Friday, April 26, 2019

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 7 “The Dubby” (B-)

I had never thought about the fact that we see the three women on this show together all the time yet we haven’t, as far as I can recall, seen their significant others together in the past. I’m no fan of Dean’s, and his suggestion that they had to do something to get rid of Rio is only going to serve to corrupt Stan, who I do like considerably more. Agent Turner asking Ruby for her in-laws’ names so that he could drop that cruel grandparents line on her was unnecessarily theatrical, and while she wasn’t exactly helping before this, her very explicit photography of in-progress criminal activity shouldn’t take too long to be noticed and identified by her co-conspirators. Beth bringing her kids with her on a car drop was a bad idea to start, and then showing up at the house to ask for the stuffed animal back was a further misstep. Reframing the situation to make it seem like she was in control was hardly her best power play, but at least no one had to go down to the basement to help anyone else look, and she managed to get the animal mailed back to her in the end. I couldn’t figure out where I knew the lead drug dealer from, and it turns out he was Blake Shields, who used to star in “Sleeper Cell.” Annie’s new boss seems absurdly accommodating in a totally unbelievable way, and it could have been fine if she hadn’t gone and slept with him right away, making everything far more complicated and potentially problematic than it needed to be.

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 5 “A Proper Sendoff” (B-)

Theatrics are key here, and I’m sure most will contend that this show jumped the shark a while ago. I’m still in because I’m curious to see where the characters go, even if their arcs are long since become even wilder and more excessive than they were then the show started. Axe charging Chuck with going after Taylor for him did not seem to be anywhere near the top of his priority list yet it’s still already started, but Chuck appears to be much more interested in getting his own revenge first. After Bryan jutted out and startled him on his way into office, it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to get anything done, a likelihood confirmed by the governor’s acknowledgment that he was not in fact looking forward to working with him. Preempting his eulogy for Jack Foley and having all of his former cohorts arrested during the funeral was the definition of grandstanding, and this is only the start of what he’s going to do. Axe demonstrated a true penchant for vengeance of his own after his former protégé John Rice tried to cash him out, and the complex nature of his takedown indicated that he wasn’t ever really giving him a chance to undo his mistake. I didn’t immediately peg Seth Gabel, who once played a far less buttoned-up heir on “Dirty Sexy Money,” as John, but I did recognize Jade Eshete, a standout player from the sadly departed “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” as Lauren Turner, Taylor’s new secret weapon. The multiple hip movie references were mildly interesting, and I’m curious to see what becomes of the now-greenlit business venture between Taylor and their father. I don’t have much to say about Wendy other than that she’s understandably angry and whatever happens next will likely be more engaging than her role in this hour.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Pilot Review: Les Miserables

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

What I’m Watching: Game of Thrones (Season Premiere)

Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 1 “Winterfell” (B+)

I’d wager that this may well have been the most anticipated final season premiere of all time, more exciting even than “Breaking Bad” a few years ago. Though my review is only going up now, I watched it right as it aired on HBO almost two weeks ago now, placing it ahead of the many other episodes of the week I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to see. Though I’ve always found this show to be somewhat dense, I can acknowledge its greatness, and I actually felt that season seven was one of the show’s strongest years to date. This opener was pretty fantastic, uniting all of the surviving Stark family members for the first time in a way that didn’t prove to be a letdown. I remember Arya almost coming face-to-face with her brother Robb and her mother right before they were killed, and it was so satisfying to see her run up to Jon and get to celebrate being with him instead of tragically losing yet another sibling or parent. So much has happened that I had forgotten Sansa and Tyrion even knew each other, let alone were once married. I like just how much Sansa and Daenerys don’t get along, and how hard Jon was trying to get everyone to accept his new queen. I would not have pegged Sam as the one to, at Bran’s encouraging, let Jon in on the major secret that he’s actually his new love’s nephew and the rightful heir to the throne. The undead body left to be discovered was sufficiently disturbing, though the most memorable part of the episode was saved for the very end, as Jaime returned to come face-to-face with the boy he once pushed out a window. I’m so eager to see what comes next.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve

Killing Eve: Season 2, Episode 2 “Nice and Neat” (B)

I’m wondering how long it’s going to be that Villanelle stays on the run, slowly killing the people who are dumb enough to help her. The call that she made towards the end of the episode to report in only to be told that there was no one there for her indicates that she’s on her own, and something tells me that’s only going to lead to more dead bodies. Shouting Eve’s name on the phone shows just how connected she still wants to be to the woman who stabbed her, and it shouldn’t take Carolyn too long to deduce that they did indeed encounter each other more recently. Eve commenting admiringly on Carolyn’s look was funny and weird, as was her very dry response. Eve’s new team members seem enthusiastic if nothing else, with Hugo proving particularly irritating. I recognized Nina Sosanya, who I think I know from her role in “Love Actually” more than fifteen years ago, whose character, Jess, hasn’t done much of note just yet. Eve’s openness with her husband seems to be working somewhat, though he’s likely going to be in danger if Villanelle gets too close. I was surprised to hear Jodie Comer’s spot-on British accent before I learned that she is in fact British, which makes a lot of sense. Her temporary landlord was indeed creepy, and it was evident that she was going to find some way to kill him once he snapped. Konstantin still being alive was spoiled for me by a still I saw, and I think that Carolyn is going to have a hard time talking Eve down since there’s no way she’s going to be willing to work with him.

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me (Season Finale)

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 20 “Que Sera Sera” (B-)

When our three protagonists went to gather and drown their sorrows at Ali’s at the start of the episode, it came as no surprise to me that all three of expected to be fired, mainly because none of them were particularly good at their jobs beforehand, spending altogether too much time on the God account when it related only to Miles’ primary work. It took long enough, but we finally met Henry Chase, played by Derek Luke from “Antwone Fisher,” who was a bit of a gentler personality than I had expected, even if his initial introduction presented his gruff exterior. No one said it, but there are definitely echoes of Miles, Cara, and Rakesh in Henry, Pria, and Simon, though I’m not sure the roles match up the same way in that group. Simon getting fired by his board almost seemed inconsequential since he managed to line all three of them back up with jobs before being ousted, which felt all too convenient given that they should have had to start from the bottom up again. Cara going to Paris is going to present complications for this budding couple, but at least they’re giving it a shot. Arthur proposing to Trish after losing the election gives him something new to focus on, and it was touching to see him opt to go on Miles’ podcast. A few familiar faces wasn’t going to be enough for this finale, and so we got that last-minute introduction of someone else who has apparently been chosen the same way Miles has by the God account, something that presumably won’t sit well with him in season two. I expect to continue watching even if I continue to find this show hard to seriously digest most of the time.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Joe Morton as Arthur

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shrill

Shrill: Season 1, Episode 5 “Article” (B+)

This episode was really great, which makes me excited after hearing that it was renewed for a second season last week. It’s no surprise that Annie’s article would end up becoming an enormously successful hit, with over 19,000 clicks and plenty of comments, but that didn’t mean that Gabe was going to be happy about it. Not firing her and making her suffer instead is probably the worse punishment, and something tells me that tracking down her troll isn’t going to score her any points with her boss. The interaction that she and Amadi had with Maureen down in IT about her Bradley Cooper avatar was entertaining, and I hope that she makes an appearance in the season finale. It was great to see Annie stand up to multiple people throughout the episode, starting with Fran when she tried (and ultimately managed) to guilt Annie into staying to clean up her mess, and ending with her mom, which unfortunately also resulted in a miserable parting thanks to her failed attempt to fight a war her dad didn’t want her to invoke for him. Ryan showing up after she called him to help with Bonkers and his shroom trip was entertaining, and who would have thought that a heart-to-heart with Fran would prompt him to be open, honest, and even kind, asking Annie to be his girlfriend. Having sex on the couch as they embark on a new, healthier romance would have been a great ending if it didn’t mean Annie disappointing someone else, which is really going to put a damper on this happiness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 9 “Jane Patrol” (B)

I feel like this show has spent nearly half its time so far either within someone’s mind or in an imagined reality that’s been deliberately manipulated to mess with the person experiencing it. In Jane’s case, I actually find the external display of the personalities as expressed by Diane Guerrero and the unpredictability with which they emerge to be far more compelling than seeing them all with different faces interacting with each other, and I think I might have preferred for Guerrero to have played all the parts if we were going to experience it this way. I liked how it all started, with Larry mocking the notion of shrinking “Magic School Bus” style to get inside her head before the spirit did just that to Cliff. Once he was in there, however, things got very, very dark, particularly with the creepy three-headed sisters and the “sweet, sweet baby Kay” anthem that kept loudly haunting her. Ultimately, it was most therapeutic for Cliff, who got to inhabit his old body for a while, which was strange, and then later discovered that he wasn’t a man anymore. Cliff accepting that part of himself was what Jane needed to be able to see that she could stand up to the monster father that has terrorized all of her personalities for so long. The ending of the episode indicates that Jane hasn’t completely gotten over her trauma, which is completely understandable, but she does seem ready to focus back on the hunt to find the Chief and stop Mr. Nobody.

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 6 “What Is Jeopardy?” (B+)

There was a lot in this episode, a half-hour that felt somewhat more thematically unified than the past few installments. The opening scene with Sam prepping food and watching “Jeopardy” with her mom, who shouted out each answer right after she did, indicated a certain monotony that was nowhere to be found for the rest of the episode. It was a surprise to see Matthew Broderick as Sam’s old friend and current therapist Dr. Miller, who had creative answers for Sam’s phone bill and other things irritating her in her life, one of which involved a song that took a minute to register with Sam. Opting to call Xander so that she could organize a rendezvous to do whatever illicit act it was that they used to do involving the boots and the underwear indicated a defeat of sorts that was negated by her ultimate decision to leave and return home before anything happened, even if it may have had to do more with her period than actual regret. Duke’s reaction to being gently hit by her grandmother’s car was worrisome for a while until it became clear that something else was going on that got her scared. The best scene was Phyl calling her son and agreeing to give up her license in exchange for lifelong Ubers, flavored popcorn once a month, and a black credit card that Marion definitely wasn’t going to give her. If only actual conversations with aging parents would go that way in real life…

Take Three: Abby’s

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 3 “Free Alcohol Day” (B)

This show never promised sophistication, and this episode felt particularly like a sitcom installment, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Fred getting dressed up to enjoy what he considers the best day was always going to end in disappointment of some sort since all the hype of previous Free Alcohol Days had to set the bar way too high. Dani arrived expecting positive reviews, something she did not get, which helped to create the amusing scenario of Abby forcing her top customers to take shots of the vile mixture in order to pry precious secrets about her personal life out of her. Leave it to Abby to act so casually around a woman that she had dated for a decent period of time and then expect that no one else was going to notice when she was quietly flirtatious. Beth took Abby’s reclusiveness the hardest, and I like that she took to investigative means to pull the truth out of her, leading to an unexpectedly sentimental proclamation about the nature of their relationship and the genesis of the bar from Abby. Bill never really manages to say the right thing, and of course he would explode with awkwardness as soon as Abby announced that she was bisexual. His response to Dani being a lesbian was even worse, and he did himself no favors by continuing to dig his own grave and try to explain it away after his initial reaction. If nothing else, he’s consistent in his inability to have normal interactions with people.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Take Three: The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Episode 3 “Replay” (B+)

I was very impressed with the first two installments of this show, which I reviewed a few weeks ago in a Minute with Abe. Though it took me a while to watch it, I’m pleased to report that this third episode is just as strong. Like the second episode, this one dealt with technology having an extraordinary power, after the iPod foretelling the doom of its listener’s flight. I recognized most of the cast here and confirmed later that I was right about knowing the fourth from somewhere too. I was a big fan of Sanaa Lathan’s when she starred in the second season of “Boss,” and she recently appeared in a moderately worthwhile role on season four of “The Affair.” Damson Idris, who played her son Dorian, currently stars on “Snowfall.” Steve Harris was a regular on both “Legends” and “Awake,” but most probably know him from his Emmy-nominated role on “The Practice” two decades ago. The best instance of casting was Glenn Fleshler, who recurs on “Billions” and has also appeared in many other projects, and as soon as I saw his police officer appear I knew that his character was going to serve some nefarious purpose since you don’t waste an actor like that. What I liked most about the trajectory of this hour was the way in which it embraced the supernatural nature of its selected item’s power without questioning it. Every scenario that Nina tried ended up with her son either doomed or dead, and both her brother and her son chose to trust rather than doubt her, which was cool. Best of all, when Dorian suggested that they simply go back and try again when Officer Lasky confronted them, Nina was brave enough to end the loop and take a stand against his recurring racism. I thought that this hour was going to end without a negative fate for its characters, but that final sound of a gunshot after her camera finally broke signified that wouldn’t be the case. I’m not sure if this show will be Emmy-eligible for its performers, but I’d love to see a few of these people get recognized for their stellar work here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What I’m Watching: Brockmire

Brockmire: Season 3, Episode 2 “Player to be Named Later” (B+)

And just when I thought that this show had a whole new cast, it turns out that J.K. Simmons wasn’t in this episode at all and Amanda Peet was! I very much enjoyed the focus on Jules, who tried to buy a new shirt in the bathroom before her interview and managed to offend the receptionist by judging her fashion style rather than asking for her shirt. Eagerly accepting the challenge of populating the stands against all odds demonstrated just how confident she is, and when her strategies were maligned because no one in the crowds was actually into the game for its own sake, she knew exactly what to do to get all eyes on the field. She was also pretty formidable after asking Brockmire if she could drink and then ordering a whole bottle of wine in a cup with ice that she hastily consumed before demanding an instant refill. Not being a sports fan, I really do miss a lot of the humor here, namely the fact that both George Brett and Bob Costas are real people. Coming clean with Bob about having given him pink-eye as part of his journey to make amends was extremely poorly-timed, but somehow that got him to do the favor because he knew just how much it would hurt Brockmire inside to see it fulfilled. Jules threatening to kill the pig and then Brockmire doesn’t suggest that she’s leaving on a great note, so I’m not sure if we’ll see her again, which is a shame. But Brockmire’s latest problem – the yips – should more than keep him busy for the time being.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 3 “Chapter Eighty-Four” (B)

This episode did manage, if nothing else, to get us to feel like, even though there might be a tiny bit of chemistry between Jane and Jason, it’s nothing at all like what Jane and Michael had, and therefore their relationship couldn’t possibly last or threaten the stability of Jane’s newfound love with Rafael. After the unfortunate fishing trip, Jason proved not to be such a bad guy and actually showed up with the divorce papers. Leave it to this show to then throw in the extremely (in)convenient timing of Jason seeing one thing that managed to trigger all of his Michael memories in one fell swoop, transforming him completely as a character. It would have been too easy for him to just disappear after this miraculous and shocking return, and now he’ll be back as Michael rather than Jason, which is going to make Jane’s life a whole lot harder. Rafael is going to be particularly devastated, and it’s going to return to the original state of things on this show: #teammichael vs. #teamjason. I enjoyed Jane bickering with Petra as they tried to stop their kids from fighting, and it’s nice to see that they have a great relationship which at times can be quite volatile. I was waiting for a point to be made about how Rogelio might suffer from a pay discrepancy because of his ethnicity, but his absurd response to River’s salary was good entertainment, especially after he once again sent her to the hospital thanks to his clumsiness.

What I’m Watching: You, Me, Her (Season Premiere)

You, Me, Her: Season 4, Episode 1 “Triangular Peg, Meet Round Hole” (B+)

It’s always a treat when this show, one of my favorites and one I feel like almost no one knows exists, returns each year. I’m particularly excited to see where things go this year as Emma is extremely pregnant, Izzy is trying to adjust to the idea of the suburbs, and Jack is just trying not to mess things up with either of the women in his life. It’s better not to have Emma off gallivanting in another state while Jack and especially Izzy express just how angry they are with her, and they’re more than capable of getting into trouble together. I like how much Emma is trying to pressure them into not falling into typical truple tropes, and her constantly pointing those out is irritating her two partners greatly, in one case killing the mood when she told them to stay and have sex while she went out. Carmen is getting an increased focus now that Dave has apparently effortlessly achieved literary success on his first try while his wife continues to experience rejection at every turn, and while it’s nice to see her in the spotlight, this does not seem like a productive direction for their relationship. Seeing Nina and Shaun together is a strange sight indeed, though I guess there’s some comfort to be found in the fact that she doesn’t behave any differently towards him or anyone else even though she’s apparently professed affection publicly. Izzy’s rapport with her dad also seems to have gotten to a great place. Things are, it would seem, looking up right now.

Pilot Review: The Code

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

Pilot Review: Fosse/Verdon

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

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Getaway” (B-)

There’s no denying that this episode was fun and stylized, but I’m not sure I’m loving the direction and silliness of this season at this point. The truth bug flying around and being swallowed by each of the legends despite their best efforts was hard to take seriously, and it felt all too convenient every time they said something they really didn’t want to say. It was funny to open with Nixon admitting freely that he was indeed a crook, triggering everyone to realize that there was definitely something amiss. I’m not too happy that Mona is becoming a regular player, though I guess her ability to hulk out, now that it’s in the open, might prove useful if the legends need brute force on their side. Nate was totally oblivious to the fact that his dad was smarter than he gave him credit for, and it was nice to see Hank opt to trust his son and embrace his trust of the legends rather than continue mindlessly serving Neron. That bonding should have been fair warning that Hank wasn’t long for this world, and it was quite brutal to watch the life literally sucked out of him. I’m happy that Nora has been brought back in after being ignored while in Time Bureau custody for a while, and I do hope that she’ll be able to talk her way out of this mess that totally looks like it’s her fault. And Ava better get back to being in charge since Neron has a great opportunity to take over the Time Bureau in the aftermath of its acting director’s demise.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Veep

Veep: Season 7, Episode 2 “Discovery Weekend” (B)

It’s possible that it’s always been this way, but I don’t think I ever noticed just how little self-awareness Selina possesses. I knew that she was mean and rarely meant what she said even if she did manage to eke out a compliment or actual sentiment here or there, but the way that she can’t notice any of her own behavior is more grating than funny at the moment. I guess she’s not the only one who acts that way, though there’s no pretending that the man who strongly campaigned for the abolishment of daylight saving time is a beacon of intelligence. I did not expect Tom James to express such feelings for Selina, and I like that it ended up distracting both of them enough to create a new opponent in the form of Senator Oluwakemi. I was pleased to see William Fichtner from “Invasion” and “Prison Break” as the enigmatic Felix Wade, and it’s always fun to see Dan Bakkedahl, who will soon be back on “Life in Pieces,” as the effortlessly horrible Roger Furlong. It also took me some time to recognize Rhea Seehorn from “Better Call Saul” as Tom’s deputy campaign manager Michelle, who Selina hilariously gave her drink order to in a cruel (and successful) attempt to demean her. The #notme plotline is a bit silly, though I guess that’s what counts for parody in the age of so many politicians and men in power turning out to have abused their power. Among the better moments of this episode were Richard reading data upside down, Mike still using AOL, and Dan being instantly dismissed by Wade.

What I’m Watching: Barry

Barry: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Power of No” (B+)

One of the things I’ve always liked most about Hank is the creative excitement he expresses when trying to plan hits. Barry was in no mood to entertain the notion of neatly extracting a bullet for Hank to send back to his family, but even hearing the impossibility of it out loud didn’t detract from the genuine thrill Hank had in coming up with the idea. Barry is in serious trouble, and he’s letting the people who influence him most get under his skin. Gene wouldn’t allow him to deviate from talking about his time in the war, even when he tried to present meeting Gene as the pivotal moment of his life, and what Sally was manipulated into presenting affected him even more severely. She definitely isn’t referring to Barry at all when she talks about never again being with a violent man, but all he took away from it was that she’ll eventually find out he’s not a good person and not want to be with him. Freezing during the hit for Hank was a huge misstep, and though they’re not likely to identify him, he wasn’t even wearing a mask. Having Fuches outside his home waiting for him activated his paranoia, though I’m not sure he’s with it enough to realize that Fuches is trying to get him on tape so that he can cut a deal for himself. Sally’s clip reel as compiled by her agency was the most absurd showcase of the insignificance of the roles she’s been getting, each incredibly inferior to anyone else going on in the scene.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 6 “Take Off Your Pants” (B-)

I’m still finding it hard to understand why it is that our three friends aren’t yet behind bars since Agent Turner seems to know very well what they’ve done, and they don’t do a great job of hiding it whenever he confronts them. He wasted little time in ingratiating himself into Stan’s life, declaring his intention to be invited over for dinner and then forcing it on him when Ruby tried to get out of it by sending him food. The notion that he just wants Beth is somewhat interesting, and she does often feel like the only one with truly criminal intent, but it really should all be about Rio since he’s actual a serious criminal. Beth feeling jealous when she saw him with another woman hardly seemed merited, and she went to some pretty drastic lengths to try to force him into cutting them into the deal, which was extremely risky. I was pleased to recognize Nicholas Alexander, the breakout star of “Adam,” which I saw at Sundance, as Annie’s drug dealer and analyzer Darren. He’s appeared before but I didn’t know who he was then. It should come as no surprise that Dean was terrible at being a parent, and he managed to even ruin Beth’s passion when she came home to find the house clean with his reaction. Annie is rarely an emblem of positive parenthood, and it was refreshing to see her stand her ground and act like a mother rather than a jilted friend to her daughter for once. In a strange development, this show has already been renewed for a third season, something I both wouldn’t have expected or necessarily championed. Let’s see if it feels deserved by the end of this season.

Monday, April 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 4 “Overton Window” (B-)

I suppose it was inevitable that Chuck would eventually broadcast the deepest secret of his personal life to the world and wield it as a weapon rather than as a private shame. That certainly didn’t seem to be where things were heading, but the flow of this show has been pretty off for a while. Why so much time was covered in this one episode is a mystery to me, and suddenly Jack Foley presented a threat that wasn’t nearly as imminent before because of Chuck’s more visible campaign and Jack’s terminal prognosis. Apparently, he managed to win, even if Wendy is no longer by her side as seemed to be indicated by the fury with which she came to Chuck and confronted him for the decision he had made on their behalf against her wishes. I’m more than happy to be rid of Grigor, and I don’t know why we needed that grandstanding interaction at the airfield. Seeing how flustered all of the traders were without their computers and without Mafee during the hack wasn’t all that enticing, though it was good to see Axe and Wags spring into action the old-fashioned way. The most worthwhile part of that, and of this show in general, is Nina Arianda’s Rebecca. The way she stepped in to help Axe and then to effortlessly force a CEO, played by Reed Diamond from “The Shield” and “Dollhouse,” to resign was simply magnificent. Taylor going into business with their father is an interesting development, and hopefully not one that will end up being problematic.

What I’m Watching: Killing Eve (Season Premiere)

Killing Eve: Season 2, Episode 1 “Do You Know How to Dispose of a Body?” (B)

This show has skyrocketed in popularity since its first season concluded last May. Sandra Oh won a Golden Globe and a SAG Award, and the show is likely to compete for Best Drama Series at the Emmys this summer. In addition to being broadcast now on AMC as well as BBC America, it’s also already been renewed for a third season, less than a day after this premiere aired. While I wouldn’t dream of giving up on it, I’m still not entirely hooked, and I continue to hope that Jodie Comer will be able to earn some sort of awards nomination for her incredible performance. What’s astounding to me is how intimate and personal this volatile relationship is, with Eve refusing to admit to Carolyn that she had in fact tracked Villanelle down and then stabbed her before letting her get away, and Villanelle covering all her tracks to make sure that she wouldn’t be followed or found. Eve has definitely let Villanelle get into her head, and her husband isn’t in the mood to play along with this twisted game that has her addicted. Without Konstantin, it will be hard to know who Villanelle can turn to for help, and it was only a matter of time before she ended the life of her roommate in the hospital, though at least she did it in a quick and painless manner that honored his desire not to keep living like this. I am intrigued by what will come next, though I imagine this season will be moderately enthralling.

Pilot Review: Warrior

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

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Series Finale)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 17 “I’m in Love”

Ending a show in a way that does justice to everything that’s come before it isn’t easy, and I’m particularly impressed by those shows that choose self-reference as the neatest and most optimistic way to wrap things up. This show lasting four years is actually quite a feat considering its title, and it was nice to see Rebecca run through the show’s different theme songs and some of its other memorable musical numbers during her eleven o’clock number. I assume most viewers probably expected that Rebecca wasn’t actually going to pick any of the three men that she’d so long been pining for, and the choice of focusing on herself could have felt forced. Instead, showing how Paula and others perceive her when she starts imagining a musical number was very enlightening and helpful, and Rebecca choosing herself meant that she could finally invest in her mental health in a productive way. Writing down her the lyrics she imagined would likely produce some strange reactions, but at least it means she’s being true to herself. Ending things a year after the events we’ve been recently seeing was effective since it allowed for some sweet summaries of what everyone has been up to, with negative thoughts reserved only for White Josh, who apparently never warmed to Rebecca, and George’s very unfortunate ponytail. I like that Heather and Hector were both so proud of their new hot tub, and it was sweet to see that Josh met someone while Nathaniel found the charitable, animal-loving side of himself. Valencia and Daryll found the perfect relationships too. Giving everyone, including Rebecca, a happy ending is a wonderful way to send this show out on after a wild four years on the air. This show has been so singular in the way it’s incorporated its musical numbers, and I sincerely hope that whatever project Rebecca Bloom chooses next is as fantastic a use of her talents.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Rachel Bloom
Season grade: B
Series MVP: Rachel Bloom
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Pilot

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What I’m Watching: Shrill

Shrill: Season 1, Episode 4 “Pool” (B+)

So much for Annie’s overnight guest being a big deal, since Fran said that her brother had already spilled the beans before Annie got around to mentioning it to her. It’s good to see that Fran is trying to get Annie off of Ryan, refusing to let him be talked about in the house, and good for Annie for standing up for herself when he did track her down at work and letting him know that she slept with someone else. Part of this show feels like it’s really true to the characters it’s representing, while some of them seem like caricatures expressly designed not to take themselves or anyone else seriously. That came into play in an important way here when Gabe called Annie out on her physical fitness by mandating forced fun and outdoor activities for the office before shaming her for being late. That miserable interaction, which launched Annie into a major tirade and then inspired her to post an article that may well get her fired, was constructively minimized by her overwhelmingly positive experience at the Fat Babe Pool Party. Fran’s obsession with the woman putting it on didn’t compare to the way that Annie felt being there, so excited to talk to a designer about great plus-size clothes and free to swim, dance, or do whatever she felt without feeling judged. I really like seeing that side of Annie, and I hope that the fallout from her unauthorized article won’t cause her to doubt the worth of what she wrote.

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 8 “Danny Patrol” (B)

I’ll admit to genuinely having no idea how the timeline works on this show and how these characters don’t age after decades, but that doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Only on this show could something like Danny the Street exist. I did think that it was Mr. Nobody messing with him because of the way that Danny communicated via words written throughout the street, but it became clear by the end that this is just another reality-manipulating entity that is deathly afraid, as most are, of this major enemy. That said, the biggest threat to the members of the Doom Patrol comes from within, as the volatile nature of their personalities and powers works against them at nearly every turn. Fresh from his rat infestation, only Cliff remained clearheaded and managed to avert Karen’s hypnotic gaze in this hour, as Rita tried to talk her down from her lovestruck psycho persona, as she put it, before eventually falling prey to it herself. Karen has definitely been suppressed now, but that blank look on Jane’s face was a haunting way to end the episode. I love that Cliff danced the robot with a kid dressed like him who didn’t know who Jennifer Beals was, and Larry’s karaoke performance was pretty superb too. It was nice to see him open up and celebrate what Danny can mean, though that imagined song wasn’t the actual moment of clarity for him. I doubt we’ll visit Danny again, but what a wild and weird experience it was.

Pilot Review: Unspeakable

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

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 5 “No Limit” (B+)

This show has been great this season about featuring a fantastic scene early on in each episode and then having Sam decompress in a serene way after that. In this case, allowing Frankie and Duke one minute to yell and curse at each other in the parking lot was an interesting gamble, and it produced quite a foul rant from Duke that managed to defuse the situation thanks to the humor in it. While Duke is indeed becoming a troublesome, rebellious child, and Max continues to be relatively useless and aimless, Frankie has maintained her status as the number one mom tormentor, taunting Sam when she was throwing up in the toilet and refusing to let up. I enjoyed her visit to the doctor played by Usman Ally from “Veep” who was more than happy to use rather course language in every recommendation he made to her, and her other doctor appointment wasn’t much more reassuring. I was also happy to recognize Judy Reyes of “Scrubs” fame as one of her friends who was more than happy to commiserate about what being old and pretending to be younger is all about. Surrounded by her friends, Sam was indeed able to let go of some of her daily irritations, but that only lasted so long, and it came with the unfortunate aftereffects of having to rid her system of the large volume of alcohol that she had consumed, an event that interacted all too closely with one of her main sources of annoyance.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Round Two: Abby’s

Abby’s: Season 1, Episode 2 “Rule Change” (B)

I was under no illusions when I watched the first episode of this show that it was going to be a great, boundary-pushing comedy, but I see it instead as among the decent number of relatively standard sitcoms that I’ve come to enjoy over the past decade and a half which have been quickly cancelled because they just don’t measure up to some of the more innovative current comedy on television. I’m still happy to see Natalie Morales in a lead role like this, and I enjoy the energy she has, which in this case is pretty negative and intimidating yet still somehow unifying for those who spend most of their waking hours at her bar. I like that Bill’s efforts to make some positive changes led to him advocating for a rule change and prompting a vote on who the top patrons preferred. James did get some funny lines, like describing Clue as a murder game where white people never go to jail and how his feet want to drive convertibles in California. Skip voting by taking off his sock was a productive use of a character who seems the most unrealistic on a show that’s already somewhat difficult to take seriously, and I think I’m warming most to Fred, who told Bill that he was going to ruin everything for him and then gave Abby a pep talk about giving Bill a win, though definitely not in the bocce game where she crushed him 21-0. Bill asking James if it was possible that he couldn’t do or teach was funny, and I’m game for more of this show.

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

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 18 “Jack’s Big Gay Wedding” (B+)

It should have been expected that Jack’s big gay wedding wouldn’t go off without a hitch, and that circumstances far beyond his control would force him to get married in a completely different way. I like that the gate agent he told to check again imitated exactly the motions he had done, and that Estefan pointed out that she did in fact do what he asked. While much of it was forced, Sean Hayes’ physical comedy managed to save pretty much all of it. Will proposing to McCoy was a surprise since it didn’t seem that he was completely all on in the relationship, but what a nice treat that was, especially since Will did find a way to let Jack still have his moment in the limelight. McCoy crying uncontrollably between selfies was entertaining, and I imagine this means we’ll see a lot more of Matt Bomer in the future. Grace meeting Marcus, played by Reid Scott from “Veep,” whose characters are usually less than polite to women, and deciding to follow him on his big international adventure was quite a leap, and I’m so curious to see where that leads. I’m betting that Noah won’t be too happy to hear about it, though I’m more than happy to see his curmudgeonly ways go even if I like David Schwimmer. Karen realizing that she’s straight was inevitable, and I’m glad we got to have Samira Wiley’s Nikki around while we could. The MVP of the episode, however, was Smitty, who made all the awkward moments when Karen laughed at his professed misery completely worthwhile by cracking up at Karen’s comment. This show may not be the best comedy on television anymore, but I’m still finding it enjoyable and will continue to watch when it returns next season.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Sean Hayes as Jack

Pilot Review: In the Dark

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

What I’m Watching: Brockmire (Season Premiere)

Brockmire: Season 3, Episode 1 “Clubhouse Cancer” (B)

I didn’t have any clue that this show was coming back for a third season now, though it’s premiered at pretty much the same time each year. I expressed my weekly frustrations with season two when Amanda Peet mysteriously disappeared and then only showed up again a couple times, and I’m glad to see that, if she’s not going to be around, at least we’re getting a fresh reboot. Tyrel Jackson Williams is also gone as Charles, and Brockmire is in a new city with a whole bunch of people around him ready not to get along. I like that one of those people is his co-announcer Gabby, played by Tawny Newsome, and though it upsets me greatly that “Counterpart” is no longer on the air, I’m happy to see J.K. Simmons given a role worthy of his talents. Brockmire telling Gabby that despite what she might have heard about him, Matt the Bat was actually the worst demonstrates just how awful a person he is. I’m also happy to see Richard Kind as Gus the producer, who was well aware of how underappreciated he was and who knew better than to put Brockmire on the air right away lest he predictably say something untoward. We also have Martha Plimpton, the second actress who won an Emmy for guest-starring on “The Good Wife,” following Carrie Preston last season, as his no-nonsense new sponsor. I was worried at the start of the episode that Hank Azaria would be the only one to appear and that we’d have to listen to him talk about masturbating constantly, but stacking the deck with all this talent suggests potentially worthwhile pastures ahead.

Friday, April 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst (Series Finale)

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 13 “Pancakes”

I’ve been thinking about how this show could end, and this episode feels like the perfect way. There was always going to be a monumental event ready to derail Jimmy and Gretchen’s wedding, and both of them deciding to skip it so that they could make a daily decision about whether they still loved each other is completely fitting. Transitioning from their wedding to Lindsay and Paul’s was seamless and creative, and helped to allay certain worries that previous episodes had perpetuated. The presence of Mariah the florist was explained away as a great choice to be their nanny since her indiscretion with Jimmy had negated all future sexual tension, and the sale of the house was a joint decision necessitated by it not being child-friendly. Not everything was rosy, of course, since we were still left with the image oof Gretchen crying in bed with the baby in between her and a sleeping Jimmy, made more comic by her telling Jimmy that she might one day step in front of a train, an event he promised to get over in record time. It’s good to know that Edgar moved to New York and found happiness, and that Lindsay and Paul found their way back to each other, especially after Paul miserably discovered that he was seated by himself at a nonexistent table. Seeing Ben Folds again was a nice treat, and this was a decent final goodbye to Sam and his bandmates. I’ll also always appreciate Vernon and Becca for the hilarious recurring players they became. This show has always been fun and verged on dramatically transcendent at times, and I will indeed miss it.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Aya Cash as Gretchen
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Aya Cash
Best Season: Season 3
Best Episode: Pilot

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 2 “Chapter Eighty-Three” (B)

When I’m watching a show, I try not to link the decline of a particular character with the overall quality of the show, though bringing back Michael in this way is definitely a purposeful decision on the part of the writers, and one that has yet to win me over. Sure, it’s “straight out of a telenovela,” as the narrator gleefully proclaims each episode, but there was already more than enough fodder for great television before this totally game-changing twist. Unlike the almost saintly Michael, Jason is proving himself to be despicable at every turn, ruining every good thing he seems to do by following it up with a negative move. Kissing Jane during their square dancing was a real misstep, especially after he couldn’t take his eyes off Petra earlier, and then pretending that his dog ate the divorce paperwork seemed deliberately manipulative. I did like the reintroduction of episode themes, with this one being Catholic guilt and eternal damnation, and Alba’s embrace of Jane’s divorce while dealing with her own misplaced feelings in her marriage was the strongest subplot. Xiomara continually invoking her cancer does a disservice to her as a character and those around her, and I hope that she’ll get more worthwhile storylines of her own soon. Rogelio’s feud with River is getting excessive, though I did like that bringing Jason in as an amnesia consultant completely backfired. Luisa was good at resisting Rose’s charm in person, but falling for the allure of her neighbor’s homemade pie is just the latest unfortunate decision on her part that’s going to put him in a lot of trouble.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us (Season Finale)

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 18 “Her” (B)

I just saw a friend who told me that my assessment of this show as emotionally manipulative has permanently colored the way she watches it, mainly because she completely agrees. We haven’t seen too many flash-forwards this season, and I had forgotten that they were presented in a manner that made it seem like Randall and Beth weren’t together anymore. That was replayed to underscore the marital difficulties they were having in this episode, though of course it was all a red herring and those two are the only ones who are actually still doing okay in the future. Those scenes did present a handful of new questions, namely why Nicky was there with Rebecca as she was dying rather than Miguel and why Toby was arriving on his own with both Kate and Kev notably absent. It was affirming to see that, after everything, Randall and Beth proved their devotion to each other by researching solutions to make the other happy, and the best part was that Beth wasn’t looking at houses or apartments in Philly but rather studio spaces so that she could still invest in herself while enabling him to pursue his newfound career. We haven’t seen much of Deja this season, and her pep talk was a nice chance for Randall to listen to someone else for a change. Zoe leaving because Kev indicated that he thought she’d change how she felt about kids eventually was inevitable, and apparently, in the future, Kev does end up with a kid just like him. Pairing the present and future events with Rebecca’s minor car accident was effective, and I like that even Jack couldn’t stand the corn sandwiches he made for his kids. Interestingly, this show has yet to be renewed for a fourth season after a two-season pick up following season one, but I have little doubt that it will be back again.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 4, Episode 9 “Lucha De Apuestas” (B)

For the second year in a row, this show took a lengthy hiatus between its winter finale and its new-year return, though this time it was twice as long. This show has both grown into itself and become increasingly ridiculous with time, and I now consider it one of the more uniquely enjoyable series, even if it’s sometimes hard to take seriously. The biggest drag on this episode was Mona, who is unbelievably irritating and doesn’t add much, trying to compete with Gary for the most grating recurring character on this show. It felt a bit unsympathetic of the legends to not even consider that Koname might not be the monster the Time Bureau was so sure that he was, all too reminiscent of their murderous ways from the last episode this show produced which featured many alternate iterations of the legends. Mona shifting into a Kaupe may be consequential for the future of this show, but I hope that we won’t see too much more of her. More importantly, Ava both broke up with Sara and indicated that she doesn’t trust her anymore, which should make the legends’ reckless activities all the more scrutinized and difficult to execute going forward. Hank didn’t even try to cover up his lie once Nate cornered her, and I’ll be interested to see what Nate does about it. I enjoyed Zari’s reaction to Nate’s mother commenting on her baby-making figure as soon as she met her, a moment of extreme awkwardness that Nate somehow deemed to be not so bad given the possibilities.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Pilot Review: The Twilight Zone

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

What I’m Watching: Veep (Season Premiere)

Veep: Season 7, Episode 1 “Iowa” (B)

It’s been almost two years since this show last aired, and now it’s back for its final seven episodes. Season six was broadcast while Trump was president, but it feels that, in the time since, real-life events have become so absurd that this show can’t be quite as funny anymore since it’s paralleling reality all too much. What was featured most in this episode that felt different from before was the focus on school shootings and just how little Selina cared about them, which I guess was supposed to address the way in which politicians offer meaningless thoughts and prayers and move on to other ideas. The comedic way in which it was portrayed was mildly off-putting, though it shouldn’t be surprising for these characters. Selina in particular demonstrated minimal motivation to do anything that took any work, namely coming off with a single reason that she wanted to be president. Taking the words of a man who was complaining specifically about her and twisting them to her advantage was absurd but typical. Dan is callous as usual, and Amy’s going crazy with his dismissive attitude towards their potential parenthood. I’m happy to see that Mike is still involved on the show in a completely extraneous capacity, with Leon taking over for him by helping to make communications infinitely smoother. Hugh Laurie will also apparently be back as Tom James as a challenger to Selina, but my favorite opponent is Jonah. Every scene featuring him was funny, and I like that Diedrich Bader and Patton Oswalt are on board as Bill and Teddy, respectively, and that Richard is somehow simultaneously working for two campaigns. Invoking Woody Allen and obsessing over his stepfather, played by John Carroll Lynch, giving him a D in math were extremely humorous instances of his unintelligence. I look forward to more of that this year.

What I’m Watching: SMILF (Series Finale)

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 10 “Single Mom is Looking (for) Family” (B)

So, this is it. Unlike with many other series that are cancelled so early on in their runs, no one is clamoring for it to be brought back, so it’s definitely the last we’ll see of it. The one thing besides Larry that could really bring Bridgette and Nelson together is Rafi not doing well, and the news of Nelson’s pregnancy seems to have triggered a relapse that puts him in a completely different position than we’ve seen before on this show. Prior to that, Rafi kissing Bridgette was unexpected, and, fortunately, she reacted in a mature and appropriate way by telling him that it couldn’t go anywhere, even if the way she talked about it to others didn’t indicate that she was so set against it. What came next demonstrated just how disconnected he was from reality when he relapsed, and it was troubling that Tutu and Jackie didn’t seem to notice much being wrong about him actively greeting guests on the doorstep. The party wasn’t such a disaster even though it could have been, and it was nice to see Bridgette and Nelson unite in presenting a strong front to keep Rafi on track. Eliza’s role wasn’t too consequential, and her character is just one of the many things about this show that felt interesting but never really went anywhere concrete. I don’t think I’ll miss this show much, and I’m also not sure if Frankie Shaw will be making anything else soon, but I’m curious to see what, if anything, she does next.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Samara Weaving as Nelson

What I’m Watching: Barry (Season Premiere)

Barry: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Show Must Go On, Probably?” (B+)

This was one of my favorite new shows last year, and I didn’t realize that it was coming back at this time. It’s off to a solid start, and, earlier this week, it got renewed for a third season. I like that there’s some ambiguity about what happened with Detective Moss, and Barry was stressing that no one knows that’s she actually dead. The enthusiasm with which he was trying to make sure that the show went on was somewhat inspiring, though people didn’t seem to be into it. After he was putting on an accent at his day job, pissing off his British boss played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste from “The Good Place,” Barry made a compelling case to Gene, who in typical fashion cancelled the show without offering any refunds, by talking about what happened in the war. He is sharing more and more about himself, and he seems to be in a good place with Sarah. Unfortunately, his focus on his newfound professional career has led him to be careless, prompting a footage connection that may well put him right in the detectives’ crosshairs. I am happy to see Sarah Burns from “Married” as Detective Mae. I was happiest to get to see Noho Hank, who described with such admiration his friendship with Cristobal and then got much more serious when Barry didn’t want to give him the time of day after he saved him from the mob. Fuches is making enough messes for himself on his own, and it doesn’t seem like it will be easy to weasel his way out of his present situation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What I’m Watching: Black Monday (Season Finale)

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 10 “0” (B)

This show is guilty of a typical sin, one that I could probably have predicted, which is setting up a monumental death that wasn’t actually all that consequential since it didn’t involve a main character. As far as we knew, and as far as Mo knew, The Jammer was already dead. Demanding part of what he wasn’t going to get was bad news for everyone, and making sure that he fell to his death felt inevitable and almost irrelevant. The confluence of all the threads made for an impactful finale, one that leads into an unknown future since this show has yet to be renewed or canceled. Keith made his decision to tip Mo off before the feds burst in to arrest him, and he seemed to accept right away that he was going to have to run. I liked seeing Ken Marino back as the Lehman brothers, who once again referenced the questionably intimate nature of their relationship before one of them appears to have been crushed in the car when the Jammer crashed onto it. Blair’s algorithm being at work throughout the season is something I wouldn’t have even remembered existing due to all of the absurdity we’ve seen since he was first introduced. If this show didn’t return, I’d be okay with it, though I do think that I’d also keep watching if it was renewed. Both Don Cheadle and Regina Hall have been fantastic, and I’ll be eagerly watching whatever it is they do next in the hopes that it compares to this.

Season grade: B
Season MVP: Regina Hall as Dawn

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 5 “Everything Must Go” (B-)

It’s hard for me to continue following this narrative which involves such clear instances of guilt that somehow haven’t led to arrests and incarceration just yet. Agent Turner stopped by to see Beth and dance around the fact that he’s aware of what she’s done, and all it took to get him to believe Mary Pat was telling the truth was her mention of how one of the three women who allegedly chopped up the body was married to a cop. It’s refreshing, at least, to see Beth finally take a stand after her despicable husband was revealed to be even more awful than previously believed and didn’t seem to feel too much remorse about it. Forcing him to essentially give all the cars away was just the first step, and telling him that she’s going to be the one to run the shop since they can’t both be in charge was particularly satisfying. I also enjoyed Annie’s reaction following her connecting the dots about Beth and Rio having slept together, something that might be continuing as long as Rio doesn’t raise too much red flags by showing up and identifying himself as Beth’s business partner. I like that Stan has become so into helping Ruby to the point that he’s obsessively going over every detail of what happened, which is helpful since he’s keeping an eye out for him but also presents some problems if he’s going to help Agent Turner identify someone other than Beth that might finally cause this illegal operation to come crumbling down for good.

Pilot Review: Mrs. Wilson

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

What I’m Watching: Billions

Billions: Season 4, Episode 3 “Chickentown” (B-)

I’m not sure how long this show could have sustained Axe going to war with Taylor since it doesn’t have the same appeal as Axe and Chuck being at each other’s throats, and it’s good to see that, after some dirty tricks employed almost entirely by Axe, they were at least able to meet to talk about a peace offering. Though he’s a magnetic character in some ways, Dollar Bill is probably one of the more despicable people on this show, never apologetic for the way in which he treats people and always looking out for himself above all. My wife wasn’t happy at all about his “final solution” idea that led to Wags proclaiming a “chicken Holocaust,” further evidence of most of the characters on this show being terrible people, and I suppose that plotline was only really worthwhile for the way in which Axe showed support to Dollar Bill when he did mess up. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take away from Chuck snapping his own rubber bands in the bathroom at a function, perhaps that he doesn’t need Wendy anymore, or maybe that she knew exactly what she was doing when she triggered him with the noise in the morning? I liked the casting of Kevin Pollak, who’s also been recurring on “Better Things,” as Taylor’s father, who seems to have created some major identity issues by his refusal to address them by their preferred pronouns and also inspired them to persevere in spite of obstacles like that.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: God Friended Me

God Friended Me: Season 1, Episode 19 “The Road to Damascus” (B-)

Part of the appeal of this unapologetically hokey show is that there is a supernatural element behind the God account that couldn’t possibly be operated by a computer program. Therefore, all the time spent trying to determine who’s behind it and which of the three people they’ve long suspected is actually its architect feels tiresome. It’s also hard to believe that Rakesh could be set up with a computer at a fancy gala and security guards wouldn’t think to look behind two people kissing, which itself seems like a red flag for unexpected behavior. At least it’s a relief to see Miles and Cara working towards getting back to being okay with each other, mainly because at least two out of three of these friends are now unemployed as a direct result of their association with the God account. I was very frustrated at the start of the hour that it was Cara who had to be the one to apologize when Miles was acting in a bratty manner, though he too was looking at his podcast fortunes being reversed as a potential consequence of her publishing her article. I’m glad that he didn’t rush to share the news with his audience first, and that he instead slowed down to go on a nice little road trip with his father. It was also endearing to hear Arthur interpret his son’s atheism and devotion to the God account as his own kind of faith, a creative way of looking at something that would otherwise be inherently problematic.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 17 “All About Eve” (B-)

The general narrative of this show isn’t problematic, especially compared to the miserably drawn-out point where we were this time last year, but there are points of it that could use finessing. We’re to believe that Eve managed to go undercover as Tess’ most loyal assistant without drawing any suspicion, yet somehow her computer password of “ilovelex” can be easily guessed? It is, possible, sure, that she was playing dumb so that she could draw them into the trap that enabled Bizarro Supergirl, or whatever it is that we’re supposed to call her, to attack the White House and ensure that Supergirl officially became the enemy of the United States. Fortunately, Lena and Alex were already putting their differences with Supergirl aside and they were ready to be there to help her clear her name at the end of the episode. When even Haley knows that things can’t be as they seem, it’s evident that events are being manipulated. Ben also seemed shocked after hearing from one of the most crucial sponsors of his initiatives that she was voting against them that her mind had been changed, and maybe he’ll end up switching sides at just the right moment when he realizes that he’s been a pawn in someone else’s scheme. I wasn’t so impressed with the physical manifestation of M’yrnn that helped to get Hank back on track, but I guess it all worked out in the end. James’ relationship with his sister is obviously complicated, but Kelly seems to have helped to steer him in the right direction to get the help he needs. Everyone will have to be united to face the threats that are coming at them from all sides when this show returns for its final five episodes of the season on April 21st.

What I’m Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Penultimate Episode)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4, Episode 16 “I Have a Date Tonight” (B+)

A good friend texted me yesterday asking what I thought of this show’s series finale and I quickly wrote back to her that I’m still a bit behind on all my television and hadn’t even finished this one yet. I’m catching up as quickly as possible, and so I should hopefully get to that episode later this week. I actually thought this was a great hour, since it showed Rebecca doing what she’s always wanted in three different situations – getting swept off her feet by a man she likes. I liked finding out that Heather, Valencia, and Paula are all on completely different teams, especially Heather who has now switched to #teamnathaniel after their bonding moment in her crappy car. The musical numbers are getting even more exciting, particularly the one about all the bets, and it’s good to see that this show is only intensifying its strongest assets rather than getting lazy about them as the end swiftly approaches. It did seem hard to beat Josh’s date recreating their time at camp, a surefire way to allow Rebecca’s nostalgia fever to dominate everything else (I’m also #teamjosh, so obviously I’d like his efforts best). Nathaniel’s date started poorly but then ended up being pretty romantic, but the way that this episode ended in such a subdued but serene way indicates that there’s no competing with the effortless charm of Greg, something I don’t quite understand but is likely to win out over our other two competitors. I eagerly await the conclusion of this show, which, based on this hour, will indeed be satisfying.

Take Three: Shrill

Shrill: Season 1, Episode 3 “Pencil” (B+)

As this show continues, what’s becoming clearest is that Annie is a great lead character. She has some idea of what she wants in life, and she’s getting better at thinking that maybe attaining it is possible. She knew that she wanted Ryan to come to her work event, and he did seem completely ready to do so when she called to tell him about it. His absolute failure to even acknowledge that she was upset when she walked in on his monumentally idiotic pencil competition prompted a courageous and strong response from her, though she didn’t last too long even after telling him never to talk to her again. I immediately recognized Esther Povitsky, who here played Kayla, Ryan’s other girlfriend, from her role as Maya on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and it appears that this part was equally miniscule in relation to the other characters. The most worthwhile new face was that of Lamar, who was quite charming and didn’t hesitate to finally admit his feelings for Annie, which led to their inevitable “smashing” done allegedly “just for the playlist.” Fran is a prankster, and something tells me she can dish it out before than she can take it, and she won’t be too happy to find out about this union, though maybe I’m wrong and she’ll be thrilled about two important people in her life getting together. The lingering annoyance of Annie’s troll is something that is going to eat away at her, and the complete lack of empathy expressed by Gabe isn’t going to help.

Monday, April 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 7 “Therapy Patrol” (B+)

Sometimes, this show is just weird, as in the case of this episode which ended with a subtitled rat parodying “The Princess Bride.” But that’s also because Mr. Nobody enjoys the pleasure of narrating and amusing himself, and especially when time can be measured in episodes ago, all bets are really off and this show can be as wildly creative as it wants to be. Hours like this that are splintered into different timecodes building towards the full story can become overdone, but I didn’t feel that here. What was strongest about the way this all played out was that just one relatively short flashback per character really did prove impactful, and less certainly is more as we slowly learn about everything that makes each of these characters tick. Larry talking to the Spirit through his memories that weren’t entirely accurate was extremely compelling, and it’s good to see them forming a relationship that also sometimes means that Larry hangs back while the other being inhabiting his body gets to go out and be the hero. I love how excited Cliff got about therapy, though it seems that another influencing force may have been responsible for that delirium. Vic swiping through the many women who were apparently interested in him was an unexpectedly lighthearted plot point, though it did get unfortunately serious when he saw the girl’s reaction to the receipt of his cyborg selfie. Rita getting stuck in the furnace was yet another instance of how her miserable powers externalize the way she feels about being trapped in her own no longer-perfect skin.

Pilot Review: Traitors

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

Pilot Review: Tacoma FD

Tacoma FD (TruTV)
Premiered March 28 at 10:30pm

It’s important to have the right kind of expectations when going into a new show, and there are going to be factors influencing your opinion that can’t be helped. In the case of this show, it airs on a network – TruTV – that houses one of the more under-the-radar comedies that I enjoy, “I’m Sorry,” and it comes from a comedy troupe that I haven’t liked all that much in the past. “Super Troopers” is a movie that amuses some but not me, and I felt similarly negatively about “Beerfest” and “The Slammin’ Salmon” when I saw them. Now the group is coming to television, and the product isn’t nearly as crude as I would have expected. There’s not much maturity, sure, but Kevin Heffernan’s Chief Terry McConky at least understands the notion of responsibility that he doesn’t always adhere to, especially if there’s an opportunity for childish competition with his underlings. There’s not much in the way of sophistication either, which doesn’t make getting to know this firehouse any better. Presumably, Hassie Harrison’s female firefighter from the opening credits will be added going forward as part of the effort to make everyone take their jobs a bit more seriously. Again, I’m surprised that, even on a cable network, the envelope isn’t really pushed too much, and I imagine that true fans of Broken Lizard might be disappointed by the relatively reserved nature of this show. I’ve seen much worse, and therefore I’ll be more than happy just to forget this show existed without being bothered much by the experience of sampling it.

How will it work as a series? Terry tried his best to act like the boss even though he let Eddie drive him crazy with pranks and baiting him into taking part in unauthorized activities, and there’s likely to be much more of that going forward, leading to moderately humorous antics. There may be more recurring subplots in there too, though I don’t know how much multitasking this show will really feature.
How long will it last? It doesn’t look like many people have actually found this show since there are few reviews out there, but the premiere was apparently a huge success in the ratings for the network. I suspect that, as long as Broken Lizard wants to continue making this show, it’s going to live a long, healthy, and maybe even raunchy life.

Pilot grade: B-

Sunday, April 7, 2019

What I’m Watching: Better Things

Better Things: Season 3, Episode 4 “Monsters in the Moonlight” (B+)

It’s episodes like this that remind me of why I do like watching this show and why its star Pamela Adlon truly does deserve the Emmy nominations she’s been getting for her work. I always think she’s great, but then there are half-hours like this. Hallucinating her dead father telling her that it wasn’t worth it to make a fuss before she did just that was emblematic not of her not having a right to speak up but instead that she should have known it wouldn’t do anything. It was quite a speech, but Nikki laughing off her very honest comment about her promiscuity was a sign that no one even bothered to listen to her or cared. The other guy who did speak up was similarly ignored, and his contribution didn’t help much anyway. I enjoyed the opening scene with Frankie driving poorly and then storming out of the car, only to get even more furious that Sam was more than willing to let Duke have a chance to steer and do donuts in the parking lot. Max showing up at the end of the episode was the last straw, and of course she pulled the card that her mom wasn’t acting happy to see her when it realty was what Sam always knew and feared would happen. Max has never been particularly ambitious, and giving up on her higher education so early on is hardly surprising. Having a self-professed adult with minimal motivation living under her roof is going to be a major headache for the already-rattled Sam, whose dreams of her ex are proving both particularly steamy and disturbing.

Pilot Review: Abby’s

Abby’s (NBC)
Premiered March 28 at 9:30pm

I was thinking about this show recently after remembering seeing something about a series with Natalie Morales as a bartender and Neil Flynn as her number one customer. I like Morales a lot from her work on “Parks and Recreation,” and while I do think she’s been great in roles on “The Grinder” and “Santa Clarita Diet,” neither has given her as much to do as I would have hoped. Flynn spent a long time on “The Middle,” a show I didn’t watch, after making a big name for himself as the janitor on “Scrubs.” It’s good to see both of them here in a show that might not be high-concept but is actually pretty entertaining, joined by Nelson Franklin, a familiar face from the likes of “New Girl” and “Veep.” I did crack up at a few lines, including Bill’s assessment of the small rectangle that he could see all of because he’s tall and Abby thinking that her landlord lived at the civic center. This does feel in many ways like a comedy straight out of twenty years ago, though it has some charm, and I like the stars enough to give it another chance and see where it goes. Bill giving Abby the ultimate test by having her make him a Mai Tai just to see if she’d do it was a fun way to end things, and it shows that Bill, even if most at the bar would consider him a square, has a sense of humor too.

How will it work as a series? Shows like this tend to demonstrate their quality early, following up on a decent, setup-heavy installment like this with either an equally engaging episode or something that shows considerably less promise. I hope that it will be the former, but we’ll have to see if Abby’s sardonic charm can carry this show or if this will be just another workplace comedy set in a bar.
How long will it last? I know that, even if I like it, I shouldn’t get too attached because it’s very unlikely that this show is going to be around for long. The reviews aren’t great even if they’re better than a bunch of other sitcoms that have premiered lately, but the more problematic thing is that the ratings weren’t good at all. NBC hasn’t been doing fantastically in recent years, and it’s going to be much likelier to hold on to established hits than something like this. I predict that the ten ordered episodes will air and that will be it.

Pilot grade: B+

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 17 “The Things We Do for Love” (B)

It’s a strange idea that all four of the main characters on this show are dating people at the moment, even if McCoy was, as Will repeated over and over, on assignment in London. I think it’s for the best that we didn’t experience the wild bachelor party but instead just saw the messy aftermath in the morning, and instead all the awkwardness got reserved for the dinner party that went very wrong. Noah is a self-professed curmudgeon, and therefore it should have been obvious that he wouldn’t want to change his ways, though I guess he invited Grace to move in with him as part of an effort not to have to relocate himself. It started off as a joke, with Noah likening his hate for the rug to his daughter’s, but his unwillingness to reschedule with his friend to avoid missing Jack’s wedding was a sign that they’re really not meant to be together. Estefan’s obsession with the coins was entertaining as Jack panicked, and I like that Larry showed up at the end with a horror story that solved all of his problems. Estefan’s excitement about the straight man’s bathroom was also funny. Jack coaching Will on how to pretend that he likes something when he doesn’t was amusing given how often Will does that to Jack, and it obviously wasn’t going to go as well since Grace is only ever so slightly more self-aware than Jack. Karen trying to inhabit the role of lesbian as Nikki came to the dinner with her was a lot of fun, and, even though her behavior was utterly absurd, Nikki seems to still find something very alluring about her new partner.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

What I’m Watching: You’re the Worst (Penultimate Episode)

You’re the Worst: Season 5, Episode 12 “We Were Having Such a Nice Day” (B+)

With just one episode left (which has already aired and I’m eager to be ready to watch), it’s good to see this show present a half-hour that, while entertaining, really gets to the root of its two main characters. Gretchen telling Jimmy that he could die during the wedding and no one would notice and that she could do anything and he’d never leave her started things off in a different direction than they ended up going as their best friends arrived to give them one last hurrah. Jimmy’s was interesting because Edgar, expressing no pity for himself in unusual fashion, gave him exactly what he knew he wanted: a chance to experience curling, a sport only he would admire, getting to smash stuff in a safe space that resulted in him hugging the image of his father, and having access to an extremely exclusive club that for some reason was frequented by Thomas Middleditch from “Silicon Valley.” Gretchen was set to have the perfect day too going nowhere until her monster mom showed up and rejected her over and over as she talked about her depression and suicidal feelings. The character was believable, and it helps to explain why Gretchen is who she is. I liked that Vernon and Becca tried one last time to bluff Paul into a big financial gesture, and I was proud that he negotiated down from thirty to fifteen after they tried to get even more from him. The idea that Lindsay and Paul might return to each other is sweet and redeeming. Edgar telling Jimmy not to marry Gretchen was a surprise, and Gretchen stepping on the glass is an ominous way to go into what will surely be a memorable finale.

Pilot Review: What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Premiered March 27 at 10pm

I heard about this show at South by Southwest a few weeks ago and was confused since I initially thought it was a movie, which I knew had been released back in 2014 with Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Though I’m a big fan of Clement, I’m hardly vampire-obsessed, and so I had never seen it, and didn’t have too much interest in this. There are so many mockumentaries out there these days, and some elements just feel overdone. I do like that the ancient vampire who emerged from the coffin acknowledged the camera crew and seemed to briefly relish his audience, but otherwise this was a pretty standard interview-format show, with the obvious twist that these characters are talking about their vampire-related lives. I recognized Kayvan Novak, who plays Nandor, from his recent role in “The Day Shall Come” and his more memorable part years ago in “Four Lions,” and I was also very surprised to see Beanie Feldstein, who starred in “Booksmart,” as one of the virgins all too eager to be a part of the LARPing. Some lines were indeed memorable, like “I’m pillaging everyone, you included,” and the best joke was probably about people being half-drunk in the basement and needing to implement a policy of finishing a whole victim before moving on to the next one. The concept of the energy vampire who drains people just by talking to them was also funny. There’s not enough here that makes me feel I need to return to experience any more of it, but I did enjoy it much more than I thought I would!

How will it work as a series? Guillermo is desperate to be turned into a vampire by his master but that seems fated not to happen, while Nadja is certain that this random human is her reincarnated lover who can inject some excitement into her life. These recurring plotlines, along with Nandor’s desire to be official about how they do things, should help augment an otherwise normal narrative made more unique by the universe in which these vampires exist.
How long will it last? I’m really not sure how many more vampire shows the TV world needs now, but the reviews seem to be on the positive end, as were the ratings. FX is all for edgy programming that appeals to a wide range of viewers, and so I suspect that a strong start for this show will translate to a bright (if sun-free) future for this show. A renewal should be around the corner.

Pilot grade: B

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin (Season Premiere)

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 1 “Chapter Eighty-Two” (B)

I don’t really understand why the final season of one of the CW’s big hits was held off until March, but I guess it will be nice to have its seventeen episodes air all the way through July when most other network programming has already concluded. The way that season four ended almost a full year ago was pretty shocking, though unfortunately the follow-up to the big reveal that Michael is still alive isn’t nearly as enticing. This telenovela has always enjoyed making fun of other telenovelas in the way it presents its story, and therefore Michael having amnesia is a completely expected twist, but one that still seems like it’s going to waste some time as he’s unable to remember a single thing about Jane but immediately took a liking to Petra as soon as he saw her. Telling Jane that she does talk an awful lot wasn’t terribly nice either, and I’d appreciate a time jump here where we could just get back to whatever new normal there will be for everyone. I’ve always been on #teamrafael, and I’m still rooting for them even if Rogelio has no clue just how insensitive he’s being to the poor guy who was all set to propose to Rafael. Petra’s love life is imploding too thanks to Milos exposing her lies, and I’ll be sad to see JR go if she doesn’t have a change of heart. Rose sending tons of vegan donuts to Luisa is weird but not problematic, though the apparent news that she has a number of eager disciples in prison doesn’t bode well for the peaceful future of our favorite characters.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers (Season Finale)

Miracle Workers: Season 1, Episode 7 “1 Hour” (B+)

I’m watching this episode more than a week after it aired, and there’s still no news about whether it’s going to be back for a second season. I’m pleased to report that this was a solid recovery from the last couple of episodes, ending this on an entertaining and sweet note that’s far less consequential than that looming countdown clock has indicated for so long. I enjoyed how the episode opened with Angela Kinsey’s Gail doing exit interviews about making clouds, male nipples squirting orange juice, eastern lights, and a helmet that was supposed to help you steer a bug. There’s so much more to be explored there, and I’m much more in favor of that stuff than God trying to impress his parents and his siblings. God wasn’t too helpful in this case, pushing the lightning button over and over and then short-circuiting everything at the last moment when he escaped from Sanjay’s distraction room. Rosie, however, came through in a big way when she motivated everyone to get on board because they would be denied their severance packages if they didn’t work their final thirty-eight minutes. Craig volunteering not to play it safe to become a bee was appropriately heroic, and though he didn’t have time for his confession to Eliza, he did get to dance with her at the end, which was sweet. And, against literally all odds, Laura and Sam had their first kiss and might end up happily ever after. With the way this ended, I’d probably be up for a second season, though I wouldn’t be too devastated if this is all we get.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Geraldine Viswanathan as Eliza

Friday, April 5, 2019

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 3, Episode 17 “R and B” (B+)

I’m not sure I’ve taken the time to acknowledge the extensive makeup efforts that go into this show to make characters look much younger or older than they are when they’re usually seen. In this case, it was tremendously impressive to see younger versions of Randall and Beth that were clearly portrayed by the same actors yet actually seemed so much more youthful. Tracing the progression of their relationship to highlight Beth’s point that they’ve always fought the same fights was tremendously effective, and it supports what we know about them as a couple and how we’ve seen them grow apart recently as a result of professional challenges unrelated to their children. A teenage suit-wearing Randall taking out his checkbook when he was asked to pay for their meal before ordering during their first date was a pivotal moment in understanding their dynamic, but nothing was more poignant than Beth defiantly bringing Randall to her favorite nachos place so that he could propose at the moment that felt right to her. Telling him that he leaves her with the crumbs was a stark and haunting metaphor, one that’s evidently going to lead to further problems as they did decide to sleep apart. On a lighter note, it was nice to see William and to watch them co-write their wedding vows since they’re better together. I also liked Kate telling Kev he had something on his chin during his ill-advised goatee phase – we don’t usually get unserious moments like that between the two of them.

What I’m Watching: SMILF

SMILF: Season 2, Episode 9 “Single Mom is Losing Faith” (B-)

I don’t quite understand why an entire episode of this show takes place in a Western setting, which seems all the more inconsequential given the impending end of this show, which has actually already aired at this point. I get that it’s meant to be a metaphor and that the gender roles are reversed so that the women are portrayed as strong while the men are emotional and all too petty, but this is just the latest instance of the plot not coherently progressing forward. It felt like a strange opportunity to finally meet Mr. Daddy, played by Clark Gregg, current star of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and who was last married to Connie Britton onscreen in “The To Do List.” It was a relatively small role and didn’t fit too much into the narrative since ultimately it was Ally who treated Bridgette poorly, even if it was as an indirect result of being ignored by Mr. Daddy. The other guest star I recognized right away was Luka Jones, now a star of “Shrill” and previously of the underrated and cancelled-too-soon “People of Earth,” as the man Bridgette brought in for the bounty. Nelson shooting Bridgette in the foot was moderately entertaining, but it’s hard to know what would actually have played out to get them to be on good terms. I like that they came together but don’t love the way in which it happened, and I think that this episode, with moments like grace concluding with “say a-woman,” is symbolic of part of what this show has aspired to be but never really managed to achieve.

What I’m Watching: Black Monday

Black Monday: Season 1, Episode 9 “2” (B+)

Unexpectedly enough, I found this episode to be the best this show has produced yet. Both Blair and Tiff seem to be okay with the fact that their marriage is pretty much a sham, but that doesn’t mean that they’re devoid of feelings for each other. It’s astonishing just how many people have been read into the Georgina play now, and how it becomes less and less valuable with each new individual introduced to the equation. Mo telling Blair about it a few episodes back was risky enough, and now he’s seeing the consequences of that with Blair naming a very specific number to ensure that he’ll no longer be a majority owner in his own company. Tiff is the wildest of wild cards, and somehow it doesn’t feel like it’s going to work out now that she knows what’s going on. Their national anthem dance number was pretty memorable, and only on this show would that seem normal. It’s crazy but actually quite believable somehow that Keith would have to pretend to cough and be experience violent illness every time someone around him spoke because each sentence acknowledged the commission of a crime. I’m not sure that his decision to stop cooperating will work out for anyone, but we also know that a crash is coming and someone wearing that pin is going to die. The season finale has already aired with no news of a renewal, so I wonder whether it will be satisfying given its unknown fate.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 2, Episode 4 “Pick Your Poison” (B-)

There’s a lot going on right now, and so little of it seemed to be related to the monumental and deadly development of the previous episode. That only came into play in a major way at the very end of the episode when Mary Pat’s cover story imploded when her son casually mentioned Daddy being in the freezer when Agent Turner was in the house. It’s hard to take most of what’s going on now seriously, and there doesn’t seem to be a way out for any of our characters. Dean was unbearable as usual, failing to drum up any actual sales when Beth entrusted him with the money to wash, and then being completely terrible to Beth in the restaurant when she made some solid suggestions that might actually help him be a halfway decent businessman. Her passionate rendezvous in the bathroom with Rio followed by him showing up to smash some cars and demand percentages likely means that he taught Beth how to take control of her situation and concocted this split scheme to work around Dean. That’s the hope, at least. Ruby was flashing her money around a bit too freely when she paid off her own debts, while Annie, in a surprise, helped Marion to get back on track and repair some of the damage done by her duplicitous grandson. It’s hardly a shock that the three women would have been caught by the stores they were using to launder the money, and it’s a relief that there were no criminal implications since these three have more than enough problems at the moment.