Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Pilot Review: Good Girls

Good Girls (NBC)
Premiered February 26 at 10pm

If there are three actresses I never would have thought to put together, Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman, and Retta would be great choices. Hendricks is best known for playing the old-fashioned head secretary Joan on “Mad Men,” Whitman stole many scenes as rebellious daughter Amber on “Parenthood,” and Retta was frequently hilarious as sarcastic employee Donna on “Parks and Recreation.” Putting them all on the show has very entertaining results, though it’s hard to know exactly what to make of this show just yet. It was heavily advertised during the Superbowl and since then, and a show like this which involves such a transformative start for its characters is going to require a bit of time to get used to. It is great to see that all three actresses have been cast in appropriate roles, with Hendricks getting to come alive and speak her mind in a way that she never could in her most famous part, though she’s also breaking out of her shell after being the compliant housewife for so many years who didn’t realize that her husband, played by Matthew Lillard, was cheating on her. Retta is more serious than she ever was in the parks department, and she’s also the one whose character has the best relationship out of the gate, with her husband only being guilty of too much ambition, and his latest career step is going to be a problem for his criminal wife. Whitman, who I remember as early as thirteen years ago when she was a spectacular part of “Thief,” as a teenager, is the outlier in terms of these women and where they are in life, but it’s a great role that she’ll surely do very well with. I recognized David Hornsby from “How to Be a Gentleman,” something that certainly does not describe his predatory manager here, but it looks like he’s not long for this world given his latest predicament. This was an intriguing and inventive start, and I’m hopeful that it will continue to be good as its plot progresses.

How will it work as a series? Opting to rob the store where Whitman’s Annie worked probably wasn’t a smart idea, but they also didn’t expect to grab mob money that’s now gotten them in very deep with the wrong people. I’m curious to see how they’re able to make their new situation work, and I think exploring their lives without featuring too many fabricated close calls will be what can keep this show strong.
How long will it last? It doesn’t look like the reviews for this one are as good as I had expected, though again it’s going to depend on where it goes from here and if it holds on to its audience. Thanks I imagine largely to the promotion and to being after the season premiere of “The Voice,” this show is off to a great start, one that I think will give it enough momentum to have a renewal announced very soon.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: Living Biblically

Living Biblically (CBS)
Premiered February 26 at 9:30pm

It’s sometimes very easy to tell what network a new pilot is airing on if you’ve momentarily forgotten what channel you’re watching, and while it’s not always correct, there are some clear indicators. This show is a CBS sitcom through-and-through, one that starts at an impossible idea – a man trying to live strictly by the doctrine of the bible – and tries to turn it into something that could be funny. While CBS does have its hits, like “The Big Bang Theory,” there are also series like “Two and a Half Men” or “2 Broke Girls” that go on way, way too long and really aren’t about very much that should be worth making a TV show into, let alone one that could run up to twelve seasons. For me, the most egregious part of this half-hour is that the protagonist is supposed to be a film critic in Manhattan. This isn’t the first CBS show in recent years about a film critic – “Accidentally on Purpose” was another – and I do wish there would be some legitimate content about what that career is like. I’d also like to think that most of what I write is infinitely better than any line of dialogue in this debut episode, which finds few laughs but tries very hard to milk them as often as possible, starting with the priest cracking up at Chip’s desire to follow every rule. Jokes about “it’s just locker room talk” and “how is it that I’m single and he has a wife and a mistress” fall flat, and there’s really not much that works about this show, which features Jay R. Ferguson, who I’ll always remember from the terrible “Glory Days” but who should now probably be billed first with “Mad Men” on his resumé, Lindsay Kraft from “Grace and Frankie,” Camryn Manheim from “The Practice” and “Waco,” Ian Gomez from “Cougar Town” and “Supergirl,” David Krumholtz from “Numb3rs,” and, puzzingly, Sara Gilbert from “24” and “Roseanne” in a hopelessly annoying role that doesn’t do her talents justice. We also briefly saw Oscar nominee June Squibb from “Nebraska” as Mrs. Murphy. Krumholtz’s rabbi struggled to find a punchline to his joke about the four of them finding themselves in a bar, a good representation of what this show tries and fails to do.

How will it work as a series? So far, Chip has avoided mixing fabrics and threw a rock at someone’s head so that he didn’t have to tell a lie. I feel like this show is shooting for some completely ungraspable aims that can’t compare to something like “My Name is Earl,” where each episode is formulaic and involves deliberate abstinence from or correction of one behavior. I don’t see that sort of determination and structure here.
How long will it last? Predictably, the reviews aren’t great. What matters much more on CBS, however, are the ratings, especially since it’s part of the Monday night comedy block which, while not as highly-watched as Thursday’s shows, still demands high viewership numbers that this series just didn’t bring in with its debut airing. Unless it really proves popular for its religious premise, I’d say this one will be gone by the summer if not long before.

Pilot grade: F

What I’m Watching: iZombie (Season Premiere)

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 1 “Are You Ready for Some Zombies?” (B+)

I’m very excited to have this show back on television, because it makes me nervous every year when the CW renews almost its entire lineup and then waits to bring this show back until midseason. After the game-changing season three finale, we’re introduced to a whole new Seattle, and I’m very impressed with how everything is being done. The city being walled means that everyone within it is on a collision course, but fortunately Chase is putting methods into place, like the guillotine for zombies who scratch humans, to prevent chaos. Putting Major’s youth counseling experience to work was a great idea, though I don’t think he realized that he was recruiting new members of Chase’s army. I love that Liv is so readily identified as a zombie now and that Clive can explain that she sampled some of the victim’s brain so that she can get clues to his murder. Visions are happening and recognizable in public, but apparently they’re not admissible in court. I’m glad that this episode was still focused on Liv being affected by the brain she was eating, going full-on sports fanatic while Ravi hilariously practiced the nudist lifestyle of the supplier of his brain in front of anyone who happened to be around. While Blaine is behaving pretty well, his angry father is up to no good, taking apart that human preacher and preparing to set off an all-out war while everything else is going pretty much as smoothly as it could be elsewhere. I can’t wait to see where the new season of this “rom-com-zom-dram” takes us.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 12 “The Curse of the Earth Totem” (B+)

I found myself writing a lot last year about how this show and “Timeless” would feature famous characters from literature and history, and with that show returning in less than two weeks, I’m finding myself more and more impressed with how this series manages to feature people like Helen of Troy and Blackbeard, committed more than anything to have fun. The timeline will either be corrected eventually or ruptured irreparably, and these characters just want to enjoy playing pirates and exploring life in other times more than being concerned about the fate of the world. Rip and Wally getting drunk, pantsing Gary, and singing karaoke in 1992 Tokyo instead of getting to work right away on combating Dahrk. There’s also a sense that the big bad guy himself is trying to prolong things, urging his resuscitated daughter not to kill Ray because he might prove valuable down the road. I’m sure Ray is going to catch lots of flak for saving Nora, but he did manage to get Amaya’s totem back, which is a big win for the team. I suspected that Amaya’s portrayer, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, must be British when they had her pretending to be a British pirate, something that shows love to do when circumstances permit. I liked that Blackbeard was a coward more than happy to let Captain Jewe take charge, and he didn’t even try to resist interrogation by Dahrk. Sara’s date with Ava was awkward and ended poorly, and naturally them making out passionately would result in pirates boarding the ship via a time portal. I’d love to see the team return to the Bermuda Triangle and experience more than just a ship system malfunction.

What I’m Watching: Divorce

Divorce: Season 2, Episode 7 “Going, Going…Gone” (B+)

This episode saw the brutal deterioration of a few relationships while others took off in unexpected ways. Frances bidding on precious artistic relics with Andrew at the start of the episode as she prepared for Sylvia’s show didn’t end the way she expected at all, with Andrew fuming that she had lied about how her marriage ended when she could have confessed to cheating, which wouldn’t necessarily have gone any better, and Sylvia poached by the gallery owner who was essentially her idol and not feeling the least bit guilty about not even talking to her about it since it meant that their business partnership was now going to be completely dissolved. At least she might have a date with Skip Zakarian to look forward to, though I suspect she’ll be angry enough at him for snatching up Sylvia that she’ll either not go (though I’m sure she will) or she’ll just let him have it rather than trying to actually pursue it as a romance. Robert’s relationship with Jackie seems to be a bit more stable, since their successful animal-disposal at the open house led to ideas of working together, and though Jackie is a whole lot like Frances in certain ways, I think she’s a better fit for her Robbie who should be able to get through these hurdles. Nick buying Diane the unpopular Peltz was sweet and hopefully something she’ll actually appreciate, and I didn’t think that his response to her complaining was going to be something so kind. Dallas has also found herself at the start of a surprising new romantic possibility, one that she was ready to give up on but isn’t so ready to give up on her. I sincerely hope that the next episode isn’t the last one we’ll see of this show – as someone who didn’t love it at the start, I do think it’s improved considerably and is worthy of much more exploration!

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 7, Episode 3 “Standoff” (C-)

I do ask myself more and more these days why I still watch this show since I believe that it’s lost just about everything that used to make it so good and shows no signs of heading in the right direction with its latest developments. I’ve never been a fan of off-the-rails Carrie and how long it takes for her to get back to believing in herself when she’s experiencing a mental breakdown while being legitimately on the right track of the truth that no one else believes. After getting very upset with her when she tried to force him to go on the record when he wasn’t ready, Dante is now back and more than happy to share the findings he has about Sandrine Holt’s Simone Martin and her crucial connection to Wellington, eager to prescribe Carrie some cold medication so that she can get back to normal. Carrie’s impulsive decision to break into her apartment when she was out went bad right away when she got stopped by the cops and refused to give her name, and Dante showing up to bail her out seemed to mitigate most of the damage, especially since he was willing to talk to her and to listen to what she was going through. Throughout all of this, I’m becoming more and more convinced that Wellington is being framed since he’s constantly suggesting less severe solutions to Keane like letting O’Keefe go and considering recommended military action, and she just won’t listen. The problem is that she doesn’t seem to be responsible either, so the two most powerful people in the White House are probably being played like puppets, which doesn’t exactly seem realistic. Saul really should have led with his disdain for the president when approaching O’Keefe, since now the situation has gotten very bad and is sure to escalate in unfortunate ways sooner than later.

Monday, February 26, 2018

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 1, Episode 6 “Act Like You've Been Here Before” (B+)

At first, I didn’t find this episode to be all that enthralling, but its second half proved to be far more intriguing and worthwhile. Spotlighting some of the brooding insurgency and arrests of suspects isn’t as interesting as looking at what our characters on both sides are doing, and that’s why getting back to see how both Howards are responding to the events around them was very welcome. Ian bringing Howard in to interrogate him produced unexpected results, with Howard appearing to be an incredible liar as he calmly denied knowing anything about what he was asked and then took on the role he knew he was supposed to play by baiting Ian and telling him that he was just like his other. Emily burst in as soon as she found out what was happening, and I like that when she told Howard to see if he could find that low profile they were talking about, he shot back with the response “Would he go?” and then demanded Ian give him a gun. Back on the other side, Howard’s butcher contact is dead, and while he knows that Peter isn’t the one who did it, Aldrich and Cyrus do seem convinced that he’s the mole, while he’s made his own surprising discovery that puts his wife under suspicion. It’s good to see that Baldwin is having positive experiences after watching her other’s funeral and confronting Clare with the waitress she was flirting with, who’s showing her compassion and reminding her of the humanity that might help convince her to switch sides.

Pilot Review: Seven Seconds

Seven Seconds (Netflix)
Premiered February 23

Though Netflix premieres at least one new show almost every week, most of them aren’t actually original series debuting for the first time. This, however, is one of the exceptions, the third in 2018 for the popular streaming service. It’s not a wholly original concept, of course, based on a 2013 Russian film, but it’s very specifically adapted for American audiences. Race is a major issue in today’s society, especially when it comes to police bias against African-American communities that leads to the all-too-frequent use of deadly force. This series chalks up a true accident to something that could bring down every white cop in the country as symbolic revenge for the vindications of a number of police officers accused of shooting unarmed black people. The problem is that things have already progressed too far, with Mike Diangelo, played by David Lyons, villainous as ever following his memorable “Revolution” run, proceeding immediately to cover up fellow officer Peter Jablonski running young Brenton Buller over in the snow and pinning the blame on an innocent scapegoat. The fact that Jablonski wanted to turn himself in and even showed up at the hospital in a hoodie looking very suspicious to ask Brenton’s mother if he was going to make it demonstrates that he’s going to be more of a problem for Diangelo then what would have happened. Casting Regina King from “The Leftovers” and “American Crime” as Brenton’s mother, Latrice, opposite Russell Hornsby from “Fences” as his father, suggests that they’re going to give the police department hell until they get serious answers for what’s going to be done. Also in the cast is Michael Mosley from “Scrubs” and “Sirens,” and Clare-Hope Ashitey from “Children of Men” as the prosecutor incapable of coming into court with the right case in mind and staying awake at the wheel. There are elements of this show that are intriguing, but the way in which it’s assembled and presented on screen doesn’t prove terribly impressive or inviting.

How will it work as a series? Jablonski showing up at the hospital was a truly dumb move, and it’s going to get him implicated in whatever’s to come, with Diangelo playing a strong defense and two relatively hapless lawyers fighting the aggressive police on one side and the angry family on the other. It could be explosive and interesting, but I don’t think it will be coherent or compelling enough to truly work well.
How long will it last? Netflix is flush with programming and reticent about sharing data on what’s being watched. The reviews for this show have been mostly positive if not overwhelmingly so, and its timely nature should be its best asset. A renewal is likely given that Netflix renews a good portion of its programming, and those chances are increased if season two is going to have a different focus that could be even more appealing to viewers.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 4, Episode 3 “The Tappy” (B)

This was an altogether silly episode, with Frankie now invested in helping Sheree in her house situation with her stepkids, one of whom was played by Dan Bucatinsky, best known for his Emmy win for guest-starring on “Scandal.” Grace having to crawl through the doggy door led to a far more impressive performance from Frankie as a prospective new owner and Grace as the real estate agent whose back was definitely acting up. Finding the letter seems to have resolved the problem for now, and I’m not sure if that means Shereee will be moving out, but I assume that she’ll continue to be a player on the show, especially given the debt that she now owes to Grace and Frankie for helping her. Robert forgetting to thank Saul in his Tappy acceptance speech was a predictable turn of events that just made things worse following Saul’s suggestion that he made it a Vanessa Redgrave moment, a historical happening that I now realize didn’t mean what I had thought it had by reading short excerpts of it. There was nothing positive about Briana spying on Barry via the cameras in her home while he was watching her dog, and I’d much rather not see her relegated to this kind of obsessiveness since she’s one of this show’s characters mostly because she rejects so much of what normal people do, and this felt awfully unsophisticated and petty for someone who usually doesn’t care nearly that much about anything that happens in her life.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What I’m Watching: The End of the F***ing World

The End of the F***ing World: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

James finally got the chance to kill a real person, and Alyssa turned out to be the one who was able to be cool under pressure, suggesting that James really isn’t the serial killer he always thought he was. They had a great plan to make sure that whoever discovered Clive’s body knew that he was a terrible person, but leaving Topher’s wallet there meant that the investigators on the case immediately found out that two kids named Alyssa and James were squatting in the house and likely responsible for his murder. I did not recognize Eunice as Gemma Whelan, best known as Yara Greyjoy on “Game of Thrones,” whose investigator clearly thinks there’s much more of a relationship with her colleague than Teri believes. I’m not sure if Alyssa and James being apart rather than together gives them a better shot at not being found, but it’s definitely not a good development for either of them since they’re going to be experiencing misery alone. Alyssa seemed most upset about the knife while James was looking at himself and considering whether he was actually the person he thought he was, and his idea to take an off-peak train in the height of all this chaos hardly seemed helpful. I don’t know how they’ll reach or find each other, but I have to assume that they’ll soon be reunited. James calling the police to report a murder was an intriguing move, one that is unlikely to have positive consequences for either of them.

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 7 “Matrimonium” (B+)

There are two characters on this show who are both regal entities that are technically described by this show’s title, even though Queen Elizabeth is rightly the focus most of the time. Philip and Margaret are both portrayed as extremely selfish, relegated in their behavior by strict rules yet not gifted the same power as the queen to do what they want. Granted, Elizabeth must do plenty that she doesn’t want to and greets her responsibilities with far more maturity, but it is easy to understand where the resentment comes from for both of them. Margaret getting a letter that Peter was getting married prompted her to make a suggestion to Tony that led to them having the opportunity to steal his thunder and beat him to the punch. Margaret making Elizabeth promise that she wouldn’t do anything to stand in the way of them getting married made sense given earlier events, and if only her pregnancy being bigger and more important news had been the extent of her objection. Finding out that he had so many affairs going on was devastating for Elizabeth, who really didn’t want to disappoint her sister, and their exchange in which she didn’t share nearly as much as she could have with Margaret was pretty unpleasant. In a rare display of uncouth flirtation that we saw hinted at for the first time at the end of the last episode, Philip telling Elizabeth that her toes are the second best thing about her after something that’s really two things led to a very unexpected mimicking of milking that hardly seems befitting of the queen.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

What I’m Watching: Longmire (Series Finale)

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 10 “Goodbye is Always Implied”

This is it – the end of a show that manages to live as long on a second network as it did on a first while attracting an unusually older audience. Though there have been a few very intense episodes this season, we didn’t get much of that in this episode aside from the capture of Nighthorse and Henry by Malachi and then Nighthorse nearly getting himself hanged before Walt did the right thing and decided to save him. There were a number of close calls and everyone ended up getting a bit banged up, but ultimately it all worked out. Seeing Malachi and taking him down helped bring closure to everything Walt has worked so hard for, and though it’s hardly the most monumental accomplishment, it was enough to compel him to turn in his badge and ease himself into retirement. Him kissing Vic caught me by surprise, but it was a clearly welcome gesture, and even though I’ve never been a huge advocate of them getting together, it’s nice to see them pair up. Cady sticking around Wyoming to run for sheriff is fitting, especially since it leaves the door open for a potential spinoff with the same name (though rumors of any continuation have died down recently), and it allows her a happy ending with the newest reinstated deputy, Zach. And even Ferg, dressed in a tuxedo and inspired by his future mother-in-law, may have won back Meg. Ruby being reluctant to lend Vic her car because it smelled like fast food the last time she did makes me wish that we got to know her better, but at least Nighthorse earned himself a worthwhile sendoff, helping Walt prove that he is good after all in the process. Henry becoming the manager of the casino, ethically conducting business that he otherwise wouldn’t normally be interested in, makes a lot of sense. I’ve enjoyed this show from the start, and I feel like this is a perfectly great ending that wraps up a show that never felt over-the-top or extraneous.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Katee Sackhoff as Vic
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Katee Sackhoff
Best Season: All
Best Episode: “Unfinished Business

Friday, February 23, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 10 “Virtue of the Vicious” (B+)

I don’t typically see the need for time-stamped episodes that piece information together one fragmented scene at a time, especially when a series doesn’t typically employ them. But in this case it turned out to be very effective, showing how far we’ve come with four main characters all playing parts and sharing what they’re really up to with pretty much no one. Karen showing up to interview Senator Ori and speaking to Billy beforehand gave us a bit of conversation about gun control that I’ve been noticing more and more as it becomes a front-and-center issue in contemporary society, even though this episode was of course released back in November. The fact that Karen didn’t use her gun until Lewis was holding her hostage with the bomb demonstrated that it really seemed to be a last resort, and Frank got shot a whole bunch of times before he ziplined out of the building following Karen’s remark that he wouldn’t storm a place without having a way out. Both Dinah and Frank have now realized Billy’s true colors, and let’s hope they start talking quickly, and loop a conspicuously absent David in, so that they can prevent Billy from hunting them down or, worse, villainizing them any more before they take action. While this definitely didn’t look good for Frank, this was one hell of a job on his part, and it’s always astonishing watching him walk around fearlessly and talk so bluntly to the late Lewis, unafraid of what will come next since he’s been so close to dead so many times before.

What I’m Watching: Waco

Waco: Season 1, Episode 5 “Stalling for Time” (B+)

I didn’t realize that there was only one installment left in this series – I thought there were eight – but I guess that makes sense given how this one ended, with Tony practically authorizing Mitch to storm the place after the latest escalation. We’re seeing just how Gary is being boxed out of his own negotiations, with Mitch opting to employ psychological warfare tactics that Tony laughed off as something he had never even heard of during the press conference. As the patience of the lawmen outside the compound is wearing then, so is David’s, as he dismissed Gary as illegitimate because he didn’t believe in God and then started lashing out at his own followers. Steve has the primary voice of reason so far, and I imagine that he wouldn’t have any problem with letting someone like Thibodeau leave when he actually asked to, and not just banishing someone who had been caught drinking to accompany a woman who wanted to leave to be with her youngest child, who had been separated from his brothers because he came from a different father. In all this, we’re hearing some interesting conversations about gun control that feel even more relevant given how prominent it’s become in the past two weeks in real life. While I’ve started to notice this on a number of shows I’m currently watching, it’s especially important here because the fact that they were converting semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons, which was illegal except with a permit, begs the question that continues to dominate this whole standoff: if this group did nothing wrong, what exactly did they need all that firepower for?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season Finale)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 1, Episode 8 “Thank You and Good Night” (B+)

That’s a wrap on the first year of the freshest new comedy of the season, which is a real feat considering it’s set in the 1950s. Joel gave Midge a pretty hard time for eating so much when he showed up for the birthday party, and it seems like that was just his way of flirting. Their exploits were entertaining, starting with Midge’s confession that she used to partly unhook her own bra and ending in her freaking out in the morning after they fell asleep and he had to sneak out the window. They both really seemed to think that they were getting back together, though there were a few parties that weren’t quite as jazzed about it as they were. I love that Susie asked who Joel was since his name was such an insignificant part of everything. Penny showing up to the department store was bold, and Midge handled it as well as she could have. Abe’s response was probably the funniest since he didn’t want more of this blowing back on him and his own marriage to Rose. Susie going to Lenny for help was a smart idea, one that worked wonderfully, though the timing of Midge’s return to the stage and Joel hearing that recording of her act couldn’t have been worse. The happiness that Joel felt at their wedding was replaced by a true fury that she had stolen what was important to him and was making fun of their marriage on stage in front of strangers, but he obviously still loves her enough to punch a guy for heckling her. This has been a wonderful start, and I look forward to much more of this next year in season two and beyond.

Season grade: A-

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 3, Episode 5 “The Boat” (B-)

More than anything this season, we’re seeing our characters experience delusion and see other people’s faces when they’re talking to them. So much for Edie’s investigation and getting close to Nate, who was so excited to see Robin at the end of the last episode but now just left her for nearly a year to go work on a fishing boat. Leave it to him to not ask any questions about the salary of “up to” $150,000, resulting in him nearly throwing up every day and experiencing a whole lot of cabin fever for a pretty low salary that definitely wasn’t worth that much. The crystal meth also contributed considerably to the whole thing, helping him to hallucinate his children when he was trying to cheer himself up with some high quality visioning. This show must be a lot of fun to film, particularly in this episode when Robin stood in for his opponent and then got replaced by Vanessa when Nate heard him challenge his dedication to his family. I’m not sure what episodes like this really accomplishes, though I suppose the idea is that there are infinite detours on their path towards prosperity and happiness and, eventually, their latest arrest and court case. I prefer the antics back on land, if not the mainland, with the whole family together and Edie getting closer and closer to taking down the Parker family once and probably not for all. We still have the season left, so let’s get things as focused as they can be on this singularly derailed show.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Pilot Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles

The Frankenstein Chronicles (Netflix)
Premiered February 20

I wouldn’t normally watch a show with a title like this, but its genre classification on IMDB and my desire to sample every show on television led me to give it a try. Here’s the second straight show and the latest in a handful that aired its original run a few years ago, though this one is a bit more recent since season two just premiered this past fall on ITV Encore in England after the first season aired in late 2015. This show is most notable for two reasons: its title which adapts Mary Shelley’s famous “Frankenstein” in a different way with her as a character, and star Sean Bean, best known for his crucial role on “Game of Thrones.” This show definitely goes for gruesome in its thematic content, though what it actually shows on screen isn’t nearly as graphic as a number of other series have been recently. This does feel very dated, a far less flashy version of something like “Taboo” or “The Alienist” that aims to look the part rather than enhance its setting with striking imagery or visuals. This first episode didn’t qualify as horror, which I consider a plus, though given the nature of what he’s investigating and how things were often perceived at that time, I can imagine that subsequent installments may be considerably eerier and darker, especially since Bean’s Inspector Marlott seems to be haunted by his own demons. The opening scene was disturbing and intriguing, and I was curious to see where the investigation would take Marlott by the end of the hour. Unfortunately, it took a predictable route into less-than-engaging darkness, which is enough for me to say that this isn’t for me.

How will it work as a series? Marlott isn’t making friends in his search for answers, and I assume he’ll only encounter more enemies and unfriendly allies along the way. That could prove very isolating, especially considering the miserable and unsettling nature of what it is that he’s searching for. It could be easy to drown in this show, which needs to maintain a certain pacing to keep its audience interested.
How long will it last? This show was very well-received when it was first premiered on ITV Encore, and the fact that a second season aired two years later suggests that the network thought it was worthwhile enough to launch even after such a long time. Netflix opted to release both seasons in full on the same day, presumably hoping for some binge-watching. I haven’t read anything about a third season in the works, but I assume that if it’s successful here, that could be in the cards.

Pilot grade: B-

Pilot Review: X Company

X Company (Ovation)
Premiered February 19 at 10pm

Here we have the latest international series to make its United States debut after it has already finished a multi-season run in its home country. In this case, that’s Canada, where this show premiered on CBC almost exactly three years ago and aired its season three series finale just about a year ago. This show is notable for being one of the few weekly television series to feature Nazis as the main villains, and one that isn’t set in an alternate universe where they won World War II but instead during that fateful time. Spotlighting a team of Canadian specialists sent into the field to go undercover and take out Nazi targets has a certain appeal, I suppose, but the risk that a show like this faces is that each mission can’t be too monumental since we all know how history went, and watching targets force young girls to keep their arms raised for hours as punishment for insurgent behavior is hardly a comfortable practice. There were four very recognizable faces in this episode who have all shown up on different TV shows in the past few years, though many of those American appearances were actually after they starred in this show given how long ago its initial run was. Évelyne Brochu, best known as Delphine on “Orphan Black,” is the most notable, though she didn’t get to do much here other than flip between accents and cross her arms defiantly in a seemingly far too obvious signal not to blow the bridge. Dustin Milligan was a highly entertaining part of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” and now he’s relegated to a far less interesting role. Though he appears to be dead, François Arnaud should be familiar for playing Oscar on “Blindspot” and his starring role on the recently-renewed “Midnight, Texas.” And it’s no surprise to see Canadian mainstay Hugh Dillon from the likes of “Flashpoint” and “The Killing” in an important supporting role. Those familiar actors can’t do much to make this show, which often feels like a less flashy and only slightly more convincing version of “The Monuments Men,” truly enticing.

How will it work as a series? This first mission seemed pretty intense, and now there’s a new recruit who is definitely not what anyone would consider field-ready going very deep into the next one. Again, the biggest issue here is stakes since they’ll likely be impossibly high on an episodic basis, making it difficult to become fully engaged since their successes can’t be all that significant.
How long will it last? While Ovation is going to air the show in the United States, this is a Canadian production, one that has already enjoyed a successful three-season run in its home country. As long as American audiences take to it the same way their Canadian neighbors have, then those three seasons can have a similarly productive run here stateside too.

Pilot grade: B-

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 11 “Here We Go Again” (B+)

Here we go – back to something that makes sense, the requisite time loop episode which involves one character repeating the same day over and over again while struggling to convince everyone else that she’s not crazy. The important difference is that she didn’t know the pop culture keywords of “Groundhog Day” or the “Cause and Effect” episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to trigger Nate and Ray into instantly knowing what they had to do. Her antics aboard the ship were entertaining, as she heard Nate and Amaya having some very passionate, animal-enhanced sex before wiping their own memories, read the entirety of Mick’s sci-fi erotica, and watched Sara video-chatting with Ava while admitting that she was only hard on Zari because she did like her. It was a useful explanation to know that Gary, stuck in a trash compactor, was the one creating the time loop with a device made specifically for that purpose. Of course, that wasn’t what it really was, since Gideon had inserted her into her own simulation, and I’d actually argue that I like simulation episodes, like those featured on “Person of Interest,” more than time-loop ones. Now that they’re all reunited and Zari isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, we’re back to the non-Mallus problem at hand, which is that Rip is running wild trying to accomplish whatever he’s supposed to, which involves a new addition to this cast, someone we’ve seen before, but not recently, on another CW show, “The Flash,” none other than speedster Wally West.

What I’m Watching: Divorce

Divorce: Season 2, Episode 6 “Losing It” (B+)

I didn’t realize that this season is only eight episodes after the first featured ten, and I’m worried that this will soon become the latest underrated HBO comedy to be cancelled after just a few short seasons. This episode demonstrated just how great this show has become, with Robert walking in on Tom having sex with Ella in the bathroom and then trying to figure out how to deal with it in consultation with the important women in his life. Jackie was really not very fazed by it, perfectly and loudly blunt in public about her progressive sex talk with her daughter, leading Robert to the inadvisable decision to suggest to Ella that she had much more experience than Tom and should take it easy with him. I love that Robert and Frances went to their marriage counselor, who didn’t realize they were divorced, to talk at her and discover that they had exactly the same ideas for how to deal with Tom’s sexually exploratory behavior. Frances literally chasing Tom to have a sex talk was pretty funny, but not nearly as much as her getting caught on the trampoline with Andrew much to Robert’s gloating delight. Diane trying to get Dallas into her club led to some interesting antics on Diane’s part with her tumble down the stairs, but I found Dallas’ accidental run-in with Jackie much more enjoyable, especially since she managed to turn it into her own spontaneous therapy session that played out like so many frustrated patients’ experiences do in film and television, with the therapist literally saying nothing.

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 7, Episode 2 “Rebel Rebel” (C-)

I don’t understand where all this is headed and what the point of it all is. In August 2016, this show was renewed for two more seasons, which means that there’s still another season after this one! Keane is starting not to seem quite as totalitarian as she’s so far appeared this season, but Wellington is still not being as open and honest as he should be with his newly released and appointed national security adviser. Saul was right to insist that he wouldn’t be a blind cheerleader for all of Keane’s policies, and Wellington respectfully requested that he wasn’t a subversive leaker either. The fact that Keane doesn’t buy McClendon’s heart attack death but also has no information about it just means that there is so much illicit behavior going on and that no one anywhere can be trusted. Matt Servitto continues to be cast as slighted law enforcement following his memorable roles on “The Sopranos” and “Banshee,” and hopefully his Agent Maslin will be helpful to Saul in his discreet pursuit of O’Keefe. The fugitive radio host offered his own take on the Second Amendment, a hot topic in real-life news these days, insisting that resisting tyranny is the real reason for it, something that most gun owners probably wouldn’t argue is their number one argument for holding on to their weapons. Why he had to shoot himself in the head is beyond me. Carrie is back to her old ways going way too in to her operations with no one backing her, baiting the owner of the ransomware sexually and somehow compelling him to invite her to where he was. Threatening him with her CIA status should be far from intimidating given how easy it was for him to lock her files, but I guess that’s what you get sometimes on this show which has lost sense of what it means to have compelling storylines.

Monday, February 19, 2018

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 1, Episode 5 “Shaking the Tree” (B+)

What an ending! This episode clearly demonstrated that not everything on this show is meant to thrill and create intrigue, but sometimes there is simple, powerful drama to be found in the human relationships that can exist between those on one side and either their others or the people in their others’ lives. When Howard told the other Emily that she knew him better than anyone else, she was quick to remind him that she isn’t the same as his Emily. And Anna, who I just now saw is played by Sarah Bolger, who I first encountered fifteen years ago in “In America,” was furious with her father for all of a sudden trying to take an interest, to which he smartly and emotionally asked her to pretend that he wasn’t her negligent father and to just tell him what he’s missed all these years. It’s going to be tough for him to go back when they do finally switch sides again, and fortunately his other is making some progress at determining who the players in his immediate vicinity are, while Pope is playing all sides and creating confusion for our Howard and their Emily. Heinrich found himself in a precarious position in this episode and doesn’t seem to be headed anywhere good, while Aldrich showed a gentler side of himself as they met both Alices. Emily also handed us an important piece of information about their side, which is that seven percent of the population was wiped out by a flu, which explains some of their lack of technological advances and certainly why there is less shopping.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season Finale)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3, Episode 13 “Nathaniel Is Irrelevant” (C+)

This was a disappointing finale. I felt like this show really achieved something this season once Rebecca acknowledged her depression and took steps to change her life, distancing completely from Josh and trying to keep things unemotional with Nathaniel so that she didn’t slip back into familiar dangerous behaviors. I knew that Trent wouldn’t be gone forever after last week, and unfortunately he didn’t even die now when Rebecca pushed him off a roof. He has contributed nothing positive to this show, and he worked so, so much better as a fake boyfriend even though that wasn’t a home run either. What we got here was a situation that legitimately made Rebecca look like a crazy person since the trio of Tim, Maya, and the suddenly returned George didn’t think it was weird that he was holding a knife over Nathaniel. And Nathaniel didn’t even hate Rebecca at all for what she had done, and just wanted her to get better, even breaking up with his girlfriend because of the strength of his feelings for her. I see no situation where Rebecca going to jail is a good direction for this show, and ending on her confession of guilt with everyone in her life behind her was an odd way to end, especially since a fourth season is far from guaranteed, though hopefully likely given the CW’s recent decision to expand back to Sunday night programming. Paula finally cutting Rebecca out of her life barely lasted ten minutes, and Heather gave birth without much fanfare thanks to the epidural, leading to White Josh’s return in which he seemed much more okay with babies than in the past. I just don’t think that this closer properly sums up the entire season, and it’s a sad way to leave this show in the middle of February.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Rachel Bloom

Pilot Review: Everything Sucks

Everything Sucks! (Netflix)
Premiered February 16

What the TV landscape surely needs now is another dramedy about high school misfits. I think there are few people, especially television characters, who would describe their high school years as a pleasant time, and therefore the question of why this show was made in the first place seems very relevant. Its 1990s setting doesn’t distinguish it nearly as much as the 1980s backdrop of “Stranger Things” does, and as a result it’s just another lackluster visit to an educational experience that many find miserable. I guess this is supposed to be like a new version of “Freaks and Geeks” where even the principal isn’t cool since his summer girlfriend and colleague felt the need to cruelly tell him that she didn’t find him physically attractive at all. His daughter is a moderately more interesting character, one who made friends with Luke and then stole a Maxim magazine from him, which made her start thinking that she’s attracted to women, which should make Luke’s romantic pursuit of her complicated. The drama audition scene was a little much, indicative of how this show seems to either underdraw its characters or overcompensate with others by having them be very over-the-top. Having its lead comment on how visitors come to Boring, Oregon just to take a picture with the sign and not even bother coming in doesn’t exactly recommend their environment, and I found little else of note on this unmemorable and pretty forgettable half-hour comedy that hardly represents the best of what Netflix has to offer programmatically.

How will it work as a series? Luke and Kate are friends but there’s more than either of them know involved in that dynamic, and they both have single parents who don’t exactly have wide social circles. The A/V club and the play are likely to be productive settings for antics that will help these characters discover who they are.
How long will it last? It’s Netflix, so ratings data is not transparent and sometimes not even relevant. The reviews for this one are mixed but generally a bit more favorable than mine, and the fact that people are comparing it, whether or not it’s in a positive way, to “Stranger Things” is likely to help rather than hurt its chances. I don’t know if a second season is likely but I certainly think it’s possible.

Pilot grade: C+

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 4, Episode 2 “The Scavengender Hunt” (B+)

What a horribly impatient bunch unwilling to indulge these expectant parents in their little game. Only Coyote, and Saul to an extent, got excited about the clues, and then the fact that the cake didn’t actually indicate the gender of the baby disappointed everyone. We did see some productive developments for all of the characters throughout this episode on other fronts, however. Robert made the decision that he’s too old to be running around protesting things every night, and Saul made a similar discovery when he came home unable to move his back without extreme effort. Barry took a job working for Brianna’s sworn nemesis and failed to pick up on the fact that she didn’t want him to take it, but I suspect that, with her sarcasm and generally emotionless nature, it won’t end up being too problematic for them. I can’t say the same for Frankie and Jacob, who are sure to have a strain put on their relationship due to their geographical separation. While I do find Lisa Kudrow’s Sheree to be irritating, I’m glad that there’s most to the story and that she’s determined to get Frankie to like her since she’s not stupid and she has noticed her obvious disdain. I’m still a fan of a Coyote-Mallory relationship, and therefore having Mallory find a great use for the eggs that he couldn’t fit in his tiny refrigerator before accidentally driving forward into Mitch’s fancy car was helpful in bringing them closer with this little secret.

Take Three: The End of the F***ing World

The End of the F***ing World: Season 1, Episode 3 (B+)

I really love the dueling narration on this show, with Alyssa and James having a conversation with the audience as if they’re speaking to each other, which they do only occasionally. Alyssa was quite skilled at figuring out which home was going to be safe to enter due to the lack of an obvious burglar alarm and the pile of mail sitting outside, though unfortunately that didn’t account for when the owner would return home. While they had the house to themselves, Alyssa wanted to do the adult thing and have a glass of wine, though unfortunately she took the fact that he was distracted during what should have bene an intimate sexual act by a picture as a sign that he wasn’t into her. She wasted no time at all finding Topher, whose name she didn’t respect, and then paraded him back inside before deciding that she wasn’t actually interested in sleeping with him. James developed a bit of emotion and was just standing there with the flowers in his hands when she walked in, a monumental choice given the plethora of duct tape and other material that could have been used in the murder he’s so hoping to execute that were in the closet. He did get to stab someone to death, and that was the predatory homeowner who wanted to take advantage of Alyssa, and now they’re going to be able to get close doing something James actually loves doing, which should prove to be very interesting to watch.

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 6 “Vergangenheit” (B+)

This show serves an impressive double function as dramatic entertainment and informative history lesson. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know what the contents of the secret document that was suppressed by King George and Churchill back in 1945, and the way in which it was revealed proved to be very effective. It was surprising to see John Lithgow back as Churchill just for a moment, especially since I and I’d assume most filmgoers now picture future Oscar winner Gary Oldman as the esteemed prime minister. What was contained in those documents did cast David in a particularly bad light, so obsessed with not going to war with Germany that he completely discounted everything that the Nazis and Hitler were doing. Ending the episode with the real-life photos was quite powerful. Elizabeth turning to Reverend Billy Graham, played by Paul Sparks, who is showing up everywhere these days, for guidance on forgiveness was very interesting, and her fascination with watching him on television led to an unexpected meeting, the kind that she likes to regularly arrange when she sees something that impresses her. She did skewer a furious David by angrily asking him how he could forgive himself. Philip coming home drunk to tell her that he had bonded with her mother and with Tommy over their connection through her and their respect for how she dismissed her uncle was a peculiar prelude to what may have turned into a night of romantic passion, but this is not one typical couple.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: Longmire (Penultimate Episode)

Longmire: Season 6, Episode 9 “Running Eagle Challenge” (B+)

It’s hard to believe there’s just one episode left on this show, and I’m glad that I saved these two for a bit later after getting through most of the season a month ago. This wasn’t a huge epic hour much like many that we’ve seen throughout the years and particularly earlier this season, but instead one that played out typically slowly and without much fanfare. We got a visit from Boston-based FBI Agent Vance, played by Jon Tenney from “The Closer,” who was more than happy to work with Walt to help track down Malachi and employ their clever plan to embed a cell phone in the heroin that they made sure to announce was being transferred on the radio. Another notable guest star, John Doman from “Person of Interest,” showed up as Vic’s father, who was ready to pack her up and bring her back to Philadelphia even though she had no intention of leaving. Having her learn how to ride a horse and how to canoe so that she could participate in Henry’s tribal triathlon was a bit random, but it seems to have helped her work through things, prompting her not to quit but to ask Walt for a raise, pledging her allegiance to the job but determined to be recognized for her efforts. Cady and Zach do make a good couple, and it was nice that Cady went to her father not to yell at him but to recommend that he hire the devoted would-be cop. Let’s hope for a memorable and fitting series finale next!

What I’m Watching: The Punisher

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 9 “Front Toward Enemy” (B+)

I was a bit confused when I sat down to watch this episode after taking a month off since I remembered that Lewis had started to go off the deep end but been much less certain of where he was headed and how he was going to relate to the main plotline. We got that answer in the opening moments of this episode with the three explosions he set off in an attempt to be the latest antihero to take a stand against what he believes to be unjust. Targeting Karen as his enemy and Frank as his ally was intriguing, and both of them weren’t shy about sharing what they thought of what he was doing. Karen did it publicly on the radio, while Frank starting talking down to him when he saw what he had done to Curtis and how he was somehow villainizing a Marine who served his country while trying to prove what he felt. While his beside manor leaves something to be desired, it appears to have worked since he told him which wire to cut to save Curtis’ life. While that crisis was handled for the time being, the bigger issue is that Frank’s face is out there and everyone now knows that he’s still alive. David going to see Dinah just then was probably helpful since now she’ll be able to work with them, but they have just about everything going against them which means that they’ll have to trust each other in order to be able to survive.

What I’m Watching: Waco

Waco: Season 1, Episode 4 “Of Milk and Men” (B+)

This series is definitely painting Gary as the only person, aside from Rodriguez of course, on the side of the law who is bothering to try to see the Branch Davidians as human beings. Talking to Balenda and having a child tell him that they can’t call her mother because they killed her makes him much more sensitive, but he’s also framed that way in comparison to Mitch and Tony, who are calculating and just want to find a way to get home before Christmas. Milk being the centerpoint of the negotiations in this episode seemed simple enough, but even that involved contradictions like wanting the children to be sent out, and the unfortunate fact that the bugged delivery picked up David and Steve’s conversation about drinking the milk, further indicating to Mitch and Tony that these people couldn’t be trusted. Tony did reveal that they’re purposely filtering information from getting out, like the video in which Rachel lamented the death of her father. Steve is a smart, level-headed individual for Gary to be talking to, but ultimately he’s going to continue to be driven by his faith in the God that he believes spoke to David, a man he confessed to not liking all that much though he accepts him as a prophet. The power being cut just after they saw Balenda making an appeal to her son to come out and return to his real family was a dramatic way to end the episode and indicate no much progress in bringing this standoff to a peaceful end anytime soon.

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 1, Episode 7 “Put That on Your Plate!” (B+)

It’s been over a month since I last watched this show, and now that I’m caught up enough on my newly-aired TV, I’m catching back up on all the Netflix and Amazon series I was watching too. This is the penultimate episode of this show that was already renewed for a second season before the first one started, and it’s just as good as ever. The opening montage with Midge workshopping her jokes and improving them to increased laughter and approval from Susie was very effective, and it’s clear just how much she takes events and interactions from her personal life and just finds a way to tell them that’s funny. Meeting Jane Lynch’s famous comedienne was eye-opening since the life she lives at home is so different from the unglamorous fat suit she dons during her routine, and Midge wasn’t at all convinced that women need to have a character in order to be taken seriously on stage. Her experience at Sophie’s mansion was really something, and that fur coat she made her take caused quite the scene with Rose during synagogue services. Deciding to change up her routine to vent her frustrations about her mother and reveal Sophie’s secret life was a bad idea, and now Harry is furious at both her and Susie. Joel remembering the glory days of his bar mitzvah only to wake up in his parents’ home was a sobering introduction to his very mature budget proposal for Abe that didn’t factor in any living expenses for him. I enjoyed Abe hearing every word of Midge and Imogene’s conversation and refusing to call Imogene anything other than Doty even after realizing that it wasn’t her name.

Friday, February 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 3, Episode 4 “The Goal” (B+)

It’s hard sometimes to understand how this show is narratively constructed, but that doesn’t stop it from being very entertaining on a regular basis. I loved that this episode was told from the perspective once again of Edie, who of course would be wearing a shirt that said “Ass Coach” since that was the appropriate abbreviation for her assistant position. She’s definitely gone way over the line in her relationship with Nate, falling for him to the point that she was singing a love song straight to him, something that both of his kids caught onto, and she was having a very vivid sex dream about Nate that had her making quite a bit of noise in the same room as all the kids. Setting this in Alaska with Nate and Edie drinking outside while it was very bright in the middle of the night helped to make it all seem even more ridiculous than usual. Edie’s dream was great, painting Robin as a needy wife who couldn’t compare in any way to Edie. Robin showing up at the end for Nate to run into her arms while she was trying to serenade him seemed to sting a lot, and I think that’s going to be the turning point in this investigation, prompting Edie to be less favorable in her treatment of the Parker family. For physical comedy, nothing beats Jareb falling repeatedly on the ice because he couldn’t remember to take off his skate guards and then still wasn’t able to stand up and move properly on the ice.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 10 “Daddy Darkhest” (C+)

This is hardly the episode that I would have chosen for this series’ return to television after two months off the air and the start of nine straight weeks of new episodes. I don’t love when this show gets too supernatural since I much prefer its science fiction elements, and involving Constantine and exorcisms was an unfortunate diversion. Mallus sending half the team back to January 1969 made for some quick thinking on the part of these frequent time travelers, though Snart trying to leave a note about time travel in a mental hospital predictably didn’t go over well when he got caught. A near-instant lobotomy was fortunately averted, though I can’t understand why Sara and Constantine had to make out and then have sex. I much more enjoyed Nora, Ray, and Zari playing Heads Up while Mick was too busy trying to watch a football game to provide some much-needed backup. Amaya and Kuasa are bonding, now having developed some sort of understanding that means they won’t harm each other, while Nora was unfortunately reunited with her evil immortal father. I was very sad to see Snart go, especially since he was trying to convince Sara that Ava was flirting with her and he made Mick a tiny bit emotive. The news that Rip has escaped is intriguing but not altogether clear, since I don’t remember him being perceived as a villain last time we saw him but I do know that he may be even more reckless than the Legends are at the moment.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pilot Review: Private Eyes

Private Eyes (Ion)
Premiered February 11 at 9pm

It’s rare that a show premieres in one country and then takes almost a full two years to reach an American audience. That’s the case with this Canadian series, originally broadcast on Global beginning in May 2016 and now airing weekly on Ion, a network known for acquiring and showing popular Canadian and American series. This series is notable because it stars Jason Priestley, best known for “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Call Me Fitz.” This show is definitely one that bills itself primarily as entertainment, devoid of true stakes and seriousness and instead just set on providing audiences a good time. Priestley’s cleverly-named Matt Shade is certainly over-the-top, nearly talking his way out of being caught with another man’s wife, promising favors he can’t deliver on, and blindfolding his blind daughter for effect so that he can drop the news that she’s been accepted to her choice school. Pairing him with Cindy Sampson’s no-nonsense private investigator Angie Everett, who wouldn’t let him punch a kid in the face and then did it herself seconds later, actually worked pretty well, especially when he was less selfish and helped set her up serve the man who had been evading her for so long. This seems like an enjoyable enough series, but the hook isn’t strong enough to compel me to get into it. Priestly is charismatic and appears to have chemistry with Everett, but this doesn’t stand out enough from any other odd couple detective series to make a memorable landing and demand attention.

How will it work as a series? They don’t have an official business just yet, so they’re going to have to work to develop that and to use the fact that Matt is well-known and recognizable – which isn’t always a good thing – to their advantage. It should be a fun process if one that’s a bit too silly, and I’m sure that there’s much material to be covered in their professional and personal lives.
How long will it last? That’s the good news. This show has already aired the first season and a half, with more episodes slated for this summer and a third season ordered. I haven’t been able to find much in the way of ratings or review data for the United States for this show, but I think its strong success up north should make it worthy of enough interest for Ion to continue airing it as well.

Pilot grade: B

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What I’m Watching: Divorce

Divorce: Season 2, Episode 5 “Breaking the Ice” (B+)

After an episode that found the two newly divorced adults behaving like adults, this one threatened to backtrack as Nick for some reason thought it was a good idea to invite Robert and his new girlfriend over without making sure that Diane knew they were coming. I’m still so happy that Becki Newton is on board for this season as Jackie since she’s so unfazed by everything that’s happening around her, eager to go up and meet Frances and even aware, much to her Frances’ surprise, that Robert and Frances slept together in Ohio. Frances almost sank to a regrettable level when she went running outside Diane’s house so that she could get a glimpse of Robbie’s new girl but then decided that she shouldn’t go down that route. Dallas’ reaction was pretty fantastic, and it’s a good thing that she made the decision not to share confidential information about her patient with her best friend. The rollerskating party went pretty well, and I love that Robert was unable to go on the ice because he couldn’t skate and therefore not able to intervene in the meeting of his girlfriend and his ex. Frances has her hands full trying to motivate the artist for her latest gallery, and maybe it’s fine if Robert is distracted by someone else in his life. Tom is sure having a good time with Jackie’s daughter, which might make things a bit more complicated if they split up down the road, but I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. Frances may just have to start her own relationship soon.

What I’m Watching: Homeland (Season Premiere)

Homeland: Season 7, Episode 1 “Enemy of the State” (C)

Once upon a time, this was the best series on television, dethroning “Mad Men” at the Emmys and producing two incredible initial seasons. After that, however, it lost much of its quality and hasn’t been able to regain it since. Last season was lamentable, and instead of rebooting things as it’s done for the past few years, season seven is starting off as a direct continuation of events as they stood. It’s supposed to be immensely relevant, portraying the era of an anti-press government rule where crazy things happen and everyone is powerless is stop them. Yet it hardly works at all, since Linus Roache’s David Wellington briefs President Keane out in the open and advises her to consider the implications of what she’s done, which hardly seems believable considering our current real-life situation and the many, many people who might try and fail to influence the president’s opinions and actions. Carrie has a source who can testify about what Wellington is doing on Keane’s orders but he refuses to talk, and Dylan Baker’s senator is losing patience. Wellington wants to offer Saul a national security adviser position after he’s been detained for a while, and all he wants is direct access to a president that he doesn’t realize won’t listen to a thing he says since she’s gone off the deep end herself, advocating and potentially arranging for the death of her traitorous general. In order to get Wellington’s house bugged, Carrie continues to cross lines, employing her compliant niece’s assistance, and suddenly the likes of Brett O’Keefe are renegade heroes? I don’t buy it, and I’m going to need to see some glimmer of quality from this show in the coming weeks to stick with it.

Pilot Review: Here and Now

Here and Now (HBO)
Premiered February 11 at 9pm

There are so many shows on so many networks these days bringing new creative forces behind and in front of the camera to prominence and, among those, there are repeat offenders who have new series greenlit which are certainly worth watching. Alan Ball is one such individual who created two of HBO’s longest-running and most successful hits. The first, “Six Feet Under,” is easily the most powerful drama that has aired on television, while the second, “True Blood,” was a more stylized genre piece that went a bit off the rails a few seasons into its runs but remained decidedly unique the whole time. In addition to the Oscar he wrote for penning my favorite film, “American Beauty,” Ball also directed “Towelhead” and the TV movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Some prior TV writing aside, that’s all Ball has done, and therefore his return to television is a very notable event. Unfortunately, the result is pretty lackluster. This show captures the weirdest and most random elements of Ball’s past TV shows, particularly the latter, and infuses them into something that’s messy, slow, and unappealing. Leading the way are Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins, both capable performers and past Oscar winners inserted into irritating roles, and the only other face I recognized was that of Peter Macdissi, a memorable player in “Six Feet Under” who also happens to be Ball’s partner. I couldn’t really tell you what this show is about, but I know that I surely don’t want to experience any more of it, much as I would have loved to see Ball back at work on television.

How will it work as a series? I was already turned off from this mega-family with lots of conflicting liberalism before the 11:11 thing went into dominant mode towards the end of the episode. By trying to make each of the siblings and parents so diverse and individualized, there’s nothing keeping this show together other than their miserable interactions.
How long will it last? It’s hard to find very positive reviews of this show, since even those that are more optimistic still indicate that it’s not a winner. HBO has many hits and therefore it’s not looking for midrange series that aren’t going to draw in viewers or critics, especially not dramas. I think this one is going to finish out its initial run and then end up the opposite of the here and now.

Pilot grade: C

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 1, Episode 4 “Both Sides Now” (B+)

This proved to be an exciting experiment, one which put our ill-prepared Howard on the other side and found him not under threat of being discovered by enemy forces or taken out by an assassin’s bullet but instead of being way too nice to be convincing as the Howard they all know and don’t particularly like. Our Howard spent so long telling theirs how he has to be early to work and what he doesn’t do, and theirs didn’t offer anything up about his life, like the fact that he has a daughter and that his Emily, fortunately, is very much alive much to be delight since I thought she was dead following the events of last week’s episodes. Our Howard was right to take theirs to task for treating him so poorly, and it was great to see him, inspired by the other Emily, stand up for himself and insist that he’s going to make the most of his time over there without needing a babysitter and strict rules to regulate his behavior. The other Howard certainly isn’t abiding by anything like that, yet he just has to be chastised by an angry Peter. It was entertaining to see just how quickly our Howard gave himself away due to his kind behavior and the fact that he wanted to spend time with Emily, and his delicious dinner went over very poorly with the daughter that clearly resents him. I’m intrigued to see how Howard develops as a person on the other side and what’s next to come on this show.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 4, Episode 10 “Chapter Seventy-Four” (B+)

Jane and Rafael are going to work out as a couple, I really hope, but there are so many obstacles in their path. Alba getting asked out on a date that required Jane to come along to be with the grandson was an unfortunate development, one which inspired Rafael to be aggressively charming in his text flirtation with Jane and then much less charmingly aggressive when she actually wanted to focus and be polite. Taking Alba to the sex shop did lead to some embarrassing moments later on, but it’s good that Jane gets to be the adult in the relationship when it comes to something sex-related for once. I’m not too sure about this whole Male Post-Partum Depression thing, but it is extremely clever that they cast Brooke Shields, a real-life advocate for the female condition, as River Fields, who apparently may now be the latest person who hates Rogelio to star in a show opposite him. Petra got a big spotlight in this episode as she recorded voice memos to try to get Jane to do what she wanted and ended up inspiring Jane to stand up for herself. Petra’s sex dream about Jane Ramos was intense and shows her softening a bit, but even Jane’s flirtation and change of heart won’t be able to help all that much now that someone has planted damning evidence that will certainly implicate Petra in Anezka’s death regardless of the fact that she didn’t actually do it. Like with almost every show, we’ll have to wait a few weeks until the Olympics wrap up to see what’s next!

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3, Episode 12 “Trent?!” (C)

This was a true waste of an hour. When there are only thirteen episodes in a season, why devote an entire one to this? I and I imagine most other viewers had completely forgotten about the plague on this show that is Trent, who represents its less intelligent impulses. There’s plenty of good material here, and Trent just goes and makes it all stupid and pointless. Rebecca getting back to a good place in her life didn’t need to have Trent show up to do anything, and all it did aside from made her miserable was cause her to lie to Paula and have Nathaniel to get angry that she was moving on so quickly. For the latter, that pushed him deeper into his relationship with another woman who apparently has been aware all along that he and Rebecca were sleeping together. Not much else was achieved here, and Trent just walked away without putting up a fight, so I worry that he could return at any point should this show be renewed for a fourth season, which I surely hope it will be. Valencia going all-out on a party that didn’t do justice at all to what her client wanted was no surprise, and while it was entertaining to see her dance with Josh, I find it very hard to believe that she even wanted to do something like that since it does demonstrate skill but also doesn’t fit with the way that she presents herself to the world. We have one episode left to close out the season – let’s hope it’s much, much better than this!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Take Three: Waco

Waco: Season 1, Episode 3 “Operation Showtime” (B+)

Well, that was one hell of a shootout. It really did feel like the famed first battle of the Revolutionary War, where it was difficult to tell who shot first and won’t matter in the long run because enough people are dead and there’s no going back from it for any of them now. Wayne calling the police to tell them to get the ATF to stop shooting right before the cameraman called on behalf of the ATF for backup was intense, and there’s definitely much political commentary to be found here, with lines like, “Who do you call when it’s your own government attacking?” and Eric Lange’s radio host Ron Engelman talking about the law against attacking your own citizens. We had our latest “Boardwalk Empire” alumnus, Glenn Fleshler, show up as FBI Agent Tony Prince, there to bridge the relationship between the ATF, who were more than ready to throw Rodriguez under the bus for not warning them about an armament and allegedly being compromised, and Gary, who is cool under pressure and managed to strike a deal that should have worked well and help resolve things smoothly. The negative publicity from the TV commentators seemed to be enough to convince David that his message wasn’t actually heard, prompting him to tell Gary that God spoke to him and told him not to surrender. That can’t be good for anyone involved, and, only three episodes in, I think we all know that it’s just going to get much worse from here.

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 3, Episode 3 “The Mark” (B)

Only on this show could a kid be elected mayor of a town – succeeding an alpaca – and still have to be told by his father that they can’t afford to buy milk unless he does something to change the financial budget to help the cost go down. Edie was right that targeting the stupidest member of this family is a tough choice since they’re all pretty unintelligent. Robin wanting to get her tongue pierced and then pulling away so that she could spit a whole lot of blood into Nate’s mouth was probably the grossest moment of the episode, though watching him take a bite of the giant ant-infested tomato that would later kill the alpaca mayor was a close second. Somehow he always manages to be the brunt of the worst physical things, though he took a pretty harsh verbal beating from Mason after he did nothing but managed to be relatively polite to his daughter’s new boyfriend, and he even apologized anyway after doing nothing wrong. Naturally, professional backflipper Jareb would realize that alpacas weren’t adept at that particular sport and would suggest having an oat-eating competition instead, something that put him at a considerable disadvantage. I’m thrilled that Laura Benanti has officially been promoted to series regular, and now she’s going to have to pretend to be able to skate after volunteering to be his assistant coach so that she can get close to the man who may not be the stupidest member of the family but is definitely the unluckiest.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 15 “The Car” (B+)

Every once in a while this show just doesn’t feature any scenes in the present and spends its entire hour in the past, which feels like an appropriate thing to do after the audience finally saw Jack die and now needs to appropriately grieve him. I think this was definitely the way to do it, showing him in crucial moments with all three of his children and with his wife that they took to heart and held onto when they had to mourn his untimely demise. Kevin learning how to tie a tie, Randall learning how to drive, and Kate getting a ride to Alanis Morissette while she was skipping school were all formative experiences, each emblematic of the closeness that the children enjoyed with their father. Kevin being upset at Randall for wearing Jack’s watch at the funeral was also fair since we already know that the sports star turned actor had a complicated relationship with his parents since he was the most difficult child. Jack negotiating for the Wagoneer once he saw that all the kids really wanted it was a sweet act of devotion, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see those as we get to know Jack more and more since this show won’t ever let him die due to its flashback nature. The most sentimental scene, however, was Dr. K’s return, in which he revealed to Rebecca that Jack would frequently stop by the hospital to ask for advice when the kids were growing up, showing that he wasn’t getting through fatherhood as easily as he made it seem.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 13 “True Colors” (B)

I’m still not so sure where all of this is headed with DeVoe’s plan, and this episode didn’t provide much clarification even as it featured numerous important developments. Ralph discovering that he can shape-shift to take on other people’s faces came in pretty handy, though naturally there was a lot of comedy involved. Him turning into DeVoe to show up in court and prove decisively that Barry couldn’t be guilty of his murder was clever, and it would be productive if DeVoe didn’t have so many steps in his plan to completely destroy Barry’s life. It wasn’t too hard for Barry to work with the other metas to break out of Iron Heights, and it was only when the warden showed up to reveal that he was the Flash that things went sour. It was nice to see Becky stand up for Barry and use her good luck to make sure that the bad metas would get taken out, and then DeVoe had to show up to absorb the metas’ powers and take over Becky’s body. It’s not great news that DeVoe is no longer trusting his wife, who sees that he’s going off-book, and perhaps that signals some weakness since having her to help him has been crucial thus far. We saw a bit more of Amunet in this episode but not enough, and I’m hopeful she’ll be back again, perhaps to help take down DeVoe. My favorite moment of this relatively unmemorable hour was Ralph calling Killer Frost “Frosty Oprah.”

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 3, Episode 13 “Both Sides Now” (B-)

I knew going into this episode that it was the last one we’d see for a while, since this show is going on hiatus until April 16th to allow “Legends of Tomorrow” to finish out its run in this timeslot. Ten straight new episodes of this show through the end of June is appealing, but this episode didn’t end in a terribly emphatic way. The addition of Julia and Purity wasn’t great since it just brought out blind compassion from Kara and equally blind anger from Alex, who took turns chatting with and yelling at Purity and only managed to get her to transform back into Julia during their epic fight in the subway when Alex caught a glimpse of Julia and switched sides. The blockers were a good weapon against her, but it seems that Reign is even more powerful and that won’t work. I’m curious to see if Imra’s mission has anything to do with stopping Reign, but this episode petered out on such a lackluster note, with Samantha changing in front of Lena, prompting her to say that she knows what’s wrong with her and is going to get her help. We’ll see what comes of that. It was weird to have Mon-El and Hank bonding over Martian moonshine with Winn dreaming of playing with batteries while all this was going on. Taking on three Worldkillers is going to require everyone’s full attention, and I’d hope that all this is put to rest long before the end of the season so we can move on to other things.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 14 “Super Bowl Sunday” (B+)

This is the first episode of this show that I’ve watched live, thanks to my attendance at a Superbowl party last week. I’ve written frequently – and mentioned right before the episode started – about how this show can be manipulative in the way that it guards plot twists and uses them to necessitate viewing and overwhelm the story. I’m pleased to report that this was actually a very good hour of television, conveying the devastation that came with Rebecca’s inability to process the news that her husband was dead because he had been doing fine just moments before she stepped away to make a few phone calls and get him a candy bar. This is an obvious Emmy submission for Mandy Moore should she receive recognition this year, and this was a very strong performance. I’ve read that we’ll still see Jack frequently since this show isn’t grounded in a particular time, and I hope it will actually strengthen the show to not be held back by protecting this secret. This is also a clear choice for the Emmys for Milo Ventimiglia, who delivered a powerhouse turn as the most dedicated father ever, though there’s no way he’d be able to beat costar Sterling K. Brown, who got very excited for his over-the-top celebration and then teared up during his turtle funeral. I liked the surprise flash-forward to an adult Tess as a social worker helping foster children find families and having her weekly dinner with her dad, who in the present was greeted by an unexpected visit from Déjà, who it appears is now back in the Pearson family’s life.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

What I’m Watching: Divorce

Divorce: Season 2, Episode 4 “Ohio” (B+)

This episode holds up as firm support of my argument that this show has evolved well beyond its original premise, now portraying a mature adult relationship with two people who still have a connection that can’t be broken even by the dissolution of their marriage. Frances didn’t hesitate to offer to come with Robert as soon as he shared the news of his father’s deteriorating health, and he didn’t react all that poorly other than to tell her that she didn’t need to come. When she showed up anyway, he wasn’t happy, but he got over it right away since it was good to have her around. It turned out to be very helpful that she was there given how Amy Sedaris’ Cathy was infinitely less tolerable than Robert had even made her out to be, arriving with nothing but anger about Robert paying the extra $6 for the upgraded cable package and then taking full credit for that decision when her father woke up. There wasn’t much catharsis in the way of Robert and his relationship with his father, but it was all worth it for the brutal takedown of Cathy delivered by Frances and supported by a grateful and equally frustrated Robert. Back at home, Diane and Tom were weird but surprisingly not all that incompatible together, and we’re still waiting for Dallas to connect the dots and realize that Jackie’s “Robbie” is in fact Robert, whose horrific ex-wife isn’t exactly the worst considering she’s Dallas’ best friend.

Take Three: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Lost Art of Diplomacy” (B+)

Things are getting more intense and more stylized on this increasingly dark show, which in this episode was amplified tremendously by its score by Jeff Russo. I couldn’t be more thrilled about the addition of Richard Schiff, Emmy winner for “The West Wing” nearly two decades ago, as Peter’s father-in-law, who is apparently very high-ranking in Diplomacy. Schiff is great in pretty much any role, but this seems particularly fitting for him, not all that villainous but still determined to get his way rather than be convinced by someone else’s arguments. The way that they discuss the two worlds and their connection so casually is intriguing, but not as much as the subtle differences in technological advances like the fact that the other side doesn’t have cell phones! The other Howard getting our Howard promoted to Strategy and making sure he’s there all the time was a good move, and he’s going to need all the help he can now that his number one ally is gone. The reveal that our Emily was his source and was hiding her knowledge of the other side from our Howard the whole time was a big surprise, and how unfortunate that it was followed up immediately by the other Emily’s murder. I like that our Howard was able to bond with Baldwin and convince her to spare him and Aldrich, and I’ll be very curious to see if things go well when our Howard goes over to the other side to pretend that he’s a far more self-assured, less friendly version of himself.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 4, Episode 9 “Chapter Seventy-Three” (B+)

I’ve written it many times: I’ve always been #teamrafael. That’s why last week’s episode with the big kiss provided so much excitement, and this episode had some more hope that maybe they were going to make it work. Rafael being the one to conclude that it wasn’t the right thing for Mateo to be putting so much hope into his parents’ rekindled romance was sensible, and I was so glad to discover that they’re actually going to continue to hook up in secret so that there’s no pressure or outside influence. Jane was having a great time inviting Rafael to kiss her again to see if the magic would work, and Rafael responded perfectly, which worked! I’m also hopeful that Jane will stop writing her reverse “Fifty Shades of Grey” novel and instead ghostwrite Petra’s lifestyle book, one that’s obviously a bad idea given that she’s currently the subject of a murder investigation. We still don’t know who lawyer Jane is working for – though Sin Rosestro is obviously a top contender – but we’ll have to remain optimistic that she’ll realize she’s being played and confess to Petra, who in this rare case is in fact innocent, that she’s been working against her. Rogelio’s stay-at-home dad gig lasted less than a day, but I think that he might just be able to tough it out if he reframes the way he’s looking at it. I’m curious to see what Xiomara will do next, and it’s also good to see Alba sticking up for herself as her own person.

Friday, February 9, 2018

What I'm Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3, Episode 11 “Nathaniel and I Are Just Friends!” (B+)

It was equally optimistic and foolish for Dr. Akopian to think that Rebecca had turned over a new leaf. What was much more unexpected was the mid-episode time jump in this episode, taking us almost to the end of Heather’s pregnancy and to a place at which few things have changed for the majority of our characters. The most theoretically minor and random of these was Paula’s decision to hire Sunil which quickly sent him to the click that includes Tim, Maya, and Jim, leading her to realize that her “office bitch” mug apparently isn’t a joke. I’m not all that fond of Sunil so having him around doesn’t add much, but at least Paula seems to have reached a good place now. Valencia’s new client turned into a girlfriend, something that we never would have expected for Josh’s ex but will hopefully be featured as a positive influence in coming episodes. Josh doesn’t appear to have gotten any smarter, still obsessing over “Happy Tats for Manatees,” but Heather, fresh off her yellowtail crudo and other business improvements, has been affected by her hormones and become much more motivated to do things, namely skateboarding since she couldn’t stand becoming an adult. Hector reacting to her crying was amusing and taking care of her was sweet. Rebecca and Nathaniel’s supply closet sex got awfully repetitive, especially since he’s still officially dating Mona, and it’s a shame that she second-guessed things and disappeared from his door after texting him. Very sadly, there are only two episodes left this season, so let’s hope that this fast-forward device was worth it and we’re headed exciting places!

Pilot Review: Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon (Netflix)
Premiered February 2

Now here we have a noteworthy show. At first, I didn’t know who everyone was and why there was all this seemingly pointless shooting, and while I’d contend that was still the least engaging part of the episode, the rest is all pretty fascinating. The notion that memories can now be stored in stacks that can inserted into sleeves suggests the possibility for a much higher crime rate, and letting prisoners out of jail in new sleeves as part of the legal process should only add to the problem. This feels like a darker version of “Minority Report,” with targeted ads that include holographic prostitutes and strippers who can change their faces at the customer’s request. The effects are very cool in this futuristic universe, considerably more invested that I feel like is usually the case with television series. It’s good to see Joel Kinnaman in another TV role that’s suited for him after “The Killing” and “House of Cards,” and he’s surrounded by a number of familiar faces (who I assume could be replaced at any moment given this show’s plot). James Purefoy is more tolerable here than he was on “The Following,” and his occasional costar Renée Elise Goldsberry, better known as a Tony winner for “Hamilton,” is also here in a memorable role. Dichen Lachman from “Dollhouse” and Kristen Lehman, also from “The Killing,” round out this impressive cast. I liked this show more for its greater ideas than its insistence on scenes like the one with the “full guest amenities” that took out all of Kovacs’ hasslers. It’s intriguing but also a bit messy, and so I may give it another shot.

How will it work as a series? Solving Bancroft’s murder is clearly just the start of what’s planned for this show, as Kovacs has people after him and also quite a rap sheet from his past. My hope is that the subplots of people protesting against sleeves being used for people who should just get to die get more of a focus, creating a compelling universe in which this show is meant to be set.
How long will it last? Some reviews seem to be positive while others take issue with specific aspects of the show. Given that it’s on Netflix, it will be hard to tell how well it’s been received and how much it’s been viewed. I have to imagine that it’s extremely expensive to produce due to the visual effects and sets, so it’s going to have to be a home run with audiences for Netflix to want to bring it back.

Pilot grade: B

Pilot Review: Absentia

Absentia (Amazon)
Premiered February 1

Serial killers are very frequently the subject of television series, most often playing cat-and-mouse games with a federal agent or detective that they’ve chosen to taunt. This dates back to shows like “Profiler” in the 1990s and has been repeated time and time again since then in movies and television. When that law enforcement official becomes too entangled in the case and might even be abducted or killed, things get considerably more serious. That’s the idea here, with Stana Katic’s Agent Emily Byrne going missing for six years and then returning after being found in a cabin in the woods, presumably held prisoner by the very killer she was hunting. Naturally, things have changed and people have moved on because they thought she was dead, and readjusting to being free and back in her old life is going to be an enormous challenge, amplified by the fact that more murders are happening. It’s interesting to see Katic in this kind of role since, from the limited pieces and promos of “Castle” that I saw during the eight years it was on the air, I wouldn’t have guessed that she would go for such a dark role. There’s not much light to be found anywhere on this show, which proceeds along at a remarkably slow and uninviting pace. I get that a show about a deadly killer needs to be rather gruesome, but I was bored throughout the whole first hour and left it feeling less than inclined to revisit it.

How will it work as a series? It’s perfectly reasonable that people would question where Emily has been for the past six years and that they might even look to her as responsible for some of what’s going on. I don’t see a real positive way out of this for anyone, and a series as bleak as this without a real hook just doesn’t interest me.
How long will it last? This show released an episode each week beginning in September on AXN and has been available in full for the past week on Amazon. It’s listed as a miniseries on IMDB but I don’t know how definite that is. The reviews don’t seem to be overwhelmingly positive, and so I’d imagine that, unless it’s really watched by a lot of people, this will be it.

Pilot grade: C

Pilot Review: A.P. Bio

A.P. Bio (NBC)
Premiered February 1 at 9:30pm

I’ll never understand why networks like to launch certain shows with a “special presentation” debut and then pick up with the second installment a few weeks later. Building momentum is the best way to start a new show, and I find it hard to believe that viewers would come back after so many days and so much other television for anything older than “The Young Sheldon,” which pulled this off successfully earlier this season. This show, on the other hand, is so unappealing that I can only hope that it would be fully wiped from my memory by the time it airs its second episode on February 25th. You’d think that a series with this title, forever linked to the intense course that I remember classmates having to write an entire textbook for as part of their summer pre-work, would have something to do with science or at least some pretty nerdy kids in it. That’s not the case at all, because why bother with things like logic or reason when you can just have impossibly stupid comedy like a teacher showing up, telling people to begin to shut up, throwing apples on the floor, and having his students catfish his rival. The only thing I learned from this entire episode is that you can use your arm to look like your butt in pictures, knowledge that I’m sure is just as useful as anything else most students would be talk in a real A.P. Bio class. I recognized star Glenn Howerton from his role as a poor lackey in Billy Bob Thornton’s machinations in the superb season one of “Fargo,” and I guess now he’s getting his revenge on the world by taking on this lead part. I was hopeful for a moment that the always terrific Patton Oswalt could be a saving grace as his rival, but instead he’s just the hapless principal. This show is beyond irritating and terrible, and I have no idea how it made it to a series order.

How will it work as a series? Towards the middle of this episode, when the gym teacher showed up to take over the class, I thought this was just going to be a revolving door of different unqualified candidates teaching a few classes, which honestly might not be as terrible as what’s actually happening. They’ve already catfished and know everything about their teacher’s ambitions, so what could possibly be next?
How long will it last? I was shocked to see that 93% of Google users like this show, and I can only hope that whoever wrote the code to display that number failed out of another AP class and got the digits switched. Reviews aren’t so hot but not nearly as scathing as mine, but the ratings were also rather disappointing as compared with the other shows NBC airs on Thursday night. I’d give this until the end of the season if it even makes it that far.

Pilot grade: F-