Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan (Season Premiere)

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 1 “Staten Island, Part One” (B+)

I didn’t realize that this show was coming back until I saw a billboard for it a couple weeks ago. I’ve always respected this series and thought that its ensemble was underrated, with only Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight singled out for accolades, but I do feel strongly that season five dragged on a bit and didn’t need to play Abby’s death out over the course of an entire year the way that it did. A reboot of sorts is a great way to kick this show’s latest season off, and this feels like the freshest kind of start. Of course Ray would try to beat up the cop, played by Domenick Lombardozzi from “Entourage,” who saved him after he jumped. I like that he refused to simply accept that he had been released, thanks to some strings being pulled by Sam, and tracked Ray down to understand his motive. Ray moving in with him is an interesting twist, and now he’s getting back to being a fixer, a term others use but he never would, in a more subdued way than before, buried under a grizzled beard and even more reserved attitude. Lola Glaudini’s Anita Novak seems like a worthwhile client, one who, as clients of Ray’s tend to do, is now in way over her head after accidentally killing the man who taped her. I’ve always found Lena to be extremely underfeatured on this show, and I like that she angrily reflected on Ray never saying thank you before he called back and shocked her by actually thanking her for once. Mickey making some sort of disgusting concoction to make himself sick seems like just another big scheme, and I don’t think that he wants to be part of this mess that Darryl is now observing with real lions so that Jai can be the king of the concrete jungle. We barely saw any of the rest of the Donovan clan in this hour aside from Mickey finding out that he only has custody one day now and Bridget seeming to do pretty well with Smitty. I’m optimistic about what this season could be, and I hope the bicoastal focus will work well.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 3 “Man of Steel” (B+)

Apparently, this character of Agent Liberty first appeared in comics decades ago, but this version is extremely prescient today, representing all of the anti-immigrant xenophobia that has led to so much hate and violence. The way in which the story of Agent Liberty was told in this episode was very effective, explaining his motivations as inspired by events that we’ve seen already, like Supergirl helping people get out of their hypnotic daze with her televised speech, the Daxomite invasion, and interactions with all of the characters we know well. I appreciated the casting of Xander Berkeley, alumnus of “24,” “Nikita,” and much more, as Ben’s spiteful father, who transmitted his disdain with the fact that alien influences were taking away human jobs to his son long before Ben ever became radicalized. Watching him start to believe that progress is not a good thing because it erases achievements from the past and proudly give a lecture about nativism with multiple alien students in his class was powerful and disturbing, and this show really does hold up a mirror to our own society. What that means in the long term for Supergirl and the fight to keep Earth safe from all threats will be resolved eventually, but for now, we have a dedicated resistance fighter who is eloquent and feels like much more of a formidable villain than the stunt-heavy Graves siblings since he can, has, and will articulate his sentiments in a stirring fashion designed specifically to encourage others to adopt his worldview.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 5 “Unfriended” (B-)

It didn’t take long for this show’s primary device to be turned on its head, with Miles mysteriously unfriended by the God account only after it spat out another name for him obsess over and research. I’m not sure why that needed to occur, though I suppose that Miles choosing to send a friend request on his own means that he’s accepted that this is a crucial part of his life that he can’t run away from no matter how hard he tries. Discovering that Rachel’s sister is the one who pulled her from the car was indeed a productive way for Miles to do the only thing that Rachel had told him would help: to repair the last moment between them and show her that it was something done out of love. I was actually proud of this show for a moment for leaving one friend suggestion unresolved and unhappy, but then she had to show up and thank Miles explicitly for the help he gave that she expressly said she didn’t want. Sappiness is the prime goal here, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I imagine that Miles’ Uncle Terrance, played by Malik Yoba from “Alphas,” will play a bigger role in future episodes, especially since he seems to have a better relationship with his nephew than his brother does with his son. Jaya’s news about leaving seems a bit abrupt for the show since she and Rakesh were just starting to get serious, and I’m not sure it’s going to be a positive change to have her away and Rakesh lonely in her absence.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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

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

It’s certainly more disturbing than usual to watch this show in the wake of the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning. One aspect of this show that hasn’t really been explored is how the Nazis, upon learning that there exist other worlds, might reconsider their beliefs. I say this because we’re starting to see even more sympathetic portrayals of the primary Nazi characters, with the Smith family in particular starting to question their allegiances following the release of the propaganda film that attempts to erase American history and paint Thomas as an American hero, one fully worthy of the Nazi salute in his honor. I’ve always found John Smith to be the strongest character on this show, and I think his newfound attitude is due only to his state of mourning and not a question of his principles. Seeing Thomas in one of the movies definitely threw him for a loop, and we’re about to get to a new and important point as Juliana starts to think that she can make a difference with her memories connected to the movies. As Hoover spreads his (correct) theories about the Smiths being responsible for the deaths of the Adlers and Kido gets to interrogate the located Priest Hagan, we got to see the reunion between Juliana and Joe, whose motivations still remain somewhat unclear. Mark’s interest in Robert unsubtly peddling Judaica has apparently gotten him into trouble, and hopefully it won’t lead to anyone getting hurt or killed.

Take Three: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 3 “Having a Day” (B+)

This show is definitely unique. There are people, or at least consciousnesses, that live within computers, capable of emitting real tears that can drip onto something else, but it’s not possible to accurately monitor what’s happening within someone’s brain. Owen got quickly flagged for not taking the pill, which he purported he did so that he would be ready if Annie needed to activate him. After all the background we got about Annie’s past in the previous episode, it was nice to see her lighten up to a degree in this installment, coming clean with Owen about just trying to get him out of her way by telling him what he wanted to hear, and then she actually went and brought him in when Dr. Muramoto just went and died right on his desk. You’d think that the employees in this study would be a bit more on top of what the subjects were doing, to the point that a doctor couldn’t die and have his drawer raided by two subjects without them noticing. The peculiar – and apparently agoraphobic – Dr. Fujita didn’t waste in time in bringing Justin Theroux’s Dr. Mantleray back into the operation to head the study, and we got to see another technological development with its own purposes in the form of his half-animated sex simulation. Owen and Annie may be taking their pills own and experiencing their miseries, but that short-circuit is definitely not something that was supposed to happen and is sure to influence things in an unpredictable way.

Take Three: Forever

Forever: Season 1, Episode 3 “The Lake House” (B)

This episode feels like a much more proper template for what this show is going to be like for its subsequent episodes, with Oscar overjoyed to be reunited with June in the afterlife. There are some bizarre rules in whatever this in-between place is, namely that the neighborhood that they live in has been condemned and is occasionally visited and urinated in, but they’re still able to cook and do normal things, just not when it influences the living humans who are there? I have plenty of questions that I don’t think I need to bother asking since it’s not all that relevant. What’s clear is that June isn’t nearly as happy as Oscar, since his famous trout almandine is representative of the boring stability that she just couldn’t stand. June is definitely much more strong-willed than Oscar, whose very willingness to cook Mark dinner for a month was enough to get him to negate the entire request since he found him so irritatingly agreeable. Oscar struggled so much with conducting enough energy through his body to turn on a light switch, and June was able to do it repeatedly without trying. I don’t know what that means for them, but I’m not all that interested to find out. This brand of comedy and performance is right up Fred Armisen’s alley, but I think that Maya Rudolph is capable of more, and if each episode of this show was just moments like their sitting conversation that showed them truly bonding, I think I’d be much more into it. I’m still on the fence about whether to watch episode four.

Monday, October 29, 2018

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 3 “Look Out for Number One” (B)

I’m understanding why it can be more appealing for people to binge-watch shows like this since we don’t get to see all the characters each episode. We were positively reintroduced to Linda in this hour, who got her head shaved because of lice despite her ardent protests and then demanded a crazy promotion and pay increase to make up for what she endured. I can’t wait for her first meeting with Fig and to see how they both react when they realize their shared romantic history with Caputo. It’s interesting to see how each of the inmates are going about their interrogations, with Nicky’s father bringing a fancy lawyer and fiancée with him, played by Michelle Hicks from “The Shield.” Just as Gloria got everyone to turn on Maria, it seems like that’s what happening with Red, who found out about Piscatella being dead and tried to transmit the message to everyone, failing only in one instance: Piper. Her obsession with Alex made her turn dark and mournful, throwing Red under the bus because she thought there wasn’t any reason left to keep going. I am curious where Alex is and eager for her return. I’m not overly fond of the urine shampoo initiation, though I am amused by the grouping of Lorna, Cindy, Flaca, and Daya. Additionally, Daya seems to have earned an admirer who may able to help make things better with her as guards continue to mistreat her as revenge. The flashbacks to Frieda’s youth were informative, and though they didn’t actually speak, her locking eyes with Carol so many years after ratting her out was intense. Her arrival into the Florida block with Crazy Eyes was indeed cause for celebration, and maybe things will be smooth and wonderful for her from here on out.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 3 “Wig Out” (B+)

You can never say that this show doesn’t have style. The way Luke walks in after knocking a door clean off and invites bullets being shot at him is unparalleled, though I did enjoy the look that Misty and Colleen gave each other before they cleaned up the bar. I liked that Luke just started to roll his eyes when people kept repeating this claim he never made that he’s faster than Usain Bolt, and he earned himself a nice knockout punch from the new Jamaican boss after taking out all of his goons. The best scene of this hour was the very open, honest argument between Luke and Claire which included lines like “I’m a black man with a hood, people have always been afraid of me.” She reacted very strongly to his punching a hole in the wall, and I think they’re in serious trouble as a couple, especially since she went to go see his father. Mariah’s daughter was not at all happy to be invoked as part of her mother’s event, and Shades is getting angrier and angrier about being cast aside when Mariah wants real family time. Misty continues to push and go where no one wants her to, and now she has Colleen back, on loan from “Iron Fist,” to show her that she shouldn’t feel sorry for herself and that she’s capable of plenty even if no one thinks she is. Refusing to step in to help her when she tried to use her missing arm was a good motivator, and luckily she didn’t sit the whole fight out.

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 3 “Fresh Flower” (B)

This case is not going well at all, and that’s because there are so many different players stepping up to mess things up. On the casting side, I recognized Alexandra Billings from “Transparent” as the judge, who has a history with Billy that helped her to consider his plan, and also James Wolk from “Mad Men,” “Lone Star,” and “Zoo” as FBI Agent Jeff Clayton. We’re seeing a very clear threat from the corrupt cops who got Tito back from Mexico to be cut into pieces and had no problem physically strongarming Patty, who ended up with a bad bruise but isn’t likely to tell anyone about it. Billy seems more subdued than usual, almost unalarmed at someone breaking in overnight and then having a disgruntled woman show up in the middle of the night banging on the door about a handwritten restraining order. It was entertaining to see Denise’s starstruck reaction to finding Marisol coming out of his room, but she has no idea just how bad it is that they’re involved. Though she’s loyal to Julio, she went straight to Tom to report the problem to him and ensure that Tito wouldn’t make it back to serve as a witness. Marisol held her own against Tom when he tried to intimidate her at work, and he refused to give up and pursued her right to her meeting with Billy. I don’t know why we needed that final scene with Tom masturbating, other than I guess to show that he’s depraved and eager to control things? I’m much more intrigued – and worried – by his crashing Brittany’s AA meeting. On a much lighter note, I enjoyed Patti asking Rashad’s co-counsel if she was okay just being there to listen.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 3 “I’m On My Own Path” (B)

If you had asked me what I thought Rebecca might be up to in the final season of this show, I don’t know I would have come up with working at a pretzel store as a possibility. As the clever opening credits that I neglected to mention last time indicate, Rebecca is someone who is hard to summarize, but every time she gets into something, she goes all in. Creating entirely new types of pretzels and paying for them herself because she sees how happy the customers are to receive them is very much up her alley, and the “previously on” segment showing Rebecca backing out of the law office as soon as she got her promotion was obviously included to show how quickly she similarly bailed this time. Not being a lawyer is a great choice for her, and I’m eager to see what she does. I thought I recognized Nia Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame as Wendy, the top-tier client who wasn’t getting what she wanted from the firm. I must commend this hour for its two very creative songs, namely Jim’s “Don’t Be a Lawyer,” complete with a great beat and terrific lines like “No one ever said let’s kill all the tailors” and “So many other professions that don’t turn you into Jeff Sessions.” The network representative jumping out the window after trying to declare that this didn’t represent its political views was a bit much for me. The pretzel song was decidedly weird but also perfectly effective. Josh dating is entertaining, and I enjoyed both the fact that all of his hobbies are shirtless and that he bought the “My Uber is calling” excuse. Hector and Heather getting married so that he could use her health insurance felt a bit random, but their sweet wedding ceremony at the end was a nice and unexpected touch for two supporting players not featured often enough.

Pilot Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)
Premiered October 26

I remember watching “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” back when it was airing about two decades ago. I never really liked it, partially because I’m not so into magic. In the age of infinite reboots, this one doesn’t seem so bad, mainly because it takes a concept that was popular and reimagines it in a very different and much darker way. The title is a clear enough indication, and though this supernatural stuff isn’t my cup of brew, I think it’s a better fit here than it would have been on its original network, the CW. Kiernan Shipka was always great on “Mad Men,” and it’s good to see her taking on this lead role here, empowering Sabrina as a champion of rights in this modern age, blazing ahead to stop bullying, racism, and so many other things. I was curious since Shipka looks much younger than Hart, but she’s actually eighteen, only two years younger than Hart was in 1996 when the original series premiered. I also recognized Richard Coyle from “Covert Affairs” as Father Blackwood, and of course the two aunts, played by Miranda Otto, recently of “Homeland,” and Lucy Davis from the original British version of “The Office.” Though this was never a show I planned to watch, I did find myself fully engaged during this opening hour, and I think this show has plenty of potential. Check this off on the list of positive instances of shows being restarted today and making a good case for the notion of new series not all having to be original.

How will it work as a series? I expected Sabrina to come back home and find her aunts in serious trouble, but instead it’s just Satan’s number two there to help convince her to have her dark baptism. Going to that boarding school doesn’t seem likely, but she’s still going to have to navigate her two identities in a way that doesn’t cause serious harm to the people in both her witch and human lives.
How long will it last? The reviews are very good, and a message of support from the cast of the original series wishing them “Best Witches” means that it’s also approved, which isn’t always the case these days. Even if reception wasn’t great, this show got renewed for a second season right away before it debuted, and therefore I think it’s going to have a long and productive run as the latest successful Netflix reboot.

Pilot grade: B

Pilot Review: Legacies

Legacies (CW)
Premiered October 25 at 9pm

If anyone said the vampire or werewolf craze was over, they were wrong. Here we have an interesting specimen – a show that uses preexisting pop culture to explain away much of its content to draw inspiration and explain its particulars. I think I’d enjoy this show a lot more if this school was for mutants rather than witches, vampires, and werewolves, but there are plenty of struggling superheroes on other shows, so I guess this is what’s hot. Having them play a version of real-life Quidditch in a purposeful nod to Harry Potter is obviously an attempt to drum up comparisons between this show and that franchise, though this one is darker and less creative. Lines like “I am an equal opportunity evil temptress, your binary assumptions are dated” try to make it seem hip and modern, and following them up with “Are you going to stuck me dry or not?” reveals this show for the overdone, oversexed fare it really is. It should have been evident at the very start that Landon was a supernatural being, and they should have tried to figure out what his powers were instead of trying to wipe his memory repeatedly. The only actor I recognized was the one who played Alaric, and a visit to Matthew Davis’ IMDB page reveals that he played Warner in “Legally Blonde.” There are no real standouts among the rest of the cast, and this feels like a show I’ve seen many times before that just doesn’t interest me at all.

How will it work as a series? It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – though I didn’t realize it – that this is a follow-up series to “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals,” both of which enjoyed long and successful runs on the CW. That world is obviously popular, and this one at least had a twist in the form of its supposed human hero turning out to be the number one villain.
How long will it last? The reviews are decent if not spectacular, pretty much on par with or a little less enthusiastic than other recent debuts on the network. Its ratings were somewhere in between, and given the popularity of its source material, I think this one is likely to earn a renewal.

Pilot grade: C-

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 4 “Who’s Sorry Now?” (B)

After an episode that was very politically focused, we now get one that deals almost exclusively with classic storylines from this show that haven’t come up in a while. Actress Shelley Morrison, who is now in her eighties, hasn’t appeared at all in this reboot mainly because she doesn’t act anymore, but this is far from the first mention of the character Rosario. Karen didn’t bond with many people, and even though she wasn’t terribly kind to Rosario, not letting her in to the panic room because it wasn’t a “his-panic” room (admittedly a hilarious line so fitting for Karen), she cared deeply about her in her own twisted way. Jack getting certified as a psychic was absurd enough, and for him to put on Rosario’s jacket and then channel her proved quite hilarious. Grace continuing her campaign with a cardboard cutout of herself led to predictable cracks about her thighs, breasts, and people – namely Jack – being inspired to draw a penis on it. Will and Grace reading old letters about sex that they wrote to each other was a real throwback, and I don’t even think I watched the earliest episodes of this show where their romantic relationship was still fresh. This show has always been known as button-pushing, and Grace apologizing to Will turned into something that wasn’t a joke since the way he felt about being gay years earlier is a far more serious thing than the way this show currently portrays it, a fairly touching and powerful sentiment.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 6 “The Ballad of Donkey Doug” (B+)

This show wins endless points – from me as a viewer and not from the judge and all those who determine who goes to the good place or the bad place – for finding someone to play Jason’s dad who makes him make a whole lot of sense. Mitch Narito was simply fantastic as Donkey Doug, the man who inspired Jason to be who he was and who got him into most of the snafus that caused him to be such a ridiculous person. His dedication to absurdity was commendable, but not nearly as much as his willingness to sacrifice himself as his father and other ancestors before him did so that Jason could get away and have a better life. The fact that Jason said that he didn’t want to do that for his son means that he’s achieving some progress, and he was able to get Pillboi on the right track too thanks to his quick acceptance and reinterpretation of the NASA cover story. It’s fun to see Janet try to use her powers when she can’t and explain that to those who don’t remember experiencing them, and how cool that she was able to make a simulator which allowed Chidi to practice the many ways in which he could break up with Simone. In actuality, it went very poorly, but it should help him move on and focus on helping others. I’m excited to see what Eleanor does when she comes face-to-face with her mother, and I can’t wait to find out who’s going to play her.

Pilot Review: Bodyguard

Bodyguard (Netflix)
Premiered October 24

Most of Netflix’s new offerings premiere on Fridays, and I’m always intrigued by those that don’t, which shouldn’t really mean anything since they’re available to watch anytime, and I definitely don’t watch the whole series right away. This one I actually got to watch on the day it debuted, and I’m glad I did, since it’s one of the best pilots I’ve seen this season. Right from the very start, the pacing was terrific and it was clear that this cop just got up while he was traveling on a train with his kids because he thought he saw some suspicious activity. Him not being on duty managed to piss off the cavalry that was actually working the case, but the cool he presented save the day and everyone on board, including the bomber that they nearly shot in the head as soon as they had a clear shot. Getting assigned a promotion to protect the home secretary showed us a different side of David, much more subdued and silent, insistent on his rules but curt and brief rather than fully indulgent. Seeing him watch the footage over and over of Julia explaining her policies revealed something much deeper, and him asking her about that meant that he’s not going to be quite as professionally subservient as might have been anticipated. I like that she pushes back, and it’s clear that these two performers are perfectly matched. Richard Madden is well known for playing Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones,” but this is the best role I’ve seen him in. I’m not familiar with Keeley Hawes but she seems terrific too. I’m definitely intrigued.

How will it work as a series? That ending scene with David attending the political meeting suggests that he may actually pose the greatest threat to Julia’s safety, harboring deeply anti-government sentiments thanks to his role in the war. It seems like he’s a straight shooter who’s going to do his job above all else, but it’s definitely up for debate, which should be fascinating to watch.
How long will it last? This show got great ratings in its debut airing on BBC One back in August, the best in a decade, and therefore its future is just going to be dependent on whether its creator wants it to continue or not. Its reviews have also been positive, so consider this one a strong candidate for continuation.

Pilot grade: B+

Friday, October 26, 2018

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 5 “Toby” (B)

The title of this episode doesn’t really cover all of its content, though I guess we had the chance to meet Toby and understand more about his life in a way that we haven’t before. I instantly recognized the actors playing both of his parents, Wendie Malick from “Just Shoot Me” and Dan Lauria, who just wrapped a recurring role on “Shameless.” His family situation growing up was similar to that of Jack, as he saw what his father was doing to his mother and felt powerless to stop it, but was incredibly supportive at the time that he could be. His mother coming to visit him when he was spiraling down after his breakup was telling, and it was inspiring to see him get his life back on track with medication and the sight of Kate in a meeting. While he definitely decided he needed to get back on his meds too late, at least Kate is aware of the fact that he needs to be on them and may be able to help him get back to a good place. The news of her pregnancy is also affirming and may lead to some positivity in the near future. Randall’s big start in politics went very poorly, and it was harsh to hear him told that he didn’t belong anywhere when he heard why it was that the owner of the diner was supporting the man he wanted to beat. Seeing his prom date’s cruel reaction to the color of Randall’s skin was well-paired with Zoe experiencing casual racism that Kevin didn’t even notice, something that she had to very explicitly point out to him. Miguel’s attempt to bond with a young Randall went poorly, and it’s obvious how his selfless acts helped him become a part of Rebecca’s life again. I’m happy to see the renewed focus on Beth who, after teasing Randall, got choked up during her job interview. I’m not sure what that means for her, but it’s good to see her spotlighted.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 3 “The Death of Vibe” (B+)

I was wondering whether Wells, in any form, was going to be featured in this season, and after a brief appearance by Harrison Wolfgang Wells, we got one of the most entertaining versions: Harrison Sherloque Wells, whose pretentiousness is matched by his ease lying and pretending that he’s far more skilled than he actually is, demanding a very high sum for solving a case he had already successfully pursued thirty-seven times. Sicada continues to be a formidable enemy, one who Nora made seem infinitely more threatening with the foreboding news that no one ever caught him, and it’s interesting to see that, in this particular universe, he’s not the same person that he usually is, and his victims aren’t the same either. Torturing Joe to get Vibe to come to him worked to a degree, but fortunately we saw Nora flash through the many possibilities and make a decision that ended up saving everyone, making it look like Vibe was dead so that Sicada would leave them. Joe was smart to deduce that he is a father, and evidently whatever happened to his comatose daughter is compelling him to exact whatever justice he feels he needs to. Ralph’s superhero stint as the Elongated Man didn’t go over all that well, and it was good to see him spring into action and manage to help Caitlin, who has quite the family history to contend with as she tries to solve the mystery of her father and what role her mother may have played in it.

Round Two: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Separation of Church and Dan” (B)

I think ABC should be happy – this show works just fine without Roseanne, and she barely even figured into this episode, with only a couple mentions to reference her absence. We had two notable guest stars in the form of Johnny Galecki, best known for “The Big Bang Theory” and who also made an appearance last year as Darlene’s ex David, and Juliette Lewis, currently portraying an equally problematic girlfriend no one invited on “Camping,” as Blue, whose parenting decisions are truly questionable and infuriating to Darlene. It wasn’t too much of a shock that something would happen when Harris stayed over, and Darlene learning that Blue had permitted her to have sex when she knew ahead of time that it was going to happen just made her even angrier. The fact that David and Darlene had sex and he didn’t tell her about it makes it seem that a divorce might not be nearly as permanent as it sounds, and I’m sure both he and Blue will be back again soon long before any of their children go to college. Darlene giving Harris a hard time about opening up to her mother about sex was entertaining, and I still contend that Sara Gilbert is the strongest part of this reboot. In her one scene, Laurie Metcalf wasn’t bad either, going on her own rant when David asked Jackie a single question. Becky arguing that she should be able to work construction for her father led to a more serious mention of her alcoholism, something that’s still being played for laughs, and I’m curious if we’ll see that again. I enjoyed Dan threatening David when he joked about having sex with Darlene years earlier. On that note, I hope we’ll see more of Justin Long’s incredibly awkward love interest.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 5 “Connecting Flights” (C)

I guess it’s about time that we saw what happened with those who weren’t on the flight and how they reacted both to the news of its disappearance and then to the shocking announcement that, five and a half years later, it had miraculously returned. Learning that Ben and Michaela volunteered to be bumped for $400 amplifies the misery that those who thought they had lost them must have felt, and unresolved questions like Jared’s proposal surely made it much more difficult. Seeing how Michaela’s mother embraced Jared’s new relationship while her father resisted against is informative most for how it shapes Michaela’s friendship with the woman who is now his wife and who got so close to him specifically through their shared mourning. Grace meeting Danny at her support group and trying to introduce him to a very resistant Olive is definitely different than how we’ve come to know those two characters now, faced with this impossible situation of having new lives interrupted and rebooted with these unbelievable returns. Back to the actual plotline, we’re not getting anywhere interesting as Agent Vance managed to track down Bethany while Thomas got away, and now Vance has a very conflicted Jared on the hook following his help getting him reinstated. Cal nearly gave his father a heart attack running through the subway on his own, but the fact that he has impulses which direct him the same way the voices do for Ben adds a new dimension to this already convoluted explanation that I still don’t think will end up making much sense in the end.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow (Season Premiere)

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 1 “The Virgin Gary” (B)

We’re getting this superhero show back a tiny bit later than the other two that exist within the same general DC universe, and though the fate of the world may be uncertain given the new threats it’s exposed to, these characters don’t seem quite as worried as either the Flash or Supergirl. I’m not entirely psyched for the way that this season is going to go, firstly because I’m not a fan of Constantine and all his spell-conjuring, supernatural mumbo jumbo, and secondly because I’ve found this show to be a lot stronger whenever it deals with clear-cut human, superpowered or not, villains. I will admit that having a unicorn show up at Woodstock to entrance all of the hippies before goring out their hearts is something that could only happen and seem normal on this show, and it was fun to see how the remaining legends reacted when they got sprayed by the unicorn. I’m also not so taken with Gary, whose virgin status and eagerness to be part of the team enabled him to help them take down the unicorn and send it straight to hell (even writing that last part makes me cringe since that’s not really the kind of show I want to be watching). It seems like we have a barebones team left with Amaya’s departure coupled with the definitive absence of Wally, Jax, Snart, and Stein, but at least there’s still a focus on Ray’s feelings for the missing Nora, Sara trying to be domestic with Ava, and a newly introduced storyline with Nate’s difficult relationship with his father, played by Thomas F. Wilson, a seemingly missed opportunity given that the actor is most famous for “Back to the Future.” Maybe he’ll be back again soon in a proper showcase.

What I’m Watching: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 7 “Kintsugi” (B)

It was so intriguing to see the baton passed in an extremely ceremonial way from the first Mr. Pickles-San to his successor, with the new appointee traveling to the United States to shadow Jeff and learn about what makes Mr. Pickles who he is. On this show, of course, this guy wouldn’t speak English at all yet somehow he would manage to communicate verbally in fluent English when he was speaking through a puppet. The veiled conversation about being a clarinet family going forward between Scott and Deirdre was a productive step, one that was undone by Scott walking in on Mr. Pickles-San doing a puppet show with his penis, a scene I don’t even know how to address. Jeff’s trip to LA with Will truly did seem magical, and walking around with the iPad on his chest so that he could show Vivian what she was missing was very sweet. Getting an all-clear diagnosis was indeed miraculous, and leave it to Jeff to not even be phased by Vivian’s news that she would be going on vacation by herself, something that hilariously prompted his entire family to scream expletives at her and shout her out of the room. Paying all of her debt was another noble and selfless gesture, but then we got to the implosion: Jeff finally coming undone and wreaking havoc on his office since it’s just not possible to smile all the time. His on-camera antics are now going to be the least of his father’s worries in keeping him from destroying the show.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Round Two: Camping

Camping: Season 1, Episode 2 “Going to Town” (C+)

This show is a lot. The first episode was outlandish enough, and now we get an episode even more packed with nonstop panicked chattiness from Kathryn and irresponsible behavior from the rest of the crowd, almost none of which actually happened near the campsite. Jandice knocking Orvis down during the flag football game in which he wasn’t even playing was a very bad start, and of course she didn’t care enough to admit that it shouldn’t have happened, further egging on hypochondriac Kathryn to freak out and drive everyone at the hospital crazy. Getting it into her head that the stress had affected her too resulted in shocked reactions from the hospital staff who couldn’t believe that she was still there. Harry talking Walt into taking power rather than just giving Kathryn the front was an entertaining subplot which is probably one of the strongest elements of this very unfocused show, mainly because Walt is the one only who doesn’t have a problem with his remarkably persistent wife. Things at the bar got crazy quickly after Jandice suggested jelly donut shots all around, and the fact that Joe is in AA but was more than happy to have just one drink was a sure sign that everything was going downhill. George confronting Joe for his “little chocolate” comment escalated the tension, and naturally after not showing up to the hospital they forgot the steaks also. Ending the episode with Jandice cackling makes me wonder what this show really wants to be, and I guess I’m up for one more installment to see if it is at all worthwhile.

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Mid-Season Finale)

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 7 “Down Like the Titanic” (B+)

I totally forgot that this show was going on hiatus for a few months for the first time in the middle of a season, and was reminded of it when I saw a billboard advertising the return of “Ray Donovan” this Sunday. This feels like a great place to leave off, though there’s still plenty of unfinished business to be dealt with when the show comes back for its back half of seven episodes, with more fodder past that given that the British original ran for eleven seasons. We didn’t see Ian at all in this episode aside from the alarm he set to remind his family of how much they missed him, and I think that’s fine since I’m never too fond of when comedy shows have characters go to prison and experience completely different plotlines. The most entertaining part of this hour, to be sure, was Carl demonstrating just how dumb he is, offering up “Pentagon, DMV, Cops” as his answer for the three branches of government and eagerly naming Abraham Lincoln as the first president. Fortunately, his life circumstances, as shaped by Kelly, should help him to win admission on completely different grounds. Frank is definitely in over his head with Ingrid, but as a shocked Randy pointed out before Frank convinced him to go pursue his dreams, his returning means something. It’s nice that Veronica is willing to consider Kev’s desire to have another baby in a slightly modified manner, and while I don’t think they need any more responsibility, it should be fun to watch. Who would have thought that Lip would reconnect with the girl who nicknamed him Jabby, and that they might actually be a perfect match for each other? And then there’s Fiona, who really hit rock bottom and had to sell off her building for exactly what she needed to be completely back to square one, thanks to the only semi-generous behavior of the extremely seedy Max, who couldn’t comprehend that someone wouldn’t have $25,000. But then Debs proved to have done just what was needed in not beating Ford up physically - as I worried might be the case - but instead putting him in just the humiliating spot he deserved and letting Fiona take out some of her frustration on him in that comprised state. I can’t wait for what comes next - this has been another consistently great run.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 2 “Fallout” (B+)

If nothing else, there’s a whole lot going on here. This show has always tried to be politically relevant, and this episode really was in so many different ways. The president’s resignation in the face of an unrecoverable scandal was of course the farthest thing from our reality, but what ensued definitely looked a whole lot like what we’re experiencing, with aliens standing in for the “other” in society. Agent Liberty getting the crowd to chant “Earth First!” at the end of the episode was probably the most haunting echo of our world, and it was jarring to see Brainy, or Barney, as he’s known when he gets coffee or pizza, freeze upon being targeted when his image inducer went offline and his true form was exposed. It’s great to see this show embracing diversity with a trans character who, fantastically enough, is played by a trans actress, Nicole Amber Maines. I’ll be very intrigued to see if she has a romance with Brainy, who has now reached a very good point with Alex. The humans got to have some superpowered fun too in this hour, with Lena and Mercy shooting from arm-guns at each other while Kara had to stall to get out of Lena’s sight and transform into Supergirl. Hank may not be any closer to finding Fiona, but he has stumbled across something unsettling that definitely seems to be sweeping this fictitious but very recognizable nation and may be far more dangerous than the Kryptonite which just took down Supergirl.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 4 “Error Code 1.61” (B-)

We’ve entered inescapably sappy territory here, and there’s absolutely no way out. You could create an entire language out of the alternately suggestive and longing looks that Miles and Cara throw at each other, another out of the knowing glances between Rakesh and Jaya, and something altogether different and unrecognizable for the way that Fliss and Beaker feel about each other. I knew right away that I recognized Fliss but couldn’t figure out where it was from, and that’s because my prior experience with Annaleigh Ashford had her in a decidedly more assured state and period clothing from her role as Betty on “Masters of Sex,” a character far more aware of who she wanted to be. It seemed obvious from the start that Beaker’s star was Fliss, but his later revelation about being gay meant that they just needed each other in their lives in a completely platonic way to be able to return to the far more satisfied and complete people that they used to be so many years earlier. Miles and Ali saving their father’s instrument and returning it to him didn’t feel entirely germane to the rest of the story, but there’s baggage there to be unpacked that also shapes his relationship to his children. Miles taking the rose and getting ready to confess his feelings for Cara was a great step, and of course it won’t be that easy, with Eli returning to the picture at exactly the wrong moment to provide the latest obstacle in his self-exploration.

What I’m watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 2 “I am Ashamed” (C+)

With this show ending this season, it hardly feels like we have time for a Halloween episode, especially one that airs nearly two weeks before the big holiday. I’m glad that there wasn’t actually anything supernatural truly involved, and that Paula and Heather got to harp on the fact that there was a logical explanation behind everything while Valencia and Rebecca continued to insist that there was something mysterious and magical at work. When all of the spooky layers were peeled back, this was all about Rebecca and her unwillingness to leave the house given her instant celebrity and the very real worry that people hated her now. Being asked to take a selfie with an enthusiastic fan wasn’t the worst first public interaction, and maybe it won’t be so bad, especially since she has positive things to do like go back to volunteer at the prison. Darryl’s sudden obsession with breast milk and White Josh’s accidental babysitting felt a bit random, and I think that’s because they’re not really spotlighted as characters all that much. Josh was just all about a cute baby outfit, signifying that he definitely hasn’t found himself in the time since the premiere. I don’t think that Nathaniel needs yet another nemesis after serving as that very thing himself when he first appeared, and Bert seems like too odd a character to be sticking around on a permanent basis to derail what’s already one of this show’s least stable elements, the office. Patton Oswalt’s guest turn was strange to be sure, but he’s always a welcome face - and voice - on any program.

Pilot Review: Wanderlust

Wanderlust (Netflix)
Premiered October 19

Now here’s a show that deals with someone we’ve seen over and over again on television - extramarital affairs - in a new and engaging way. Most of the first part of this Netflix import, which premiered on BBC1 back in September, featured most of the characters masturbating in different places as they dealt with their own sexual issues. I was impressed by the way that Joy’s cycling injury was very quickly communicated and interspersed with her lackluster sex life following that event. Not knowing anything about this show, I wasn’t sure who the main characters were supposed to be, aside from the obvious top billing for Toni Collette, an Australian accent who got to use her native accent for once. Watching Joy’s husband Alan get high with Claire and then have sex with her while Joy gave in to her impulses and slept with the guy from the pool who definitely wasn’t the one that peed in it showed how they really do need something else from their marriage, and what a fascinating final scene that was. Alan seemed to be more upset with Joy for sleeping with a random guy, though it turned out that he was more disturbed by the fact that she didn’t seem mad. Her suggestion is a fascinating one, far from a public swingers declaration but more of an intimate way to stay happy. Therapy series have been done many times before, but I think this one feels unique, in part because of Collette’s superb lead performance. If I decide I have time, I may stick with this show for its remaining five episodes.

How will it work as a series? These characters are definitely interesting, and deciding to have an open marriage where they have sex with other people is not going to be a simple solution to all of their problems. That journey should be particularly interesting, and the supporting characters are also on their own arcs to find sexual and personal happiness.
How long will it last? The reviews are pretty good, but it looks like ratings in the UK weren’t great over the show’s six-episode run, which concluded two weeks ago. As a co-production between BBC1 and Netflix, it’s possible that Netflix will use viewer data to propel this show to a second life, though I imagine this will just end up being a one-season show.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever.

Best. Worst. Weekend. Ever. (Netflix)
Premiered October 19

When I browse through the lengthy list of new programs debuting every Friday on Netflix, I’m always initially at a loss to which shows are foreign-language imports, animated series, kid-friendly shows, or something that might actually be right up my alley. Usually, some research helps me to determine whether I should watch, but in some cases, it’s just not clear. Part of what intrigued me about this one is that I miss “Powerless,” the clever show about those in the background without superpowers in a city filled with heroes and villains that got cancelled by NBC after just nine episodes. This is no replacement, to be sure, but it does offer another opportunity to get into the minds of those who are completely obsessed by comic books. I did try “Future Man” on Hulu, which takes things another step to actually have its video game-playing protagonist serve as the unwitting salvation of the future, and this show, despite its comic book panels and its characters dressing up in costumes, is pretty standard in its portrayal of geeky high school kids just wanting to be teenagers, with no imaginary powers to help them through their younger years. The structure of three friends is also familiar, with Treece now approached by the soccer girls as she might become cool, Argo finally finding his crowd with those who will be continuing on to his program, and Ned as the “idea guy” who doesn’t actually do much other than somehow make things happen. I think this “coming-of-age comedy” is probably better suited to teens - it wasn’t terrible, but it’s not something I need to be watching.

How will it work as a series? Predictably, things got very out of hand with the “literary event” that didn’t even feature a guest appearance by their revered author (though he was probably there and no one recognized him), and now Argo is trapped in the sights of a bear while Ned has to clean up the mess back at his house. It seems to me that the comic book storylines on this show won’t be nearly as outrageous as the actual storylines.
How long will it last? It’s another show that’s billed as a limited series, and Netflix has so many that it’s impossible to know what it’s going to decide to keep. Without any ratings data - or any real reviews - it’s hard to tell what its fate is going to be, though I suspect that just one series is what we’ll get here.

Pilot grade: C+

Monday, October 22, 2018

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 3 “Tex and the City” (B-)

The first two episodes of this season may not have been overtly political, but this one definitely returns right to that in a huge way. Of course Karen would want to sponsor a part of the wall to help make sure to keep illegal immigrants out of the country, and she would have to compete, mysteriously, with walking contradiction Beverley Leslie, whose portrayer Leslie Jordan is keeping himself busy on the far less funny “The Cool Kids,” which just earned itself a full-season pickup from FOX. Encountering an El Salvadoran woman arrested for trying to cross the border who reminded her of Rosario was a bit of a stretch, but it’s hardly one that’s unfamiliar on this show. The same goes for Jack, who went to Texas with Will to support his grandson Skip but then found himself being the one trying to stifling the expression of his spirit and his sexuality. His on-microphone speech was somewhat entertaining, and I suppose it’s fun to see the man grow. Will had his own regrets to deal with that resulted in a well-timed imitation of Freddie Mercury that’s sure not to be quite as impressive as that done by Rami Malek in the upcoming film “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Back in New York, both Grace and Noah were obsessed with the window closing for them to have sex, and naturally it would be something as simple as Grace casually blurting out that she had slept with Noah’s sandwich guy that would cause him to doubt whether this romance - something that’s going to be good for both of them - was really the right route.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 5 “Jeremy Bearimy” (B+)

Every time that it seems like this show might be out of ideas and headed in a direction that isn’t particularly appealing, it manages to reinvent itself entirely and start fresh. I love the concepts that exist on this show in the afterlife like that of Jeremy Bearimy, whose name as written in cursive is the best visual explanation of how time works, or rather doesn’t happen in a linear fashion, in the afterlife. That the dot over the I undid Chidi was great, and what a spectacular mental break he experienced, losing his shirt and then making a horrifying chili with Peeps in it in front of his students. The other three, however, were positively compelled by the inevitability of their fate to do good just for the sake of it, which is a fun and relatively believable twist. I like that Eleanor isn’t actually nice to people, still mocking the father whose daughter’s drawing she unintentionally delivered back to him, while doing something selfless and kind in the process. And, as always, she was the one with the plan, since she may not always have been a good person, but she’s been resourceful all her life (and after her life). Tahani’s actions were very much not in her own self-interest, and it was hilarious to hear the eternally dimwitted Jason celebrate his tacos much more than his newfound platonic marriage, which creates evident problems for Tahani, who forgot that her real life keeps going even though she knows how it’s all going to end. That shouldn’t be too much of a hiccup in their new do-gooder team getting started on some great work, and I’m really excited to see where it goes!

Round Two: The Romanoffs

The Romanoffs: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Royal We” (C+)

Three hours in and I’m not seeing the value of this show. Sure, we have a handful of popular actors here, namely Kerry Bishé, from “Scrubs” and “Virtuality,” Corey Stoll from “House of Cards” and “The Strain,” and Janet Montgomery from “Human Target” and “New Amsterdam,” but the content needs some serious work. Noah Wyle also appeared in a pointless supporting role that hardly felt like it needed someone like him to be in it, and John Slattery, a Matthew Weiner favorite from “Mad Men,” also barely had a part. What was clear here is that Stoll’s Michael Romanoff is a terrible person, so uninterested in improving his marriage that he was willing to extend jury deliberations of a murder trial by days just so that he could try to seduce a woman whose legs got him excited. Montgomery’s Michelle, for her part, was much less emotional and more matter-of-fact in her reading of their affair, telling Michael what he should to cover up their dalliance rather than entertain the possibility of a lasting relationship. Shelly going on a cruise by herself didn’t do much, and she had to wait until Michael somewhat predictably tried and failed to push her off a cliff to realize that their marriage was indeed over. More importantly, I don’t see what useful connective thread this had to the show’s title since Michael only mentioned his heritage once and Shelly just seemed turned off by it. I know that Christina Hendricks stars in the third installment of this show, but I just don’t think it merits another hour and a half of my time after these first two disappointing installments.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 2 “Imagine Manchuria” (B)

I still can’t understand how it works for characters like Trudy and Tagomi to travel between different worlds, and I’ve always thought that this would be a stronger show if it dealt only with one alternate reality rather than those within it trying to escape back to what we know to be the world. What we’re seeing now is that world closing in on itself, with Kido recognizing Trudy as someone that he had killed who couldn’t possibly be who she was but who was nonetheless right in front of him. Tagomi also stepped in to save Juliana and Trudy from certain death, and now he’s going to be tied to them as things get more intense between the Nazi and Japanese regimes, with Smith’s phone call to Kido to warn him to be on the lookout for Juliana met with understandable dishonesty from the perplexed Kido. As usual, things within the Nazi regime are unstable as well, with Hoover and other sources getting ready to move on Smith, and Helen’s meeting with the late doctor’s wife going horribly awry. I’m not sure what to make of the appearance of Michael Gaston’s secretly-practicing Jew Mark, and our first check-in with Ed and Robert, who are making their way through the neutral zone. We’re just two episodes into a ten-episode run of a show that several months ago was commissioned for a fourth season, meaning that there’s a whole lot of ground to be covered soon, and I’m really not sure what’s going to come next and where it will end up eventually.

Round Two: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 2 “Windmills” (B+)

I watched the first episode of this show almost a month ago, and the time between then and now wasn’t too problematic since the pilot didn’t inform all that much about what this show was or what it was going to be. We only saw Emma Stone’s Annie for a few moments in the first hour, and now she gets to be the full focus, with Jonah Hill’s Owen appearing for just a scene or two this time around. Stone is a fantastic actress who I just saw in a role that may well win her a second Oscar, “The Favourite,” and she is absolutely the perfect person to play Annie, who is full of anger, eager to take that out on other people, and ready to do just about anything to achieve what she wants. Asking her chatty Adbuddy if she had a choice and really could take “limitless options” to travel all the way to a place like Salt Lake City helped explain how she views the world, a place that’s so unrecognizable given the things that seem normal in it, like her talking to a box in the backyard that’s apparently her father. Trying to blackmail Patricia, played by Selenis Leyva from “Orange is the New Black,” without really having anything on her, was a fascinating process, and she didn’t stop until she got exactly what she wanted. The memory she experienced after ingesting the first set of pills was truly vivid, and Julia Garner, from “Grandma” and “Ozark,” was terrific as her sister, who we could tell right away wasn’t going to be long for this world. I’m still not sure what this show is, but I’m intrigued enough to come back for a third go.

Round Two: Forever

Forever: Season 1, Episode 2 “June” (C+)

What is this show? This is not what I signed up for or expected after watching the pilot. I didn’t realize that Oscar had died when he skied right into that tree, and I have a hard time understanding what this show is going to be about if one of the two main characters isn’t a part of it. The final scene of this episode was even more perplexing, with June apparently choking on or having an allergic reaction to a macadamia nut while sitting in the extremely luxurious first class cabin preparing for her flight to Hawaii and then finding an excited Oscar waiting for her in what appears to the afterlife. I’m just so thrown off by the fact that Oscar died during the ski trip to truly comprehend what this show is supposed to be. The contents of this June-centric half-hour felt very random, with June being pulled in to religion against her will and then throwing everything off by kissing the pastor, a truly inexplicable move that even she couldn’t hope to defend. She also bailed on a job interview and then managed to land the gig simply because she hadn’t stolen anything, which was a big get, and it was evident just how unfamiliar this new life was. “I have a ticket, I’m supposed to be here” was a very telling line, one of the few truly emphatic moments of this episode, which makes me truly unsure if it’s worth revisiting for a third time.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 2 “Sh*tstorm Coming” (B+)

Now here’s an improvement on what we saw in the season opener, showing us how things are getting back to a new normal for most of the inmates. The investigators being given a one-week deadline to wrap up their work feels a whole lot like similarly-imposed limitations on real-life investigations recently in the news, and that arbitrary limit is sure to produce unfortunate results. Maria and Gloria are really going at each other to try to get the other blamed for everything, and it looks like Gloria is winning that race, though Blanca appears to have been given a different destiny that isn’t likely to work out in her favor. Daya took a plea, and Cindy, who got her own flashback to motherhood that she wasn’t remotely interested in, had to reconsider her story and may now be looking at an uncertain future. Piper got herself a new cellmate, one who seemed harmless enough but whose crimes are going to give Piper a lot of pause as she moves forward in their friendship. I’m most excited by the focus on the guards, with Caputo shaving and cleaning up his act only to find out that Fig has taken his job, which sent him reeling. Healy’s first appearance in a very long time was well worth it, with his newfound emphasis on joy in life with secret menu smoothies. I love that Dixon was concerned about Donuts and wanted to make sure he didn’t kill himself when he was actually just hiding Pennsatucky in the trunk. The best part was his reaction to her coming into the room: declaring that he wasn’t going to go on all the rides solo.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 2 “Straighten It Out” (B+)

I watched the season premiere about a month ago and am now committing to picking this show back up, just as it was announced that it won’t be returning for a third season, which is a shame. I know that “Iron Fist” has premiered and even been cancelled during that time, which makes sense given its terrible quality, and “Daredevil” just returned. Truth be told, I’ve always found this show to be the second-best of the four after “Jessica Jones,” and it seems to hold up as I’m starting to get back into it now. The notion of Luke as a folk hero who’s testing his indestructibility with celebrity sports stars is fun, and I like that Bobby is negotiating his deal with Nike as his manager. Stepping in to save a kid and his mother from an abusive father was noble, but Luke has to be more aware of the fact that there are those Judas Bullets out there and that he can’t dare everyone to shoot him without occasionally getting hit with something that’s going to land. Claire trying to encourage him to be more careful and to give his father a chance didn’t go over well, and instead, we’re getting a surprise reunion between Mariah and her daughter, whose arrival did not please Shades at all. Shooting Arturo in the head before he got the money because he insulted Mariah wasn’t smart, and there are far too many new players in town for him to be killing those who are actually on his side. I had forgotten about Misty’s crime scene reconstruction skills, which are pretty cool, and hopefully she’ll be able to get back on the force full-time so she doesn’t have to butt her way in to every investigation.

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 2 “Politics” (B)

I didn’t watch the season premiere until a month after it was released on Amazon, and it’s been a full three months since that time. I’m now feeling like I can pick back up my streaming shows again, but I’m having a bit of trouble getting back into this series. I really liked season one and the vast array of complex supporting characters, and I’m just not sure if we have that anymore. Seeing Patty is always a highlight, and watching her family try to get Billy into business deals or to take on a high-profile bunion case was entertaining. Her plan not to ever interact with Brittany is going to make things at the office exceptionally awkward, and Billy seems to be especially relieved to have Brittany back even after what she did. Denise confiscating all of Billy’s alcohol as a low-key attempted wake-up call for him to take a look at his life was an interesting instance of reverse parenting, but as usual, Billy seems to have too much to think about to really stop and notice. I knew I recognized the voice in the opening sequence, which turned out to be David Cross, and I’m still not sure that Mark Duplass is the right person to play Tom, whose reactions in certain situations appear unnecessarily comic. I’m much more impressed with Ana de la Reguera, whose Marisol is caught in a complicated situation where she’ll definitely have to compromise her principles to stay alive, and is only making things much grayer by sleeping with Billy.

Pilot Review: The Rookie

The Rookie (ABC)
Premiered October 16 at 10pm

Nathan Fillion is what most would consider to be a very successful TV actor. He anchored “Firefly” before it got cancelled and became a cult classic, then spent eight seasons as a mystery author slash police consultant on “Castle,” and now he’s back just a few years after that one went off the air for the latest cop show to try to pretend that it’s doing completely new things. The twist, that he’s a forty-year-old rookie whose unique life experience makes him both the best and worst candidate for the job, only does so much to modify a very tired but evidently popular format which has been done many, many times before. To his credit, Fillion is charismatic as John Nolan, who was bold as an ordinary civilian during a bank robbery and then realized that everything he’s done up until that point has prepared him for a life of public service on the streets. I wasn’t at all impressed with the training officer testing and the very official hazing from the top, and in addition to feeling like I’ve seen the same thing plenty of times in the past, I don’t find it enjoyable or believable. There were some other faces of note who I recognized here, starting with Melissa O’Neil, of the prematurely-axed Syfy series “Dark Matter,” as another trainee whose training officer has more than a few issues he’s trying to take out on her. Afton Williamson, who plays Talia, was on “Banshee,” and Alyssa Diaz, who plays Angela, was on “Ray Donovan.” I’m also fond of Mercedes Mason, from “The Finder,” though her role as the captain is as dry as they come. I didn’t expect to find anything too original on this show, and, sure enough, it’s exactly the procedural it wants to be.

How will it work as a series? Tim in particular is never going to get tired on giving his rookie tests, and the other two actually have major things to work on that are going to affect their ability to do their jobs and be on the streets. It’s all been done before on cop shows, but that’s why people (besides me) like to watch them.
How long will it last? The reviews are decent, but don’t worry so much about that for this kind of show. Every article that I’ve read about the ratings acknowledges that this timeslot is a not a good one, and so even if the numbers weren’t a knockout, it’s a success based on the expectations. I’d expect that this one earns a renewal soon.

Pilot grade: C

Friday, October 19, 2018

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 4 “Vietnam” (C)

This show has so much to offer in the way of its many characters and their different lives, but then it has episodes like this which are supposed to provide immense background that doesn’t end up being all that relevant since, in this case at least, the only person who remembers it all is no longer alive and can’t share that knowledge with anyone else. Telling it in reverse, starting with Jack finding his brother in the middle of Vietnam and then explaining just how it is that he got there from the very point that Nicky was born, which was a time before Jack’s father was an abusive alcoholic who clearly modeled his behavior on that of his own father, played by Michael Ironside. I recognized Scott Michael Campbell’s name in the credits and identified the “Shameless” actor as Jack’s commanding officer who wasn’t willing to let him travel the short distance to go check on his brother, who was of course played by Michael Angarano of “Will and Grace” fame. Having Jack and Nicky watch the lottery numbers called and then showing an entire hospital room full of newborn babies who would all eventually be called up to war was moderately powerful in its own way, but I definitely don’t think we needed an entire episode dedicated to a character that we know we won’t really have a chance to meet because even Jack didn’t get to spend enough time with him before he was presumably killed in action.

Pilot Review: The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright (ABC)
Premiered October 16 at 8:30pm

I always wonder if there’s a database of all movie and TV titles that someone looks at when greenlighting a project that has the same name as another well-known work. Sure, the 2010 Oscar Best Picture nominee “The Kids Are All Right” spells its affirmation of the children’s’ potential differently, but I wasn’t sure when I tuned in to watch this pilot if it was going to be a remake of that great fil. It turns out that’s not the case at all, but instead we get this very crowded show that follows the comedy theory that bigger is better, with a family of eight boys all fighting aggressively for attention and happiness in their 1970s Irish Catholic home. None of the characters are overly memorable, even the rising music star and the would-be priest, but there were a few familiar faces in the cast. I liked Christopher Paul Richards as the affable, precocious brother on “Me, Myself, and I,” and I guess it’s good to see him in a similar role here. Michael Cudlitz got his big start on “Southland” and was a featured player on “The Walking Dead” for many years, and this is just the latest foray into television for Mary McCormack, alumna of “The West Wing,” “In Plain Sight,” and, most recently, “Loaded.” She does have the opportunity to be noticed here, but this role, and the show in general, is far too uncreative and unambitious for its own good. We’ve seen this before, many, many times, and the minor variations in play don’t do enough to make it worthwhile.

How will it work as a series? Peggy has recognized some talent in her theater-minded son, and now he might be able to finally get away from his family to devote time to his true interest. Fleshing out ten family members is no easy task, and nothing about this opener indicated to me that it’s capable of truly doing that.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be generally good, which surprises me a bit, but the ratings were as expected. The second of four comedies to start on ABC on Tuesday night had the second-best ratings, but I’d imagine those will fall considerably in week two and beyond, and this will end up airing just its original episode order.

Pilot grade: C-

Thursday, October 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Gifted

The Gifted: Season 2, Episode 4 “outMatched” (C+)

This will be my last episode of this show. I actually considered turning it off a few times during this hour but figured I may as well watch until the end just in case it actually surprised me. It did not. I thought that our mutant friends might finally reach out to Jace, their one ally who can actually understand them, but instead, it was the Purifiers, whose far more aggressive and violent methods don’t jive with his far gentler personality (including his texts of “pls”). Lines like “How am I supposed to hack without eyes, genius?” did not wow me, and what we saw here was Caitlin going into full-on torture mode to get back to her innocent Andy, who everyone except for her is well aware has decidedly switched sides. Taking out Lauren was a crucial line that he has now crossed, and the only reason he was able to win was classic Dark Side mentality, which is that the person who doesn’t care about the other’s well-being is always going to prevail, at least at first. Proudstar barely flinched after getting riddled with bullets, and he should use that invincibility to the team’s advantage more often. Reed also appears to have waited a bit too long to talk about his powers, which he’s eager to merely suppress rather than try to hone so that he can wield them with purpose. The mystery person they took might change the game, but I’ve lost interest. I wanted more from this show, but it’s time to tune out.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 2 “Blocked” (B)

There’s a certain repetitiveness to this show when it comes to its villains, who have the ability to completely overpower Barry and all of his friends. We don’t know much about Cicada thus far other than that he seems to take far less delight in going up against the Flash than past nemeses like the Reverse-Flash, Zoom, Savitar, and DeVoe. I didn’t even recognize Chris Klein, who I loved in his dim-witted role on “Wilfred,” as the actor playing Cicada in his human form, not too keen on conversation and seemingly haunted by his murderous actions. The insect-like sound he makes is certainly threatening, and Iris recognizing it at the end of the episode and telling Barry to get out of there indicated just how intense what they’re up against is. It’s helpful that Ralph and Caitlin got Cisco out of his slump so that he can focus again, and we’re getting closer to the mystery of who Caitlin’s father is and where he’s been all these years. Cecile is coming to terms with the loss of her powers and her role as an ordinary mother, while Iris continues to notice an obvious distance between Nora and her. Nora is helping Barry to see what being a parent is like before he’s actually had a kid, and her overeagerness and her use of the term “schway” is definitely getting to be a bit much. With both Jesse and Wally out of the picture, it’s at least good to have another speedster around to help with villains like Block. An important lesson: always put the cuffs on before the celebratory high-five.

Pilot Review: The Conners

The Conners (ABC)
Premiered October 16 at 8pm

What we have here is a unique situation: a show brought back two full decades after it ended to experience incredible ratings and then be swiftly cancelled within hours of its title star making deplorable comments on Twitter. Even crazier is the fact that this series is pretty much an exact continuation of the reboot without Roseanne. At first, it seemed like Roseanne was going to be dismissed like Charlie Sheen was on “Two and a Half Men,” but her heart attack turned out to be something much darker: an overdose on prescription drugs, something that was previously foreshadowed when Dan first realized that she was dependent on medication. It’s hard to figure out if this show is trying to say something about drugs in America (and health care, etc.), especially with Roseanne and her political views out of the picture. Much of this pilot, which shouldn’t really be considered a brand-new series launch since it directly continues from the tenth season of the original series, is about moving on, which most profoundly affected Dan and Jackie. Dan coming to terms with his grandson being gay was a positive step, and it was funny to see Jackie start a five-day couch-cleaning process and try to improve the geometric equilibrium of the coffee maker in relation to the kitchen. Becky and Darlene arguing over their joint responsibilities was entertaining too. I was only watching the original because of its awards potential, so I guess I have to decide whether this show is likely to be a stronger contender without its problematic former star.

How will it work as a series? The opening credits started showing up at the very end of the episode as if to declare, “Look, we do it!” and congratulate this show on being its own story without Roseanne. It was fine and fun, and I think it should be more than capable of generating moderately enjoyable episodes.
How long will it last? The reviews are good, which is a positive, and the ratings were quite strong too. There’s no way that, without Roseanne, this show was going to deliver the same audience numbers as last year’s return, but without that enormous expectation, this debut should be considered a success. I’d look for a renewal announcement very soon.

Season grade: B

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 4 “Unclaimed Baggage” (C-)

I watched this episode with my mother-in-law, who is very into it and much more impressed by each of its hours than I am. I continue to find it lackluster and far from interesting, and this episode included a new freaky element in the form of the dripping gray angel. There’s not much consistency to the abilities that the passengers - or some of them, at least - have, and the only thing that does remain true from moment to moment is that they usually lead them to the wrong places first. Preemptively ending the undercover investigation means that Michaela isn’t going to be trusted anymore, and her number one ally, Jared, is also going to be benched and unhelpful after taking the fall for her bad call. I never expected this show to feature an “Angels of America” reference, and it seems to me unlikely that Bethany would be able to smuggle someone on board who wasn’t actually a flight attendant without anyone noticing, especially since he was so clearly scared in the middle of the flight before they went through whatever temporal wave caused all of this. Ben’s parenting struggles make sense even if they don’t have much to do with all this supernatural, science fiction stuff. He was not at all pleased to meet Danny, played by Daniel Sunjata from “Rescue Me,” who showed up to help Olive out of an unfortunate situation that pretty much exemplifies what teenage rebellion looks like.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: Kidding

Kidding: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Cookie” (B)

All of the characters are on this show, particularly the four primarily Piccirillo family members, are lost and experiencing crisis of variety forms. This show seems to be doing that with them, employing its rabbi character to narrate the opening and closing moments of the episode with the black and white cookies that his girlfriend made which both represent life and the universe and aren’t all that good. We saw an important indicator of Jeff and Deirdre’s early years in this half-hour, with Deirdre screaming at her mother for leaving and Jeff comforting himself with his puppet, a clear step towards where he got to today. I was wondering whether it needed to be a real Olympic skater like Tara Lipinski playing herself on this show or just someone pretending to be a celebrity, but I guess her affect works well opposite Jeff and the way that he tried to argue for keeping his identity and her recalling her younger role as an official adherent of his. Putting on a show for Vivian was sweet, and hopefully his emphasis on continuing her story means that he might accept if she decides that she wants it to end abruptly as she’s indicated. Deirdre is lashing out at her daughter, and Sebastian continues to cradle that empty companion in his bed, unresolved issues that will surely be addressed and featured more in the future. I’m most interested in Will’s activities, saved miraculously from an explosion and then bolstered by fate to take advantage of Phil’s pre-death wishes to score himself a little bit of happiness.

Pilot Review: Camping

Camping (HBO)
Premiered October 14 at 10pm

I was very curious about this show since it marks the return of two well-known, award-winning actresses to television for the first time since the projects that originally made them famous. Jennifer Garner starred in the action series “Alias” over a decade ago, and Lena Dunham created and starred in the HBO dramedy “Girls” considerably more recently. I don’t think I ever would have pictured them working together, though the stranger thing is that this show is based on an existing British series, which seems like a bit of a surprise for the innovative Dunham who usually works on her own material. The product is definitely peculiar, featuring Garner in a comic role that finds her being incessantly chatty and equally anal, driving everyone around her - and viewers watching - crazy. Garner is committed, to be sure, and she plays the part to the fullest effect. I know that he has an extensive resume in other work, but my only prior experience with David Tennant is from his incredible, deeply disturbing turn as Kilgrave on “Jessica Jones,” and so seeing him in this completely harmless, nearly personality-free part seems like a waste of his talent, though he does just fine. Brett Gelman, from “Married” and “Fleabag,” feels like a perfect fit for this show, as does Juliette Lewis, and I like seeing Chris Sullivan from “This Is Us” in a more overtly comic role. I’m interested enough in seeing what those who greenlit this show did to try a second episode, but at this point I’m just feeling more drained from such a frontal and aggressive presentation than anything else.

How will it work as a series? Is the entire series supposed to take place over the course of just one weekend? It’s reminiscent in many ways of “Togetherness,” but it’s limited in both its setting and its setup. Seeing whether episode two delves more into the characters and offers other avenues for the plot is going to be crucial to whether this show can actually be successful in the long run.
How long will it last? The reviews are far from terrific, which might be a problem given that Dunham’s previous show premiered to much greater acclaim. The British original lasted only six episodes, and this one has already improved upon that with an eight-episode order. I feel like HBO wants to partner again with Dunham and will opt to renew it, but I think two seasons will be its lifespan.

Pilot grade: B-

Pilot Review: Charmed

Charmed (The CW)
Premiered October 14 at 9pm

I never watched the original show this one is based on partially because it premiered just before I really got into TV and because I’m not a fan of witches and witchcraft. I can’t understand what the need for remaking series that haven’t even been off the air for much more than a decade, and I think this may well be the first WB series to be commissioned for a modern-day reboot. This was the definition of an expository episode, one that introduced our three protagonists to each other and to their mysterious powers that show them just how much they have to learn about the evils they’re up against. Current themes are on full display here, with rape culture and consent being discussed regularly, and sexual harassment serving as a mask for actual demons. I can’t compare to what the original was like, but this all felt like standard fare to me, with the wannabe boyfriend turning out to be the demon rather than the monster sorority queen. Leaving the guy with his memories so that he could try his best to tell people in a new case of “he said, she said” was a sign that these young women aren’t going to take their situations lying down. The only actress I’m familiar with from the three is Melonie Diaz, who was in “Raising Victor Vargas” so many years ago and in “Fruitvale Station” more recently. I couldn’t figure out where I knew Harry from, and was shocked to discover that actor Rupert Evans is British. He’s infinitely better here than he was in his unbelievably terrible role as Frank Frink on “The Man in the High Castle.” This feels a lot like the “Charlie’s Angels” framework but with witchcraft, a subject that doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. At least it was engaging and modern, but there was never a chance I was watching this show.

How will it work as a series? They still have a lot to learn, and the first thing they’re going to have to deal with is the fact that their mother told them not to trust Harry. I don’t know how often different demons will pop up or if there are going to be grander, more consistent threats, but they’ll be able to bond and grow in the process which should help with the plot development.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t entirely favorable, but it’s hard to find a remake that’s completely well-received these days. The more important factor is that this show represents half of the CW’s first foray into Sunday night programming, even managing to outdo its lead-in, “Supergirl.” As long as viewership numbers stay strong, expect this one to stay on the air too.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 6 “Face It, You’re Gorgeous” (B+)

This show is approaching some more serious territory, mainly with the way that its main character’s life is imploding in so many different ways all at once. Being asked to casually chip in an additional $25,000 for her real estate deal which won’t be coming to fruition anytime soon was just the first step, and not qualifying for another loan shouldn’t have come as a surprise since she’s truly trying to get into a world that just isn’t right for her given the way that she’s lived her life up until this point. The success she’s been experiencing has always been dependent on keeping herself firmly planted in what she can accomplish, and Ford was right to tell her that this deal didn’t make sense. Discovering that he has both a wife and a son that he acknowledges means that everything he’s been doing up until now was a lie, and she’s going to fall apart after this, even more than she already appears to have physically as a result of her car crash. Ian’s preparation for his immersion into prison was met with a wonderful surprise in the form of Mickey, who I was just thinking Ian looked like as he walked in with his darker hair. Maybe that will be a productive and helpful stage of Ian’s life now that he has a cellmate he loves who he can actually spending time with while serving his sentence. Casting Bob Saget as the bishop at the school was a bit absurd, but I suppose it was entertaining to see him in that role. I much preferred Courteney Cox as the alcoholic actress who tried numerous times to outsmart and outrun Lip, and I hope that she’ll be sticking around as a recurring guest member, either as Lip’s new sober companion or maybe as a love interest for the eternally confused Debs. Carl survival training with his new girlfriend was great, and I like how their relationship is developing. Liam seems to be free of his immediately pregnant bully, now free to go around with Frank as he pursues Katey Sagal’s recently released doctor whose ex-husband, played by Andy Buckley from “The Office,” may prove an obstacle to his courtship.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl (Season Premiere)

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 1 “The American Alien” (B+)

There’s a lot to say about this season premiere, which represents a welcome reboot for this show after a drawn-out previous year that was all about a villain who stuck around way too long. There seem to be a handful of potential replacements to be found in this opening hour, which featured plenty of new content. I recognize that this is meant to a science fiction series, and perhaps its most far-out scene was the one that found Kara showing up late to a press conference, getting a question in to the president without any trouble, and even starting a side conversation during her response! The focus on anti-alien sentiment feels far more relevant even if it’s symbolic for nationalism rather than literal. In his new role, Hank, who I’ll continue to call that even though I know that’s not what he’s going by anymore, is getting the opportunity to fight for the causes he believes in, though his number one ally, played by Tiya Sircar from “The Good Place” and “Master of None,” has now met an unfortunate end. Other new cast members include Robert Baker, who played Boone the appetizing Nazi on “Santa Clarita Diet,” and Rhona Mitra, from “Boston Legal” and “Hollow Man,” as the Graves siblings. Mitra in particular had me laughing when she slowly pledged her American allegiance while stifling her British accent. I was looking for Sam Witwer, who showed up on another Superman show, “Smallville,” in a suddenly relevant role a few years in, and it turns out he’s the voice behind the menacing and faceless Agent Liberty. Brainy butting heads with Alex was entertaining, and I’m curious to see how Kara’s new mentee, Nia, will fit in to what’s sure to be an involving and refreshing restart.

Take Three: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 3 “Heavenly Taco Truck” (B-)

I’m not as into this show as both my wife and my mother-in-law, who are very gung-ho about it. It’s pretty formulaic despite its signature hook, though at least this episode offered a slight variation on what we’ve seen so far. Reading Ray in to the God account by having him hired as a private investigator to look into who might be running it was creative, and it meant that he could gauge for himself, as both Miles and Cara have, how much he should invest in this. I knew I recognized actor Brent Sexton, who starred in season one of “The Killing” and has appeared on “Shameless” and other projects, though it’s been a while since I’ve seen him on television. The setup for how two people are sentimentally connected is becoming repetitive, but that’s also one of its more reliable elements. The focus on Miles’ sister Ali was appreciated since it revealed the complex relationship that their reverend father has with his children, both of whom took courses in life that don’t quite line up with his worldview. He seemed to be much more concerned about not being close with her than actually supporting her decision to move in with her girlfriend, and it was sweet to hear Reverend Finer share with Miles that Ali coming out had cost him many members of his congregation, similar to Miles’ bold choice to talk about his conflicted feelings following the introduction of this God account.

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

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 1 “I Want to Be Here” (B)

It’s rare to go into a show knowing that it’s almost over after just a few seasons on the air without feeling that it’s being cut way too short. Unlike other shows that started out strong and then found themselves subjected to a truncated final year, like “The Newsroom” and “Banshee,” this one has been given an eighteen-episode order, which seems fair enough after an uneven second and third season following an excellent and innovative first season. I really wasn’t happy that Rebecca set herself up to be sent to jail at the end of season three, and therefore it was a relief to see that she spent just one installment there, with a clever follow-up in the form of Rebecca deciding to start becoming a better person by volunteering to give free legal advice to her former fellow inmates. It didn’t take long at all for a parody of “Cell Block Tango” to be featured, and that ended up being more plot-involved than musical. I knew I recognized Britney Young, who played her unamused cellmate, and that’s because she stars as Carmen on “GLOW.” Rebecca, Nathaniel, and Josh singing “No One Else Knows My Song” was a highlight, especially since it really help to sum up this episode’s themes in a pretty decent musical number. I like that Josh, like Rebecca, is trying to diagnose himself with a disorder rather than acknowledge that he just doesn’t really get how the world works. Nathaniel’s punishment adventure camping trip was a bad idea, and good for George for following him to make sure he didn’t die a miserable death in the middle of the woods. Let’s hope for a fun and fresh final season!