Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Pilot Review: The Mandalorian

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Round Two: His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Idea of North” (B+)

I’m enjoying watching this show as I try to remember bits and pieces of what I know from the books, like that Lord Asriel is Lyra’s father, and blissfully ignoring other revelations until they’re made so that I’m in for some surprises. I did realize ahead of Lyra that the General Oblation Board could be abbreviated to Gobblers, something that only scratches the surface of what Mrs. Coulter is doing. There is a childlike sense of adventure here that’s captured most in Lyra’s behavior, and then an undercurrent of disturbing violence shown through Mrs. Coulter burning the abducted children’s letters and by the physical crushing of a daemon by an unfeeling Lord Boreal. We’re getting a few more hints of what’s going on, like Lord Boreal being able to cross into another world that looks a whole lot more like ours than the one Lyra lives in, and I presume that Lord Asriel’s absence in this hour won’t become a pattern, though he’s sure going to have some explaining to do when he next comes face-to-face with Lyra. I’m very happy to see Ruth Wilson in the role of Mrs. Coulter since it’s so different than the role she played on “The Affair,” and it’s continuously difficult to deduce where her allegiances actually lie. In the process on waiting for clarity on what exactly is at play in these two worlds, the visual effects, costumes, and production design are more than satisfactory. This feels like a very worthwhile and well-staged production, far better than the 2007 film version of “The Golden Compass.”

Take Three: Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher: Season 1, Episode 3 “Care Package” (B+)

I really liked this episode because it delved into the minor characters we’ve only seen and met briefly, embellishing their stories so that they feel human and three-dimensional. I suspected that Josh Pais would have a larger role as Barry, who got to treat everyone to an enjoyable and transformative evening at his bar and react in a regrettable way to the revelation that Margo was trans. A romance between Julian and Eve was inevitable, and they both started to realize that something was happening at the same time when Julian was looking up at Eve’s feet. Telling her that she was pretty before he threw up a whole lot put the brakes on anything concrete for the moment, and I was also surprised that the connection between Julian and Brendan came up without much fanfare aside from Eve’s correct conclusion that they were not friends. I like that Brendan did eventually call his mother back a while after he heard her angry voicemail, and she was perfectly satisfied at the end of the episode just eating and enjoying herself on the floor, a more successful run than her earlier attempts at pleasure that didn’t result in much. Brendan did a terrible job of reading the room at the support group, and it’s puzzling that Chloe is still into him. I’m hopeful that Margo and Curtis becoming closer won’t end poorly, and the class is sure going to be different the next time they meet back in their dreary setting.

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 6, Episode 3 “Hooli Smokes!” (B+)

I’ve missed the crazy stakes present on this show and just how quickly fortunes can be gained and lost in the span of a single episode. Buying Hooli is a big get, but there could easily be a few more major moves in the remaining four episodes given this show’s usual pace. Maximo teaming up with Colin and Laurie was bad news, and regardless of whose math was right, things were not looking up for everyone. Leave it to Gavin to have a flash filled with kombucha instead of alcohol, and for him to turn down Richard’s brilliant mutually beneficial deal just because he doesn’t believe in playing nice. Having people literally push him and change him during the triathlon was typical, and I’d hope that his win would be discredited if it actually mattered now that he’s been ousted from his own company. Richard and the team did move very quickly, and their takeover went smoothly, which now positions them to be in great shape to potentially survive for a bit. Jared hid his emotions during Richard’s apology behind his sunglasses, and I imagine he’ll come back to work with Pied Piper or Hooli if Richard invites him. I enjoyed the brief appearance by Ben Feldman as Richard’s lawyer Ron, who offered to be honest with Richard for once, a statement that rightfully worried his top client. We don’t see enough of Jian-Yang or Big Head anymore – I hope we’ll have the chance to spend more time with them before this show signs off for good.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 4, Episode 6 “406 Not Acceptable” (B)

I wasn’t too sure at the very start about spending more time with Christmas music, but hearing Fernando spin his story to it to a predictably tied up Krista was undeniably intimidating and mood-setting. He made his point to be sure, and I’m curious whether her episode-ending call to Elliot was in fact to warn him or whether she was still his prisoner, not that it mattered much because he ended up in the trunk of car headed nowhere good. The more intense transformation in this hour was that of Elliot, who even Mr. Robot couldn’t support in the way that he shifted into ruining Olivia’s life. I hoped that maybe he hadn’t actually put drugs into her drink, though that would have been even more horrible if she had succeeded in her suicide attempt. Making sure that he knew that he was just as evil as the people she worked for was appropriately harsh, and I’m not even sure he’ll be able to do anything with the information he got now that he’s headed for some miserable fate thanks to Fernando. Dom’s future isn’t looking much brighter, thanks to Janice walking in at the worst possible time when Dom was trying to have Darlene kill her as the only possible way out of this situation. The choice she made won’t end up benefiting her, since Janice will not likely take it out on her family, and Darlene is likely to be tortured in some awful way as Janice tries to extract Elliot’s location. The only way this all ends well if the Dark Army and Fernando take each other out and no one gets hurt in the process.

Pilot Review: Back to Life

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Watchmen

Watchmen: Season 1, Episode 4 “If You Don't Like My Story, Write Your Own” (B+)

This show continues to offer rewarding showcases for fantastic actors, and it’s wonderful to be able to meet Lady Trieu, played by Hong Chau, in this hour. I loved Chau in her Golden Globe-nominated role in “Downsizing,” and wasn’t so impressed with her follow-up parts in “Homecoming,” “Driveways,” and “American Woman.” Playing the mysterious trillionaire here seems like a perfect fit, and she made an incredible impression showing up to see the Clarks, putting a timer on the table, and offering them a ready-made child in exchange for their home. She’s aware that her daughter felt tired from a dream that was evidently more real than she knows, and she’s working directly with Will potentially in cooperation with some faction of the Rorschach group. I’m glad that we got confirmation of Laurie’s past and her relation to the Watchmen we know, referred to as the Minutemen here, and I’m all about the intriguing technology used like the Ances-Tree in which Angela was able to plant her acorn to learn about her great-grandparents. I love the music used for Sister Night, and it pounded into full effect when she chased that unknown figure until he or she slid into the grate in a very cool and astounding fashion. Whatever Adrian, who was referenced by Laurie when they went to go see Trieu, is up to is getting far more sinister, as even his new creations seem shocked by the devastation he has wreaked upon all the poor clones he butchered in a fit of rage.

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Season Premiere)

Shameless: Season 10, Episode 1 “We Few, We Lucky Few, We Band of Gallaghers!” (B+)

It’s rare to find a show that’s just as good going into season ten as it was when it first premiered. Because this show finally split its most recent season into two parts, it’s only been a little over half a year since we last saw the Gallaghers. Fiona’s exit was known since the beginning of season nine, and therefore her absence here was felt only in its starkness when everyone showed up to see Lip at the end of the episode. The conclusion of this episode was unusually serious, with Tami needing emergency surgery and set up to potentially not survive, which would leave Lip in a very different situation than his younger sister, who is still playing mom to her young child while taking Fiona’s place as family money manager and working on a side operation of her own. The other creative entrepreneur of the hour was Kev, who found a niche that could make him a good deal of side cash that he’ll hopefully decide to spend on something smarter than sneakers that don’t make him any better at basketball. Liam’s new hairdo and cultural superiority aren’t doing him any favors, but at least he’s bonding with Veronica in the process. I’m thrilled to see the fantastic Luis Guzman back as Mikey, working hand-in-hand with Frank to steal a couch and share the spoils of his pharmaceutical acquisitions. Carl made quite a negative impression on his instructors at military school, and it looks like he’s in for one hell of a ride while Kelly is still around trying to achieve a world record in having sex.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Pilot Review: The Dublin Murders

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 6 “Confidence Women” (B)

This episode provided a welcome interruption from the seemingly endless battles and storylines that we’ve seen so far this season. I appreciated how the story of Lena’s friendship with Andrea was interwoven with her becoming close with Kara, something that sort of just happened on the show without much explanation. We also saw Jon Cryer as Lex again briefly, which makes me think that maybe he’ll return on a more regular basis to the show soon since a short guest spot like a lot of work if he wasn’t going to do more. I recognized two other familiar TV faces who played major roles in Andrea and Lena’s lives, though it’s possible this is the only time we’ll see them. Steven Bauer, who played Avi on “Ray Donovan” was Andrea’s father, for whom she sold her soul and agreed to be an assassin on demand for Leviathan. Rahul Kohli, who played Ravi on “iZombie,” was Jack, who was close with Lena during a time where she really needed someone and who I didn’t remember had previously appeared in a season two episode, “Ace Reporter.” I knew that Lena was going to pull Andrea away during a difficult time, but it turns out it was Andrea who betrayed her by lying about the medallion. We found out that Russell wasn’t bad just in time for him to get killed as punishment for Andrea trying to shirk her duties, along with the revelation that her powers don’t come from the medallion. Lena incepting Russell to kill himself if Andrea didn’t do what she wanted proved just how little she values other people, even those she wants called friends, and probing Eve’s memories only reinforces that.

Friday, November 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Batwoman

Batwoman: Season 1, Episode 6 “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” (C+)

Our main characters are coming together in very intimate ways that makes it feel like, eventually, everyone’s going to know that Kate is Batwoman, which can’t be what she wants. Mouse used his creepy skill to get Alice to reveal Batwoman’s identity, which is much more dangerous than Sophie knowing since he actively hates the woman he thinks is going to try to steal his sister. The “Alice in Wonderland” references are getting tiresome, and as if Kate’s outlook on life wasn’t disturbing enough, now we have Mouse, who is going to be able to effortlessly pretend to be someone else and pose a real threat to the security of Gotham. After Sophie confirmed her theory and called Batwoman Kate right before she passed out, it was nice to see Mary give Sophie a piece of her mind without realizing quite how stinging her comments were by asking her if betrayal was her thing. Sophie isn’t going to tell Jacob, though Kate should realize that the longer she hides her secret identity from her father, the worse it’s going to be when the truth eventually comes out at exactly the wrong time. I suppose this episode deserves moderate credit for creating a villain who was very specific in how he took out his victims, killing htem in the same way that an executioner would in Gotham’s prisons. It’s hardly on the level of “Se7en,” though I wouldn’t expect anything like that from this show. Luke’s connection to his father is interesting, and I wonder if we’ll ever return to that storyline in the future.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 2, Episode 7 “Instant Karma” (C)

Is it bad that I enjoyed watching Rakesh and Miles key in new eleven-digit combinations hoping they would be the matching code only to be disappointed each time that they weren’t? Things continue to be a bit too easy for these interfering know-it-alls, and yet again, everything managed to work out in the end. Finding a lottery ticket that was a million-dollar winner would happen to these do-gooders, and as a result they had to keep hounding Sameer, who didn’t want to incur any more karma, before being pressured into cashing it in by Jai, only to have Sameer insist that he had to sign it over to Judy, the rightful buyer. Of course it would be her hospital wristband number that would ultimately crack the code, a rather undeniable sign that the God account must have some supernatural power or otherwise just be a super-smart computer capable of generating the wristband number to match it. Audrey is quite a character, leaving her car on a New York City curb because she assumed it had to be a valet post. It felt like there were more predictable moments than ever before here, like Judy being revealed as the ticket buyer, Ali wanting to go into church work, and Cara showing up to finally tell Miles that she loved him. I was caught off-guard by Ali actually being given lines that weren’t merely in reference to helping other people, and perhaps her return to her roots will be a great opportunity to reconnect with her father as he takes his next big step.

Round Two: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 1, Episode 2 “I have never seen ‘Volcanoes’” (B+)

I wasn’t entirely sure if I needed to be watching more of this show, but I’m glad I stuck around it since I think it does have something to offer. The very stylized opening credits were only the first indication of this show’s funkiness, which I think works entirely to its advantage. It expresses a self-awareness about the era it portrays, like with Lavina asking herself if she’s been knitting all day, that could eventually get annoying, but for now, it’s fair enough since it allows an entire generation of suppressed women to be spoken for through this creative exploration of what Emily Dickinson’s experience might have been. Emily harped on having gotten a maid as a way for her to get out of housework, something that didn’t go over well with anyone, and it was Mrs. Dickinson who was most upset about it since it felt to her like she had been replaced in the crucial function she wanted to fill. Emily being told that she wasn’t allowed to go to the Professor Hitchcock lecture at the college was essentially just encouragement for her to do exactly that, and after their thin disguises managed to fool almost everyone, Emily had to go ahead and expose herself when she shouted out and excitedly removed her hat to reveal her long hair. Her father’s response is only going to make her act out more. Sue at least seemed to be more on the same page by episode’s end than at the beginning, as indicated by the passionate final scene. I don’t feel an urgent need to be watching this show but I’m interested in seeing more.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Round Two: The Morning Show

The Morning Show: Season 1, Episode 2 “A Seat at the Table” (B+)

Well, this was quite the follow-up to an already very memorable pilot episode. I’m glad to see that the big scenes that both Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston got in the first hour weren’t one-time shots, and they both got to express themselves a few times in this installment. After being blindsided by the news about Mitch, Alex is reclaiming whatever power she can, demanding cohost approval and refusing to go on until Chip promised to get it for her. After she freaked out in the car on the way to the event and then got knocked down by Cory when he told her she’d never get cohost approval and that they had bought the award for her, she executed the perfect revenge by calling Cory’s bluff and publicly announcing Bradley as her new cohost. That’s going to be very interesting considering how much she hates her, and I suspect they’ll only end up becoming allies because Alex realizes she can use her to get what she wants and make Cory pay for being so cruel. Steve Carell got a few great scenes too as a man with far too much to say and few friends left. His “first they came for the rapists” bit was cringe-worthy, and it’s a relief that he decided to go home rather than crash the function. I like that we’re seeing a bit of the supporting players, like Hannah trying to get the woman who wanted to talk about Mitch to do it on their show and Yanko and Claire, whose secret relationship with “climate change” as a safe word might look very different under a new microscope. I’m definitely on board for episode three and beyond.

What I’m Watching: The Politician

The Politician: Season 1, Episode 7 “The Assassination of Payton Hobart: Part 2” (B)

Everything pretty much blew up in this episode, in a way that was entertaining but also just as over-the-top as this show has tended to be in the past. After being completely obsessed with his wife earlier in the season, Keaton was ready to dismiss her – and Payton as a result – because of her near-departure to run off to Wyoming with her lover. Payton got to see River while he was in his coma, and fortunately Infinity rushed over there to save his life by explaining precisely what it was that Ricardo had shot him with, but Payton doesn’t have much left in his life following the reveal of his secrets. Principal Vaughn was all too satisfied to be able to angrily demand his resignation, and his mother’s departure leaves him even more alone, supported only by McAfee, who he’ll still probably choose not to trust even after she called the police to turn Skye in for trying to kill Payton. Payton’s question of whether he can bounce back from this felt all too unrealistic, but it’s certainly possible he’ll set his aims on something higher with a real comeback narrative going for him one day. Dusty accidentally shooting Ricardo while she was trying to shoot herself was a misstep that she probably can’t take back, and while Ricardo hardly comes off as the most reliable witness, there’s just too much going against Dusty now for her to be able to crawl back from it, left with no one to support her. Astrid’s father being proud of her for calling the FBI on him shows how much he valued their relationship, and she seems to be headed on a one-way trip out of this show’s narrative. I have no idea what to expect from the finale, but I’m sure it will be enthralling to say the least.

What I’m Watching: Living with Yourself

Living with Yourself: Season 1, Episode 4 “Soul Mate” (B)

This episode was an improvement, though I’m still not sure that I’m seeing this show’s long-term viability. In catching us up to the shocking ending of the last episode, we saw how the two Miles really couldn’t coexist very well, and how original Miles got fed up with his clone overstepping. Introducing his twin brother, also somehow named Miles, proved awkward, but it was nothing compared to Kate’s reaction back at the house. Watching this episode was totally worth it for the formidable showcase of Aisling Bea’s talents, underused up until this point. The way she dealt with two different Paul Rudds was absolutely fantastic, and I think there’s a great case for her as a deserving awards contender after her work here. She really didn’t like the idea of the clone being in her house, and obviously she was on good enough terms with the original version of her husband who decided to go in for a dangerous medical procedure on his own to be sleeping with him when the clone came over to get some hair so that he could have a clone wife of his own. That’s a worrisome twist since she’d surely go ballistic if it ended up happening. Though we only saw them for a brief scene, I enjoyed the welcoming, wandering wisdom from Miles’ sister Maia, played by Alia Shawkat from “Search Party,” and Jon Glaser from “Parks and Recreation” and “Girls” as Henry. We’ll see how far it gets clone Miles, who has set his sights firmly on the one woman he can’t have, unless there are two of her.

What I’m Watching: Modern Love

Modern Love: Season 1, Episode 4 “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive” (B+)

This was probably my favorite episode yet, if only for the fantastic back-and-forth between Tina Fey, a multiple Emmy winner for “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live,” and John Slattery, a nominee for his role on “Mad Men.” Fey in particular is a great actress who knows how to do subtle comedy, not always going big like when she ate an entire sandwich on camera at an airport security line but capable of making the most of small moments that could otherwise not be worth much. Slipping on her way out of therapy every time and reacting to her husband’s inability to even notice the fact that she fell was a prime example, and her lack of interest in playing a modified version of tennis was similar. Slattery demonstrated the perfect blissful ignorance of his wife’s unhappiness, and it was sweet to see him spring back into action when she finally confronted him at dinner about her feelings and her desire to get back to a good place. I also recognized the therapist, who was played by Sarita Choudhury, probably best known for “Homeland,” and who contributed exactly what she needed to in her scenes. This wasn’t a particularly enticing story of romance, but I don’t think anyone thinks of this show as representing what always works and is sunny, looking instead at the off-kilter and questionable instances in which things just haven’t worked out but there might still be some hope for salvaging a relationship down the road with the right effort.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 3 “With Enemies Like These” (B-)

This episode was, as has recently been the case, very entertaining but decidedly unserious. Mrs. Timmer banning upstairs food deliveries so that Grace’s endless stream of takeout couldn’t continue felt extreme and vindictive, and somehow it turned out that they’re actually related, with Mrs. Timmer’s criticism of Grace now feeling like what she might hear from her mom. All of the jokes about the physical appearance of any of these four people are always exaggerated since they all look spectacular for their ages, and Will did make a good point about how they should try to support each other rather than constantly criticizing. Chris Parnell, who I’ll eternally remember as Dr. Spaceman on “30 Rock,” was a perfect choice to play the doctor who wanted to shout Will’s hair loss numbers all across the office and who eagerly showed him pictures of his past clients, including one with Jack’s eyes covered but a shirt that said his name on it. Tricking Jack into shaving his head was a fun prank, and I thought for a second that Will had actually done it before he peeled off the prosthetic he had put on (and which likely covered Sean Hayes’ hair as well). I wasn’t sure if we had seen Patton Oswalt before as Stanley’s much smaller brother, and I’m consistently impressed with the roles the actor takes since he’s such a fantastic fit for each of them. He completely embraced this show’s love of double entendres and went shot for shot with Karen as he saddled her with a baseball team who she’ll apparently now be keeping naked all the time while she mixes up sports metaphors.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 4, Episode 7 “Help Is Other People” (B+)

One of the things that I like about this show and which also often frustrates me is how the end credits start to pop up on the bottom of the screen before something big happens in the final seconds of the episode. In this case, it felt much longer when Brent realized that he was actually headed to the real bad place and then got up to tell Chidi that he thought of him as a true friend…or something to that effect, since the experiment ended and they both froze. It seemed midway through the episode that Simone had pieced it all together, but choosing not to trust the others in their group wasn’t a good idea, and it took until almost the last minute for Chidi to be the one to figure it out. Michael’s eagerness to do human magic didn’t prove too helpful, even if it did allow them an excuse to nearly have Brent swallowed up in a giant hole. As has been the case recently, it was Jason to the rescue with the logic that it’s never too late to blow something up, providing a few solid ideas that made Tahani genuinely concerned that he might be a demon in a Jason suit. We’ll have to see how the judge rules going forward and what happens after that, and I’m also worried that, even if Brent somehow manages to be read as redeemed, John didn’t exactly make much progress, and, for that matter, Simone didn’t behave terribly kindly to those around her during the experiment. I suspect it will all work out, though we still have a few episodes to go before the final fates of all these characters are sealed.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 7 “The Dinner and the Date” (B+)

This was a remarkably uncomfortable episode, possibly the most awkward one that this show has yet produced, but I also found it to be very effective. Tuning out the present-day problems faced by Kevin and Kate was a smart choice, continuing the theme of similar events in different time periods to underscore what it means to be these people. Rebecca couldn’t understand why Jack was so eager to have Mr. Lawrence over when Kevin had repeatedly asked to invite the nurse whose breasts he liked, and watching Jack fight to be the most relevant parent was not a good look. Kevin’s comments weren’t helpful either, but fortunately Jack decided to follow him outside to have a real conversation about what role Mr. Lawrence could continue to play in his journey towards self-discovery and how Jack could best support that. Having Randall in a very different position as the less open-minded parent to his wife’s open-toed attitude made for a considerably testier interaction, one that started with Kelly shushing her hosts because the baby was asleep and resulted in full-blown confrontation between the mothers. The performances by Omar Epps and Marsha Stephanie Blake as Darnell and Kelly are really terrific, and I’d be very open to seeing them again on this show. Also, how can Susan Kelechi Watson not get an Emmy nomination for playing Beth after this episode? Seeing the sweet nature of Malik and Deja’s relationship demonstrates the connection between the two of them, each trying to overcome their own circumstances, and it’s great that Randall and Beth decided to officially approve of the romance rather than try to push them away from each other.

Monday, November 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 5 “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” (B-)

I guess it’s a good thing that Barry and Iris found some time to jet off to a tropical vacation before Barry’s impending death, and they certainly seemed relaxed both heading into it and coming back from it. I love that Cisco created an artificial intelligence version of Barry that he called B.A.R.I. to calculate and predict what Barry would do if he were there, to the point of knowing his actual favorite movie rather than the one he first said when asked the question. Naturally, Barry being away would bring a huge crisis for Cisco in the form of Gypsy’s death. I didn’t expect to see a guest appearance from actress Jessica Camacho since she’s busy with both “All Rise” and “Another Life,” and this was much more about Cisco needing to prove his own innocence after a bad-news alter ego of his had actually tapped into his white noise machine and framed him. It was ultimately a positive bonding experience for him and Kamilla, a very cool-under-pressure ally who deserves to be made a full-time member of Team Flash. Ralph and Killer Frost proved to once again be a strong duo, showing up just in the nick of time to save Joe and Nash from death. Nash wasn’t eager to share what he was working on, but it’s good to see him finally be open and upfront about the fact that, thanks to his multiversal frequency knowledge, he’s on to a solution to save Barry, good news we could all use!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Pilot Review: His Dark Materials

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Round Two: Mrs. Fletcher

Mrs. Fletcher: Season 1, Episode 2 “Free Sample” (B+)

I liked the second episode of this show, which served as a strong follow-up to the first. There isn’t much that’s glamorous about Eve’s life, and she’s finding excitement in unexpected ways by watching a whole lot of porn at home. Her supermarket encounter with the woman giving free samples was quite racy, and it seems thus far that she’s keeping all of her fantasies to herself rather than trying to act on them in the real world. She eventually agreed to go on a date with Emily’s friend Peter, but there was something too sterile and unenticing about the place where she met him that inspired her to make up an excuse about leaving something on at home and ditch the date. Roy’s constant masturbation got him kicked out, further angering his son George, and Eve seemed perfectly happy to see him when he surprised her during her skinny-dipping session. I recognized Josh Pais from “Touchy Feely” and “Ray Donovan” as Barry in her group, and I wonder whether he’ll have a larger role going forward. Brendan is proving to be even more awful than he seemed in the first episode, declaring that he’s only at college so that he can get a six-figure job. It’s funny that actor Neil Casey is playing Devin, his advisor, since he is also appearing on “Silicon Valley,” which airs right before this show. The representative from the vegan club had Brendan’s number by refusing to even engage with him when he looked her up and down, but autism club representative Chloe, played by Jasmine Cephas Jones from “Blindspotting,” seemed ready to give him more of a chance while also pegging him perfectly. His participation in the consent simulation was far from serious, and what he took away from that hardly underscores his internalization of the material.

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 4, Episode 5 “405 Method Not Allowed” (B)

It’s weird to keep watching heavily-themed Christmas episodes so much before winter officially kicks into gear (though I’m currently in Los Angeles, where winter isn’t really a thing). Aside from that, this episode felt very insular as Elliot and Darlene got to work together in close quarters with a lot of pressure on around them. It was eerie not to see Mr. Robot at all, a forceful reminder that Elliot is just one person, and just because we’re often shown the other side of his personality, he doesn’t actually have someone there to help him at all times. After they successfully eluded security several times, Elliot got spotted very directly by one of their agents, and his decision to burst through the door and run from the police seemed like it was going to result with him back in prison, sacrificing himself so that Darlene could get away. The pace of the episode was decidedly intense from that point on, and somehow they managed to reunite and escape together. They might have eluded the police, but Janice was onto them with an amazingly clear picture, and let’s hope that Dom can covertly alert her old pal Darlene that she and her brother are in a lot of danger. Seeing Krista multiple times throughout the episode was foreboding since we knew that Elliot’s presence in her life would eventually put her in harm’s way, and Fernando showing up to help her with her groceries is the confirmation that she’s officially involved in a way that she really doesn’t want to be.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley: Season 6, Episode 2 “Blood Money” (B+)

It’s hard to believe that it took Jared this long to quit given how much he’s been marginalized in the company that he helped to create. Richard wasn’t happy at all with his decision to jump ship, and the value he was adding became clear within just this episode as Jared’s counsel was needed when no one else could help Richard make the important decision about whether to take the blood money. Jared has always been a bit off, which is part of why he saw a kindred spirit in Qwart, and Richard managed to send him off the deep end by insulting her, which was quite the frightening sight. Getting drunk with Maximo Reyes and netting what he thought was an amazing offer didn’t look quite as appealing in the light of day when Monica revealed the reasons that his even more generous funding proposal wasn’t a good idea. I thought I recognized actor Arturo Castro, and it turns it’s from his very relevant role in the third season of “Narcos.” It seems like Richard is trapped now, and not mining user data is going to be difficult given Maximo’s conditions. Monica was genuinely floored by the $1 billion offer, smoking two cigarettes at the same time and then taking herself out of the decision equaton. Laurie hasn’t changed much since her time away, and I wonder whether we’ll see her again. Gavin’s eagerness to move what’s left of the company to Georgia made some sense before he clarified that he meant the country and not the state, a situation that Hoover and Denpak cleverly schemed to prevent from happening. Tracy’s power play with Gilfoyle was extremely entertaining, and even he recognized and acknowledged her skill in executing it.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 5 “Dangerous Liaisons” (B-)

I feel like there was a point recently on “The Flash” where Barry got so angry about what was going on that he couldn’t really contain it anymore, and it seems like Kara is reaching that headspace now. She’s playing dumb with William pretending to look randomly for clues so that she can stay close to what’s going on, and she’s not getting very far, which is frustrating her as the people around her continue to be in harm’s way. There are so many threats that she’s not even aware of, namely Lena, who has successfully mastered mind control over Ma'alefa'ak, an impressive feat considering how he was able to knock Eve over when she tried to take the first step earlier in the episode. Andrea isn’t the head honcho at Leviathan but she’s definitely involved, and the four-armed villain that William was so sure had killed his best friend is – unsurprisingly – none other than that same friend, somehow transformed into a mindless agent of destruction who just follows orders. It’s a good thing that Dreamer is on call to be able to stop giant tidal waves capable of killing billions, and at least every one of the super friends seems to be contributing something to the operation. The virtual mega-launch with the contact lenses was pretty creepy, and the metaphor of the wave crashing down on them was far from subtle. Kelly’s concern about losing another partner on the frontlines really got to her, but Alex’s gift of a helmet may have provided just the right amount of comfort for the time being.

What I’m Watching: The Affair (Series Finale)

The Affair: Season 5, Episode 11

Well, this journey is finally done. I actually found this episode to be mostly decent, though it didn’t necessitate an entire season of half-perspectives that felt entirely tangential to the main story, whatever that still was. Ruth Wilson’s decision to leave the show probably should have ended it since her absence was truly felt, and only in this final hour did it seem worthwhile to have her felt rather than seen. I’m not sure what the significance of the names without a numbered part was supposed to be, and I’d assume there wasn’t any since that device has been without purpose for a while now. It was strange to have the episode open with Noah choreographing a flash mob dance, but I guess the point was that Noah was doing so much for this wedding only to sit all by himself in a motel room reading a book while everyone else was dancing. He even bonded with Colin, a fairly worthless character who didn’t contribute much, and Whitney was far from kind to everyone on her wedding day until she convinced her siblings to help her stage an escape with the help of a conveniently lucid Bruce. We’ve barely seen any of them except for Whitney, so their sudden relevance was weird, but at least the whole Solloway family got some sort of happy ending. I was surprised that Noah and Joanie didn’t recognize each other when they met since it seemed from her previous conversations with EJ that she was well aware of who he was, and I’m glad they got their therapeutic moment later which also helped to repair Alison’s reputation in her daughter’s mind. The reveal that EJ was Eddy was something I didn’t see coming, and helps to explain how he fit in there, similarly to Sierra, attached but without a true defined role. I still feel that this final season was probably unnecessary, and I’d point any interested viewers to the first two seasons of this show and recommend that they stop there to preserve an entirely positive perspective.

Series finale: B
Series grade: B
Season MVP: Maura Tierney as Helen
Season grade: B-
Series MVP: Maura Tierney as Helen
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Episode 107

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Take Three: Watchmen

Watchmen: Season 1, Episode 3 “She Was Killed by Space Junk” (B+)

I thought I had seen Jean Smart’s name in the list of cast members for this show, and her first appearance delivered extraordinarily. The three-time Emmy winner has a similar role here to the one she had on “Legion,” communicating with a distant former lover whose messages she wasn’t entirely sure he could hear and aware of far more than the young generation can understand. The extended joke she was recording for Dr. Manhattan was unsettling, and she kicked into high gear immediately when she staged a bank robbery surrounded entirely by FBI agents to set a trap for a vigilante. Asking about the man’s civil rights having been violated before expressing that she didn’t care was an unexpected moment, and she demonstrated her no-nonsense attitude when she shot the bomber in the head just as Senator Keane was about to go with him. She’s a proper partner for Sister Night, just as committed to figuring out what happened, but neither of them seem eager to work with anyone else. I’m trying to let this show speak for itself but also doing a bit of research on who these characters are, namely that Laurie, also known as Silk Spectre, was played by Malin Akerman in the 2009 movie, and Jeremy Irons’ Adrian Veidt is the former Ozymandias, portrayed by Matthew Goode in the film. I like that, with the exception of Adrian, most of the characters are gathered together in Tulsa trying to assess the threats against them, sure to offer some very intriguing developments in the near future.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 2, Episode 6 “The Fighter” (C)

Every episode, our friends get brasher and brasher, bursting in uninvited to invade someone’s privacy and blow up their life, unconcerned what they might initially think because they’re just that confident that they’re in the right. It helps their case when a former skeptic like Ray is the one making an introduction. I’d still say it’s a bit cavalier to just laugh off accusations of domestic violence when the situation is revealed to be something else entirely, but there’s no accounting for style with this crowd. Similarly, the way in which they so freely hack into people’s data like it’s some sort of puzzle to be assembled is unsettling, and they’re not even slightly bothered by it. The devotion they have to the God account is not unlike a religion, especially since they’re attributing such power to it, including the appointment of Arthur as the new bishop of New York. He did not learn his lesson from his chief of staff gig and decided once again not to tell the people most important to him until after he had already made the decision and taken steps to move forward with it, and it’s hard to know how he thought Trish would respond when he knew all along that she didn’t approve and was looking forward to some time for just the two of them. Since the mystery has to take certain stage, Miles is continuing along on his (indulged) delusions of grandeur by finding the elusive artist and proclaiming himself to be the one designed for the message hidden in her work.

What I’m Watching: Batwoman

Batwoman: Season 1, Episode 5 “Mine is a Long and a Sad Tale” (C+)

This episode’s title was unfortunately accurate, signifying a larger trend that this show just isn’t getting off the ground. I’m on board at least through episode eight when the mega-crossover begins, but as I realize that I’m watching too much television and should really give something up, this feels like the strongest candidate for that dishonor. It seemed like we were getting a new villain in the form of the Skin Pirate, an unappealing moniker for a disturbing obsession, but it turns out that was just Alice, who got captured by Kate before turning the tables on her by bringing her to a diner and encouraging her to order an obviously spiked beer. Alice’s story was indeed unsettling, featuring her lengthy captivity by a predatory man who also kept his own son hidden from the world, and I have little desire to see what comes of that. The fact that Jacob and Kate came so close to finding Beth only to be tricked into abandoning her is lamentable, and it’s hard to understand why Alice blames them given what she knows about how they were made to believe she was dead. The writing on this show isn’t great, and the emphasis on Alice in Wonderland puns is tiresome at best. Jacob now knows that Alice is Beth, but he’s still most concerned with the daughter who hasn’t become an eager killer. Sophie should have total confirmation now that Kate is Batwoman, but she’ll likely not act on that knowledge anytime soon. The most worthwhile, if still overdone, part of the episode was Mary irritating the hell out of Luke while proclaiming just how sorry she was on behalf of her mother’s actions to her dear sister.

Take Three: Living with Yourself

Living with Yourself: Season 1, Episode 3 “Green Tea” (B-)

I found this episode to be tiresome, and my desire to be a devoted fan isn’t exactly being fulfilled. Miles was doing a decent job of creating a helpful balance between his two selves, somehow managing to allay questions from his wife about his major money withdrawal and finding time to pursue his passions while his other self was a true superstar at work. Watching him set up in the morning when his clone left right after Kate did felt almost rhythmic, though it’s understand that eventually he was going to find it unsustainable. I’m not sure what to make of Jerry Adler from “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife” as Mr. Hillston, who was obsessed with the fanciest possible pork, served with a side of terrifying stories from his time in a concentration camp sending an innocent boy off to be killed. Why that was included makes little sense to me, and I think the character could have been drawn differently and still prompted a similar response from Miles. I was ready to give up on this show completely, but then the final scene had to go and really change everything, making me wonder if it’s about to finally get undeniably interesting. Dan spotted the other Miles approaching and seemed to realize that something was going on, though he doesn’t necessarily know that his amazing treatment was actually a cloning operation since his former self didn’t survive. The combination of finishing the punchline and the music worked well to convince me that at least one more episode might be worth it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Take Three: Modern Love

Modern Love: Season 1, Episode 3 “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am” (B)

It’s probably an improper choice of words to describe Anne Hathaway as a polarizing actress. Some really like her, and it’s hard to deny the impact of certain performances of hers, namely “Rachel Getting Married,” the one that won me over, and her Oscar-winning turn in “Les Miserables.” Watching the first half of this episode, I had the impression that she was miscast, though it made some more sense as the episode went on and more about Lexi was revealed. She was irritatingly energetic and positive when she first met Jeff in the supermarket, coming on very strong and ready to move forward with the relationship without a moment’s thought. Seeing her sink into a depression shortly after changed the tone of the episode, and Jeff was rather impolite in response to her total shift in mood, though he didn’t understand that it wasn’t merely disinterest but rather an inability to simply put on a happy face. It was undeniably weird, but there was something endearing about her dated theme song with a special appearance by Judd Hirsch. It was cool to see how Lexi being honest with her (former) coworker enabled her to realize that she wasn’t alone, and that being honest with other people about being bipolar could actually have very positive effects. I’m sure that’s not a universal thing, but it was sweet to see it, and to watch as Lexi came out of her shell and repaired a number of relationships by being honest and opening up to others about what she needs.

What I’m Watching: The Politician

The Politician: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Assassination of Payton Hobart” (B)

This episode, twice the length of the last installment, felt more than a bit overstuffed. I’m hopeful that news of this show being renewed for a second season, which has been circulated but not confirmed, is indeed true since there’s a whole lot more left to explore here. Astrid dropping out of the race so that Payton’s victory was meaningless was the ultimate power play, and it was even more crippling for Payton to discover that his big ideas about water fountains and other projects weren’t even considered, mainly because Principal Vaughn didn’t respect him. The fact that he lost by two votes shouldn’t matter much, but to him it will mean everything, as will Vaughn’s comparison of him to Gerald Ford rather than Barack Obama. I like that Payton and Infinity, and apparently Ricardo, are starring in the school production of “Assassins,” further fueling this show’s presidential obsession, and things got much more dramatic towards the end of the episode when Ricardo’s possum poison plan was revealed. McAfee is a real punching bag on this show, getting dumped by Skye after she accused her of lacing the icing and then told by Payton that she couldn’t be trusted anymore. Payton can use any friends he has left now that he’s been shot and potentially poisoned, and hopefully his mother won’t blame him for forcing her to give up her Montana dream escape. I honestly have no clue what comes next, and two episodes probably won’t be enough to satisfactorily process it all.

What I’m Watching: Undone (Season Finale)

Undone: Season 1, Episode 8 “That Halloween Night” (B+)

I don’t know how else this season could have ended, and it’s unfortunate that we don’t know yet if this will be it or if intelligent minds will decide that this incredible story should be permitted to continue. I for one am totally one board with that idea, though it’s not clear if the way this episode concluded was meant to leave it all up to the imagination. Alma’s ability to bring Jacob back with her to the night that he left was very impressive, and she gleaned some very crucial information that her father either neglected to tell her or was no longer able to recall because of the circumstances of his temporal reincarnation. Seeing her mother at the lab to confront Jacob about Alma saying that he had experimented on her was a monumental discovery, and Camila divorcing Jacob was yet another thing he hadn’t mentioned. Jacob evidently realized what was going on and tried to send her back to the moment they started, but Alma has evolved beyond being controlled. Finding out that no one killed him and that it was him who drove the car off the road in some twisted attempt to get rid of Farnaz was devastating, but it does resolve one mystery which Jacob may in fact have need help unpacking. Sam trying to work with Camila to get Alma help showed that he didn’t really believe what she said, but Camila confirmed what Alma had seen during her last trip into the past. Becca coming to find her and support her was a sweet way to end, and I won’t soon stop thinking about this show, its potential, and the extraordinary vision it has presented about time, perception, and the meaning of life. I don’t know what kind of awards it might contend for, but it deserves a lot!

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Rosa Salazar as Alma

What I’m Watching: Unbelievable (Series Finale)

Unbelievable: Season 1, Episode 8 (B+)

I’ve previously encountered actor Eric Lange on shows like “Lost,” “The Bridge,” and “Narcos,” portraying unlikeable characters who aren’t terribly friendly. I thought that he had been cast in an unspectacular role here as Detective Parker, but his performance in this episode demonstrates why he was just the man for the job. The phone call from Grace prompted his typical response, that Marie had actually been lying and that they had to charge her with making a false report, but then the look on his face when he started to understand how wrong he had been conveyed his deep sense of regret over what happened. While Marie wasn’t terribly receptive to the information that he came to surprise her with, Detective Pruitt didn’t even feel the need to apologize when he had been even more aggressive in demeaning her. It was affirming to see her take charge and decide to sue the city, not concerned with trying to get more than she thought would be enough to be able to help her get her life back together. The perpetrator’s refusal to share the password that would only incriminate him further made sense, and Karen stood in for the audience with her incredulousness at his getting to make demands. This series strongly and powerfully dramatized a real-life case, which I’m sure is very triggering and upsetting for many viewers. All three leading actresses turned in truly fantastic performances. I hope they’ll be recognized come Emmy time along with the show itself.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Merritt Wever as Grace

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Pilot Review: Dickinson

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: The Morning Show

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: For All Mankind

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: See

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Monday, November 4, 2019

AFT Awards: Best Comedy Series

This is the twentieth and final category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Barry, The End of the F***ing World, The Good Place, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Santa Clarita Diet

Emmy nominees: Barry, Fleabag, The Good Place, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Russian Doll, Schitt’s Creek, Veep

Finalists: Barry, Casual, Dead to Me, Insecure, Jane the Virgin, Shameless

The nominees:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Good Place

The winner:

Fleabag churned thoughtful, surprising comedy out in plentiful portions with a remarkable urgency that is all too often reserved for dramas.

Next up: That’s a wrap! It’s almost Oscar time – head over to www.MoviesWithAbe.com for complete coverage!

AFT Awards: Best Drama Series

This is the nineteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Counterpart, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Narcos, Stranger Things

Emmy nominees: Better Call Saul, Bodyguard, Game of Thrones, Killing Eve, Ozark, Pose, Succession, This Is Us

Finalists: Game of Thrones

The nominees:

Doom Patrol
Better Call Saul
Narcos: Mexico

The winner:

Counterpart improved on an already mesmerizing first season as it dug deeper into the subtle divisions between its two equally compelling worlds.

Next up: Best Comedy Series

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 2 “Pappa Mia” (B-)

This episode had its entertaining moments but was decidedly over the top on all fronts. Both Will and Grace seem to be set on having the babies they first mentioned and discovered last week, and now it’s a matter of how and who to parent. Will’s concern about having a son who’s straight led to some humorous antics with Jack being shockingly good at basketball because he learned how to play the sport so that he could get a part in a play. I wasn’t too into Jack’s horrifyingly-bent finger that caused him to pass out multiple times in a row, though at least Will scored a win when the nurse was impressed with how good a dad he was to the grown man she thought was his son, who claimed incorrectly to not have been alive in 1976 (Sean Hayes was actually born in 1970). Reid Scott returned just as quickly as I expected to play Marcus, who insisted on serial killer lefthandness running in his family and a vasectomy he didn’t actually have. Karen was delighted to be able to drag in the three men that she somehow found who Grace had slept with in Europe, all of whom didn’t represent themselves entirely honestly. I most enjoyed Paul Ben-Victor, a familiar face from “In Plain Sight” and other projects, putting on an accent to play the Italian taxi driver who didn’t represent Grace. The college student Steve Buscemi was fun too, and though Grace has vowed that she’s going to do this on her own, I think that Marcus will probably be back at some point before the show ends.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 4, Episode 6 “A Chip Driver Mystery” (B)

I’m not sure exactly where things are going at the moment, though Michael seems confident enough, and releasing Bad Janet out of the kindness of his (demon) heart shows that he might just have a plan up his (human suit) sleeve. While John is an unrepentant gossip, Brent is the truly deplorable resident of the good place, so obsessed with his own superiority that he’s blind to anything going on around him. His three-and-a-half-themes book seemed truly awful, and his desire for praise from everyone revealed a need to be respected, something that he’s now only starting to see isn’t even close to true. I like that it was Tahani and not Simone who had an outburst and shared her sincere opinions with him, though it appeared to bounce off of him since he’s entirely unable to hear any criticism since he believes that he’s actually in the good place. I’d love to see these characters, particularly Chidi and Simone, realize just like Eleanor that they’re actually not in the good place, but it doesn’t seem like that’s likely. Chidi stepping in to interfere was unexpected, and it’s always nice to see some atypical behavior from a character who tends to revert to certain tendencies. Jason was full of only mildly useful and mostly terrible ideas, namely setting himself on fire, and I think that Brent isn’t even capable of being tricked into doing something good for someone else. With the final season almost half over, this team could use a win, one they’ll probably get from Shawn coming undone after reading Michael’s triumphant manifesto.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This is the eighteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: The Good Place, Loaded, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, People of Earth, Santa Clarita Diet

Finalists: None

The nominees:

The Good Place
Jane the Virgin

The winner:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel artfully mimicked another era thanks to the contributions of each one of the members of its rich ensemble.

Next up: Best Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the seventeenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: Good Behavior, The Handmaid’s Tale, Narcos, Sneaky Pete, Stranger Things

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Game of Thrones

The winner:

Doom Patrol brought together a band of super-powered misfits made fantastically and often hilarious real by the excellent team of actors portraying them.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Writing in a Comedy Series

This is the sixteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Chapter One: Make Your Mark (Barry), The Burrito (The Good Place), Pilot (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), A Change of Heart (Santa Clarita Diet), Kimmy Disrupts the Paradigm! (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Emmy nominees: ronny/lily (Barry), Episode 1 (Fleabag), Janet(s) (The Good Place), Anna Ishii-Peters (Pen15), Nothing in This World is Easy (Russian Doll), A Warm Body (Russian Doll), Veep (Veep)

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Everything Is Bonzer (The Good Place)
Janet(s) (The Good Place)
Finale (Casual)
Episode 6 (Fleabag)

The winner:

Episode 1 (Fleabag) reintroduced audiences to its characters after a long absence in the most utterly creative and twistedly delightful way.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

This is the fifteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing in a Comedy Series

Last year’s nominees: Episode 1 (The End of the F***ing World), Dance Dance Resolution (The Good Place), The Expo (Loaded), Pilot (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), The Most Popular Boy (Vice Principals)

Emmy nominees: The Audition (Barry), ronny/lily (Barry), The Stockholm Syndrome (The Big Bang Theory), Episode 1 (Fleabag), All Alone (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), We’re Going to the Catskills! (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Episode 1 (Fleabag)
Finale (Casual)
Midnight at the Concord (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Episode 6 (Fleabag)

The winner:

Ne Me Quitte Pas (Ramy) felt like a magical dream, zooming out from its protagonist’s worldview to show a distinctly different and extremely worthwhile perspective.

Next up: Best Writing in a Comedy Series

Saturday, November 2, 2019

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Drama Series

This is the fourteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing for a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: The Crossing (Counterpart), The Sincerest Form of Flattery (Counterpart), Beyond the Wall (Game of Thrones), Pilot (Good Girls), Smart Power (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Emmy nominees: Winner (Better Call Saul), Episode 1 (Bodyguard), The Iron Throne (Game of Thrones), Holly (The Handmaid’s Tale), Nice and Neat (Killing Eve), Nobody Is Ever Missing (Succession)

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Pilot (Doom Patrol)
The Word (The Handmaid's Tale)
The Comedian (The Twilight Zone)
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Game of Thrones)

The winner:

Twin Cities (Counterpart) mesmerizingly traced the divergent genesis of its two worlds, capturing the effects of even the smallest of different actions.

Next up: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Drama Series

This is the thirteenth category of the 13th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2018-2019 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing for a Drama Series

Last year’s nominees: The Sincerest Form of Flattery (Counterpart), I Think It’s a Sign (Good Behavior), Unwomen (The Handmaid’s Tale), Impact (Lost in Space), eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00 (Mr. Robot)

Emmy nominees: The Iron Throne (Game of Thrones), The Last of the Starks (Game of Thrones), The Long Night (Game of Thrones), Holly (The Handmaid’s Tale), Desperate Times (Killing Eve), Reparations (Ozark), Celebration (Succession)

Finalists: None

The nominees:

Twin Cities (Counterpart)
The Long Night (Game of Thrones)
Pilot (Doom Patrol)
Replay (The Twilight Zone)

The winner:

Episode 1 (Bodyguard) was a taut, gripping hour of television that never let up for a moment, immediately inviting viewers into its concentrated universe.

Next up: Best Writing for a Drama Series

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 6 “The Club” (B)

This season has really been framing all of its episodes with a certain pivotal event or place, and in this case, that was golf, which I didn’t find to be quite as relevant or stirring as other recent devices. It was most interesting to see how Jack responded to Randall expressing such closeness to Mr. Lawrence, with whom he apparently bonded after getting written up on day one, concerned more about the fact that his teacher wasn’t communicating what he was going through to his parents. Jack’s own time on the golf course as a younger man with his father-in-law was a puzzling display of boldness, since he got far drunker than he should in a questionable effort to show Dave that he wasn’t going to go away and abandon a future with his daughter. Randall’s performance was exceedingly poor despite that initial training with his father, though it appears that, after all of it, he managed to achieve his original aim, which was to rectify an important relationship he might have damaged by being pulled in too many different directions. The opening montage of Kate and Toby’s relationship was very sweet, and it was really great to see that problematic fight resolved with Kate cutting up the wrong pair of Toby’s pants to demonstrate her acceptance of what he had been through and his desire not to go back. It’s about time Cassidy realized that she was attracted to Kevin, and they’ve definitely reached a new level that’s going to make whatever eventual breakup might happen especially painful.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 4 “There Will Be Blood” (B-)

Why exactly were there zombies in this episode? Team Flash has been through enough with animated Savitars and samurais that it seems unnecessary to have an army of sort of undead people now threatening their livelihoods. Barry’s weakness has always been that he believes in everyone, regardless of what they’ve done, and deciding that the most important thing he could do before he dies during the crisis was to give Ramsey the cure turned out to be a very bad idea. Ramsey staring at the “do no harm” text while proclaiming that he has to kill in order to create the substance he needs to live was a very explicit transition from conflicted hero to certified villain, and he’s amassed so much power now that it’s going to be difficult for Barry and the team to defeat him. At least he’s the first villain in a long time who doesn’t specifically have it out for the Flash, but instead he’s just trying to get rid of anyone in his way on his quest. Cisco and Joe got their turns to be emotional about Barry’s impending death, and knowing that it’s coming doesn’t seem to be doing anyone any good. The latest iteration of Wells, known as Nash, is excitable and adventurous, though also more than a bit showy. Demanding that Barry and Cisco build him his cryptocircuit even after his part of the deal didn’t quite come through seemed selfish, but it appears that he’s one step ahead of everyone else regarding the crisis, revealing the Monitor’s past presence and taking productive steps to figure out what exactly is going on.

Friday, November 1, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 2, Episode 5 “Nightmare on Lunch Box Street” (B)

I was just talking to someone who said that they were also watching this show and weren’t exactly sure why, and I still wonder whether I should be continuing with it or not since it’s far from essential viewing. I watched the new season of “Roseanne” when it premiered because I expected it to earn Emmy nominations (which it did for Laurie Metcalf), and now I’ve become only moderately attached to some of the characters. I continue to find Sara Gilbert to be the strongest member of the ensemble, and she was firing on all cylinders in this half-hour as she first acknowledged Ben’s unsubtle attempts to make her feel less valued at work and then returned with a bold gesture that just ended up being two unfortunate revelations about her not having been divorced and David having dumped her. I like that the Halloween aspects of this episode were in the background, relegated to a few comments, like Darlene dressing up as Becky before she had the baby, and of course as the setup for a more dramatic subplot with the rarely-seen Mary, who had a sweet bonding moment with her cousin Mark about not being accepted. Jackie looking to buy the Lunch Box and discovering that her mother apparently still owns it after all these years seemed to come from out of nowhere. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that or if we’ll see the lawyer played by Patrick Fabian from “Better Call Saul” again, but the idea of a baby acting as a hostess is indeed entertaining.

Minute with Abe: Mrs. Fletcher

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot: Season 4, Episode 4 “404 Not Found” (B+)

I’m not sure I ever expected this show to have a Christmas episode, but it felt totally appropriate just one day before Halloween. The eerie music was also haunting and fitting, as all of our characters nearly descended into madness when contemplating the bleakness of their fates. Tyrell sprang into action to kill the guy listening in on their incriminating conversation, which led to their having to walk through the snowy woods trying to find a way to get a signal. It’s weird that the general public, like the clerk at the corner stone, knows who Tyrell is, and her shouting his name after she hadn’t quite bought his Big Brother resume earlier confirmed that he wouldn’t be able to run for long. I liked how we got shots of Mr. Robot walking alongside Elliot and Tyrell, and then finally saw Mr. Robot disappear when Elliot changed his attitude and listened to Mr. Robot to appeal to Tyrell’s sentimental side, which won out before he ultimately got shot and decided not to try to save his own life since he was doomed anyway. Darlene’s drive with drunk Santa, played by Jon Glaser from “Girls” and “Parks and Recreation,” was trippy, and it was weird to see a shift when everything he had said suddenly seemed so much less real, while Darlene’s problems are very much undeniable. Let’s hope Elliot can get to her and convey how he’s feeling before they’re both taken out. Dom’s Christmas experience was the wildest, as she got far into a chat before slipping into a dream turned nightmare that involved her date insulting her lack of cleanliness before trying to drown her in her own tub. Again, I guess this is what counts as a Christmas episode for this show.

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

Silicon Valley: Season 6, Episode 1 “Artificial Lack of Intelligence” (B+)

It feels like a lot longer ago than last May that this show finished its fifth season, but maybe that’s just because it’s been completely absent from the awards conversation recently after being a default player each year. I didn’t remember the last season all that fondly, but it was still better than a lot of what’s on television, and I’m ready for what I hope will be a strong seven-episode swan song. Opening with Richard pacing around the congressional hearing with the microphone box in his hand before tripping over himself after a surprisingly solid speech was a fitting opening. It’s certainly strange to see Pied Piper doing so well, though that’s sure not to last, especially given the way that Richard’s blackmail attempt to oust Colin resulted in him pitching an even more aggressive form of monitoring that definitely wouldn’t go over well with watchdogs concerned about data privacy issues. Jared feeling maligned and forgotten by Richard isn’t the most appealing plotline, but it was reassuring to see them work together well when he really needed help and for Jared to excitedly recognize a kindred spirit in Gwart. Gilfoyle building an AI to chat with Dinesh pretending to be him was typically clever, and of course their antics would result in a complete shutdown of the network because Dinesh got too carried away by what he could do with his AI. Leave it to Gavin to be so concerned with his ego that he ended up signing away most of his company so that he’s now been beaten in size by El Pollo Loco.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Round Two: Watchmen

Watchmen: Season 1, Episode 2 “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship” (B+)

This was a solid follow-up to a very strong and intriguing opening hour, providing some answers but still leaving a lot of questions unanswered. The real-life Tulsa race massacre of 1921 is now getting a deserved historical spotlight with viewers of this show like myself googling to find out if it actually happened, which it did, and in this dark universe, one of the only positives is that lifetime President Redford has made an effort to try to atone for the longstanding racist practices and institutions of the United States. How we got from then to the now-105-year-old Will, with his apparent relation to Angela, claiming to have killed and then telepathically strung Judd up remains a mystery, and I’m very interested in seeing where it goes. The flashbacks to the White Night and other events are informative and helpful, and it’s good to be able to see more of Don Johnson as Judd since just having him die in the pilot would have been a waste since I still remember just how much of a standout he was in the underrated dark thriller “Cold in July.” We also got to meet Senator Keene, played by the always reliable James Wolk from “Mad Men” and “Lone Star.” The TV version of the American hero story is unsettling and very violent, and evidently it’s a chronicle of what has recently happened that can appeal to a wide range of audiences. I like the uncontrollable dynamic of Sister Night, Looking Glass, and Red Scare, and I have no idea what’s going on with Jeremy Irons’ mad scientist Adrian Veldt and his army of killable clones or whatever they are.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 4 “In Plain Sight” (C+)

I don’t know what it is since it’s a different voice that’s speaking Ma'alefa'ak’s words each time, but all of his lines sound horribly inauthentic and almost laughable to me. “Meet me at the planetarium” was a particularly unfortunate one, and I’m glad that we at least won’t have to deal with him trying to threaten or incept anyone in the immediate future since he’s now in Lena’s hands as she works with him to exact whatever revenge she’s still trying to get on a team whose handshakes and T-shirts she’ll now be taught. It’s hard to really understand her aims, and she’s not the only one that everyone now needs to worry about working against them in ways they’re not even prepared to consider. William being undercover as a jerk didn’t work too well since Kara and Nia figured out what he was really up to almost right away, and Kara would do well to determine whether he can actually be trusted so that he can be an ally rather than yet another impediment. James deciding he needs to go back to his hometown to find a new purpose in life helping the underserved and impoverished makes some sense given his abrupt dismissal from his job, and I wonder what that means for Mehcad Brooks’ presence on the show. Brainy probably couldn’t have done much better than he tried to do in this hour, but it’s good that he and Nia might be approaching a more productive place given how distracted and unnerved he was by the instability of his relationship.

What I’m Watching: The Affair (Penultimate Episode)

The Affair: Season 5, Episode 10 (C+)

We’re so close to the end here, yet for some reason we have to suffer through a 100-minute series finale. This second-to-last hour was far from satisfying, and my biggest gripe is with its format. Opening with Helen and Noah’s individual perspectives before moving to an unexplained share perspective made little sense, perhaps only to indicate that they actually had an honest conversation they were both able to hear and perceive the same way. Yet it’s just the latest convoluted iteration of a truly creative and effective device that helped to make this show’s first two season so vital and superb. Though Ruth Wilson is no longer a member of the cast, her presence in brief flashbacks reminded me of much better days of this show, which was strong despite the less appealing structuring aspect of the interrogations about the mysterious death that took a while to unravel. The prominence of the California fires felt eerily prescient given that they’ve once again resumed their destruction, something that couldn’t possibly have been predicted when this season was filmed. It’s not a very helpful setting for this drama though, and it just ends up as a forced reason for Noah and Helen to hike to safety and have an opportunity to hash out all of their issues before Helen managed to get bitten by a poisonous snake and survive without an issue. We know that Noah isn’t a great person and he certainly doesn’t respect women in any way that resembles what he believes, and the two of them talking for half an hour after being stubborn in the face of nature is not what I’m looking for after spending fifty hours with these characters. Let’s hope the finale is moderately better.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 2, Episode 5 “The Greater Good” (C+)

This show is extremely cyclical in the way it portrays its characters’ arcs. Once again, it’s absolutely incredible how Miles and Cara interfere in other people’s lives and expect them to be grateful right away when they’re being so intrusive, and I’d love to see them not get thanked one of these times to recognize just how unacceptable their behavior is. They didn’t have any right to accuse Claire of anything after just meeting her, and naturally they went behind her back to tell Arthur and then Bishop Thompson, which made things much worse before it eventually got better. Arthur didn’t think through how his chief of staff test run would be received if any of his family members found out about it before he had the chance to tell him, and I can’t believe he didn’t see the very obvious development that Thompson would recommend him as his replacement just after he had agreed to a more relaxed and committed lifestyle with Trish. Rakesh and Jaya aren’t thinking too far ahead with their relationship in deciding to keep it secret from her parents, and whatever happens isn’t going to end well for them. Ali was right to express doubt at its effectiveness, but she’s barely had a relevant line of dialogue this season. Cara’s office might have been taken while she was gone and her replacement might be pretty competitive, but her attitude is not good, and it’s a positive thing that her would-be nemesis asked her to collaborate before things got truly petty.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

What I’m Watching: Batwoman

Batwoman: Season 1, Episode 4 “Who Are You?” (B-)

The web of people who know that Kate is Batwoman isn’t getting much bigger, and it would probably be helpful if she had friends who could cover for her rather than give her grief for constantly bailing on events to take care of obscure plumbing issues and the like. It didn’t take much time at all for Kate to get close with Reagan, but she did a poor job of pretending to care about the relationship and coming up with half-decent excuses about why she had to duck out. Alice took a bit of a backseat in this hour with Magpie having a lot of fun with her grand entrances, getting the chance to air her grievances about class imbalance in Gotham to the one person who’s probably working harder than anyone to give everyone a fair shot. The boomerang malfunction was unfortunate, but Kate’s getting the hang of it. Sophie is playing very coy regarding Kate being Batwoman, and I’d like to see that develop further since she has to be the next one to figure it out. I’d give second best odds to Mary, who is wowed into speechlessness every time Batwoman comes to visit and who did some smooth undercover work of her own when she used her patient’s delirium to glean crucial information from him. The biggest game changer game from Catherine, who managed to get her husband furious with her when she confessed that she took steps to manipulate evidence so that Jacob and Kate would think that Beth was dead. When Kate finds out, she’ll be furious, and I can’t imagine what further proof Jacob still needs that Alice is indeed his lost-long daughter.

Pilot Review: Zomboat

I'm trying something new with my pilot reviews, so from now on, check out video takes on each new series, which I'll embed below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace (Season Premiere)

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 1 “Eat, Pray, Love, Phone, Sex” (B-)

No one ever accused this show of not being entertaining. The premiere of what’s now been confirmed as the final season of this show (and its third of this iteration) was moved up from midseason when the lackluster “Sunnyside” didn’t take and got pulled from the schedule, and now it’s back to the grind with big bombshells to send this show off in extravagant style. I expected that we would see Reid Scott’s traveling companion again and then thought we wouldn’t after Grace revealed just how many people she fooled around with while she was traveling, but I suspect that the father of her geriatric pregnancy is none other than the man played by the “Veep” and “Why Women Kill” actor. Will’s sudden eagerness to have a baby meant that he was able to be genuinely happy for Grace before Jack and Karen burst in to put a true damper on their news. Estefan manages to match Jack’s antics, defending his horrible cuckoo clock and then gallantly diving down the trash chute after his husband so that they could finish their fight and agree to a new policy of openness. There’s some humor to be gleaned from Karen answering the phone in ways that would surely turn off any potential customer who called in, and while there’s no denying Megan Mullally’s commitment and ability to make the most of any material, that phone sex scene went on a little long. This show should still be fun for the rest of its run even if it runs out of steam.

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 4, Episode 5 “Employee of the Bearimy” (B+)

I’d say things went pretty well at the Bad Place even though it didn’t seem like that for most of the time Michael and Jason were there. The notion of a Demon-Con that’s insufferable because of just how many slides and hours were involved in a conference designed around new and innovative ways to torture people is of course absurd, but it’s very on-brand for this show. Michael’s plan to go up on stage pretending to be Vicky and then bring Jason up, pretending that he was Glenn in a Jason suit, was smart, and Janet knew exactly how to play along when Jason called her “girl,” triggering her default response, the absence of which was how he managed to figure out that she was actually Bad Janet. Vicky showing up right as Michael got permission to just walk off stage with Janet was unfortunate timing, and I love that all the demons were so interested in watching what they thought was a lifelike demonstration that no one bothered to stop them. Back in the alleged Good Place, Tahani was about to come undone but managed to do a good job in the end of managing the problem that was a frantic Derek, whose handiwork Janet will surely admonish when she returns. Chidi’s excitement at a puzzle with no answers was funny, and Eleanor was obviously touched by it and then upset when she saw him kiss Simone when Chidi did finally show up at the party that Tahani was supposed to throw. I enjoy Eleanor and Tahani’s interactions, and I’m glad to see where their relationship has come to after their initial meeting way back in the pilot.