Friday, March 29, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 11 “Four Goddamn More Days” (B+)

With just two episodes to go, it’s getting increasingly disconcerting to see openings like the one here with Gretchen meeting someone in a bar and recalling that she almost got married once. While that could be something from the distant past, it doesn’t feel that way, especially considering the panicked look on Jimmy’s face at the very end of this half-hour. Preparing a romantic candlelit night for Gretchen was very sweet and actually quite uncharacteristic, and she chose that moment to unload all of the things she hadn’t told him. His verbal response indicated support, but that’s definitely not how he’s feeling at the moment. I thought that she was just running away to work to escape having to think about the forever-ness of getting married, but seeing her at a desk by the water made it clear just how out of touch with reality she was. Taking Edgar’s pills and then lashing out at him when he stalked and confronted her wasn’t a good sign, and it doesn’t appear that Edgar shared much of what he had learned with Jimmy before helping him plan the romantic evening. I did enjoy the focus on Lindsay in this episode, as she turned her metaphorical comment into a literal one when she visited Yvette at work and then promptly fell out of her would-be lover’s favor by trying to put in a good word for Gretchen. Despite his surprising parental past, Vernon was a strange choice to help her invest in being a lesbian, and her haircut was hardly her worst misstep. Even she, a top contender for the dumbest character on this show, knew that asking about severance after threatening to stab her boss was far from intelligent.

Pilot Review: The Act

The Act (Hulu)
Premiered March 20

It feels like every week brings with it a new anthology series based on true events. Most of them are on Netflix, Amazon, or the network that’s been most prominent in offering this type of programming: FX. Hulu made history as the first streaming service to win the Emmy for Best Drama Series with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and now it’s likely to conquer some of the other races with this production. I don’t know anything about Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard, and though I don’t think I’m going to continue watching it, I’m reluctant to do research on what actually happened to determine how much of this is actually history rather than fiction. The presentation is certainly dramatic and stylized, with both Dee Dee and Gypsy seeming so carefully constructed in their every interaction with the outside world. Patricia Arquette may well end up competing with herself come Emmy time after her Golden Globe and SAG wins for “Escape at Dannemora,” and she does a pretty impressive job of, for lack of a better expression, putting on an act. I know Joey King, who plays Gypsy, from “Wish I Was Here” and the first season of “Fargo,” and she’s probably the best reason to watch this show. I also like AnnaSophia Robb from “Sleepwalking,” and it’s interesting to see her in this kind of role. Chloe Sevigny, a Golden Globe winner for “Big Love,” also adds to this talented cast as the suspicious neighbor who eventually comes to trust and empathize with Dee Dee. Once I finish catching up with the rest of my television from the past week or so, I’ll consider whether I’m still thinking about this show and want to check out another installment of this dark thriller.

How will it work as a series? That final scene changed everything in a tremendous way, with first Gypsy revealing that she was very capable of walking and then Dee Dee scolding her to get back into bed after a flashback showed the doctor confirming that Gypsy doesn’t in fact have a problem with sugar. This title seems to refer to both of its protagonists, who spend enough time keeping up the illusion that it’s hard to understand what their endgames really are. I’m somewhat curious to find out why.
How long will it last? It’s no surprise that this show is garnering critical acclaim, and the fact that it was conceived as an anthology series means that these characters just need to appetize viewers enough to return for something different in season two and beyond. Given Hulu’s prominence lately, I can’t imagine this show won’t be renewed soon and return for a promising future.

Pilot grade: B

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers (Penultimate Episode)

Miracle Workers: Season 1, Episode 6 “1 Day” (B-)

Yes, this show is entertaining. But it’s veering off in a completely different direction than where it originally started, and I’m becoming less invested as it goes on. God saying that he was going home to see his parents was quite a shock, and that’s where this show becomes less sophisticated with its portrayal of this imaginative situation. It was exciting to see Tituss Burgess from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as God’s brother and Chris Parnell and Margaret Cho as his parents, but they didn’t actually get to do much except keep calling his planet “Turd” and minimize his admittedly absurd ideas. That it got him to not want to blow up the Earth anymore is positive, but it’s hardly the most impressive conceptualization of what heaven and all that actually look like. It also took way too long for the overly-motivated trio of Eliza, Sanjay, and Rosie to realize that they shouldn’t have locked Craig in the closet for trying to stop them from carrying out their plan, which of course backfired in so many ways by actually acting to prevent the moment of closeness that they were about to have. Craig is exactly the right person to be helping to get Laura and Sam together because he understands the awkwardness and sheepishness they feel, failing miserably to make it clear that the feelings he was referencing were in fact his own for Eliza. With just one episode to go and no news of a second season for this show, I’m wondering how satisfying the finale (which has already aired) can really be.

Pilot Review: The Village

The Village (NBC)
Premiered March 19 at 10pm

There are certain shows that premiere and aren’t typical procedurals but still feel very much attributable to a particular genre. This one, which aired right after “This Is Us,” feels entirely influenced by that show and the type of following it has amassed. It’s a show that’s designed to pull at the heartstrings with affecting storylines and an inundation of sentimentality that’s probably not necessitated. Interestingly, this show resembles a sitcom in many ways, though it’s definitely put together as a drama instead. It’s strange to think that there would be an apartment building in New York of all places that could actually have people like this who value each other over anyone and anything else. Getting beyond that questionable premise, this show contains many recognizable soapy traits, like a mysterious military man who happens to be the father of one of the residents and the ex of another resident. I was trying to figure out where I knew Michaela McManus from him, and it’s not more recent parts on “Aquarius” or “Awake” but instead her first television credit: “One Tree Hill.” I also couldn’t place Warren Christie from his recurring role on “The Catch,” but I did immediately identify Lorraine Toussaint from “Orange is the New Black” and Frankie Faison from so many things, most recently “Luke Cage” and “Banshee.” It’s been a while since I’ve seen Dominic Chianese, who just turned eighty-eight, who I’m reminded has appeared in a few recurring TV parts since his career-defining role as Uncle Junior in on “The Sopranos.” Since I’m not in the market for another show that feels too melodramatic, I won’t be tuning back into this one.

How will it work as a series? Nick being Katie’s father wasn’t the only secret revealed in this premiere, and there’s sure to be plenty more mentioned and then accidentally repeated in each episode, as these residents put their lives on hold for each other any time they need to. It could be endearing to watch, but it hardly feels urgent or vital to do so after this premiere.
How long will it last? Debuting after “This Is Us” makes it so clear what NBC is hoping for with this show, though I don’t think it’s going to get it. The ratings were decent enough, giving this show a win in its timeslot, but the reviews pale in comparison, which suggests that this won’t be able to gain the same loyal fan base as NBC’s established hit. I think it will be done after this season.

Pilot grade: C

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 16 “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” (B)

It’s never enjoyable to watch a situation implode when it’s clear from the outset that one person isn’t behaving the right away. Randall’s entire attitude towards Beth’s career revival has been bad from the start, and letting out his feelings about it on the voicemail was a serious mistake. I worried that he was going to get caught deleting the message while Beth was watching, but it was much worse than that, with her having to suffer through the entire meal knowing just what he thoughts of her newfound priorities. I do like that Randall didn’t sleep over in Philly and instead forced a conversation, or, rather, confrontation, to deal head-on with the problems they’ve having. Hopefully they’ll lead to a good place, though that might be considerably farther down the road. Kate also gets points for managing to talk Toby down and show him how she was able to perceive their newborn child, even giving herself the freedom to take a break when it was clear that he was capable of being with Jack. I should have known that Sophie showing up in the flashback meant that she would appear in the present too, and I’m so glad that she’s engaged so that Kev couldn’t mess up yet another relationship by doing the wrong thing. Sophie had him pegged, showing him that he really hasn’t ever had to make a choice. While I’m not sure that I see him and Zoe long-term, he seems to, and so let’s hope it all goes well. The dance flashbacks were fine, highlighted by Rebecca and Jack getting caught making out by Randall in the library.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 5, Episode 17 “Time Bomb” (B)

It’s hard to keep things straight when multiple players are from the future and are somehow spending time in the present without doing irrevocable damage to the timeline. It shouldn’t be too surprising that Orlin, who has been this season’s big bad guy, would finally have a change of heart and see how wrong he was in trying to kill all the metas and then be felled by Grace, who has succumbed to the darkness that he helped to create. It doesn’t bode well for the uphill battle that Team Flash will face for the remainder of the season since she, unlike Orlin, can’t be swayed by morality. The team is also sure to be divided soon by Sherloque finally piecing it all together and confirming that Eobard Thawne is the one who has been working with Nora, something that she’s going to struggle to explain to the team. Ralph trying to “Peter Parker” Camilla wasn’t a terribly productive subplot, though she seems like a worthwhile character whose reaction to the eventual reading-in to Cisco being a meta and working with the Flash is sure to be entertaining and hopefully positive. I’m still pleased to report that, even if this show isn’t quite as fantastic as it was back towards the beginning, I’m much more engaged in where things are headed now as compared to where they were at this point last season. Its sixth-season renewal a few months ago feels deserved, and I’m eager to see what’s in store for Team Flash once anyone calling themselves Sicada no longer poses a threat.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pilot Review: The Fix

The Fix (ABC)
Premiered March 18 at 10pm

I saw a teaser for this show a month ago during the Oscars which indicated that it was a very dark, intense series, which gave me the wrong expectations of seriousness. I couldn’t get into “The People vs. OJ Simpson,” which went on to win countless awards and universal praise, and it’s no surprise that this show feels similar to that because it comes from Marcia Clark. It’s extremely sensational, and very much feels like the kind of fare that was prevalent in the 1990s and early 2000s. This reminds me in some ways of FOX’s recent effort “Proven Innocent,” with one person getting drawn back in to something that has defined their life much more than they ever wanted. In an era where similarly high-profile corruption and undue influence are prominent but don’t achieve much, this show feels both over-the-top and inauthentic, and certainly not something that fits with current events. I did recognize a handful of actors, most of whom I first encountered a decade or two ago. Robin Tunney wasn’t nearly as effective in getting things done as her ill-fated lawyer on “Prison Break,” and I had forgotten that she spent seven seasons on “The Mentalist” between then and now. I haven’t seen Breckin Meyer for a long time (“Rat Race” comes to mind), and Merrin Dungey was a big player on “Alias” towards the beginning of that show. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, best known for playing Mr. Eko on “Lost,” is inarguably charismatic, and he’s probably the best reason to watch this show. The only performer I think I’ve seen anytime recently is Scott Cohen, who was just in “South Mountain,” which I saw at SXSW a few weeks ago. This show is trying to dramatize its events even more with Cohen’s white lawyer purporting that his very seemingly guilty client is only being persecuted because of the color of his skin, and while that might appeal to some voters, it just didn’t track with me. This show feels excessively familiar, and not in a good way.

How will it work as a series? This is only the beginning, and I can imagine that it’s going to get crazier and more extravagant from here. Painting Sevvy’s innocence as being very much in question because of the way he acts means that red herrings are going to be plentiful and new information is going to shift perception radically. I suppose it might make things unpredictable, though I imagine it will actually be quite easy to call what direction this show is headed in next.
How long will it last? Being more than a week behind in reviewing this show means that there’s already ratings data for two episodes of this show, which, in this case, is not a good thing for its future prospects. The ratings weren’t great to start with, prompting unfortunate puns related to its title, and they got worse in week two. The reviews aren’t positive either, and so I think it’s safe to assume that this show’s ten-episode initial order is all it will get.

Pilot grade: D

Sunday, March 24, 2019

What I’m Watching: SMILF

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 8 “Sex Makes It Less Formal” (B)

When it comes to bad ideas, I’d say that Bridgette planning Rafi’s bachelor party is up there. It was actually going pretty well for a while, and he seemed to be having a great time, even when Bridgette shared a deep story that didn’t paint him in the best light since it prevented her from saying goodbye to her grandmother. But then when the stripper didn’t show up, Bridgette deciding to take that role on herself felt like a truly problematic move that couldn’t go anywhere good. Even though things ended badly, the situation still prompted Rafi to tell Bridgette that he really wanted her at his wedding, something that likely won’t go over too well with Nelson, who had her own moment of panic when she couldn’t escape her wedding dress in the heat. That’s definitely representative of more metaphorical fears about being trapped, especially since she leads a much more stable life than her husband-to-be, and despite his affection for her, they’re going to run into problems about money in the future. Bridgette, on the other hand, can relate to him on a level that Nelson won’t ever be able to. With just two episodes left, I’m not sure how far this three-person relationship will get, but there’s evidently some baggage that Nelson has with her own family too. I suspect that this is the very episode where the filming with Samara Weaving caused much of the controversy that took down this show, though it doesn’t seem like much objectionable comment made it through to the final cut.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 3 “You Have Reached the Voicemail of Leslie Peterson” (B-)

I’m growing a bit tired of how this show is going about its storyline. Particularly when it comes to anything involving Leslie, it feels very unsophisticated. It’s hard to believe that it took him this long to die, and we didn’t even get to see it on screen, which, if this was another show, would have me doubting that he was indeed gone for good. Mary Pat being so willing to give up Leslie’s location to our three protagonists wasn’t ultimately so helpful when Leslie left his motel to come to the house, where she resumed being completely subservient and then nearly didn’t make a clean getaway before deciding in the heat of the moment to run him over. At least Annie was able to prevent Beth from killing an innocent person, and she might also be able to cover for Leslie’s disappearance with the one person who’s actually going to care that he’s no longer around: his grandmother. I do appreciate conversations like how much the motel costs that happen between the main characters, and that kind of content is what will keep me coming back rather than the current direction of the plot. I’m intrigued to see more of Rio’s attorney contact, played by Lauren Stamile, who I remember from her role on “Off Centre” years ago. Ruby is also doing a better job of working to motivate Stan to help her without exposing the continued misdeeds that she and her friends are perpetrating which would definitely infuriate him.

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 8 “7042” (B)

This was probably the calmest and most normative episode of this show yet, though it did also involve a previously unused flashback device. I’m not sure what the exact connection between Mo being sent to prison as part of a sting orchestrated by Connie and the events of this episode other than that he felt betrayed by someone he trusted and will never be able to get over that. Dawn showing up at his cabin pointing a gun at him and thinking that he was trying to get rid of Tiff’s cremated remains led to a more cathartic experience, capped by Dawn’s determination that she can save the Georgina play, which was unfortunately coupled with her confession that she is falling for Blair too, something Mo will never accept. Dawn was helpful in trying to calm Blair down despite defending the term “kidding napping,” and it will be interesting to see how she spins the Georgina play pitch to him after denying knowing anything about it. I really liked the casting of Derek Cecil, best known for playing the straight-laced Seth on “House of Cards,” as Detective Lester, whose bedside manner seemed poor at the start and then revealed himself to be totally absurd by playing charades with Blair to get him to come clean. His acceptance of the Georginas’ claim that they hadn’t in fact engineered their daughter’s kidnapping and that the abductors had spontaneously decided to let her go was fittingly ridiculous, but not at all surprising for this show.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

What I’m Watching: Billions (Season Premiere)

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

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

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

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

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

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

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

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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

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

Pilot Review: Turn Up Charlie

Turn Up Charlie (Netflix)
Premiered March 15

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

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

Pilot grade: C

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pilot Review: Shrill

Shrill (Hulu)
Premiered March 15

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

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

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

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

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

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

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

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

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

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

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Andrea Savage

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

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

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

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

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

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

What I’m Watching: The Flash

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

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: SMILF

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

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

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

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

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

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

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

Pilot Review: Now Apocalypse

Now Apocalypse (Starz)
Premiered March 10 at 9pm

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

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

Pilot grade: F

Friday, March 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shameless (Season Finale)

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

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

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

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

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

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

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

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

Pilot Review: After Life

After Life (Netflix)
Premiered March 8

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

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

Pilot grade: C+

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

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

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

What I’m Watching: Better Things

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

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

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

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

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

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

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

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

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

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers

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

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

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

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

What I’m Watching: The Flash

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

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

Saturday, March 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: SMILF

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

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

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

What I’m Watching: Shameless

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

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

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

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

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

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

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

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

Pilot Review: Northern Rescue

Northern Rescue (Netflix)
Premiered March 1

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

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

Pilot grade: C+

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Pilot Review: Widow

Widow (Amazon)
Premiered March 1

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

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

Pilot grade: C

Take Three: Doom Patrol

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

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

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

What I’m Watching: I’m Sorry

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

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

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst

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

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