Sunday, September 30, 2018

Pilot Review: Single Parents

Single Parents (ABC)
Premiered September 26 at 9:30pm

I didn’t know much about this show going into it other than what its title suggests, and what I found didn’t surprise me at all. Almost a decade ago, ABC redefined the modern-day comedy series with “Modern Family,” a sweet, fresh depiction of an extended family unit with a whole host of personalities to be found within it. Since then, I feel like so many different series have attempted to do the same with decidedly mixed to negative results. We’ve seen other shows featuring single parents trying to raise kids, and most have been comedies. This show throws a whole bunch of them together as it struggles to find a way to legitimize bringing them together, with sympathy for the new guy actually being overwhelmed by pity and a desire to prevent his poor fashion choices and questionable relationship decisions from spreading. Once Taran Killam’s Will professed his love for his date just as they started kissing, it was clear that this show isn’t offering anything new, regardless of two of its characters singing a song from “Moana” together trying to push the envelope. What we have here is a case of immature parents and unbelievably – literally, unbelievably – precocious children who are often much abler to function than the single people who raise and support them. I knew I recognized Killam from somewhere, probably from his six-year stint on “Saturday Night Live.” I’m a huge fan of Leighton Meester, who tries to do her best to save this show, but I preferred her colonial role on “Making History.” And of course there’s Brad Garrett of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “’Til Death” fame, playing the most buttoned-up and conservative of these parents who somehow get along because of their similar situations. This show might provide a chuckle or two, but that’s not worth spending half an hour watching it.

How will it work as a series? Meester’s Angie rallied everyone to support Will and pulled them away from what they were doing, so now they’re going to be bound together as an unwilling “village” to help each other whenever anything comes it. We can expect predictable sitcom antics to follow as they try to stay focused on their kids while being entirely distracted by the actions of adults.
How long will it last? The reviews for this show are actually better than a number of other pilots, including ABC’s other series that premiered on Wednesday night, “A Million Little Things.” Airing right after “Modern Family,” now in its final season, probably helped, but it’s not clear right now that it performed well enough to continue. I’ll tip the scales towards this show being renewed down the line.

Pilot grade: C-

What I’m Watching: Casual (Series Finale)

Casual: Season 4, Episode 8 “Finale”

Here we are, at the end of a great show that pretty much flew under the radar for its entire four seasons. That was always its nature, opening quietly and unassumingly with a scroll through the many different relationship options selectable on a dating app, ultimately settling on “casual” as the choice. Technology was always at its center, whether it was Alex trying to pitch his algorithm and then stay relevant in an increasingly younger world or Leon constantly editing his videos with his headphones blocking out the world, and this fourth-season flash-forward to things like driverless Ubers was a cool way of acknowledging, yet again subtly, the minor but momentous changes ahead to how daily life goes on. Alex giving Val Ova was significant, if only because its first act was to recreate him by playing his playlist for those left behind in Los Angeles. The best callback to the pilot that this finale could have provided was Alex and Val once again going on dates together and then monitoring each other, but this time, even though it appeared to be going south, it actually worked out and they both had a wonderful time ending in satisfaction. Alex wanting to stay after that nearly created disaster, but I think that it’s meaningful that Rae didn’t appear in this final installment, just Carrie, because Alex is going there to start his life over, not chase someone who doesn’t necessarily feel the same way about him. They might end up getting together, but Alex and Val sleeping with random people meant that they’re still on their journey, and finding their true matches wouldn’t have felt right. Laura, on the other hand, might finally be maturing, and it looks like she’s in a good place with Tathiana after all. And Leon and Leah got a dog, which is sweet, and a sign of their resilience. I’ve very much enjoyed this show over the course of its time on the air, and I’ll enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking for an underrated hit.

Series finale: A-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Tara Lynne Barr as Laura
Season grade: A-
Series MVP: Michaela Watkins as Val
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: “Bottles

Saturday, September 29, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Comedy Series

This is the twenty-first category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Good Place, People of Earth, Shameless, Trial and Error

Emmy nominees: Atlanta, Barry, Black-ish, Curb Your Enthusiasm, GLOW, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Silicon Valley, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Finalists: Loaded, People of Earth, Orange is the New Black, Shameless, Insecure, Divorce, Episodes, Vice Principals, Jane the Virgin, Atypical

The nominees:

Santa Clarita Diet
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Good Place

The winner:

The End of the F***ing World told a completely compelling story featuring two troubled protagonists whose actual interactions were just as fascinating as their own internal narration.

Next up: That’s a wrap! Get ready for fall pilot reviews aplenty!

AFT Awards: Best Drama Series

This is the twentieth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Goliath, The Handmaid’s Tale, Legion, Sneaky Pete, Westworld

Emmy nominees: The Americans, The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, This Is Us, Westworld

Finalists: Mr. Robot, Sneaky Pete, Lost in Space, Jessica Jones

The nominees:

Game of Thrones
Stranger Things

The winner:

The Handmaid’s Tale delivered a second season that followed its characters and its disturbing dystopia to even darker and more astounding places.

Next up: Best Comedy Series

AFT Awards: The “Threshold” Award for Best Cancelled Series

This is the nineteenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This category is a special one, given out most years, honoring those shows which died this past season. "Threshold", for those who do not know, was a fantastic science fiction drama that premiered in 2005 on CBS and was axed after only nine episodes (the DVD release contains four additional unaired episodes). Led by the great Carla Gugino and featuring a fun cast, the show began with an electrifying pilot surrounding an interesting type of alien invasion strategy. Unfortunately, the show premiered around the same time as two similar sci-fi series, the dreadful "Surface" and the impressive "Invasion." Both those shows outlived "Threshold" but ultimately did not make the cut for a renewal order. "Threshold" was the victim of a bad timeslot, and just to make it worse, CBS decided to renew a staggering six series from the 2005-2006 season. This category was suggested by a friend several years to be titled the "Firefly" award, but I hadn’t yet seen that show, which has a large enough fan base, thus, I would like to honor the memory of "Threshold" with this award.

The “Threshold” Award for Best Cancelled Series

People of Earth (TBS) represents the saddest case on this list. It was renewed for a third season in the middle of its second only to have that decision reversed nine months later for no particular reason, with all the scripts already written! This clever, very entertaining series about a support group for alien abductees was just getting started. It had its own unique energy that could have propelled it for many more years, and this incomprehensible choice to cancel an already renewed show stings all the more because of its potential to continue being great.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (BBC America) had an incredibly compelling and mind-boggling first season, and while its second season wasn’t quite as focused or as fantastic, its universe was definitely worth exploring more. Ending on a cliffhanger is always a sign that there should have been more to come, and given how different the first two seasons were, year three could have easily rebooted and tried something entirely new and refreshing. I was very distraught to hear that this show wouldn’t be continuing.

Me, Myself, and I (CBS) isn’t quite of the same caliber as the other two on this list, but it was an innocuous, charming sitcom that presented itself in an innovative format. Young actor Jack Dylan Grazer was especially endearing as the fourteen-year-old version of the show’s main character, and it would have been fun to see him grow and develop to be more like Bobby Moynihan’s forty-year-old dad and John Larroquette’s sixty-five-year-old retiree. This show might have been a very technical sitcom, but just imagine how many situations could have been heartwarmingly strewn together like the mere thirteen installments this show produced.

Keep these shows alive by checking them out and getting into them!

Next up: Best Drama Series

Pilot Review: New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam (NBC)
Premiered September 25 at 10pm

This is another show, like “Manifest,” that I saw advertised over and over whenever I turned on the TV to browse through OnDemand in the past few weeks. I had read some negative reviews that accused it of portraying yet another white savior story, where Ryan Eggold’s eccentric Dr. Goodwin swoops in to help everyone else better themselves so that he can himself feel like a better person. While that may be true, or at least one way of looking at this show, there are plenty of other problems that are far more prevalent. The scene in which he fires the entire cardiac surgery department was featured heavily in all of the promos, and his reference to everyone calling their lawyers suggests that there are far-reaching implications to his impulsive, uncleared decisions that he or the show don’t bother to consider as he barrels forward, trying to bring medicine back to the people again. He’s also incredibly able to be present and have a hand in everything that’s going on at the hospital, showing up at just the right time to impossibly supervise every single function in the hospital. ISIS sending someone unknowingly affected with Ebola was quite dramatic, and it’s exactly the type of sensational plotline commonly featured in pilots whose later episodes won’t go quite as far with their medical cases. Eggold had a dopier role on “The Blacklist” and anchored the very brief spinoff “The Blacklist: Redemption,” and also appeared as a relatively friendly white supremacist in “BlacKKKlansman” earlier this year. Here, he’s beyond charismatic, but it’s a bit much to believe that he could actually be a real, functioning person. I’m a big fan of British actress Janet Montgomery, who I first encountered on “Human Target” years ago, and I’m happy that she’s doing something like this instead of the reviled “Made in Jersey.” I was pleased to see Freema Agyeman, who I immediately recognized from her role as Amanita on “Sense8,” as Dr. Sharpe, who seems like she’ll be Dr. Goodwin’s number one enforcer of his new medicine policies. I usually like Tyler Labine, but I think he’s better in comic relief or full-on comedy roles like the ones he had in “Reaper,” “Sons of Tucson,” and “Invasion,” than asking to be taken seriously as a psychologist. This show is pretty much what I expected, but it aims too high and doesn’t really care if it can’t reach, satisfied in providing high-stakes drama in a world full of seemingly simple overarching promises.

How will it work as a series? As if an entire department being fired and a doctor nearly contracting Ebola weren’t enough, it turns out that Dr. Goodwin also has cancer, which means that he truly has nothing to lose as he tries to effect whatever change he can with the time he has left. That suggests he’ll adhere even less to any objections to his new medical policies, aiming even higher.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t too kind, but the numbers were pretty big, giving NBC a solid win. Medical shows have the ability to attract a large audience even if they’re over-the-top, and this one, however much of a stretch it may be, is a surer thing than NBC’S other event-based hit, “Manifest.” I’ll predict a renewal based on this start.

Pilot grade: C-

Friday, September 28, 2018

Pilot Review: Mr. Inbetween

Mr. Inbetween (FX)
Premiered September 25 at 10pm

I had no idea what to expect from this coproduction from FX and Showcase in Australia, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a very entertaining show with a voice of its own. I’m not at all familiar with actor and series creator Scott Ryan, whose only IMDB credit is the 2005 mockumentary “The Magician” that he starred in, directed, and wrote, which follows the very same Ray Shoesmith we met here. I feel like we’ve seen many other instances of parents leading double lives that they have to hide because of their families, yet this one felt very fresh and worthwhile. The scene where the two young thugs gave Ray attitude in front of his daughter was particularly effective, and he was completely cool the whole time so that he could set a good example for how to deal with rude people. He doesn’t exactly express that same sentiment when it has to do with his friends who have been hurt and there aren’t children around. He obviously has a soft spot for others with families, namely the guy he killed who turned out not to have done what he was told he did, and dropping off whatever was in that envelope was a risky move he probably shouldn’t have taken. Being calm and saying that he doesn’t collect money, just makes those who didn’t pay when they had the chance sorry was very effective, and he is indeed a great quietly terrifying personality. I was pleased to recognize Damon Herriman, who plays Freddy, though I did find him much more entertaining as stupid southerner Dewey Crowe on “Justified.” I’m not sure I’m going to end up watching this show, but it’s much more worthwhile than most of the pilots, both original and imported, that I’ve seen from FX recently.

How will it work as a series? A two-episode premiere is always effective for previewing how a show will work past its pilot, and I’d say that’s a great sign of strength since the quality of the first two installments was pretty much the same, and I actually enjoyed some of the moments in the second episode even better. Ray’s life isn’t going to be easy, but he knows just how to roll the punches and when it’s importing to take the fall for someone else’s porn being discovered.
How long will it last? The reviews are definitely solid, even if the ratings in its debut airing weren’t much to write home about. Having a coproduction like this where episodes air first in the United States is a boon for FX, and I expect that they’ll want to continue with this black comedy which is very much on-brand for them.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: FBI

Premiered September 25 at 9pm

There are procedurals, and then there are procedurals. I’ve read multiple critiques of the completely uncreative name of this new CBS show, and it turns out that its very standard title is indicative of the nature of its content. This is also an extremely typical super-stacked pilot, one involving multiple bombs in neighborhoods, gangs, white supremacists, and some very high stakes. CBS is known for its procedurals, and it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that they would pick one of the most well-known law enforcement agencies to spotlight. Honestly, this is much more being in the action than any true investigations, and it amazes me that people still need to watch cops trying to be tough and intimidating witnesses into cooperating with supposedly “unique” techniques. I liked Missy Peregrym on “Reaper” and think she was a good fit for her decent run on “Rookie Blue,” but this much gruffer, stiffer role hardly seems right for her. I also think Jeremy Sisto, who I first got to know on “Six Feet Under” and who I knew appeared on the later years of “Law and Order,” is better in more dynamic parts. I’ve never known exactly what to make of Connie Nielsen, who was great in “Gladiator” and on “Boss” and was trying to chew a bit too much scenery here. I like Dallas Roberts but didn’t exactly buy him as an “Americanist,” this show’s attempt to dramatize white supremacism. This show is exactly what I had expected when I sat down to watch it, and in this case, that’s hardly satisfying.

How will it work as a series? Peregrym’s Maggie has her own baggage to deal with thanks to the recent death of her husband, and that may explain part of why she has little patience for anyone that isn’t straight with her. This case is probably more sensational than most of them will be, but I suspect that what this team encounters will be pretty high-profile and extreme on a regular basis.
How long will it last? The reviews are better than I had expected, with this show ranking on the higher end compared to a number of new pilots even if it’s still only moderately liked. This show was not the ratings winner on Tuesday night, not even of the pilots that debuted that night. CBS has high standards for its series’ performances, and this start is far from promising.

Pilot grade: D

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

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 1 “Nine Bucks” (B-)

As I watched the season premiere of what may well be the most beloved show in America, I got a few flashes of events shown or indicated in the season two finale. Normally, a show would pick up with most of those things featured prominently, but not this one, which insists upon manipulative storytelling, forcing viewers to stick around to find out more about developments only hinted out and not truly revealed for what I’m sure will be a long time. As I remembered some of these moments, Toby seeming depressed made sense, especially when he took the step of flushing his antidepressants, something that we know is not going to turn out well given how we saw him interact with Kate in the finale. The entire episode didn’t address it until the closing moments, but it now appears that the person that Tess didn’t want to go see with her father – and apparently Toby – may be Kate. I think this show can do fine without relying on the crutch of needing to key viewers glued and guessing, feeding them one tiny bit of information per hour, but that’s always been its thing. I don’t know why Beth needed to be so mad about this relationship, particularly if Kevin isn’t necessarily the villain, but they very well may keep seeing each other. And what better gift for Randall on his birthday than Deja agreeing to the legal adoption? The flashback to Jack’s first very poor date with Rebecca as he tried to spend his nine dollars sparingly was endearing, but I don’t understand the need for another love interest to get in the way when we know they’re going to get together anyway.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

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

The Gifted: Season 2, Episode 1 “eMergence” (B-)

I want to like this show, but after its somewhat surprising renewal last year, it’s time that it proves itself, and I’m just not sure that’s what this opening installment does. This has definitely become an edgier show, with Reeva and the Frosts taking power in the Hellfire club and the real good guys resorting to more desperate measures to ensure that they can save as many mutants as possible. Caitlin even got brave and shook off a flesh wound to exert her own rage and impatience, while Reed is manifesting that in a different and frightening way that doesn’t seem like it’s going to lead to good things. Of course Andy is blond and rebellious now that he’s hanging out with the violence-prone mutants now, and Polaris can still depend on him to be the only humane member of the Hellfire Club while he maintains his psychic connection with his sister, who, unlike their mother, acknowledges that he wasn’t taken but that he chose to leave. If the implication of what they could do together in season one suggested that they were literally the most powerful mutant duo to ever live, that’s amplified in this hour with the depiction of what Polaris is like when she’s pregnant and then giving birth. It’s just not possible for every single mutant to be so unbelievably powerful, and the fact that she could be tracked by Thunderbird and pretty much short-circuit the whole city while somehow not being detected by the government forces after them defies logic. Also, controlling someone’s mind is definitely easier than getting them to agree to a payoff. I’ll keep watching this show for now but I’m not sure that I’ll stick with it based on this opener.

Pilot Review: Manifest

Manifest (NBC)
Premiered September 24 at 10pm

Every few years, there’s a show that premieres based on an unexplained and shocking premise. Viewers are intrigued, understandably, but it’s not long before the bottom falls out and it turns out that the reasoning behind what happened isn’t nearly as interesting as the mystery itself. “The Event” was a great example that also dealt with a disappearing plane, and “Flash Forward” found that it had nowhere to go when the future wasn’t anywhere near as worthwhile as it had initially seemed. I had seen numerous promos for this show, and I’ll admit that I still found it somewhat exciting when the time-jump actually played out. From there, however, I found myself less enthralled. Michaela and the other passengers hearing their own voices telling them to do things that will ultimately save lives, coupled with her exploration of bible verses, makes this feel like an overly religion-based show rather than science fiction one, emphasizing supernatural notions over evidently embellished scientific ones. What I’ve seen thus far is lackluster, and it felt more than a little early for voiceover narration about what they didn’t know yet and how “this was just the beginning,” an obvious attempt to retain viewers for subsequent episodes. I recognized Josh Dallas from “Once Upon a Time” and J.R. Ramirez from “Jessica Jones,” and I’m sure there will be other familiar faces as the show goes on. I’m tempted to try episode two just to see if it can continue the intrigue, but I’m very dubious after how far we’ve already gotten.

How will it work as a series? That’s the eternal question, and there’s really only one show like this that worked and lasted a while, and that’s “Lost.” This show isn’t nearly as creative, and so it’s going to depend on whether what these characters are doing after the initial excitement wears off and they realize what it is that they’ve been fated to do.
How long will it last? The reviews are mixed, as is to be expected, but audiences liked it more than that. The ratings were pretty great, which I’m sure NBC will celebrate, but presumably the network is well aware that a few weeks’ sampling is needed before they can really determine if this one will actually be a hit or just an overhyped dud. I’m betting on the latter and a cancellation following the broadcast of the initial order.

Pilot grade: C+

Pilot Review: Magnum, P.I.

Magnum, P.I. (CBS)
Premiered September 24 at 9pm

Television today is almost drowning in a sea of remakes, reboots, and continuations. This is the first to premiere this fall that counts as a standard remake, taking a very popular show that finished airing three full decades ago and trying it again for a new audience. I never watched the original series, mainly because I was less than two months old when it went off the air, and my mom has never been a fan of Tom Selleck. I think I first encountered Jay Hernandez on the very short-lived show “Six Degrees,” and since then, he starred on other brief series like “Gang Related” and “Last Resort.” He was also on “Nashville” and is probably most famous for his breakout film, “Hostel,” which I have absolutely no interest in ever seeing. He’s considerably more charismatic than I remember him being in the past as the fearless lead here, doing the impossible without even breaking a sweat. He’s joined by Zachary Knighton, whose last dramatic effort was “Flash Forward” and who has appeared on many comedies, including “Happy Endings,” since then. I also recognized Domenick Lombardozzi, from “Entourage” and other fare, as Nuzo, who didn’t survive this episode, and James Remar of “Dexter” as Captain Green, who really doesn’t like him. Almost everything about this show is incredibly over-the-top, and I think half of the production budget must go to destroying fancy cars, a bad habit that Magnum indulges all too often. It could be fun, but it’s all a bit hard to take seriously.

How will it work as a series? The framework is pretty clear – Magnum is going to get hired by someone in every episode to work on a case and somehow manage to outsmart local law enforcement and the criminals who dare to challenge him. There should be at least two cars destroyed in the course of every hour and a whole lot of action in the process. It’s formulaic but, again, could be enjoyable.
How long will it last? Reviews and audience reactions seem to be less than enthusiastic, but with CBS, it’s all about the ratings. The network has hoping for a bigger splash reliant in part on positive regard for the original series, and while its numbers aren’t entirely damning, I don’t think that this expensive series is ultimately going to be worth a second season.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 4, Episode 8 “Coushatta” (B+)

One of the most rewarding things about watching this show is slowly understanding what it is that Jimmy is up to. Keeping Huell out of jail is now his number one priority, and he was ready to do whatever it took to stack the odds in his favor. Taking the bus to Huell’s hometown and getting other passengers to write letters along the way for him to mail back in support of this alleged good Samaritan was pretty brilliant, and his whole operation of dozens of cell phones on the table and his loyal film crew there to answer whichever of them rang worked to tremendous effect. Watching the opposing counsel lawyer’s face while she was on the phone with Jimmy pretending to be the pastor made me nervous since she seemed to understand that something was going on, but luckily, and to Jimmy’s credit, it didn’t lead to anything and Huell won a decisive victory with just probation and time served. Kim pushing Jimmy against the wall to make out with him after the verdict came was a surprise, and even Jimmy seemed floored that she wanted to do it again when he said he would stop. Mike’s supervision of the strip club visit presented an unfortunate hiccup in the form of the main scientist’s gregariousness, and Gus knowing about it can’t be a good thing for his longevity. Nacho’s life just got a whole lot more complicated, though it’s not clear to me whether Gus or the Salamancas being in charge of his every movement is worse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This is the eighteenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Good Place, Orange is the New Black, People of Earth, Trial and Error

Finalists: Orange is the New Black, Barry, Search Party, Shameless, Jane the Virgin

The nominees:

People of Earth
Santa Clarita Diet
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The winner:

The Good Place complicated its season one premise in its second iteration and used its cast of miserable dead people to tremendous and hilarious effect.

Next up: Best Cancelled Series

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the seventeenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Goliath, The Handmaid’s Tale, Legion, Sneaky Pete, Westworld

Finalists: Westworld, Game of Thrones, Counterpart, Longmire, Mr. Robot

The nominees:

The Handmaid's Tale
Sneaky Pete
Good Behavior

The winner:

Stranger Things united its great cast of mostly young actors for an even more enlivening second season full of wonder and terror as seen through their eyes.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Writing in a Comedy Series

This is the sixteenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Horizons (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), Episode 1 (Fleabag), First Date (Master of None), Last Day on Earth (People of Earth), Chapter 9: Opening Statements (Trial and Error)

Emmy nominees: Alligator Man (Atlanta), Barbershop (Atlanta), Chapter One: Make Your Mark (Barry), Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going (Barry), Pilot (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Fifty-One Percent (Silicon Valley)

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Kimmy Disrupts the Paradigm! (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Chapter One: Make Your Mark (Barry)
The Burrito (The Good Place)
Pilot (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

The winner:

A Change of Heart (Santa Clarita Diet) brilliantly structured the way in which this show’s characters try to normalize their daily lives and new reality.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

This is the fifteenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Weaponized Soul (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), Amarsi Un Po (Master of None), Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again (Orange is the New Black), Last Day on Earth (People of Earth), The Principal (Vice Principals)

Emmy nominees: FUBU (Atlanta), Teddy Perkins (Atlanta), Chapter One: Make Your Mark (Barry), The Bow Tie Asymmetry (The Big Bang Theory), Pilot (GLOW), Pilot (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Initial Coin Offering (Silicon Valley)

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Dance Dance Resolution (The Good Place)
The Expo (Loaded)
Pilot (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
The Most Popular Boy (Vice Principals)

The winner:

Episode 1 (The End of the F***ing World) presented a magnificently intriguing universe occupied by two people with their own unique perspectives on what the world has to offer them.

Next up: Best Writing in a Comedy Series

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Take Three: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 3 “Every Pain Needs a Name” (B)

Jill moving on with someone else doesn’t seem like a temporary thing, and so Jeff starting to think about his own romantic life going forward was a mere eventuality. He was pretty appalled at the content of the fan mail that came to him which his father had saved and then exuberantly shared with him, but Sebastian did manage to get into his head and encourage him to try it. Riki Lindhome, who I think I recognize from her role on the live-action “The Muppets,” was endearing and fascinating as Shaina, the woman who saw Mr. Pickles on TV while living what could hardly be described as her best life and then slowly turned it around to become happy with the help of his televised counsel. They did have a nice time together, but I think that would have felt too much like moving on emotionally. Going to have sex with the terminal cancer patient he had met in the hospital was an unexpected decision but one that makes more sense because it allows him to give something that no one would ever expect Mr. Pickles to give and to not have to attach any meaning to it. I thought I recognized her voice, and it turns out that she was played by Ginger Gonzaga, who has a tendency for portraying prickly people. Deirdre is having her own problems with her daughter as her less-than-sympathetic father talks about digitizing and replacing Jeff with someone who won’t talk back, which hardly feels like sincere parental support.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 3, Episode 7 “Obsessed-like” (B)

There’s just one episode left in this season, which is a real shame since I feel like it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have more than eight half-hour installments of this show every year. Fortunately, a fourth season renewal was already announced two weeks ago, so we’ll be able to come back and revisit these characters. If Issa is going to be talking to herself all episode, I wish that it would be in the mirror since it’s great to see her reactions and how she responds to her inner narrative in an external way. She did get pretty obsessed very quickly here, dragging Molly into a plot to sneak around Andrew’s house so that she could go through his drawers and then try to guess his computer password. Focusing so much on social media was a great way to show how toxic it can be, and Issa deciding to unfollow him and do her best to let go of her problematic connection to this guy who mysteriously ghosted her was a positive step. Focusing on her business plan is a good thing, and it was nice to see her reconnect in a positive way with Lawrence, who, despite meeting a nice girl at church, quickly realized that he just doesn’t connect to it in the way that those who find it meaningful do. Molly’s time with Andrew seemed to be going well at first because it was derailed, and their forced interaction at his house was infinitely worse. Working well with her number one competitor at work also seemed to be fine until she moved to undercut him in a way that she really should have realized would not be a productive development.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 3 “Weirdo Gallagher Vortex” (B+)

It’s only a matter of time before Frank got tired of his latest scheme, but for now he seems to be sticking with it despite a certain hiccup related to Mo’s past. Coupling his illegal and inappropriate relationship with Kev trying to combat the Alibi being the “rapiest” bar on the South Side is this show’s own way of tackling current events related to sexual harassment and allegations of misconduct. It would have been weird for it to play out in a wholesome way, so I suppose it will just have to run its course until something truly abhorrent or absurd happens. Ian’s exploration of different religions didn’t get him far, and Debs boiled down what he’s going through pretty fantastically, even if he doesn’t seem at all ready to hear it or to consider her potential attraction to women. Carl has found his surprising calling helping terminal dogs to die in a peaceful way, but now, thanks to Veronica’s past as a dominatrix, he seems to be headed straight to West Point with his new recommendation. Lip is in dangerous territory trying to hold on to his unofficial guardianship of Xan, crossing a definite line when Brad refused to indulge him and he ended up breaking Xan out of the hospital because DCFS was on its way. I love that Liam refused to leave his tie at home for his first day of public school and quickly saw a great opportunity to find himself some protection and put his intelligence – including his mastery of “curly writing” – to great use in his new surroundings. Fiona isn’t doing so bad herself, and it looks like Ford might be realizing just how talented the woman he’s with is when she wants to achieve something.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pilot Review: The Good Cop

The Good Cop (Netflix)
Premiered September 21

As Netflix gets bigger and bigger, its slate of series gets all the more diverse. Some of its series are creative and cutting-edge, fine-tuned to the times and to the tastes of young viewers. Others, namely “Grace and Frankie,” skew considerably older, bringing back veteran stars for more sedated and standard fare. This show, which is adapted from a successful Israeli series, falls into the latter category. It makes perfect sense that it comes from creator Andy Breckman, whose previous series, “Monk,” had a long and prosperous run and generally played it safe, weaving it clever content to a relatively appropriate and universal show. This show marks the return of Tony Danza to scripted television for the first time in decades and singer Josh Groban’s first regular television role. They’re certainly an odd couple, with Danza having a blast as the charming convicted corrupt cop and Groban as his straight-arrow cop son. This kind of buddy comedy isn’t all that unusual or creative, though this particular spin hasn’t been done in a while. Most of all, this show feels dated, not because its laughs haven’t evolved as is the case on a number of new broadcast network sitcoms, but instead due to the way the policework is portrayed and the plot plays out. Danza is charismatic and this is obviously fun for him, while Groban doesn’t seem to have the right energy for this type of part, one that hardly seems believable since he’s just so subdued and unenergetic. This show isn’t bad; it’s just not terrific.

How will it work as a series? Having the elder Tony go to prison for a murder his son was accused of in the first episode was rather sensational, and given that he’s not supposed to have any contact with law enforcement, it’s going to be hard to find a legitimate way for him to be involved in cases going forward. I’m sure this show will skip over that technicality and find a way to create some worthwhile storylines.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t great, but I’m not sure that’s going to matter in the long run. Ultimately, it’s going to depend on the strength of two very different audiences: classic fans of Danza’s and younger devotees of Groban’s who are willing to watch him in anything, even if it’s not typically what they would watch. I think it will earn a second season.

Pilot grade: B-

Pilot Review: Maniac

Maniac (Netflix)
Premiered September 21

Just over a decade ago, Jonah Hill scored his first lead film role and Emma Stone made her film debut in the comedy “Superbad.” Since then, both have received two Oscar nominations, Hill is directing his first film this year, and Stone took home the Oscar for Best Actress for the popular film “La La Land.” Now, after so many years of establishing their careers, they’re back together in a project that couldn’t be more different than the one that first launched them. Billed as a miniseries, this show is nothing if not dark and strange. Hill’s troubled heir Owen and Stone’s aggressive personality Annie are both intriguing, but what drew me much more to the world of this show is the AdBuddy concept, where when Owen didn’t have money for the subway he was able to use an option that had an annoying man with a briefcase running through a series of paid advertisements as he sat and rode on the subway car bench. How this world works and what’s going to happen with this trial that they’re both participating in is indeed interesting, as well as whether Annie, best defined by Stone using her crazy eyes, is just playing into Owen’s delusions to mess with him or because it helps to connect her to something. This is a high-pedigree concept, with Cary Joji Fukunaga, best known for helming season one of “True Detective,” directing and adding his own signature style. I’m curious but not yet fully entranced – I’ll have to see what comes next to determine what to make of this show.

How will it work as a series? Annie’s response to Owen suggests a sort of kinship between the two of them that contradicts her initial reaction both to him and to everyone else she spoke to in this opening hour. Getting them into the trial should provide more opportunity to see into who they are and how they perceive their universe, which is likely to be intriguing if also mind-bending.
How long will it last? This show got off to a great start with a straight-to-series order from Netflix back in 2016. Reviews have been pretty good, and it’s just a question of whether the latest show advertised as a miniseries ends up earning a second iteration, either with this same cast or a brand-new one.

Pilot grade: B

Pilot Review: Dead Lucky

Dead Lucky (Sundance Now)
Premiered September 20

It seems like the serialized short crime drama is booming right now, with the latest import, from Australian network SBS, premiering all four of its episodes on Sundance Now earlier this week. In many ways, it’s a standard show, one that deals with the return of a serial killer who makes a very particular mark on how he targets and takes people out, and he’s also killed cops, namely the partner of the dogged detective hot on his trail. His identity is known but his location and where he’ll strike next aren’t, make this a suspenseful and dark look at a killer stalking his unknowing prey. This series is notable for two reasons. The first is that it stars Rachel Griffiths, familiar to American TV audiences for her Emmy-nominated work on both “Six Feet Under” and “Brothers and Sisters.” I was much more a fan of the former than the latter, and it’s just jarring for me to hear Griffiths with her native Australian accent, which makes her seem even more hardened and unfriendly than she often comes across when (successfully) attempting an American dialect. She is good in this show, one that, as the second facet, stands out to me because it doesn’t feel like a show that needs to run only four episodes. I didn’t know that going into it, and it surprised me only because the pacing of this hour made it seem like we were setting up for the long haul. I’d credit that as a positive, one that demonstrates that this show is likely going to be capable of wrapping up its storylines but isn’t framing them in a way that necessitates a quick and contained run.

How will it work as a series? Griffiths’ Grace seems like a magnetic and angry enough central character that the story could continue long beyond that of her current nemesis, which could make this one-season arc eligible for a renewal to return to this storyline. This first hour was more than interesting enough – if it wasn’t the start of pilot season I’d probably stick with it to see how it turns out.
How long will it last? I can’t find anything on either ratings data or reviews, and so I’d imagine that this is going to be a one-shot deal just like all the others, though AMC distributing it internationally may be a positive if it’s seen more widely, and having Griffiths in the lead role gives it some credibility. A renewal is possible but unlikely given the tendency with these short-form series.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: I Feel Bad

I Feel Bad (NBC)
Premiered September 19 at 10pm

With tons of sitcoms premiering each season, it seems that there are three primary goals these days: featuring a diverse cast, combatting stereotypes with more authentic, genuine characters, and being original and funny. Ultimately, aside from the truly creative shows that have a unique hook, most comedies are a variety of the same formula. This show, which is premiering ahead of most fall shows before taking a week off, spotlights a modern-day woman from an Indian family, and it’s not as if the behavior showcased is particularly authentic to or derogatory about her culture. On the front of how women are portrayed, this show fails miserably, with a surprisingly successful female at the head of an all-male team and subjected to daily moronic behavior from her underlings that she feeds into by treating them as if they’re co-parents with her. All her work scenes felt like they were out of a show made two decades ago, far less creative or current than they really should be given the wealth of similar series – both good and bad – that have premiered in that time and evolved over the years. Regarding being funny, this show tries but mostly misses, stumbling most in its generic plotting, with Emet trying to stop her daughter from staying on the dance team, something that’s absurd given the clearly inappropriate nature of the dancing endorsed by the school, and asking her coworkers if she’s still doable, a question that’s never going to lead anywhere good. Opening with her father give her a slap thinking she was her mother and then ending with her husband making the same mistake with her mother indicates the brand of humor that this show is going for, and its lackluster title is indicative of its generally lackluster material.

How will it work as a series? As a character, Emet is far from sympathetic, and the way that this show casts her in an unfortunate work situation does her no favors at all. This show’s title also references the opening moment of each episode, which, while helpful for naming each of its installments, isn’t nearly as productive for framing each plotline.
How long will it last? Reviews aren’t all bad, and starting this show off early may help it despite a ratings performance that wasn’t a slam dunk. Airing it after “Will and Grace” might also benefit it, though I’m still betting that it’s not going to get renewed for a second season even if it manages to air out its initial order of episodes.

Pilot grade: C

Sunday, September 23, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Drama Series

This is the fourteenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing for a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: What If… (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale), Chapter 1 (Legion), Pilot (Sneaky Pete), Trompe L’Oeil (Westworld)

Emmy nominees: START (The Americans), Mystery Man (The Crown), The Dragon and the Wolf (Game of Thrones), June (The Handmaid’s Tale), Nice Face (Killing Eve), Chapter Nine: The Gate (Stranger Things)

Finalists: None

The nominees:
The Crossing (Counterpart)
Pilot (Good Girls)
The Sincerest Form of Flattery (Counterpart)
Beyond the Wall (Game of Thrones)

The winner:

Smart Power (The Handmaid’s Tale) boldly and compellingly envisioned what this horrific new world might look like to outsiders free to comment but hopeless to ultimately effect true change within it.

Next up: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Drama Series

This is the thirteenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing for a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Faithful (The Handmaid’s Tale), Late (The Handmaid’s Tale), Chapter 1 (Legion), You Want a War? (Sense8), Thief (12 Monkeys)

Emmy nominees: Paterfamilias (The Crown), Beyond the Wall (Game of Thrones), The Dragon and the Wolf (Game of Thrones), After (The Handmaid’s Tale), The Toll (Ozark), Tonight We Improvise (Ozark), Chapter Nine: The Gate (Stranger Things)

Finalists: Chapter 13 (Legion), We Are the Flash (The Flash), The Cali KGB (Narcos), Beyond the Wall (Game of Thrones), Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3 (The Flash)

The nominees:

I Think It's a Sign (Good Behavior)
Impact (Lost in Space)
Unwomen (The Handmaid's Tale)
eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00 (Mr. Robot)

The winner:

The Sincerest Form of Flattery (Counterpart) mesmerizingly detailed the genesis of a lie and the subtle, dark process of it becoming a new reality.

Next up: Best Writing for a Drama Series

Saturday, September 22, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the twelfth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Jane Adams, Laura Benanti, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Britt Robertson, Portia de Rossi

Emmy nominees: Tina Fey, Tiffany Haddish, Jane Lynch, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon, Wanda Sykes

Finalists: Andrea Savage (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Samara Weaving (SMILF), Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet), Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black), Rosario Dawson (Jane the Virgin)

The nominees:

Maya Rudolph (The Good Place)
Becki Newton (Divorce)
Tiya Sircar (The Good Place)
Andrea Savage (Episodes)

The winner:

Nasim Pedrad (Curb Your Enthusiasm) was perfectly in her element as a bride who wasn’t about to let typical gender roles or physical expectations – or a nosy bald man – do anything to get in the way of her special day.

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the eleventh category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Todd Robert Anderson, Jemaine Clement, Peter Gallagher, Allan McLeod, Tim Robinson

Emmy nominees: Sterling K. Brown, Bryan Cranston, Donald Glover, Bill Hader, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Katt Williams

Finalists: None

The nominees:
Bryan Cranston (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Colin Ferguson (You're the Worst)
Joel McHale (Santa Clarita Diet)
Navid Negahban (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

The winner:

Jason Mantzoukas (The Good Place) was instantly excitable and unflappable, beyond thrilled to have been created and eager to make the most of his limited existence.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

This is the tenth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Jennifer Esposito, Caitlin FitzGerald, Catalina Sandino Moreno

Emmy nominees: Viola Davis, Kelly Jenrette, Cherry Jones, Diana Rigg, Cicely Tyson, Samira Wiley

Finalists: None

The nominees:
Jodi Balfour (The Crown)
Lily Rabe (Legion)
Katee Sackhoff (The Flash)
Lois Smith (Sneaky Pete)

The winner:

Kerry Bishé (Narcos) played someone far more innocent than most in this show’s world, enchanted just enough until the reality of her situation truly set in.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

This is the ninth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: James Callis, Brett Dalton, Hamish Linklater, Sean Maguire, Malcolm-Jamal Warner

Emmy nominees: F. Murray Abraham, Cameron Britton, Ron Cephas Jones, Matthew Goode, Gerald McRaney, Jimmi Simpson

Finalists: Peter Mullan (Westworld)

The nominees:
Cameron Britton (Mindhunter)
Ethan Embry (Sneaky Pete)
Wentworth Miller (The Flash)
Desmond Harrington (Sneaky Pete)

The winner:

Pepe Rapazote (Narcos) made an immediate impression by commanding one scene so incredibly, almost ripping it away from everyone else in it, and every subsequent appearance showed the same controlling energy.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Friday, September 21, 2018

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the eighth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Fiona Dourif, Jade Eshete, Jayma Mays, Yvonne Orji, Sherri Shepherd

Emmy nominees: Zazie Beetz, Alex Borstein, Aidy Bryant, Betty Gilpin, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Laurie Metcalf, Megan Mullally

Finalists: Betty Giplin (GLOW), Izzie Steele (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), Yvonne Orji (Insecure), Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Nasim Pedrad (People of Earth)

The nominees:

Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes)
Sara Gilbert (Roseanne)
D'Arcy Carden (The Good Place)
Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet)

The winner:

Jane Levy (There’s Johnny) was a singular force for comedy and drama in a show that didn’t always jump out with enthusiasm, committing tremendously to the role just as her character commits tremendously to her thankless work.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the seventh category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Steven Boyer, Josh Brener, Manny Jacinto, Sam Richardson, Timothy Simons

Emmy nominees: Louie Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Tituss Burgess, Brian Tyree Henry, Tony Shalhoub, Kenan Thompson, Henry Winkler

Finalists: Ken Hall (People of Earth), Bjorn Gustafsson (People of Earth), Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Sean Hayes (Will and Grace), Christopher Paul Richards (Me, Myself, and I)

The nominees:
Samuel Anderson (Loaded)
Manny Jacinto (The Good Place)
William Jackson Harper (The Good Place)
Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet)

The winner:

Anthony Carrigan (Barry) was the sweetest possible henchman, always concerned with politeness and caring about other people’s feelings in his work, providing a fantastic companion for the similarly kindhearted title character.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

This is the sixth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Nina Arianda, Carly Chaikin, Grace Gummer, Thandie Newton, Aubrey Plaza

Emmy nominees: Alexis Bledel, Millie Bobby Brown, Ann Dowd, Lena Headey, Vanessa Kirby, Thandie Newton, Yvonne Strahovski

Finalists: Jane Adams (Sneaky Pete), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things), Aubrey Plaza (Legion)

The nominees:

Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Ann Dowd (Good Behavior)
Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid's Tale)
Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us)

The winner:

Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) transformed a character who had been an unapologetic villain into someone far more complex and full of contradictions that made her question her life choices.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This is the fifth category of the 12th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2017-2018 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Joel Kinnaman, Gaten Matarazzo, Michael McKean, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jeffrey Wright

Emmy nominees: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Joseph Fiennes, David Harbour, Mandy Patinkin, Matt Smith

Finalists: Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Terry Kinney (Good Behavior)

The nominees:

Bobby Cannavale (Mr. Robot)
Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things)
Christian Slater (Mr. Robot)
Bill Irwin (Legion)

The winner:

Matias Varela (Narcos) was a consistent, magnetic part of a show filled with fascinating characters, defined by his dedication to his work despite its often questionable ethics.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 4, Episode 7 “Something Stupid” (B+)

This show was renewed for a fifth season back in August, and even if that’s not the last of it, we’re getting closer to seeing Jimmy as Saul Goodman, presumably a future that doesn’t include Kim. As a result, it’s just a matter of time before whatever creates a true impasse in their relationship happens, since it’s hard to imagine Kim sticking around while Jimmy becomes an expressly crooked lawyer who doesn’t mind marketing himself as such. Kim seemed very angry to learn that Jimmy had been selling drop phones on the street when he came to her to ask for help keeping Huell out of jail, but her aim is always to do things sort of the right way in order to protect Jimmy from himself. Jimmy charmed everyone at his work function but, as usual, pushed the boundaries too much and ended up selling something completely over-the-top and unrealistic when initially he appeared to be offering legitimate recommendations that could have been put into action. Mike is dealing with delays and insubordination on his end, and I’m not sure exactly where that’s going to head and why it’s relevant. Hector getting quizzed on pictures to show what he knows and can recognize was obviously a miserable process for him, and Gus monitoring his progress so carefully shows just what a calculating kingpin he really is, pretending to care about him so that he can keep him under close watch and make sure he has no hope of returning to who he was.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage (Season Premiere)

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 1 “Soul Brother #1” (B+)

I know I’m more than three months behind in getting to this show, but what a premiere! I appreciated the first season even though I didn’t find it to be nearly as good as the Marvel Netflix series that first introduced this character, “Jessica Jones.” I’m pleased to report that this episode represented a very strong start for this cycle, one that firmly established Luke Cage as a particular type of hero. His name is well-known, as are his abilities. He’s seen as the protector of, if not the embodiment of, Harlem, and he’s determined to clean up the streets. Drugs being bagged and sold with his name stamped on them represent just the latest attempt to tarnish his reputation, and if his biggest problem if having the police admonish him for working apart from them rather than with them, he’s doing pretty well. I like that he decided to embrace the omnipresent publicity and challenge anyone who wants to mess with him to come at him, but I worry that he’s not prepared for his newest foe, who is a bit subtler than but just as dangerous as Diamondback. I like that Claire asked him “What’s my name?” while they were in bed together, mocking his new reputation. The casting of the late Emmy winner Reg E. Cathey from “House of Cards” as his father, an unsupportive preacher, is great, and transforming Shades and Mariah into the main villains following Cottonmouth’s death makes a lot of sense too. Even Misty is still holding it together after having to adjust to her life-changing injury. I’m eager to see where this show full of great music and great style goes in its second season, which I’ll be making my way through over the next few months.

Round Two: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pusillanimous” (B)

In its second installment, this show demonstrates again just how weird it is while managing to remain extremely intriguing, pretty much the same as the pilot. The opening scene with his car getting stolen right off the street and taking apart only to be put right back together and returned as soon as they realized who it belonged to wasn’t mentioned at all after that, but I guess is supposed to show the contradictory nature of the world, much like how Jeff insists on using a good word instead of a bad word while no one in his life does that. Coming to see a kid in the hospital with his new haircut was a sweet moment, and that hair decision was swiftly made irrelevant by the wig that masked it. He isn’t giving up on what he wants to do, though Sebastian is ready to fight him at every turn. The flash to just how strong Jill’s sex life was shocked me a bit since it came out of nowhere, but that’s what a lot of this show is, just like Deirdre trying to deal with confronting her suspicions that her husband is gay. I’m very happy that Justin Kirik, the amazing “Weeds” veteran, has joined the cast as Peter, who thinks that Jeff is being nice to him when he nicknamed him Big P. I think I’m happy to officially pick this show up as one of my weekly series at this point, especially since it’s only eight episodes long.

What I’m Watching: Insecure

Insecure: Season 3, Episode 6 “Ready-like” (B+)

I totally forgot to mention that Issa ran into Lawrence at the end of the last episode, and I couldn’t be happier about that since I’ve always found him to be much more interesting as a character than Daniel. This show’s use of montages is always excellent, and seeing what Lawrence has been up to as he hesitated to answer that question from Issa was both informative and entertaining. Calling the girl he didn’t sleep with to say that he had chlamydia was a low point, but then he had a really nice interaction with Issa at the baby shower from hell, with both of them agreeing that they were proud of the other for where they’ve gotten to in life. Molly did not have a similar experience with Dro, who she wouldn’t even let break the news to her that he’s expecting a baby with the wife who posed a definite problem for Molly when he was trying to push for a relationship between the two of them. For however positive Issa’s conversation with Lawrence may have been, Nathan is proving to be a puzzling – and very frustrating – figure, who had time to clear up the investigation Lyft had opened but couldn’t be bothered to return her text message. The lowest point of this episode was experienced by Kelly, who lost it after Tiffany’s prep crew refused to put out her cupcakes. The two of them really are fringe characters, but they’re very believable and layered even despite their minimal appearances. My favorite line was Molly suggesting that she should be able to be “Orthodox black.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 2 “Mo White for President” (B+)

This show has tackled gentrification and racism before, and I’m surprised it took this long to officially get to politics. Frank was a perfect candidate to be paid to take signs down for one politician and then put them right back up for the other, though of course he was chastised for taking the job away from perfectly qualified Hispanic people in the process. Organizing everyone at the Alibi to recruit a retired politician, played by Dan Lauria, to run to represent the white men of Chicago was an entertaining start to what’s sure to be an absurd but very watchable storyline. Fiona employed newly school-less assistant Liam to tremendous effect to score herself a major win, even if it means that the confidence in Ford’s reliability is shaken. Kev and Veronica having their two daughters pretend to be one person is going to be fun, though I can’t imagine it’s going to last long. Debs made a surprising new friend who will show her how to get by in one way that she didn’t previously expect, and I’m curious to see what it will do to her newly-ignited activist spirit. Lip may not be able to take charge of the kid he’s trying to mentor, but he can probably do some good with his first official sponsee. Ian really was doing fine on the inside, performing mass gay marriages, and even if his behavior was a bit fervent, he’s now going to be difficult to control as he feels the walls closing in on him following the exponential growth of his movement while he was inside. Naturally, Carl would be a fitting choice to help put dogs down, but his newfound compassion is going to drive everyone crazy and likely isn’t going to help with his military aspirations.