Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 12 “Clooney” (B)

It’s dangerous to be two full weeks behind on this show when spoilers about the subsequent episode are being rampantly posted online all over social media, but I’ve always argued that this show’s strongest moments come not from the shocking nature of its twists, which far too often manipulate its audience into feeling things that aren’t genuine, but more from the true relationship dynamics it explores. I knew as soon as Rebecca asked Jack to remind her to get batteries that they were going to forget, but I didn’t realize that they were for the smoke alarm that apparently doesn’t go off when the big secret from the next hour is finally revealed, which I’m glad to soon be able to say will be over so this show can get back to its actual characters while they’re alive. Randall chasing down the ghost of his father’s romantic past felt a bit oddly-timed since we haven’t seen William in a while, but I guess he is a fan favorite and it’s good to feature stories related to him. Miguel standing up for himself to Kevin was satisfying since the troublemaker son has never respected his stepfather despite Miguel’s attempts to always be nice to them, and the way that he described Jack and Rebecca as an inseparable unit was sweet. What I actually liked best about this hour was that it lent some legitimacy to a previously irritating and pointless character, Madison, whose problems with food were revealed to be very much real and who hopefully won’t get even more irritating now that she’s declared herself Kate’s best friend.

Pilot Review: Black Lightning

Black Lightning (CW)
Premiered January 16 at 9pm

There’s one thing that the relatively young network the CW does really well, and that’s superhero dramas. It makes total sense that they’d want to add more such series to their lineup, especially since DC Comics has provided the characters and storylines for most of their successful brands. I knew that this wasn’t related to what’s frequently referred to as the Arrowverse, and therefore it started off just on its own without debuting as a backdoor pilot on a preexisting series. I don’t know anything about Black Lightning, and therefore I assumed that the original comic featured dad Jefferson as the superhero and that this show would feature one of his daughters taking on that mantle. Both of those appear to be true to a degree, thanks to the episode-ending reveal that Anissa has abilities about which she wasn’t previously aware. This show is aiming to be relevant and timely with its depiction of an African-American man pulled over in the rain in the middle of the night because he matched the very thin description given of someone who committed a crime, though I found there to be way too many guns brandished at school to be comfortable given how often that has been happening in the real world these days. Black Lightning’s powers are cool, at least, but it does seem like it’s going to be a very slow burn for a member of the family to emerge back into the limelight as a superhero. I knew I recognized star Cress Williams from somewhere, and it turns out it was his unfortunate role on “Prison Break,” so at least this is a huge improvement on that. I immediately identified James Remar’s voice from his work on “Dexter,” even if his face looked a bit different. I think there are meaty roles for each member of the Pierce family, and the actresses here are likely to have good showcases going forward. I don’t think I’ll be sticking around since this didn’t grip me, and its pacing is a bit slower than I prefer for superhero shows.

How will it work as a series? Jefferson hung up his costume to become a principal for a reason, and now he’s going to have to go back into the superhero business to clean up the streets around him, which should prove enticing if the universe around him is stocked with similarly intriguing characters. Its setting feels a lot more real-world, suggesting a lack of typical comic book villains, which might not be a bad thing, but this show is going to have to prove its worth.
How long will it last? After a strong debut, this show demonstrated its staying power in its subsequent episodes (the advantage of watching a pilot after two more episodes have already aired is seeing into its future). Reviews are very strong, and I think the CW has discovered an audience for a type of show that doesn’t really exist right now on its network, which should lead to a bright future for this series.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Trial of the Flash” (B)

Well, I don’t really see any way out of this. It could have been so simple for Barry to go in front of the judge and show him that he was the Flash so that his secret wasn’t revealed to the whole world, but this eternally selfless superhero didn’t want to get up on the stand and tell anything close to a lie, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that he wasn’t guilty. Mark Valley, once a superman capable of incredible death-defying feats of his own on “Human Target,” was a good and vicious prosecutor, who was gunning for Barry to be seen as negatively as possible, which unfortunately wasn’t really contradicted by anything that Cecile tried to say, especially when the photos Ralph took to show that Marlize was having an affair only ended up framing her as more sympathetic. Barry preventing Iris from revealing his secret and then leaving the court right before being sentenced to life in prison looked particularly bad, and it was powerful to have Captain Singh giving an award for heroism to the Flash intercut with the judge handing down the life sentence. On the meta side of things, it was interesting to see a villain who wasn’t actually a bad guy and didn’t even realize that he was giving everyone he passed radiation poisoning, and, as usual, Cisco and Harry helped make things entertaining by giving him a great name, terrible power, and by triggering Caitlin’s transformation into Killer Frost with the idea of dying puppies.

What I’m Watching: The Gifted (Season Finale)

The Gifted: Season 1, Episodes 12 and 13 “eXtraction” and “X-roads” (B)

I’ve been waiting for this show to prove itself as something worth watching and capable of growing beyond its premise, and I’m not sure it’s done that. It’s a perfectly fine series that isn’t overly irritating or anything like that, but I still don’t see exactly how its longevity is going to work. The presence of the Frost triplets has turned things considerably darker since they’re operating the same way that Dr. Campbell has been, fighting back with violence designed to eradicate since that seems to be their only option for survival. The biggest development of this hour is the corruption of both Polaris and Andy, who have joined the dark side and broken with those they care about. There’s still some hope, in theory, for the already angry Andy, but Polaris has taken out innocent people aboard that plane with the senator and with Dr. Campbell, who I was sure was going to be revealed as a mutant with powers of invincibility. As Reed and Caitlin continue using the power of their brains to think of clever ways to continue to evade capture, some of the mutants are being drawn into the hate and using it to be as destructive as possible. I’m mildly intrigued to see what season two will look like, and I suppose the way that it could work is if there were two rival mutant factions fighting each other, one advocating for peace and the other for vanquishing of their enemies. The real question is where Agent Turner falls in all this and whether there’s any hope for him. I imagine I’ll at least check in for the season two premiere.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Stephen Moyer as Reed

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 10 “Legion of Super-Heroes” (B-)

I didn’t find this episode to be all that worthwhile, mainly because I don’t know how much I buy into the whole Reign mythology. I like Odette Annable, primarily from her very different role on “Banshee,” where she exhibited another kind of rage, and I think that Samantha was a solid addition to the show’s roster of characters. But Reign isn’t anything like her, and now she’s running around playing with her daughter during the day while going around taking out the trash at night, which doesn’t seem nearly as villainous as it’s made out to be. She’s unstoppable yet there’s someone ordering her around to test her, and she can’t really be stopped by anything including Kryptonite, which makes the question of how she’ll eventually be defeated a puzzling one. The Legion wasn’t all that impressive in action, though I’ll admit that Brainiac-5 was pretty cool being able to multitask, talking to Kara, piloting a ship, and completing a crossword puzzle at the same time. Kara putting together the clues in her constructed room was an interesting use of time, and it’s good to see that she’s being portrayed as an intelligent character. I don’t know how women talk in real life, but I feel like it’s hopelessly awkward to refer to someone’s ex-boyfriend as an amazing kisser in front of them when broaching the subject of your newfound relationship even if the person you’re talking to isn’t actually a Martian man pretending to be your sick best friend.

What I’m Watching: Divorce (Season Premiere)

Divorce: Season 2, Episode 1 “Night Moves” (B+)

I had almost forgotten about this show, which wasn’t the big hit that everyone was expecting it to be when it started last October and took a little over a full year off before returning to the HBO lineup with a comedy that I couldn’t get into, “Crashing.” I am happy to have this series, which took me a little time to warm up to, back, and this opening episode shows that we’re in for some interesting antics this season. Seeing just how eager to continue fighting for concessions Dean Winters’ Tony Silvercreek and J. Smith-Cameron’s Elaine Campbell were and just how exhausted and done with all of it Frances and Robert were demonstrates that their divorce process is now officially over, and it’s on to where they go from here. Naturally, Robert remains the hero to his children, who prefer their father and don’t want to spend time with their mother, whose efforts to be budget-conscious backfired immediately since her children thought she was depriving them. Robert shaving his mustache is a big deal because it turns him into less of a villain, and now he’s going to have to get used to his new living situation, which is far from ideal. As Dallas continues her illicit romance with Tony, it’s fun to see Diane and Nick struggling to adapt to a new way of being together, only speaking if they have something positive to say, turning their interactions into pretty much nothing but wordless sex. This should be a fun season full of decidedly dark humor.

Round Two: The Chi

The Chi: Season 1, Episode 2 “Alee” (B+)

I’m still debating whether I’m going to continue to watch this show, which was created by Lena Waithe, who I didn’t see in person but saw on screen advocating for change at the Sundance Film Festival. There were three films, “Blindspotting,” “Monster,” and “Monsters and Men” that all dealt with the arrest rate and incarceration of African-Americans in the United States today, and while this show approaches it from a different and more stylized angle (well, not quite as stylized as “Blindspotting”), it’s definitely good that it’s on television these days as this is a hot topic. The most memorable scene of this hour was Detective Cruz showed up and told Brandon that he took his brother’s advice to get new shoes, a comment that Brandon found entirely inappropriate and useless. Cruz seems to know that Ronnie was involved in the shooting if not the one directly responsible for it, and I think that his show and his investigation is much less about who pulled the trigger than who or what is really to blame for Coogie’s death. It was great to see the dependable Steven Williams, who I first got to know on “The X-Files,” as Quentin, who made quite an impression just handing Emmett money to put his son in day care and stay focused on his job. On a more humorous note, it was fun to see Kevin meet Maisha, Andrea’s cousin, who wasn’t going to have anyone talking about getting with her cousin since they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, who then tackled him and apologized for doing the un-Christian thing.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 8, Episode 10 “Church of Gay Jesus” (B+)

This is the first review I’m posting in over two weeks, which is after this show’s season finale has already aired. My excuse is good – I promise – and it includes getting to see a very enthusiastic Emmy Rossum on stage at the premiere of “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” the Netflix film about National Lampoon, at the Sundance Film Festival. This was one of the few episodes I had the chance to watch during Sundance, where I was busy seeing forty films, and I apologize for my late review, which will be followed by separate takes on the final two episodes in the next week or so. I was happy to recognize an actress here, Fiona Dourif, but disappointed that she was so unmemorable after her unforgettable turn in the recently cancelled “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” It’s hard to see Lip so down and disappointed about how little he seems to have mattered in the face of his mentor’s death, and I’m not sure how he’ll rebound after that. Fortunately, Fiona and Ian are in a better place now, as the former has to contend with squatters who are scamming her to make money off her generosity and the latter has become a religious gay icon. Leave it to Frank to tell shirts reminiscent of Andy’s “Chris Died For Your Sins” gig on “Weeds” to make a profit with his enterprising son Liam. Debs was good at being a welding scab but she managed to score a pretty bad injury on her second effort. Carl almost had Kassidi convinced that they should hold off on the wedding, but a faked suicide attempt and a whole lot of crazy means that they’re now bonded together, and I don’t know how he’s going to break free from her truly stifling and rather terrifying grip. I won’t comment much on the Kev-Veronica-Svetlana plotline since it was pretty awful, but at least Svetlana ditched the earpiece quickly so we didn’t have to experience any more of that.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The competition: Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm, GLOW, Orange is the New Black, Veep

For your information: “Orange is the New Black” has won this award the past three years. “Veep” is on its fifth consecutive nomination, and “Black-ish” is on its second. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was nominated previously in 2005 and 2009. Freshman series “GLOW,” which is actually the only show with two performers rather than one nominated, rounds out the list. Four years ago and beforehand, “Modern Family,” “Glee,” and “The Office” won this award.

Who should win? I don’t watch “Black-ish” and didn’t see more than the pilot of “GLOW.” I don’t think that the ensemble on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” should really be here, and I’m not quite as gung-ho about “Veep” as everyone else but wouldn’t have a problem with it finally winning. SAG seems to be the only awards body still paying attention to “Orange is the New Black,” which honestly deserves this award just as much this year as it did the last three.

Who will win? I do think that a change is coming, and Veep seems likely to dethrone “Orange is the New Black” this year.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

The competition: The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, This Is Us

For your information: This is the sixth nomination for “Game of Thrones” and the second for both “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” which won last year. Sophomore series “This Is Us” and freshman series “The Handmaid’s Tale” are new to the race. Only “Stranger Things” has two performers nominated; the rest all have one. Multiple wins for one show are common in this category: “Downton Abbey” won three times, “Boardwalk Empire” won twice, and “Mad Men” won twice in recent years.

Who should win? I like “The Handmaid’s Tale” is strongest but I’d be fine with “Stranger Things” or “Game of Thrones” too.

Who will win? I think that we’ll see a repeat of Stranger Things though it could be “This Is Us” or “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Uzo Aduba’s excitable inmate (Orange is the New Black), Alison Brie’s wrestler actress (GLOW), Jane Fonda’s retired executive (Grace and Frankie), Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ bitter politician (Veep), and Lily Tomlin’s eccentric artist (Grace and Frankie).

For your information: This is Aduba’s fourth consecutive nomination, and she won in 2014 and 2015. This is the second consecutive nomination for both Fonda and Tomlin, who was previously nominated for “The West Wing.” This is the fifth consecutive nomination for Louis-Dreyfus, who also received five nominations for “Seinfeld” and two for “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” She won twice for “Seinfeld” and twice for “Veep,” in 2013 and 2016. This is Brie’s first nomination. Aduba, Brie, and Louis-Dreyfus are all also nominated as part of their ensembles.

Who should win? Aduba is far from the best performer on her show these days. I like Brie but don’t watch her show. Fonda and Tomlin are both fun, as is Louis-Dreyfus, so I don’t really have a favorite from this list.

Who will win? I think that Louis-Dreyfus will take it again.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Anthony Anderson’s proud patriarch (Black-ish), Aziz Ansari’s smooth talker (Master of None), Larry David’s major complainer (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Sean Hayes’ excitable neighbor (Will and Grace), William H. Macy’s depraved patriarch (Shameless), and Marc Maron’s wrestling producer (GLOW).

For your information: Anderson and Macy are the only nominees back from last year. Anderson is on his second bid. Macy, now on his fourth consecutive nomination, won in 2014 and 2016, in addition to a win for “Door to Door” and a few other TV and film bids. This is the first nomination for both Ansari and Maron. Hayes was nominated five time in a row starting in 2000, winning three times, and he also contended for TV movie “Martin and Lewis.” David was nominated in 2005 and 2009 for this role. Anderson, David, and Maron all contend as part of their ensembles. Ansari won the Golden Globe, but he was only up against two of the men in this category.

Who should win? I don’t regularly watch Anderson’s show and didn’t stay with Maron’s past the first episode. I like Hayes a lot, though Ansari would probably get my vote.

Who will win? I think three-time winner Hayes gets a fourth trophy, though the fact that he’s the only one here from his show makes me less confident. It could easily be Macy again too.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Millie Bobby Brown’s super-powered friend (Stranger Things), Claire Foy’s Queen Elizabeth (The Crown), Laura Linney’s loyal wife (Ozark), Elisabeth Moss’ trapped mother (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Robin Wright’s cutthroat politician (House of Cards).

For your information: Brown was nominated last year, as was Foy, who won. This is the fourth consecutive nomination for Wright, and she also has two previous film nominations. Moss was nominated twice for “Mad Men” and once for “Top of the Lake.” Linney has two film nominations and won in 2008 for the miniseries “John Adams.” Brown, Foy, and Moss are all nominated as part of their ensembles (Brown’s won last year).

Who should win? I didn’t get past episode one of Linney’s show. I think Moss deserves it most but Brown would be fine too, as would either of the other two even if they wouldn’t get my top vote.

Who will win? While Moss is a likely favorite, I think the more traditionally-minded SAG voters will seek to reward Wright for the first time and for persevering in spite of her costar and past SAG winner Kevin Spacey.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Jason Bateman’s protective patriarch (Ozark), Sterling K. Brown’s loyal father and brother (This Is Us), Peter Dinklage’s talkative advisor (Game of Thrones), David Harbour’s determined sheriff (Stranger Things), and Bob Odenkirk’s inventive lawyer (Better Call Saul).

For your information: Bateman was previously nominated in 2004 and 2013 for his role on “Arrested Development.” Brown was nominated last year for his role in “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.” This is Dinklage’s fifth consecutive nomination, and he was also previously nominated for the film “The Station Agent.” This is Odenkirk’s second nomination, though he wasn’t nominated last year, and he previously won as part of the “Breaking Bad” ensemble. Brown, Dinklage, and Harbour all contend as part of their ensembles this year (Harbour’s won last year), and Dinklage is also nominated as part of the film ensemble of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Last year’s winner was John Lithgow, who wasn’t eligible this year.

Who should win? I didn’t get past episode one of Bateman’s show. I’m a big fan of Dinklage’s though I’d be fine with any of the others too.

Who will win? I think Brown is far enough ahead of the pack to win this easily.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3, Episode 9 “Nathaniel Gets the Message!” (B)

The previous episode ended with Rebecca showing up at Nathaniel’s door to tell him something important, and though he didn’t seem ready to accept it, she was taking the questionable guidance of her doctor to break up with him so that she could try to be less obsessive. He should know that she invests herself fully in anything she possibly can, and there are plenty of other relationships for her to encounter and do her best to disrupt with her full attention. Working for Valencia was actually a smart idea since, when she’s focused, she’s great at work like that, but it also meant that she could finish it quickly and then go ahead and intervene in something she should never have been involved in in the first place. I wasn’t too fond of the plot that played itself out since neither of the characters were all that interesting, and the fact that he knew all along about her affair but didn’t care since he loved her anyway – for inexplicable reasons since she paid him zero attention – wasn’t terribly inspiring. Ditto for the poker game, which found Darryl winning at first and then losing his precious egg money, and the only (hopefully) positive thing to come out of it was that Rebecca is going to donate an egg, which is considerably less involved than the surrogacy I thought she would offer. What I liked most about this episode was White Josh and Nathaniel bonding over being so good-looking and being dumped, and their gay bar song and dance was superb, especially since it featured surprised guest and volunteer paid fireman Josh.

Pilot Reviews: Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (Amazon)
Premiered January 12

There have been a lot of anthology series premiering lately, and I knew this was one I was particularly looking forward to. There’s a reason that the writer’s name is in the title, and that’s because Philip K. Dick was a master of dystopian science fiction. His works have been adapted into movies like “Minority Report,” “Impostor,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Total Recall,” and “Blade Runner.” The notion of taking his short stories and putting them on screen in a shortened format – an hour apiece – is brilliant. That does make judging its quality and execution difficult since each episode is so different, and we’ll never again see the characters featured in what technically constitutes the pilot but really doesn’t represent the series. Fortunately, this somewhat dense and very British – which makes sense given that this is a Channel 4 production that aired in the UK originally back in October – start is a positive and intriguing one. I started with the hour that launched the UK run – “The Hood Maker” – even though that’s technically classified as episode five by Amazon. It was good to see recognizable faces like Richard Madden from “Game of Thrones” and Holliday Grainger from “Cinderella,” and the plot was definitely involving, with a pretty memorable ending. I’m not sure how well each episode will come off, but I do think that this is a cool idea and one that’s worthy of viewing on a regular basis so long as it continues to demonstrate its commitment to realizing Dick’s writing in a visually astounding and thought-provoking way.

How will it work as a series? I’m not sure how important the order is meant to be since Channel 4 and Amazon have released the series totally differently, but I think it’s about whether they all connect in some way and do a good job of representing Dick’s dark visions and utilizing good talent all around to do so, which I think will be the case.
How long will it last? The show seems to have been relatively well-received, earning decent if not spectacular reviews in the United States. Releasing it on Amazon seems like a superb plan since it doesn’t need to binge-watched in the same way and might be easy for viewers to tune into at any point. I don’t know how much more material there is out there, but I could see this coming back if Amazon wanted it to.

Pilot grade: B+

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Round Two: The End of the F***ing World

The End of the F***ing World: Season 1, Episode 2 (B+)

Episode two of this new Netflix series didn’t disappoint at all, and I’m glad to see that this show has maintained its signature weirdness. That means that along with teenage rebellion and murderous impulses, there are also going to be some odd, disturbing moments, like James not doing anything to stop the man who gave them a ride from touching his penis while they were in the bathroom. Alyssa seemed most concerned with the fact that James should be honest with her about whether or not he was gay, and she was more than ready to threaten to tell the guy’s family if he didn’t leave right away. He was awfully chatty, and neither of his hitchhiker passengers had much interest in talking to him. I’ glad we get to hear Alyssa’s voice too, like “Sometimes I look at him and think you are a bit dead,” as she talks about how they’d be American if this were a film and loves making trouble wherever they go. James humorously admitted that he ironically wasn’t in his element at laser tag, and he wasn’t too prepared for some sex in the car which resulted in a relatively low-key crash into the tree. After Alyssa tried to call her dad and they had a lackluster evening watching porn, she asked him to cuddle her and he looked at the camera nervously as if to suggest that he’s starting to care about her. We saw that his father did call the police to report the car stolen – I’m eager to see what comes next!

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 5 “Marionettes” (B+)

It’s hard to keep track of some of the very supporting players since they often don’t appear on this show for episodes at a time, but I know that Martin, played by Harry Hadden-Paton, who previously appeared on “Downton Abbey,” is one of the more underrated characters. In this episode, he was the one person who rightly anticipated that there was going to be blowback to the speech that Elizabeth gave at the Jaguar factory which made her seem hopelessly and irreconcilably elite, unable to relate to the peasants upon whom she looked down and claimed to understand. Starting with the slap that Lord Altrincham somewhat deservedly got is the latest instance of non-narrative storytelling that this show has been employing, opening with an intriguing scene that is then explained by the filling in of details. What was most interesting about this relatively involving hour, which fortunately featured Elizabeth much more than the rest of the season has so far, was when Lord Altrincham showed up for his meeting and got to be face-to-face with Elizabeth, who listened to his suggestions and roundly rejected each one as he outlined them. She definitely didn’t love the idea of bending to his criticisms, but he made a good argument that he was simply saying what he had been asked to when he had been called to task for airing his observations and objections publicly. Seeing Elizabeth squirm on television was a fitting way to end this chapter, which paid tribute to the real Lord Altrincham, John Grigg, whose influence on royal policy extended far beyond what was portrayed in this episode.

Monday, January 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 8 “Cowboy Bill” (B+)

This show really manages to invest in its characters, and this hour was mainly about Ferg, who, after being forced to take time off, couldn’t find his girlfriend and then became convinced that her ex was a bank robber he’d been hearing a lot about on the news. I kept thinking of the fantastic and underappreciated Best Picture nominee from last year, “Hell or High Water, every time a robbery was mentioned, and the final scene in which Walt just walked right in and talked Bob down so he could take the gun out of his hand didn’t disappoint. It does seem that Meg was angry enough never to forgive Archie, as it’s always strange to hear him called, for prying into her life and for accusing her of things in the process. After Walt worked with Nighthorse and got to surprise Shane with a meeting, that plotline was put on hold, theoretically to be dealt with in the final two episodes of this show. As soon as the FBI agent showed up and he was played by Raphael Sbarge, who I first remember encountering as a villain on “Prison Break,” I knew that things hadn’t been resolved so easily. Zach helped Cady to realize that she couldn’t even trust the people she thought didn’t hate her, and that she’s going to have to consider whether she’ll truly be able to keep working where she is in light of recent events that have made her a pariah in the community.

What I’m Watching: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 8 “Cold Steel” (B+)

Now this was an intense episode that really got things going and showed that this show isn’t interested in wasting any time. Previously, we thought Billy was just someone who was on the wrong side but not necessarily a bad guy. Seeing him at the start of this episode tormenting his bedridden mother and keeping her immobile because she gave him up was a window into this extent of his cruelty, and watching him get some satisfaction from killing Sam and then help Dinah wash his blood off of her suggests that he’s completely evil and merely capable of simulating empathy and kindness. Frank didn’t want David to call Dinah because he wasn’t sure if they could trust her, but honestly she needs to realize that looking for bugs in her office isn’t going to do anything if she’s sleeping with the enemy and confiding in him. It was good to see Frank and David bond and really enjoy some good times together, but things took a much more serious turn when David started thinking about how he wasn’t able to be with his family. Sarah kissing Frank was hardly surprising but David didn’t take it well, and the fact that she then called him with a legitimate problem even when it was awkward showed how much their connection has meant to her. Trying to scare Zach into submission didn’t quite work, but it did reveal how he felt, leading to some sweet football-tossing that fortunately didn’t result in David revealing himself to be alive in that moment, something that can’t be too far off now.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 3, Episode 10 “Emergency Interview Driving Lunch” (C+)

This show has been getting more creative with its format recently, and this episode was all about imagined scenarios that could have played out as Matt and Colleen took the next step in their quest to have a baby. Unfortunately, only the first and third of these segments really worked at all. While Heather lying on the floor and refusing to call anyone but Matt for help was over-the-top, that’s how she sometimes is, and the two of them can be funny together. When he hit the truck because he was busy arguing with the telemarketer who refused to take him off the list until he had listened to the entire sales pitch – something that I can’t see being true in real life as someone whose in-laws regularly receive numerous unwanted calls daily to which they request to be taken off the list – that vignette became fun when a blind Tim had Samantha driving to his rescue to be able to bring what she thought was a blood sample to the clinic. At least the two of them got ice cream in the end. Greg having Matt come over to control his drugged-out parents while he had a Skype interview went quickly awry, and Matt did a truly terrible job of keeping them out of the room where he was speaking, which tanked the whole thing and led to Greg revealing that he wasn’t wearing pants. The fourth segment really killed it for me since I can’t stand Dougie as a character, and nothing about that bit, even Jen’s odd excitement, could salvage it. Thankfully, someone else being in the room at the clinic was the worst of his true worries in the way things actually happened.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 9, Episode 9 “There’s Something About Larry” (B-)

This episode was entertaining if hardly as clever as some of the installments that came before it. It’s venturing back into formulaic territory, with broad plotlines that aren’t all that inventive assisted occasionally by some solid slapstick. This felt like a real episode of the old show, reintroducing two characters who I know used to appear but can’t remember the extent or relevance of their involvement. Tim Bagley, who plays Larry, is well-known for his appearances on “Monk,” and he’s an undeniably talented comedian who got to benefit from this show’s love of double entendre, which was put to tremendous use here when Will didn’t realize that he was in love with him and everything he was saying was so incredibly and inappropriately sexual given the extremely platonic nature of what he was intending to discuss. I liked seeing Molly Shannon as the certifiably crazy Val, who wanted to spend more time with Karen and therefore thought she needed to get hit by Jack during his very first run as a Lyft driver. Shannon and Sean Hayes did a tremendous job matching each other’s physical antics, and it’s good to see Shannon in a role like this that allows her to be so fully animated. I like that she mentioned after her questionable moaning that her pain and pleasure centers overlap to the point that she’s in a medical journal. I imagine we might see her again since this show does love bringing back old friends, but Karen and Jack seem to have no plans to encounter her again anytime soon.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 9, Episode 8 “Friends and Lover” (B-)

I accidentally missed this episode and watched the following installment first, so I’m posting it immediately before my review of episode nine. If that episode is formulaic and obsessed with double entendre, this one is drowning in that. I’m a big fan of Nick Offerman from his role as Ron on “Parks and Recreation,” and I recently saw him perform live at the Beacon Theatre. There’s no denying that he was the perfect person to play renowned celebrity chef Jackson Boudreaux, and this episode was pretty much just an excuse to have him say things about bread that sounded infinitely more sexual. I cracked a smile a few times, but most of this humor was predictable and relatively easy. Will and Grace feeling awkward once they realized that he was sleeping with both of them and, worse still, wanted to have a threesome, was entertaining, and I wonder if he’ll become a recurring player who can cause them further attraction and aggravation in the future. I was curious about whether he’d share any scenes with his real-life wife Megan Mullally, and that was relegated to a reference in the final scene in which Karen laughed him off as not her type. The “trucks for tykes” song being stuck in Jack and Karen’s head was a stretch to occupy two characters fully for the duration of the episode, but that’s what happens sometimes in a season of television – an installment or two has to be padded with some less than stellar material.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 2, Episode 10 “Best Self” (B+)

It’s nice to know that this show is able to focus on just its six main characters with no one else around and still function just as well, and it’s crazy to think that there was a point at which we thought that everyone in this “good place” was human except for Michael and Janet. It’s also reassuring to get more confirmation that Michael isn’t up to no good, he’s just stalling for time as he tries to figure out a way to get them to the real good place, somewhere that I can’t imagine will just welcome them in with open arms given their history and the fact that Michael is a demon. The surprisingly functional detector of one’s best self was a great opportunity for some intense verbalized self-reflection, with Chidi concerned that he could have been better at one point and then Eleanor realizing that she too wasn’t as good as she could be. Ultimately, they reached a wonderful point, giving Michael a human starter kit with useless things like car keys to lose and Eleanor still keeping herself entertained by hurling eight insults in Tahani’s direction just for the fun of it. Taking the train together to the real bad place so that they could travel through it and somehow appeal to a judge (demonic or otherwise, I’m not sure) that they’ve become good should be an interesting journey, and I’m curious to see if they’ll make it there before the end of the season, with unknown obstacles sure to come.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 1, Episode 6 “Mrs. X at the Gaslight” (B+)

Midge has become quite the social butterfly in her new circles, regularly making the rounds at parties as the hilarious comedienne that she is. I enjoyed the casting of Nate Corrdry, who I remember most from his scripted TV beginnings on “Studio 60 and the Sunset Strip” a decade ago, as Randall, a partner of sorts for her who actually seemed to do very well and allow her to shine in their duo acts. Susie was understandably very angry to learn that Midge had partnered up with someone and that she had seen another agent, and that one’s on Midge since this isn’t the first time she’s sought assistance from someone other than the person that she’s hired as her manager. Lew, played by Michael Nathanson, who I’m currently watching in a far less egocentric role on “The Punisher,” was considerably more aggressive than Midge would have wanted, though it’s becoming clear that her ideals are far from realistic. We got an interesting look at a member of Midge’s family, her sister-in-law Astrid, who converted to Judaism and hasn’t felt accepted by her husband’s parents despite her extensive efforts to show her enthusiasm for the religion. Abe seemed incredibly excited about his new work opportunity, venturing out to a restaurant the family would never otherwise dine at only to run into Joel and Holly, who got judged very harshly by the Weissman family. Nothing will compare, however, to Abe’s anger if this news of Midge’s arrests he was previously unaware of should do anything to interfere with his plum new post.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 11 “The Fifth Wheel” (B+)

What a fitting title for an episode in which all of Kevin’s issues are boiled down to the simple fact that neither of his parents loved him as much as his other siblings. The whole situation was very uncomfortable, thanks in large part to the unfriendliness of Kate Burton’s therapist, who found it necessary to dismiss the three “others” as such without giving any thought to the fact that they might already feel like outsiders in this family. I, for one, was thrilled to see three characters who never interact all together, and I think it was just as therapeutic an experience for them as it was for the lifelong family members. Rebecca breaking down and confessing that Randall was always easier than Kevin, and that’s the reason she appeared to love him more, was enlightening, and it’s good to know that, after a very difficult conversation, the three siblings were able to sit down together, make up, and laugh. A young Kevin walking in to find his siblings and parents all in bed without him was sad, and it was sweet – though apparently not sweet enough – that Rebecca chose to join him on the floor rather than leave him there all by himself. I’m not sure what comes next after all of this, but it’s good to know that everyone seems to be headed in a positive direction for the moment. And Toby didn’t even have to confront Kate about hiding junk food in the trash since she came out with it, a sign that she trusts him and is willing to confide in him.

Pilot Review: The Chi

The Chi (Showtime)
Premiered January 7 at 10pm

It’s very interesting to see Showtime launch a second show set on the streets of Chicago on Sunday nights. This one is a whole lot different from “Shameless,” presenting the serious side of things and showing how the African-American community is treating unfairly by the police and subject to both internal and external cycles of violence. This pilot picks up a few main characters but also introduces two people who weren’t fated to survive past the first hour. Having a white cop who treats those in the community with respect but sees what goes on around him should be interesting, and the perspectives this show provides through the eyes of its protagonists are diverse and compelling. I had no idea until I see her name during the end credits that Emmy winner Lena Waithe, best known for writing and starring in “Master of None,” created this show. I recognized Jason Mitchell, the standout performer from “Mudbound,” as Brandon, and now I realize that I also knew Alex Hibbert from “Moonlight,” who plays Kevin. The cast is good and the stories seem interesting; it’s just up to this show to develop a voice of its own as it zeroes in on this city and the people that live in it. The most memorable moment from this first hour for me wasn’t a violent confrontation or painful development but rather the very humorous announcement of a new kind of PB and J: pork belly and apple jelly. I look forward to seeing this show’s creativity shine.

How will it work as a series? This show seems to have a good rhythm to it, so it’s just a matter of keeping that up and telling worthwhile stories in the process. Chicago is a very commonly-featured city on television, and so this show will need to stand out for the world it portrays and the characters who live in it.
How long will it last? Both the reviews and the ratings are solid, and I see no reason why Showtime wouldn’t want to excitedly welcome this show to its permanent lineup. It’s not such a typical program for them, with no big stars headlining and tackling a slightly more serious subject matter, and so I think this one will be swiftly and enthusiastically renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

Friday, January 12, 2018

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 8, Episode 9 “The Fugees” (B+)

It’s didn’t take long for Frank’s operation to be compromised, thanks to his inability to follow his own directions and a far less cooperative cohort than his first crew. Sometimes, this show throws some crazy stuff at its viewers, and the two Canadian cops getting killed when their cruiser hit a moose was intense. Leave it to Frank to luck out like that, and his journey back to the United States wasn’t quick or pleasant, nor were his customers pleased to find out that he hadn’t in fact procured the promised goods. Fiona may not have been ready to bowl with Ford’s collection of exes, but she did manage to get close to the man himself in a way that he wasn’t up for the first time she kissed him. Carl is having some major relationship woes, and buying jewelry for his psychotic clingy girlfriend went a very different way than he intended. Debs may have a baby, but Carl is about to become the first member of his Gallagher generation to have a spouse. Lip opting not to tell Sierra about Charlie’s baby mama was an honest move, and it paid off very well for him as he tried to convince her of Charlie’s merits and ended up having sex with her instead. Ian is doing very well in his crusade to show the disenfranchised gay youth the lord’s way, and what a group of open-minded preachers he’s found in the process. Svetlana appears to be affected by Kevin’s dominant treatment, and let’s hope that Kev and Veronica can find a way to work with her before she undermines them once again.

What I’m Watching: Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1, Episode 10 “Despite Yourself” (B-)

I said that I wasn’t sure if I’d continue watching this show when it returned from its two-month hiatus, and though this debut installment wasn’t all that terrible, I think I have my clear answer. Let me preface this by saying that the mirror universe is probably my favorite concept in all of “Star Trek.” Having each of the characters take on a different role and often encounter the regular version of themselves was fun, and often led to some great storylines. But in this case, we’re a mere ten episodes into the first season of this show, and we don’t really know – or like – our characters well enough to be ready to meet alternate versions of them just yet. Sure, it’s a blast to see Tilly – nicknamed Captain Killy – in the captain’s chair pretending to be a badass when she’s anything but. Everything else feels all too convenient. Worse still, the unfortunate Klingon obsession continues to dominate things, with Ash not only hallucinating his Klingon captor-lover but now acting with a separate personality. Stamets was in bad enough shape, now Ash has killed Hugh. Not only does no one know yet, but I can only imagine that things will get much worse from here. It’s bold – and not in a good way – that this show wants to set itself entirely in the mirror universe (or whatever this is supposed to be) for multiple episodes, and a quick look at the sneak peek at the rest of the season indicates that characters will, understandably, be irreversibly transformed by their experiences. I’m happy to let them do that on their own – I’m out.

Pilot Review: The End of the F***ing World

The End of the F***ing World (Netflix)
Premiered January 5

I’m not sure this is the time that the world needs a show about a teenager who wants to murder his classmate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea. I had no idea what to expect from this show, and I was pleased to find a highly original, highly entertaining, and very British show about two misfits who actually are perfect for each other, even though one of them wants to kill the other. While I’m sure Alyssa wants to stay alive, something tells me that, should she discover her newfound amour’s true intentions, she wouldn’t mind all that much since it at least means he wants to spend time with her and she’s more than ready to run off to experience the world with someone who will pay her attention. I’m not familiar with lead actor Alex Lawther, who plays James, but I was tremendously excited to immediately recognize Jessica Barden as Alyssa. I first saw her in “Tamara Drewe” and then again in “Hanna” and “The Lobster,” and I think she’s a formidable choice to play this talkative, eager rebel who’s just gone on a wild ride with a new friend that is constantly daydreaming about ways to murder her. I’m looking forward to seeing where this show goes, and though the meaning behind its title isn’t completely clear to me just yet, I think it’s off to a tremendous start and has some great ground to cover next as it gets to know these two already memorable protagonists.

How will it work as a series? It’s based on a comic book series, so there’s obviously some reliable source material from which to draw. James just punching his dad in the face and taking his car shows that he doesn’t have a plan anymore, he just knows that he needs to be alone with Alyssa, because she’s going to keep him going, alive or dead. Where things go from here, who knows, but I’m thrilled to stick around and find out.
How long will it last? Reviews have been terrific both in the UK where this show premiered in October and in the United States after its Netflix debut last week. I don’t know if there’s more of a story to tell, but my assumption is that this show will be back if the creative forces behind it decide they want to continue.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 4 “Beryl” (B)

The definition of the crown is expanding as this episode moved away from one poor sport who’s not the queen – Philip – to another poor sport who has the misfortune of being the princess – Margaret. She’s hardly had anything easy since her sister assumed the top regal role, but Margaret is generally a rather unpleasant and uncooperative person who feels that she’s been wronged in just about every circumstance. The perfect marriage that she could have had was ruined for no real reason, as far as she sees it, and now she finally has the opportunity to be involved with someone else who she emphasized despised her for being affiliated with the crown, which made her like him more. I’m not at all surprised that Matthew Goode was the choice to play Tony, as he has an extensive resume full of roles like this and more innocent, kindhearted ones like “The Good Wife” and, most similar to this show, “Downton Abbey.” I’m not sure what Margaret was thinking in allowing him to take a photo of her that showed considerably more than she’s supposed to, and I knew from that moment that it would get leaked to the press. Having everyone discovering it in the newspaper at the end of the hour spells certain doom for Margaret, though something tells me she’s going to hold this against someone other than Tony or herself even though it’s his fault for taking the picture and her fault for posing for it knowing that it had to see the light of day eventually.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 7 “Opiates and Antibiotics” (B+)

And there it goes again! It didn’t occur to me at all that Cady’s tribal issues and Walt’s case would converge, and what a way that it happened! I hadn’t remembered that we had met Eddie Harp before, but still, the way in which he was revealed to be the other doctor working in that questionable trailer that Henry took a patient to was incredible. Throughout this final season, we’re watching all of our characters take steps they haven’t before which they won’t be able to walk back. Last time, Vic was the one who shot Chance, and this time, it was Ferg who was holding the smoking gun when it looked like Eddie might have the upper hand and get away, leaving casualties in his wake. It’s nice to know that people with good hearts, like Henry, do prevail in some cases. Cady’s moral quagmire was an extremely intriguing one, since she was forced to protect someone she knew to be breaking the law but who was defying the wishes of the child’s parents. Handing them the medication with a note that he wasn’t actually allergic was powerful, and we’ll see what legal repercussions, if any, she faces for this. It’s a sign of this show’s ability to cover multiple plotlines that Jacob Nighthorse being arrested and placed in solitary confinement for his own protection comes at the bottom of my review. Walt and Nighthorse hating each other but still trying to defend each other’s character is mesmerizing, and I’m really not sure how it’s all going to play out in the final three episodes.

What I’m Watching: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 7 “Crosshairs” (B)

I’m not sure why we’re spending so much time focused on Lewis. Obviously he has some serious issues that are turning him into an uncontrollable killer capable of going completely unnoticed by society, but it’s not clear how he’s going to tie in with the main plotline. Frank’s main mission is to take out the trash, to go up against those like Agent Orange who are evil because they know what they are doing is wrong, not because a switch has flipped and they’re unable to control what they do or why they do it. As dynamic as Lewis is in his creepiness, his father Clay, played by Tim Guinee, an actor I first came to dislike watching the awful “Revolution,” is completely bland and relatively personality-free. Fortunately, more of the hour was focused on Frank and David, and his family, who are becoming increasingly close to Frank as David starts to think about what it might be like to actually get to reveal that he’s alive to them, something that he doubts will go all that smoothly. It was not a good episode for Colonel Morty Bennett, who got caught in the middle of some sexual behavior that he probably wanted to keep quiet, was spared by Frank, and then killed anyway by a far from trustworthy Billy. The ending of the episode was quiet but appropriately intense, with Frank getting that perfect shot to the head while staring right at Agent Orange, only to discover that his walls were bulletproof and he now knows exactly how close Frank is to him.

What I’m Watching: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces: Season 3, Episode 9 “The Chicken and the Egg” (B)

I’ve never been too fond of Joan’s secret life as an author which features some very explicit sexual writing that just doesn’t seem to jive with who we know her to be. For once, John was concerned about getting her children to remember what their mother did for them and pay her back by showing up to the reading, something that didn’t go well and only made her much more nervous. It was their own fault for sticking around to hear it, and that’s not something they’ll quickly forget. I appreciated the creativity of using an animated sequence to illustrate – literally – what Colleen and Matt were going through with their fertility issues, and having the actors voice the characters made it more entertaining. I’m fortunate enough not to have experienced the problem of a barking dog next door, but I can imagine the awkwardness of having to try to track the owners down and then ask them to make it stop without being rude. Greg probably would have thrown in the towel and apologized right away once he heard that it was a service dog for seizures, but his scary new neighbor wasn’t about to let her off the hook, and now Greg will live in constant fear of him. I didn’t know what was going to go wrong with Heather’s perfect choice of nurse, Cindy, played by Lauren Lapkus from “Orange is the New Black,” and it turns out that it was this decision-maker’s poor choice to spill the beans about how she changed Tim’s mind that undid all of her wise work up to that point.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 2, Episode 9 “Leap to Faith” (B+)

Normally, I’m not a fan of flashbacks that help to explain how something we just saw happen actually came to occur, but this show does a magnificent job of featuring them repeatedly to show how things played out in a different way than we thought. Sean showing up to tell Michael that he was doing a good job was a shock to everyone, and naturally the only real threat to them continuing the charade was the attention-seeking Vicky, who Michael was easily able to frame by whispering “something something Vicky something something” into the drunk-handcuffed Janet’s ear. Michael’s roast of our four friends was a fantastic way of both hitting them where it hurts and of giving clues so that they could save themselves. It’s hilarious that he actually dropped about twelve thousand hints and they only picked up on four, but they reached the same conclusion, so all good. Eleanor can’t even remember Kierkegaard’s name, but Michael was on the same page as Chidi about the expression translating more to “leap to faith” than “leap of faith.” Jason suggesting that they call the police was a funny aside that shows that he still doesn’t have any concept of what’s going on. I love that they found a perfect use for Derek, having him steer the train to the medium place where he helped to serve Mindy’s needs with his robot sex organs. What comes next now that all the demons are gone? I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What I’m Watching: There’s Johnny (Season Finale)

There’s Johnny: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Anniversary Show” (B+)

It’s a bit lonely finishing a show when no one you know has watched it and anyone else in the world who has probably finished it two months ago when all seven episodes were released on Hulu. I have no idea what this show’s future holds since it could just as easily be renewed as it could be cancelled and entirely forgotten. Featuring the anniversary show with a surprisingly serious Johnny talking to a handful of comedian guests was appropriate since it helped to remind about just how long Johnny has been a fixture, and about how everyone who works for him, even those writers unlucky enough to be laid off just because someone needs to be fired each year, respects him and wants to be part of this universe. It was sweet that Andy, desperate for something to do and a reason to be there, found all of the archives and was able to catalog them, thereby assuring himself a place and a role for the foreseeable future. Joy also handled a problem with grace and ease, and while she should have been rewarded with a celebratory night, one that would have gone great for Andy too, instead she found her father shooting up in the bathroom, putting yet another dent in her fractured image of him. The sudden arrival of Andy’s brother also throws things for a loop. I’d be interested in seeing more of this show, which is light and fun, and I guess for now we (anyone else out there?) wait to see if it will ever return.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jane Levy

Pilot Review: 9-1-1

9-1-1 (Fox)
Premiered January 3 at 9pm

If there’s one thing that the TV landscape doesn’t need more of, it’s cop shows, but that’s not going to stop the networks from producing them. This one at least puts a bit of a spin on it, telling the story from the perspective of the 9-1-1 operator who gets the calls and then gets hung up on once help arrives or the emergency has been dealt with adequately or finitely. This episode unsurprisingly featured extreme cases, like a baby being flushed down the toilet and a young girl calling the police about burglars without knowing her address. I always look at standards procedurals, which I know I won’t be continuing to watch, with an eye for the cast members I know and what they’ve been in before. Angela Bassett recently received an Emmy nomination for guest-starring on “Master of None,” and I know she also did some work on a show I make sure not to watch, “American Horror Story.” Though they weren’t on it at the same time, Connie Britton launched that show, and she’s currently appearing on “SMILF” after finishing up “Friday Night Lights” and exiting “Nashville.” I’m glad that Peter Krause is getting work, but I wish that two of his cancelled series from a decade apart, “Dirty Sexy Money” and “The Catch,” were still on the air since they give him much better material to work with. This show is all about ethics of who gets saved and in what order, and there are enough different characters and threads that it just please those looking for some affirming stories of people who risk their lives to save others.

How will it work as a series? I don’t know who the star is supposed to be since Bassett, Krause, and Britton all seem to share top billing, and so it’s going to balance between their work and professional lives and how they interact in the heat of the moment. It’s just like any other procedural, though its city-less numerical title means that it may not be quite as focused on the characters and more on the work that they’re doing.
How long will it last? Reviews are fine for this show if not spectacular, but that doesn’t actually matter since it’s all about how many people are watching with procedurals. FOX doesn’t demand as much as other networks – namely CBS – but it’s still worth noting that this show did much better than the return of “The X-Files,” and something tells me it’s going to stick around for a while.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: The X-Files (Season Premiere)

The X-Files: Season 11, Episode 1 “My Struggle III” (C)

I had forgotten that this show was returning nearly two years after it went off the air following its six-episode event series, itself broadcast almost fourteen years after the show wrapped its nine-season run. I’d still put at least a few dozen shows ahead of this one for a reboot, particularly since nothing about the most recent installments indicated that it’s captured what was great about this show back in the day or introduced any new element that has proven worthwhile. I couldn’t remember how things left off in the season ten finale, and I’ve completely forgotten any of how Scully got pregnant and what happened to that baby. Though he’s still not featured in the opening credits, William B. Davis’ Cigarette-Smoking Man is now taking center stage, narrating and explaining things in a much clearer way than I think we’ve ever heard, revealing the shocking but not all that interesting truth that Scully’s baby is both an alien and his, not Mulder’s. Lines like “they would be dismissed as so much fake news” don’t sound right since it doesn’t seem possible that the Cigarette Smoking-Man and our friends would exist in a world like the one we’re living in today – their universe is already surreal enough. I welcome any chance to see Annabeth Gish, whose Agent Reyes is apparently working on the wrong side of things now. I really shouldn’t bother with this show, but there’s a part of me that still wants to believe, especially since Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose stuck around for this iteration.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 1, Episode 5 “Doink” (B+)

It would have been unrealistic for Midge to keep on going without a way to support herself, but in this era, spunk doesn’t go nearly as far as it should for a woman. Being the only woman to apply for an elevator operator job – something that she would have been perfect for – made her chances completely impossible, mainly because she wasn’t dressed up like Santa Claus. The job she found was fitting, even if she’s capable of much more, and it was nice to see that, after all the heartbreak of this episode and her failed act attempts, she did succeed tremendously at cracking up her coworkers. It is true that, every time we’ve seen her perform before, she’s been drunk, high, or hopped up on adrenaline, and things didn’t go well when she heard herself and turned out to be a bit too crude and uncomfortable for her audience. Wallace Shawn’s Herb Smith seemed like he knew what he was doing, ordering a generous helping of Jewish dishes at the deli and then giving her notecards that she unfortunately decided to read right off of and make corrections to with a pencil during her act. Taunting her heckler and inviting him to tell jokes didn’t prove all that effective either, and hopefully now she can focus on working with Susie to hone her own material and figure out how to be comfortable on stage. Joel introducing the new woman in his life to his parents didn’t go well at all, and Moishe delivered a particularly brutal takedown of the kind of woman she was before Shirley expressed the same sentiment with just one word.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Final Golden Globe Predictions

The Golden Globes air tonight! It’s very likely that Emmy champs “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Big Little Lies” will both triumph in a number of categories, while comedy winner “Veep” isn’t even contending, clearing the way for a handful of first-time winners. I don’t have much commentary to offer beyond the predictions in each category that I’ve already written. I’m five episodes into “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and I like it a lot, and I expect that it’s going to win both of its bids. There’s no one I’m particularly pulling for besides that, and so I’m going to be focused much more on the film side of things. Predicted winners are below – click on category headings for full analysis, and leave your thoughts in the comments! Head over to for film predictions.

Best Television Series - Drama
The Handmaid’s Tale

Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Big Little Lies

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama
Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Robert De Niro (The Wizard of Lies)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Alexander Skarsgaard (Big Little Lies)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Laura Dern (Big Little Lies)

Pilot Review: LA to Vegas

LA to Vegas (FOX)
Premiered January 2 at 9pm

Oh boy. I saw ads for this show in the airport when I was boarding a flight to JFK and chuckled – just once – when they talked about how even the name JFK is so tragic (unfortunately, my flight didn’t get there and was diverted to Atlanta because of the bomb cyclone). This show is a disaster, though I don’t think anyone believes that it’s much cleverer or smarter than it is. I’m not sure what’s worse, Dylan McDermott’s accent or the lines that come out of his mouth, like “Gentlemen, it’s time to get high!” His Captain Dave was disappointed when one of his flight attendants stopped him from putting a sock on the cockpit door during a flight, and then he got that same sock taken by another airman who didn’t have to face any moral objections from his peers. So much of this show feels dated, as if it’s a poor sitcom from the 1980s or 1990s, and jokes about sex slavery definitely don’t land well these days. There were a handful of recognizable faces, like Ed Weeks from “The Mindy Project” as the British hunk who people literally pay to get lectured by, Kether Donohue from “You’re the Worst” as him angry, dim-witted wife, and of course Peter Stormare from “Fargo” and “Swedish Dicks” – and so much more – as the eccentric passenger who wants his lucky seat even though Jackpot Airlines, much like Southwest or Ryanair, doesn’t assign seats ahead of time. Actress Kim Matula, who it seems previously starred in season two of “UnREAL,” could have potential, but starring in this show is a near-guaranteed way to tank a career.

How will it work as a series? This show thrives on stupidity, and that should make it easy to come up with basic plots like drunken pilots and midair flirtations. I wouldn’t expect much character growth, just increased depravity from all aboard the plane, passengers and crew members included. There could be a laugh every few episodes, but I think groans and eye rolls are the best this show can expect.
How long will it last? It looks like the ratings weren’t actually bad, although there wasn’t much first-run competition at the very beginning of the year when this show premiered before other series returned. The reviews aren’t good, but they’re not as dismal as I would have liked to have seen. I don’t think this show will last long, but it’s probably going to stick around for a bit until it gets pummeled by other series when they begin their runs again.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: The Gifted

The Gifted: Season 1, Episode 11 “3 X 1” (B)

The stage is being set for an explosive two-hour finale, and this show just received a second season renewal, something that was far from guaranteed and should hopefully now allow for some more creative long-term plotting. The Frost triplets, as I guess they’re best called, are a freaky new addition to the show, speaking in unison to their commander from the Hellfire Club and then splitting up to get into the heads of their best recruits in the Mutant Underground. They’re not interested in the same kind of resistance, aggressively inviting needless casualties to show the dominant nature of the mutant species, something that will only continue to drive humans further from any possible space of reconciliation. Jace speaking at his friend’s funeral while the mutants buried Dreamer provided a powerful parallel, and Jace is resolute about his desire to stop the mutant threat while still remaining a voice of conscience as he watches what Dr. Campbell is doing. As usual, this show’s best asset is its creative display of powers, and watching two brainwashed mutants using the power boost to conjoin their abilities was intense. Polaris, whose father was apparently a big deal in the Hellfire Club, is also experiencing newfound powers thanks to her pregnancy, and we’re getting close to an all-out battle where the Strucker children may not be the most powerful people in the room. I’m hopeful that the season ender will be impactful and make season two something to look forward to that can finally think beyond what it’s like to be on the run and what a permanent Mutant Underground headquarters might look like.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

What I’m Watching: SMILF (Season Finale)

SMILF: Season 1, Episode 8 “Mark’s Lunch and Two Cups of Coffee” (B+)

If nothing else, this show is full of enormous potential. The first season is now wrapped, and it’s hard to find any true consistency in it since every episode is pretty different. Featuring recognizably Woody Allen-font opening credits in an installment that opened with young Bridgette energetically calling the important people in her life to let them know that her father had molested her was an odd tribute of sorts, and the theme didn’t persist throughout the episode. Again, I’m convinced that creator and star Frankie Shaw has a lot to say and some great ways to do it, but this show hasn’t found its signature style or voice just yet. The scene that I found to be strongest was the one where Bridgette tried to get out her frustration by having sex with Ally’s son and telling him to say depraved things to her, a moment of release that was interrupted when she thought he was judging her by pointing out that Larry might be able to hear them. Bridgette considers herself to be a good parent even if she makes questionable decisions, and while she’ll admit her flaws, she doesn’t want anyone else calling her out on them. Matching with her father on Tinder set the stage for an intense confrontation, but of course the man wasn’t actually her dad but rather a poor guy who was fortunately able to quickly note that he wasn’t who she thought he was. It was great to see Nelson come out of her shell a bit too, confronting Bridgette when she found out that Rafi slept over, an occurrence that didn’t faze either of them but had her feeling out of the loop. I’m excited to see where this show goes in season two and beyond, and look forward to its return, whenever that may be.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Frankie Shaw as Bridgette

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 8, Episode 8 “Frank’s Northern Southern Express” (B+)

Say what you will about Frank Gallagher: he just made a whole bunch of people really happy, offering them as pleasant as possible an illegal immigration experience across the border to Canada. Starting out by saying “Just because you look like terrorists doesn’t mean you are terrorists” seemed like more of the same absurd behavior for him, but he wanted to play road games and make them feel terrific once they finally made it to those fabled falls. I’m not sure how long his business will operate, especially if he underpays his top associate Liam. Carl’s having his own work woes thanks to his hyperactive girlfriend who wants to be with him even when he’s trying to be serious at the wheel for his Uber customers. It’s fun to see Kev taking his newfound dominant nature to work with him and exerting some control over Svetlana, an enterprise that may not play out as well as it has with an extremely turned-on Veronica. Lip interviewing new sponsors was entertaining. I recognized Jack McGee from “Rescue Me” as one choice, but I’m happier that he went with Lea DeLaria from “Orange is the New Black,” who has no interest in listening to any of his sob stories. Fiona wasn’t pleased to hear that she was complicated from Ford when he didn’t kiss her back following their idyllic day of touring architectural Chicago, and she got her revenge when she found out that he was the father to no less than five children for different women. It’s good to see Ian targeting his energy away from Fiona and to a cause much closer to his heart: taking on those who make gay kids think that there’s something wrong with them and that they need to be fixed in order to be saved. So far, he’s off to a great start.

Pilot Review: The Last Post

The Last Post (Amazon)
Premiered December 22

There weren’t a lot of shows that premiered in the past couple of weeks, but Amazon did launch this British import, which originally aired weekly on BBC1 beginning in October. For viewers looking for something that feels like a relic of the past and manages to blend well into its surroundings, this is a show well supported by its set pieces that achieves a certain mood. I’m not particularly familiar with the history of Yemen and the territories that came before it, and I think this show is much more concerned with the individual people and conflicts between the Royal Military Police and the native population that doesn’t want invaders on their land. Most of this hour was relatively passive, until the prank at the end of the episode led to tragedy following the near-miss during a rooftop haircut. The only actor in the cast that I recognized was Stephen Campbell Moore, who I remember best from his role as a teacher in “The History Boys,” and who here played Lieutenant Laithwaite, who was sour about being passed over for a promotion and still had the best instincts of anyone in this crew. While there’s obviously some interesting drama going on with the wives as well as a relationship between one soldier and a religious local woman, I didn’t find any of the characters or interactions to be all that memorable. If the time period was particularly fascinating to me, I think I might like this show, but since that’s not the case I’m happy to forget it.

How will it work as a series? Tensions will be considerably higher and things are sure to escalate with the local population and terrorist threats now that violence has claimed lives, but I imagine that the personal drama and interpersonal relationships will still be front and center. That should make for some decent, stylized, slow-moving plotting that could prove worthwhile.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be decent, and reports about ratings in the UK are positive. Dropping this show at this time on Amazon feels like a strange choice since it’s not what Americans are likely to watch in this holiday season. Barring a renewal from its native network, I think that six episodes are all we’ll see of this show.

Pilot grade: B-

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Comedy Series

The competition: Black-ish, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Master of None, SMILF, Will and Grace

For your information: The only returning nominee from last year is “Black-ish,” back for its second bid. “Will and Grace” earned seven nominations, most recently in 2004. “Master of None” is here for the first time for its second season, joined by freshmen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “SMILF.” Every nominee in this category has exactly one performer nominated.

Who should win? I don’t watch “Black-ish” regularly but I like the rest of this list a lot! I guess I’m pulling most for “Master of None” but anything would be fine.

Who will win? I’ll bet on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel but it could be any of them.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Drama Series

The competition: The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, This Is Us

For your information: Emmy winner “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the only new entry in this race. “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us,” and last year’s winner “The Crown” are all back for their second consecutive nominations. This is the fifth overall and fourth consecutive bid for “Game of Thrones.” “This Is Us” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” each have two performers nominated, “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” have one, and “Game of Thrones” has none.

Who should win? I’m only a few episodes into “The Crown” and I’m not as gung-ho about “This Is Us” as everyone else. I’d be thrilled if any of the other three won.

Who will win? Based on Globe voters’ enthusiasm for new shows, I’d go with The Handmaid’s Tale.

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

The competition: Laura Dern’s protective mother (Big Little Lies), Ann Dowd’s cruel enforcer (The Handmaid’s Tale), Chrissy Metz’s struggling sister (This Is Us), Michelle Pfeiffer’s loyal wife (The Wizard of Lies), and Shailene Woodley’s protective mother (Big Little Lies).

For your information: Dern has five previous nominations and three wins, all for TV work. Pfeiffer has six previous nominations and one win, all for film work. This is Metz’s second consecutive nomination and Woodley’s second overall, following a 2011 bid for “The Descendants.” This is Dowd’s first bid. Dowd defeated Metz and Dern defeated Pfeiffer and Woodley at the Emmys this past year. All but “The Wizard of Lies” are nominated for their respective top races.

Who should win? I haven’t seen Pfeiffer’s work. The others are all great, and I’d be happy if any of them won.

Who will win? I feel like Dern is likeliest, but it could be Dowd or Metz also.

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

The competition: David Harbour’s sheriff (Stranger Things), Alfred Molina’s director (Feud: Bette and Joan), Alexander Skarsgaard’s abusive husband (Big Little Lies), Christian Slater’s anarchist coder (Mr. Robot), and David Thewlis’ mysterious mobster (Fargo).

For your information: This is Slater’s third consecutive nomination, and he won this award two years ago. This is the first nomination for the other four men. Skarsgaard defeated Molina and Thewlis at the Emmy Awards last year. All programs except for “Mr. Robot” are recognized in their respective top races.

Who should win? I only saw one episode of Molina’s work, and I wasn’t a fan of Thewlis’ turn. Both Harbour and Skarsgaard are very good, but my vote goes to the dependable Slater, who was especially great as his character evolved this season.

Who will win? Given the popularity of his limited series and female costars, I think Skarsgaard is the only one with any real buzz.

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

The competition: Pamela Adlon’s strong-willed mother (Better Things), Alison Brie’s wrestler-actress (GLOW), Rachel Brosnahan’s chatty comedienne (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Issa Rae (Insecure), and Frankie Shaw’s single mom (SMILF).

For your information: There’s only one nominee back from last year, and that’s Rae, here for the second season of her show along with new addition Adlon. Brie, Brosnahan, and Shaw all earn their first Globe nominations for their freshmen series. Only Brosnahan and Shaw’s shows are up for the top prize. The last three eligible winners in this category – Tracee Ellis Ross, Rachel Bloom, and Gina Rodriguez – all aren’t here.

Who should win? I didn’t watch more than an episode of Brie’s show, but I like all these choices. I’d probably vote for Rae or Brosnahan.

Who will win? Globe voters usually like new things, and I feel like Brie or Shaw could be popular but Brosnahan is likeliest.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

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

The competition: Anthony Anderson’s proud patriarch (Black-ish), Aziz Ansari’s talkative dreamer (Master of None), Kevin Bacon’s adored author (I Love Dick), William H. Macy’s depraved patriarch (Shameless), and Eric McCormack’s liberal lawyer (Will and Grace).

For your information: Anderson, Ansari, and Macy have all been nominated exactly once before for these roles. McCormack was nominated five times in a row from 1999 to 2003. Bacon won for “Taking Chance” in 2009 and was previously nominated for his film work in “The River Wild.” Anderson, Ansari, and McCormack all have their shows nominated for the top prize. The last three eligible winners of this category – Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Tambor, and Andy Samberg – all aren’t here, along with last year’s winner Donald Glover.

Who should win? I couldn’t stand Bacon’s show and don’t regularly watch Anderson’s. I like McCormack and Macy but I’ll fully behind Ansari here.

Who will win? I think Ansari will win unless McCormack upsets.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

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

The competition: Caitriona Balfe’s time traveler (Outlander), Claire Foy’s ruler (The Crown), Maggie Gyllenhaal’s innovative prostitute (The Deuce), Katherine Langford’s suicidal teenager (13 Reasons Why), and Elisabeth Moss’ unwilling surrogate (The Handmaid’s Tale).

For your information: Foy was last year’s champion, and she’s back along with Balfe, earning her third consecutive nomination. Moss was nominated previously in this category for “Mad Men” and she won for “Top of the Lake” in 2013. Gyllenhaal has two previous film nominations and a win for “The Honourable Woman” in 2014. This is Langford’s first nomination. Only Foy and Moss have their shows nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? I don’t watch Balfe’s show and didn’t watch past the start of Gyllenhaal’s or Langford’s shows, but I like Moss a lot.

Who will win? Given Globe voters’ enthusiasm for new series, I think Moss is a sure thing.

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

The competition: Jason Bateman’s financial advisor (Ozark), Sterling K. Brown’s loyal husband and father (This Is Us), Freddie Highmore’s autistic doctor (The Good Doctor), Bob Odenkirk’s crooked lawyer (Better Call Saul), and Liev Schreiber’s distraught fixer (Ray Donovan).

For your information: Schreiber is back for his fifth consecutive nomination, while Odenkirk scores his third. Emmy winner Brown is here for the first time for his show but was nominated last year for “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.” This is Bateman’s third overall citation – he won in 2004 for “Arrested Development.” This is Highmore’s first bid. Only “This Is Us” is nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? I didn’t watch much of Bateman and Highmore’s shows, so I’d say any of these are fine – I have no strong preference this season.

Who will win? Usually Globe voters like someone new and hot, so that could be Bateman, but I feel like Brown is more likely.

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 3 “Lisbon” (B+)

There is such a distance that exists now between Elizabeth and Philip, and it was evident from the start of this episode when Elizabeth was narrating the video footage with Philip’s letter and seemed to digest so much of what he wrote incredulously. She laughed with her children when she noticed that they all had grown beards, but I think there was something about the independent experience that he was having away from all them that got to her. Their reunion was extremely unpleasant, and she was even colder than he was, telling him they’d talk later as she didn’t even bother to embrace him or pretend that she was happy to see him. I got confused for a moment because I recognized the scene that was playing out where she said that his complaining had to stop, but it made more sense once I realized that it was part of the whole theme of this season. Philip wouldn’t dream of having an affair because being with another woman isn’t what he wants; it’s a freedom to be able to be the person he used to be. Needing to have a ceremony where they actually crowned him Prince Phillip for his ego to be boosted is ridiculous, and something tells me it’s not going to be nearly enough. While Mike had to be summarily dismissed from his post via immediate resignation, he got the out that Philip never will, in servitude to the crown whose importance and grandeur only his wife seems to understand.

Monday, January 1, 2018

What I’m Watching: Longmire

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 6 “No Greater Character Endorsement” (B+)

It’s a relief to know that Lucien’s act was truly selfless, and that he wanted to be sure that there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was the one who killed Tucker, thereby taking the heat off of Walt. The judge did not seem even remotely sympathetic to Walt, and therefore it was good to see Nighthorse, hardly a friend of the sheriff’s, get on the stand and have a question prompted so that he could insist that he wasn’t trying to impugn Walt, who he found to be an honorable man, unlike Barlow. Walt was completely ready to sign the deal to have $250,000 paid without a penny coming out of his pocket once the case turned, but his lawyer, who was never especially polite, proved his worth by helping him to win without having to admit to that level of wrongdoing. While all this legal stuff was happening, we also saw Cady coming to Nighthorse for help with a case that she found to be very important, and while he was happy to oblige, the result definitely wasn’t what she wanted. Getting chewed out for arguing the wisdom of the white man to a council of people who have all experienced that condescending behavior before is sure to keep her from trying to make similarly bold strides in the community again anytime soon. It’s hard to keep track of some of the old faces from this show, but Zach was instantly recognizable, helping out on a case that stopped Ferg in his tracks and showed that there’s still plenty to be afraid of in Absaroka County.

What I’m Watching: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Judas Goat” (B+)

I’d argue that Frank’s nightmares are the most powerful part of this show, since each one of them begins with a happy family memory disrupted by everyone he loves being executed in front of him. The one that opened this episode incorporated the entire Lieberman family, and it was well bookended by Frank repeating over and over to Sarah that things were going to get a lot better for her and her family soon. Their kids fighting is an unfortunate development since Sarah is having trouble dealing with it on her own and it clearly pains David to see it from afar without being able to do anything about it. Dinah telling Billy that Frank was still alive sent him straight to Curtis, and David was surprisingly keen on Frank approaching Billy if he trusted him. While their interaction was relatively positive, the closing shot of Rawlins sitting in the car next to Billy waiting for Frank to show up demonstrates that he was wrong to trust him. Lewis has been relatively tangential to the plot thus far, but now he’s shown that he’s completely unstable and very dangerous. Getting into it with a cop when he was told to stop protesting outside the courthouse was one thing, but repeatedly stabbing the man he considered his mentor when he realized that he had lied to him proved that he’s out of control, and the fact that he wants to be recruited so badly means that everyone he encounters may be in danger.