involved so many levels of duplicity that it’s hard to believe he kept it straight, and the amount of side-switching that he’s doing means that, no matter how many bad fates he escapes, there are so many more ready to pummel him, like Mac’s crew who want to beat him up for snitching. Bunchy stepping in for Terry was a relief, but only until he took one hell of a beating that he seemed to feel he deserved. This week’s closing musical montage set to “Sing for the Moment” was solid, if nothing else.

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 1, Episode 4 “Chapter 4: A Kegel Squeaks” (B+)

I assume there are some who find this show’s focus on Sandy’s prostate to be a little much, but Michael Douglas manages to make it continually entertaining. Expressing both admiration and irritation with the young men who were able to provide a steady stream of urine next to him in the bathroom was very funny, and everyone in his life is giving him crap for having to go to the bathroom all the time. Phoebe gave Sandy and her father quite a scare when they thought that she was floating lifeless in the pool, but their complicated relationship wasn’t going to be resolved that simply. I hope we do see Phoebe again since I think she’s a very interesting character, and she gets Norman considerably more riled up than his usual grumpiness. The obsession at the supermarket with the “finest ham” was odd but amusing, and Sandy didn’t seem to care about the quality of the meat nearly as much as his host Norman did. Sandy’s relationship with Lisa is another realistic element of this show, since she wasn’t jumping at his offers to go out when he called at a random hour, later than she might have liked, and she wasn’t too bothered by the fact that he had urinated in her bushes, something that she had definitely seen while he thought he was being stealthy. I still think the two of them will work out, but I’m glad to see that it’s proceeding at a relatively slow and unrushed pace.

What I’m Watching: The Bisexual

The Bisexual: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

I liked this episode a lot, providing an informative and entertaining flashback to 2005. Leila meeting Deniz at a bar and telling her that she could be her wingman was an odd start, and after she tried to kiss her boyfriend, she ended up being a much better fit for her new friend, who thought she was gay but hadn’t ever said it out loud before. As if Deniz wasn’t negative enough, then we got Sadie, who burst onto the scene with a whole lot of anger yelling at the woman checking her in because she had just quit her job. Leila had a bunch of superb lines in this hour, including her idea for the window that you can see through, which Sadie rightfully pointed out was like a door. I also liked “I’m a businesswoman named Amanda. I just love business.” After she impressed Sadie by throwing a drink on her, the genesis of their relationship made sense, and their passionate end-of-episode hookup where Leila just got naked behind her showed that maybe there is something left between them. Gabe looked different – and less happy – with a grizzled beard trying to sell his book, and he was just as awkward trying to make jokes with his publisher. He’s not any better off currently, though at least he had an opportunity to talk about an exciting possibility in his life and find out that the person closest to him didn’t want him to be able to succeed independently. I’m looking forward to the finale and hopeful that we’ll get more of this show after that.

Monday, December 24, 2018

What I’m Watching: Narcos: Mexico

Narcos: Mexico: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Colombian Connection” (B+)

I had heard that some familiar characters from Colombia made cameos on this show, and this episode did not disappoint. It’s strange to see the Cali brothers and Pablo in a different context, especially the latter, whose lavish lifestyle feels infinitely greater and more exotic than all the luxury we’ve seen Miguel and his partners enjoy. Miguel deserves tremendous credit for not faltering under pressure, going so far as to tell Pablo that he hadn’t reached out to him because he had heard he was temperamental. Miguel is definitely in over his head with connections to two different Colombian cocaine operations, and I have a feeling that Rafa’s frustration with the situation is going to prove most problematic. He feels that he’s being cut out, and now he’ll be less cooperative and likely sloppier too. It’s maddening to see how close the DEA agents were to exposing everything, only to be told by the supervisor who didn’t pronounce Jaime’s name with the proper accent that they needed to stop making so many problems. Kiki had the ledger with everything in his hands, and he managed to escape not only with his life but also with some very crucial information that may just help them as they try a new way to take down Miguel and his whole syndicate that is awfully reminiscent of the charge that ultimately sent Al Capone to prison. Given that this show is going to be back for a second season and maybe more, I think the setbacks are going to eclipse the victories for a while.

What I’m Watching: Homecoming

Homecoming: Season 1, Episode 6 “Toys” (B+)

This episode was perhaps one of the most haunting because it featured so little of what we’re used to seeing, with Walter only appearing when his mother showed up to protest his being at Homecoming. Marianne Jean-Baptiste, last seen by me running the show on “Blindspot,” was Gloria, Walter’s mother, and Michael Hyatt, from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” was her sister Evita who tried to convince her that she didn’t need to be concerned at all. The shot of all the Geist products gathered on her table was intense, and when she showed up, Heidi swooped in to defuse the situation by calmly offering to bring her in and talk to Walter. She wasn’t too nice to Craig when he said he wanted to go call Colin, and his point about Walter leaving at this point of the meds was indeed troubling. Heidi managed to convince Walter to stay and in the process pissed his mother off so much more, and it’s possible that this visit is what manages to make things fall apart. In the future, Colin pretending to be army vet Hunter to get close to her is indeed nefarious, and he played it perfectly by going in for a kiss and then apologizing before she opted to make the move instead. He has her exactly where he wants her to be, ready to confide in him as she searches her memory for threats that she has no idea are most strongly represented by him, ready to manipulate her recollections to his advantage.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 6, Episode 6 “Chapter 71” (C)

I don’t even know what to do about this show anymore. There are only two more episodes left, and to give up now might be symbolic but unproductive given that I’d at least like to see how it all ends. Claire was lecturing the audience about her four piles throughout this episode, and by the end of the hour, she had completely changed her hand. The suspension of disbelief required to watch this show is becoming untenable, mainly with all of the direct personal visits that Claire makes to people right before they get killed and which definitely involve breaking and entering. Doug was more than happy to essentially confirm anything Tom wanted to know right before he got himself shot in the head in the diner. Cathy might have escaped but she’s dead too, and Jane was also euthanized because she posed some apparent threat to Claire. Her press secretary can’t get a word out with the president around but now she has a permanent job, which makes no sense. Why we’re still following the Shepherd family, including the ailing Bill and the newly confused Duncan, is a mystery since they have not been central to anything on this show, while the spotlight on the spiraling Mark is more understandable given his role in Claire’s ascension to the presidency. She seems to be more than capable of controlling the situation herself, being so manipulative as to wait until Frank was dead to officially be pregnant with his offspring for the sole purpose of not allowing Doug to collect what he had left him. My head is spinning, but not for good reasons.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Pilot Review: Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair (Amazon)
Premiered December 21

To close out 2018, we have one last new show, originally aired on ITV in the UK in September. I never saw the 2004 Reese Witherspoon film of the same name, also based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel. Historical costume dramas like this aren’t my favorite genre, but I can appreciate their quality. The most appealing part of this project is the actress in the starring role: Olivia Cooke. I didn’t actually realize that she was British because the three films I’ve seen her in feature an impeccable American accent. She was absolutely terrific in Sundance hits “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Thoroughbreds,” and she tried something new with the action film “Ready Player One.” Here, she’s doing something completely different, excelling in the role of a young woman who comes from less-than-reputable beginnings yet seeks to get ahead in every way possible. She’s completely superb in this role, delighting Amelia as a friend, angering her oldest friend, and charming the hopelessly awkward Joss. I almost didn’t recognize Simon Russell Beale from “The Death of Stalin” in a less featured part as Amelia’s father, one of many roles occupied by acclaimed thespians, including Frances de la Tour and Michael Palin. The pacing of this show is solid, and the music, from Isobel Waller-Bridge, sister of “Fleabag” and “Killing Eve” creator Phoebe, guides its shifting tone, from its playful start to its far more mysterious yet hopeful ending. I’m intrigued but not enough to pick up watching this show.

How will it work as a series? The opening framed this show in a far more entertaining way than the ending one closed it, with Becky now in an entirely difficult situation than expected, living a more secluded life than the very public one she so nearly attained with the Sedley family. The source material is certainly sufficient, and this show seems like a worthwhile adaptation for those who particularly like this sort of fare.
How long will it last? This is set up as a seven-part series which completed airing in October on ITV, while all episodes are available to stream on Amazon Prime as of this past Friday. I would imagine there’s no more story left to tell given the book it’s based on, and I don’t think the British ratings would compel anyone to produce more episodes. Maybe its reception and viewership on Amazon will help make a case for similar productions and other projects featuring Cooke to be commissioned.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Timeless (Series Finale)

Timeless: Season 2, Episodes 11 and 12 “The Miracle of Christmas, Parts I and II”

We’re back for the final round of this gleeful show, one that was saved not once but twice from cancellation and still, in my mind, didn’t really deserve it. There are at least twenty-five other shows that I could name which I would have liked to see renewed after their initial cancellation even once, and I don’t think that this show has merited its second and third chances. The way that season two ended was intriguing, with a new concept that involved traveling back to come face-to-face with their former selves, and I’d like to think that a complete third season might have delved into that even more rather than just the opening minutes of this two-hour finale. I’ve never bought the time travel theories that drive this show, especially since only Lucy and then Flynn were getting headaches, while Future Wyatt seemed fine, and it was awfully dramatic that Future Lucy told them to “start on page” before getting too distressed to even utter a number. That Flynn was able to go back and just erase Jessica from the timeline again to the point that Emma was still calling out her name, prompting Rufus to spontaneously return to rescue them, didn’t make much sense even if it did provide a great moment of triumph for the team. Why they would possibly bring Emma back to North Korea is also a mystery, and of course she’d get killed and end up dead in another time. The notion that it was all leading up to Lucy telling Flynn, the most reformed and rehabilitated character on this show, that he would be a hero if he did everything that we’ve seen on this show was only moderately satisfying. I’m not sure what to make of the closing moments, but this show doesn’t seem to realize that this is really it, with no more reversals of cancellation decisions coming. I would have been more interested in Emma bringing Amy back, and other alternate reality notions this show never really pursued. It was still fun, but not nearly as good as the fanbase that rallied around it would indicate.

Series finale: B-
Series grade: B-
Season MVP: Goran Visnjic as Flynn
Season grade: B-
Series MVP: Abigail Spencer as Lucy
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Pilot

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 9 “Baku” (B-)

I always wonder why shows bring characters back after they appear to die only to then kill them off a short time later. Sure, I guess Frank has been back for most of the season, but I still contend that he was a weak character to begin with, and little of what he’s done over the course of the past few episodes has been worthwhile. Inspiring with subversive images doesn’t compare to the work that Juliana is doing to try to save all worlds, and no one will even necessarily know that he’s dead since Kido brought him out to the middle of nowhere to ceremonially end his life, before which he uttered some unconvincing Hebrew. I also misunderstood and thought that Kido was, for some reason, letting him go, which evidently wasn’t the case. It certainly did not seem smart for Mark to gloat before executing the two men who were hunting for Jews, announcing his hidden religious identity to anyone else who might be listening and have nefarious intentions for the persecuted people. Smith is having a serious identity crisis, and meeting with Tagomi at this point feels like the perfect opportunity to do what I’ve always expected he will based on his strong desire to reunite with his son, which is to let Juliana go or even help her. With just one episode left in this season, I continue to feel disappointed with this show, and I hope that the finale will somehow leave me feeling as positive as I did at this point in season two when this show best found its footing.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

What I’m Watching: Maniac (Penultimate Episode)

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 9 “Utangatta” (C+)

We’re nearing the end here, and I’m not finding this to be particularly satisfactory. The emphasis on accent work is overwhelming a coherent narrative, and as a result this is turning into a shootout with CIA agents and NATO testimonies in Brussels as an alien invasion looms, which seems random more than anything else and a bit of an overreach for either Owen or Annie’s minds, conscious or unconscious. Owen having to solve an all-silver Rubik’s cube felt like a wild demand, and I think I preferred Annie having a true heart-to-heart with Gertie about what loss means when she told her that she didn’t actually want to be reunited with her sister since she had to let her go. I’m ready to call Julia Garner, who recently netted a surprise SAG bid for “Ozark,” the MVP of this show and an actress who should appear on everything. The manifestation of metaphorical ideas in the real world are considerably less compelling, as James was yammering about how he was blinded by his mother’s toxic love, a characterization she didn’t reject but instead embraced. Now that Gertie has apparently agreed to relinquish eternal control over the subjects of the experiment, it’s not clear what’s left for our protagonists, whose return to life outside this controlled environment is going to be difficult and disappointing at best. They might be able to build a life together, but sharing moments isn’t going to compare to what they’ve experienced together in their minds and in far more extravagant costumes and identities.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 9 “Break the String” (B+)

Piper is definitely living in a different world than most of her fellow inmates, and her excitement about kickball has now been corrupted with Carol jumping at the chance to find a new, slightly sanctioned arena to get back at D-block. It was nice to see Piper make peace with Maria after watching the latter experience misfortune this season, and now it’s just a matter of the new characters and the threats that they pose. Gloria didn’t even have a chance to take advantage of the unexpected appeal she had to Luschek before Badison threatened her with extreme bodily harm. Red has forged a strong bond with Carol, while Nicky is getting close to Barb while she’s detoxing in medical. I don’t know how things will shape up when those former family members realize that they’ve cozied up to mortal enemies, and that’s not even putting Frieda into the equation. Cindy’s back pain seems to have stemmed mostly from her own regret, and sharing her secret with Taystee might have helped a bit. Caputo testifying on behalf of Taystee was sweet, and just as his relationship with Fig really seems to be warming, Linda showed up to remind him of where his allegiances should be, prompting him to quit, an intriguing development. Aleida rejected Daya’s proposal to work with her as a smuggler, but just one date with Hopper showed her that the new life she’s getting into is even more claustrophobic and dead-end than what she currently has. That mother-daughter partnership is going to be risky but it should be extremely interesting to watch.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 9 “For Pete’s Sake” (B)

This is starting to feel like a season-long shootout, and it’s getting a bit tiresome. Luke has never been the type of hero who plays by the rules, yet he’s so insistent on not killing Bushmaster when he continues to promise to return. Mariah turning on him in exchange for immunity was inconsequential, especially since she disappeared and he managed to break out of his prison transport, a fully expected development. This was a crucial episode for parental conversations, with James and Mariah also getting a moment of their own to bond about how their relationships with their children didn’t turn out how they wanted. Mariah telling Tilda that her father was actually her great-uncle and that she never wanted her was harsh, and even though Bushmaster is threatening her life if she doesn’t help, I don’t think she’s all that against it given her renewed hatred for her mother. James, who wanted to do a prayer circle that Misty commented involved them praying with the devil, did better appealing to his son, but Luke won’t let anything stop him from protecting Harlem. The revelation that Misty’s longtime rival Nandi is communicating with Bushmaster to turn Mariah in is troubling, and now Shades and Mariah have Anansi, meaning that the violence is sure to continue through the final four episodes of this show. I’m not sure what’s going to sufficiently turn the tables on the Jamaicans, since Bushmaster is about to get a power boost thanks to Tilda which will make him even more dangerous.

Friday, December 21, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Punishment Room” (B+)

The opening scene of this episode was terrific, demonstrating that Midge, Abe, and Rose have returned home but are still trying to do their best to get a handle on their everyday lives. Almost not hearing the baby say her first word and then all leaving with no one to watch the kids was an entertaining start. Midge nearly got to move up to makeup, but instead she found herself in the coatroom desperate to offer her advice to the clients being misdirected by the girls actually working behind the makeup counters. Offering to help Mary, played by Erin Darke from “Dietland” and “Good Girls Revolt,” plan her wedding seemed innocuous enough, and she did do a tremendous job organizing it and making the punishment room seem a little livelier. The set Suzie actually got her went great, but Midge couldn’t resist the opportunity to get up and do a bit when she was thanked at the wedding. For someone who can talk, she really can’t read the room, and the fact that she kept talking after she made a sex joke about the priest was truly cringe-worthy. Accidentally confirming that it was indeed a shotgun wedding was the worst part, and now she’s stuck back at the switchboard for good. Rose nearly got herself banned from auditing after riling up the master’s students, but then Abe stepped in to formidably rescue the situation and both keep her in the class and get a different model slated. Joel trying to control his parents’ wild books is a hilarious process, and I like that he’s doing good work and driving them absolutely crazy at the same time.

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 2, Episode 2 “Outside In” (B+)

While one of this show’s most fascinating elements is seeing both of its worlds play out at the same time, there’s also something that feels appropriately lonely and claustrophobic about just spending time in one world, especially if it’s the other side. Seeing Howard with a beard was jarring, though he’d theoretically be able to shave before he comes back into contact with Howard Prime. Learning that his Emily was the reason that he could never get promoted is deeply troubling, and it’s going to cause him to question who he is if he ever manages to get back to his world. He’s definitely changing while in prison, and his first instinct remains to be protective of those around him, telling Emily that she shouldn’t be there when she finally got in to visit him after coming to the prison each day to try. I don’t think that Emily is faking her recovery, though it is becoming clearer that she bears much more of a resemblance to Howard Prime than either to her other or his. Mira is being positioned as the head of Indigo, and she’s making targeted strikes against members of Management so that she can engineer a takeover. Her influence extends considerably farther than those on her side realize, and we haven’t even gotten into what’s happening back in our world. Emily got close to having a lead, but so many of Indigo’s followers and associates are well-trained and well-insulated that their identities are only revealed long after they’re either done, gone, or crossed.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 8 “Who Once Was Dead” (B+)

It’s interesting to see just how little Ray might have to do in order to set things right, though the damage to his relationships is completely done. Walking in to find Justine dead in a staged suicide in the shower almost didn’t feel real, a very direct consequence of Ray switching sides to work with Emerson in conflict of his employment arrangement with Sam, who did not take kindly to his betrayal and was more than ready to cut him loose completely. Meeting Bridget was actually a peaceful encounter, but seeing Justine’s face when he looked at her was the first sign that he’s really losing it. Lena wasn’t sparing in her takedown of Ray and her wish for him to die alone, and now, after punching a cop in Times Square, he’s in a psychiatric hospital with no one there to try to get him out. Terry could have messed things up with the bartender by saying he loved her and calling her Abby, but she didn’t mind. His refusal to call the fight when his Parkinson’s was acting up was a mistake, and he might not be okay after that. Daryll asking Mickey if he could have some of the money showed just how dependent he is on others rather than able to make it on his own, not that the money is even in any Donovan family member’s possession anymore. I like that Bridget advocated for herself with Anita when she got fired because of Ray, and, if she really can distance herself from her father, she might be able to achieve some success.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 11 “17 Years” (B)

It was only a matter of time before Miles came face-to-face with the drunk driver who killed his mother, and this represented the first time that he wasn’t gleefully overstepping in someone else’s life to try to help them. Instead, the rage boiled up inside him and he angrily told Charles’ fiancĂ©e that they weren’t old friends, revealing some disturbing information he had chosen not to share with her. Naturally, Cara and Rakesh were able to separate themselves from the situation more than Miles could, and Arthur didn’t have the chance to tell Miles that he had forgiven and even sponsored Charles before he found out on his own. What this show has shown, however overdramatically, is that spontaneous events can change perceptions, and Miles and Charles saving two lives during a fire was the chance that Miles needed to be able to see this man in a new light. Cara turning down her promotion is questionable, and I would have loved to see them kiss in this final episode before the new year rather than Rakesh banging on the door to introduce an element that this show really doesn’t need. It makes sense that Parminder Nagra wasn’t just a one-shot guest star, but what answers can Pria possibly provide that explain something other than divine intervention? I guess we’ll find out what Falcon is and how she’s involved once the show returns. I’ll be watching since my family members enjoy it, even if I’m still not convinced of its enduring quality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Take Three: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 1, Episode 3 “Chapter 3: A Prostate Enlarges” (B+)

This show has had a great few weeks, earning three bids from both the Golden Globes and SAG. I liked it a lot when I started it, and the only reason that I’ve lagged a bit on watching it is that I’m trying to find the right time to enjoy it with both my wife and my in-laws, who love it just as much. This episode was a productive continuation of the events of the first two episodes, opening at the shiva for Eileen where Norman was more than eager to tell the rabbi how little he cared about covering the mirrors and how much he recommended the shrimp. Phoebe is certainly a handful, and Mindy’s story about her babysitting days was a worrisome insight into her past. Aside from having conversations with his dead wife, Norman seemed to be coping relatively well, and his daughter was causing him the most aggravation before he broke down at the cleaners. Sandy’s prostate problems were portrayed in a very entertaining manner as he continually tried to deny that there was anything wrong, and I’d say that having to pee in the bushes after he said goodnight to Lisa was a sign that he really needed to get it checked out. Danny DeVito as his urologist was a great bit of casting, and I remembered right away that Michael Douglas produced the 1975 Best Picture Winner “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in which a much, much younger DeVito starred at the very beginning of his career. Jude’s scene choice was particularly cringe-worthy, and hopefully the way class goes will improve considerably when Sandy gets to focus again.

What I’m Watching: The Bisexual

The Bisexual: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

Leila doesn’t have too much luck in romance, but at least she’s getting out there. She’s not shy about marketing herself as a bisexual just getting out of a ten-year relationship trying not to be an emotional intimacy whore, and anyone who wants to date her is probably best off knowing that going in. Her first partner of the episode wasn’t opposed to the notion of spitting in her mouth, something that she saw in porn, even if he wasn’t able to muster the saliva she really wanted. Admiring the relationship that Gabe’s sister had got her thinking in a different way, and everything was going pretty well in her first same-sex encounter since Sadie until Tania decided to casually tell her that she was self-involved. Rarely the one to be offended rather than to offend, she still stuck around and cuddled her so that she didn’t feel bad about herself. Leila’s efforts to create a friendlier workplace environment were also not too successful, with her being chewed out along with Sadie and then being angrily scoffed at by Sadie for attempting to implement the mutual respect agreement. I like that she didn’t let Gabe get away with saying that because she is bisexual she doesn’t have to settle down, and that the two of them have really established a dynamic where they can be open and honest with each other, sometimes brutally and unkindly. Sadie’s pregnancy efforts make for an interesting subplot, even though we haven’t seen much of it just yet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Narcos: Mexico

Narcos: Mexico: Season 1, Episode 4 “Rafa, Rafa, Rafa!” (B+)

It’s easy when watching a show like this to start rooting for the bad guys since their operations have been running so smoothly and impressively thus far, reminiscent of “The Sopranos” towards the end of its run. It was very disconcerting to see Miguel out of his element, forced to go on an international plane ride and then tortured for information that he doesn’t seem to have. He’s done an incredible job of building things up, and naturally those with power want to remind him that he’s still not the top dog. Saving Rafa was no easy task, and the way that he was so nearly apprehended and within sight of Kiki when the mission got called off reminded me of when Miguel was hiding in the wall in the third season of the original “Narcos” and almost got drilled into before lawyers saved him from the other side. Neto nearly got himself killed driving drunk, but the reaction of that police officer when he realized just who he had punched says volumes about how influential and untouchable he really is. Kiki had more success than he had expected with getting this latest operation off the ground, though his newest partner had a considerably more aggressive style. Knowing just how much the strings are pulled and the criminals are protected here is sure to only encourage Kiki to continue pressing and try to make some progress in the war on drugs, an extraordinarily uphill battle with so much stacked against them.

Congratulations to star Diego Luna on a very deserved Critics Choice nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series!

What I’m Watching: Homecoming

Homecoming: Season 1, Episode 5 “Helping” (B-)

This is the first episode of this show that I’ve watched since it picked up Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Series – Drama and for stars Julia Roberts and Stephan James, an honor that might be deserved even if I’m not yet ready to put it at the top of my list. I also found this half-hour to be the weakest one so far, not following up on what’s come before in the most enticing way. Colin called Heidi to ream her out for giving Cruz a harmonica, but I would think that the rest of her behavior was much more problematic. I’m not sure what compelled him to pull a prank on her with the phone at the start, but interrupting the legitimate therapeutic exercise run by Craig to get him to sit on a chair she had put glue on seems like the most unprofessional, public way of getting him back. Colin was stunned when he went into the diner ready to unleash hell on Heidi for daring to call him only to find that she didn’t even recognize him, which means that he himself doesn’t realize just what it was that Homecoming was doing. That makes some more sense given the revelation that he’s not the boss, and that he wanted to hide the shortcomings of the program from his supervisor, Ron, played by Fran Kranz, who was so great as Topher on the similarly trippy “Dollhouse” so many years ago. If Carrasco didn’t think that there was something to his investigation before this, meeting an extremely disturbed Shrier is sure to make him keep pressing. I saw Hong Chau’s name in the credits and certainly hope that the “Downsizing” Golden Globe nominee has a more substantial role going forward.

Monday, December 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 6, Episode 5 “Chapter 70” (C)

This show is testing my patience considerably. I found out about Robin Wright’s latest SAG nomination in the middle of watching this episode, and while I applaud efforts to continue it beyond Kevin Spacey and his legacy, I’m not at all impressed with where this is going. I don’t buy for a second that Claire would ever let herself be photographed with her face covered in tears, gloating to the audience about how she was playing into Americans’ worst fears about a female president. In this season, this show has touched briefly upon how the country responds to a woman in charge, but then it’s delved into all this obnoxious manipulation and conspiracy theories taking up way too much time and energy. The invocation of the twenty-fifth amendment is a tired device that was played out all too theatrically with underground meetings and the cabinet members bowing their heads to pray for the country, and of course Claire showed up at a crucial moment to summarily dismiss all of them. Just how easily Mark could be undone as vice-president was reminiscent of Frank’s own takedown of his predecessor, and Russia collusion being the main reason felt especially silly given what’s actually going on with Russia, the White House, and the alleged “witch hunt.” Claire triumphantly convening a new all-female cabinet would be cause for celebration is there was anything left admiring about this show, which has truly devolved into something difficult to watch. Cathy potentially still being alive is one of the last straws for me, and it’s going to be a struggle to get through the last three episodes.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 8 “Kasumi” (B)

I remember watching early episodes of “Mad Men” where Betty’s therapist would speak directly to Don about their sessions, a clear violation of doctor-patient confidentiality in a chauvinistic age. It’s much more troubling here when the Nazis rule over America, though I was surprised that Dr. Ryan told John pretty much everything, including the fact that, after the dreams we saw her having, Helen kissed him. John is more worried about his family’s own safety in the Reich right now, which is understandable given that Helen is a huge liability who I don’t think will survive the remaining two episodes of the season. Nicole was able to get away with no problem after the lesbian club got raided by flashing her Nazi ID, but Thelma wasn’t so lucky, and it’s incredible that such indulgences are permitted in such a totalitarian society for those in power. All of Sabra watching the film didn’t go over as anyone hoped, with only one viewer and Ed realizing its value. This is not the first time that we’ve seen Wyatt and Juliana end up the last ones standing with a bunch of Nazis on the ground, and the originality factor has worn off slightly. Tagomi fended off an attack with his female friend in his home, which suggests that there are forces working against him, though Kido appears preoccupied with other things like giving Robert his life back after his help. Two episodes to go – will this show end this season on a worthwhile note?

What I’m Watching: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 8 “The Lake of the Clouds” (B)

It’s still hard to make sense of what’s real and how aware these characters really are, but Annie is definitely alert and ready to get out of this simulation, though she’s being drawn in by what it might be able to do for her mental state. Ellie, still believing that she was Ellia, remembered some things that Annie’s sister had experienced, but wasn’t ready to believe that her world wasn’t real, suggesting the exact opposite. Owen’s father, on the other hand, was the one who had to tell him that he was in a malfunctioning simulation run by a suicidal computer, something that I guess prompted him to turn into a hawk and try to fly to warn Annie of what she was about to agree to. Greta was driving herself crazy doing therapy on herself, and it appears that she bailed out of the drawer before a woman who looked a whole lot like her made a deal with Annie to come with her and stay there forever. Owen experienced both cops around him being shot before his actual brother showed up posing as the long-lost brother, something that I can’t hope to explain but was a pathway to his realization of what he was going through and what it might mean. With just two episodes left, I’m hoping some sense can be made of this show before it ends. It missed out on Golden Globe nominations but did earn Emma Stone a SAG bid – will it all have been worth it?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 8 “Gordons” (B+)

There are so many characters on this show, and with over seventy episodes so far, it’s hard to remember the backstories of a handful of them and particularly what they did before they got arrested. I couldn’t remember specifically how Taystee and Tamika knew each other, and this episode certainly provided that context, flashing back to show how they worked together in Storky’s and Taystee demonstrated far more bravery than her colleague when faced with an armed robbery while high. It’s difficult to see them in the current context when they both represent opposing institutions, and what Taystee said about how the guards treat them is definitely true for other inmates and other guards. Tamika cutting off that relationship is a sad development, but an expected one given its nature. The other events of the hour were mildly predictable if still very engaging, with Alex reluctantly becoming a member of Badison’s crew and Red making allegiances with Carol to get revenge on Frieda, who is sitting pretty in Florida hardly aware that forces are moving against her. Daya trying to help Daddy out and working with Flores in the process earned her a beating and now Flores and Nicky are in a very precarious situation that is sure to end in a brutal way. I wouldn’t have thought that Aleida’s problems working her pyramid schemes would lead her to date a guard, and I’m extremely curious to see what comes of that. Though her role was limited, Piper is beginning to take advantage of her fringe involvement in the cell phone smuggling scheme, picking her own delight of kickball as the prize she wanted to cash in her cards to get.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 8 “If It Ain’t Rough, It Ain’t Right” (B+)

We’ve reached a point where everyone in Harlem is on the defensive, with Bushmaster hiring assassins to take out Mariah and Tilda in plain sight of police officers and right in front of the precinct. The episode’s ending was particularly indicative of where things stand right now, with Misty and Nandi, formerly at each other’s throats, rushing in to save Mariah and Tilda with Luke right behind them, finding these cops, vigilantes, and criminals teaming up against a real threat that doesn’t respect any kind of code. It’s particularly disturbing these days to see men with guns walk into a house of worship and start firing, but fortunately that kind of action in this show just results in Luke taking them out before they can do any damage and even the reverend getting a good hit in because of the audacity of these attackers to choose to disrupt his church service. I do like when Misty recreates crime scenes, something that we haven’t seen in a while, and she seems completely certain that her good friend Tom couldn’t have killed Comanche. Shades is feeling somewhat conflicted about his actions with Comanche, stopping by to see his mother and contemplating whether Mariah has what it takes to stay on top. With five episodes left in this season, I don’t think Bushmaster is standing down anytime soon, but we’ve now reached a place where literally everyone else in this show’s world is lining up to take the Jamaican down and save Harlem from his influence.

What I’m Watching: Goliath (Season Finale)

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 8 “Tongue Tied” (C+)

After all this, I really don’t think the trip was worth it. Season one was full of so many interesting characters and dimensions, and when I finished it just about two years ago, I couldn’t comprehend why it had yet to be renewed. Now, my feelings are very different, having seen what another iteration looks like without many of the same players from season one. The fact that Billy lost in such a big way is disappointing, mainly because there were no winners. Hakeem was completely on Billy’s side at the end, ready to move ahead with charges, but not even all the villains were able to survive. Tom getting taken in by Gabriel rather than the FBI after letting Brittany get away from him led him to a disturbing fate, one that highlights the brutality that has dominated this season. His obsession with watching those who have lost limbs meant for some reason that he needed to lose all of his and then have his tongue cut out because Gabriel needs to show everyone just how horrible he is. Marisol also got away without any consequences, more than happy to tell Billy that she never loved him. I’m so much more interested in Denise and her worrisome drinking that looks all too much like her father’s, and a spotlight on Patty that we just didn’t get this season. I finished this season and wrote this review a few days before it finally got renewed for season three, which I might be open to revisiting since it would feature a new plotline and cast of characters, but I’m not filled either with confidence or satisfaction after concluding this run.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Nina Arianda as Patty

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 2 “Mid-way to Mid-town” (B+)

This was a superb follow-up to a strong season opener, indicating directions for this season that are less expected given what happened last time. Midge getting booked at a downtown club was a sign that she might be going places, but then, as the night went on, she kept sweating and so did I as a viewer, worried that she might bomb if she was ever allowed to go on stage. As usual, she managed to win over the crowd, though in a different way than usual by directly going after the men who had been so cruel to her while she was waiting. The excitement she and Susie felt was immediately replaced by a dread of a different sort caused by the club manager’s angry response to her mocking regular comics. She’s going to have to be creative to get ahead, and earning laughs at the expense of connections may be the way to do it. I’m glad to see that Kevin Pollak is taking on a bigger role in this season as Moshe as his son finds a way to fill his time and point out just how much trouble his parents’ company is in, something that only he is uniquely qualified to fix. Abe enjoying Paris was a surprise, but of course he wasn’t buying it as the long-term plan that Rose wanted it to be. Most wondrous of all, he seems to have gotten the message upon their return to New York, sponsoring Rose for art classes and signing them up to learn how to dance. What a lovely development that is.

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 8 “O Sister, Where Art Thou?” (B+)

This was a great episode, and I’m starting to really appreciate the rhythm of this show, which I’m glad I opted to continue watching. When Darlene introduced Becky to Dan, she came in hot, and all three of them were hurling around insults that were both entertaining and relatively accurate. Becky being home when Harris got brought back by the cop enabled her to give her niece a bit of guidance that wasn’t altogether parental, and of course Darlene wouldn’t react well to the news that Becky hadn’t told her about this event. Trashing Becky’s life choices in the process came off as very cruel, and I enjoyed their make-up scene by the pool table where they were honest with each other. Becky got in the best licks by analyzing just how terrible Darlene was at pool. Dan not being grumpy for once worked well, though he wasn’t at all picking up on the signals that his friend Louise, played by Katey Sagal of “Sons of Anarchy” and “Married with Children” fame, was sending. Her response to his confrontation of what their relationship was turned out to be very blunt and funny. Jackie commits wholeheartedly to whatever she does, and pretending to be a frontierswoman to help Peter write his latest paper was a difficult endeavor, one that prompted a hilarious takedown of just how one-sided the entire thing was and how much it was driving her crazy. Their relationship may not be over just yet, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to last too much longer.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 9 “Elseworlds, Part 3” (B+)

The conclusion to this crossover was energizing and engaging, and cleverly included a handful of people from this show since they exist on another Earth and therefore aren’t subject to the narrative-rewriting of one Dr. Deegan, who had made himself Superman so that he could be both the hero and the villain. Oliver was smart to realize that they needed to be bad in order to accomplish good, something that Barry didn’t like much but which definitely worked when they distracted Deegan with the threat of not preventing casualties and then pitching a plan of destruction to smooth operator and kingpin Cisco. I understand now why we were introduced to Lois and saw Superman in the first part of this saga, with them playing a major part in taking down Deegan and then moving off-world so that Kara can once again take up the mantle of Supergirl after doing a spectacular job of convincing a far less happy Alex that she could be a good and influential person. The Monitor wasn’t even so bad, demonstrating omnipotence but also a vision, one that didn’t necessarily require destruction. I enjoyed seeing Gary as a fanboy bartender and Jimmy as Cisco’s enforcer henchman, and I’m always all about alternate realities. I was particularly excited by the end of the episode, which found Batwoman calling Oliver to tell him that Deegan has befriended Psycho Pirate, which gives them a lot to fear and us viewers plenty to look forward to with the advertised Crisis on Infinite Earths, coming Fall 2019! While this wasn’t as awesome as the last crossover, I’m still pumped for another one.

Friday, December 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 8 “Legends of To-Meow-Meow” (C+)

Was this episode stupid? Absolutely. Was it entertaining? Yes. As this show decided to opt out of the “annual crossover” that Ray and Nate referenced, noting that it would be a “hard pass,” we got this installment of twisted history, as Constantine removing himself from the timeline meant that there were some serious and problematic developments to the way the legends operated. Charlie returning time after time to see the plaques of those who had perished was a helpful anchor for the many missions that she and Constantine had to run with Zari as a cat protesting that Constantine needed to do what he ultimately decided to in setting things back to normal. The alternate versions of the legends that we saw were a bit exaggerated, especially since it’s hard to believe that the likes of Ray, Nate, and Ava could ever become evil and homicidal even if Sara and Mick have had darker pasts. The Puppets of Tomorrow were definitely my least favorite iteration, while the Custodians of the Chronology and the Sirens of Space-Time were considerably more worthwhile if decidedly silly. Charlie’s shape-shifting came in very handy, and I like that she was able to convince Gary that he was himself from the future. Things should be back to normal now, but we finally saw the face of the person who Hank has been calling to update on his nefarious plans, who looks just like Dez but is definitely actually Neron, suggesting that the demon has very specific plans for how he’s going to carry out whatever he has in store for humanity and the universe.

What I’m Watching: Arrow

Arrow: Season 7, Episode 9 “Elseworlds, Part 2” (B+)

This hour was an improvement on the first part of the Elseworlds crossover, and I don’t mind checking in with this show, which I don’t watch, for an installment that worked pretty well. The intro bit with Barry as Oliver in previous scenes was a clever start, and this was a lot more about them having fun being each other rather than the serious stuff about how Barry might turn into Oliver for good even when their body-switch is reversed. In terms of darkness, Gotham City seems like a pretty miserable place to be, much grimmer than anything else in this DC television universe. I saw Ruby Rose’s name in the credits and immediately recognized her thanks to a not entirely convincing American accent, and it’s interesting to see the introduction of the Batwoman character for a potential future series launch when one isn’t yet in the works. I’m curious to see if she’ll be back again on one of these shows, though the premise isn’t nearly as appealing, far closer to that of “Arrow” than the three series I still watch. I’m not overly fond of villains like the Monitor who seem to have powers that can defeat anyone else’s, but at least another Barry Allen who looks and sounds a whole lot like Jay Garrick was able to get through and issue a warning, as well as an apparent indication that he and Diggle might be married on his Earth. Dr. Deegan’s acknowledgement of his body switch led to an even more mystifying one, turning Barry and Oliver into bandanna-clad bandits who it appears are going to have to face off against a darker version of Superman who’s not likely to buy into their story about some alternate reality in the third and final installment.