Thursday, January 31, 2019

What I’m Watching: Homecoming (Season Finale)

Homecoming: Season 1, Episode 10 “Stop” (B+)

This show does a masterful job of telling its story, and this finale was most involving for the way in which it portrayed the interaction between two of its central characters. Colin being interrupted during his program pitch to the DOD led to him getting much more worked up and out of control than usual, no longer collected and skilled while pacing on the phone but instead reacting in a disruptive way in both earshot and eyesight of the people he was trying to sell on the program. Heidi was way too calm on the phone as well, presumably already feeling some of the effects that allowed her to be more subdued and distanced from the immediacy of her pain. Colin accusing her of “reformatting” Walter so that he could go home was appropriately scientific, and Heidi telling Gloria the whole story made clear that everything they did at Homecoming aside from the food and the therapy sessions was just for show to distract from what was really going on. Heidi driving to find Walter only to see him not really recognize her was a haunting way to end things, and I read that Julia Roberts isn’t coming back next season, which means the focus might be different but hopefully on something equally intriguing. I was glad to see that Hong Chau, standout star of the underrated “Downsizing,” was given a major promotion in terms of her screen time and her character’s significance as Audrey got to dress Colin down considerably and exert much more power than he ever has. Citing him as the problematic employee he thought Carrasco was reframes things in a whole new way, and it’s hard to know what to make of that final post-credits scene where Audrey is using a newer-tech version of the memory-eraser to keep herself calm. I’m feeling more positive about this show now than I have before, and I’m eager and on board for another deep dive.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Bobby Cannavale as Colin

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black (Season Finale)

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 13 “Be Free” (B+)

This show has an incredible power to catch its viewers off-guard with a truly serious, disturbing development thrown in there with all of the comic and enlightening elements. We’ve become more sympathetic to Flores over the course of the past two seasons, and she was so genuinely excited to be released so that she and Diablo could have a baby. The sight of him standing outside with flowers waiting for her while she boarded an ICE bus is all I can think about after having watched this finale, signaling a dark, political turn on this show as Linda’s brilliant PR save turns out to be Litchfield’s new involvement with ICE detention centers. That’s going to make this season’s guard tormenting of inmates look pleasant, and it already managed to highlight the difference in treatment of a white woman like Piper and a woman of color like Flores. Taystee being found guilty was also upsetting, and things are not looking good for her now, especially with Caputo as her sole defender. On a lighter note, the impromptu wedding was very sweet, and let’s hope Alex keeps her head down so that she and Piper can still be happy. It’s a brave move to have the character that was once the star of this show be released, and hopefully it will pay off for the final season. Hopper showed that he’s not a terrible person as Aleida had to face her daughter’s addiction head-on, and McCullough managed to make a level-headed call when advised to do so by her former tormentor Maria. The fact that everyone except for Badison just wanted to play kickball instead of having a war that the organizers were really only using to allow them to go after Frieda was great, and it was nice to see them having fun, embodying Piper’s initial dream. The final flashback to Barb and Carol as teenagers was a fitting way to lead into their last moments, which of course were crudely observed by Alvarez as putting Ginger over the top to win the fantasy game. Without them, it should be an interesting seventh and final season, and I’m looking forward to it after this year managed to find its footing.

Season grade: B
Season MVPs: Mackenzie Phillips as Barb and Henny Russell as Carol

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage (Series Finale)

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 13 “They Reminisce Over You”

I’ve known for most of this season that this show won’t be coming back for another round, which is a shame since I think it does have a lot to offer. This episode wrapped things up in a way that stays true to the show, but also does entice for what a third season might be like. Before I get into the main events, I’ll note that I remember actress Annabella Sciorra, whose Rosalie Carbone seems to be taking power, from her Emmy-nominated recurring role on “The Sopranos,” but a quick search for her name on this site reminded me that she played a lawyer for Lemond Beshop, portrayed by none other than Mike Colter, on “The Good Wife” a while back. Shades was one of many in this hour to comment on how Luke has changed, telling him that he’s not polite anymore, and the fact that Luke went in to confront Rosalie with his headphones shows how accustomed he’s become to the way of the world around him, transforming him irreversibly into a less heroic figure. Inheriting Harlem’s Paradise and declaring that it should be burned to the ground wasn’t the worst thing, but what we see of Luke at the end of the episode was haunting, having Claire turned away and ignoring his father’s wise words. Tilda got to play and sing her own song, and even gave her mother a literal kiss of death, ending a brief stint in prison that still ended with way too many people dead. Shades got arrested, his deal voided by Mariah’s death, and he’s going to be the one to pay for everything. No one even seems to be looking for Bushmaster anymore. The closing song about this show’s events was fitting, and I do hope that, whether it’s in a Marvel movie or some other show down the line, we saw Luke Cage and his very stylized world again in some form.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Alfre Woodard as Mariah
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Mike Colter as Luke
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: “Now You’re Mine

Pilot Review: The Other Two

The Other Two (Comedy Central)
Premiered January 24 at 10:30pm

This is a familiar concept, the notion of people who live on the fringe of other people’s fame and distinctly outside that bright spotlight. I didn’t have high hopes for this show given both the setup and the network on which it airs, but this first half-hour was decent enough. Cary certainly isn’t doing too well if his top audition is to play man who smells a fart at the party, and Brooke waking up suddenly in the apartment she’s squatting in and selling was a sign that she really doesn’t have things under control. What helps make their lack of success palatable is that their mother, played by Molly Shannon, doesn’t judge them, and instead speaks positively about the things that they’re not quite doing. She also invited Brooke’s ex that she can’t stand because he’s hopelessly behind the times, and his sneaker ideas are quite possibly the worst. It’s also nice to see that Chase is a pretty nice kid, unprepared for this wave of fame that is coming for him and not above crawling between his older siblings so that he could spend time next to them at night. They don’t hate him either, and that’s a plus. The only performers I think I know from anything else besides Shannon are HelĂ©ne Yorke, who played the far nicer and sweeter Jane on “Masters of Sex,” and, of course, Ken Marino, who also appeared in the pilot of “Black Monday” in addition to regular roles on shows like “Party Down” and “Marry Me.” This cast is pretty good, and this show is better than I would have thought it would be.

How will it work as a series? It seems like Chase is going to be spending a good deal of time in New York, which means that, if they don’t dislike the fame that’s only being shone on him at the moment, they likely will soon. It also means that they’ll have to put on a good face since their mother will be around and they’ll want to make as good an impression as possible, just in case anyone else is watching.
How long will it last? I was surprised to see that the aggregated reviews for this show were very positive, which isn’t always a guarantee with sitcoms even if they score high ratings. The numbers were also great, with a YouTube launch doing the show favors as well, and it looks to me like this show should expect a renewal soon, provided that Comedy Central still wants to be in the business of making sitcoms like this.

Pilot grade: B-

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Good Place (Season Finale)

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 13 “Pandemonium” (B+)

It’s always so sad to have to say goodbye to this show early in the year, especially because it feels like things are just getting started. There were only a few moments during this season where I wasn’t fully confident in this series, and it managed to win me back completely with its latest trajectory. Shawn did manage to pull a dirty trick by selecting four humans that our four humans knew, and Tahani resisting John’s obnoxiousness would have been far easier than Chidi trying not to be awkward around Simone, who I’m very happy will be back on this show next season, even if it means that Chidi won’t remember her or Eleanor. Michael showing them the montage of moments they may have forgotten was very sweet, and I like that it included unpleasant scenes of them yelling at each other since that’s a big part of what led to the formation of their relationship. I loved Jason protesting to the judge that they couldn’t do anything with Simone frozen, and I’m eager to see how he interacts with whoever was sent to mess with him. Eleanor is doing a pretty great job posing as the architect, due no doubt to her extensive Brad Pitt research phase, though she was right to realize that Janet posing as the architect probably would have been a smarter idea. As usual, this show is leaving me wanting more, perfectly content with another great season and wishing that this wasn’t the only network comedy I watch that only airs thirteen episodes.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Ted Danson as Michael

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

I’m Sorry: Season 2, Episode 3 “Barbara T. Warren” (B+)

It shouldn’t have as a surprise that a topic like death would be raised by Amelia, and, as usual, Andrea and Mike paused to think about what they should say before presenting what probably seemed at the time like an innocuous answer. I don’t know who Rich Eisen is, but obviously his presence and his problematic party favor were irritating enough to all the parents in spite of his celebrity status. Amelia loudly telling her mom that the old man at the supermarket was going to die soon was plenty awkward (also, interesting that Andrea shops at Cambridge Farms, a fully kosher supermarket in the valley in Los Angeles), but I preferred her excitement about picking out her room when she got to move in with her uncle, played by Nelson Franklin, who I had forgotten that we had seen before on this show. Sharon telling him that she was very proud of him had both her children reeling for the eventual reveal of her actual thoughts, in a scene that really made them seem believable as siblings. Andrea joking about Rob taking off his pants so that she could get the money she needed to pay for the coffee was uncomfortable, a realization that comedy out in the real world doesn’t always work if the right audience isn’t there, and then things went way too far when a joke about fellatio played out in a very literal way that no one was expecting. It’s never a good sign when Andrea is the shocked one.

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 3 “The One Thing We Don’t Talk About” (B+)

Making sure that they have time to have sex in the middle of their wedding as a factor for choosing a wedding venue is something that only these two depraved protagonists would consider, and, though she was a bit disgusted, the event coordinator didn’t seem all too surprised by what they had done. Gretchen was incredibly excited when she learned that a triple murder had occurred, making it the only choice for them, and all it took was Jimmy getting a paying job so that he might be able to help somehow pay off the absurd credit card debt Gretchen has accrued from having seventy credit cards that she simply stopped using as soon as they stopped working. Lindsay, who was sleeping with the janitor she thought was an undercover boss, did a spectacular impression of Gretchen’s mom that got her reacting as if she was really talking to her, and her cutthroat interview process that only Debbie passed led her to make the phone call she was so dreading. Breaking the news to everyone that she’s marrying Jimmy and not Boone is going to be an issue, though I feel like she’ll probably hide that fact until the very last minute. As if Gretchen wasn’t a horrific enough would-be boss, Edgar’s new relationship with his soup-loving, fancy-haired mentor is immensely disturbing. Paying him $1000 to eat a whole bunch of sandwiches is an odd form of torture, but this show knows how to be creative in its unapologetic strangeness.

Monday, January 28, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 8 “Someday…” (B+)

It’s important to remember when watching a show where, often, things do go well, that an installment spent with the characters in a rut doesn’t mean that the show is experiencing one also. In fact, much of what happens on this show often feels fantastical and unlikely to have truly occurred in the time period in which it’s set, and Midge going through the way in which she’s able to deal with unwanted advances is about as traumatic as we’ve seen her undergo at any point. In this case, Susie stealing her mother’s car and replacing it with a cowboy license plate didn’t lead to them being pulled over or anything like that, but instead took them on an only mildly harrowing journey to dirty motels, a rained-out gig, and a late arrival back into Manhattan. Calling Joel showed again how he truly has turned into the supportive spouse he always should have been, desperately looking after her while allowing her some degree of independence that was pretty much the highest bar possible for the men of this era. While much of this was dryly or darkly amusing, Midge missing her friend’s baby shower was not, especially after she surprised her by speaking coarsely at the deli, and the most miserable moment came when Midge came home to find that her mother had punitively told Zelda not to clean up so that Midge could atone for her sins. Abe’s reaction to her career was poor, but it seems that Rose is taking it worse and taking it out specifically on her daughter.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 11 “Songbird Road: Part One” (B-)

I’m having trouble believing that Jack wouldn’t want anything to do with his brother and that he would lie to his wife for years about how he was actually alive. The accident on the boat was certainly traumatic, but it still doesn’t seem like it would have had that effect on Jack. We got into flashback-within-a-flashback territory here with the Big Three tracking down Nicky as Jack went to meet with him and then thought back to walking around talking about brotherly aspirations as young kids. The notion of the Big Three getting together to go on a road trip to find their own remaining relative who might be able to tell them more about their father was nice, especially with Randall bringing far too many healthy snacks and Kate insisting on having to stop to pee frequently due to her being pregnant. I thought that Michael Angarano, who is only a few years younger than Mandy Moore, might be portraying the seventy-year-old Nicky, but instead, we got the sixty-three-year-old Griffin Dunne, who I remember best as the Rainmaker on “House of Lies.” Jack may not have been willing to open up to Rebecca other than confessing that he went to see a war buddy but didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, but Kevin, hardly the first Pearson child anyone would have expected to stick by someone through a tough ordeal, wasn’t willing to leave Nicky behind, determined to right the wrongs he believes were committed by his father. I can only imagine that he’ll soon meet Rebecca, an event that’s going to be very difficult for both of them given the memories of Jack it will bring to the surface.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 11 “Seeing Red” (B)

We’re back to Cicada as our featured villain, who somehow manages to be more powerful than everyone else he faces off against, even if it’s a horde of united metahumans. The difference between him and all past villains is that he’s not seeking Barry’s demise for his own twisted amusement, but instead hates all metas and wants to rid the world of them. Breaking Nora’s back and paralyzing her set things in a serious direction, and her inevitable full recovery was most worthwhile for the way that it got her to be much closer with her mother. Killer Frost seemed to enjoy the opportunity to go head-to-head with Cicada, and she may have done the most damage, giving the team their latest advantage that’s sure not to work. Barry’s idea to appeal to him by waking up Grace is risky, since I think he’ll see any attempt to involve her as an attack. Cecile sprang into action in a big way in this episode, though Captain Singh seemed to realize all too well that she was reading the traitorous cop’s mind when they were interrogating him together. It’s good to see Team Flash using the skills they have, like Ralph appealing directly to Killer Frost as a meta and the ice queen using her criminal network to get to the metas they need to be able to save. While Iris snapped at Sherloque for trying to question Nora while she was recuperating, the sometimes-worthwhile detective is getting much closer to the truth about who was writing her journal and her real reason for returning from the future.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Conners (Season Finale)

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 11 “We Continue to Truck” (B+)

It’s strange to see this show signing off so early without any confirmation that there will be a second season. The return of the classic series that spun this one off last year was a ratings juggernaut, and then its swift cancellation following Roseanne’s infamous tweet could have doomed this fictional family, but instead this new show was in the works and on the air very quickly. Like last year, the comedy was prominent but things ended on a real and troubling note as Roseanne and Dan realized that their basement was flooding and they would have to pay a lot to repair it. Now, Becky managed to bond with the father of her child and see what a happy family could look like, only to find out that he had been picked up by ICE and deported. It’s interesting to see this show address illegal immigration in this way, with Dan sadly admitting that he was in the country illegally while Darlene shouted at him not to find that acceptable. Jackie also went through a rough time as she finally got confirmation that Dan’s suspicions about Peter were right all along and he tried to blame her for overreacting to the news of his infidelity. Everyone Darlene told about Ben asking her to move in with him in Chicago seemed all for the idea, and David’s bad timing has now put that in doubt, which is a shame since it’s really probably a good step for the whole family. I’d be excited to watch more of this show, which has substantially improved, and I’m hopeful we’ll soon get a renewal announcement!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Sara Gilbert as Darlene

What I’m Watching: SMILF (Season Premiere)

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 1 “Shit Man, I’ve Literally Failed” (B+)

I think I had forgotten that this show existed, reminded only by advertisements before other Showtime series and every time I see Frankie Shaw as I’m finishing up the first season of “Homecoming.” I’ll admit that the way that this season’s episodes are titled is incredibly clever, addressing the fact that people hated the name of the show in a head-on way that explains just how creative the acronym can be. Bridget is someone who right now is pretty much letting life happen to her, getting a massage from the woman who lives where her father used to and then finding out from the hoarder whose bathroom she wanted to use during her stepfather’s funeral that he had died a while back, just before, as she put it, she was about to find him. She did take a more active role in attempting to influence the world around her right before she lost her wallet and she confronted a guy interacting with his daughter by pretending to be a roaming child psychologist. The TSA agent telling her that she would have to shoot her if she tried to get by was entertainingly blunt, and I was most impressed that she flew on Spirit Airlines and they were still willing to try to help her. Dealing with her own issues, Bridget wasn’t exactly sympathetic to her mother’s loss, and the priest knew what he was in for with this family, having to apologize to all potentially offended minority members after Zaggy’s nickname-filled eulogy. I wasn’t sure I’d be excited about watching this show, but I think I’m intrigued enough after this premiere.

Pilot Review: Black Monday

Black Monday (Showtime)
Premiered January 20 at 10pm

There are shows with outrageous characters, and then there are outrageous shows. This one certainly fits both bills, alleging that it depicts the events that led to the 1987 stock market crash, but as directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the creative minds behind “Superbad.” Now, I love that movie, but it’s fair to expect a considerable amount of exaggeration here. Don Cheadle successfully anchored a Showtime series that I really enjoyed at the beginning for five seasons, portraying a morally bankrupt management consultant who specialized in taking advantage of his clients to make as much money as possible. It’s no surprise that the charismatic actor would be chosen to play the protagonist here, Maurice “Mo” Monroe, the head of an investment firm who is so eager to indulge in whatever he feels like that he has a framed photo of himself doing cocaine on his wall. Cheadle isn’t the only smart acting choice here, with Regina Hall, who I just saw in her much-lauded turn in “Support the Girls,” portraying the one employee who doesn’t do whatever he tells her. Tony winner Andrew Rannells, who starred in “Girls,” gets to play the polar opposite of both of them, a wunderkind who only managed to bolster up enough courage to confront Mo after his girlfriend, playing by Casey Wilson, essentially beat him into submission. I was also happy to see Ken Marino of “Party Down” fame as the twin brothers who thought that they were able to screw Mo over, if not for the very calculated plan he concocted to get Rannells’ Blair exactly where he wanted him. That final scene did make this extremely over-the-top show more appealing, and I’d be willing to give it a second try even if I’m not sure I’ll love it.

How will it work as a series? We saw someone with a green tie pin land on Mo’s absurd red “limbo” at the start of the episode, which we’re supposed to think is either Blair or Mo based on their conversations. Charting the year that it takes to get to that point should prove interesting, though I hope that we’re not treated to regular hints of what happens in the future but rather just the ridiculous plot playing out in an unpredictable narrative fashion.
How long will it last? This pilot was released online early, and I haven’t been able to find any ratings data for its actual television airing. The reviews aren’t great, and Showtime is likely banking on Cheadle to be able to carry another show for them. I suspect that this one may be one of their one-season outings, but it’s still possible the network could opt to pick it up for more.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

What I’m Watching: Counterpart

Counterpart: Season 2, Episode 6 “Twin Cities” (A-)

Every time I watch this show, I feel like I need to be broadcasting its existence as widely as possible. This episode was the latest superb backstory reveal that filled in some important questions in the most intriguing and incredible way. Samuel Roukin turned in a formidable double performance as the young Yanek, who caused an accident that allowed his two selves to come face-to-face, arguing about who created who. Understanding that he worked with his other to test what was going on was fascinating, particularly when they made the decision to start an experiment by having them do something different, giving a gift to one daughter and not the other. Realizing that Mira listening to that tape in one world was what made her come out too late to find his son already so far gone in his seizure that he couldn’t be saved was devastating, and it clearly led to that Janek’s undoing. Seeing the two teams come together and express first wonder at their similarities and then grow apart was mesmerizing. I immediately recognized Ivanno Jeremiah from “Humans” as the young Juma, whose older self we met earlier this season. The creation of the biological weapon as a safeguard because its mere ideation meant that the other side might be doing the same was an unfortunate precedent to what we’ve now confirmed led to an unclear release, the effects of which were truly abysmal for the other side. Mira turning herself in doesn’t seem like it will go simply or peacefully, but I’m completely captivated to see what happens next.

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

Shameless: Season 9, Episode 8 “The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Alibi” (B+)

It’s a nice treat to have split this show’s season in half for the first time, enabling us to experience the twisted delight of seven episodes so soon after the first part finished airing in October. I want to note that I was not at all aware until recently that Ian won’t be coming back, as the last episode that we saw actor Cameron Monaghan in was indeed his final hour. He’s been a great presence, and I think sending him off to jail with Mickey is a fitting way to say goodbye to his character. Now, with him gone, the focus is on Fiona, who is in truly bad shape after finding out that Max is going to level the building to make much more than he paid her for it, and her passing around a jar of gum from under the tables to have customers guess just how much is in there demonstrates how strung-out she’s become in her perception of reality. Making fun of the allergies of a customer, played by Max Adler from “Glee,” is another sign that she’s losing it and just doesn’t care. It is great to see Debs taking charge of the family finances in her absence, with decent contributions from the rest of the family. Lip’s relationship with Tami, whose friends all refer to him as Jabby, is moving forward very quickly, and she seems completely set on changing his life at a rapid pace. Ingrid bringing Frank on a surprise trip to see her frozen eggs turned into Frank’s latest con, and I can only imagine how Carl is going to react when he inevitably finds out that Frank tricked him into giving sperm he could pass off as his own. Kev and Veronica’s latest child drama provides some interesting immigration commentary, and so far it’s not quite as cringe-worthy as it could be. The storyline that had me fully engaged and laughing this entire episode was Carl’s, as he and Kelly proved their prowess together, camping out in secret in her backyard and then charging hipsters to use the power scooters that he took from right in front of them. I’ve been earning free membership extensions on Citi Bike, New York City’s bikeshare system, for a while now because I redistribute bikes from crowded stations to empty ones, and I was pleased to see Carl and Kelly discover a similar financial opportunity in recharging the scooters, which apparently is a real thing.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 10 “Suspicious Minds” (B+)

This show is taking a darker turn as Supergirl is no longer allowed to operate as part of the DEO, especially considering the direction that Colonel Haley immediately went in doing everything possible to uncover her secret identity. Interrogating the agents was one thing, but then using the truth seeker felt very brutal in a way that reveals the true nature of what the DEO has been charged with under the current administration. Brainy compartmentalizing the secret a bit too much to the point that he forgot about Kara was a humorous moment that led to a far more serious solution to the problem of protecting Supergirl’s civilian life, which involved not only erasing the memories of all the agents who knew who she was but erasing that knowledge from Alex’s brain as well. It doesn’t mean that Alex won’t know who Kara is, but that’s going to be a problematic obstacle which will almost certainly lead to her eventually finding out again anyway. On a lighter note, Brainy awkwardly asking Nia on a date was an exciting premise, and the fact that he just wanted to suggest that she become a superhero was almost as worthwhile. I’d be very interested to see costume and codename ideas he brought along with him. Lena and James being in a better place is a relief, and Lena asking for his help in keeping her ethics in check is about the best thing we could have hoped for with the least evil-leaning Luthor.

Friday, January 25, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 1, Episode 7 “Chapter 7: A String is Attached” (B+)

The dynamic between Sandy and Norman is probably the best reason to watch this show, and that’s definitely what made this episode so great. In one of his regular conversations with his deceased wife, Norman accepted the idea of giving the money to Sandy as a gift but immediately argued that he should purposely say that there were no strings attached just to mess with him. No strings is indeed the biggest string of them all, but that strategy backfired for him when Sandy was far too proud to accept it. His plan to pay back $1000 per year would likely have exceeded his life (though the 102-year-old Kirk Douglas, actor Michael’s real-life father, makes the case that he has great genes), and I liked the IRS agent’s response to his sob story about his accountant dying, very straightforwardly asking why he didn’t just find a new accountant. Mindy taking the money straight to the IRS was a good move, though I was worried she was going to get into an accident on the way due to how her aggressive driving was being portrayed. Margaret’s superb monologue felt a bit random, though I guess it’s worthwhile to remember that Sandy does occasionally spend some time as an acting teacher. His Bluetooth mistake didn’t help matters too much, and I think the relationship with Lisa is really over, though the fact that she called his daughter to pick him up suggests that she’s invested with the family enough that she may one day change her tune.

What I’m Watching: Narcos: Mexico

Narcos: Mexico: Season 1, Episode 8 “Just Say No” (B+)

Of all the things we’ve seen happen so far this season, the DEA raiding the fields before they were burned by the military was perhaps the most impactful. Part of it has to do with the fact that Miguel and his operation seemed so untouchable, but the multibillion-dollar loss sustained as a result represents a definite blow to the profitable industry. It was a surprising procedural gain for the DEA, who once again experienced a roadblock in their efforts to send findings up the chain to create actual, documented progress, but it didn’t come without one particular cost. Kiki and Mika were celebrating and debating whether they should send their kids to public or private school, but it seemed obvious from the start of this hour, if not a few episodes back, that their happy ending isn’t going to happen the way that they want it to. Here was another opportunity for Miguel to finally call Rafa a liability and take him out for disobeying his direct orders, but it seems that Miguel has lost some control, to the point that he now needs to be responsible for supervising the torture of Kiki to determine what it is that the Americans know. Hearing Acosta say that he’s known for a long time that he’s meant to go out in a gunfight and that there was no use putting off the inevitable made it seem like a big battle might be underway, but that turned out to be far more peaceful, not to mention productive.

What I’m Watching: Homecoming

Homecoming: Season 1, Episode 9 “Work” (B+)

We’ve been waiting all season to figure out what happened between Heidi and Cruz, and while we still haven’t seen it happen, this episode provided an incredible clue that helps to explain so much of this. Heidi has never been great about boundaries with Cruz, and for some reason she thought that, after he told her that maybe Shrier would be able to deploy again with him, it was a good idea to go have lunch in the cafeteria with him, something that is not allowed. Her walking into the kitchen to prepare two plates of that week’s marked food, much to the shock of everyone standing there, confirmed that she was the one who decided to dose herself, so overcome with guilt for what she had participated in that she couldn’t live with it. The foreboding music that accompanied so many scenes in this episode was legitimate, since Colin got that maniacal look in his eye during their very first interview and then every bite of the gnocchi that Heidi took was a purposeful action meant to serve as atonement, and punishment, for her actions. Heidi didn’t think Ellen understood when she admitted that she knew whatever she was working on was fishy the whole time, and it seems that Colin’s wife is also more aware of what he’s up to than might have been assumed by how little we’ve seen them interacting. That box where they write down things they don’t want to tell each other seems like the riskiest blackmail fodder I’ve ever seen. Carrasco’s boss didn’t appear to be impressed by what he was telling her, which makes sense if she’s on the Geist payroll, and now he’s gone too. I’m eager to see how things wrap up in the finale.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

What I’m Watching: Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black: Season 6, Episode 12 “Double Trouble” (B+)

We’re gearing up now for a super-sized finale, one that will hopefully send this show in a productive direction for its final season. Some of the new storylines and characters introduced this season haven’t been great, but I do feel at this point like it’s finally all building to something. Carol and Barb being put together in the same cell was just Ginger’s way of trying to get herself a few extra points, but now a full-on war is coming, and Carol is already arming her people with weapons for the kickball game. What’s most compelling is the way that the guards are being portrayed as all of this affects them and they are forced to choose a moral side. The fact that Gloria could go to Luschek because she found him to be the most reasonable says something, and Alvarez reacted swiftly to quash her being able to expose the fantasy inmate game, which could be the true undoing of the new PolyCon Corrections brand that Linda is working so hard to create. The video filming was a bit much since you’d think that Crazy Eyes could have been replaced early on when she refused to stop doing Shonda Rhimes monologues instead of saying her lines. McCullough is indeed having trouble doing her job as her PTSD takes over, while Tamika is realizing that she needs to stay true to the friend who never gave up on her and might actually be onto something about how most guards view the inmates. Along with Caputo giving Taystee a much-needed pep talk, Hopper’s reformation as a character is the most satisfying, since he made a clear decision not to be influenced by what others were trying to get done and stamp Piper for early release, something that she’ll be very happy to find out about considering how much Badison was trying to add time to her sentence. Alex may be looking at an increase in her sentence given her recent association with Carol right at the worst possible time. Red losing out on the opportunity to meet her grandchildren because she saw Frieda in line was sad, and the finale is certainly going to include just as many devastating events as it is celebratory ones.

What I’m Watching: Luke Cage (Penultimate Episode)

Luke Cage: Season 2, Episode 12 “Can’t Front on Me” (B+)

It’s strange to watch this show knowing that there’s only one episode left, something that most marathoned through it wouldn’t learn for a few months after it premiered. I’m going to miss this show’s choreographed fights and style, particularly the ones in which multiple people are fighting each other and change sides during the course of the battle. That was best illustrated in this hour was when Luke stepped in to help Bushmaster before going head-to-head with him, which of course resulted in Luke getting punched out and starting to bleed at the mouth. He did manage to honor the deal proposed by Luke for a little bit, agreeing not to kill anyone, and Luke nearly choked him out and killed him before Misty talked him down. The biggest instance of conflicted loyalties in this hour came from Shades, who delighted in confessing all of his misdeeds, resulting in his lawyer recusing herself and telling him to burn in hell and the usually stoic Misty breaking down and crying when she learned how he manipulated her and caused an innocent person’s death. Shades handing Misty the gun so that she could triumphantly arrest Mariah the end of the episode indicated that he did do his part, and that sometimes one evil is required to get rid of another. The guilty party who has thus far gone unpunished is Tilda, who decided to help Bushmaster do much more than stay alive, giving him the power-up he needed so that he could take down Mariah once and for all. Now that he failed to do that, we’ll see where Tilda lands and whether she pays for what she’s done.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

The competition: Atlanta, Barry, GLOW, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

For your information: The only returning nominee is “GLOW,” here for its second season along with star Alison Brie. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which has three performers – Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, and Tony Shalhoub – nominated, is here for its second season, earning its first bids. The same is true for “Atlanta,” which has its only nomination in this category for its second season, though, somehow Zazie Beetz, who managed an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress, isn’t one of the four cast members cited. Two freshman series, “Barry” and “The Kominsky Method,” each have two men nominated, Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, and Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, respectively. Two shows have won this award without any individual nominations – “Sex and the City” in 2003 and “Glee” in 2009. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took home the Emmy for Best Comedy Series as well as the corresponding Critics’ Choice Award. “The Kominsky Method” won the Golden Globe for Best TV Series – Comedy/Musical.

Who should win? I haven’t seen any of this season of “GLOW” but I liked its ensemble in season one. I like “The Kominsky Method” but it’s more of a two-man show, and that’s definitely true of “Atlanta,” especially since Beetz isn’t included. I’m all for “Barry” getting this since I think some of its supporting players, like Anthony Carrigan and Glenn Fleshler, are underrated, but I have to choose “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for such a universally terrific cast.

Who will win? In theory it could be any of these, but I think that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel should be far enough ahead.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

The competition: The Americans, Better Call Saul, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ozark, This Is Us

For your information: This is the second consecutive nomination for both “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “This Is Us,” which won last year. Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes are nominated from the former, while Sterling K. Brown is nominated for the latter. “The Americans” earns its first and only SAG bid for its sixth and final season. “Ozark,” which was nominated for two of its stars last year, is new to this category, and has three individual bids, for stars Jason Bateman, Julia Garner, and Laura Linney. “Better Call Saul” earns its first bid in this category this year, along with a third solo nomination for star Bob Odenkirk. Three shows have won this award without any individual nominations – “Six Feet Under” in 2002, “CSI” in 2004, and “Lost” in 2005. “The Americans” took home the Golden Globe for Best TV Series – Drama as well as the corresponding Critics’ Choice Award.

Who should win? I haven’t seen any of this season of “Ozark.” I watched most of this year of “The Americans” and I’m actually fine with it taking this sine the ensemble is good. I’m happy “Better Call Saul” is finally nominated, and “This Is Us” is a solid choice too. “The Handmaid’s Tale” definitely deserves this, however, due to the exceptional contribution of every cast member.

Who will win? The smart choice might be “The Americans,” but I’ll pick The Handmaid’s Tale instead.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie

The competition: Amy Adams’ disturbed reporter (Sharp Objects), Patricia Arquette’s duplicitous prison employee (Escape at Dannemora), Patricia Clarkson’s domineering mother (Sharp Objects), Penelope Cruz’s fashion designer (The Assassination of Gianni Versace), and Emma Stone’s troubled test subject (Maniac).

For your information: Both Adams and Stone are also nominated this year in the film supporting actress race. Adams has four previous solo film nominations, for “Junebug,” “Doubt,” “The Fighter,” and “Arrival,” plus ensemble bids for the middle two and a win for “American Hustle” in 2013. Stone won for her individual role in “La La Land” in 2016, also with ensemble wins for “The Help” in 2011 and “Birdman” in 2014, along with a solo nomination for the latter. Arquette won in 2014 for her supporting role in “Boyhood,” along with an ensemble nomination for that film and one season of “Boardwalk Empire,” plus three individual bids for the TV series “Medium.” Clarkson was nominated for two different films in 2003, “Pieces of April” and “The Station Agent,” and has picked up ensemble bids for the latter of those two, “The Green Mile,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Cruz was nominated in 2006 for “Volver” and in 2008 for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” with an ensemble bid in 2009 for “Nine.” The first season of Cruz’s anthology series earned three acting bids and one win in 2016. Double nominees are actually quite common in this category, including two years (2003 and 2017) with only two projects total recognized, and someone occasionally wins, in all cases a leading actress rather than a supporting one. Clarkson beat Cruz, an Emmy nominee this past year, for the Globe and Critics’ Choice Award, while Arquette beat Adams at the Globes and they tied for the Critics’ Choice Award.

Who should win? I watched only the first episode of all of these except for Stone’s project, and I don’t have a particular favorite.

Who will win? I’ll pick double nominee and probable double winner Adams.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie

The competition: Antonio Banderas’ brilliant painter (Genius: Picasso), Darren Criss’ disgruntled killer (The Assassination of Gianni Versace), Hugh Grant’s embattled politician (A Very English Scandal), Anthony Hopkins’ aging king (King Lear), and Bill Pullman’s persistent detective (The Sinner).

For your information: Hopkins has two previous individual film nominations, for “Nixon” and “Amistad,” two film ensemble bids, for “Nixon” and “Bobby,” and one TV ensemble bid, for “Westworld.” Criss was nominated twice as part of the ensemble for “Glee.” Grant earned his first nomination in 2016 for the film “Florence Foster Jenkins.” The first season of Criss’ anthology series earned three acting bids and one win in 2016, while Banderas’ netted one bid last year, and Pullman’s didn’t get any for season one. Criss won the Emmy, Critics’ Choice Award, and Golden Globe this year.

Who should win? I sampled Criss’ work with one episode and he was good, but Grant was truly excellent. I haven’t seen any of the other three.

Who will win? It’s safe to say Criss is the frontrunner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Alex Borstein’s sarcastic manager (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Alison Brie’s wrestler actress (GLOW), Rachel Brosnahan’s budding comic (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Jane Fonda’s retired executive (Grace and Frankie), and Lily Tomlin’s eccentric artist (Grace and Frankie).

For your information: This is the third consecutive nomination for both Fonda and Tomlin, who was previously nominated for “The West Wing.” This is the second consecutive bid for Brie. Brosnahan, who took home the Emmy, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice Award, was previously nominated as part of the “House of Cards” ensemble in 2014. Borstein contended as part of the ensemble for the film “Good Night, and Good Luck” in 2005. Brie, Brosnahan, and Borstein are nominated as part of their ensembles this year. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the two-time defending champ in this category, is not nominated because her show doesn’t return until later in 2019. Out of eight times that two women from the same show have contended for this prize, none have resulted in wins, but this is the first time that two shows have multiple nominees.

Who should win? Though I haven’t seen any of this season of Brie’s work, I liked her a lot in season one. Fonda and Tomlin are great as usual, but Borstein and Brosnahan were particularly excellent this season, and I’d be happy to see either of them win.

Who will win? I think Brosnahan will take this since her role is the most clear lead one.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series

The competition: Alan Arkin’s grieving agent (The Kominsky Method), Michael Douglas’ aging acting teacher (The Kominsky Method), Bill Hader’s hitman-turned-actor (Barry), Tony Shalhoub’s obsessive professor (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Henry Winkler’s theatrical acting teacher (Barry).

For your information: We have a brand new slate of nominees this year, including four from two freshman series, despite four of last year’s six men still being eligible. Shalhoub was nominated seven times in 2002 and 2009 for “Monk,” winning twice. Arkin has two individual film nominations, for “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Argo,” and won as part of both ensembles. Douglas won both of his previous bids, an ensemble prize for the film “Traffic” and in 2013 for his starring role in the TV movie “Behind the Candelabra.” Winkler contended as part of the ensemble on “Arrested Development” in 2013, and this is Hader’s first nomination. All five men are also nominated as part of their ensembles this year. William H. Macy, who won this award three times in the past four years, is not nominated this year. Of the seven times that two men from the same show were nominated and the one time three were, not one of them resulted in a win. This is, however, the first time that more than one show has had multiple nominees, so all bets are off. Hader and Winkler both won Emmys and Critics’ Choice Awards, while Douglas took home the Globe, though this is the first time they’re all nominated in one field.

Who should win? I watch all these shows, and everyone nominated here is superb! I’m actually pulling for Hader since I think he’s great, and I’d be very happy with Shalhoub too, though honestly any of them are perfectly fine.

Who will win? It’s very hard to say with so much competition. I’m going to pick Shalhoub very tentatively.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Julia Garner’s young criminal (Ozark), Laura Linney’s loyal wife (Ozark), Elisabeth Moss’ trapped mother (The Handmaid’s Tale), Sandra Oh’s determined investigator (Killing Eve), and Robin Wright’s cutthroat politician (House of Cards).

For your information: This is the fifth consecutive nomination for Wright, whose show is now over, and she also has two previous film nominations. Moss was nominated last year and twice before that for “Mad Men” and once for “Top of the Lake.” Linney was nominated last year, has two film nominations and won in 2008 for the miniseries “John Adams.” Oh has three wins, for 2004 as part of the film ensemble of “Sideways,” for 2005 for her individual performance on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and in 2006 as part of that show’s ensemble. She has no other previous individual bids, but did take home both the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award recently. This is Garner’s first time contending at SAG. Garner, Linney, and Moss are all nominated as part of their ensembles. Two nominees from the same show in this category aren’t uncommon, and, on a few occasions, one of them triumphs. Last year’s winner, Claire Foy, isn’t here since her show didn’t air and she’s no longer starring on it anyway.

Who should win? I liked Garner’s work in the first season of her show and wasn’t as impressed by Linney, though I haven’t seen either of them this season. Wright bothered me immensely in the final year of her show. Oh is good but not as strong as her snubbed costar Jodie Comer. I’m all for Moss, who was terrific, though her equally excellent costar Yvonne Strahovski should be here too.

Who will win? I’m worried it’s going to be Oh but I’ll still predict Moss.

Monday, January 21, 2019

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Drama Series

The competition: Jason Bateman’s protective patriarch (Ozark), Sterling K. Brown’s loyal father and brother (This Is Us), Joseph Fiennes’ domineering commander (The Handmaid's Tale), John Krasinski’s secret agent (Jack Ryan), and Bob Odenkirk’s inventive lawyer (Better Call Saul).

For your information: Brown won last year and was nominated the year before for his role in “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.” Bateman contended last year and was previously nominated in 2004 and 2013 for his role on “Arrested Development.” This is Odenkirk’s third nomination, and he previously won as part of the “Breaking Bad” ensemble. Fiennes was nominated in 1998 for his film performance in “Shakespeare in Love” and contended last year as part of his ensemble. This is the first solo nomination for Krasinski, who won twice as part of the ensemble from “The Office.” All but Krasinski are also nominated as part of their ensembles, and Brown has a second ensemble bid for his work in the film “Black Panther.” From 2010 to 2015, this category saw three back-to-back winners.

Who should win? I haven’t seen any of Bateman’s work this season, and only saw the pilot of Krasinski’s show. Brown and Odenkirk are always great, and Fiennes had a particularly strong plotline this year, so I’m fine with any of those three.

Who will win? I think Brown repeats history and wins again.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 10 “I Can Work with You” (B)

This episode mostly worked okay, even if some of the setup elements were a bit clunky and forced. The fact that Darryl’s baby is named Hebecca makes her entire existence hard to take seriously, and Rebecca revealed in her word vomit response to him why she had been avoiding acknowledging her for so long, which in turn should have made the far too trusting Darryl question the notion of leaving his child with her. Whenever someone in a movie or television show announces that a baby never cries, you know that you can expect them to do exactly the opposite, but, somehow, things worked out well here as Rebecca and Greg got to have their sweet – and then less appropriate – bonding moment in the context of trying to help calm this baby. Paula’s secret graduation party was a fun opportunity to do one of my favorite things in television, which is when characters who rarely interact get a chance to share screen time. Nathaniel insisting he was nice to Josh didn’t work, but then the discovery that they share a love for sports got them to be the perfect partners. While Heather and Beth were very happy to be paired up, Valencia and Hector didn’t feel the same way, and watching Hector pass on each card because he was so terrified was entertaining. Though he didn’t have the same romantic feelings for Valencia as Father Brah did, he did want to be her friend, and now it seems like everyone is in a good place. Everyone, that is, except for Nathaniel, whose reaction to Rebecca’s rekindled relationship with Greg is not going to be a good one.

Pilot Grade: Butterfly

Butterfly (Hulu)
Premiered January 18

I watch so many shows that I’ve started to assume that all of them are dramas filled with mystery and violence, and seeing a show about a family unit that has their own problems but isn’t at each other throats is actually somewhat refreshing. If nothing else, this show is honest, featuring real people dealing head-on with modern-day issues for which they are not prepared. I know that the topic of transgender stories being told by cisgender men has been controversial recently, particularly with the Golden Globe-nominated Belgian film “Girl,” but this feels like a more sensitive take, though I did read that the National Health Service in the UK found the attempted suicide scene in this pilot problematic because it’s indicative of a trend that just doesn’t exist for those fitting this description in this age bracket. I do like that this show isn’t interested in simple answers, with Maxine, who I’ll refer to by female pronouns, expressing that she isn’t gay when her grandfather tried to talk about how this “trans thing is really fashionable” and how much simpler just being gay would be. Where this show definitely succeeds is in its portrayal of a broken marriage, one that is literally willed back together by a troubled child. Stephen reflecting back on the negative things he did when his son tried to express himself was powerful, and it’s hardly a forgiving turn. The only actor I knew before this project was Anna Friel, who I first encountered as the bubbly Chuck on “Pushing Daisies” and last saw passing out after a violent outburst on “Marcella,” and she’s good in a far more straightforward role than she usually has, demonstrating the complex feelings Vicky has in sacrificing so much of her life for her children. This is interesting stuff, and a worthwhile companion to films like “A Kid Like Jake” that represent gender exploration at a young age and how families approach it.

How will it work as a series? This is only three episodes long, so this is a considerable sample of what to expect. This first hour just starts to address what Maxine is feeling, finally presenting herself as female towards its end, and I assume that what’s to come will look more deeply at what the implications are socially both for Maxine and for her parents.
How long will it last? This show premiered to good ratings and mostly good reviews on ITV in October, airing one episode per week, and now debuting on Hulu all at once. I don’t imagine there’s necessarily more to the story, but, as is always the case with these very limited series, it’s possible that similar stories could be produced as new anthology chapters if this proves a popular hit.

Pilot grade: B+

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Good Place

The Good Place: Season 3, Episode 12 “Chidi Sees the Time-Knife” (B+)

This show is always reinventing itself, and I’m excited to see how this unexpected development plays out. The Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes was a strange and relatively freaky place that somehow could be masked but not really controlled, resulting in both Tahani and Chidi experiencing some traumatic things. Who would have thought that, after Michael started flossing, or “backpack kid dancing,” as he called it, Jason would be the one to be able to explain to the judge why humans were worth giving a chance. It was wonderful to see Maya Rudolph again, who was very into Chidi’s look and was surprised to discover than, on Earth, she was black, something that didn’t go over well with the nasty humans she encountered. Sean was another entertaining addition to this episode, though he managed to really spook Michael by revealing his nefarious plan for how to torture our four protagonists if Michael’s plan fails. It’s great to see Michael excited to work with Janet to build a new neighborhood and test things out on four humans marked for a trip to the bad place, and I love the notion that Eleanor might have to be the one to read John in. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see Jason Mantzoukas again as Derek, who apparently gets smarter and fancier every time Mindy hits him with a plunger. This show continues to be terrific, and I’m just sad that we’ll have to wait until the fall to see it again after the finale airs this coming week. It’s hilarious to remember, in the meantime, that possession of a non-fried vegetable is a felony in Jacksonville.

Pilot Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (Sundance Now)
Premiered January 17

It’s hard to believe how many shows there are about witches and vampires. I sighed when I started this episode, feeling like this is all that I’ve been watching with the many pilots I’ve sampled recently. Fortunately, silly as it may sound, the fact that it’s British and not on the CW gives it a slight leg up, at least having the appearance of higher quality. I’m most interested in the two lead actors, who I’ve seen in a number of projects. Matthew Goode, who recently earned an Emmy nomination for his recurring role on “The Crown,” has appeared in many projects from the 2007 film “The Lookout” to the TV show “The Good Wife,” and this is one of his more ominous, threatening roles rather than the sweet-natured type. Teresa Palmer was great in “Warm Bodies,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “Kill Me Three Times,” and, though I’m not sure why her character is American, she seems to be a good fit here as someone who wants to reject the magic she has in her but finally realizes that she can’t. I’m still not into this type of fare, but at least this isn’t an effects-heavy, battle-centric show but instead one about people realizing who they are in the grand scheme of the universe and its many supernatural forces. There’s clearly a long history here as there often is in this genre, and it’s not something that I’m going to be sticking around to see unfold since it’s just not interesting or stylized enough to appeal to me.

How will it work as a series? Palmer’s Diana is an academic, and indulging in the exploration of things that can’t be proven in her field is going to end up being a serious distraction from that work. Balancing her two worlds will prove difficult, and that’s not even taking into account the mythical forces that might be coming after her and Goode’s Matthew. There’s much to be uncovered, and those interested should keep watching to learn more.
How long will it last? Reviews seem to be pretty good, and this show has already enjoyed a successful run of its initial eight episodes on Sky One in the UK in September and November. It was renewed by that network for a second and third season several months ago, and it’s hard to know whether it will continue beyond that. Sundance Now should air whatever is produced across the pond, and I think it should do pretty well here given the popularity of the subject matter.

Pilot grade: B-

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

I’m Sorry: Season 2, Episode 2 “Quietly Bleeding” (B+)

I enjoyed the opening scene of this hour in which Andrea was waiting at the supermarket with a random young guy for the condoms to be unlocked. That uncomfortable moment led to another great scene in this half-hour where Adam Scott from “Parks and Recreation” played her gynecologist, who happened to be Steve, Mike’s camp counselor, who was more than happy to catch up casually in the middle of her exam, something that did not sit well with Andrea at all. The realization that Andrea and Mike are on separate islands was a helpful return to reality for the two of them, but of course she dealt with it through comedy, joking about divorce while Mike suggested that therapy was probably a better first option. Sharon insisting the Mike was the best thing that ever happened to her was entertaining, and she definitely does have an inappropriate fixation on her son-in-law. The couple did manage to get back on track after seeing horrifying gender stereotypes in other people and then springing into action when the guy got a serious head wound during his story. Telling his wife that yes, she should ride in the ambulance with him was a great moment. Olive learning how to read isn’t good for anyone, and there were unfortunate implications that came about like her telling the dentist Andrea thought his breath was bad and her newfound ability to recognize words that her parents used to be able to spell without her knowing. You learn something new every day, like how “feisting” means being crazy.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 2 “The Pin in My Grenade” (B+)

This episode had me laughing audibly in a way that I don’t remember this show doing in a long time, as these two tried to elope and failed miserably. As Edgar and Lindsay deliberated over which of them was the dumb one of the group, they both managed to derail the courthouse weddings by distracting Jimmy with notions of the wedding he’s always wanted and dropping a wedding dress by Gretchen’s new office that she could try on before luxuriating on the bidet. It’s hardly surprising that this show would incorporate modern times by having Gretchen “Me Too a dude for his office,” only to learn that she actually got rid of a true perpetrator. Gretchen and Jimmy both having the same idea about getting beat up to cover for having missed the wedding was funny, and obviously Lindsay had some real rage to get out while she was punching Gretchen. Jimmy caught her when she tried to switch stories when she realized that he had missed it too, but, luckily, they’re now set for an actual wedding that isn’t going to coincide with Lindsay’s birthday. One of my favorite moments was Gretchen’s video session with Samira Wiley’s perpetually unpaid Iowa-based therapist, who was fine hearing all of the filth coming out of her mouth until she congratulated her on marrying Boone, only to discover that she was in fact marrying Jimmy, something that made her panic right away and try to convince Gretchen not to do before she hung up on her.

Pilot Review: Deadly Class

Deadly Class (Syfy)
Premiered January 16 at 10pm

There are some shows that are just so unappealing, it’s hard to imagine how they came to be in the first place. I don’t have a problem with dark shows that create uninviting and deeply disturbing worlds in which their characters exist. Such series can often be extremely powerful and compelling, and then there are others that are far from it. One recent example is “The Purge,” though I honestly found that more palatable than this pilot. This episode featured extremely off-putting moments like Henry Rollins’ teacher instructing his students in poison lab to kill their animals and main character Marcus Lopez watching his parents get killed by someone jumping off a roof to their death. Training teenagers to become killers hardly seems like the kind of thing that needs to be featured on television right now, and there’s no hope of any sort of hero here, with Marcus still intent on killing Ronald Reagan even if he’s not quite as eager to get rid of anyone else who crosses his path along the way, which he is. The only actor aside from Rollins who I recognized in this pilot was Benedict Wong, who plays Master Lin, mainly from his role in “Doctor Strange” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” One hour was more than enough of this show for me, and I have no interest whatsoever in seeing how these budding killers grow and take out what they see as the scourge of society during their training.

How will it work as a series? Marcus knows that he can either be a part of this society or go on the run from it, but it seems like he’s more than happy to stick around and learn from them. There should be lots of murder and mayhem to come, something that might for some reason be enticing to viewers.
How long will it last? This pilot has been available to watch online since December 20th, and Syfy has proudly touted large audiences. The actual viewership numbers aren’t nearly as exciting, though somehow the reviews seem to be much better than I would expect given how abysmal I found this to be. I don’t think this will end up being renewed, but there’s always a chance if this kind of off-putting fare is what people want to watch.

Pilot grade: F-

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 7 “Look, She Made a Hat” (B+)

I’m very impressed with the talent that this show has enlisted this season, and I’m hopeful that it’s going to earn plenty of Emmy love for all of its players, not that anyone feels that it’s underrewarded. I’ve been watching Rufus Sewell as a powerful Nazi commander on “The Man in the High Castle” for the past few months, and it was a nice treat to see him with a more natural accent and a bit less control over his faculties as the painter Declan Howell. He was immediately fascinated with Midge, who got to step out of both of her lives to spend some time with him in the secret room that contained his truly personal painting. Benjamin was entertaining getting excited about art and revenge, and he pegged Midge just right as a “great date to bring to something you know nothing about and have no interest in.” I enjoyed the focus on Joel and his building purchase announcement, with the best line during that celebration being “Is this an official meeting, the ten o’clock rendezvous with the woman without the pants?” Seeing Susie’s home life helps explain her attitude, and I was thrilled to see Emily Bergl from “Desperate Housewives” and “Shameless” as her sympathetic sister-in-law Tessie. I’m not always especially fond of the Judaism scenes this show depicts, but it was fun to see the family bickering at the end of Yom Kippur. Midge coming out as a comic at Abe’s insistence at the break-fast dinner went particularly poorly, with her mother stuck on Susie’s fake identity as a plumber and then making matters much worse by bringing up Benjamin, something that both Susie and Joel could agree was not good for business. Her jokes fell flat, but at least she used it all for material at the gig, and I’m eager to see each of her family members start showing up to see her in action.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Pilot Review: Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico (CW)
Premiered January 15 at 9pm

The CW isn’t a terribly old network, but it’s still managed to bring back and resurrect a whole bunch of shows. While there have been new takes on established superheroes and remakes of shows only a few decades old, this is the second time just this season that the CW is actually making a new show based on a series that used to air on UPN and the WB, the two networks that essentially combined to form this one, after “Charmed.” While I think that the original “Roswell” might have appealed to me at the time that it aired, I wasn’t so into television until around the time that it aired its third and final season, and have never seen it as a result. The formula here is pretty familiar, something that I’ve seen used in a handful of programs the CW has debuted over the past decade. The aliens crash-landed in Roswell as the stories go, but they’re not little green men, and can easily pass as human. There are definitely themes of the alien as a stand-in for the “other” in society, but this is hardly the most potent symbolism. The fact that Max left a physical hand imprint on Liz’s wound when he healed her after she got shot feels like something that would have gotten them caught a whole lot earlier, and it’s hard to ignore those kind of things when trying to take this show seriously. This is very typical CW fare that feels hopelessly dated, which is probably exactly what viewers of the non-superhero shows the network airs want to see.

How will it work as a series? Both Liz and Kyle just got read in on the biggest secret that Roswell has to keep, and they’re theoretically going to be approaching it from opposite sides. Teen drama and sci-fi antics are sure to follow, and there’s nothing especially creative about this show that seems to distinguish it from all of the other thematic fare that the CW has tried to launch over the past few years.
How long will it last? The reviews don’t seem to be too great, though most CW shows aren’t huge hits with critics. The ratings, which also don’t always register given how CW compares to the other broadcasters, were more optimistic, demonstrating that this show does pretty well next to the more established hits that have a greater automatic audience appeal. I’d give this show the edge to earn a renewal at this point, though it’s unclear if that’s definitely going to happen.

Pilot grade: C

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 10 “The Last Seven Weeks” (B+)

I’ll admit, there is something clever about having an episode with this title that actually serves to summarize the amount of time that this show has been off the air for its winter hiatus. I’m not usually fond of the structure of this show, starting from an endpoint and then working backwards to explain the big shocks, but doing it all in one episode is actually more appealing. It was affirming to see that, for once, everything is actually looking pretty good right now, even if there are some loose ends that need to be tied up as a result of the latest developments. Kevin telling Zoe that he’s supposed to be giving her space and seeing how the congressman she broke up with over e-mail reacted to seeing her again were the ultimate red herrings, leading to the heartwarming decision that Zoe was going to give this relationship a shot after all. The same was true of Randall and Beth, who appeared to be on the outs but ended up doing fine after the reverend convinced Randall to spend more time with his family, before essentially endorsing him in front of his entire church. His victory is going to be a challenge, but it should provide some interesting direction for his very driven character. Toby labeling his box of valuable Star Wars action figures with letters that could easily be mistaken for the word “donations” was his fault, but Kate showed just how committed to getting them back she was before they both got to enjoy the opportunity to make new memories with their family even if they can’t pass along lost elements of their childhood. The news that Jack knew that his brother was alive is puzzling, and I’m wondering how Rebecca is going to take that when she finds out.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 10 “The Flash and the Furious” (B+)

We’re almost halfway into this season, and I’m glad at least to see that we’re not dealing with a villain like DeVoe who just gets more and more unstoppable every episode. Instead, Caitlin and Cisco believe they’ve come up with a way to defeat Cicada, though it has larger implications for what it means to have powers. That, to me, is one of the most appealing aspects of this aging show, having all of its characters reflect on what their powers do for and to them. Caitlin and Killer Frost are open to exploring Cisco being able to get rid of his abilities, but only in a certain way. Nora and Barry, meanwhile, are exploring the definition of a hero and the need to believe that people can change. It was Nora not buying Jocelyn’s story about not being a villain like her father that allowed her to be corrupted by Silver Ghost, but when she changed her mind and opened up, she was able to get through and convince Jocelyn to come back to the good side. That self-realization was an important step for the continually bratty Nora, who always thinks she knows best. As usual, it’s members of the team not talking to each other that’s going to be their undoing, as Sherloque is starting to put together the fact that Nora is keeping something big from everyone else. The confirmation at the start of the episode that the Wells Nora was talking to in the future is Eobard Thawne is intriguing, and I’m curious to learn how he came to be in this more penitent position.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Conners

The Conners: Season 1, Episode 10 “Don’t Shoot the Piano Teacher” (B+)

Darlene is an extremely sarcastic person, and it makes a lot of sense that both of her children would have inherited some of that. Harris displays it in a relatively unfriendly way, grilling her about having slept with other men they didn’t meet, while Mark was evidently corrupted to pretend to have a tantrum just to mess with his mother. Ben went over well with Dan, even though he caught on right away that Darlene was trying to test him by agreeing to Ben’s suggestion of giving her son piano lessons. Making Mark cry seemed like an unproductive development for their relationship, especially given the way Ben responded when Darlene confronted him, but she’s trying something new by dating someone who is going to challenge her rather than just take what she says, which led to a humorous attempt to have Mark get Ben to come back without implicating her actions in the situation. Ben inviting Darlene and the kids to move in with him was a surprise, and I’m sure there’s going to be some drama if that actually happens. Becky having a baby shower just for the gifts after Blue suggested it was funny, though Jackie got her more upset by inviting Emilio to show his own contribution for the baby. Dan hiring Emilio to do work for him was a sweet gesture, one that hopefully won’t backfire either if he fails to live up to his expectations of a hard worker or, worse, proves less than sincere in his desire to be a part of his future child’s life.

Pilot Review: The Passage

The Passage (FOX)
Premiered January 14 at 9pm

I’ve been seeing the billboard advertisement for this show around Los Angeles for a while now, and something about that and the title made me think this really wasn’t going to be any good. It turns out, it’s much worse than I could have imagined. I’ll always remember actor Jamie McShane from his role on “Sons of Anarchy,” but now I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget his cringe-worthy “I don’t know, but I feel amaaaaaazing” when he first discovered the effects of his turning into a vampire or zombie or whatever it is that this show wants us to believe is happening. Starting with Amy declaring that this is the way the world ends doesn’t provide much hope, and I can’t decide if the show’s overarching premise or the dialogue and characters that filled this hour are worse. It always takes me a few minutes to recognize Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who I last watched regularly for a bit on “Franklin and Bash” and then encountered in the first few episodes of “Pitch.” He’s certainly not good here, with “If you touch her again, I’ll shoot you in the face” being one of his more regrettable lines. If an agent lost a child, they should never be assigned to unsubtly abduct a child who lost her parent to bring her in for an illicit government experiment. That’s far from the most glaring plot hole on this show, which also traps Henry Ian Cusick from “Lost” and Emmanuelle Chriqui from “Entourage” in lackluster roles. I’m very happy to try to forget all about it.

How will it work as a series? Amy is narrating from an unknown point, declaring the end of the world when obviously she goes on to survive in some form or another. High-concept shows like this often get bogged down with unending scenes of characters running from their fates, and every indication is that this one will follow suit and not get very far as it continues to drag on.
How long will it last? I can’t comprehend how this show boasts a 63 average on Metacritic since this truly was one of the worst pilots I’ve seen in a long time. I guess this is what a lot of people want to watch though, with its ratings proving to be pretty decent. I think it’s too early to suggest a second season, with viewership likely dropping off in the coming weeks, but this one will likely stay on the air much longer than it should.

Pilot grade: F-

What I’m Watching: True Detective (Season Premiere)

True Detective: Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “The Great War and Modern Memory” and “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (B-)

This is a show that’s had a rocky road. Its first season premiered to critical acclaim and earned many awards. Its second was reviled and barely merited any mentions. Now, three and a half years after its previous season, it’s back with an all-new cast and new premise. Unfortunately, its issues aren’t resolved, and, to me, this feels like the more of the mopey, moody misery that often overwhelmed the first season and certainly dominated the second. It’s appropriate that Mahershala Ali is making his return to television just as he’s headed towards his second Oscar win, following his first trophy that was awarded to him just after he got an Emmy nomination for “House of Cards” and starred in the first season of “Luke Cage.” He’s a good actor, and this is a decent role for him, but it’s nowhere near anything else he’s done before, and not as compelling as the wearied performances delivered by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in season one. There are many familiar faces in the cast, like Stephen Dorff as his partner, Mamie Gummer as the abducted kids’ mother, Sarah Gadon as the documentarian, Carmen Ejogo as Wayne’s wife, and Scoot McNairy as the grieving father. There’s also Josh Hopkins of “Cougar Town” and Jon Tenney of “The Closer” as the investigators interrogating Wayne in one of the many time periods focused here. Showcasing him as a white-haired man reflecting back on his testimony from twenty-five years earlier of events that happened ten years before that seems like too much, and these episodes came off as very dense as a result. The police brutality is nothing new, but it’s still unsettling, and there isn’t really anything here that makes this show stand out. With only eight episodes that are likely to earn some sort of awards attention, I’m considering continuing, but I think I know what I’m in for, and I’m already not into it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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

Ray Donovan: Season 6, Episode 12 “The Dead” (B-)

I’ve been wondering a lot this season about how best to define this show, since, in its early days, it was a drama that had style and intrigue, often driven by its rhythm more than anything. Lately, it’s been prone to cyclical repetitiveness and musical interludes, both played in the background to accompany montages or actually sung by characters, as was the case in this closing hour. Some of what’s happening, at face value, is just absurd. Bridget was walking around delivering sandwiches to her family members as Sandy casually sawed off a dead cop’s dead, and then nonchalantly agreed to take over for Sandy while Smitty was vomiting nearby. Somehow that romantic setup encouraged Smitty to decide that they should get married right away, and no one was bothered by the fact that only Terry was invited to the courthouse ceremony. After a season of playing so many sides, Ray managed to get Lena back on his good side by allowing her to kill Sam’s right-hand man, and possibly Sam herself, while he made a deal with Feratti that enabled him to get Bunchy out. Ray working for Feratti would be more of the same, but he’s going to be a new person now that he’s acknowledged that he needs some help, calling Alan Alda’s doctor to take the next step. I wish I was more excited that this show, which I used to really like, was continuing, but I’m hoping for some serious reinvention in the season eight premiere since this year just didn’t really cut it for me.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Eddie Marsan as Terry

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 13 “Miracle on 123rd St” (B-)

I though this episode was going to have Miles and Cara running around New York City like crazy after that flurry of seventy-six simultaneous friend requests from the God account, but it only took a minute for them to realize that all of them lived in the same apartment building. As is usually the case, it wasn’t too difficult to predict exactly what was going to happen as the landlord arrived to announce that the building was being sold and torn down in thirty days, but the specifics of how it happened were mildly more interesting. I was happy to see James Martinez, who I always recognize from his terrific role on the short-lived “Gravity” so many years ago, as William, who championed the cause of the residents, and while I wasn’t sure where I knew his onscreen sister from, I think it’s from Anabelle Acosta’s former role on the miserable “Quantico.” What proved most worthwhile about the designation of the building as a historical landmark due to the presence of a notable writer was Miles being inspired to give Cara a first-edition book as a celebratory gift, hopefully indicating to her that they’re ready to move past their fake relationship into something actual that will benefit them both. We haven’t spent too much time with Ali just yet, but it seems like she’ll become a bit more prominently featured now that she’s moving on from her relationship. Arthur appeared doubtful about the prospects of continuing his romance with Trish, but her willingness to jump in and give church a try is a ringing endorsement for its longevity.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 9 “I Need Some Balance” (B-)

This is an episode that I think I might have appreciated more if I was at all familiar with “Cats” beyond possibly (?) having seen the musical when I was much, much younger. This show has always been unapologetic in its weirdness, so why should it stop now? Of course Rebecca would try to relax with feminist porn that surely doesn’t exist in reality, but that introduction did help her to get serious about what she needed in order to move on from her exes, only one of who is truly over her. Trying to carry on a relationship with Jason was easy enough even with illnesses of different sorts on both of their parts, and I think the fact that Jason was accepting of any of that made his immediate departure upon finding both Nathaniel and Greg on her porch all the more indicative to Rebecca that she’s not the problem – it’s her baggage. White Josh tried his best to stop Nathaniel and Greg from becoming best friends at the gym (and failed), and I hope that their realization of their connection doesn’t mean the end of their newfound relationship. Valencia did announce that she’d be back for the rest of the season, and I guess that means she’ll be playing a role in Rebecca’s life that would never have seemed possible when they first met. Everybody has come far, including Josh, who has found some happiness for himself as Rebecca’s platonic roommate. I wasn’t terribly fond of the waste of time that was Darryl and Burt warring for the affection of their employees, and hopefully now we can just move on to the two similar and similar-looking men getting along as good friends.