Friday, November 30, 2018

Pilot Review: Dirty John

Dirty John (Bravo)
Premiered November 25 at 10pm

This is the era of anthology series, and it actually makes sense that they should be adapted directly from serial podcasts like the one that inspired this show. The nature of limited series in which each season follows a different storyline and set of characters is that you can only become so invested, especially when it’s not the kind of thing like “American Horror Story” where there actually are connections both between the cast and the characters in hidden ways. It’s fitting, therefore, that the actress who starred in the original iteration of the FX series that launched this whole phenomenon and has taken an interesting career trajectory with an early departure from “Nashville” and a one-season deal to launch “9-1-1” should be the central figure here too. I usually like Connie Britton, but found her portrayal of Debra to be relatively dry and one-dimensional, talking frequently about her four previous husbands and being swept away way too easily by John’s charms. Eric Bana makes for an interesting villain, almost immediately as threatening as he is charming. I’m happy to see both Juno Temple and Julia Garner as sisters since I think they’re terrific actresses, but I preferred them as best friends in “One Percent More Humid” and other previous work. Jean Smart is another dependable player in this ensemble who does seem perfectly cast for the minor role of the all-too-oblivious mother. The dialogue is often painful – “I don’t like thinking, I like knowing” – and this format lends itself to unnecessary soapiness that does the true story on which it is based a disservice. Bravo isn’t known for top-tier scripted programming, and this show isn’t going to change that.

How will it work as a series? Because it’s based on a podcast, the assumption is that the events of the television episodes are meant to mirror what was revealed in the podcast episodes. Though there are eight installments of the show are only six of the podcast, presumably that’s because there will be more time to get to know the players and, potentially, the aftermath. It seems like a lot to me, but if viewers are interested enough in the story, they’ll likely stick around.
How long will it last? The reviews are mixed, but the ratings should speak louder. Its numbers were pretty good, and if Bravo really wants to get into this market, then this is a great way to do it with stars like Britton and Bana at the helm of its first iteration. Like all these other shows, I suspect it will easily earn a renewal for a second season with its future beyond that unknown and dependent on its actual proven success.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan


Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 5 “Ellis Island” (B+)

Ray has a truly complicated relationship with his children, and it’s changing now that he’s actually trying to be a present parent. Bridget was furious at Ray when he came home with Smitty even though he was trying to tell the kid not to tell her the truth, and she wouldn’t believe that they hadn’t gone and killed someone. Connor was put off by Ray noting that he smelled like alcohol when he came off the plane, and he blew his father off completely when he suddenly got it into his head to take him to Ellis Island. Running into an Irish redhead on the boat who told him that he looked like his dog had just died almost seemed like a dream, and I have a feeling that she was just a figment of his imagination. He didn’t miss a beat in his work though, helping Sam to get Anita back on track after her attempt to switch teams and back her rival for mayor was met with disinterest from Ed. No matter how unenergetic he is, Ray seems to attract nearly every woman he helps or saves, and his level of engagement with her once they started kissing indicates that this is exactly what he needs right now. Mickey’s latest plan seems destined for failure, and it’s a shame that he’s dragging Bunchy along with him. It was good to see a healthy brotherly moment between Ray and Terry, with the fixer expressing genuine concern for his brother and two of them being on the same level for the first time in a while.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 7 “Rather the Fallen Angel” (B)

It’s tough to keep track of what side everyone is on here, with Tom fighting back against the Children of Liberty to save his new friend James and Manchester betraying Supergirl only to try to get revenge before aggressively assuring Hank that they really shouldn’t be working together for some strange reason since they do want the same things. The notion of Shelley Island, a place for aliens to be peacefully received on Earth, is intriguing, though of course that too would be corrupted in this universe by the Children of Liberty, seeking to reframe a haven for “roaches” as the site of their annihilation. Manchester should have realized that he would never come face-to-face with Agent Liberty since all of his followers always purport that they are the leader, and instead he just nearly got Supergirl killed before she finally flashed a signal to James that he shouldn’t go through with what they were making him do. All this is making Supergirl more resilient and angry, and I think it’s going to change her as she eventually realizes that Ben is more than just the mouthpiece for the Children of Liberty. Lena got close very quickly with her lab rat, who went from initially annoying to extremely insightful before his premature death. The real lesson here is that secrets don’t help anyone, and more honesty would benefit everyone in pursuit of the shared goal of the DEO and its greater human and alien supporters: continue to achieve peaceful coexistence between the two.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 9 “King’s Gambit” (B-)

I’m noticing more and more just how awkward it is for Miles and Cara to stand around beaming while they’re observing intimate moments that aren’t theirs. Sure, they’re doing great things, but couldn’t they give the people a bit more privacy in their most personal interactions? Reuniting with Ray helped give them a slight reminder of what boundaries look like, and this case was a relatively complicated one with many different pieces that led to the reclusive chess master and his old friend who managed to beat him just once, enough for him to go into early retirement. I knew that I had seen both Harper and Aleksander Leff before, each from their roles on far more explicitly science fiction series. Jeremie Harris plays Ptonomy on “Legion,” and Daniel London was Wally on “Minority Report.” It did seem that this episode was getting close to not tying up its storyline in the neat, heartwarming way it always does, but then of course it introduced Aleksander’s daughter at just the right moment to make sure that Harper came out of retirement to help her become even more incredible at the game than she already was. We didn’t get too much farther into the relationships in this hour than we did the last time other than to have Cara acknowledge, at least to herself, that she didn’t like the idea of seeing Miles with someone else as he decides that it is indeed what he wants. Arthur seems to be opening up more to his son’s Facebook friend, and I’m curious to see where that goes.

Round Two: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter 2: An Agent Grieves” (B+)

I’m happy to report that the second episode of this show is just as good as the first, and I actually watched it less than an hour later, penning my review so that I could watch more with my wife and in-laws right away since they’re not accustomed to waiting a full week between installments that are all available to binge right away. I like that the story just continued from the first episode, with Norman struggling to move on, understandably, and Sandy trying his best to do the right thing in the moment even when it wasn’t his first instinct. Eileen picking everything out ahead of time helped, though some of her requests were rather extravagant and not entirely easy to arrange. Having Jay Leno and a male Barbra Streisand impersonator attend and perform at the funeral were decent references to their celebrity connections that weren’t too indulgent. The dynamic that Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin have really is great, with them garnering applause for interacting genuinely during the acting class. I also liked Norman telling Woody that he should really go by Woodrow if he’s going to sell coffins. I’m eager to see what his daughter, played by Lisa Edelstein is like, since her first appearance showing up in the middle of his eulogy suggest that she’s much of a positive influence. As Sandy’s relationship with Lisa progresses, it’s clear that she’s a bit better off than most of his acting students, namely the two who were far too eager to act out their “Incestuously Yours” pilot.

Round Two: The Bisexual

The Bisexual: Season 1, Episode 2 (B)

This episode wasn’t quite as enticing as the first, but we’re definitely still seeing more of the same awkwardness and confusion from Leila. Running into Sadie and Hye Me with Gabe by her side was incredibly uncomfortable, and she did as much as possible to make the situation so much worse than it needed to be. Her encounters with men continue to be one of this show’s most interesting elements, as she seems set on getting over that initial hump of having done the deed for the first time. She was very upfront the last time things almost happened about the wonder of this being a new experience for her, and this time wasn’t any smoother even if her prospective partner seemed less put off by the idea and her forward request for a particular position. Gabe’s own romantic exploration isn’t going all that well since he seems set on pursuing something that everyone around him tells him can’t possibly end the way that he wants it to. For only having seen two half-hour episodes so far, this show spends an awful lot of time out at parties, showing Leila at her most relaxed, escaping from the boring repetitiveness of everyday life and opening her up to the kind of person that she’d like to be even if she doesn’t actually resemble anything like it. Watching her try to figure that out continues to be compelling, and the fact that Leila doesn’t seem to be any closer to finding herself only makes it more worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Round Two: Narcos: Mexico

Narcos: Mexico: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Plaza System” (B+)

I’m happy to see that we’re back to the same educational narration that helped to frame the first three seasons of the show that led to this one, and it’s just as effective here as it was there. I thought that the voice of the narrator sounded a lot like Steve Murphy, but it turns out that it’s Scoot McNairy, who I remember from his supporting role in “Frank.” We’re seeing a large on the characters played by the two biggest names here, and they’re both turning out to be quite intriguing. As expected, Kiki wasn’t prepared to wait to see how things work in this part of the world, determined to make a bust right away even if it was an unadvisable move that backfired completely. I neglected to note the presence of Matt Letscher, who played Eobard Thawne on “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow,” as Jaime, the far more reserved DEA agent who didn’t seem at all in a rush to get things accomplished. After the geologist’s directions turned out to be less than perfect, Miguel worked very quickly and efficiently to put together his plaza consortium. Of course it would be something like pride that could tank the entire thing and make all the parties walk away, but, as we’re seeing more and more, it’s actually law enforcement that runs the show in Mexico, leading to a power play putting Miguel’s plan back in action with him much closer to the top than he thought he would be.

Take Three: Homecoming

Homecoming: Season 1, Episode 3 “Optics” (B)

Half-hour dramas aren’t all that common, and part of the reason for that is that it’s not possible to cover all that much ground in such a short period of time. This show manages to truly create a feeling of dread over the course of just a few minutes, and this episode revealed darker effects than we might have realized. Shrier has been harping on this theory that they’re not in Florida, and things took a foreboding turn when, as he and Cruz were about to sign out for a trip off site, he decided not to keep going with the forms and instead to make a run for it. Aerial footage following the car driving made their joyride feel especially aimless, and ending up in a ghost town that turned out to be a retirement community was an eerie resolution. The fact that we just saw Cruz laughing with Heidi about it rather than Shrier after the fact makes me think something more disturbing happened in between those two moments. Heidi’s treatment of Anthony was inarguably cruel, which made her asking him about the details of their breakup all the more unsettling since, evidently, whatever medication control they were exerting on the subjects was also used on her. Carrasco seems to be getting closer to the truth, but the fact that she can’t explain her own actions will make putting the pieces together much more difficult. I’m impressed with the commitment to having Colin walk and talk all the time, even ditching his daughter’s birthday party to case the house next door.

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 6, Episode 3 “Chapter 68” (B-)

It’s hard to describe what this show has become, since in an instant towards the end of this episode, the music changed and the entire tone shifted from a drama far too heavy with scenery-chewing to an outright thriller in which the president is freely asking people to kill. It’s hard to keep track of who her allies are at this point, since I thought that Jane was long gone and didn’t remember that Leann had died in a car crash that doesn’t appear to have been an accident. Claire also told Doug to kill Cathy but then hatched a side plan to have him killed if the need arose. Annette doesn’t hate Claire nearly as much as Bill does, unless it’s that she doesn’t want to sabotage her simply because she’s a woman and more because of the person that she is. The journalists are likeliest to be the ones who bring the bad guys down, if they’re able to survive long enough. Athena Karkanis, who plays Grace on “Manifest,” has a much better part here as Melody Cruz, who is baiting Claire on behalf of Duncan, who got Tom a plum job that’s going to help him cause trouble for Claire. Cathy dying makes me wonder what would happen if disgraced cabinet members and presidential aides ended up dead in Trump’s administration, a far closer and more unavoidable incident than a Saudi journalist in another country, which once again makes this show feel like too much to take since it’s just so over the top.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 6 “History Ends” (B)

Everything is converging, but that means more than one larger extended plotline is that allegiances are shifting. Kido was more than ready to get the prostitute to identify Juliana as a woman out of place that she saw right before Joe died, but after he went to Tagomi, the trade minister called him when he received a mysterious package with Nazi files on him. The two empires have been fragile allies for a long time, and now things are beginning to fall apart, especially as John, not Himmler, got the call about Joe being killed. Ed and Bobby’s bad fortune being taken for everything they had ended up putting them right back in contact with Mark, who was very happy to tell Ed that his good friend Frank was still alive. Interspersing the Nazi parade honoring John with Frank having his Bar Mitzvah in secret was both a powerful and disturbing notion, one that shows that the resistance is still alive even as Himmler and the Nazi party prepare to rewrite history and erase what came before. Juliana is in good company with Wyatt, who can tell that she has become a more unhinged person willing to do whatever it takes to survive. It’s hard to imagine that John could think about his future when he literally saw a woman disappear in front of his eyes to travel to another world, a signal that his reign may be far from permanent if the world he knows isn’t the only one out there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What I’m Watching: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 6 “Larger Structural Issues” (B)

This show continues to get weirder and weirder, and as much as it seems to know what it wants to be, it’s impossible to tell where it’s headed next. Sally Field playing James’ mother, on whom the computer’s mind was based, adds a whole new dimension to the experience, since she treats her son like an adult baby and practices a far more mainstream version of “celebrity therapy” than this experiment seems to follow. She still knows exactly what to do and say to set him off, whether it’s kissing him far too passionately on the mouth or telling him that she knew exactly what he needed right before she went into sleep. Her computer personality saw Owen about to leave with his suitcase and compelled him to stay by saying that she would cure them all and he wouldn’t benefit, a conversation that I don’t think that James and Azumi are aware happened or could have happened. As Owen resisted engaging too much with Annie, she was all about the idea that they would be able to be together and protect each other the next time they went under, though it looks like she arrived without him into some kind of “Lord of the Rings” world with her sister at her side instead. Some creepy music playing over dinner and discussions about microwaving Peeps right before they all went under for the last time set a very foreboding tone that’s sure to carry over to the next episode and beyond.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 6 “State of the Uterus” (B)

This episode was mainly focused on characters that we’ve much more recently met, showing how, despite the power they appear to wield, they’re not actually in charge. I so much prefer Daddy to Badison, and, similarly, Carol seems to be more stable than Barbara. Flashing back to Daddy’s story didn’t show her in an altogether different place, running the show and keeping those who worked for her happy. Now that she’s not conducting a business but instead trying to stay alive and on top, she’s less generous to all in an explicit way, even though she works hard to get the best for them without directly letting them know. I always wish there would be a scene that clearly explains the crime that was committed and how the future inmate was caught, but I suppose it’s more creative to leave it to the imagination while providing a good deal of context clues. The latest pranks and retaliation are of little interest, and I much prefer the new pairing of Cindy and Flaca for the radio show that a bored Luschek couldn’t stand to cast. Fig and Linda make an entertaining duo of hateful allies, and, as each of the inmates contemplate their new realities, I’m excited to see what becomes of Taystee as the new face of the Black Lives Matter movement in prison. I’m also pleased to see Aleida come back into focus as a mother determined to do everything she can to get her children and her life back.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Basement” (B+)

This episode felt isolated from the rest of the series because it found our main characters holed up and contemplating what allegiances are truly important to them while they struggle to stay afloat. That included Bushmaster, who we saw in a far more docile family setting in his Jamaican restaurant, looking much like less a powerful villain and more like a normal guy just trying to make it in the world. That changed when he accepted Luke’s challenge for a perfectly fair fight and, just as Luke was about to declare victory, he cheated and then punched him off the bridge after temporarily blinding him. I’m sure he’ll return from that, knowing full well who his greatest enemy really is. After Piranha’s fortunes changed considerably at the end of the previous episode, he nearly met his end but then proved to be much more excited by having to be saved by Luke’s awesome powers. Mariah was unraveling realizing that the one person who she could truly depend on was none other than Luke, the man who has singlehandedly been trying to bring her down for the duration of this show. We learned more about Shades and his history with Comanche than we knew before, which will likely prove to be a weakness rather than an asset in his potential takeover. Misty quitting the police force won’t help anyone, and hopefully her course correction and counsel with John Scurti’s Dr. Krasner will help get her back on track. I was especially pleased to see the late Reg E. Cathey back as Luke’s father, who may be the last line of defense against the Jamaicans with Luke currently out of commission.

What I’m Watching: Goliath

Goliath: Season 2, Episode 6 “Two Cinderellas” (B-)

It’s been difficult to get through this season because it seems that, no matter how hard the good guys try, they’re dealt brutal blow after brutal blow, each of which feels like overkill to suppress something that too many people already know about it but are hopeless to prove to the greater public. Julio was going to go free even after Roman was killed because Hakeem was convinced that he wasn’t responsible, but by the time Patty arrived at his cell, he had been forced to write a confession and then set up to appear as if he had committed suicide. Roman’s family being killed seemed like an unnecessary cruelty, one that this show isn’t likely to touch unless it ends up being the turning point in a case that might somehow start to implicate Gabriel if Billy can bother to realize that he was being paraded out of the country just so that all of this could happen without his being present. Marisol does seem to be attached to Billy, and maybe she’ll save him and betray her brother in the process, though that long walk through the fields that she saw him take in the final moments of the episode don’t convey optimism. The flashback to JT losing a client to the electric chair linked to his last-ditch efforts to save Julio in this hour, and I’m wondering if he’s going to be part of whatever looks like a solution in the final two episodes of this season.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Golden Globe Musings: Best Comedy Series


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Black-ish
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Master of None
SMILF
Will and Grace


New contenders:
Barry
Forever
Kidding
The Kominsky Method


Potential first-time nominees:
GLOW
The Good Place


Returning series:
Atlanta
Murphy Brown


Both “Master of None” and “SMILF” are out of the running this year, and “Atlanta,” the champ from two years ago, is back and all but guaranteed to score a slot. “Barry” is equally locked, and though there are a handful of new shows is consideration, it seems like it might well be time for “The Good Place” to finally break through, and for another show snubbed in this race last year, “GLOW,” to earn its spot. I wonder if we’ll get a surprise like “SMILF” this year.

Current predictions:
Atlanta
Barry
GLOW
The Good Place
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Golden Globe Musings: Best Drama Series


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
The Crown
Game of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
Stranger Things
This Is Us


New contenders:
Counterpart
Haunting of Hill House
Homecoming
Killing Eve
Pose
Yellowstone


Potential first-time nominees:
The Americans

Last year, it was “Westworld” that was on hiatus, and this year it’s no fewer than three of last year’s nominees. Both “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “This Is Us” seem likely to return, whereas “Westworld” may not due to an uneven second season. I’m confident in both “Killing Eve” and “Homecoming” to grab spots, but less so about “Pose” and “Haunting of Hill House,” which is why I’m going for a less standard but wholly deserving pick, “Counterpart.” I think it’s also possible that “New Amsterdam” could score a surprise mention here.

Current predictions:
Counterpart
The Handmaid’s Tale
Homecoming
Killing Eve
This Is Us

Golden Globe Musings: Best Miniseries or Television Film


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Big Little Lies
Fargo
Feud: Bette and Joan
The Sinner
Top of the Lake: China Girl


I don’t usually write up this category ahead of time, but I have seen a handful of the contenders, or at least the first episode of some of the limited series. Last year, this race included all series that have ended up with more than one season. Seven of the ten Emmy nominees in the corresponding categories are eligible this year, with The Assassination of Gianni Versace and The Tale feeling like the strongest bets to me, Patrick Melrose and The Alienist up next, and then Paterno, Fahrenheit 451, and Genius: Picasso trailing behind that. This year’s new contenders include Maniac, Sharp Objects, A Very English Scandal, Escape at Dannemora, The Little Drummer Girl, Howard’s End, and The Romanoffs. I’m also watching out for the surprise inclusion of Bodyguard here but predicting it to just miss the list.

Current predictions:
The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Maniac
Sharp Objects
The Tale
A Very English Scandal


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a TV Series


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Laura Dern (Big Little Lies)
Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Chrissy Metz (This Is Us)
Michelle Pfeiffer (The Wizard of Lies)
Shailene Woodley (Big Little Lies)

New contenders:
Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects)
Penelope Cruz (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)
Judith Light (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)

Potential first-time nominees:
Zazie Beetz (Atlanta)
Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Betty Gilpin (GLOW)
Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Returning shows:
Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Past nominees:
Megan Mullally (Will and Grace)

Three of last year’s contenders starred in miniseries or TV movies so they won’t be back. Metz missed out on an Emmy nomination this past year, and Dowd wasn’t the most featured player on her show in this category for season two – that was Strahovski, who’s likely to join the list. There are a handful of Emmy nominees who might crack this list, with winner Newton, returning after her show took 2017 off, all but guaranteed to get another nomination. I’m not sure how this category will go, but we’ll see!

Current predictions:
Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects)
Penelope Cruz (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a TV Series


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
David Harbour (Stranger Things)
Alfred Molina (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies)
Christian Slater (Mr. Robot)
David Thewlis (Fargo)

New contenders:
Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method)
Ricky Martin (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)
Edgar Ramirez (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)
Henry Winkler (Barry)
Ben Whishaw (A Very English Scandal)

Potential first-time nominees:
Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Marc Maron (GLOW)
Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta)
Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

Past nominees:
Sean Hayes (Will and Grace)

We’re looking at an entirely fresh slate this year, with both Harbour and Slater’s shows taking 2017 off. Only one Emmy winner from the three feeder categories is a contender, and Winkler is pretty much a sure thing. A handful of Emmy- and SAG-honored men passed over by the Globes last time might show up, as could a few miniseries faces. It’s near impossible to know who will show up here – these are just my best guesses.

Current predictions:
Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method)
Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Edgar Ramirez (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)
Ben Whishaw (A Very English Scandal)
Henry Winkler (Barry)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Jessica Biel (The Sinner)
Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies)
Jessica Lange (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Susan Sarandon (Feud: Bette and Joan)
Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies)

I don’t always predict this category in such detail, but given that I’ve seen a lot of the first episodes of these limited series and actors, I figured it was worth writing about it. Last year, this category featured double nominees from two different programs. That won’t be the case this year. Only two of the Emmy nominees from this past year are eligible, and both are expected to receive nominations: Regina King (Seven Seconds) and Laura Dern (The Tale). New possibilities include Amy Adams (Sharp Objects), Emma Stone (Maniac), Patricia Arquette (Escape at Dannemora), Emma Thompson (King Lear), Hayley Atwell (Howard’s End), and Florence Pugh (The Little Drummer Girl). Though she won this award two years ago for “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and she has been nominated five times for her work on this anthology series, Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Apocalypse) has yet to receive a Globe nomination for the FX horror show and likely won’t do it for the first time this year.

Current predictions:
Amy Adams (Sharp Objects)
Patricia Arquette (Escape at Dannemora)
Laura Dern (The Tale)
Regina King (Seven Seconds)
Emma Stone (Maniac)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Robert De Niro (The Wizard of Lies)
Jude Law (The Young Pope)
Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks)
Ewan McGregor (Fargo)
Geoffrey Rush (Genius)

I don’t always predict this category in such detail, but given that I’ve seen a lot of the first episodes of these limited series and actors, I figured it was worth writing about it. Five of last year’s Emmy nominees are eligible, including winner Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace), Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose), Antonio Banderas (Genius: Picasso), John Legend (Jesus Christ: Superstar), and Jeff Daniels (The Looming Tower). Their likeliest competition includes Jonah Hill (Maniac), Hugh Grant (A Very English Scandal), Benicio Del Toro (Escape at Dannemora), and Richard Madden (Bodyguard). Don’t count out Al Pacino (Paterno), Alexander Skarsgard (The Little Drummer Girl), Anthony Hopkins (King Lear), or Peter Dinklage (My Dinner with Herve) either.

Current predictions:
Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose)
Hugh Grant (A Very English Scandal)
Jonah Hill (Maniac)
Richard Madden (Bodyguard)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a TV Series - Comedy/Musical


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Alison Brie (GLOW)
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Issa Rae (Insecure)
Frankie Shaw (SMILF)

New contenders:
Jennifer Garner (Camping)
Maya Rudolph (Forever)

Potential first-time nominees:
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)

Returning series:
Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown)
Sarah Jessica Parker (Divorce)

Past nominees:
Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Debra Messing (Will and Grace)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)

Both Adlon and Shaw are out of the running because their shows haven’t returned for their latest seasons just yet. Defending champ Brosnahan’s show returns even later than it premiered last year, but that shouldn’t stop her from earning another nomination. Brie and Rae are tossups, though their shows continue to be respected. It’s strange to think that Parker was nominated the last time she was eligible, and it’s possible that the very, very late renewal of her show for a third season could help voters think about it again. Rudolph seems to be leading the pack of new contenders, and she’s certainly more likeable on her show than past Globe winner Garner. Bergen’s show has not landed as anyone wanted, but she might still show up. Ted Danson seems likely to earn a nomination to go with his Emmy bid – can Bell do the same?

Current predictions:
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Alison Brie (GLOW)
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Issa Rae (Insecure)
Maya Rudolph (Forever)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a TV Series - Comedy/Musical


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Anthony Anderson (Black-ish)
Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Kevin Bacon (I Love Dick)
Eric McCormack (Will and Grace)
William H. Macy (Shameless)

New contenders:
Fred Armisen (Forever)
Jim Carrey (Kidding)
Bill Hader (Barry)
Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method)

Potential first-time nominees:
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

Returning series:
Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Bacon is out because his show was cancelled after one season, and rightly so, and so is defending champ Ansari, whose series may one day return. Glover is back in for the second season of his show after it took a calendar year off the air. Hader, who won the Emmy this year, will surely be nominated. McCormack isn’t too safe, and Macy seems like a write-in at this point who was on the list only in 2014 and 2017. Douglas’ show literally just premiered, which wasn’t a problem for Rachel Brosnahan last year, but Carrey may have the edge, with his new show having wrapped its first season already. And will Danson finally be nominated after earning an Emmy slot this past year?

Current predictions:
Jim Carrey (Kidding)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method)
Donald Glover (Atlanta)
Bill Hader (Barry)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a TV Series - Drama


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Caitriona Balfe (Outlander)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Deuce)
Katharine Langford (13 Reasons Why)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)

New contenders:
Jodie Comer (Killing Eve)
Sandra Oh (Killing Eve)
Julia Roberts (Homecoming)
Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who)

Returning shows:
Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld)

Past nominees:
Mandy Moore (This Is Us)
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

One of last year’s nominees is guaranteed not to be back this year, and that’s Foy, whose show didn’t air in 2018 and won’t include her when it does next, and it doesn’t appear that Langford is in contention even though I believe she appeared throughout her show’s second season. I wouldn’t expect either Gyllenhaal to be back, and I thought that Balfe would fall off the list by now too. Russell might return for her show’s popular final season, and the same goes for Wright. Wood could be back after her show took a year off the air. Emmy nominee Oh is likely, as is her costar Comer, and it would be hard to imagine a movie star like Roberts not earning a nomination for her TV debut. Though her show has never earned a Globe bid in the past, Whittaker might just be able to pull it off as the first female Doctor.

Current predictions:
Jodie Comer (Killing Eve)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Sandra Oh (Killing Eve)
Julia Roberts (Homecoming)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a TV Series - Drama


Golden Globe nominations for this year will be announced soon, so here’s a survey of the contenders and the most likely predictions at this time. Weigh in with your thoughts, and let me know if I’ve left off anyone important. A reminder that last year’s nominees mean zilch at the Globes and that the race is almost entirely unpredictable.

Last year’s nominees:
Jason Bateman (Ozark)
Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Freddie Highmore (The Good Doctor)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)

New contenders:
John Krasinski (Jack Ryan)
Kevin Costner (Yellowstone)
Stephan James (Homecoming)
J.K. Simmons (Counterpart)

Potential first-time nominees:
Ed Harris (Westworld)
Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)

Returning series:
Billy Bob Thornton (Goliath)

Past nominees:
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)

All of last year’s nominees are eligible again, but don’t expect them to return. Highmore in particular feels like a one-time inclusion, while Schreiber, who missed out on a repeat Emmy bid the latest time around, and Odenkirk are both on aging shows that Globe voters might choose to ignore. Both Brown and Bateman should be back, but it’s far from guaranteed. Thornton, who won the last time his show was on, probably won’t return, while Rhys, who took home the Emmy this past year, probably will. Of the new contenders, Krasinski and Simmons feel most likely because their shows are the kind that usually do well at the Globes. Half of the most recent Emmy slate has also never been nominated for these roles, so watch out for any of them as a possibility.

Current predictions:
Jason Bateman (Ozark)
Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
John Krasinski (Jack Ryan)
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
J.K. Simmons (Counterpart)

What I’m Watching: Bodyguard (Penultimate Episode)

Bodyguard: Season 1, Episode 5 (B+)

The walls are closing in on David as he realizes that he’s right in the middle of a conspiracy from within the security service to silence anything he’s trying to get across to everyone else. Showing Nadia the sketch of Longcross and having her positively identify it was a sign that he’s not crazy but that he has a tremendous uphill battle ahead of him to prove it. I like that he’s a straight shooter who, as soon as he found out that his affair with Julia might be public knowledge, went straight to Vicky to tell her about it, only to find out that she already knew as a result of a visit from a security officer who, unsurprisingly, was none other than Longcross himself. Just as he was starting to gain credibility, getting benched because of his attempted suicide means that he’s now a lone wolf who’s going to do everything possible to expose the truth. I thought that he was going to find out that his family was in trouble, which would really have sent him over the edge, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. The season finale, which I assume is the series finale but don’t want to research since I want to avoid any spoilers as I’ve successfully done thus far, is an hour and fifteen minutes long, so I’m looking forward to an expanded dose of this great thriller that’s been my favorite surprise so far this year and is sure to end with the same intensity it’s delivered for five hours.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 8 “Six Thanksgivings” (B-)

I saw many friends posting about how great this episode was, and once again I feel like maybe I’m just missing something (not that I have no soul, as some would suggest). What was decent about this hour is that it managed to cover almost all of its characters, leaving Kevin and Zoe for another episode, which is just fine with me. We also got to see William and Jesse again, not for seemingly specific purpose other than to well up tears in the eyes of viewers. It’s good to see Toby back up and being social, though his first foray into preparing Thanksgiving for the family went pretty poorly on a number of levels. Fortunately, he got the ultimate compliment from Kate, comparing his decision to order a bunch of food in to a Jack-level solution. Kate got the chance to be a supportive aunt, in the process learning something about Tess that her family doesn’t know yet, though I can’t imagine they would be anything but fully supportive. Beth is doing great things for the campaign but clashing spectacularly with Randall’s campaign manager, and that’s not going to be easy for anyone to deal with going forward. The most affecting part of this episode featured one of the more background characters - Miguel - and spotlighted his non-Pearson family dynamic, with his horrible son who blamed everything about his parents’ split on his father and took it out on Rebecca. She didn’t have much to do, but I was happy to see Yara Martinez from “Jane the Virgin” as Miguel’s much less cold daughter.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 6 “The Icicle Cometh” (B)

It always feels a bit jarring when a show reintroduces a parent that we know hasn’t been a part of a main character’s life for so long and makes it seem like it’s just a normal reunion. This was a very typical case of Caitlin being blinded by the joy of being reunited with her long-lost father that she couldn’t see what was plainly in front of her, which is that her father had been taking over by his Icicle alter ago and was just trying to get her to help eliminate the human part of him that was left. Barry was starry-eyed too, making Cisco seem like the naysayer buzzkill until he finally got them both to wake up. Killer Frost coming back in a way that allows her to team up with Caitlin rather than just exist separate from her is a welcome development, and it’s a win that the team could use right now. Though Sherloque didn’t exactly encourage it, it was nice also to see Nora so eager to learn from her mother now that she finds her to be impossibly cool following her daring dive off the roof to save Barry. Ralph and Cecile make a fun team, and he managed to be exactly what she needed to feel validated after being out of commission for a while. They’re closer to stopping Cicada now that they know who he is, but he’s also find a way to harness more power that just suggests that he’s going to get even stronger and more dangerous.

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 5 “Miracles” (B)

There are events that happen on shows sometimes which feel like they should be more impactful but aren’t portrayed as such because of how the characters react to them. That’s the definition of Becky’s pregnancy, which she casually figured out when she wouldn’t let her family members order certain menu items and then nearly got taken to a meeting by Dan because he thought she was hung over. The surrogacy storyline with Sarah Chalke happened right at the beginning of last season, and now it’s a matter of whether Becky actually wants to go through with this and support a child on her own. Hoping that the manager and not the busboy was the father didn’t pan out, and now maybe the lesbian couple at the bar will want to adopt her unborn child, which should be interesting. I guess Justin Long isn’t sticking around for too long as Neil, dumped immediately after Darlene got a harsh talking-to from Jackie and Dan about how she was controlling him exactly the way she did with David. It’s great to watch Laurie Metcalf go all-out as Jackie, and though I’m still partial to Sara Gilbert, I’m starting to agree that she makes a strong case as this show’s MVP. I was happy to see Darlene meet Jay R. Ferguson’s stone-faced newspaper editor Ben, who wasn’t at all amused by Darlene’s attempts to liven up the crime blotter with a bit of journalistic enthusiasm. That should be fun to watch, and I’m eager to see how their relationship develops since he’s not about to be told that he can’t eat shrimp.

Pilot Review: The Little Drummer Girl


The Little Drummer Girl (AMC)
Premiered November 19 at 9pm

It’s always interesting to me to see American actors taking prominent roles in British productions, though there are two caveats to that classification here. This is a coproduction between BBC One, where it premiered a few weeks ago, and AMC, and Michael Shannon is really the only American starring in it, since Alexander Skarsgard, though a familiar face from “Big Little Lies” and “True Blood,” is most definitely not American or British. What caught me most by surprise in this adaptation of John le CarrĂ©’s 1983 novel was that Shannon, a terrific actor who appeared in a staggering nine films in 2016 and marks his third television starring role this year, put on an Israeli accent since I can’t remember a part in which he’s masked his voice like that in the past. I’m sure there is one, but here he was so unrecognizable under his loud energy, a departure from his usual mannerisms. Skarsgard is less villainous but equally threatening, and the real star here is Florence Pugh, who I’ve been reading only praise about recently related to her performance in “Lady Macbeth.” The show has a decent if unspectacular pace and the makings of a truly epic exploration of the architecture of these attacks and the transformation of assets, but it lacks a certain spark that to me would make returning to continue through its remaining five episodes worthwhile. It’s jumping around a lot and trying to cover plenty of ground, something that’s ambitious and will probably, as is often the case, be most satisfying – or maddening – to those familiar with the book and eager to see it adapted on screen.

How will it work as a series? This is certainly an intriguing start, and the best reason to watch seems to be following Pugh’s Charlie as she goes from being seduced by Skarsgard’s Gadi to becoming an intricate part of this operation. Four to six episodes seems to be the standard lately for miniseries, so that’s probably the right length here.
How long will it last? As far as I can tell, the source material should be covered by these six episodes. Reviews do seem to be strong, and the ratings for the start of the show on BBC One were good though not as great as some other recent premieres. As usual, I’d argue that this is just a case for limited series to be the new big thing on television rather than extending this one.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 8 “Point of No Return” (C)

It’s a wonder to me that Ben is still working at his job and hasn’t managed to get caught over and over again as he volunteers to help with assignments way above his clearance level so that he can steal as much information as possible. It could be that working directly with the director of the NSA helps him evade detection, but given that he too is trying to work around his own agency to try to find these missing passengers. Using an air-gapped computer in the middle of a crowded office sort of defeats the point, but so far no one seems to be onto this crack team of Ben, Vance, and Fiona. As she’s spending way too much time moping around Ben and Grace, Michaela may finally be moving on from Jared now that she knows he and Lourdes are trying to have a baby. She wasn’t able to save the suicidal passenger who seemed to spread death to those around him, and she didn’t even know what the voice in her head meant since she wasn’t able to heed it this time. Cal seems to be doing just fine at his first day back at school, and Olive is being as supportive as possible to his new experience. The renewed experimenting on the passengers is going to change that soon, and maybe I’ll finally start realizing why everyone else is enjoying this show, and whether it’s headed anywhere worthwhile in the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 5 “Tagumo Attacks!!!” (B+)

This was an episode where silliness prevailed over all. It’s always interesting to me to see who stays on the ship and sits out a particular mission. Having Charlie sort of volunteer to go on the latest one worked out decently, though the legend who ended up being most useful was a very surprising choice. I did like that the demon wasn’t the monster that was attacking Tokyo but the book that brought its artist’s stories to life. Mick being an author has always been a strange subplot, but here it ended up saving the day, with him being accepted as the new author of the book. His swashbuckling heroine was quite the character, and he wrote quite the happy ending for himself. Ava coming over to Nate’s home for Thanksgiving was a recipe for disaster, and it still doesn’t make sense to me that Nate was the one who had to go help the eternally hapless Gary contain the hangry prisoners instead of her. I was pretty excited to hear Hank make what I sincerely hope won’t be the last “Back to the Future” reference, suggesting that they make like a tree and leave. He’ll obviously be sticking around for a while since a renewed relationship with his son isn’t the only thing he’s trying to accomplish, moving forward also on the nefarious-sounding Project Hades. Nora helping Constantine was merely the precedent for what I hope will be her repentance in the form of joining the legends.

Pilot Review: Escape at Dannemora


Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Premiered November 18 at 10pm

I’ve been seeing this limited series advertised on buses for a while now, with “Directed by Ben Stiller” as the most prominent feature, which seemed to suggest that this might be a comedy. I’m not at all familiar with the real-life events from 2015 that inspired this show, and therefore I’m just going off of the show’s title and what we saw in this episode, which featured a heavily inappropriate relationship between an employee at the prison and an inmate. Bonnie Hunt’s Inspector General helps to fill in some of the gaps by interrogating Tilly in the future after she’s evidently been charged with some sort of accessory to the escape of the two prisoners we’ve met so far, David and Richard. The minimal things I’ve read about this show so far praise Patricia Arquette’s performance as Tilly, and though I’m rarely her biggest fan, I can understand and appreciate that she does a great job getting into the mentality of a miserable woman trapped in a lifeless marriage who has given in to fantasies at work to help the time pass. Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano aren’t two actors I’d expect to find in the same movie, much less playing equals, but they both seem well-cast. Eight episodes seems like a long time to follow this saga, but maybe that’s why this first hour, while peppered with intriguing moments, felt like it really didn’t get very far at all. I’m not interested enough to keep going and see how this prison break happens.

How will it work as a series? The framing interviews with Tilly seem to serve mostly as a way for her to reflect on what’s happened rather than to actually fill in events, and therefore this show’s success will be reliant on its pacing and how quickly and effectively it can tell its story. This first installment wasn’t promising, but those who are hooked already should have no problem continuing to be enthralled.
How long will it last? As is often the case, I’m the one who doesn’t quite get why something is great, and this seems to have received a good deal of positive buzz from those who have seen it. The nature of its story trumps its status as a limited series to ensure that it can’t really go beyond its initial airing, regardless of how successful it may be, so it’s just a question of how many awards this one manages to win for its one and only season.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: Ray Donovan


Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 4 “Pudge” (B+)

Things move pretty quickly in this world of connections and lots of money, with Mickey making a demand for $3 million and Ray being able to fulfill it thanks to Sam very quickly. Her suggestion that he put a bullet in his father’s head didn’t materialize because he was dealing with other things, and his sloppiness didn’t even manage to get him caught, merely for him to be double-crossed by his sister-in-law. What happens to Mickey now isn’t of all that much interest; it’s more of a question of how much damage he can do while he’s alive. Bunchy, on the other hand, is on the hook for a whole lot more, namely killing the guard and kidnapping his daughter. Ray making a plea with him not to take the money didn’t work, and now the family is firmly divided, with Daryll not really on either side, spared by his vengeful father but not welcomed with open arms by the rest of them. I was wondering why Smitty was appearing so much, and of course it was for him to have a bonding moment with his future father-in-law which hilariously resulted in him asking Ray why he went for a wooden baseball bat rather than aluminum. Mac is not going to want to wear that wire, and I wonder if he’ll turn to Ray for help. Terry fighting probably won’t lead anywhere good, but it seems to be giving him some sense of purpose and self-determination that he hasn’t had in a while.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 8 “Matthew 621” (B-)

It’s strange to see Miles see a bible verse referenced and immediately be able to quote the entire thing from memory, though he really has taken a leap of faith by blindly following whatever the God account sends him and trying to help that person. He got to demonstrate to Nia just how simple the process can be by helping Blair avoid going into panic-induced labor in the elevator, but of course that wasn’t going to be the end of it. I recognized Aaron Staton from “Mad Men” as Alfie, the stepson so distraught by the way his father was unable to talk to him that he didn’t think he could be a good father. I know they’ve already come into contact with a private investigator, but I’m just waiting for the time when they end up against law enforcement officers who think that they’re either nuts or breaking the law by refusing to let up when the people that they want to help repeatedly tell them to back off. Naturally, happy endings were all around in this episode, including new romantic beginnings for Arthur, Miles, and Cara. Arthur getting up to play for someone other than his wife was understandably tough, but he did a great job and now he’s looking forward to a relationship at whatever speed with Trish. Miles and Nia are a good match, and maybe Eli is in fact right for Cara. I’m surprised that Rakesh is still trying to make it work with Jaya since I thought that he and Lucy were going to start dating soon. They’re definitely linked based on the shared surveillance of them – will it lead to something more?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 6 “Call to Action” (B+)

There’s nothing that says Thanksgiving like a great opportunity to terrorize aliens whose houses have been marked in advance by the Sons of Liberty. In continuing to mirror reality and how white supremacy seeks to stomp out anything it doesn’t see as traditional and acceptable, this episode found Kara going on television to debate none other than Agent Liberty himself, without the mask of course, and disturbed by the applause that his remarks garnered. Demonizing Thanksgiving as a holiday that commemorates the destruction of Native American prominence in the United States is usually reserved as a left-wing talking point, but it was just as strong and unsettling when Ben invoked it in defense of his Earth First mentality. James is struggling with his own inner conflict about whether to hear out these radicals and be lumped in with them, something Lena was furious about and couldn’t understand. Alex and Kara may have scored a minor victory in Haley allowing them to go after the Sons of Liberty because their activities are stirring up and startling aliens, but she continues to be a force for negativity about the equality and good nature of any alien. Nia’s narcolepsy is definitely made up, and I’m curious to see what her story really is. Manchester had no problem showing up for Thanksgiving at the Danvers home in a t-shirt, and he’s conducting his own investigation into the Sons of Liberty that may make more than a few people angry, which might not end up being productive.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 6 “I See You” (B)

My favorite thing on television shows is when characters who don’t usually interact get to spend time together. That happened on two levels in this hour, with Heather and Nathaniel swapping grimaces in a car and Paula spending way too much time with her “bro with a truck” Josh. Nathaniel has been all over the place as a character for a while now, and I like that Heather got to take him down a few pegs before finally gaining some sympathy for him when she realized that he was indeed capable of human emotion. At first, it seemed like Paula just wanted to avoid the overly talkative and friendly Josh, but it soon became clear that she was just trying to avoid actually becoming a lawyer. Josh being strong enough to lift a heavy desk with one hand while doing other things was an amusing sight, and I’d like to see more of this new Josh. Rebecca not wanting Darryl, who now has no mustache, to be so emotional all the time started out being silly, but it was sweet to see them find comfort in each other before almost kissing and realizing that definitely wasn’t the way that their relationship is supposed to go. This show has always been about mocking television tropes, and showing three near-kisses got silly but no more so than it usually does. Rebecca being the normal one was a change, and maybe more experiences like this will help her become more comfortable with who she is.

Pilot Review: Narcos: Mexico

Narcos: Mexico (Netflix)
Premiered November 16

I’m still not really convinced that this is a brand-new show since its opening titles are exactly the same as those on the original “Narcos” in the first three seasons, and the idea of exploring the drug war in Mexico was introduced in the most recent finale. But apparently, this isn’t season four but a new show, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Looking at it in contrast to the previous show, it doesn’t strike me as nearly as compelling as the original pilot did, but there are some very interesting elements. Whereas the Colombian focus was on figureheads who made a name for themselves, this one is a subtler, more gradual look at one ex-cop who is prepared to revitalize the way that Sinaloa grows and sells marijuana. As it goes on, I imagine we’ll meet more players who might be introduced in typical fashion, but for the moment, Felix Gallardo is plenty intriguing all on his own. Diego Luna started out in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” alongside Gael Garcia Bernal, and recently appeared in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” He’s the clear standout here, and his character is immensely bold, shooting a major drug kingpin in the head so that he can deal directly with the police. Michael Pena is the typical DEA agent, moving to Mexico with his wife, played by Alyssa Diaz from “Ray Donovan,” and ending up standing side-by-side with that same police chief, pointing out that he had blood on his shoes without being aware of just how central a role he plays in the investigation he’s going want to jump-start. Even if this couldn’t quite compare to Pablo Escobar at the beginning, I’m definitely going to watch to learn more and see it all play out.

How will it work as a series? We’ve seen how this works three times already, and even when it’s not completely spectacular, it’s still very much worth watching. There’s something about Mexico being so close to the United States that makes this focus seem even more urgent and intense, and I don’t have any doubts that this season will manage to deliver to some satisfactory degree.
How long will it last? This show came about as part of a two-season renewal given by Netflix just four days after the second season debuted. I’m not sure if enthusiasm has worn off for this concept, even if the reviews are still good, and therefore I don’t know if Netflix is going to jump on picking it up just yet. I still don’t think this story is done, and I would expect at least another season or two at some point.

Pilot grade: B+

Round Two: Homecoming

Homecoming: Season 1, Episode 2 “Pineapple” (B)

This second episode definitely matched the weirdness and foreboding darkness of the first, and it’s essentially three different shows wrapped into one. There’s the one with casual conversations about feeding fish and a fake Titanic movie with Cruz, the one in the future where something isn’t quite right in Carrasco’s investigation, and the one that involves a bunch of creepy images and the concept that this place really isn’t in Florida at all. Beginning with Shrier staring ominously at the pineapple turned into something far more troubling, as Cruz was acting cool but Shrier was getting more and more unnerved by the fact that they have no idea where they really are. I’m glad to see Jeremy Allen White in a role that’s just as good as the one he has on “Shameless,” though it doesn’t appear that he’s long for this show if his current behavior is any indication. I’m very intrigued by the fact that every time Colin calls, he's walking as if he’s trying to get away from something, somehow never anywhere close to where she is and doing some truly bizarre things given what his position in the organization is. The half-screen frame for future scenes is effective in making them seem like the deception or the hallucination, and we were introduced to Sissy Spacek as Heidi’s mom, who suggested that something other than her fall was responsible for Heidi leaving Homecoming. Carrasco’s description of Heidi’s behavior as “oddly vague” (not to be confused with vaguely odd) shows that he’s committed to getting to the bottom of this, and I’m equally interested in finding out the true motivations behind Homecoming.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What I’m Watching: House of Cards

House of Cards: Season 6, Episode 2 “Chapter 67” (B-)

I’m getting tired of these theatrics. Casting Greg Kinnear and Diane Lane in major roles as obstacles to Claire trying to make her own mark without her husband around feels like an unnecessary addition, and they don’t really compare to the other rivals the Underwoods have faced, like Conway or Petrov. Annette in particular is a bit too direct with the arm raising, and it undermines the effectiveness of Claire as a character to have the two of them dominating so much screen time. Mark also seems to be unbelievably caught in their web, sleepily making out with Annette in a coat closet as she reminisces about her early days as a pickpocket. In an era where the president can do or say anything with few consequences but always with public scrutiny and leaks, this show with all its hushed conversations about presidential break-ins, both by the figure and into their residence, feel so much less plausible and compelling. Wondering if Frank was murdered is a waste of time since he’s dead and gone, and better to focus on Claire facing attacks on her gender and her ability to govern. I’d be perfectly happy if Doug’s troubles were resolved and he could just return to being an ally for the Underwoods rather than a perpetual thorn or liability. I was surprised to see Janine, who hasn’t been on this show since its second season, but it appears that she’s back following a four-year run on “UnREAL.” Having someone press for transparency other than Tom is probably a good thing, and maybe it will breathe some relatable life into this season.

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

The Man in the High Castle: Season 3, Episode 5 “The New Colossus” (B-)

This episode provided some definite power plays that I don’t think were all that expected, but this show still continues to be far less resounding and great both than I had hoped it would be and than most people attest it is. Hoover gathering evidence against Helen and John, including damning details of the Argentinean kidnapping plot, and then having Rockwell present it in front of Himmler felt rather juvenile, since you’d think that the leader of the Reich wouldn’t fly all the way from Berlin to hear accusations in such a dramatic way. The most interesting part, I suppose, was that Himmler wasn’t bothered by what he knew John to have done but rather by his sloppiness in allowing Rockwell to find out and not recognizing Helen for the problematic liability that she is. I didn’t know why we had to see Rockwell indulging his fantasies in Havana, merely to show John’s reach and willingness to crack down when it doesn’t involve a difficult decision. Ed talking about hiding things in his underpants to an ungrateful Robert just wasn’t necessary, and I’m not sure why we’re still following either of those characters. Frank not wanting to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah is also far less compelling than it should be. It was reassuring to see Juliana take immediate action once she saw who Joe had become, and his death is one thing that I didn’t see coming. Hopefully that will help make this show better, and, disturbing as it is, this show should also shift more of its focus to Nicole’s efforts to replace relics of “pre-Reich America” with more potent propaganda.

What I’m Watching: Maniac

Maniac: Season 1, Episode 5 “Exactly Like You” (B)

This episode got to a better place of negotiating its imagined realities with what’s actually happening as Owen and Annie are hooked up to the machines and experiencing the latest lucid dreams caused by the pills. I’d argue that this was the best performance yet that we’ve seen from Jonah Hill, while it might have been the most disappointing one from Emma Stone, who impressed so much with an authentic British accent in “The Favourite,” coming out this week, and could have made Arlie into a much more compelling character. What proved most interesting to me is that Dr. Fujita was working hard to stop Annie from continuing to appear unauthorized appearances in Owen’s dreams, though something just kept allowing her to show up again and again after Dr. Fujita pulled the plug each time. Almost as mesmerizing was the fact that Gertie, played by Sally Field, managed to materialize as the central element of Ollie and Arlie’s latest mission, which turned out just to be a security check on Ollie’s part of exactly how susceptible that chapter was to being stolen. Owen was so confident and self-assured as Ollie, so different from how he was as we’ve seen him thus far. I recognized Josh Pais from “Touchy Feely” as Andy the butler, and I knew that I had seen the perpetually-shot driver somewhere before. While he does bear a passing resemblance to Glenn Fleshler, who appeared in last week’s episode, he was actually David Fierro, who played the AdBuddy on the subway accompanying Owen in the first episode.

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 5 “Mischief Mischief” (B)

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Luschek would get very into the Fantasy Inmate game, taking over as commissioner thanks to his digitization of the inmates and his upping of the excitement for the season. It’s entertaining in a way but equally disturbing, though far more unsettling is the fact that McCullough, still traumatized by being held prisoner during the riot, not only intervened but also smacked Maria in the face for no reason. She hardly seems like the least stable of the guards, but she’s going through a lot. Maria is experiencing a whole lot of misery, and I can’t imagine that she’s actually dead after being apparently drowned in a toilet by some unknown assailant, another odd instance of mystery for a show that doesn’t usually traffic in suspense. The mischief night before Halloween wasn’t terribly enticing, with Badison sticking cheese in Piper’s ears and prompting some jealousy when Alex was far more willing to work with her and rats being released all over, creating chaos and uncertainty everywhere. Linda and Fig meeting was pretty much as great as I had expected, and Linda took out her anger at Joe on him when he came to ask for help with Taystee, banishing him to a destitute existence in Missouri. It didn’t take long for Fig to point out that there was an unaccounted-for inmate missing, and Pennsatucky, one of this show’s most underrated characters, was smart enough to realize that she couldn’t run forever just to be locked up in the same kind of way that she’s always been.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 5 “All Souled Out” (B+)

It was jarring to see Luke wearing a suit in the opening scene of this episode, dealing with the legal ramifications of beating up Cockroach. It was fun to see Foggy, an unexpected crossover from another Marvel series that has already dropped its third season, which I’ll probably watch sometime next year given how much more of this show I have left. I like how he interacts with Luke, who opted to triple his rate with Piranha so that he can recoup the cost of the settlement with Cockroach and have some money left over for himself. What’s always been one of the most interesting facets of this show is that allegiances really do shift, with Bushmaster becoming the main villain and Shades stepping to protect Luke when someone tried to hit him with a few bullets. Luke serving as a bodyguard of sorts for his number one fan Piranha will be a different look on him, and it should put him into contact not only with Shades but also with Mariah, whose big medical center launch got seriously derailed by all of the heads on spikes that the press got to witness right alongside her. Misty being fitted with a robotic arm should help get her back to her fullest self, and it’s intriguing to see her flash back to positives memories of Scarfe, who we haven’t seen in a really long time. This show does well with its more serious villains, but it’s good to see a focus on a bad guy like Cockroach who Misty is determined to take care of too.

Pilot Review: The Bisexual

The Bisexual (Hulu)
Premiered November 16

I had no idea that Desiree Akhavan had made a television series, but if I had imagined what one would be like, this would definitely be it. Akhavan made her feature film debut behind the camera and in front of it in “Appropriate Behavior” in 2014, portraying her discomfort navigating the world as a bisexual Persian-American. This year, she returned as director for “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” a compelling story of a teenage girl sent to a gay conversion therapy camp. It’s interesting but not at all unexpected that she would choose a British network and setting for her first foray into television, with this series premiering on Channel 4 in the UK a little over a month ago and then dropping all six of its episodes on Hulu this past Friday. As Leila, Akhavan is just as awkward and unapologetically blunt as she was in her debut film, ready to break off a serious relationship because her girlfriend proposed marriage and then jumping to re-propose to her when a heterosexual encounter led to terrible confusion. Opposite her, Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan Gleeson, is terrific as her roommate Gabe, who of course asked about “Blue is the Warmest Color” as soon as he was around lesbians only to have them mention “The L Word” before warning him of its context. This is a great showcase for Akhavan whose “No, stay, she says” was the highlight of this half-hour for me. I’m up for another episode or maybe even all five.

How will it work as a series? Sticking gum in a black girl’s hair is probably going to come back to haunt her, especially because she’s still working for Sadie on a creative basis every day. I’m hopeful that she and Gabe won’t sleep together, but I do look forward to them navigating the complicated world of romance and love together as friends.
How long will it last? Reviews are good, even better in fact that they have been for Akhavan’s two narrative films. British television, by its nature, is usually short-form and unlikely to last too many seasons, and broadcasting to American audiences via Hulu should help grow its audience. I’d predict two seasons of this show before Akhavan moves on to bigger projects.

Pilot grade: B+

Pilot Review: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Premiered November 16

When I sit down to watch a Chuck Lorre sitcom, I expect to chuck a bit and maybe even laugh loudly once or twice. I don’t, however, expect something mature and sentimental. After making a name for himself with “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” among others, Lorre went to Netflix a couple years ago with “Disjointed,” another laugh-track comedy starring Kathy Bates as a weed dispensary operator, that didn’t suggest much creativity and ended up being quickly cancelled. Now, unexpectedly, Lorre is teaming with two veteran Oscars who are also Oscar winners for something that’s much more sophisticate and successful on a number of levels. We’ve seen plenty of shows about those who are way past the prime of their lives trying to stay relevant by being acting coaches, including another one just this year, “Barry.” This one is nice because it features two much older actors, Michael Douglas, who is 74, and Alan Arkin, who is 84. The best part is that they’re both great, and this show serves as a slightly more dramatic counterpart to the similarly charming “Grace and Frankie.” I’m also very happy to see Sarah Baker from “Louie” as Sandy’s daughter, and Nancy Travis, most recently seen on “Last Man Standing,” seems like a great addition as Sandy’s new date who’s going to do a deep dive into their relationship. I didn’t recognize Emily Osment as Theresa, the student who did the “Steel Magnolias” scene, but she was great. I didn’t have high expectations for this one despite seeing Douglas’ name listed on Golden Globe predictions list, but now I’m more than ready to settle in for its eight-episode first season.

How will it work as a series? Eileen dying at the end of the episode was certainly a sad direction to go, but it’s going to help Sandy realize that he’s mortal and that he should be thinking more about what he’s really doing with his life. Following his relationship with Lisa and his difficulty relating to these young, entitled acting students should prove to be a lot of fun, with some drama mixed in along the way.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be mostly positive, but given how popular Lorre is and how respected his stars are, I assume this one will keep going as long as he and the actors are interested in continuing to produce it. I’d expect a renewal very, very soon.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 6 “Kid ‘n Play” (B+)

This is the best episode this show has produced in a long time. Getting away from all the political stuff and back to the characters actually worked tremendously well here, as Grace’s relationship with Noah hit a bit of a snag when Will found out some information and Karen tried to use Jack’s perpetual ability to implode his acting career to create a tax shelter for herself. David Schwimmer’s Noah is definitely tough cookie, one who has managed to win over Grace in part because of his curmudgeonly nature, and it stands to reason that Will would be intimidated by him. It was entertaining to hear him immediately insult “West Side Story,” prompting Will to decide to watch the film then and there, and I’m glad that it was something like a secret child rather than a secret separate girlfriend. Confessing his love for Grace was a big deal, and it’s good that things aren’t so rosy right away and that he’s not too interested in having Grace meet his daughter anytime soon. Jack’s Gaybraham Twincoln concept was pretty hilarious, and this show’s gay puns were strong in this half-hour. Karen recording herself pretending to be Jack saying that she could replace him at any time was funny, and having Jon Cryer, just announced as the future Lex Luthor on “Supergirl,” show up to play himself was a fun way of referencing Karen’s universal connections that didn’t include someone like Ivanka who would never actually guest-star on this show. Let’s have more episodes like this, please!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 9 “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” (B+)

I wasn’t sure what was going on when we saw Michael McKean from “Better Call Saul” at the start of this episode, but he turned out to be the perfect choice to play Doug, the theoretical blueprint for what living a perfect life really was. “One man’s waste is another’s man water” was a terrific anthem representing just how overly nice Doug was to a fault, sort of like how Chidi could never make a decision in his life, which earned him a spot in the bad place. Eleanor spotted the demons and Jason tried to make a Molotov cocktail for their getaway, but Shawn and his crew were ready to take them on and drag them back to hell. Luckily, Janet kicked ass even before she touched the door to the afterlife and managed to get her powers back, helping to clean up the room and ensure the safety of our human friends. The return of more demons, including a Bad Janet, is bad news indeed, and I’m curious to see what it will be like for them in Janet’s void. Any chance to see Derek again would be highly welcome. Eleanor telling Chidi that they once loved each other and that she thinks she might again was urgent and sweet, and I love that Jason, of all people, was able to help Chidi relax and focus by teaching him the special Jacksonville-style pool with no rules and the ability to make up your own points before Michael had to send him off to fetch for a moment of clarity.

What I’m Watching: Bodyguard

Bodyguard: Season 1, Episode 4 (B+)

I know this is technically considered a miniseries, and I don’t want to look into whether its prospects for a second season are good for fear of encountering spoilers for the remaining two episodes. Regardless of its length, killing off one of the two main characters halfway through its run is still a brave move. I was thinking for most of this hour that it’s a real shame we won’t get to see Julia anymore, though it’s possible she’ll be an even more powerful presence now that she’s no longer alive. She was so attached to David in a way that no one besides him knows, and now he’s being looked at as a potential suspect in the multiple attacks that he tried to stave off while he was protecting her. He was understandably defensive, and the fact that they know that he searched for her voting record means that they can’t be too far away from uncovering his political leanings, not to mention his ties to the assassin who killed himself after failing to kill Julia. I thought this show was going to complete astound by having both main characters die in one episode, but there wouldn’t be much left after that. David pulling the trigger and having notes written to his children shows just how far he’s gone and how little hope he feels, and while that would never affect his ability to do his job, it’s really not clear what that job is right now other than smoothly interrogating Nadia.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 7 “Sometimes” (B-)

This episode was full of flashes between multiple time periods, tracking Jack at war trying in vain to help his brother, when he first drove across the country with Rebecca, and then returning home racked with guilt about what happened over there. Of course, in typical fashion, instead of Jack saying goodbye to Nicky when he was first told that he couldn’t be enlisted in the same unit as his brother, now we’re going to get to know him as a character, someone who hates Jack because of what the war has done to him, before he’s inevitably killed in some tragic fashion. Finally letting his guard down and crying when Rebecca sang to him in the car was sweet, and it was just the sign of encouragement that she needed after cruelly being told that was “Pittsburgh good” after giving it her best shot. Kevin is trying so hard to get to know his father, but as usual, he’s really not in tune with his surroundings at all, unsurprised that Zoe might be vomiting after excitedly eating bat and not for a moment suspecting that there was a real reason that she didn’t want to engage in a relationship with her father. He’s confused enough about what he wants, chasing after a necklace which apparently is so commonplace that it means nothing, though I guess we’ll find that out now that one of the many Jacks were seeing is coming face-to-face with the woman he saw in the picture. And maybe we’ll even check in with some of the other characters who aren’t stuck in the past in the next episode.

Friday, November 16, 2018

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 5 “All Doll’d Up” (B)

I’ll go ahead and say that I don’t believe I’ve seen a villain this terrifying in a long time on a TV show, even in Halloween episodes or from among the many demons recently featured on “Legends of Tomorrow.” It’s something about the way that Merkel moved with his head screwed on the wrong way that was just unnecessarily freaky, and it was strange to see him ultimately captured when Ralph pretty much swallowed him up. The horror elements of this hour really took a backseat to the plot development related to Cisco getting back to his stronger and more assured self after some nasty injuries to his weakened hands and Barry and Iris get back to a good place with their daughter. We’re getting closer and closer to the mystery of who Caitlin’s father is and what the circumstances were around his alleged death, and I hope that the payoff is good there, including the long-awaited return of Killer Frost. Each member of the team is proving their worth, including Ralph and Sherloque, and it’s good to see that unity in an episode that didn’t feature Cicada at all. Nora truly is a brat, and I think her future sayings are designed to make her more irritating. Cecile knew exactly what to do to trick her into listening to stories about her mother by pretending that they were about Barry, and hopefully our speedsters can work together to defeat their latest enemy in no time so that this whole season isn’t just about one villain again.

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Separation of Church and Dan” (B)

It’s continually interesting to see how this show is moving past the departure of the lead character that used to anchor this family without really including her. Dan’s grief is extremely present, but it’s not like Roseanne or her ideals are still around. Instead, Dan is as stubborn as ever, determined to move on - or refuse to - in his own way and own time. Naturally, he would resist the notion that he needs some help, and he lasted just a few minutes and a few sentences into another guy’s story when he went to a support group, led by M.C. Gainey, who usually plays much meaner characters. Playing cards with his friends and singing is probably the best medicine, since that represents a return to normal behavior for him which would have happened just the same way when Roseanne was around. Geena trying to get everyone to go to church was an enjoyable exercise, one that elicited many jokes from the unwilling, unreligious clan. Probably the most entertaining plotline in this episode was Mark’s assignment which Jackie, representing everything about liberalism, got way too into and completely ruined by trolling the Republican respondent who had some very prepared answers to each of her pointed challenges. As the only cast member to receive an Emmy nomination for last year’s reboot, Metcalf definitely does a superb job of mirroring the people who likely don’t account for much of this show’s audience in a hilarious and not terribly offensive manner.

What I’m Watching: Manifest

Manifest: Season 1, Episode 8 “S.N.A.F.U.” (C)

Ben has to be the least subtle spy ever, and it’s a wonder that he didn’t get caught the moment that he went in to apply for a job for which he was woefully overqualified. Obviously, he would push for more influence and access right away, and then, after he spilled coffee on the IT guy he had gotten to like him by pretending to geek out for his work, he did what only happens in movies and on television, inserting a flash drive into the computer to magically copy everything off that could download in mere moments. I was then expecting him to have a decoy flash drive so that Vance would confiscate the wrong one, but I guess we’re now supposed to believe that Vance isn’t sharing what he knows with the NSA either because he actually wants to help or he’s doing something more sinister. Ben sure had time for a lot in this hour, attending poker night at the office, going to a lecture where he and Saanvi were immediately recognized by the presenter, and having a heart-to-heart with Danny about parenting Olive. Michaela also had time for some socialization, going to an extremely awkward dinner hosted by Lourdes and then bailing because of the telltale heart she couldn’t stop hearing. Jared shouldn’t be able to deny that Michaela has a powerful ability anymore after what he saw, and her finding out that Carlos got Evie’s heart should only confirm for her that she really, really has to listen to whatever she hears.