Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pilot Review: Barry

Barry (HBO)
Premiered March 25 at 10:30pm

Since leaving “Saturday Night Live,” Bill Hader has demonstrated that he’s surprisingly capable of dramatic performances, infusing them with just the right amount of comedy. It’s no surprise, therefore, that he would be the perfect pick to star in an HBO series about a hitman finding himself through acting after moving to Los Angeles. Hader has a wonderful energy for this part, and I’m excited to see what he does with it. Watching him spring into action when he saw that someone else had taken out his mark was intense, and he’ll make a fascinating protagonist. The supporting cast is particularly terrific too, starting with Stephen Root, from the likes of “Office Space,” “True Blood,” and, most recently, “Get Out,” as the eccentric Fuches, who chose to have Barry fly into Ontario rather than LAX for no apparent reason other than extra discretion. Henry Winkler is one mean and unforgiving director, and he’ll gel interestingly with Barry. It took me a minute, but I was thrilled to recognize D’Arcy Carden, best known for playing Janet on “The Good Place,” as Natalie, and we I don’t think we’ll be seeing Glenn Fleshler from “Boardwalk Empire,” “Waco,” and “Billions” again given the events of this episode. Sarah Goldberg seems like a wonderful lead actress as well. This pilot met my expectations for what it would be, and I have faith that it will continue to be involving thanks to co-creator Alec Berg, who plays a big part in this show’s lead-in, “Silicon Valley.”

How will it work as a series? We don’t yet know what Fuches’ role will be going forward since he’s not based in Los Angeles, and the fact that Barry took out the people who hired him means that there’s no one coming after him aside from the police. I think the focus will be much more on his acting and the beginning of him being social, and I’m looking forward to that.
How long will it last? The reviews look to be pretty good, and the fact that Berg is already involved in one of HBO’s critically-acclaimed comedies suggests that this one will be around exactly as long as Berg and Hader want it to be. I haven’t seen much in the way of ratings data, but I think this one will be sticking around no matter how it performs.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley (Season Premiere)

Silicon Valley: Season 5, Episode 1 “Grow Fast or Die Slow” (B+)

I’m a huge fan of this show, one that is nominated year after year for Emmys but has only managed to win two technical trophies. There was a lot of talk of how T.J. Miller departing the show might mean that it wouldn’t be as good anymore, but I think that it’s a productive development since Erlich was usually more of a distraction than anything. What his absence means is that Jian Yang is renting out Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s rooms during the day and trying to officially acquire everything Erlich left behind by getting a body shipped to prove that he’s dead. My favorite part of this show is always how quickly all the technical developments change the fortunes of those involved in the rat race, and that started out with Gavin’s purposefully vindictive hiring of all 63 people that Richard had met with, who he promptly discovered were only skilled at the very thing that he wasn’t allowed to have them work on because he gave Richard the patent. Dinesh and Gilfoyle were unimpressed with Richard’s failure of leadership thanks to his inability to stop them from sucking, but he came through in a big way that was ultimately marked a less-than-triumphant public display of vomiting. Richard trying to lowball Kira didn’t work, so instead he opted to bankrupt Sliceline swiftly and then acquire both companies, something that an unbelievably competitive Laurie, who got pregnant just to prove to Monica that she wouldn’t have to take off work, somehow approved because she’s setting up her partner Monica to take the fall for any bad advice she gives. What a season this is sure to be!

Pilot Review: Trust

Trust (FX)
Premiered March 25 at 10pm

I started watching this show and immediately thought to myself – I just saw this movie, and I know exactly what that opening scene represents. “All the Money in the World” got attention for director Ridley Scott’s incredible ability to recast Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer and finish the movie in a month, leading to a Golden Globe bid for Scott and an Oscar nomination for 88-year-old Plummer. I wasn’t fond of the film, though Plummer was definitely good, and this story didn’t serve as a particularly appealing one to revisit. Yet that’s what happens these days on TV, especially as FX dramatizes O.J. Simpson and Gianni Versace. I immediately wasn’t fond of the chime of money in the soundtrack, and opening with a Getty family member impaling himself with a meat fork felt unnecessarily brutal, particularly in how it appeared to be portrayed in a comic manner. The elder Getty as a figure is undeniably intriguing, but showing how selfish and stingy he was can only go so far without being excessively alienating. I’m not fond of this show’s editing style, inserting clips of the Kennedys as he talks about his legacy, and then cutting to other shots during later scenes, which just didn’t feel necessary at all. Sutherland, who, like Plummer, is also Canadian, but eight years younger, and his performance isn’t quite as compelling. We haven’t seen Hilary Swank’s Gail just yet, and we only saw Brendan Fraser in the Mark Wahlberg role for a moment. This introductory episode did highlight the relationship between Paul and his grandson before it soured, and the end of the hour suggests that the younger Paul was much more complicit in his own kidnapping than the film suggested. Comparing it to the film isn’t all that productive an exercise, but I found this to be equally off-putting.

How will it work as a series? That shot of Paul running through the grass that bookended the episode is sure to be central to this season, though the overarching plotline is about Getty the billionaire and not just this one experience. This is all about grandstanding and showing Getty to be so power- and money-obsessed, and I’m not sure the worthwhile parts of the story will be able to get through that.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be pretty positive, just a little less so than the film. From the ratings data I’ve seen, the premiere wasn’t watched by all that many people, even by FX standards, which suggests to me that maybe this series will end up being just one season.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Timeless

Timeless: Season 2, Episode 3 “Hollywoodland” (B)

Sometimes, the comedy on this show doesn’t feel all that comfortable or appropriate. In this hour, Rufus didn’t have to worry about early Hollywood discriminating against African-Americans, but he did easily impersonate Langston Hughes and then spouted the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song as an example of his latest poem, quickly blowing his cover with one very smart Hedy Lamarr. As is often the case with this show, the talented actress and unsung inventor was recently the subject of a film, the documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” which I highly recommend. The notable guest star of the hour was Teddy Sears from “The Flash” and “Masters of Sex” as a Rittenhouse sleeper agent not on a suicide mission but just as unexcited about the prospect of going home. We also met his father, played by Josh Randall from “Courting Alex” and “Scrubs,” as the ensemble of Rittenhouse members placed throughout time grows. It was cool to see them use their time in the past to plant something that could, seventy-five years later, enabling Flynn to break out of prison so that he could come work with the team. Gia’s fainting spells got her an oddly clean bill of health in contradiction to what we know about the previous people who had similar symptoms, and it mysteriously healed her heart murmur. The most shocking development is that, for some reason, the team’s actions have made it so that Wyatt’s wife is still alive, which comes at a poor time in his romantic relationship with Lucy and is sure to be much more complicated than it should be.

Friday, March 30, 2018

What I’m Watching: Billions (Season Premiere)

Billions: Season 3, Episode 1 “Tie Goes to the Runner” (B+)

What a premiere! There’s so much going on here, and I actually feel that it might be less over-the-top than usual. That’s mostly because Chuck is actually not involved in the case against Axe, and he’s having freer conversations than before instead of literally hiding in the shadows to manipulate events. While he’s not busy tormenting himself with stories of Wendy sleeping with other men as punishment for his behavior, Chuck is making productive moves, covering his bases with Ira, who’s going to hate him forever, and cutting his father out of his life by aligning himself with Jack Foley against him. It’s a strange situation he’s in protecting Wendy from everything while she’s become an official lieutenant at Axe Capital, holding down the fort along with Taylor and Wags, who actually work together a lot better than they originally might have and than Dollar Bill reports. Axe is also not in nearly as bad shape as his end-of-season arrest would indicate, still spouting off lines like “Lots of guys like Bruce Lee movies, that doesn’t mean you can do karate” and very deliberately giving up his ability to trade based on Wendy’s recommendation. Taylor was in full control of that idea room at the end of the episode, and I’m very excited to see what comes next on this genuinely enthralling show, which is still going strong despite the relative lack of interaction between its two main rivals, who are each on their own quests now to hold on to whatever power they think they can still attain. I’m also happy to see the addition of the dependable Clancy Brown from “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Carnivale” as the new attorney general.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 4, Episode 14 “Chapter Seventy-Eight” (B+)

As Xiomara’s cancer continues to be a central plotline on this show, Jane is becoming a background character in her own story. I don’t think that’s problematic, since it allows others to shine. It was particularly nice to see Rogelio paying so much attention to Alba, who initially loved his show when he first returned to Jane’s life, in this hour, and to see him speaking in Spanish to her rather than forcing her to have one-way conversations with subtitles. Trying to force into therapy with a hired dinner guest was his usual over-the-top style, but he managed to win her over when she found out that he had done something immediately to ensure that he could take care of Xiomara, who he helped make an important decision about what to do with her breasts. On a much more humorous note, it was funny to see Rafael’s reaction when he thought that Petra was pining for Jane, and her horrified response when confronted with that information, which offended Jane because of just how disgusted she seemed by it. Her grand romantic gesture was rather embarrassing, but now she’s won JR over enough to not mind kissing her after she was eating pickles in bed. At the end of the episode, the narrator hinted at something (and someone) dark to come, but we still have plenty of other things to wrap up, like Rafael’s search for his parents and all that, so I’m intrigued to see what’s next after everyone’s present happiness.

Pilot Review: Alexa and Katie

Alexa and Katie (Netflix)
Premiered March 23

I wasn’t sure whether or not to watch this show, and, after deciding to do so, I now see that it’s classified under the “Kids” section of Netflix Original Programming on very reliable information source Wikipedia. It wasn’t the worst way to spend half an hour, and I knew going into it that a laugh-track sitcom about two high school girls probably wasn’t going to be for me. The hook here is that one of them has cancer, something that she’s trying to keep secret from everyone at school because she doesn’t want to be treated differently. There are some silly things at play here, like the fact that Katie keeps her brother on a leash, but overall it’s not so bad. The bond between Alexa and Katie is sweet, highlighted by their joint hair shaving at the end of the episode. The way that the parents behave like kids is typical for sitcoms, but it’s done to entertaining effect in this opening installment, especially with their fear of the principal when they had to go in for their daughters’ punishment. Maybe it’s because this is a show for kids, but it’s refreshing to hear teenagers hurl insults at each other that aren’t malicious or explicit but rather just creative ways of describing lack of intelligence. This is an exciting kind of show for today’s age, one that deals with a cancer diagnosis in modern times and how it might be received in a teenage setting filled with social media. I won’t be watching beyond this, but this show seems like a great fit for its intended audience.

How will it work as a series? Now that they’ve shaved their heads, there’s no way that they can keep her diagnosis under wraps, which means that they’re going to have to face it head-on as the school year starts. It will be interesting to see how this show handles its comedy when balanced with Alexa actually being sick, and I imagine that each episode will be sufficiently heartwarming when it wants to be.
How long will it last? That I really couldn’t say. I don’t follow much of Netflix’s programming that’s not directed at adults, and it’s also hard to predict which of their comedies they’ll opt to renew, as they parted ways with “Disjointed” and renewed “The Ranch,” the two series that are closest to this one in nature. I’ll go ahead and say that this one earns a second season, but with little confidence.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Santa Clarita Diet (Season Premiere)

Santa Clarita Diet: Season 2, Episode 1 “No Family is Perfect” (B+)

I accidentally started watching the pilot episode of this show again and was extremely confused to find Joel not in a mental institution and Sheila not chained up in the basement, two season-ending developments that I remembered strongly from the finale that I watched almost a year ago. Though this show is unapologetically weird, that’s what I like about it. Opening Joel’s stint under surveillance with Jonathan Slavin from “Better Off Ted” as the Asparagus-phobic Ron was great, and I like that Joel was so legitimately moved to compassion by the story of his late wife. He did follow that up with a visit to the morgue attendant who’s awfully willing to sell body parts to whoever wants them, though, as he angrily pointed out upon his return home, he paid $300 for his bile because no one bothered to call him. Eric was very easily manipulated by Sheila into freeing her, but fortunately that didn’t go so bad until she pounced on and violently devoured the Serbian guy who followed Abby home. Joel’s neighbors definitely still think he’s crazy, but at least the family is all together now, sleeping in a bed in the basement because they genuinely love each other. This is clearly not a sustainable lifestyle, but that’s part of the fun here, along with the truly revolting things, like Sheila breaking her thumbs to escape from her handcuffs. As long as you can get past that and accept it as one of this show’s signature oddities, it really is a great ride, and one I look forward to enjoying this season.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Take Three: Collateral

Collateral: Season 1, Episode 3 (B)

The beating Laurie took at the end of the last episode turned out to be fatal, as I had feared, and now Kip and Nathan are confused about the scope of what’s going on, and not a single person seems happy with the situation. Kip might be one of this show’s more negative characters, but she got chewed out by her supervisor in a way that rivaled the manner in which she’s spoken to other people. She also revealed herself to be more sympathetic than expected when she showed the video of her big sports failure to Fatima, who was then more much cooperative. Kip is right to note that the two deaths are extremely different in nature, and it’s hard to believe the incredible nature of the conspiracy going on with those perpetrating it perfectly willing to discuss their activities blatantly in each other’s company. Justifying Sandrine’s assignment as taking out a terrorist gives some insight into her psyche, and I’m not sure if that was more destructive than what we saw her doing at the end of the episode, ready to take out her abusive supervisor at his home. The most compelling developments came from David, who used the opportunity to comment on the murder as a staunch call for more liberal immigration policies, and took Karen to task for living irresponsibly. Throw in the subplot of Jane being told that she shouldn’t be seen publicly with a woman, and it’s hard to imagine that all of this can be wrapped up in just one final hour.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete: Season 2, Episode 3 “Man on the Run” (B+)

I guess I’m going to have to officially start referring to the main character on this show as Marius since it’s going to get mighty confusing otherwise. I’m a huge fan of Ethan Embry’s from his work on “Grace and Frankie” and “Brotherhood,” and I’m so glad that he’s becoming a big part of this season. It turns out that, though he’s very chatty, Pete is a really nice guy, hence the big hug that he gave Marius for saving his life and how he was willing to confess that his mother is indeed still alive in Sedona when he thought Marius was in danger. Marius was smart to involve Julia in the operation enough that he could subtly drop a question about his mom, enabling him to gain valuable information about her location, but he’s so wrapped up in it that he has no idea that Marjorie pulling out is the least of his problems. Desmond Harrington’s Joe snapped a picture with Carly which will surely be making its way to Marius’ phone soon, but she’s also tailing him, now intent on figuring out how she knows the guy who’s actually her cousin Pete by knocking on every motel room door with a pizza in hand. He’ll be able to handle that somehow, but it won’t be easy, and he doesn’t even know that both of his grandparents are in trouble. Otto is now face-to-face with Winslow’s son, who already showed what he’s capable of, and Taylor is going to have to work hard to keep Joyce from testing the blood that he knows to be Audrey’s. There’s certainly a lot going on here, and I’m glad we have a whole season to see how it plays out.

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 4, Episode 7 “The Landline” (B+)

I’ve read recently about how this show has evolved from a light comedy about two women post-divorce later in their lives into a more serious show dealing with actual issues related to getting older. Grace is now walking with a cane, but more crucially, she’s attending funerals nearly every day. It was sweet of Nick to offer to take Grace to the latest one he heard about, though it wasn’t particularly appropriate of him to just show up and crash it. While Robert was surprised by his age, he warmed to him very quickly and the two got along swimmingly, singing together while everyone else was acting in a more fittingly somber way. Grace seemed to be doing okay until she learned that Phil, her contractor would-be boyfriend, had died, hitting her way too close to home, but she did get in a good win against her judgmental friend played by Swoosie Kurtz by cozying up to her much younger boyfriend when she was ready to leave. Sol and Frankie had their own little caper reminiscent of freer times in an effort to get Frankie reinserted back into society, and though they really didn’t succeed mainly because the place they wanted to liberate had long since moved, they did manage to have some therapeutic conversations about Robert. Mallory was rather belligerent and insistent in getting Brianna to listen to her idea, which was related to the admittedly less stable kids’ market, but it turned out that Brianna was covering up her own financial misfortune which could soon lead to being embarrassed in front of her mother.

What I’m Watching: The End of the F***ing World (Season Finale)

The End of the F***ing World: Season 1, Episode 8 (B+)

This was a great end to what I would call one of the best new shows of the season, and it’s just a shame that it’s already over. It’s been two months since the show premiered on Netflix and more than six months since its initial run on Channel 4 in the UK, yet we have no news about the possibility of a second season just yet. Things escalated pretty quickly in this finale, with Alyssa’s father excitedly asking the two of them who they killed before dialing the police to turn them in. Eunice being outside the trailer enabled her to burst in at just the right moment offering to help them after Alyssa stabbed her father in the leg and James picked up the phone and confessed to being entirely responsible. I love that the flow of the conversation was interrupted by Alyssa wishing that she could have gotten James something for his birthday, and it was great to hear her say to herself how much she loved James. All she needed was confirmation from Eunice that there was no way they were going to the same place, prompting them to run away and for James to pull the same thing on her. I had thought this show would end with a murder but instead it reformed James and made him fall in love with Alyssa, who’s in love with him too. I’d love to see these characters again since they were both superb, and I’m a big fan of Alex Lawther’s now, who was terrific opposite Jessica Barden, who I already knew was great. What a fantastic show that really knew what it wanted to be – bring on season two, please!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Lawther and Barden

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What I’m Watching: Atlanta

Atlanta: Season 2, Episode 4 “Helen” (B+)

This show has become known over the course of less than fifteen episodes for creating a world that may not align perfectly with the way things really are but is often exaggerated for thematic effect to show how its characters experience things. A black Justin Bieber or an over-the-top television show are examples we’ve seen already, and now we have a trip to Oktoberfest, where someone compliments Earn’s amazing costume only to discover that it’s actually just his skin and Van speaks fluent German in the kind of way that this show likes to assume might be normal even though it’s pretty strange. Starting out with Van complimenting Earn’s “tongue confidence” and their near run-in with the pig in the road on the way over was a false sign of positivity in their relationship, since things fell apart in a huge way when Earn didn’t make even a hint of an effort to try to enjoy himself or let Van have a good time once they got there since it wasn’t what he wanted to do. His selfishness was revealed when he summarized everything that Van had done with him as for his work, and it was hard to go back from there. Clearly, Van didn’t want to, and playing ping-pong to keep their “arrangement” alive seemed like a fitting way of representing how much Earn wanted to put into their relationship, leaving him with nothing. We haven’t seen a lot of Van yet this season, and I do hope that she’ll continue to stick around as part of the show’s universe even if she’s going to be much more minimally involved in Earn’s life.

Pilot Review: Station 19

Station 19 (ABC)
Premiered March 22 at 9pm

It’s hard to believe that “Grey’s Anatomy” has been on the air for fourteen years. It premiered two and a half years before I started this site and already launched one moderately successful spin-off that ran six years. If there’s one thing even more popular these days than medical shows, it’s those about firefighters. It’s hardly a surprise that this two-hour premiere went up against double-decker installments of “Chicago Fire” on NBC, giving those who love watching fires being put out a whole lot to enjoy on Thursday night. I knew before I watched this show that it wasn’t the kind of series I’d like, but I do feel that I’ll remember a few of these characters more than I do on other pilots. This show is a textbook example of a primetime soap opera, with high-stakes theatrics to boot, involving sensational cases that really make these firefighters work for their paychecks. I noticed the flashes right before each commercial break, reminiscent of a device that I first saw employed on “NCIS,” and I’m really not sure why that needed to be a part of this show since there’s no way anyone who starts watching an hour and knows what they’re getting into is going to tune out midway through without finding out what happens. The two faces I recognized were Miguel Sandoval, onetime star of “Medium” and much more, as the newly-retired captain, and Jay Hayden from “The Catch” as Travis. Jaina Lee Ortiz’s Andy seems to have a bit more personality than Meredith Grey, and could make a more appealing lead, especially as she gets used to her new position. This is it for me – I prefer fire shows like “Rescue Me.”

How will it work as a series? This series has already piled on the drama and shown how it’s going to be used in the second hour, with Andy not quire rejecting Jack’s almost-proposal and then competing for the top job with him while secretly having slept with everpresent cop Ryan. And I can also imagine that Ben is going to be a main focus of this show given his status as a transferred character from the medical drama that spun off this one.
How long will it last? Going up against another fire show wasn’t great for its numbers, and also competing with basketball means that it’s hard to tell how it will do in the future. I’m sure that ABC is going to put everything the network has into making this work, and something tells me that its ratings will improve as time goes on and it will become a long-running staple despite mixed reviews.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 2, Episode 3 “AKA Sole Survivor” (B+)

I was worried that, without Kilgrave, this show wouldn’t be as good because he was so central to who Jessica was and how she approached the world. While season one was superior just because it was incredible, this second year is turning out to be pretty terrific too. Without Kilgrave, Jessica is just a moody, unpleasant person not eager to be told by anyone else what she can or can’t do. She doesn’t treat the people closest to her all that well, sending Malcolm to her gay landlord in the hopes of winning him over and breaking the news of Trish’s relationship to TMZ so that the paparazzi would prevent her from going out anywhere. It turns out that having someone there to photograph Trish played out to Jessica’s advantage, as she got a photo of the mystery woman played by Janet McTeer who showed up purporting to be the doctor Trish called out on air who was unhappy that Jessica was ungrateful for what they did for her. There’s clearly much, much more at play here, and I assume that we’ll find out the scope of all of it over the course of the rest of the season. Hogarth’s diagnosis has now become public, and she’s not going down without a fight, determined to spend everything she’s amassed and not let anyone push her out of the company she’s worked to build. It’s a strange way for her to ally with Jessica after the way the relationship has gone, but it will be intriguing to see them work together.

Pilot Review: Krypton

Krypton (Syfy)
Premiered March 21 at 10pm

I don’t really understand the enthusiasm for prequel series. Usually, it’s a supporting character that audiences want to see more of, and then a sequel might make more sense than something that takes place before the original events. The better question is, why would someone want to experience a planet like Krypton without its signature superhero (or his cousin)? This experiment was attempted and failed with “Caprica,” a less-than-engaging look at life before the Cylons on “Battlestar Galactica,” which got cancelled after just one season. Now, we have a series set two hundred years before Superman’s time which chronicles the disgraced house of El and the one man who has to bring it back after his grandfather is executed for treason and his parents are killed trying to save him. This show didn’t even make it halfway through the first hour trying to be interesting on its own, instead introducing a time-traveler from the future who, as far as I can tell, is a known DC character but not one who did this in the comics, and is heralding a message of saving this era for the sake of the more familiar Superman universe and timeline we know. For me, someone who watched “Smallville” for ten seasons even though only the first two and the start of the sixth were good, this is an incredibly lackluster and unnecessary prequel that highlights what’s least interesting and engaging about Kal-El and his home planet. Nothing about this debut felt worthwhile, and I’ll happily wait for “Supergirl” to return soon for my fix of capes and extraterrestrial adventures.

How will it work as a series? Our baseball-capped time traveler will surely be back to give Seg-El some guidance, but now he’s going to be on his own to evade the authorities well aware of what he’s up to as he might also try to rehabilitate his bad boy image. That doesn’t sound terribly intriguing or appealing to me.
How long will it last? Reviews appear to be decidedly mixed, which isn’t too surprising given that any Superman-related media tends to be despised by some and beloved by others. Its viewership on Syfy, a network that clearly is the right home for this series, delivered strongly, giving Syfy its highest premiere numbers in a few way and the network a big win in ratings, which suggests to me that this show will be back for a second season and maybe more if viewers want to return for more.

Pilot grade: C-

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 3, Episode 9 “The Funeral” (B+)

I watched this episode a few days ago, but I know that the season finale is airing less than two hours after this review posts. This season has felt like a rollercoaster, mainly because of its irreverence and uncertain plot direction, and I have no idea whether a fourth season is in the cards. On a show like this, it’s not as if it would offer any real resolution or anything close to that, but half-hours like this one demonstrate its capability for entertainment. Robin continued to be completely unsupportive of Nate’s heroic attitude when he crash-landed the plane in the woods, rolling her eyes repeatedly and refusing to endorse any of his notions. I liked that Nate made a list of things that could kill them which Jareb constantly wanted to add snakes to, and then couldn’t understand why quicksand was presented as a danger by Nate since it wasn’t on the list. The family debating identity politics while Nate was sinking was pretty hilarious, and naturally they all got stuck when they tried to help him. This was a wonderful example of drugs being taken as a vehicle for comedy, with Jareb purporting to be a time traveler because Nate was repeating himself and asking Nate to dare him to throw his leg off the mountain. Nate was smart to test Robin’s faculties by suggesting that she relax, and she took it much further by telling the kids that drugs were fine and then trying to have sex with Nate in front of them. Edie’s team is hot on the trail, and the fact that they think that the Parkers murdered Sleepy suggests what counts as an intense confrontation on this show in the finale.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her (Season Premiere)

You, Me, Her: Season 3, Episode 1 “Dickless in Seattle” (B+)

I’m happy to have one of my favorite shows back on the air, this underappreciated gem from DirecTV which earned a two-season renewal way back in season one. This was a strange start to its third season given where it left its characters, with Emma’s decision to take the job in Seattle having now led to her and Jack set to sign divorce papers. Izzy living with Jack feels much more natural than a lot of their thruple activities did, though she’s totally right that her having to get over Emma is a completely different and far less significant process than Jack needing to do it. I feel like Jack’s inability to keep up with Izzy’s youthful lifestyle is going to take a backseat to his deeper issues getting over his wife, who seems to be adjusting much more smoothly to her luxury lesbian experience in a new city. Izzy having Emma come over to get her stuff while Jack was in the house was a sly move, and one that produced an uncomfortable and uncertain end which will have to wait to be resolved until the start of the next episode. Nina truly is a terrible employee, though at least she’s getting somewhere on her thesis and trying to steer her best friend away from a bad decision. Carmen and Dave are getting more central roles as they try to figure out who they are not just in relationship to each other and to their children, and Carmen in particular has made a new friend who’s not at all like her old neighbor and is sure to open her eyes to many new things.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 1, Episode 4 “Atom Bomb” (B)

I want to like this show, but I’m a bit concerned with the direction that it’s taking. Rio leaving a wounded man in Beth’s daughter’s bed without giving her a heads-up seems blatantly irresponsible, and showing up to her house during her child’s birthday party with plenty of witnesses around is the definition of indiscreet. What’s becoming most clear is that these three women are tired of taking what comes at him lying down and are determined not to do it anymore, illustrated most emphatically in this hour by Ruth lecturing the kid who then got burnt on the sizzling skillet and giving him another brutal takedown in front of his mother rather than apologize. Annie asking the wounded guy who took Beth’s car to scare a little sense into Sadie’s tormentors seemed like a good idea and may have worked, but that’s another public association that should come back to haunt her. Leslie is undeniably a nuisance, but apparently he’s been busy talking to James Lesure’s Agent Turner just loud enough to get him to pay Beth a visit to ask about Rio. Something tells me she’ll have an easier time dealing with that than with her idiot husband who’s googling “how to fake cancer” on her computer. She’s going to eviscerate him once she finds out, and it’s not going to be pretty, but he’s shown just how manipulative he can be with the kids, with not a lack of remorse for his infidelity. This new 30-day return policy cash-washing scheme is brilliant, though they’ll have to be careful since Leslie is going to be watching them and sure to be tracking their behavior.

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 4 “Brainless in Seattle, Part 2” (B)

So much for this serial killer plotline – that was wrapped up pretty swiftly and neatly after Ravi put on a fake accent and said “pickle” a bunch of times. Instead, the second half of this two-parter dealt with Liv still being on romance brains and pining over Tim. This show is really emphasizing the comedy with Major on wrestler brain shouting out his feelings while watching Liv make out with Tim on the dance floor. That dream relationship quickly turned sour when Tim revealed himself to be a zombie supremacist member of Angus’ church, news that wasn’t quite as revolting to Liv as the fact that his last name was Timmerson. Clive was not happy that she was butting into his love life, and the revelation that his relationship with Dale is open made things even sadder since he’s clearly not okay with that. People being on brains is usually a publicized thing these days, but it can be very problematic when it’s not clear, like with Blaine spilling all of his secrets, disgusting a few customers and telling Don-E that he has the cure. Fortunately for him and less fortunately for society, he did manage to track down Renegade and bring her straight to Chase, and let’s hope that this military man is actually good and strikes some deal with her rather than find a more finite fate to put her out of business. Major’s top recruit continues to be a loose cannon, and their discovery of Angus’ church was a frightening event, one that suggests that a human-zombie war is inevitable, with Fillmore Graves in a complicated position for when the time comes.

Monday, March 26, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 15 “Necromancing the Stone” (B-)

I read a bit of casting news for this show recently, which probably isn’t a spoiler given the recent direction of the plot and the fact that another episode of this show has already aired as I’m swiftly catching up on my television. Apparently, Wally West isn’t the only joining this show as a series regular, since Matt Ryan is also on board as Constantine. I’ve never been fond of this show’s demon-centric focus, which it fortunately got away from in season two after Savage was finally neutralized. The bigger problem is that he was the lead on his NBC show, and the rest of this cast is made up of supporting characters who don’t need to take the spotlight. For now, he was able to exorcise Mallus, but I feel like they should just get rid of that whole threat instead of keeping Mallus around, but he’s also joining the cast in season four, which hasn’t been officially announced yet and will hopefully be demon-free. Sara being possessed was not a pretty sight, but it was cool to see Mick embrace his dark side, which he can control, and use the totem to create fire to take her out. Everyone seeing visions of people that haunt them from their past was eerie, and the fact that Ava was trying not to insult her when she first saw her via video-conference was weird but funny. Ending the episode with Constantine playing Dungeons and Dragons with Gary was just strange, and I hope that we’ll get back to better things and more subplots next episode.

What I’m Watching: Timeless

Timeless: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Darlington 500” (B)

It’s confusing watching this show and “Legends of Tomorrow” back-to-back since both crews are racing to stop time from being changed in irreparable ways. This one, while less sinister since it doesn’t involve any sort of demons, tries to take itself too seriously at the wrong moments, leading to a sometimes less than fully satisfying experience. The casual racism displayed is a particular weakness of this show, since it’s always Rufus rolling his eyes about how intolerant people were back then rather than facing any true danger for sticking out like a sore thumb in an era that wouldn’t simply have shrugged off the color of his skin. In this episode, he got to give Wendell the nod that he didn’t get and then had the symbolic act of two black men driving the car while their two white companions had to be hidden. What’s much more interesting is the notion that Matt Long from “Jack and Bobby” and “The Deep End” was a famed NASCAR drive Wyatt remembered loving when he was a kid who was actually a sleeper agent planted by Rittenhouse to detonate a bomb. Emma sure is ruthless and cruel, inviting Ryan’s wife to the race so that she could threaten her life if Ryan tried to deviate from the mission. They really need to start working with Flynn so they’re not always a step behind, racing away and giving Wyatt the thrill of his life getting to drive a racer’s car. Agent Christopher having Mason arrested publicly hardly seems productive, especially when Rittenhouse grandfather Nicholas Keynes is busy printing out all of Wikipedia and drawing cryptic murals.

Pilot Review: Instinct

Instinct (CBS)
Premiered March 18 at 8pm

There are actors who end up in roles on television for years that help to define them in a certain way, and when the show inevitably goes off the air, they’re left to find a new part. CBS is particularly known for this, with actors like Michael Wetherly departing “NCIS” early to star on “Bull,” and in this case, Alan Cumming, who earned three Emmy nominations for playing political operator Eli Gold on “The Good Wife,” wasn’t invited along for spin-off “The Good Fight.” The Scottish actor is playing a much less buttoned-up character here, but he’s still just as excitable with a flair for the dramatic. Starting out by daring a student to hit him and then sucker-punching him instead was awfully theatrical, and he took right away to the cop-advisor relationship that is so central to so many different cop shows, including the recently-premiered “Deception,” with a magician subbed in for this author. Cumming is effortlessly great, and it’s obvious that he’s having a good time. Bojana Novakovic, most recognizable for playing Frank’s beloved Bianca on “Shameless,” seems less strict and willing to open up than many cops in similar positions, and they’re a good pair. It’s always good to see Naveen Andrews from “Lost” and “Sense8,” and I have a feeling that he’ll be around a lot as the resident CIA help, with Sharon Leal from “Supergirl” as another top cop. We also have Whoopi Goldberg in a random recurring role which lets her enjoy herself. Lines like “I’m not bossy, I’m your boss” and “You get to come everywhere with me, but I can’t go with you?” show that the banter here is ready to go, and so if this is your kind of series, it stacks up pretty well so far.

How will it work as a series? Their dynamic has already been established, and Lizzie seems to want to have Dylan around if only for some company as much as he wants to be involved, which is helpful since it puts them on the same page. Formulaic procedurals like these work great, and I suspect that Dylan can turn even the most monotonous of cases into something page-turning.
How long will it last? I thought I had heard good things about this show, but I guess that’s not the consensus, which is decidedly mixed. The ratings were considerably better, besting most of its competition but not as fantastic as CBS sometimes gets from its other shows. I’d still lean towards a renewal at this point, though it’s far from guaranteed.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 1, Episode 9 “No Man’s Land, Part One” (B+)

I didn’t realize that this was the penultimate episode of the season and that this show was taking a week off before its finale, which makes me being a full week behind on my television not so inconvenient. It’s alarming that Starz hasn’t renewed this show for a second season yet, though there have been reports that production is already underway. This was a predictably intense hour, one that ended with a brutal shooting which involved the three agents from the other side being activated. The other Howard was nonchalant about turning himself in and telling Aldrich and Cyrus that he hoped they knew the mole wasn’t him but Clare, and unfortunately he should have been far more vigilant given the timing of the operation, which clearly caught Roland by surprise as he stood in shock about to head to the hospital. Clare was resourceful enough to grab her phone and make a call to Baldwin to put a hit out on Howard, and I’m not sure what Peter’s plan of getting into a bad car crash with his wife was supposed to do and how it will play out, especially since so many desk agents have now been killed while he was busy protecting her. Ian and Emily aren’t having much better luck on the other side, and now our Howard is well aware both that his Emily was his other’s source and that Pope was responsible for the car accident that put her in the coma. I can’t imagine how everything is going to play out in the finale, and I so hope that we have plenty more of this show to look forward to in the future.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 4, Episode 13 “Chapter Seventy-Seven” (B+)

This show has dealt with devastating developments in the past, mainly Michael’s death, which came on very suddenly and shockingly. Xiomara’s cancer scare seemed like it was a big nothing, but then she admitted that the news wasn’t as good as she had claimed, which suggests a melancholy road ahead. I’m not sure what that will do for Rogelio, who is already a bit of a mess, and having him pine over the woman he lost probably won’t do great things for this show. Better to give him some chance to show his emotion, like when he realized that he might lose her, and let him focus on trying not to singe off River Fields’ eyebrows again while wooing her for what now looks nothing like “The Passions of Steve.” We got some nice unusual character interaction between an English-speaking Alba and Petra, who did something completely out of character and dressed up like the Tooth Fairy to convince Mateo that her daughters were lying when they told him that she wasn’t real. The news that Krishna, the definition of a background character, was the one blackmailing JR and trying to frame Petra, is disappointing only because now it’s completely over without any real consequences, and we’ll just have to see if the romantic relationship it created lasts despite JR’s casual dismissal of it continuing. Luisa is back as a central plot point, and hopefully she and Rafael can work something out so that he can find his birth parents without having to throw his newly sympathetic sister under the bus in the process.

Pilot Review: On My Block

On My Block (Netflix)
Premiered March 16

I suppose that, in an age where high school students are marching in streets across the country to demand better gun control after a wave of school shootings, there should be one show to address a community where the way that those who hear gunshots almost every day cope with it is to compete to identify what type of gun has been fired. This is a series that aims to turn what could be a serious, inescapable situation into a lighter, comedy-filled one, not averse to heartbreak and violence but still tempered by an entertaining tone. Each of the four protagonists has their own hangups that make their circumstances complicated. Monse is the only girl in the bunch, and her father is constantly away for work to try to bring them home some money, leaving her free to make her own decisions. Ruby just wants his own room and to stay out of trouble, but instead he has to live with his grandmother and be subject to the whims of others. Jamal can’t lie, and as a result now he’s committing to an even larger concocted football career. And Cesar is hopelessly stuck in the gang life that his family has ordained for him, with no way to escape it, likely not even with the help of his friends. There are some good performances here, particularly Sierra Capri as Monse, and it’s nice to see a fresh cast that emphasizes diversity and representation of a community that feels appropriately stylized and energetic. I don’t think I’ll keep watching, but this was a worthwhile start.

How will it work as a series? This show is reminiscent of other recent youth-focused efforts like “The Get Down” but with far less flair, which should help it to be a perfectly normal and enjoyable series enhanced by its plotlines and its characters. How far it chooses to go in certain situations will tell whether it can remain balanced in its tone and still appealing to viewers.
How long will it last? Don’t expect ratings data from Netflix anytime soon, and looking to reviews from among the many streaming shows premiering every single week is the best indicator of its chances. They’re pretty positive, and so I’d expect this series to be brought back for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

Round Two: Collateral

Collateral: Season 1, Episode 2 (B)

There’s so much going on here, and not a single development was positive. Carey Mulligan’s Kip remains so unflinchingly angry, and my two favorite moments of directed fury from her where her question about where Boca Raton is and shooting back at David’s comment about her being a former athlete with a description of him as the guy who wants to let everyone out of prison. Incredibly, she was the nice one when she went with Sam to talk to the two women being held in the pre-deportation non-jail detention center that was introduced at the start of the hour. The revelation that the shooter had access to military machinery was an important one that helped to bring in two military characters to our story, the traumatized and generally cold Sandrine and her downright abusive supervisor Dyson. Laurie’s guilt led her right to the most sympathetic of ears, Jane, while Kip and Nathan were convinced that she was a drug dealer who should be the subject of their investigation, and if she’s even still alive after her van abduction and beating, she’s going to be in very poor shape. As David avoids call and prepares for a potentially controversial vote, it’s still very unclear to me exactly what’s going on, but at least he spoke directly with Kip and clarified just what he was trying to do in bringing her a top witness. The unfazed and unrepentant Karen certainly seems guiltiest to me, but something tells me that what’s going on is much bigger and much more nefarious.

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete

Sneaky Pete: Season 2, Episode 2 “Inside Out” (B+)

It really is incredible to see Pete and Marjorie work. The confidence with which Marjorie walked into the prison to point out that the man in Pete’s picture was actually Marius was incredible, and our Pete took it further when he swooped in to give supervisor Carol the meal of her life at the restaurant she always wanted to try, under the guise that she was an esteemed social media influencer, so that he could steal her keycard, break into her office, and make a call from there to get the real Pete released. They did what they wanted to, save for one obnoxious guard’s decision to have Pete dumped in an unusual way so that it wouldn’t come back on them, and now Marius is going to have to race against the clock to find the real Pete and spin him some story that won’t combust his entire operation. He also has to be careful about the fact that, unbeknownst to him, Taylor and Carly have his name, though Taylor is more preoccupied with fielding questions from Jennifer Ferrin’s Joyce and trying to protect his affair that might have raised too many red flags. Both Audrey and Otto aren’t in great shape, taking steps to conceal their actions in deaths that happened around them, and only Julia has things together as she uses her own connections to try to get the money laundering operation going, faced with a tough choice about how to impact her actual business in order to jump-start this very necessary side work.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 4, Episode 6 “The Hinge” (B+)

Starting this episode out with a flashback to Frankie’s childhood was strange since we really don’t see much of that on this show, and it helped to introduce us to Frankie and both of her siblings, one of whom died young and is apparently responsible for Frankie not driving on the highway. After Frankie used questionable methods to track down Teddie, her sister did the same to find her, and their reunion started out uncomfortably but quickly turned into something better. I’m not sure how long she’ll stick around, but it gives Frankie something else to do other than to suggest that they replace the stairs with an indoor slide (a motorized seat would probably be more productive). Grace was even more stubborn than Frankie usually is in not wanting to deal with her knee problems, and the scene in the supermarket went bad fast when she saw Barry and tried to bolt so that he wouldn’t spot her. His behavior in the car was incredibly awkward, but it’s good to know that they have this new secret relationship. It’s about as uncomfortable as the dynamic that exists between Allison and Coyote, who, much to Bud’s bewilderment, have decided that they’ve mutually agreed not to like each other. The problems plaguing Robert and Sol are going to considerably more difficult to solve given Robert’s attempt to do something nice for Sol and his subsequent poor choice to bail on it for an acting opportunity. Sol going on that cruise alone isn’t going to be good for anyone, especially not his fellow cruisegoers.

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

The End of the F***ing World: Season 1, Episode 7 (B+)

Alyssa definitely switched into a whole new mode of dependence that we haven’t seen from her at all as soon as she arrived at her father’s home. I was worried that her being enamored with him would prompt James to revive his killer instinct, but instead it seems to have done the opposite, as he couldn’t even kill the dog that her father ran over at the end of the episode. James throwing knives with Alyssa’s dad was about the most normal thing that they did together, and his description of him as not quite an adult was very spot-on. Things went downhill very fast when he got confronted at the bar by the mother of his other child, whose existence was enough to burst the bubble completely for Alyssa, and his immediate running-over of the dog irreversibly sealed the deal. James’ father was in continued denial about what his son could be capable of, and Alyssa’s mother just wanted to blame James for corrupting her little girl. Eunice did not appreciate Teri’s joke about dragging the investigation out for a few days so that James could turn eighteen, and the roles have really reversed in that dynamic. Eunice has become completely sympathetic to the plight of Alyssa and James, giving them more credit than their rebellious retreat deserves, and Teri’s eagerness to send them to prison made Eunice not want to be around her, even when she suggested they share a hotel room. Now that Alyssa and James’ faces are out there on the news for all to see, I’m very curious to see what happens in the season finale.

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

The Crown: Season 2, Episode 10 “Mystery Man” (B+)

I wouldn’t have expected any real sense of satisfaction from this season ender since each of this show’s episodes stand so far apart from one another and often cover completely different material and time periods. The introduction of this conspiratorial chiropractor is exactly the kind of unexpected twist that would occur on the season finale of this show since it felt like came from completely out of nowhere. Instead, it was very tied in to what’s happening on this show, with the third prime minister in Elizabeth’s tenure resigning and new truths about her marriage to Philip coming to light. The prime minister’s decline was a formidable one, as he first looked at his wife a different way when she went to laugh at him, experienced his own humiliation, and then had to insist repeatedly to Elizabeth that he really couldn’t do it anymore and had to step down. This is an excellent Emmy episode for Claire Foy, who I hope will submit it, because she got two truly tremendous scenes, the first one with the prime minister where she described him and his two predecessors as “a confederacy of elected quitters” and then the second with Philip towards the end of the episode. After his repeated absences, he tried to argue that he was there for her no matter what, prompting a very honest response that she could cope with the truth, she just demanded to know it. That was a refreshing scene which informed plenty about both of them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Smith was also nominated for an Emmy this season. This has been another good year, and I’m looking forward to seeing an all-new cast and more real adventures in season three.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Claire Foy as Elizabeth

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

The Punisher: Season 1, Episode 13 “Memento Mori” (B+)

Most loyal viewers of this series watched this finale way back in November, but I’m happy to be concluding it now after getting to thoroughly process each and every hour. That proves to me at the very least that this show is greatly superior to the one that spun it off, “Daredevil,” which took ten episodes to get me hooked. This was an expectedly violent conclusion to Frank’s hunt to kill all those who took his family from him, though not quite as deadly as it could have been. With David safely reunited with his family and Frank rescued after killing Rawlins, it came down to Billy versus Frank, with the former tracking down first Curtis and then two innocent young employees of the carousel to bait the one person he felt he needed to kill in order to somehow get away, despite everyone knowing who he was and no way out truly existing. Billy seemed genuinely hurt that the two guys he could actually call friends had betrayed him, though lying about Frank being dead is hardly comparable to allowing Frank’s family to be killed, especially when we saw just how close Billy was with them, visiting that same carousel earlier when things were much sunnier. One thing this show did tremendously well was to visualize Frank’s psyche through the night terrors and daydreams he had about what he lost, and while he got a pass and can now live peacefully as Pete, he’ll never be able to recover from that in a real way. At least David is back with his family with no imminent threat to his life, and Marion proved to be as good as she could when it came down to it. I don’t know where season two will go, but seeing Frank try to help other people process their experiences in war while admitting that he has no idea what’s next for him is a truly appealing start.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jon Bernthal as Frank

Friday, March 23, 2018

What I’m Watching: Atlanta

Atlanta: Season 2, Episode 3 “Money Bag Shawty” (B+)

Watching this episode, I realized that, in some ways, Earn is a lot like Larry David’s character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Like always finds way to get back at him, though Earn hardly asks for it since he doesn’t push buttons and challenge undisputed tropes the way that Larry does. He did push a bit more than usual in this hour when he felt like he needed to celebrate his newfound prosperity in a way that hardly seemed offensive or objectionable. Getting thrown out of the club for paying with a bill that even the security guard knew wasn’t fake was an unfortunate start to his night on the town, and watching a white man with a gun successfully use that same bill when he had been refused trying to do it moments earlier got him going. The exaggeration of reality that this show employed in this episode was more effective than it often is, featured most heavily in Earn’s visit to the strip club, where he had to pay a twenty percent exchange fee to turn his hundreds into ones, needed to pay for the alcohol that definitely was not included in the table as it was supposed to be, and getting charged twenty dollars for a three-second lapdance that took place a few feet from Van. Earn also got a whole lot of angry passion from the waiter who approached Paper Boi at the bar, but he missed out on the troubling antics in the recording studio that found Paper Boi and Darius leaving just before that engineer suffered an unfortunate fate.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 9, Episode 14 “The Beefcake and the Cake Beef” (B+)

I’ll give this episode a positive review because it handled its two plotlines very well, tackling one series-relevant issue and another current political one in the best way it knows how. We’ll start with the less exaggerated one, which was Jack for once being a good friend and trying to seriously give Will relationship advice since he was looking out for him. His inability to process Grace’s definition of “vis-à-vis” was a false indicator of his grasp on the situation, in which he explained to Will that Cheyenne Jackson’s Michael just wanted him for his money. Jack never offering to pay for anything either was a running joke, but ultimately things turned out exactly as Jack had predicted because Michael’s big life move wasn’t one related to their relationship but instead a request for him to invest in his gym. Something tells me that Jack did consider a romance with Will in the same way, but they’ve come so far from there that to imagine it now would be impossible. The other feature of this half-hour was one that has allowed this show to be even more topical than when it used to air a decade and a half ago, with Karen serving as the stand-in for right-wing Trump fans. “People like me don’t care about the problems of the white working class – that was just to win the election” was just the icing on the cake (pun obviously inserted), and Grace having to defend Karen’s right to request a cake bearing an acronym that went against everything she and the baker believed in proved to be an entertaining direction for this episode. Vanessa Bayer’s baker adding an I and a Y to spell out “IMAGAY” was clever, and naturally this defense of civil rights would lead to neo-Nazis and the like frequenting this very inclusive establishment.

What I’m Watching: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones: Season 2, Episode 2 “AKA Freak Accident” (B+)

Jessica has never been known for her bedside manner, and there’s something about her walking into a shiva house and then throwing one of the visitors out of his wheelchair that just isn’t surprising. She isn’t making friends with anyone, getting along poorly with the neighbor she thought would help her out and seeming more than eager to punch out Trish’s mom if she gave her too much attitude. She and Trish were both working separately on getting answers to their questions, and now that they’ve been terrified into collaboration, they should be much more productive and headed in the right direction. Malcolm, subject to constant verbal abuse from his unwilling boss, was very eager to help Trish out with whatever she needed, which in this case involved approaching the producer played by James McCaffrey from “Rescue Me” who had an inappropriate relationship with her when she was younger. The reveal that Will was alive was subtle and sudden, and he went from being a threat to being Trish’s loyal protector to getting killed by some freaky assassin who ran like he was straight out of “Iron Fist,” an unfortunate universe companion to this show. I’m hopeful that whatever comes next and the enemies that Jess has to fight are considerably more sophisticated, and I’m sure that they will be. Hogarth, who is revving up to take Jessica on in a legal battle that she doesn’t see coming at all, is in really bad shape, and she’s going to spiral out of control well before her health takes its turn for the worse.

Round Two: Life Sentence

Life Sentence: Season 1, Episode 2 “Re-Inventing the Abbotts” (B)

In its second outing, this show demonstrated some of its staying power while painting a decent picture of how it’s going to work now that the initial shock value of Stella’s cancer being gone has passed. Some of what’s going on is considerably more dramatic than the rest, like Wes finding out that he might be deported since the authorities believed that his marriage to Stella was just to be able to maintain his green card. It’s very true that the couple doesn’t seem to know each other at all, and the way that they answered the questions cast plenty of suspicion on their status, but they managed to make a great case for it that got them approved. What this show is doing well is showing how everything that Stella experienced may have been different for those around her, like all the positive memories she has from the house were actually devastating developments from her mother’s perspective, inspiring her to try to sell the house and move on as quickly as possible, something that her father wasn’t ready to do. After airing lots of awkward sentiments, things seem to be better in the family, with Elizabeth headed off to a writer’s retreat, much to the chagrin of her husband, and Aiden confronting the consequences of his actions, which may mean spilling the beans to the husband of the woman he’s impregnated. Stella isn’t doing great with her newfound job, earning one lucky customer a month of free coffee because he confirmed her overshare, though I think she’s charming enough that she can make it work.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What I’m Watching: This Is Us (Season Finale)

This Is Us: Season 2, Episode 18 “The Wedding” (B)

I don’t know why it is that this show, which is immensely popular and a beloved staple of many viewers’ weekly schedules, ends its seasons so early, culminating around this same time last year when most other series go all the way to May. Shortened eighteen-episode seasons don’t necessarily lead to more quality plotlines, though it’s not as if they feel like they’re filler, more that they’re about building the mysteries so that viewers have to come back to find out what’s going on. This installment didn’t really wrap anything up other than to let Kate and Toby get married peacefully – for the moment – and it produced three new shocking developments that are going to be the center of season three. Kevin getting together with Beth’s cousin and adoptive sister Zoe is the least spectacular of the three since this might actually be a positive relationship for him, and even though he was holding Jack’s photo on the way to Vietnam, I think that it might just be to film more scenes for his Ron Howard movie or a subsequent project. Toby experiencing the depression that his parents, played by Wendie Malick and Dan Lauria, had described that he experienced when his first marriage ended, is a devastating turn that’s going to give Kate the opportunity to care for her troubled partner. And, way in the future, Randall pushing Tess to go see someone is a complete question mark, with the assumption that it’s Deja but a likelier conclusion that it’s either Beth or Annie. That will all have to wait, as is this show’s frustrating tendency, and we’re left instead with the manipulative start to this episode, featuring a Jack still living long beyond when we know he died renewing his vows with Rebecca on their fortieth anniversary, something that Kate was dreaming about as she prepared for her wedding and had to let her father go a bit. At least we got to see Randall and Kevin acting like brothers and having fun as they searched for Kate. I still don’t think this show is quite as superb as everyone else does, but it is a good show that has its moments and serves its purpose. I’d love to see Susan Kelechi Watson earn an Emmy nod along with the rest of the cast this summer, and I think Mandy Moore’s chances are looking good for that Superbowl episode.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 3, Episode 8 “The Plane” (B+)

We got a pretty quick answer to the question of what happened when Nate thought about going into Edie’s motel room to talk to her, as he saw that she was working with a federal agency to bring him and his family down and then promptly fell down the stairs trying to run away. There’s no denying the brilliance of Laura Benanti on this show, always committed so much to the idea of this dogged postal police officer determined to catch the perpetrators of mail crimes. The fervor with which she was eating during their conversation was incredible, and the few passionate kisses she planted on him and then blamed him for took him by surprise, but she wasn’t even fazed by them, just continuing on with her ravings. Once he got away from her, things didn’t improve all that much, since his hiring of a pilot named Sleepy produced predictable results. The Parker family is always on the brink of some major crisis, and potentially dying in a plane crash was just the latest of their antics. Nate, to his credit, did his best to paint a picture of what heaven could be, while the other three in the back were far less optimistic about their chances in the afterlife. I love that Robin chastised Nate for giving a speech while he was pretending to be a pilot, prompting a hilarious response from him that he was literally flying the plane. We’re getting closer to the end of the season and to seeing how this case pans out, which I imagine will be in favor of the Parkers given Edie’s rogue status and her use of an Alaskan militia to help with her off-the-books investigation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pilot Review: Rise

Rise (NBC)
Premiered March 13 at 10pm

There are shows that come along every once in a while that are authentically inspiring and attain a following taken in by the way in characters on the show are so transformed by radiant personalities combatting difficult circumstances in the show’s world. One such series was “Friday Night Lights,” defining a town’s livelihood by the spirit captured in its high school football games. It’s no surprise that creator Jason Katims would want to create another series like that one after taking a bit of a break for family dramedy with “Parenthood” and “About a Boy.” This show, which is also based on a nonfiction book, “Drama High” by Michael Sokolove, aims to portray a high school that lacks the right kind of enthusiasm and direction and is irreversibly transformed into something great and enduring through the implementation of a boundary-pushing drama program. The problem is that this feels entirely manufactured, employing a similar look to “Friday Night Lights” but a far less effective feel. Part of the woes might come from casting Josh Radnor, best known for being a great straight man on long-running comedy “How I Met Your Mother,” in the lead role, but it has more to do with the fact that the way the school is portrayed doesn’t make it seem genuinely in need of saving, and Radnor’s Lou is so set on being the inspiration that his eventual success is sure to feel self-congratulatory. He also doesn’t have a great handle on his home life, and he’s already in way over his head getting everyone in the play to demand that the show go on as only they want it to. This is a show that feels manipulative in the way it wishes to guide its audience and far from genuine.

How will it work as a series? The students are indeed the only ones clamoring for this show to happen, supported by Lou and Rosie Perez’s Tracey, and they’re going to come up against plenty of resistance in the process of putting it on from all the parents, administrators, and fellow students who just don’t get it. But we already know they’ll be inspired and successful, which makes it more or less enticing?
How long will it last? Reviews are mixed, more positive overall than how I felt after watching this pilot. The ratings were moderately good to start, following an episode of “This Is Us,” the show that’s probably most comparable to it on the air right now. Taking over its timeslot now that the season is over should mean good things, and therefore I’d expect a second season to be ordered soon.

Pilot grade: C

Pilot Review: For the People

For the People (ABC)
Premiered March 13 at 10pm

Eight years ago, ABC premiered a new show about young lawyers in way over their heads that I described as being advertised as “Grey’s Anatomy” with law instead of medicine. “The Deep End” had some good comic elements, like the protagonist eagerly announcing that he was a little early only to be told that he was ten days late, and the expected amount of sex and scandal to keep things lively. It was decent, if not great, and lasted a mere six episodes. Now, so many years later, we have the same network attempting another series that specifically spotlights lawyers at the start of their careers without any added twist like one of them being in a second career after her husband was disgraced following a political affair. This series wasted no time in being sappy right from the start with an impassioned speech from the judge played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, most recently seen as reporter Ben on “Daredevil.” Playing the adults, we have two very talented and dependable performers, Ben Shenkman of “Billions,” “Royal Pains,” and much more, and Hope Davis of “In Treatment,” “American Splendor,” “Wayward Pines,” and so many others, along with Anna Deavere Smith in a role that’s supposed to tie everything together. Among the younger clan, the only one who sticks out is Britt Robertson, whose recent starring turn on “Girlboss” was far more worthwhile than this dull of a part here which doesn’t do anything to showcase her strengths as an actress. So much that happens on this show is formulaic and predictable, with over-sensationalized plots like someone being arrested for terrorism when he was the lone actual participant in an FBI sting and another person being cruelly targeted for a relatively innocent mistake. This show might be energizing for its target audience, but there’s little new or original about it.

How will it work as a series? We’ve already seen a couple break up after going up against each other in court, and we know that the two adults are actually friendly despite the different ways in which they perceive the world. That’s sure to only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that could happen on a show that’s likely to feature high-value cases and lots of complicated webs connecting the people defending and prosecuting them.
How long will it last? Reviews were decent for this show, which is ultimately going to be carried much more on its ratings success given its Shondaland status. Those numbers were also okay if not completely fantastic, and while ABC could probably use a new legal show these days, I’m not so sure that this is it. It could still get renewed, but I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

Pilot grade: C+

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 4, Episode 16 “Run, Iris, Run” (B+)

If there’s one thing that this show has done well, it’s giving each of its characters the opportunity to shine with powers of their own. Joe is now the only member of the team who hasn’t been either temporarily or permanently gifted with abilities, since Harry is technically amplifying his brainwaves to give him amplified power of thought. It was Ralph’s own grappling with his mortality and how the odds are looking for his future that made him spur Iris into action because she felt judged for never going into the field, and it just so happened that she got taken hostage and ended up being given Barry’s powers. Though the first few outings didn’t go so smoothly, it was nice to see Iris energized by her speed and accompanied by a purple light of her own, with Jesse’s costume serving as a perfect fit for her brief use. Creating the tidal wave and vanquishing the firestarter after a rough beginning was an impressive final feat, and it’s good to know that she’s now more than satisfied with staying on the sidelines and running point for the team. After seeing so many metas destined for evil just because they were endowed with powers, it was refreshing to see hero paramedic Matthew Kim actually want to help. I’m nervous that he won’t actually be able to take DeVoe’s powers since everything so far has worked out so poorly, and there are still six episodes left until the end of the season. At least the team has two legs up right now with Harry’s successful acquisition of the last two names of the bus metas.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Take Three: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 1, Episode 3 “Borderline” (B)

This show continues to be interesting, though I feel like it’s stalling a little bit in some predictable ways. The best comparison to this episode is when Nancy crossed the border the first time and had to pee in her Starbucks cup on “Weeds,” furious to discover that it was just a test mission without any drugs. What Rio is doing is considerably more serious, with that giant warehouse and all of the counterfeit money, and seeing that made the trip to Canada feel more worthwhile. It was entertaining to see first Beth and then Annie try to convince the guy who didn’t want to give them their package to do it, and then Ruby tried to intimidate him with the empty gun only to accidentally shoot him right away. While that was an unfortunate mistake, the fact that it was a gun made it more dangerous from the start. Annie pairing her phone with the stolen car, on the other hand, was very poor decision-making that could easily have been avoided. It’s also evident that, however much she loves her child, Annie is not a responsible parent given just how much it took for her to remember to be a home for a visit that, and it’s no surprise that it went poorly enough that she needed to ask for a ride to the emergency room. I’m not sure what Beth is thinking in calling Rio over, but hopefully it’s to make sure that there’s a legitimate way for them to continue their affiliation with his criminal enterprise and steer clear of the police. Ruby made the best of her situation when she thanked the woman who tried to take credit for giving them the money for so many things that she hadn’t offered to do but now had to in order to keep up the lie.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: iZombie

iZombie: Season 4, Episode 3 “Brainless in Seattle, Part 1” (B+)

This new reality means that the suspect pool is considerably more limited due to the already proven fact that those who committed or were victims of crimes had to be in Seattle before it was sectioned off from the rest of the country, but we also know that there are those trying to get in and out and others helping them to do it. Annie was nervous about coming in with her smuggler escort, who was very reassuring that he had done this before, but then she ended up dead because she could meet the man she had started dating online just a month earlier. Liv eating her brain promptly transformed her into a homeless romantic eager to narrate each month and prone to falling head over heels in love with each person she saw. Trying to seduce Allan during interrogation was very entertaining, and it was fun to see Ravi let her try to give him a makeover so that he could help Peyton chaperone her trip to the Scratching Post, where she met another guy before panicking that she had lost the number that he wrote on her arm. Using the sketch artist to draw Tim was hilarious, though they do have to focus more on Bruce, who apparently was not just a treacherous coyote but a serial killer. There’s also the matter of Dale’s apparent infidelity, which is going to have normal Liv off any brains hating her, and Don-E’s hardball with the brain supplier who Blaine used to get someone that he could turn human with the cure to feast on his brains and get the answers to track down Renegade that he needs.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 14 “Amazing Grace” (B)

This is an episode that exemplifies the nature of this show, which is wildly entertaining if a bit outrageous and random sometimes. I’m not usually fond of ghosts showing up in any of the programming I watch, but I do have to admit that this relatively tame episode managed to handle it well, certainly more pleasantly than all the exorcism stuff we saw earlier this season. I love that Nate’s hair product ceased to exist and Mick had to rename his pet rat because Elvis never made it as a rock star and therefore rock and roll didn’t become a thing. Naturally, Elvis’ guitar would have the sixth totem attached to it that was actually the ghost of his dead twin brother who helped inspire him to make his music. It was convenient that his preacher uncle could cite that as the devil showing up through the music, and it did manage to unearth quite a few spirits in Memphis that only Elvis making peace with his brother could put to rest. Ray having a funeral for Mick’s pet rat on the ship was a silly diversion, though I guess it was a bit entertaining. It was notable to see Nate try to get Amaya to experience music that meant something to her, and though she wasn’t entirely fond of his particular genre, it is clear that she’s fallen in love with him, which makes their constant exploits and the fact that she ultimately has to return to her timeline all the more complicated.

What I’m Watching: Timeless (Season Premiere)

Timeless: Season 2, Episode 1 “The War to End All Wars” (B)

When this show last aired over a year ago, I didn’t yet know whether it would be back for a second season, and an announcement came soon after that it wouldn’t be. While I still argue that this show wasn’t the one that needed to get another chance and end up saved from cancellation when so many others didn’t earn that same opportunity, this is still a fun series that I don’t think I’m ready to give up on just yet. The “previously on” segment was quite extensive and indicated that maybe it was worth bringing back, and this was also an hour that saw things in an uncertain state for our three protagonists. I guess it’s good that Lucy pretending to work with Rittenhouse only lasted for the majority of this episode and not for a good portion of the season, since now she can get back to work with Wyatt and Rufus on combating that which they’ve been trying to accomplish. Emma was very eager to test her loyalty throughout their time together, and her mother has revealed herself to be a villain far more cunning if not quite as nefarious. I like that they met Irene Curie, who said that Lucy’s French was terrible when she complimented her English, and her mother, who Emma nearly shot, which would surely have had a negative impact on history. We’ll have to see what role the soldier they saved, played by Michael Rady from “Swingtown” and “House of Lies,” will play now that he’s been brought to the future to see his vision of Rittenhouse actualized. In more comic occurrences, I loved the cover story of “Was that not Captain Phillips’ truck? He asked us to save Private Ryan.”

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pilot Review: Deception

Deception (ABC)
Premiered March 11 at 10pm

I feel like, for all the shows that there are about people in fields that have nothing to do with law enforcement who end up working with either the police or the FBI to help solve crimes, there aren’t many about magicians who do it. That’s not to suggest that the TV universe is in need of such shows, but here we have one. This show could have kept us going for a lot longer before it revealed a twist straight out of “The Prestige,” but instead it dropped the brother-bomb early, sending Jonathan to prison for a murder he didn’t commit while the disgraced Cameron tried to keep his act going. The fact that Cameron was the one who came to the FBI to tell them that he had witnessed a disappearing act engineered by a magician rather than having his services sought out tells you plenty about the size of his ego, but he also more than proved his worth, first by fooling the agents into thinking that he was a criminal they were looking for and then managing to drive blindfolded, get shot, and still deliver the bad guy straight to the authorities. Star Jack Cutmore-Scott is a relative newcomer to TV, having played the title character on “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life,” a horrible one-season series from 2016, and he’s certainly charismatic, matched well with professional eye-roller Ilfenesh Hadera, who plays Agent Daniels. The two recognizable members of the main cast are Amaury Nalasco, of “Prison Break” fame, who portrays a rather dorky FBI agent entranced by magic, and Vinnie Jones, who I wish was still starring on the short-lived medieval musical “Galavant.” And then there’s also Stephanie Corneliussen, very memorable on “Mr. Robot,” as the sorceress with the magic eyes, who should keep Black and the FBI busy for quite some time. This show is entertaining if nothing else, but it doesn’t stand out enough to merit weekly viewing.

How will it work as a series? Black seems positively energized by the opportunity to hunt down the woman who ruined his brother’s life, and I guess that Agent Daniels is going to keep him around because she also perpetrated the escape of a federal prisoner? That part isn’t clear, but we’ve seen how this works on “Castle” and “Limitless” and so many other shows. It’s predictable to a degree but also wildly exciting – and just as unbelievable – if done right.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t great, but I’m not sure anyone thought that this was going to be a critical hit. The premiere numbers are decent for ABC on Sunday nights, not emblematic of surefire success but strong enough to give this show a fighting chance to stick around at least as long as its protagonist needs to catch the woman he’s currently after.

Pilot grade: B-

Friday, March 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: Homeland

Homeland: Season 7, Episode 5 “Active Measures” (C)

I’m strongly considering giving up on this show, not because this episode was significantly worse than the rest of what we’ve seen this season, but rather due to its inability to really go anywhere interesting. Saul thinks it might be the Russians, not O’Keefe, who was responsible for the doctored video that caused all the chaos, an attempt to mimic reality that doesn’t feel like it’s going to be worthwhile since it can’t possibly compare to election influencing and all that, and is hardly as exciting as the kind of government conspiracies we’re used to on this show. I’m not sure why Keane thought it would be a good idea to encourage the widow of the FBI agent killed to attend the memorial, and the fact that the mother of the dead kid chose to welcome her doesn’t negate the angry reception everyone else gave them when they walked in. Keane is congratulating herself without much reason to do so, and things are going to get much worse soon after this brief victory. Carrie’s operation didn’t go too well despite her intervening to plant a second bug after the first failed, and her puzzled reaction at the end of the episode is leading to a conclusion that we’ve been well aware of for some time: Wellington is not involved in this corruption at all, but, worse, he’s being played by someone else who’s manipulating events. I really do feel that this season is proceeding along without much purpose, and with so much else on, why should I bother with this show anymore?

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 1, Episode 8 “Love the Lie” (B+)

After last week’s knockout of an expository episode filling in a whole lot of the blanks, now we see what happens when that school is discovered. There wasn’t even a need for a shootout to create so many casualties, which shows the lengths this group is willing to go to protect their mission. Its discovery led to what was clearly the most worthwhile scene of the hour, which found both Howards sitting opposite each other and comparing their experiences. It was great to see our Howard stand up for himself and decry theirs for ruining his life, which ours had already managed to improve in just a short time on the other side. It’s disconcerting that their Howard didn’t even bother to apologize for lying about his Emily being alive, and he opted not to share the news that our Emily woke up, even though she’s in no state for our Howard to see her, especially since he’s had the jarring experience of spending time with someone very much like her who has full control of all of her functions. More troubling than their passionate exchange was how a distraught Peter, who spent the hour trying to grapple with his wife’s betrayal, chose to handle the situation when he was confronted by Aldrich. Framing Howard is a questionable move, and one that’s not likely to benefit since their Howard was more than willing to help Peter clean up a mess he should have been aware of long ago when he called him. I suspect that their Howard won’t take it lying down when he’s accused, though it does seem that communication between the two worlds isn’t always a simple or quick process, which could leave him decidedly alone without allies.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 4, Episode 12 “Chapter Seventy-Six” (B+)

Jane and Rafael made such a big deal about breaking the news of their relationship to their family members, but it turns out that their unsubtle behavior was noticed and they had even taken bets to determine when they would finally spill the beans. Things moved quickly from there with Jane taking her father’s advice to do an improv class, something that goes against the way she operates and approaches everything in life. Critic Jane sure was obnoxious, but it was nice to see a device like that used again. Critic Rogelio was scathing and memorable in his lone scene, and that helped open Rogelio’s eyes right away to how he was indeed too much sometimes. Everything with Xiomara happened in a flash, with her apparent affair revealed to just be a dance competition that happened right away before a big fall that has now revealed a lump on her breast, giving this show its first real bit of seriousness since Michael’s death. Rafael searching for his birth mother wasn’t going anywhere all that interesting, but the fact that Luisa covered it up for some reason makes it considerably more intriguing. JR seemed very ready to passionately make out with Petra to cover her tracks, and it was entertaining to see their relationship progress as Petra tried to play it cool and JR commented on her enthusiastic participation in that first kiss. They’re going to have to figure out what to do now that JR’s mother is being threatened so directly, and they still don’t know which of her many enemies want her behind bars.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What I’m Watching: Sneaky Pete (Season Premiere)

Sneaky Pete: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Sinister Hotel Room Mystery” (B+)

I was a huge fan of this show’s first season and I’m so glad to see that it’s back for a second, and just in time for my birthday along with my actual favorite streaming show, “Jessica Jones,” which premiered its second season a day earlier. Giovanni Ribisi is a very underrated actor, and he’s so superb as Pete (which I’ll continue to refer to him as in my reviews because it’s easiest) on this show, proving his worth immediately by acting casual and calling Audrey when he realizes that he’s in serious trouble, which prompted her to recommend that he run. It was great to see Ethan Embry as the real Pete again, and he didn’t seem too thrilled that his identity thief was asking questions about his past when he consistently indicated no interest when they were cellmates. Learning just one piece of information – that his mother died three years ago – was helpful but unfortunate, and now he’s going to have to find a way to keep those he newly cares about safe after Rory Culkin’s poor pickpocket got himself stabbed so that a point could be proven about how serious Pete needs to take them. Pete’s best moment, of course, was showing up to save the day when Julia was being blackmailed to get back the drug money in the backpack, slapping her when he stormed in and creating such a scene of chaos that they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Carly’s own criminal lifestyle is taking off in a disconcerting way, and Audrey’s desire to confess her sins isn’t good for anyone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pilot Review: Collateral

Collateral (Netflix)
Premiered March 9

The last time I watched a four-episode series that first premiered in the United Kingdom and then made its way to the United States via a streaming service, it was the dark and immensely worthwhile “National Treasure.” That miniseries boasted a superb but small cast, and this new dramatic thriller has an equally compelling if considerably larger one. I was immediately excited to see Hayley Squires, a BAFTA nominee for “I, Daniel Blake,” as the pizza shop manager who didn’t want to close the shop after her delivery guy was killed, and Billie Piper from “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” as the recipient of said pizza who wasn’t too happy to cooperate when she was being questioned. I couldn’t quite place John Simm, who was a great part of the sadly cancelled “The Catch,” as the MP from the opposition. And of course I knew who Carey Mulligan was, and this was quite a different role for her than most of what I’ve seen, especially her recent film-anchoring performance in “Wildlife,” which I saw at Sundance, much more serious than usual and rarely willing to crack a smile. As to the plot of this show, it seems to be complex and I am intrigued even if I’m not filly engaged, and I’m certainly willing to at least give it another episode if not all three to see where it goes. The simplicity and confusingly random presence of the dead pizza delivery guy are enhanced by the greater political happenings and immigration conversations, and I’m curious to see how it all connects.

How will it work as a series? There’s a lot of ground for this show to cover, and my expectation is that each episode will link characters that we’ve seen in isolated storylines and deepen the bonds that we’ve already seen to explain just what’s going on and how high it all goes. I feel like this should last more than four episodes, but I’m confident that it should be interesting enough for the duration.
How long will it last? I think this is designed to be just a four-episode series, though reviews seem to be positive, which could encourage BBC2 and Netflix to revisit it. The fact that creator David Hare said in an interview with Indiewire that a second season wasn’t going to happen is probably the most damning information, but I suppose that anything is possible down the road if it does well enough on Netflix.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie: Season 4, Episode 5 “The Pop-Ups” (B+)

Without Sheree around, it’s good to see Grace and Frankie hanging out with friends their own age, even if they’re at very different points in their life. Grace reacted so negatively to how her friend Arlene, played by four-time Oscar nominee Marsha Mason, was confined to her oven-free apartment by her uncaring son, only to realize later on that there was a reason that she needed to be there. Going to a college campus and setting up a pop-up shop did prove to be too much excitement for Arlene, even if Grace thrived on the energy and was ready to make a Frankie-like stand for justice and their right to table without a permit after Frankie herself went missing. Another famed Oscar nominee, Talia Shire, seems like she’ll become part of the plotline going forward after Frankie started thinking about the sister that she apparently has but hasn’t spoken to in decades. I’m not sure what to make of that yet, but I’m sure it will be interesting. Bud proposing to Allison went better than expected, and he even got her to agree to forego the prenup, only to be assigned to pry the paper out of their dog’s jaws, hardly a promising assignment but exactly the type of task he’ll likely need to do now that he’s agreed to spend his life with the very unique Allison. Sol doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of being less mad at Robert for interfering in their neighbors’ relationship, and while Mallory was also upset, Brianna couldn’t get quite enough drama for her tastes.