Saturday, March 23, 2019

What I’m Watching: Billions (Season Premiere)

Billions: Season 4, Episode 1 “Chucky Roades’ Greatest Game” (B)

I had mostly forgotten about this show, and I certainly didn’t remember how things had ended when last we left it. It’s very strange to see Chuck go around New York City asking anyone and everyone for a favor and to have Axe be the only one to tell him he’ll do anything he needs just because he’s asking. The two of them being on the same side is jarring given how much they’ve hated and gone after each other over the years, and this new normal is going to take some getting used to. Chuck tried to pawn that parking pass (which I’d be curious to know if really exists and love to get my hands on) off so many times it was getting unbearable, but it was the best set-up possible for the number one connection to the ambassador to owe him anything he wanted. It’s impressive that Chuck can still accomplish so much even after he’s fallen from grace, leading to that peculiar ending with him and Richie lying in the street. Axe is also fighting to stay in power, competing against Taylor, who compromised their identity to score an important investment, and Grigor, who showed up to threaten him to back off Taylor. I’m getting tired of the theatrics at Axe Capital, with Wendy joining the aggressive firing at the start of the episode, and Wags is definitely getting out of control too. I’m still interested to see where this show goes this season, but I’m not as fully engaged as I used to be.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 17 “The Dragon Slayer” (B)

Once again, we have Miles and Cara inserting themselves where they don’t belong, but at least in this case they weren’t really crossing any lines since their latest friend suggestion was more open to their assistance despite his determination not to accept charity. Sharif Atkins, who played Ben, previously had series regular roles on “White Collar” and “Hawaii,” and here he did a good job playing a dad who just wanted to shield his sons from the reality of the world. It was sweet that, right after he almost fell off the roof of the castle, Max told his father that he was just playing along so that his father wouldn’t lose hope. The scene that was least convincing was Miles going on the interview posing as Ben when he could just as easily have picked Max up from school instead. Getting him a job working security thanks to his military experience was indeed a happy ending, and something tells me he might be back again to help our crew, just as the doctor they met in the very first episode might show up again. Rakesh has truly terrible timing when it comes to interrupting Miles and Cara as they try to have a second kiss just as magical as their first one, but at least he managed to figure something out. Of more concern at the moment is Cara’s editor, played by Michel Gill, previously seen in high-powered positions on “Mr. Robot” and “House of Cards,” and his desire to steer Cara’s articles in a new direction. Arthur deciding to go ahead with his potential new job with his children’s blessing is an affirming if also questionably believable move.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 15 “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (B)

I wasn’t ready for the new direction this show just went in. I remember hearing a few months back that Jon Cryer, who I saw with his head shaved in the entertaining “Big Time Adolescence” at Sundance, was going to be playing Lex Luthor, but I guess I forgot or thought that his role would be similar in scope to that of Clark, who shows up every once in a while but doesn’t play a very prominent part. The opening flashback to Lex holding Lena prisoner while trying to kill Superman and destroy the planet certainly didn’t suggest that Lena should be nearly as open to helping her dying brother as she should have been. Finding out that he was the one who shot James was hardly a surprise, and he engineered quite the magnificent rise to power with Otis showing up and Eve revealing herself to have been a plant all along. At least Supergirl showed up to lock eyes with her new enemy, since I was worried that she was going to be too distracted with all the Manchester madness. His demise seemed rather easy, and maybe it’s the right time for Hank to be acting a bit darker than usual. Nia kissing Brainy when he panicked was sweet, and something tells me that Keanu Reeves’ sage wisdom isn’t going to dictate whether or not they can be together. I’m waiting eagerly for Alex to catch on to the fact that her sister isn’t just a reporter and discover for the second time that her sister is also Supergirl.

Friday, March 22, 2019

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 15 “I’m Finding My Bliss” (B-)

I didn’t love this episode, though at least it wasn’t a waste of time plot-wise as we hurtle towards the end of this show in just a few weeks. The thing that bothered me most was that Rebecca’s enthusiasm for community theater wasn’t matched by her talent. She’s always been presented as delusional and unable to see the way that others perceive her, but it wouldn’t be a problem if she was actually good at singing and just got a little bit too into her roles as she is apt to do. Rewriting the songs which had terrible messages was obviously something she was going to do, and it was hard to take that whole plotline seriously. The men in her life continue to be obsessed with her, with both Nathaniel and Josh taking active parts in the play process so that they could both spend time with her and impress her with their theatrical energy. At least Greg, the likeliest to end up with her, was focused on more productive things like his restaurant, with Heather there to provide just the encouragement he needed. Valencia being upset at Beth because she didn’t propose as she thought she would put an extremely tangential relationship in the spotlight, and this show can only get so many couples together before it ends, with Darryl and April seeming likeliest to last. Paula looking at other firms that can pay her considerably more than she would ever make where she is makes sense, and of course she’s always going to be there to help whenever anyone needs.

Pilot Review: Turn Up Charlie

Turn Up Charlie (Netflix)
Premiered March 15

I don’t think many people would argue with the idea of Idris Elba getting his own TV show, though it’s possible that most would advocate instead for him to be the next James Bond, which might still happen. That said, this show hardly seems to be the best vehicle, with the man-child not living by himself trying to succeed in the music business while being tormented by a young girl that for some reason he’s agreed to nanny not sounding like the most sophisticated premise. It’s inarguable that Elba is charismatic, but this role doesn’t demand much from him. Even though he gives more than he needs to, there’s just not that much to do here. I’m also surprised to see Piper Perabo, whose last TV gigs were on “Covert Affairs” and “Notorious,” which enabled her to be energetic and right in the action, as opposed to what she’s doing here. I thought this was mostly about Charlie’s rise in the music scene, and instead there is this inexplicable notion that he can be a nanny, to which his charge responded right away by showing him just how easily she can dispose of anyone hired to watch her. That’s not enticing to me, and following Elba on this show just means that he won’t be doing other work which will likely be far more suited to his talents. If I liked music, I might stick around, but I don’t see (or hear) anything in this universe that piques my interest.

How will it work as a series? Gabrielle seems intent on messing with Charlie even if he’s actually her first choice for the role of babysitter, and those antics can only last for so long. If they do indeed connect, this show runs the risk of being too sentimental. There also has to be time for the music industry to take Charlie’s attention, which isn’t all that more appealing.
How long will it last? This may represent one of Netflix’s few failures, earning meager reviews from critics which fall far below the praise heaped upon other shows. Netflix has, however, renewed some series without much acclaim before, and therefore it’s possible they’d commission another season following the eight episodes that have already premiered. I’m betting that won’t be the case.

Pilot grade: C

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pilot Review: Shrill

Shrill (Hulu)
Premiered March 15

I had no idea who Aidy Bryant was until she got nominated last year for an Emmy for her performance on “Saturday Night Live,” though it’s likely that I had seen her in sketches before when I watched other nominated players’ submitted episodes over the year. I didn’t know about this show in advance either until I was waiting in line for another SXSW screening and saw executive producer Elizabeth Banks being hurriedly ushered in to introduce the premiere of the show there. We’ve seen other programs like this before, some of which have been painfully bad (“Downward Dog” being one example), but there’s a nice freshness here thanks to Bryant’s sincerity, owning the way her life looks and finally becoming empowered to do something about it, cursing out her would-be trainer at the end of the episode and standing up to her demeaning boyfriend who refused to introduce her to his roommates. I liked seeing Luka Jones as Ryan but it was a sad reminder that “People of Earth” is no more. Lolly Adefope, who is concurrently appearing on “Miracle Workers” as Rosie, provides a good balance to Bryant’s energy. I enjoyed the way that Annie reacted to the news that her frequent morning-after pill plan hadn’t ever been a good choice, and terminating the pregnancy right away allows for more plot opportunities. I’m not sure this is a show that I need to watch, but I’m willing to give it a second chance and see if it feels vital in episode two and beyond.

How will it work as a series? There isn’t a set narrative for this show to follow, only to stick with its main character as she has a new lease on life and takes ownership over how she encounters the world. Her self-deprecating nature is going to make it so that she still gets stepped on, but there should be some affirming and energizing developments as well.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be pretty good for this show, and it’s got good backing from the likes of Banks and Lorne Michaels. Hulu isn’t big on releasing ratings data, but I feel like this six-episode first season isn’t all that we’re going to get of it. Even if it doesn’t last forever, a renewal sometime soon seems likely.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 5 “Paw Patrol” (B+)

There just isn’t another show like this one right now, and it continues to astound me. The world was about to end when the last episode ended, and what better way to combat a freakish eye in the sky than by rewriting history? It’s not common to have a villain who acknowledges their frustration with having not been featured in the past two episodes and moaning about not wanting to deal with flashbacks, but Mr. Nobody wasn’t the villain for most of this hour, mainly because this isn’t how he wanted to see his enemies eviscerated. Interrupting the flashbacks and turning Jane into Dr. Harrison was an incredible introduction to the revised timeline in which she created a cult of her own to bring back the Recreator to defeat the Decreator. It’s a crazy concept I can’t even fully process, one which is further complicated since it led right into Jane meeting the Chief, an event we know must have happened differently in the original timeline. The Chief’s return didn’t feel real, and Mr. Nobody making it so that he would vomit anytime someone mentioned his name was a clever way of keeping distance between. Putting Victor in a terrible position and ripping the Chief out of the room was a harsh return to reality at the end of the episode, and the brief glimpse of the Chief is going to keep them all on edge. Apart from everyone, Rita nearly achieved a breakthrough with Elliot, but her failure to do so triggered her involuntary powers, which is always going to be her main weakness when she feels like she has it all together.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 15 “Bad Blood” (B)

This episode was relatively entertaining, but it was hardly the best example of execution for comic storylines on this show. Marty and Marilyn showing up to share that they don’t fight was never going to end well, and Marilyn refusing to hear anything Grace said when she started the sentence with “Mom” was the least of their issues. Though he’s incredibly intolerant, Marty at least knows what he doesn’t want to confront, acknowledging the “me too” moment that he and Grace had, and not wanting to be held accountable for another area in which he wasn’t being progressive. Rejecting Will’s blood and then still telling Marilyn that he had taken it wasn’t a nice move, and it was good to see Marilyn spring to Will’s defense. She even secretly told Grace that she could call her Mom when no one else was around and if she was reading her mood properly. Will stood up for himself to Marty too, which was affirming, and it was a refreshing treat to see him stand up for something where he was totally right and didn’t have to worry that someone would judge him for it. Jack, on the other hand, was completely subservient to a dominant Karen, who tried to take over both his wedding and his play by injecting her influence because she was paying for everything. This show has always been risqué, but I’m curious how they’re going to incorporate this fountain that everyone seemed so excited about it, which has already been the subject of a few unsubtle double entendres.

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry (Season Finale)

I’m Sorry: Season 2, Episode 10 “New York vs. LA” (B)

It’s weird watching this finale without knowing whether this show is going to continue. It’s on a network which hosts no other series that I watch, and season two was commissioned while the first one was still airing, which makes the notion of a third year for this show completely unknown. Andrea, for one, spent a good deal of this episode renegotiating terms, making jokes about her marriage contract with Mike and his apparent interest, which I think was mostly humorous, in certain activities to which she was not open. Hosting the memorial service for her great-uncle did make Andrea uncomfortable in a more serious way than usual, suddenly contemplating the potential deaths of both her parents, inevitabilities she had always thought of as long-off that seemed much closer now. Both of them were quite casual about it, and Martin’s request for a particular type of bag to be buried in so that he could decompose was quite absurd. I’m glad that no mention of Jennifer’s boyfriend’s enthusiasm for sex leaked at the party, as I feared it would, and instead Andrea, Mike, and viewers were saddled with some unfortunate information they definitely didn’t need about length versus thickness. Mike giving Andrea the ultimate present of revealing that he had bought the tank top just to mess with her was a great way to end the episode, showing her that he understood what she wanted from him when it came to humor and doing bits, which was made funnier by the fact that she was wearing a t-shirt to a fancy restaurant just to make a point about where they were in their relationship. I’d watch more of this show, though I don’t know when we’ll have any information about if it will indeed be back.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Andrea Savage

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 10 “Magical Thinking” (B)

We had all of our friends putting out – or, more accurately, starting – different fires over the course of this episode, which ranks the fourth-to-last this series will produce. The opener with Jimmy in the car with Mariah didn’t bode well, but I won’t say too much about that since it’s still not clear what it means. It is good that Edgar is finally standing up to Jimmy, to a degree of course, telling him that he doesn’t appreciate the way that he treats him and that he’ll need to remove himself from the situation, a hint that went way over Jimmy’s head. It’s helpful that Jimmy wants to be there for Gretchen, but the enthusiastic interest he’s trying to show is not the affection that she needs. After Sam’s bizarre ultimatum and Nock Nock’s creepy light-flickering bathroom speech, she completely froze, and deliberately setting off the fire alarm was a definite equivalent of a cry for help. With just three episodes to go, here’s hoping that Jimmy can be the emotional support she needs, though it’s not looking good if those scenes that start and end each episode are any indication. I like that Lindsay had no idea that she was lazing around with the woman in charge, and you have to give considerable credit to Yvette for making a move on her and getting Lindsay to try to commit to a woman in a way she’s never thought about and one that feels moderately healthier than her past would-be relationships with a number of men.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers

Miracle Workers: Season 1, Episode 5 “3 Days” (B-)

Things on this show are getting a bit too stupid for my tastes, but at least it’s still engaging and mostly entertaining. Starting with the arrival of a number of apparently randomly selected individuals to heaven was an effective way to explain the presence of Rosie, who thought that being the executive assistant to God would actually allow her to do something good. This rival galaxy feels like a totally different place, with its light-emanating folder, but it is true that she likely wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much there as she could where she currently is, even if it’s unbearably irritating. She did a masterful job of making up the content of the death waiver that they tricked God into signing, which isn’t an easy feat if you’re actually reading other words off the page. God not being able to read does make a lot of sense, which would probably explain why much of the world is what it is today, and it provided some good moments for flashback humor, namely him brushing his teeth with foot cream defiantly even after being asked if that’s what he had meant to do. I do prefer the notion of him turning his biggest critics into jelly beans than his more absurd ritual of having them pick out the one root beer jelly bean (an admittedly great flavor) from the barrel that he evidently can’t open. Just two episodes left to go here – can sanity and the planet be preserved and this show remain moderately intelligent in the process?

Monday, March 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 15 “The Waiting Room” (B)

It’s interesting to see that this show can be particularly effective when it stays grounded in the present and doesn’t involve any flashbacks. Those can be one of its strongest assets, but they’re also prone to being quite manipulative. In this case, the Pearson family members were able to invoke memories that stand out for them without us seeing them, as Rebecca picturing Jack on those seats would surely have been powerful but her description of how she remembered them was just as resounding. Also, not seeing Toby and Kate until the very end of the episode was effective since this was the experience of those on the outside, who felt bold enough to demand answers from those between the desk but as tangential family members weren’t actually entitled to an urgent response. Things did get dramatic, leading to a moderately irritating repetition of the same line thanking people for putting up with them, and it’s a rare circumstance in which Madison is the most sympathetic one in the room. Toby’s joke about Kate wanting to see Miguel first did feel a bit mean-spirited, especially coming from one of the outsiders, and Miguel got some aggression directed his way from Beth too when she felt he was speaking for Rebecca, who has a tendency to burrow within these moments and not take care of herself. Zoe acknowledging the contents of Kevin’s bottle doesn’t speak well to his imminent recovery, but it seems like she’s going to try to stick it out with him knowing where things stand at the moment.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 16 “Failure is an Orphan” (B)

It’s definitely not a great idea for Nora to be making recommendations to everyone based on what she knows to have happened from the timeline that she left and likely altered by coming back to the past, and, surprise, surprise, things didn’t go as she expected. The notion of Barry talking to Cicada honestly both about his legacy and about being a father was a good one, but then everything had to be derailed by the fact that there’s another Cicada out there who, just like Nora, appears to have traveled back from the future to wreak havoc in the past. I recognized Sarah Carter right away from her role on a show that I used to like at the beginning but quickly lost interest in, “Falling Skies.” It’s hard to know how or why that happened, especially as Barry was able to get Cicada to trust him, but that’s just going to be one more obstacle to overcome and explain over the course of however many episodes this show has left this season, which is likely between five and seven. Seeing Joe and Cecile work together well was affirming since couples haven’t always done great in a professional setting on this show, and even though they had their hurdles, they came through them to put the human lie detector to the test in the best way possible. I’m not sure what comes next, but I do think that it’s about time that Nora stopped lying to everyone and came clean about what she’s really doing and why she’s working with Eobard Thawne.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: SMILF

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 7 “Smile More If Lying Fails” (B)

This show was actually cancelled before this episode aired, a likely consequence of reports of problematic behavior by star and creator Frankie Shaw on set. As I’ve mentioned throughout this season, I’m not too sad to see the show go, though I now feel like I may as well stick with it through the final three episodes. It doesn’t change my perspective to know that the show won’t be continuing since I feel like most of these episodes are relatively self-contained anyway, if they’re even related to the primary plot of the show. We haven’t seen Eliza in a while, which made the focus on her in this half-hour a bit puzzling, but it did help to show yet another situation in which Bridgette doesn’t understand how she’s behaving. Finding out that she wouldn’t be invited to Rafi and Nelson’s wedding was a huge blow given how excited she was to attend rather than devastated to learn of the impending union, and her question about whether Larry would be invited didn’t help the situation at all. Bridgette’s corn rows did manage to make people uncomfortable, and telling the narrative about how Rafi had proposed to her was particularly painful because she left the fact that she said no long before until the very end. I immediately recognized Gary Anthony Williams, who stars on “I’m Sorry,” as Philip, who was quite enthusiastic but not too interested in talking to Bridgette. The date at the end of the episode was mostly going well, and as if Bridgette texting during the “bad sex” wasn’t rude enough, she had to go and send it to him, making the night a true misfire.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 2 “Slow Down, Children at Play” (B)

I think we can all agree that things on this show would be a lot easier for everyone if Leslie was no longer around. I don’t think that Ruby would have pulled the trigger while Annie almost certainly would have, but, as usual, it’s Beth who was in charge and made the decision that they couldn’t kill him. She’s always been the most resourceful and put-together of the group, and while it’s not clear what Rio means when he says he’s going to train her, at least she’s not being punished but instead brought closer to his vision of the world. Dean definitely went back to work very early, and it’s hard to decide whether he’s more useless there or at home griping about the stolen stop sign. I did forget to mention that Leslie had proposed to Mary Pat, the only character anywhere near as insufferable as him, last week, and now he’s trying to get that commitment cemented in his typical unbearable way. He doesn’t deserve $20,000, but he’s also already demonstrated that he’s not going to keep to the terms he agreed to in exchange for the money. Ruby and Stan going to a priest to discuss her metaphorical affair wasn’t the worst thing, and it’s good to see that the one stable couple on this show is approaching reconciliation. I can’t understand why Annie was at the gender-reveal party for Greg and Nancy, and what a way for Nancy to find out about Greg and Annie after she truly connected with Annie.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 7 “65” (B)

Watching this show, I really do feel as if Blair and Tiff lie somewhere well below the intellect of the average viewer, while Mo and Dawn are considerably more cunning and always thinking something about, especially if it has to do with making money. Blair was wrong in this case about everything that happened with Mo and the car getting stolen – or at least, we were led to believe that – but, towards the end of the episode, he understood exactly what was going on and wasn’t about to let Mo manipulate him anymore. Mo probably thought that coming clean with Blair was the only thing left to do and the honesty would catch him off guard, but Blair is still a good guy and doesn’t want to be messed with, plus he cares about Tiff more than anything. Her abduction probably won’t be too consequential, and it’s very possible that Mo is the one who engineered her kidnapping. Dawn continues to be this show’s most compelling character, ending up sitting one-on-one with Tiff at her bachelorette party and having a true heart-to-heart, which wasn’t necessarily in support of the endgame that she and Mo have been championing all along. While Blair now knows exactly what Mo was trying to do, I think that she wouldn’t even be open to hearing about the duplicity and would instead implicitly trust her new best friend Dawn. We’ll have to see how it all plays out though since this plan seems to be tanking in a big way.

Pilot Review: Now Apocalypse

Now Apocalypse (Starz)
Premiered March 10 at 9pm

If there’s one thing that doesn’t need to be explored yet again on television, it’s the impending end of the world. There are two shows currently dealing with that which both started just a few weeks ago, “Doom Patrol” and “The Umbrella Academy,” and those at least featured superpowered protagonists who are trying their best to stop it. What we have here instead is a perplexing and totally unappealing look at ordinary people who spend more time trying to find dates and have sex than they do anything else. The moment in this pilot that will likely never be erased from my memory found two different couples achieving satisfaction at exactly the same time thanks to the editing, something which I found gratuitous and entirely unnecessary. Sure, the world may be ending soon, but at least Ulysses had a great time with his internet date who turned out to be real after all. There wasn’t anything in this show, which miraculously only runs half an hour rather than a full hour, which makes me want to watch it. What puzzles me most is who exactly the intended audience of this show is, since it’s not really science fiction, it’s not horror, and it has far too much explicit content to be aimed at teenagers, the group that best fits the maturity level expressed throughout this entire first episode. I don’t think there’s much else to say – I’m more than happy to forget as much of this show as I can, as quickly as possible.

How will it work as a series? That final scene indicates that, as long as he’s not crazy, Ulysses’ premonitions do have some validity, and there’s reason for him to fear more than just being catfished by someone he met online. I doubt anyone will believe him, and it’s not as if his best friend and roommate have their lives all that much more together than he does to truly do something about it.
How long will it last? I was surprised to learn that this show has apparently impressed people, earning much more decent reviews than I would have thought. Ratings data isn’t a huge thing that Starz broadcasts, but I’d say that premiering this show right after its ultra-popular “American Gods” debuts its second season definitely gives it a better chance at long life than it otherwise would have had.

Pilot grade: F

Friday, March 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Season Finale)

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 14 “Found” (B+)

It’s been a long road to this point, especially considering the early timing of Emmy Rossum’s announcement, but I’m all for how she exited this show. It was also nice to see Cameron Monaghan again as Ian, since I had read that the last time we saw him was actually his final appearance on the show. Communing with Ian, someone else who has found a way to separate from the Gallagher family, was an important step before she left town as her family was planning a goodbye party, boarding a plane for the very first time to get the hell out of this life. It’s been a formidable nine years on this show for Rossum, and while I know it’s impossible, I’d love to see her finally get the Emmy recognition she deserves. Instead, it will likely be just William H. Macy, whose Frank has had a wild year, now confined to the couch with necessary sponge baths given to him not by his first choice. He does do great work, but how can you watch a show like this and not notice the incredible contributions of the entire cast, including Jeremy Allen White as Lip, Emma Kenney as Debs, Ethan Cutkosky as Carl, and, in this episode especially, Christian Isaiah as Liam? I’m also very happy with how the Kelly plotline progressed, with her responding angrily to Debs and then going after Carl to force him not to throw away his future. I didn’t expect that, and it’s good to see someone who is truly committed to one of the Gallaghers. Things with Tami might be a bit rockier, but they might work out too. The idea of Kev trying to bill himself as a Bat Mitzvah Jesus is indeed appealing. This has been a great season as always, and while I might think that some shows don’t need to be renewed for a tenth season, this one definitely deserves as much as those behind it want to see.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Emmy Rossum as Fiona

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 14 “Stand and Deliver” (B)

It’s interesting to see what this show is doing now by having Brainy start the “American Alien” march as Lockwood tries to use his official government platform to repeal the Alien Amnesty Act. I’m not sure how much of this is based on the comics and how much has been created or tweaked specifically to parallel current politics. Manchester Black and his crew of angry aliens do give some weight to the “good people on both sides” argument, and I guess that’s why Supergirl was able to inspire one person who came with hatred in his heart to switch sides and help an alien up. As she tackled her worst possible assignment to protect Lockwood, Alex came to a better place with Supergirl, which is helpful, and it’s nice to see the crew of alien superheroes leading the march, with Nia embracing her Dreamer identity and trying to stay in costume even when she’s not actively engaged in something heroic. Haley continues to be somewhat puzzling since she increasingly reflects positive ideas even if she’s too obsessed with following orders, and, even though Lockwood appears to be backing down by going through Congress (a humorous notion given our president’s route), there’s going to come a time soon where people will have to definitely choose sides. Unlike at this point last year with the endless Reign saga, this season shows no signs of letting up as its conflicts continue to intensify and add more depth to all the characters and themes involved.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 16 “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (B-)

Miles and Cara were hopelessly matched for their first admitted romantic interaction, but they managed to be less hapless than usual in their meddling, with budding restaurateur Sophia’s plans to open her own establishment foiled not by them but by other forces entirely. I recognized Al Sapienza right away from his days on “The Sopranos,” and I couldn’t have picked a more fitting role for him than as a lasagna-loving Italian restaurant owner. It was admittedly nice to see that he was never too opposed to the idea of her running her own place and instead was just grounded in tradition, and that he was more than happy to support her when she had to overcome some obstacles to getting it off the ground. Simon seemed briefly irritated that Rakesh was usually his computer but got over that very fast, and now it’s as if they’re united together against this infiltrating enemy who we still think is just trying to help people with the God account? I’ll admit I’m lost. Miles and Cara finally kissing and experiencing the spark that allegedly has to happen at the beginning or it never will felt forced, though at least now they’ll be able to be passionate with each other and considerably less awkward. What I don’t buy is that Andrew and the diocese were being so secretive because they were actually preparing to promote Arthur. This show needs to have some consequences for its characters, something that is entirely absent and sorely missing right now.

Pilot Review: After Life

After Life (Netflix)
Premiered March 8

A comedy about a man who loses his wife and then decides that he can say whatever he wants to anyone since nothing matters anymore? Sure, that could work. Cast someone like Jim Carrey in the lead role and you probably have a recipe for success. But this is one case where the person playing the protagonist can be truly problematic. Ricky Gervais as someone who says horrible things to anyone around him isn’t hard to fathom since that’s a character he’s often played, but what is impossible to believe is that he could have been a nice guy before all of it. I’m not sure that there’s too much in the way of sincere originality here, but Gervais casting himself in the project is what made it least convincing for me. This isn’t his first crack at a television show by any stretch, with “The Office,” “Extras,” and “Derek” all coming before this in terms of projects he both starred in and created. He’s a personality that takes some getting used to, and Tony feels like a natural fit for him. Having an idealistic reporter who just wants to write features while he constantly mocks the poor reputation of the newspaper seems like a forced attempt at sentimentality, something that probably won’t work too well. All told, nothing in this first half-hour was all that funny, and I think many who tune in might be disappointed just to see Gervais being mean to people rather than getting the opportunity to experience someone continuing on after their natural time on earth.

How will it work as a series? Like most of Gervais’ past shows, this one is only slated to run six episodes, which means there doesn’t need to be too much filler content. If nothing else, this episode did dive right in, using one introductory video to do all of the exposition and seamlessly filling in the other details as it went on. It’s going to have to decide where it wants to be funny or heartwarming or risk being neither, which is what I’m imagining will happen.
How long will it last? The reviews may not be superb, but Gervais is a bankable commodity. None of his previous shows have lasted more than two short seasons and a holiday special, and so it’s completely reasonable to expect the exact same here. I’m actually predicting that it won’t be renewed, but I think it’s definitely a toss-up.

Pilot grade: C+

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 4 “Cult Patrol” (B)

This episode was my least favorite so far, if only because I’m not overly fond of supernatural elements, which this show hasn’t utilized nearly as much as it’s been focused on superpowers and science fiction. The creepiness of this cult was quickly indicated by all the birthday celebrations and then Elliott’s mother’s cold slitting of his father’s throat when he warned him to run away. Having them sit on altars and profess the impending doom of the universe was pretty freaky, and it doesn’t look like things are going to turn out so well for our friends, not that it’s ever really the case. Mark Sheppard, who I know best from “Battlestar Galactica” and “Bionic Woman,” showed up as another questionable figure, one whose magic isn’t nearly as effective as one might hope to help prevent the end of the world. I did like that he and Victor were initially dubious about their magic/science war and then complimented each other on the unexpected effectiveness of their respective weapons. Larry watching the video of the Chief trying to communicate with the spirit that now lives within him was interesting, and I think he’s getting closer to having a productive rapport with that entity. Jane, on the other hand, continues to be a true loose cannon, one who does seem so lost within herself that there’s no way to control who might come out and how that could affect the situation at any moment. I’m still invested, but I’d prefer to get back to the questionably omniscient Mr. Nobody and be done with this death cult hellbent on making things miserable for more than just our small group of friends.

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 2 “Holding” (B)

This episode reminded me most of the half-hour from season two where Sam’s costar had to sputter over and over to sound like a car in take after take. Sam was hot to begin with, and then her having to cough under a pile of bodies in a zombie movie made the experience even more unbearable, though she kept a cooler head than her angry zombie costar. I recognized the insufferable director, played by Kris Marshall, from his role as an overeager tourist in “Love Actually,” and the woman who got more of his attention than Sam was Janina Gavankar, who guest-starred on “You’re the Worst” just recently. Marsha Thomason, from “Lost” and “White Collar,” was Dante’s manager, the only truly tolerable person Sam met on set aside from the kindly Sylvester. With Max off at college whining to Sam that she’s allergic to vinyl and needs an off-campus apartment, something her mother wouldn’t even consider, we got to see that Sam’s youngest daughter is emanating her older sisters. Duke, once the innocent co-honoree of the fake funeral with her mother, is now just as embarrassed by her as Frankie, though I’ll actually take her side on this one given how Sam chose to go after Jack’s mom to demand an apology from her and then tell her to come meet her in the parking lot. The angry looks and comments she got from the fathers were particularly entertaining, and I like that she didn’t even try to back down and concede to either of them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 14 “Supreme Courtship” (B)

It’s rare that Will gets the upper hand with Jack in anything, and here he had just that, forcing Jack to call him on his bluff when he suggested that the only way he could move past his attraction to Estefan was to physically act on it. Jack always like to put on a front, and it was great to see Will push him outside his comfort zone by making him admit his true feelings instead of just cover them up by blaming someone else. One of my favorite things on television is when characters who don’t usually share the screen get to have scenes together, and watching Noah and Karen together was moderately satisfying. I’m not sure I buy Noah as the secret author of romance novels, especially because he has such a distinct and recognizable voice as the critic no one asked him to be. But Karen pointing a gun at his computer unless he changed the ending to revive the main character was an entertaining sight, and I like that she went back to being her usual uncaring self when Noah tried to unload on her about Valentine’s Day and his feelings from Grace. Knocking Ruth Bader Ginsburg onto the curb because she was going to get into her cab was an unfortunate but predictable move for the singularly-focused Grace, and I like that RBG (not the real one, of course) forgave her unknown assailant because she understands just how hard it is to get a cab in New York City.

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

I’m Sorry: Season 2, Episode 9 “Miss Diana Ross” (B+)

I like the way that this episode played out, particularly in the continuation of the teacher sex dream plotline that’s been occupying most of the conversation between Andrea and everyone she knows for a while now. Copying him on an e-mail she sent to Mike joking about the amount of time that he lasts and how they’re working on it was a horrendous and easily avoidable misstep, but the best part was how he responded to it, reporting on how long he actually lasts and making class-related jokes with her. Somehow, that was less objectionable to both Andrea and Mike than their babysitter using the term “front tushie.” You’d think that Brian would have suggested some of his great babysitter options ahead of time rather than let Andrea squirm, since he devoted considerably more attention to coming up with ways to make fun of her forever as a result of all of her actions. Andrea’s mom continues to make nearly as many inappropriate comments as her daughter, but at least she understands what she’s doing as opposed to her completely clueless dad who is not aware of societal norms at all. You do have to wonder how Andrea got to be how she is, someone who took so much delight in Mike uttering a rare curse word while they were sitting in bed together. Things got plenty awkward with neighbor Shorts again, but most of that was Andrea’s doing and her incredible ability to completely shut down when she has to deal with the important rather than comedic confrontations in her life.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 9 “Bachelor/Bachelorette Party Sunday Funday” (B+)

I didn’t catch on right away to the fact that Edgar and Lindsay weren’t actually putting on the least appealing Sunday Funday ever but actually setting up a series of disasters that could cumulate in them being able to take part in a murder, which was the most fun that Gretchen could possibly have. I did think that it was all a setup once things started getting very dark. There were also some far less scripted moments that got mixed in along the way, like the exchange of $2000 for the revelation of the truth about how Becca’s pregnancy came to be. I like that Lindsay got mad at Becca for sleeping with her ex-husband and then ultimately got to a good point of laughing about it with Paul, who apparently was actually suffering from a yeast infection in his eyes? Paul F. Tompkins also played a big role that apparently was what he had to do in order to get Edgar to retract his rightful complaints about harassment, and he didn’t seem to mind playing the part. He did, however, hit a nerve with Jimmy and Gretchen about what they wanted for their future and their contradictory notions of what change signifies. They’re not just going to be able to keep on going without addressing some of the issues that they’ll soon face, and Edgar getting serious with Jimmy after admitting that his screenplay was terrible also means that Gretchen’s self-medication is going to come up soon and she’s sure not to react well to being confronted about it.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers

Miracle Workers: Season 1, Episode 4 “6 Days” (B+)

I wasn’t really sure how this version of heaven worked, and the brief video clips of Sanjay, Eliza, and Craig provided some insight into that with a look at what they did back when they lived. Little of it was surprising, though Eliza doesn’t really seem like a medieval warrior out of “Game of Thrones.” Sanjay and Eliza were completely unaware the entire episode of exactly how they were treating Craig, so distracted by their newfound camaraderie that they didn’t notice that they were excluding him from everything and making him get them coffee. Their attempts to get Sam and Laura to talk to each other at the party went relatively poorly as they accidentally increased the alcohol level from 2% to 67%, and Craig was able to swoop back in with a surprisingly strong bit of influence to rectify the situation. The fact that Sam’s Nana is about to die is not going to help anyone, though maybe she’ll come straight up to heaven and be able to assist them in setting her grandson up and saving the world. God being bored and trying to get Tim Meadows’ Dave to be his prophet was entertaining, and though he seemed to get out of it after God destroyed his home and he basically let him down easy as if it was a breakup, Craig was the important one who faked a spill so that he could save the life of this do-gooder who didn’t want to be burdened with the absurdity God had in store for him.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 14 “The Graduates” (B)

If there’s one thing this show is able to do well, it’s framing an episode thematically across its multiple time periods. This episode had two different major arcs, the first of which was the video camera that Jack was so obsessed with getting to capture every moment of the Big Three’s lives, and the second one went on without him as they made a pact about sticking together after graduation. Rebecca trying to cope with not having Jack there for the important moments in their family’s lives led to a far more comforting notion of having made it once she was able to see Kate graduate thanks to Toby’s very sweet graduation party. Unfortunately, her water breaking very early diminished any sense of optimism, and whatever hope they have won’t necessarily be enough to overcome science and the unpredictability of events. Randall showing up to deal with this crisis isn’t going to help with the one started at home when he basically said that Beth had to give up her dream so that she would spend more time with the kids. Kate seemed aware that something was off with Kevin when he showed up to the party, and while she’ll probably forgive him, it’s Toby who isn’t soon likely to let go the fact that he wasn’t able to be there for her in a moment of need because he was drunk. He was already in the room alone with her before Randall showed up, but everything could change if she loses the baby and Toby blames Kevin for his part in it.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 15 “King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd” (B-)

I’m really not a huge fan of either King Shark or Grodd, and therefore this entire episode just didn’t resonate with me. The themes that this episode addressed were definitely interesting, and the notion of being in love with a duplicate version of someone you lost in another world is indeed thought-provoking, though it reminded me much more of the recently-ended “Counterpart,” a show that deals with others and multiple worlds in an incomparably mesmerizing fashion. Barry giving the cure to King Shark without his consent was an interesting step that does make some sense to the eternal hero who never wants to take lethal action against the villains he’s fighting even if they might harm many others if left alive. Shay volunteering to turn back into King Shark was an unexpected development, and the fact that it’s so easy to reverse the process of turning someone from a metahuman into a human means that it could just as speedily be used against them. While Barry thinks that they can convince Sicada to take the cure, I’m sure that’s not the case, and they’re going to have to figure out a way to be clever about how they present it or try to execute it. Iris tried so hard not to let herself be put in a situation that could find time repeating itself, and it’s good to see the recently absent Joe step in to be the comfort that he’s always been to his children and give just the advice that Iris needed to get back on track.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: SMILF

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 6 “Should Mothers Incur Loss Financially?” (B+)

This episode impressed me more than recent installments have, starting out with everything in Bridgette’s life coming with a price tag, presented cleverly during her nighttime routine with Larry. This was a productive and insightful look at how Bridgette operates, succeeding tremendously in an interview with a woman who shared her interests but wasn’t too happy to hear about her having a child, pretty much telling her that she shouldn’t take the job because of the nights and weekends involved. After being laughed at by people who didn’t know her for finding leftover fries on a picnic table and telling Larry that the waiter put them outside for them, Bridgette seemed surprised to learn that she could qualify for food stamps. It didn’t take long at all for her to discover that she couldn’t use them quite as easily as she had hoped to, and her mother exploded at her in the supermarket when she wanted her to cover the remainder of what she needed to pay. Fortunately, they were able to get back to a good place when Tutu failed to make the fact that she didn’t want to be thrown out of her house clear to her stepson, and the goals that they set together for what they wanted to achieve in the future provided some optimism. Rafi proposing to Nelson after their big fight caught me by surprise, and it’s possible that the motivations behind it weren’t really right as the inspiration for them to theoretically spend the rest of their lives together.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls (Season Premiere)

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 1 “I’d Rather Be Crafting” (B)

I was excited for this show, a midseason entry that impressed last year and wasn’t on NBC’s spring schedule until very recently, to return, though I’m doubting whether it’s quite as good as I remember it being. It’s definitely immensely watching, but there are a few elements that drag it down and aren’t looking like they’re going to be appropriately diminished anytime soon. Leslie is one such element, who shows up at Agent Turner’s home and seems not to care about the leverage that the women he hates so much have on him in his determination to send them all to jail. Rio shooting Dean hardly seems consequential since Beth was furious at him for lying about having cancer anyway, and now he’s just going to be a drag on everything trying to make her feel guilty for getting him shot when his stupidity was the biggest factor in his fortune. Rio telling Beth, Annie, and Ruby that they need to kill Leslie is going to present a challenge, and I’m sure they’ll find a way out of it, even though I’d actually rather they succeeded and got rid of him once and for all. Stan deciding to help Ruby and steal the pen after their operation failed was an important turning point, and while he won’t soon forgive her, having him on their side is going to be extremely crucial since Ruby isn’t about to go and turn in her co-conspirators after they laughed at the ridiculousness of the idea when she posited it as a joke.

Friday, March 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 6 “122” (B-)

I understand that this show is supposed to be over-the-top, but that projectile vomit scene felt like way too much to me, especially considering the horrific color and the way that his family didn’t even seem too fazed by it. Keith was extraordinarily selfish in his demand that his boyfriend skip celebrating out with his friends and instead come back to his place on the night of his big show, and therefore it was a big statement for him to show up without his toupee in a sign of nothing but support for the man he loves. He’s not questioning his sexuality while Blair definitely is, stopping to look at Tiff, Dawn, and a male waiter during his big speech after he got far too drunk at the engagement party. Tiff’s mispronounced suggestion of “You’re a gay” as their honeymoon destination and Blair’s reaction to it was particularly telling. What I can’t understand is why Mo wasn’t displeased with the guys he pranked showing up fearing for their freedom after he pranked them into thinking they had killed someone, but I think that’s because he just doesn’t care, and his big con is about getting Blair to sign over Tiff’s shares, not impressing her racist parents. Spencer heard all the things he shouldn’t at the party, and being the one to tell Dawn that Mo as just stringing her along to let her go and screw her over isn’t going to help them get back to a good place. The most important development came at the very end of the episode and might have been glossed over by a distracted Blair – Mo using the same actor to play a cop at the party as he did to get Blair right where he wanted him in the very first episode.

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 13 “Lost” (B+)

Something about the sight of Frank with a bone in his leg sticking out didn’t seem all that alarming to me, though I was cued to the seriousness of the situation by the horrified reactions of his family members. Of course he would want to unload all the drugs in his pockets before calling an ambulance so that he would be just a little less hated than he was when he arrived and no one wanted to treat him because of just how much he owes and hasn’t paid. He sure doesn’t look like he’s in his eighties, but it’s a wonder that it took him this long to try to get Medicare. It’s good to see Fiona going to a meeting with Lip and even encountering Eliza at one, allowing her an opportunity for some penance. Taking a job at a convenience store demonstrated her commitment to getting back in control of her life, and Max showing up on day one was a firm reminder both of what she lost and what she might be able to get back thanks to the unexpected mention and offer of what she still somehow had invested. Tami’s dad coming to talk to Lip about his responsibilities took a different direction than expected, and Tami opened up in a big way about what getting pregnant could mean for her, with Lip now closer than ever to understanding the woman he seems to love. Debs making a move on Kelly did not go well at all, and it was nice to see Carl, fresh from beating on a would-be robber, console her and bond with her over their shared anger towards the girl they both liked. It’s a wonder that it took this long for the twins to get caught at school, and I love that Kev had to carry an absurdly heavy cross as a way of making things right. My favorite moment of the episode was the realization that Liam has been absent for a while now and his refusal to give any of his suddenly-concerned family members peace of mind by answering their calls or texts.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 13 “What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” (B+)

Out of all the shows that I watch, I really wouldn’t have expected this one to so directly tackle social and political issues that are currently playing out in our society, but this show continues to do just that. President Baker trying to appoint unapologetic xenophobe Ben to an official post both to quietly support his message and simultaneously try to dampen it feels a whole lot like the elevation of people on “both sides,” and it didn’t take very long at all for Ben to make it known to his rebellious followers that he hadn’t been tempered by this, brutally beating one mutineer to demonstrate just how little he has changed. Manchester Black enlisting his fellow wronged aliens to break out of prison and execute some vengeful justice on the humans who repressed them shows just how quickly things are devolving, and all it really does it helps Ben and the Children of Liberty build a stronger case that they need to exist to help with the growing alien threat. Fortunately, our friends are working to combat that as Brainy helps to train Nia to become Dreamer, who actually does pretty great in the heat of the moment. Alex showed her true colors a lot in this episode in a good way, and she and Supergirl got back to a good place, in addition to an apparent opening in the armor of Haley, who realizes that the president is heading down a dangerous path. Lena is also having a change of heart, which makes James’ decision to have his reporter look into problematic reports about her particularly ill-timed.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 15 “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Thai Food Place” (C+)

I’m not sure what else anyone could have thought than that it would be a bad idea to probe where Vivian went the night before she passed out since she was obviously pursuing an illicit path that wasn’t going to be productive for the future of her relationship with Aiden. This just continues to be my number one gripe with this show, not even related to its corniness but instead to the way that Miles and Cara consider themselves so driven in a missionary-like manner to interfere in other people’s lives and to keep pushing especially when they’re told to butt out. Running into Fliss didn’t help too much in this case since she has even less tact, but at least she’s relatively charming and she believes in the idea of true love. I can’t believe it took fifteen episodes for Miles to finally ask Cara out, and the way that she responded and then showed up at his place to walk together to their date suggests that they’re headed for closeness fast, which hopefully won’t be a bad thing since they’re used to being friends. Rakesh and Jaya had no trouble reigniting their passion as soon as she arrived to surprise him, and he made one hell of a gamble by accepting Simon’s job offer under the stipulation that the entire rest of the team be relocated to New York. I like the casting of Adam Goldberg as Simon, though I wouldn’t have expected it since I don’t picture the onetime “Friends” guest star as being twenty-three hours older than Suraj Sharma, who plays Rakesh. Andrew taking Arthur’s advice is a sign of respect, but it’s going to sting even more once Arthur finds out that Andrew has known all along that he’ll be replacing his new mentor.

Pilot Review: Northern Rescue

Northern Rescue (Netflix)
Premiered March 1

A fresh start is one of the most common themes for a television series, though the factors that precipitate it and the way that it looks can vary tremendously. With this new Netflix show, simultaneously premiering on CBC Gem in Canada, it’s the death of the matriarch of the family that prompts one devastated and newly single dad to move his children up north to where their sister lives. I wasn’t sure before watching this whether this was meant to be a series for teens or for adults, and I’m still not entirely sure after having seen it. There’s not much in the way of originality, with some of the children rebelling and others demonstrating commendable maturity, and John just trying his best to stay afloat while knowing that he can’t possibly replace his wife or what she meant to their children. For me, this was an opportunity to see two actors I’m not sure will ever get roles as good as the ones I first knew them in. William Baldwin, who bears a striking resemblance to his brother Alec, was a fantastic politician on “Dirty Sexy Money,” while Kathleen Robertson was exceptional as a cutthroat fixer on the criminally underrated “Boss.” Those two shows, both axed after two seasons, would be far more appealing to me than this relatively familiar and uninventive show, which did manage to throw in an unexpected surprise development at the end that throws this major move that the family just made into serious doubt.

How will it work as a series? Charlie’s house burning down is definitely something that wasn’t part of the plan, though it will probably serve as a helpful impetus for them to build a new life together, with Charlie standing in for her sister in a maternal role for her nieces and nephews. There will be ups and downs along the way, and this is just the start of all that.
How long will it las? It’s hard to find reviews or ratings data for either the United States or Canada, and so this show’s future remains uncertain. I’m tempted to think that it’s not going to appeal broadly enough to a spectrum of viewers and that this one season, all of which is already available in both countries, will be it for the show.

Pilot grade: C+

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Pilot Review: Widow

Widow (Amazon)
Premiered March 1

Just by the title of this show, I think I had a good idea what it would be about, and I wasn’t wrong. “Red Widow” started a few years back and followed a somewhat similar narrative, but other series with more distant titles like “Riviera” have covered the same material. I knew that the husband would die under mysterious circumstances, it would later be revealed that he led a much more secretive life than anyone knew, and, likely, he wasn’t actually dead. Pretty much all of that was confirmed in this opening hour, which was actually rather dull apart from the flashback scenes to Georgia first learning about the plane crash and then connecting further dots to confirm that her husband was indeed dead. Every scene taking place in the jungle and as she wandered around trying to find him based on video footage with someone wearing a baseball cap that looked like the one he had was considerably less inviting and engaging. This is Kate Beckinsale’s first TV role, and while I liked her in “Serendipity,” I don’t think she’s particularly strong. Jacky Ido, recently seen on “The Catch,” is her friend and fellow mourner Emmanuel, and Charles Dance of “Game of Thrones” fame is Martin Benson, whose relationship with Georgia has soured. I’ve seen so many shows in the past that have tried to figure out the mystery of who someone was, why they died, and, in this case, why it is that they’re apparently still alive, and this pilot indicated to me minimal elements of substantial creativity that would make it worth watching.

How will it work as a series? She’s already pushing to the point that someone, if not her husband, is indicating that she should back off and go home before she really gets herself into trouble. I’m sure that won’t be the case, and this show should spend a good chunk of each episode flashing back to fill in more information about just how it is that things got here.
How long will it last? Reviews for this show are better than I would have expected, especially considering how many other series have had similar premises in the past. Amazon has such a wealth of programming that something which isn’t entirely successful might not be renewed, and this also feels like past series that have been rebranded as limited series when they aren’t hits. My current prediction is that this one doesn’t get renewed.

Pilot grade: C

Take Three: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 3 “Puppet Patrol” (B)

This episode was considerably trippier than the two before it – and that’s saying something. This show continues to have an incredible approach to demonstrate powers, best on display here in the antithesis of Jane, one personality in many bodies. The greater weakness that all of the members of the Doom Patrol display is still their vulnerability to manipulation, something that happened throughout this entire episode. I like that Cliff, the least emotive of the group, finally got to express some of his anger when everyone came at him, though he was pretty horrified at the end by what he had done. Jane doesn’t seem to feel the same remorse, and she was more than happy to immediately eviscerate the machine that was messing with Larry for most of the hour. I had commented previously that it was brave for this show to cast Matthew Bomer, also recurring currently on “Will and Grace” in a totally different role, and have his face covered up completely, and it’s actually most powerful to see him pictured as his former self before returning to the stark reality of what is now, having lost both of the people in his life who were most important to him. The comedy is still front-and-center here, namely with the lengthy road trip they had to take to Paraguay and Larry driving when his spirit element tried to kill him, but at least it all worked out in the end when Victor’s dad sent the jet to come pick them up. Steve was an excitable addition, and he seems to have greeted his newfound powers with a considerably more positive attitude than all of our friends have.

What I’m Watching: Better Things (Season Premiere)

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 1 “Chicago” (B)

This show is extremely beloved by critics, and while I do appreciate it, I don’t always find it to be quite as mesmerizing as everyone else does. This opener was an emotional goodbye for Sam as Max started college, considerably dramatized as she had to literally run to get a good room and then punctuated by Sam having to ask for the goodbye hug that she really wanted. The montage of black-and-white photographs help to set the tone for an episode that was mostly focused on Sam coming to terms with her age and her daughter taking the next big step in life. I liked their conversation about wanting the best bed in the worst space, and Max proudly showing Sam the fake ID that she’d been using for years demonstrated the unusual nature of their relationship. Her mostly-gay male roommate didn’t win Sam over, but she doesn’t really have any control over what her daughter does now. Getting searched while wearing absorbent underwear at TSA was a low point, while she had a temporary high when she got carded at the bar before realizing that the bartender was carding everyone. The fire in the cockpit on the plane felt sort of random, and arriving home to find her mother blaming the daughter she just dropped off at college for a car accident was the right introduction to a house full of people she didn’t know and a reunion with another daughter who has no interest in talking to her.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 13 “The Real McCoy” (B)

It’s always fun to see one actor concurrently appearing on more than one show, and that’s the case for the charming Matt Bomer, who is starring as a superpowered former pilot and disfigured accident victim on the very different “Doom Patrol” on DC Universe. The bird’s nest roof story was a strange and unsubtle way to bring McCoy back that also managed to distract Grace for a good portion of the episode, which definitely ranked as the less appealing of the focuses in this episode. McCoy is indeed an entertaining character, so self-involved and concerned with how attractive he was in high school that Will pushing him to open up and be his real self led to him melting in a way that didn’t appeal so much to the man who Jack insisted on consistently reminding would be coming to his wedding as a plus zero. Telling Will that he loved him after just a few days was a big step, and who would have thought that Jack would be the one to use a simple metaphor to convince McCoy that he needed to ease up a little and maybe their relationship might work. Molly Shannon is a talented actress, one who received an Emmy nomination just last year for portraying Val, and I enjoyed her scenes with Karen when they agreed on how to signal that they were lying, something that Grace wasn’t so into when she nearly lost her top would-be supporter’s vote by having Karen do some illicit bribery.

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

I’m Sorry: Season 2, Episode 8 “Sophie’s Choice” (B+)

Title aside, this episode was actually a hit, in no small part thanks to the spotlight given to Allison Tolman, who we haven’t seen as Jennifer since last season and who has struggled to find a follow-up role worthy of her talents after her fantastic debut on “Fargo.” The divorced Jennifer just wanted to be able to hang out with a friend as if everything was normal, displaying more enthusiasm and energy at some points that Andrea. The best scene of this episode came during the cooking class when Jennifer was all too willing to interject in the very public fight between the neighboring couple and confirm, with no actual knowledge, that the wife was indeed having an affair with Bob before bluntly offering to have sex with her husband as revenge. I’m not sure we’ll see any more of her and that plotline, but at least it served as a positive impetus for Andrea to try to get into the role play that she’s hilariously bad at, which of course was quickly interrupted by her mood-killing recorded smoke alarm. Her comment to a disappointed Mike that comedy-wise, things couldn’t have gone better was the true epitome of her eager awkwardness. Running into Jennifer’s husband Scott with Mike while once again shopping for some reason at Los Angeles kosher supermarket Cambridge Farms was definitely a letdown for Andrea, who heaped friendliness on him rather than the biting disdain she so desperately wanted to express and failed so miserably to convey.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 8 “The Pillars of Creation” (B+)

With just a few episodes left, I don’t love the idea of another half-hour without Gretchen and Jimmy, who appeared only in the final scene to underline just how much they think that the stars of this installment are losers, but at least it was an eye-opening experience to spend time with some of this show’s best recurring players. Paul obviously feels at home with his crew of scientists, who by all accounts aren’t cool but do get quiet into the things they love. Yet what he yearns for most is the idea of family, and he has sort of found that in a twisted way with Becca and Vernon. I was amazed that Vernon’s idea of true happiness is having access to a sandwich bar with all the fixings, hardly as ambitious as his eventual goal of opening up that food truck that’s never going to happen. Both he and Becca tried multiple tactics to be able to get to Paul and best use him, and Becca’s reverse psychology about connecting him permanently to Lindsay might have worked best. In the end, however, it was their shared desire to be together, to engage in that rather gratuitous threesome sex scene that indicated their passion and their energy. Vernon forgetting entirely about their existing child and then telling Becca that it was all set when it clearly wasn’t doesn’t bode well for the notion of a new child coming into the world, but no one watches this show to see how its characters do good things, right?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Pilot Review: Gone

Gone (WGN)
Premiered February 27 at 9pm

So this one actually premiered first, way back in November 2017 on Universal in Australia, but it did remind me a lot of another show that just launched recently on Fox, “Proven Innocent,” where someone went through a harrowing experience earlier in life and then ends up going into that field in adulthood. Why that appeals makes some sense even if it’s not of much interest to me, but what’s much more of a question is why an entirely American cast is starring in a show set in Pittsburgh that first aired in Australia and took more than a year to get to American television. This does seem like a big get for WGN given the high profile of star Chris Noth, though it’s very much a run-of-the-mill procedural. There is something to the notion that someone who was abducted at a young age might be able to provide insight into similar cases, but it also presumes a lack of knowledge and ability on the part of Noth’s Frank and other trained operatives like Danny Pino’s Bishop, putting an extraordinary trust in an established hacker and a self-defense instructor a bit too eager to utilize her gun permit. The only real surprise in this first hour was that the parents of the abducted girl had also taken her without permission, but that was about it in terms of inventiveness. Kelly Rutherford’s domineering mother who used her daughter’s story to create a career for herself adds some drama to an otherwise uninvolving premise, with lackluster lead performances from both Noth, more charismatic in the likes of “The Good Wife” and “Sex and the City,” and Leven Rambin as the irritable Kick. This pilot didn’t win me over.

How will it work as a series? She managed to get herself hired to come along to Atlanta and become a full-time member of the team without much trouble, not that Frank hadn’t decided it as soon as he came to recruit her, and so theoretically her expertise will be put to use in a range of cases going forward, contributing knowledge and a unique perspective that only she can over. It’s a procedural about a consultant, without much to distinguish it from the many, many more like it that have aired in the past.
How long will it last? The fact that it’s just getting to American audiences so long after starting in Australia and other countries doesn’t bode well, nor does the fact that it has yet to be renewed after all that time. While positive ratings were reported for the show’s debut in France, it didn’t really register even by WGN’s standards. I wouldn’t expect this to be picked up for more episodes based on American viewer enthusiasm.

Pilot grade: C+

Take Three: Miracle Workers

Miracle Workers: Season 1, Episode 3 “12 Days” (B)

This episode veered into slightly sillier territory, with all of the time that God spent on the toilet after drinking a number of pressed juices, Sanjay being profiled as such a game changer when he wasn’t actually doing much, and a truly exaggerated personality threatening to derail Eliza’s ambitious bet. The idea that God doesn’t know what a microwave is and can’t understand how it works does explain why some things have happened in the world the way that they have, and Steve Buscemi does handle the absurdity of it all well, making it as believable as it could be. Sanjay is definitely irritating, and while he knows what to do in a crisis and will work well with Eliza, you’d think that she’d be a bit more aware that bringing him in is clearly making Craig anxious. I imagine that his involvement won’t last long, though he does seem to be a bit more ready to help Eliza make things happen, and at least he knows that he has to disengage the safety before using the joystick. It took me a minute to recognize John Reynolds, who plays the infinitely less self-assured Drew on “Search Party,” as Mason, whose tackiness and movie script lines managed to temporarily impress Laura to the point that she was ready to go to China with him and have him stay with her when the airport was closed indefinitely. I like that Sanjay knew exactly what to do to expose him, and that meltdown was pretty fantastic. It’s going to take a while, but maybe things with Laura and the sheet-challenged Sam will work out after all.

Pilot Review: The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within (NBC)
Premiered February 25 at 10pm

It must be midseason – there are plenty of theoretically high-profile shows premiering across the broadcast networks. I had seen a preview or two for this one but didn’t know much about it, and it played out very much like other similar shows have in the past. It was obvious that events would occur to force Morris Chestnut’s Agent Keaton to work with Jennifer Carpenter’s imprisoned Erica Shepherd on a regular basis, and therefore the introductory exposition in this episode felt rather unnecessary. We’ve seen this concept many times before, and you’d think, as resourceful as Erica was in engineering a dental visit so that she could escape to go see her daughter, she would have figured out a way to make it known to those sentencing her that she wasn’t actually a traitor and was just trying to find a way to protect her child. I wouldn’t have thought of casting Carpenter, well-known for playing supporting members of law enforcement on “Dexter” and the underrated “Limitless” in the past, and it doesn’t seem like the most fitting part for her. Chestnut, last seen on “Rosewood” and in a recurring role on “Goliath,” is definitely angry enough to be believable, though I think we’ve seen more than enough cops and agents ready to smack around a suspect that it’s just old at this point. In theory, there are many more layers to this terrorist-centric onion, but I don’t have any interest in peeling them all them back since this is territory that I’ve visited frequently in the past.

How will it work as a series? The notion of this figure being so hard to catch yet having such a reach that he can easily blackmail high-ranking operatives at the CIA makes little sense, and so you can expect that narrative logic to dictate much of the plot going forward. Sure, it might still be entertaining and action-packed even if it’s relatively brainless.
How long will it last? Reviews are mixed if better than they could be for this kind of fare, not as strong as some other well-received broadcast spy thrillers but hardly as damning as others. The ratings for the pilot episode were much better, and though I think that the momentum might fade quickly, this feels like a show that could follow in the footsteps of “Blindspot” and serve as another successful hit for NBC.

Pilot grade: C

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pilot Review: Whiskey Cavalier

Whiskey Cavalier (ABC)
Premiered February 24 at 11:35pm

I saw more than a few advertisements for this show while I was watching the Oscars, and choosing to premiere over a week before it settles into its normal Wednesday timeslot was probably smart since those looking to experiencing something a bit more exciting than awards being handed out might have stuck around to watch it last Sunday night. I’d probably describe this show as a combination of action and soap opera, a good fit for ABC which has been mostly characterized by Shonda Rhimes dramas over the course of the past decade. I know that star Scott Foley had prominent roles on two Rhimes shows, “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” while Ana Ortiz, who plays Susan, was immediately recognizable to me from her role as the title character’s sister on the network’s “Ugly Betty.” Tyler James Williams, onetime star of “Everybody Hates Chris,” made his debut on UPN, while the other top-billed star, Lauren Cohan, comes from cable after many years on a show I didn’t realize she was no longer on, “The Walking Dead.” I wouldn’t have imagined that this part would be her follow-up to her time spent as the resourceful and resilient Maggie on the zombie drama, and it’s a bit disappointing to see that this is what she wanted to do. There is a rhythm to this show and its globetrotting nature that could be fun, but it feels so much like a relic of shows that used to air back in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s equally stocked with action and predictability, a recipe that might work for audiences but doesn’t win me over.

How will it work as a series? The previews had made it seem like they were a team all along, but now Foley’s Will and Cohan’s Frankie are going to have to co-lead a team while each thinking that they’re the one who is really in charge. It should be fun but also far from serious, something that could work okay but isn’t my cup of tea.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t all that bad since I think most people appreciate it for exactly what it is, and the ratings were pretty good both after its initial post-Oscars airing and when it played again this past Wednesday, the timeslot it will normally occupy. This seems like the kind of show people want to watch right now and so I’d expect that a renewal might be around the corner, even the enthusiasm doesn’t last too long and this show is done after just two seasons.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: SMILF

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 5 “Single Mom in Love Forever” (B)

So this episode didn’t provide the forward narrative direction I had asked for, but it was an engaging and very watchable half-hour that filled in some important gaps from the past related to Larry’s birth and the separation of Bridgette and Rafi as a couple. The opening with everyone, both those in Bridgette’s life and not, telling her why she couldn’t be a single parent helped to explain why they stayed together as long as they did, even though she was obviously upset at him for kissing another woman. Ally Sheedy’s Fiona definitely sought to mitigate that by trying to relax Bridgette and have her let it go, a notion that Bridgette obviously didn’t love because it seemed to indicate her taking some responsibility for it. Rafi calling her an ice queen and a frozen tundra didn’t help matters much, nor did his suggestion of Adolfo as a name for the baby, and it took until right after Larry’s birth for her to decide that she really couldn’t marry him. The woman who would later become known as Tutu was very insistent on being there for the birth even if Bridgette adamantly didn’t want her to be, and after she peed, pooped, and threw up, it turned out to be great that she was there because that was all Bridgette wanted in that moment. I’m not sure why Stormy Daniels needed to have a cameo as Dana, but it didn’t detract from the episode, and I wouldn’t have known who she was if I hadn’t seen her named listed as a guest star. This episode wasn’t definitive enough to inspire me to commit to finishing out the season, but it did earn my attention for at least another episode.

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 5 “243” (B)

I didn’t know much about Michael Milken other than that he was the namesake of the high school my wife went to in Los Angeles, and I wasn’t entirely sure if he was real or not given how much of this show seems to be exaggerated and fictionalized (I’m never really sure what is and what isn’t). The invitation to the secret party hosted by three different people purporting to be Not Michael Milken, one of whom was played by Fred Melamed, turned out to be nothing more than an introduction to people who Mo already knew and had angered enough with his constant insinuation of their incest that they were more than eager to find a way to screw him over when presented with the opportunity. Dawn is a master negotiator in many ways, but using their readiness to get something that put him at a disadvantage led her to casually share the very damaging information that enabled them to buy his debt. I do like Ken Marino and I’m glad to see that the Lehman brothers are going to take on a more prominent role on this show going forward. It was interesting to see that the SEC, at least in this version of history, has its own version of hazing not too dissimilar to how Keith was treating Blair, and the secret of Keith’s sexuality that he spilled thinking no one around them spoke English may well lead to the downfall of the whole organization, and Keith at the very least. I also appreciated the spot-on casting of Bruce Dern as Mo’s mentor.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 12 “You’ll Know the Bottom When You Hit It” (B+)

I’m not sure I’ve taken the time to appropriately praise the talent of Emmy Rossum, who will only be on this show for two more episodes, in a while. The way in which she is able to go from zero to sixty and express such immediate and passionate rage when someone sets her off is incredible, and that was on full display in this episode. I certainly didn’t expect that her new business partner Frank, of all people, would be the one to tell her something that managed to actually confirm that she had indeed hit rock bottom. Calling her out as a bad drunk who gets mean rather than someone who chases the happiness they feel when they get drunk was an intriguing assessment, and, fortunately, after trying to lead a charge against gentrification in Chicago and snapping at other Alibi patrons, she finally took Lip’s advice and went to a meeting, which will hopefully be the first step in her getting better before she likely decides to move somewhere as a way of writing off her character. Kelly breaking up with Carl because she thought he was being too clingy was predictable, but it doesn’t actually mean that she’s gone from the Gallagher family’s lives since she might still end up in a temporary or even permanent relationship with Debs instead. It’s sweet to see that Lip and Tami seem ready to do this thing together, overcoming certain challenges to decide what they both want. The blackout was a great way to bring everyone together and show the spirit of the south side, complete with a successful surf and turf special while Kev was most concerned about the state of his balls.

Pilot Review: Workin’ Moms

Workin’ Moms (Netflix)
Premiered February 22

I feel like there have been a lot of shows about new moms on television throughout the years, most of which have quickly disappeared because they’ve been too gimmicky. This one made an immediate impression with its three leads comparing the state of their breasts while topless during a maternity class attended by far more people than the camera initially indicated. This show, while new to Netflix, actually premiered a full two years ago on Canadian network CBC, where it airs its season three finale this coming week. I actually found this initial episode to be very entertaining, though I’m not sure I latched on to any of the characters enough to either remember their names or to need to get to know them better. I did find Catherine Reitman’s Kate reminiscent of Zoe Lister-Jones’ Jen from “Life in Pieces” and was curious if the two actresses were related, and Dani Kind’s Anne was quite formidable when she found out she was pregnant again and was ready to scorch earth if anyone tried to tell her what to do. The notion of focusing on multiple female protagonists is definitely a worthwhile one, and other shows have done well even if they’re not explicitly dealing with parenthood, with “Desperate Housewives” as a perfect example. This isn’t nearly as soapy or sensational, and instead feels perfectly right for this time and place in history, where a woman can indeed go pump in the bathroom before showing up to a meeting late and knowing exactly what to say to win over a client in a way her male coworker never got. It may happen much more on TV, but it certainly feels current.

How will it work as a series? These initial antics were just the beginning, and now we can start to get to know these characters and their families for who they are and not just the circumstances that have come to presently define them. They seem like worthwhile protagonists, and the half-hour format for this type of material should prove rewarding.
How long will it last? Well, it took Netflix two years to bring it to American audiences while it has been enjoying a successful run over in Canada since 2017. While the reviews in Canada haven’t always been fantastic (and American ones are hard to find), this show evidently was a hit enough to run for three seasons and maybe more, and there’s little reason to suspect that those who can watch at home at any time won’t be interested in experiencing all of this show.

Pilot grade: B+

Round Two: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 2 “Donkey Patrol” (B+)

I’m pleased to report that, in its second outing, this show did not disappoint. I’m especially impressed with the immediate intensity of it, having Jane jump to what might have been her death and then having Nobody narrate the events happening to those sucked into the donkey as he drilled into their deepest fears and shortcomings. The powers that each of these people have are truly incredible, and while Rita’s blobness was expressed in a far more compact and efficient way than her destructive roll out the window in episode one, we got to see how Larry’s spirit (or whatever it should be called) dictated what he could and couldn’t do and how Jane’s personalities can be particularly dark and destructive, reminiscent of Dark Phoenix but with a more pointed anger, no more present than in the rejection of the sandwich Cliff used to make for his daughter. I love the way that this show is playfully structured, with Nobody announcing the pretentious credits and then providing labeled headsets for him to able to narrate as they experienced a return to prominence before remembering just what had happened and where they were now. Cyborg is a decent addition even if he’s the least compelling of the characters so far, aside from Nobody jumping straight to tormenting him by showing him false memories, and he was smart to deduce that Nobody is actually scared of them rather than being omniscient, which is why he tried to take them down and rip them apart right away. Suffice to say – I’m in.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Pilot Review: Flack

Flack (Pop)
Premiered February 21 at 10pm

As much as possible, I don’t read or watch anything about a show before it premieres, and therefore I usually have no idea what I’m getting myself into. Pop isn’t a network that I often find airs memorable programming, though what we have here is a series that’s coproduced with British network W but apparently airing first-run original episodes to American audiences. Anna Paquin, who famously won an Oscar at the age of eleven, should be most well-known to TV watchers for her role as mind-reader Sookie Stackhouse on the vampire drama “True Blood.” This role couldn’t be any more different, as any shred of kindness displayed by the well-meaning southerner Sookie is absent in the cold, calculating Robyn, who just wants to get her job done as quickly and efficiently as possible, freely admitting that lying is a necessary part of the business. Her one soft spot is for the intern that her colleague Eve is set on tormenting, though even the secret compensation she offered her was done under threat of punitive measures should its charitable nature be revealed. This show didn’t waste any time in establishing what its characters do and how they do it, but my question is whether we really need another show about fixers. “Ray Donovan” and “Scandal” have handled this in a more overarching way, while “Dirt” feels like the closest comparison to this show in terms of tone and general cruelty. Paquin is decent but the ending of this episode felt far too much like “Mad Men” or “Nurse Jackie,” yet another instance of a character who puts on one face at work only to return to a shockingly domestic life at home, two identities that can’t possibly be reconciled. I’m not too interested.

How will it work as a series? Robyn is obviously open enough with her sister that she tells her what goes on in her life that clearly wouldn’t be acceptable to the relationship she has at home, and it’s likely that her duplicity is going to catch up with her, especially after she slept with a high-profile client. The most intriguing journey to watch may be that of Melody, whose work as a hapless intern is sure to transform her into a far less decent person.
How long will it last? It’s hard to know with Pop since the network isn’t typically a notable ratings player and they don’t put out too much information about their programs. I do imagine that this being an international coproduction will help, and I assume that whatever star power Paquin has will propel this to a somewhat productive life, likely lasting a few seasons.

Pilot grade: C+

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 12 “The Pursuit of Happiness” (B)

After a few episodes that have felt very unifying and have managed to capture some of the old energy that this show used to have, I didn’t feel that this one really had that. The one exception was Alec Baldwin’s hilarious return as Malcolm, emerging from the box much to Grace’s shock and then communicating with his star-crossed lover through Grace since they weren’t able to be on the same level with each other. Baldwin wouldn’t work as a regular star on this show, but having him show up every once in a while is always fun. Will has been thinking a lot recently about compromising himself at work, whether it’s making his class into a television episode or now beginning a discouraged romance with another teacher. Finding out that he had both a child and a partner was enough to snap him back to reality, especially after Paul didn’t seem to feel any remorse about not having shared that part of his life, only nervousness about having nearly been caught. I know many are enamored with Andrea Martin, star of the recently-cancelled two-season NBC comedy “Great News,” and it was somewhat entertaining to watch her toy with Jack so that she could steal his job and show him that, after years of perfecting his craft and his act, he’s still not a terribly good actor. Jack’s acting is usually a positive center of attention on this show, though I’m not sure anything will compare to his one-man Gaybraham Lincoln show that we saw previewed earlier this year.