Saturday, August 31, 2019

Emmy Episodes: Schitt’s Creek

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 5, Episode 14 “Life is a Cabaret” (B-)

This finale, the sixth submitted episode for this show in the Best Comedy Series category, was a bit of a mess in my mind, but it still had some entertainment value. Obviously, not watching all of the episodes in the season can make for an occasionally confusing experience. I wasn’t sure exactly what some of the plotlines were that were referenced here, mainly what was happening with Alexis going away and with this big performance. Most notably, David of course did a poor job preparing for the big announcement of his engagement and instead ended up spilling the beans right away in a manner that caused the news to spread to literally everyone before he could tell them, even his father who was told by Roland when he was the last one who hadn’t yet heard. I was surprised to see Patrick performing in "Cabaret" since we’ve mostly just seen him as the more buttoned-up member of the couple, hardly a theatrical player. I’m also not sure where Stevie was and why, since she wasn’t featured all that much this season, but that was quite a musical number for the very talented Emily Hampshire, who I’m always happy to see get a tremendous showcase. I’d say this episode was the weakest of the selections for this show, but I feel like I have a good picture of what seems to be a fairly average comedy series. I wouldn’t vote for it to win, but its inclusion in the lineup doesn’t bother me too much. If season six gets nominated next year, I’ll be happy to screen another six half-hours.

Emmy Episodes: Schitt’s Creek

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 5, Episode 13 “The Hike” (B)

I’ve been wondering since I first started watching this show when Patrick and David would get engaged, especially since most of the episodes I’ve seen deal with various tests in their relationship. David was doing plenty of complaining as they took what really didn’t seem like a particularly long hike to their picnic, and then of course Patrick had to go ahead and get injured. He seemed very touched that David knew how to take care of him, and he was able to choreograph it perfectly so that he could get down on one knee to propose as David was distracted by taking out the ring. I’m happy for them, and I’ve only recently just started to get to know them. As if Alexis wasn’t frantic enough about this trip that she was going to go on with Ted, the tarot card reading from Twyla with images of boats capsizing just made her more crazed. It’s also evident that she doesn’t listen at all, since this wasn’t a vacation but rather a work trip that she happened to be going on with him. Johnny’s health scare turned out to not be such a big deal, though Roland didn’t help matters at all by consistently referencing a friend of his who ended up dying from what he thought was nothing. It was a relief to discover that he was fine and that he was most at risk of boring the doctor to death with stories that were far too long and uninteresting.

Emmy Episodes: Schitt’s Creek

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 5, Episode 11 “Meet the Parents” (B-)

David doesn’t tend to think through most of the plans he hatches, and inviting Patrick’s parents to a surprise party for him without realizing that he hadn’t actually come out to them was an unfortunate miscalculation. His family members did seem to think that he was planning a spur-of-the-moment surprise without any advance preparation when he wisely waited to loop them in until just hours before so that they wouldn’t spill the beans. Johnny didn’t really do anything wrong by warmly greeting them, though I’m not sure why he needed to include the fact that he wasn’t initially that their personal relationship was going to last. Patrick is far more perceptive than every member of the Rose family, and he had no trouble deducing that his parents already knew about their relationship. It was nice to learn that they were dumbfounded only that he hadn’t been comfortable coming out to them earlier, not that he was gay. Moira obviously has a very eccentric past, but for some reason she’s not into the conventions, which seem to be exactly the kind of self-indulgent setting that would be good for her, and certainly something that Alexis would enjoy marketing since she too likes being the center of attention. Having famed Canadian actress Linda Thorson from “The Avengers” appear as another star at the convention was a clever bit of casting, though that whole plotline didn’t strike me as all that enticing. I like Catherine O’Hara, but Moira is far from this show’s best character.

Emmy Episodes: Schitt’s Creek

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 5, Episode 6 “Rock On!” (B-)

I’m jumping ahead a bit to this show’s third submitted series episode, which is also the selection for star Eugene Levy. That surprises me a bit since he was considerably less featured in this installment than in the season premiere when Moira was away, and I don’t think he’s likely to win over any Emmy voters who are new viewers of the show. Walking in on Stevie while she was taking a scandalous photo to send to her long-distance boyfriend right after he made her and Roland watch the very dated sexual harassment customer service video was certainly awkward, but it wasn’t really that funny. I’ve liked Levy for a while, enjoying him particularly in “A Mighty Wind” and “For Your Consideration,” in which he appeared opposite his frequent collaborator on-screen wife here, Catherine O’Hara, and I don’t think this is the showcase that’s going to win him his first acting Emmy (he has two writing prizes already). I wasn’t too enticed either by Moira’s trip to the casino which resulted in Jocelyn getting a very short haircut, but that’s probably because I don’t know the backstory about her character. David encouraging Patrick to go on a date with the guy who gave him his number was a misstep from the start, but at least it was nice that, despite her selfishness, Alexis was there to comfort him and help him through it as he was relieved to see Patrick return without having been able to go through with it.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Emmy Episodes: Schitt’s Creek

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 5, Episode 2 “Love Letters” (B)

Watching the second of the six submitted episodes for this show’s Best Comedy Series nomination, I found it to be decently entertaining if still not worthy of that top-tier mention in my mind. Moira’s return brought with it a sleep-deprived state of mania which resulted in her finding a stack of love letters, allegedly from someone in her husband’s past, only to be told near the end of the episode that she was actually the one who had written them many years earlier. It was sweet that he had taken them out because he missed her, though he obviously regrets that now. I enjoyed just how poorly David and Stevie handled themselves when they were held by a robber who clearly had no weapon and how they, in Patrick’s words, basically upsold him by giving him wine, cheese, and other things that they’d be hopeless to get paid back for since he was just a “lucky customer.” It’s clear that, for as self-involved and unaware of his surroundings David is, his sister is just as clueless, as evidenced by her regifting of a locket given to her by Ted. I thought I recognized him, and realized as soon as I saw the actor’s name in the credits that Dustin Milligan, who starred in the CW reboot of “90210,” played a fantastic part as the hapless Sergeant Hugo Friedkin on the short-lived, underrated “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” I’m glad that he and Emily Hampshire have regular gigs on this show, but I hope that fans watch them in their superb sci-fi roles too.

Emmy Episodes: Schitt’s Creek

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Schitt’s Creek: Season 5, Episode 1 “The Crowening” (B)

A friend told me I was crazy to start watching the fifth season of this show without having seen any of the first four, but I was pretty shocked to see this show earn three major Emmy nominations for the first time this far into its run and don’t have time to go back and watch all that. Fortunately, this premiere didn’t feel too hard to get into, though I’m sure there are some moderately important plot points I’ve missed over the fifty-one episodes that came before this one. In addition to being the first of the six submitted episodes for Best Comedy Series, it’s also the chosen half-hour for star Catherine O’Hara. After ironically just missing out on an Oscar nomination for her turn in the awards-centric film “For Your Consideration” back in 2006, O’Hara earned her second Emmy acting bid, after a mention for the TV movie “Temple Grandin,” this year for her over-the-top performance as Moira, who here was starring in an absurd Bosnian film that the director was horrified he had to be associated with while she was going overboard with her own notes and performance tweaks. It’s possible she’s a character who takes some getting used to, as this episode didn’t win me over, and we got to see how her onscreen husband, played by Eugene Levy, had trouble not keeping busy while she was away. I recognized another few faces, including Chris Elliott from “Everybody Loves Raymond” as Roland, and I was so thrilled to see Emily Hampshire from “12 Monkeys,” though this doesn’t offer her nearly the same showcase as that series. I do like both of the adult kids, played by Levy’s real-life son and co-creator Daniel, and Annie Murphy, and I’m ready to marathon through the other five episodes chosen to win over Emmy voters.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

What I’m Watching: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Season 1, Episode 5 “Love, Chalet” (B)

I like the pace that this show moves at, especially when it’s framed opposite a reality show that’s drawing in countless viewers – namely all of our characters – on a weekly basis. Having the hand-written “a few days later” and other markers transition between days is also clever, and this show continues to grow on me five hours in. Maya agreeing to give a relationship with Duffy a shot was a surprise, and it’s now being framed as Duffy constantly being told how much better than him Maya is, something he too is starting to feel when she completely ignored him and left him behind to take Kash to the hospital. It was clever, and subtle at first, that a potential relationship between Gemma and Duffy was being set up, because they’re both lonely people who aren’t noticed by anyone else, and Duffy thought to invite Gemma out for a much-needed night on the town so that she could forget about being without her son and late husband. It would work out so well if Gemma and Duffy made out or slept together at the same time as Maya and Kash did, but that will still leave one very angry person, Ainsley, who was furious to find out that Craig invited Kash over when she said she couldn’t make it. It’s also possible that Dermot Mulroney’s shoe-burning divorcé will become a love interest for her. Craig going on the reality show to propose was a sweet romantic gesture, and it shocked even him to see that it ended up working when Zara showed up at the end of the episode to scratch her head in a way that even he didn’t misinterpret.

What I’m Watching: Our Boys

Our Boys: Season 1, Episode 4 “Chapter 4: The Dawn Martyr” (B+)

This show continues to be intense and involving as the investigation begins to go even deeper, and it becomes clear why resolving it is crucially important to the safety and stability of the region. I’m consistently impressed by this show’s ability to portray all sides of the situation, representing missteps and preconceptions all around that both inform and bias events and decisions. Hussein being told where and when to bury his son felt like a horrific way to treat a mourning father, but as soon as the ambulances crossed back into a Palestinian area, even he couldn’t control the protesters who just wanted to take the body and march it back to Al-Aqsa. To his credit, Hussein understood what was going to happen and managed to change the anthem of the protesters, using it instead as a call to unity, calming that storm for now. Though he’s been pushing the idea that the killers were Jews since the beginning, Simon now seems more hesitant to make an arrest because he understands the gravity of such a move and how irreversible it would be if they got it wrong. Taking his brother’s yarmulke and heading to Shabbat services to spend more time with the suspects was a formidable way to end the episode, ready to offer viewers a close-up look at what the Ben-David family and community is really like. I recognized Noa Koler, the fantastic star of “The Wedding Plan,” as Devorah Segal, but didn’t identify popular Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi as Uri Korb.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Round Two: The Righteous Gemstones

The Righteous Gemstones: Season 1, Episode 2 “Is This the Man Who Made the Earth Tremble” (B)

In its second outing, this episode wasn’t all that much about the religion and instead about the two different sets of people scrambling furiously to dig out of the holes they’ve dug for themselves. We got to meet the three seemingly hapless blackmailers as they all managed to survive and attempt to regroup. It wasn’t lost on Lucy that Scotty tried to throw her down a hill and get rid of her body, and no one seemed quite as invested in this operation as Scotty was. As soon as they got to the motel, I immediately recognized the uninjured blackmailer as Skyler Gisondo, a fantastic part of “Santa Clarita Diet.” This episode saved its best surprise for last, which was the reveal that he was actually Gideon, the wayward son who left the family for other opportunities. His return home is going to rattle his father, who is almost certain not to connect the dots about what he did. Scotty showing up could make him suspicious, but we’ll see how long that takes. Just as most of Danny McBride’s characters tend to, Jesse rules by arrogance and annoyance rather than ever praising any of his underlings, though this crew seems more hapless than anything and unlikely to seek vengeance on their horrible boss. The closing montage was a bit weird, with the sex and the praying and everything, not to mention the snake that Eli found in his kitchen, and I’m hoping that this show can stay somewhat grounded in its pursuit of decent, if twisted, comedy.

What I’m Watching: The Affair (Season Premiere)

The Affair: Season 5, Episode 1 (B)

There’s something about going into a show for its final season that offers a renewed sense of hope about its quality. This is also a rare case where a previously planned last hurrah isn’t shortened or postponed to some undesirable burnoff slot, with ten episodes just like most of the seasons that came before it. I really didn’t like the third season and the direction it took after being much more into the first two seasons, and the fourth offered a modest recovery with a renewed focus on Alison before Ruth Wilson departed the series. Now, this final run is taking a strange approach, which appears to follow characters in completely different time periods. There’s already been a departure from the format that so intrigued me at the beginning, which was the presentation of two perspectives of the exact same events. In this case, we saw Vic’s funeral before we saw his death, and understood just how Noah and Helen felt in those moments. When Noah was first seen talking to the director, it seemed like his life was being coopted, but then he demonstrated just how poorly he does paying attention to the woman who’s supposed to be most important in his life. Janelle was happy to be there for Helen but wasn’t eager to stay for Noah, who messed up in a big way by not bothering to correct his confused former father-in-law when he mistook her for the help. Noah’s presence felt inappropriate right after Vic died, even if he was there to make sure Sierra could introduce him to his child. Meeting Anna Paquin’s adult Joanie was interesting, but I have no idea what this season is going to be like since the characters we know are likely not around anymore in her time or at the very least will certainly look different. I’m on board since I’ve watched the whole thing, watching hopefully and optimistically for now.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Emmy Episodes: Pose

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Pose: Season 1, Episode 8 “Mother of the Year” (B+)

The last of this show’s six submitted episodes for its Best Drama Series nomination, which is also the season one finale, was a solid way to close out what I think was a very strong freshman production. I didn’t watch it at first because I wasn’t so into the subject matter, but the five episodes I just watched have impressed me very much. I skipped episode seven because it wasn’t one of the six submitted hours, and I think that’s where the fallout from Elektra’s decision to go against Dick’s wishes and have the surgery happened. It’s nice to see Blanca and Elektra looking out for each other even if their exchanges aren’t always the warmest, and I enjoyed the humor in Elektra adjusting to her new accommodations, demanding that her room be painted and complaining about the lack of fancy dinner silverware. After Blanca helped her secure the perfect job as a restaurant hostess, Elektra repaid the favor by stepping in to completely take down House Ferocity when Candy was being particularly cruel to Blanca. Candy did not do herself any favors by baiting one of the judges into coming down to chase her, and I’d say she’s pretty much done for in the ball scene. Blanca being crowned mother of the year was a sweet send-off in an episode that also provided some semi-permanent resolutions for a handful of its other characters, including Damon and his dance future and Stan not being taken back by either of the women he loves. The house vs. house scene with calls of “and pose! And pose! And pose!” was a highly effective way to close, and this hour helped end this marathon of mine on a positive note. If I had time, I might watch all of season two, but will likely wait until next Emmy season to screen the submitted episodes again, assuming it’s as good and makes the cut. I don’t think it will win, but I’d be perfectly happy if it did since it is a tremendously impressive production.

Emmy Episodes: Pose

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Pose: Season 1, Episode 6 “Love is the Message” (B+)

Watching all but two episodes of an eight-episode season doesn’t seem like too much of a risk, but obviously I missed a major moment in the fifth hour that found Patty getting suspicious enough to track Angel down to a ball and confront her. I like that Angel was very honest with her, answering every question deliberately and truthfully, though it got less friendly when Angel had to break the news to Patty that she was trans, something Patty didn’t accept. Going in to her doctor to get an STD test showed how seriously she was taking this life news, and bringing Stan in to an appointment with a psychiatrist to tell him he needs to move out was a shrewd and formidable move. Blanca seemed excited to be with Darius, though the news that he’s been around the block made her considerably less interested. This episode, however, belonged to Billy Porter, who very smartly submitted it as his chosen episode for his Best Actor nomination. Lashing out at Blanca and the rest of House Evangelista while he was drunk was an intense moment, but nothing compared to the incredible number he sang with his boyfriend’s eyes on him as part of his AIDS benefit. The only thing that made it better was Blanca coming up there to join him for a duet, another reminder that Mj Rodriguez should also have been an Emmy nominee. I could see Porter winning for this hour, and I would completely support that choice.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Emmy Episodes: Pose

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Pose: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Fever” (B+)

This episode brought up something that is a true threat and reality for so many of this show’s characters with the introduction of a seemingly harmless fever. Damon didn’t seem to realize that any unprotected sex could leave him vulnerable, and Ricky casually mentioning that he had been with fifty partners didn’t do much to allay his concerns. Blanca was smart to suggest that they all go for HIV testing, though she couldn’t have known that the results would turn out to be good news for everyone except for Pray Tell. Watching him try to compose himself before going out to celebrate with the three younger boys was heart-wrenching. A character that we haven’t seen much of, Candy, also got a major spotlight in this hour as she tried to win prizes for traits her body didn’t possess and went to potentially dangerous lengths, with Angel’s help, to try to see them corrected. We also got to see a new side of Elektra, which provided some insight into how she got to be where she is. I remember seeing Emmy buzz for guest star Christopher Meloni, who recently appeared on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” for his guest role here as Dick, who has been keeping Elektra comfortable for ten years but always insistent, for whatever reason, that she not have the surgery to make her the person she’s always known she needs to be. Deciding she’s going through with it anyway made for a powerful scene with the doctor played by Kathryn Erbe from “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” signaling a future that might be happier for her even if it’s not nearly as financially glamorous.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Emmy Episodes: Pose

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Pose: Season 1, Episode 3 “Giving and Receiving” (B+)

It always feels weird to be watching a Christmas episode in the summer, and though I’m more than a year behind this installment’s original airdate, it was broadcast in June. The holiday spirit here was an effective framework which included a whole lot of character development. I don’t remember seeing any of Pray Tell’s personal life in the first episode, and I’m starting to see that there is considerable depth to star Billy Porter’s Emmy-nominated performance aside from just his formidable opening narration at each ball. This episode continued to show me that Mj Rodriguez is tremendously deserving of accolades of her own for her turn as Blanca, and this episode found her being both protective of her children and sentimental when she needed to give them a win for the holidays. Elektra’s backstory was also delved into briefly as she expressed a lack of satisfaction and comfort with the way she is, desiring an operation to make her feel truly who’s she meant to be. It’s nice that Damon’s relationship with Ricky seems to be proceeding along well, with Ricky walking for the first time and Damon benefiting from the mentorship of his house mother to ensure that his dance career can actually take off despite his missteps aong the way. As some sympathy has been created for Stan, who is so drawn to Angel, there’s none of that left for Matt, who got mad at his underling for inadvertently going over his head and took it out on him by going to his house, kissing his wife, and telling her that he never made Stan work late. That’s vindictive behavior even by the standards of most of the characters on this show. Stan may have covered for now, but Angel won’t likely soon let him forget that he let her down in the process.

Emmy Episodes: Pose

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Pose: Season 1, Episode 2 “Access” (B+)

I watched the pilot of this show back when it aired last June and found it mesmerizing in certain facets but ultimately not covering a world that was all that interesting to me. That’s not meant to be narrow-minded, merely that it wasn’t the most enticing subject matter. Fast-forward to now, and this show has been one of the most consistently-acclaimed series, the only Golden Globe-nominated Best Drama Series entry I hadn’t seen last year and now one of three shows I need to sample substantially for the upcoming Emmy Awards. After the pilot, this is the second of the show’s six submitted hours. In some ways, it’s a difficult show to take a deep dive into, but it’s also very accessible. The format of the balls makes for a great framing device, and it was interesting to see Blanca and Elektra relate to each other on a certain level before eventually having a rematch that went to the former defending champion. We mostly see their lives within this world, free from harassment and persecution, but this episode did feature a series of upsetting moments with Blanca being discriminated from, of all places, a gay bar. It didn’t take much for Matt to realize that Stan was asking for a raise so that he could pay for a lover, and his advice was rather straightforward and highly chauvinistic. I’m going to be watching a handful of other episodes over the next few days, and I feel ready to get attached to some of these characters and this universe.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Round Two: Why Women Kill

Why Women Kill: Season 1, Episode 2 “I’d Like to Kill Ya; But I Just Washed My Hair” (B+)

In its second outing, this show demonstrates that it is following three equally interesting and distinctly different storylines. The most uncomfortable one to watch is that of Beth Ann, who wants nothing more than to be looked at by her husband who, even after falling out of the shower during an ill-fated sex act, wanted to go out and engage in an affair under the guise of a necessary business dinner. April was eager to befriend Beth Ann but revealed that she was well aware that Rob was married and that he must just be bored by his unexciting housewife. Beth Ann should really spend more time with her neighbor Sheila, played by Alicia Coppola from “Jericho,” even if some of her advice isn’t exactly right for Beth Ann’s situation. Lucy Liu is obviously relishing the opportunity to play a different role than the one she’s been occupying on “Elementary” for years, and her character’s concern is most about not being embarrassed. I was pleased to recognize another neighbor in the form of her best friend Naomi, played by Katie Finneran from “Brockmire,” “Wonderfalls,” and much more. Tommy’s catering-truck tablecloth bed may not be the most romantic place for passion, but his youthful sex drive and her anger at her husband seem to have her convinced. In the present, Jade was perfectly into the idea of a threesome with Taylor and Eli, but the closeness between Jade and Taylor is most going to be a problem since, even if Eli’s gotten over it for the moment, Taylor is realizing who she really wants to be with, and it’s not her husband. The opening scene seemed to confirm that these women do indeed kill their husbands, though it’s not entirely apparent who the murder victim is in each case, something I’m sure we’ll discover eventually.

Pilot Review: This Way Up

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.

Friday, August 23, 2019

What I’m Watching: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Season 1, Episode 4 “The Winner Takes It All” (B)

This wasn’t a great episode for romance, with one surprising caveat at the very end of the episode. Quentin’s death showed another side of Gemma’s loneliness, as his parents weren’t interested in her having any real role in his funeral and thought they knew what was best for her son. Refusing to do as she was told and instead putting jerseys under each seat before having alcohol passed out to everyone in the crowd was a resounding demonstration of both her party-planning abilities and her independence, confident that there are at least some things she knows how to do very well. Duffy accidentally basically saying “I love you” to Tabby seemed like it wouldn’t end well, but apparently his sense of Maya’s discomfort with being at a funeral was enough to compel him to finally confess his love for her. Her kissing him back was a surprise, and it may have to do more with her own unresolved grief and sitting next to Kash at the funeral, which also inspired him to go to the imam to continue his arranged marriage dating at a slower pace. Fatima does seem great, and Kash’s storyline is tangential enough to the rest that he might be able to find happiness with her and for some unknown reason invite some of the rest of the crew to one of the requisite four weddings. After being turned away by her hilariously hostile friends, Craig thought he won back Zara, but it turns out she’s trying a completely different avenue to find love. I’m curious to learn why Marcus covered for Maya by telling Andrew where she was instead of throwing her under the bus again when he set her up earlier, and I wonder if he’ll be yet another person to fall for the visiting American.

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

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Groom” (B)

This was one of the better episodes of a lackluster season, one that managed to end at a potential decent place but also, as usual, introduced something completely new and unexpected after resolving, at least partially, its primary plotlines. Robin’s plan to have Nate marry his overeager bride and just bring her back home was actually how things appear to have ended up, which I suppose could be entertaining for a while. I like that her father was eager to dissuade his daughter from her American obsession by inviting a whole bunch of men from around the Syracuse area so that she would get over it only to have Nate show up. His willingness to let Nate off the hook because he was married didn’t work so well since he and Robin weren’t officially wed, though apparently his son the former elected official has now made it a real thing. JR showing up right before the wedding was set to happen and Nate had ripped his pants getting on the tiny horse did stop the nuptials, but not the way anyone thought. All this talk of “homo milk” isn’t nearly as entertaining as those behind this show seem to think it is, and I think this season might have been stronger if all of the characters had actually been together for more of it. There’s talk of this show continuing on something like HBO Max, and while I think I’d like to be done with it, I’d probably be up for watching the opening hour of a theoretical fifth season just to see if it’s still worth it.

Season grade: B-
Season MVP: Natalie Zea as Robin

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Take Three: Our Boys

Our Boys: Season 1, Episode 3 “Chapter 3: Two Packs of Red Next” (B+)

This episode pulled out from Mohammed’s story to focus on the investigation, which involves many layers and preconceived notions. This hour in particular helped to answer for me the question of this show’s existence, since it serves as an examination of Israeli and Palestinian society and all the intricacies that make it so complex. Simon was still the only one who believed that Jews were the ones who killed Mohammed, and despite the best efforts of everyone else to list the many reasons that it couldn’t have been them, the straightforward testimony from the store clerk on a pilgrimage with his family confirmed that they were speaking Hebrew and didn’t match the description of his normal Arab customers. The religious kids barbecuing were all too willing to talk to him, and his conversation with Rabbi Ben-David was full of foreboding undertones. Simon was mostly honest and direct with Hussein when he walked in to talk to him, and it was reassuring to see him finally talk to the woman who had reported her son’s near-kidnapping, even if it came far too late. He appears to be truly invested in uncovering the truth, not merely supporting what he already thinks. Hussein remained in denial for the entirety of the episode even when he returned home to find his entire house in mourning, and the impact of getting that call was felt by watching his face without having to hear anything. Chaos is sure to erupt soon, and finding proof of which Jews were responsible for the murder won’t help abate any of that.

Pilot Review: The Righteous Gemstones

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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Emmy Episodes: Pen15

It’s always my policy to watch every Emmy-nominated episode each year, which leads me to sample a handful of shows that I don’t tune in to on a regular basis. For the fourth year in a row, I’m making a special effort to spotlight each of those installments to offer my perspective on shows that I don’t review each week.

Pen15: Season 1, Episode 9 “Anna Ishii-Peters” (B-)

I was truly surprised to see this show earn an Emmy nomination in any category after really not liking the pilot. Looking back at my review, I guess I didn’t hate it quite as much as I remembered, but it surely wasn’t anywhere near the best comedy on television. I’ve also developed an affinity for co-creator, co-writer, and co-star Maya Erskine still watching this pilot back in February thanks to her fantastic turn in the Tribeca film “Plus One,” which is far funnier than anything on this show. I will say that this installment was slightly better than the pilot, if only because of the focus on friendship that it offered as covered in a weekend where a best friend started to replace the daughter in all the ways she didn’t realize she feared. There is some comedy gleaned from the fact that both Erskine and Anna Konkle are much older than the teenagers they’re supposed to be playing, but none of it worked particularly well or added anything substantial in my opinion (I understand that many do like this show and its format a lot). Its storyline was a bit more compelling, though I’d actually have recognized this episode more for its direction than its writing given the way each of the scenes were framed. I thought I recognized two of the parents from previous projects, though I could only peg one of them. Richard Karn, who plays Maya’s dad, should be familiar to most from “Home Improvement,” and I’ll always remember Melora Walters, who plays Anna’s mom, from her standout turn in “Magnolia,” even if I couldn’t identify her here. I wasn’t a big fan of the “Barry” installment nominated against this episode at the Emmys, but this is still probably my last choice in that category.

Amazon with Abe: Fleabag (Season Premiere)

Fleabag: Season 2, Episode 1 (A-)

I loved season one of this show back when it premiered on Amazon nearly three years ago, and I’m so happy that, after being completely ignored by Emmy voters back then, this second season netted a whole bunch of nominations across the board. I had meant to watch it before nominations were unveiled, but I’m just getting to it now due to a high backlog of streaming content. This premiere episode even scored directing and writing bids which it highly deserved. This was a great reintroduction to the world of this show, with everyone noticing just how quiet and “not naughty” Fleabag was being. I love that she started telling the audience that no one had asked her a question in forty-five minutes and was promptly interrupted by a query addressed directly to her by the priest, played by Andrew Scott. This was a formidable showcase for Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s two Emmy-nominated costars, recent Oscar winner Olivia Colman as her godmother and future stepmother and Sian Clifford as her sister Claire, who was still furious at her and didn’t believe her side of what happened with Martin. After some entertaining and agonizing conversation, the episode really kicked into high gear when Fleabag got to play a part. Claiming that she was the one who had a miscarriage in the bathroom and that she was being resistant for no logical reason was a masterful way of helping to get Claire out of there, and I love that, after a few punches were thrown, the episode ended with the two of them in the cab agreeing just how hot the priest was. It may take me a bit, but I can’t wait to experience the rest of this season.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Netflix with Abe: Sense8 (Series Finale)

Sense8: Holiday Special “Amor Vincit Omnia”

I figured it was finally time to get around to watching this extended series finale since it first debuted on Netflix more than a full year ago. That was right around when I started doing a lot of traveling, and so it seemed impossible to find two and a half hours to devote to watching the epic conclusion to this incomparable series. The delay in my screening it is not at all indicative of my excitement level. Getting two seasons of this show and a wrap-up movie is honestly more than I and I assume most others ever expected, and it’s rare to have a show end with a dedication that reads “for our fans.” I’m definitely going to miss the slow-motion running and awesome music, and it was especially trippy to watch the sensates have a dance party on the bus while they were actually sleeping and sitting quietly. Having a handful of humans aren’t them who can only see the people actually there was both helpful and immensely confusing, and it’s cool that they’ve managed to assemble a group of allies who were able to help them fight BPO. Kala coaching them on how to save her life was a serious highlight, and Wolfgang launching a rocket to blow up the helicopter with Lila and Whispers aboard was a productively concrete way of taking out the group’s enemies. Nomi and Amanita’s wedding was indeed wonderful, and it wouldn’t have been right to end this show in any way other than an orgy, with flashbacks to each character’s sexual and romantic history. And they did all manage to pair off, or in several cases, find more than one partner. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the intricacies of this show, the sensates, or the history of BPO, but it’s been a wild, enthralling ride unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I hope this show continues to live on as one of the more singular and creative offerings on Netflix for many years and generations to come.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Jamie Clayton as Nomi
Best Episode: You Want a War?

Amazon with Abe: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 10 “All Alone” (B+)

Well, this is not how I expected this season to end. Opening with Rose going to see the card reader, who wasn’t quite given the opportunity to say that she didn’t exactly see Midge in a wedding dress, and a flashback to Joel waiting to get hit by cars in the middle of the street until Midge answered his wedding proposal presented confusing predictions of what was to come. Benjamin coming over to ask Abe’s permission to propose was a fully hilarious process, namely with the twenty-five character references and whether he plans for snacking. Abe’s sudden decision to abandon everything he’s worked for and focus on who knows what next did lead to what should have been a positive development in the form of permission for Benjamin to marry Midge. Unfortunately, her excitement at casually getting a phone call offering her the chance to tour with Shy after being rushed off the stage during her pregnancy set resulted in an immediate acceptance, without thinking either of her kids or of the man she’s theoretically about to marry. I wasn’t sure exactly why we were seeing so much of Lenny’s act towards the end of the episode, but I guess it was for Midge to realize that she’s meant to be all alone for the rest of her life if she really wants to do what will make her happy. Midge stopping by to sleep with Joel is pretty much the most self-destructive thing she could have done, and we’ll have to see how that plays out. Susie didn’t have time to get a word in and tell Midge that Sophie wants her to manage her career too, which may prove to be a problematic conflict of interest that she can’t afford to turn down. This has been another terrific season, and I’ll look forward to watching all of season three closer to when it premieres later this year.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Rachel Brosnahan as Midge

Monday, August 19, 2019

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me (Season Finale)

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 10 “You Have to Go” (B+)

Opening this episode with Henry’s baptism and Abe’s funeral going on at the same time was very effective, and it was very interesting to see how Jen dealt with the information she got from Judy at the end of the last episode. Going to the police to tell Detective Perez that Judy confessed to her didn’t yield the results she wanted, and it makes some sense that Judy’s guilt would end up being a known factor without her heading straight to prison. Instead, she was able to get Steve looked at for his criminal behavior, and managed to drain their bank account before he realized what she was doing. The way his mind works really is puzzling, since he thought for some reason that Jen wouldn’t have any problem with the fact that he was in the car with Judy when she hit Ted, blaming the entire thing on Judy. While Judy definitely tried too hard to earn Jen’s forgiveness right away when she showed up to one of her open houses, Steve didn’t care at all, and he managed to get Jen angry enough to shoot him, likely in her own defense. Now, Jen and Judy have a new shared bond that will link them in season two, and will surely be difficult to hide with Jen now having to get Perez to believe that she and Judy are getting along again. I’m thrilled that Christina Applegate got an Emmy nomination but sad that Linda Cardellini wasn’t nominated alongside her. This has been a fantastic first season, and I’m very excited to see what comes next in season two.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Applegate and Cardellini

Pilot Review: Why Women Kill

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.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Take Three: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Season 1, Episode 3 “We Broke” (B)

I may not remember much about the 1994 movie that spawned this series, but I was able to immediately recognize actress Andie MacDowell, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the film, as Ainsley’s mom, who had to spell out the fact that she was cutting her daughter off unless she opted to move home. Her complete inability to realize the lavishness of her spending did put her in this position, and it’s a relief that she finally worked up the courage to fire the entirely useless Tony #1 after taking inventory and learning that Tony #2 did every single thing the two of them were supposed to do. I predicted that Maya would show up at Gemma’s after Ainsley kept bailing on plans with her without any notice, but it was her husband Quentin who really stepped up to be there for his wife and then made sure Ainsley stepped in line to act like the friend she needed. This show needed a funeral, but Quentin dying is going to crush the already-sensitive Gemma, whose father’s self-made wealth has made her a lifelong target of the heiresses who look down on her. Maya sure is bold, demanding a job from one politician, played by Alex Jennings from “The Crown,” only to storm out of the interview and then get another one that she decided to quit since it was becoming clear that she was hired for the wrong reasons. Accepting a half-salary job is the least of her worries now since her mortal enemy isn’t going to make life easy for her. Kash keeping his job so that he can make the money he needs to support his father feels like a palatable development, even if it’s not what he wants. Duffy may have taken the news that his new girlfriend hated his novel poorly, but they seem to have made up pretty well. His friends were sweet to devote their game time to reading his book, but Craig drew the focus away pretty quickly to a part of his life that will likely take over with Zara gone for good.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale (Season Finale)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 13 “Mayday” (B+)

Now this is the kind of finale that serves as a formidable payoff to a season that wasn’t nearly as strong as the first two but still stands as one of the better shows on television. This show features so many crushing defeats and brutal setbacks that its wins are indeed glorious and affirming, representing a glimmer of hope in a bleak world that possesses little of it. Starting with June being bussed around presumably after Gilead took power, crying out for Hannah with no knowledge of where she was going, was a disorienting opener that helped make the climactic final scenes all the more powerful since, after enduring so much, she is now indeed in charge. Demanding a map from Joseph and asserting her authority was refreshing, and, against all odds, her operation worked. Standing up after she and the other Marthas and handmaids threw rocks at the guards to distract them was bold, and she was rewarded by being saved by all the survivors who look to her as a leader. Nothing was more emotional was than the completely full plane being greeted by a group of escaped Americans including Moira, Luke, and Emily, and this exodus is going to be felt in a truly monumental way in season four. I’d love to see Joseph stay in command and find a way to guide the totalitarian regime he helped create away from its current place, but I doubt it will be that simple. I think many were rooting for Serena to suffer rather than get off with a gate badge to go wherever she pleases, but I may be stuck on the sympathy dredged up for her in season two before her hatred towards June returned this season. It has indeed been a moving year, and I’m eager to see what season four will look like. Though it won’t be for this season, Bradley Whitford should nonetheless earn an award for this show when he wins the Emmy for the end of season two, along with a handful of other opportunities this show has to be rewarded for those few hanging episodes.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Elisabeth Moss

Saturday, August 17, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 9 “The Bride” (B-)

This show’s detour feels like it’s never going to get back on track, and I’m just sticking around until the finale wondering why it was that TBS opted to continue this once-decent show over the far better “People of Earth,” which I still miss following the questionable to un-renew the show months after season three had already been announced. This episode filled in Nate’s story to tell us that he hadn’t in fact been killed and had his organs harvested, but instead that the Russian bride he had met wanted him far more than he realized and was going to great lengths to make sure he didn’t come to harm. I thought Natalia looked familiar, and that’s because I’ve seen actress Olga Fonda before in the pilot of “Agent X.” She, like many other guest stars on this show playing zany characters, did a solid job of portraying the woman who didn’t want his fatty organs but longed to be with the man from Syracuse who just didn’t get that at all. Seeing his family members all dressed in white at the end represented a wondrous reunion for the four of them, but I don’t think Natalia’s mom boss father is going to be all too happy to let them go even if he is humbled by the power of love. The one moment in this episode that truly made me laugh was Nate’s inability to distinguish between a Russian-accented pronunciation of his last name and the term “parkour,” leading him to make an extremely ill-advised attempt to defy gravity through an art he doesn’t realize exists.

Round Two: Our Boys

Our Boys: Season 1, Episode 2 “Chapter 2: I Love Toto” (B+)

This episode aired immediately after the pilot, but I wanted to review it separately since the first two installments were produced separately. This show is premiering at a very interesting time as Israel is in the spotlight for the questionable policy decisions of its prime minister regarding the admission of two Congresswomen into the country, and I don’t think that this show will help with any sort of public relations. That said, it is a tremendously involving and honest depiction of the layers of society in Israel, with tensions understandably high as a result of the events depicted here but also emblematic of deeper historical and cultural decisions. This episode was grounded by the incredible performance by actor Jony Arbid as Hussein, who, frustrated by the inaction of the Israeli police, chose to go with them to the station despite all of his neighbors warning him not to, and ended up being interrogated and not told that his son has already been found brutally murdered. I neglected to note in my pilot reaction that Simon, the one investigator who believes that Jews are indeed responsible for this revenge killing, is played by Shlomi Elkabetz, brother of the late, great actress Ronit Elkabetz. The two directed “Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem,” a superb look at the difficulties of religious divorce. I’m impressed with how this show manages to make me feel like I’m right there, experiencing it all, and I plan to keep watching to learn more. I hope other viewers will too, and won’t make any problematic, generalizing real-life assumptions based on events depicted thus far that can lead to the kind of conflict that is emerging here.

Friday, August 16, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion (Series Finale)

Legion: Season 3, Episode 8 “Chapter 27”

I wish I could be more satisfied with this finale, but there are a number of reasons that it left me unfulfilled. The first is that, weird as this show was, it should have been given more time to tell its story. After an eleven-episode second season, these last eight episodes felt rather rushed, and I didn’t find that this conclusion addressed every element of this show’s very multi-faceted universe. I’ve never understood the need for musical numbers, and the emphasis on Switch and her role as a time god or whatever she was supposed to be didn’t feel necessary to me. I knew Legion from his role in the X-Men comics, where he went back in time to try to kill Magneto and ended up killing his own father, who dove in front of his best friend to save him, creating the Age of Apocalypse, where Magneto formed the X-Men. That was never going to happen here, especially with no mention of the X-Men in this show’s universe, and instead we got a much smaller, insular world with Gabrielle feeling totally abandoned without Charles by her side. What was great about this finale was the last opportunity for Cary and Kerry to merge together and let her do the leading, and for Syd and David to have a chance to say goodbye to each other before being reunited. Charles striking a deal with the future Farouk was interesting, and I’m still not so sure what to make of his double identity throughout the show. Season one remains one of the most astounding television experiences I’ve had in a while, and it’s a shame that Aubrey Plaza played no role in this finale at all. It’s been wild if nothing else.

Series finale: B-
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Navid Negahban as Farouk and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Dan Stevens as David and Aubrey Plaza as Lenny
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Pilot

Pilot Review: Our Boys

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.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice (Series Finale)

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 7 “2016” (B+)

I think I was expectedly a finish with a bit more oomph, though it is true that Roger died shortly after all of this came to a head and therefore was in a way saved from considerable embarrassment because he never did face trial of any sort. What was most powerful about this episode was the switch that happened with Beth when she heard that Gretchen made recordings, something Roger didn’t even acknowledge and railroaded right past to decry the character of those who made allegations against him. Trump being featured on television defending his good friend after Roger called him was typically unsubtle, but it speaks volumes, since Trump does the same thing in his handling of situations he can’t deny – he tries to be the loudest voice in the room so that he can drown out anything he doesn’t like. Evidently, Roger made plenty of enemies, with Lachlan, portrayed by a questionably-accented Barry Watson, taking particular delight in watching Roger’s fall from grace when Rupert brought him in to fire him. The avalanche of testimonies featuring Roger’s deplorable nature was intense and excessive, though I think that’s the point since he tried to get away with whatever he wanted without any sense of, or regard for, the harm he was causing to people. I’m still interested to learn what plot points were fabricated or imagined for the sake of drama on this show, but I think the overarching message is clear, which is that power, left unchecked, can be dangerous if abused by those with far too much of it. This limited series held my attention each week, and I very much hope Russell Crowe is now more liked than he used to be so that he can claim an Emmy for his astonishing turn.

Series grade: B+
Series MVP: Russell Crowe

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Take Three: Another Life

Another Life: Season 1, Episode 3 “Nervous Breakdown” (B-)

I’m trying to get into this show, but I feel like it’s not really for me if I’m not overly invested in which characters die each episode and which ones survive. Airlocking crew members seems like an awfully casual activity, one that was apparently unnecessary and could have instead been replaced by some instant sterilization, something that probably should have been mentioned ahead of time by William but also was seemingly unavoidable. Niko going blind couldn’t have happened at a worst time, though she at least demonstrated that she was still able to lead even though she couldn’t see. Her condition was considerably better than Petra’s nervous system leaping out of her back like the title character from “Alien,” offering a rather grotesque sight that seems to be par for the course on this show. Niko also nearly got killed by Michelle, who’s only going to have so many chances at forgiveness for her mutinous behavior. Back on Earth, Harper is becoming a more prominent player, refusing to back off Erik and baiting him into a game of trivia to decide his cooperation level. Though he won the game, she was the true victor since she got him to give her information that for some reason he wants disseminated, a move that’s surely going to come back to haunt him. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll give episode four a shot, but this show isn’t quite delivering in the way I wanted it to at this point and likely won’t get there.

Pilot Review: Bulletproof

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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Round Two: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Season 1, Episode 2 “Hounslow” (B)

In its second outing, this show continues to be entertaining and watchable, even if it might not be the most highbrow relationship drama. After the wedding that wasn’t, Ainsley was evidently having a lot of trouble getting over Kash, and not returning any of her texts or calls hardly helped her to move forward. Donating pretty much everything of his in their apartment enabled her to get some revenge, though she couldn’t know what a mistake it was to send Maya over to Kash’s since she won over his entire family. At least Maya was smart enough to realize that talking to him after he showed up at Ainsley’s door to try to explain himself would have been a mistake. She did dress up a bit too much to go meet Ted after he texted her about being in London, and she wasn’t at all prepared for his wife to show up. Shelley Conn, who I’ve seen previously on “Liar” and “Terra Nova,” made quite an impression in just that scene as Liz, who wasn’t about to let Maya even think about continuing any sort of relationship with her husband, which will finally enable Maya to make the decision to stay in London. It’s not going to make things any easier for her male friends, with Duffy finally trying to take the hint and respond to advances from a colleague, and Craig having to prioritize his girlfriend over her. I’m glad that we met Julia, who’s played by Ashely Madekwe from “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” and she may now be open to Craig having some interaction with her daughter, if Zara is okay with it. The other person who’s going to have to adjust to Maya being around more is Gemma, who’s still not fond of the number one competition for Ainsley’s attention.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 12 “Sacrifice” (B+)

Though I don’t feel that this season’s narrative has been as consistently excellent as the first two seasons of this show, I think it remains headed into a fascinating direction, and I’m very glad that a fourth season was commissioned a few weeks ago, which will allow more of this terrifying, slowly-changing world to be explored. Not all that much happened in this episode, but it became clear that Eleanor was going to be a real liability, suggesting in front of Olivia that they could take her kids out with them, a misstep Joseph was barely able to correct. The notion that Joseph might now become the figurehead of Gilead with Winslow allegedly missing and Fred in Canadian custody is immensely intriguing, and he might be well-positioned to help June in that role while slowly inching Gilead towards moderation and away from its oppressive totalitarian practices. It’s too early to celebrate that promotion and contemplate its potentially positive effects, but for now it seems that the plane is a go. June’s decision not to save Eleanor was risky, but she’s still managed to endear herself to Joseph, who will likely work just as hard to do good in his late wife’s name now that getting her out isn’t an option. Serena and Fred’s meetings with Moira and Luke, respectively, were hot-tempered to say the least, with Moira’s remark about Serena being the gender traitor the most biting moment. I’m really not sure how things will play out, but I’m very much looking forward to the season finale.

Monday, August 12, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 8 “The Same” (C+)

If nothing else, this episode reframed the hopeless search that the Parkers have been on for a while with both kids now on the run from the parents that just want to be reunited with them. It’s obvious that parallels are being drawn between the women and the men, with Delilah constantly compared to Robin and Jareb usually just as well-intentioned but truthfully useless as Nate. Delilah definitely doesn’t yet possess the same charming abilities as her mother, resulting in them getting on a nine-stop flight to Russia, which itself seems absurd given the multitude of connections possible from anywhere in the United States, while Robin got herself and her husband with the new shoes on a private charter plane thanks to the conveniently-present Gene. While Nate was entertaining himself by watching Delilah’s apparently hilarious ex-boyfriend, it was Robin who got their flight grounded by plowing a reserve pilot with alcohol so that he had to land the plane. I don’t have much to say about the antics in Iran, though I guess the two kids going to hide in the bathroom so that their parents wouldn’t see them and getting covered by the explosive toilet contents was even more absurd and over-the-top. Robin recognizing Delilah and Jareb by their eyes under the burkas was a sweet moment, which of course turned deadly serious in a second thanks to the presence of JR’S enemies ready to take them hostage. Nate doesn’t seem to be in much better shape either – I don’t know what to expect from the final two episodes of this season, but my hopes are not high.

What I’m Watching: Divorce (Series Finale)

Divorce: Season 3, Episode 6 “Knock Knock”

This feels like such an unceremonious end to a show that really impressed me as it went on, the latest sign that HBO pilots are rarely a sign of a show’s enduring quality. “Enlightened” and “Bored to Death” are two other examples that came to mind right away where the big premise wasn’t all that appealing and I only started liking the show once I gave it more time to develop. Season two was this show’s strongest point, and, unfortunately, this final stretch felt a whole lot like what many other abbreviated last seasons do, which is that it would have been nicer to have more time to see everything happen. That said, there wasn’t all that much ground to cover, and we got some rather concrete conclusions for just about everyone. Diane got to quit in a moderately satisfying way, fully aware of the choice she was making and that everyone in her life knew what she was choosing. Dallas saved herself some embarrassment and legal trouble, and may have found a more appropriate calling. Jackie broke things off with Robert, which didn’t seem to bother him all that much, and it appears their relationship going forward will be relatively civil. Most surprisingly, Robert and Frances are in the best place they’ve been in since the show started, even if it’s not a romantic coexistence. Henry was far too nonchalant for Frances’ taste, and both she and Robert seemed happy as the credits rolled. I’ll miss this show, but given its lukewarm reception, I’d say the twenty-four episodes it got is well worth celebrating.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Becki Newton as Jackie
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Thomas Haden Church as Robert
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: “Worth It

Sunday, August 11, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion (Penultimate Episode)

Legion: Season 3, Episode 7 “Chapter 26” (B)

This episode had its share of moments, though I didn’t find it to be terribly effective as a second-to-last installment that’s meant to nearly wrap up an entire series. I’m still hung up on the different nature of Amahl Farouk the gracious host and entertainer and the Shadow King who haunted David’s nightmares and life for years, and seeing him in the flash eagerly welcoming Charles in felt much more like the former than the latter. He did manage to come face-to-face with his future self, somehow freed from the time between time, but he was caught off-guard when David walked in posing as a soldier friend of Charles. Having his father eat knowledge was a clever and quick way for David to transmit the necessary information about who he was and why he was there to the man he wants to be his ally so that they can together defeat Farouk and then somehow restart and reset time. It seems unlikely that they would succeed, especially with Farouk having some assistance from his future reformed self, though it’s possible that he’ll realize that the only way to defeat David is to allow history to proceed as it already has. Syd made an important decision to stay with Gabrielle and leave baby David alone, while Kerry was more than ready to end things right there so that they could prevent everything that happened from transpiring. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the series finale; I just hope it serves as a fitting conclusion to this eternally mesmerizing ride.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Amazon with Abe: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2, Episode 9 “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy” (B+)

I haven’t watched this show in almost six months, abandoning it two episodes short of the end of the season in favor of more pressing new television released just as I started a big road trip at the beginning of February. Yet the first scene alone served as a completely fitting reintroduction to this show’s particular world and its unique rhythm. The revolving tables with Susie trying to get different people to vouch for Midge were humorous, and they were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Susie’s interference over the course of the hour. Of course Rose and Abe would be all for telethons until Midge explained that she was going to be on one, and she’d end up being relegated to the worst possible slot after Sophie exerted her influence. The host, played by Josh Cooke from “Better With You” and “Longmire,” reacted just the way I did, so impressed with her ability to work the room and turn a lackluster showcase into something truly incredible. The rift between Susie and Midge couldn’t have come at a worse time, when Midge’s popularity is blowing up and she’ll likely be fielding offers from others with less investment in her being able to do what she really wants to do. Abe finding out from his son that Midge mentioning Bell Labs in one of her acts may have resulted in his project getting stalled is not going to be good either, and he’s going to be a lot more upset about that than he was about Zelda giving him the silent treatment. Benjamin was very forward with his eagerness to meet Ethan and his referencing of a potential future engagement, which would definitely change things. Moishe firing Joel is going to leave him bored and purposeless, but it’s probably for the best given the fact that he was working way too closely with both of his parents.

What I’m Watching: Dead to Me

Dead to Me: Season 1, Episode 9 “I Have to Be Honest” (B+)

This was the moment that this show has been building to since we first found out that Judy was the one who killed Ted, and it was about as powerful as it could have been. I always suspected that Judy was just going to confess, overcome with guilt for what she had done, and trying to relieve Jen of the burden she felt for being responsible because of the fight they had moments beforehand demanded just that. She knew that the police were closing in after Steve told her that her ex-boyfriend had been by to ask questions, but she had a solution for that, which of course is now likely to get her into legal trouble since a piece of the paint job is still evident on the floor of the storage unit. Steve telling Jen that he would take both houses in cash was a bold and showy move, though it wasn’t nearly as objectionable as his misinterpretation of what Jen was saying to him that caused him to believe she was hitting on him. After Judy confessed, Jen’s reaction was indeed harsh, telling her just to die, and then the most miserable thing happened after that when Judy went to go see Abe only to learn that he had died without her having the chance to say goodbye. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the finale, but this show has been renewed for a second season, which means that something unexpected and transformational is bound to occur.

Friday, August 9, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice (Penultimate Episode)

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 6 “2015” (B+)

As his health is declining and he’s no longer able to appear as strong as he’d like to, Roger is making sure to do the exact opposite of what he’s instructed in every case so that he can show that he’s still kicking. For anyone to expect to report to the same boss for nineteen years in a row is crazy, and Roger isn’t about to accept anything that feels like a demotion or him being pushed out by those he deems less capable. This limited series was supposed to be all about Fox News and the rise of Trump, with the latter being on full display in this hour as Roger coached him on how to officially launch his campaign and promised airtime to his team whenever they requested it so that they could help him win. I don’t want to read too much about what actually happened so that whatever I don’t know can still be revealed in the finale, but I am curious what here has been confirmed and corroborated rather than just assumed and invented by those who spent time around Roger and his closest associates. It’s reassuring to see Gretchen taking proactive action to try to take Roger down, continuing to record her conversations with Roger and consulting a lawyer to figure out what her options are. Getting out of the building without signing those papers upon her dismissal was particularly impressive, and now we’ll start to see the dominoes fall, though Roger’s ailing health may take care of him first.

What I’m Watching: Perpetual Grace, LTD (Season Finale)

Perpetual Grace, LTD: Season 1, Episode 10 “A Sheriff in the Era of the Cartel” (B)

This finale was involving but couldn’t really compare to most of what’s happened in the run-up to it so far this season. We have no idea if a second season is going to happen, which is a shame, since I’d definitely be up for further exploration of these fascinating characters with this immensely talented cast. Glenn being the one asked to go over the entire plan at the start was entertaining, especially considering his minor word mix-up and his lack of confidence in his dad. New Leaf making baseball metaphors felt appropriate even before he explained that he was a minor league prospect convicted of manslaughter for hitting a player who was sleeping with his wife. James boarded that train, changing the metaphor for his parents to rain, and it seems like nearly every part of the plan was set to go off without a hitch. Walker concluding that, even with his analysis of all the tells of lying, he couldn’t deduce what was afoot here, had him ready to leave town, but a misjudged Dave was all it took for him to stay. That final scene indicated plenty of trouble for James given that Paul’s real uncle was in the audience, and hopefully we’ll be able to find out what happens next. Pa having to dig his own grave while Ma walked wasn’t looking good for either of them, but Hector being told to follow the plan resulted in no notable casualties other than himself. At least he got to narrate his own death as he would have written it. This show has been peculiar but immensely intriguing, and I’m definitely down to revisit this crew again. Let’s hope awards bodies like it too, even if it’s only Kingsley who earns the accolades.

Season grade: B+
Season MVPs: Luis Guzman as Hector and Dash Williams as Glenn

Thursday, August 8, 2019

What I’m Watching: Euphoria (Season Finale)

Euphoria: Season 1, Episode 8 “And Salt the Earth Behind You” (B)

This was a fittingly hypnotic finale that didn’t serve to bring all of the plotlines to a close but rather to redirect them for the second season, which I continue to look forward to since I think it will be able to more strongly explore its characters’ next steps. This show has impressed me greatly in terms of its investment in its portrayal of its players’ backstories, its cinematography, its editing, and its narration style. This episode got a little into that at the end of the hour with the dancing and singing, but I can understand that it’s one way to interpret the wild inner machinations of Rue’s mind as she slipped back into drug use and Cassie as she grappled with the significance of the procedure she was having. What I found to be more effective was the group sitting around at the winter formal talking about what they’ve observed. I’m glad that Kat was finally open and honest with Ethan, and maybe their relationship could work out until her extracurricular activities are eventually revealed. Cal telling Maddy that her relationship with Nate was not sustainable was harsh, and good for her for finally sticking up for herself and ending things, though that didn’t last too long if their dance was any indication. Maddy suggesting to Nate that sexuality is a spectrum did not go over well, and he completely crumpled and lost it when his dad pinned him down after his solo game success. So much of Rue and Jules’ conversation was hypnotic, but, after everything, Rue is back to being alone and using. I don’t know how this show will fare come awards time, but I’d love to see its performances and technical elements deservedly recognized.

Season grade: B
Season MVPs: Zendaya as Rue, Hunter Schafer as Jules, and Sydney Sweeney as Cassie

What I’m Watching: iZombie (Series Finale)

iZombie: Season 5, Episode 13 “All’s Well That Ends Well”

It’s early August, which seems an unremarkable time for this series to end four and a half years after its March debut in 2015. But I’m happy that we were able to get five decent-length seasons out of this show, which explored notions of humans and zombies living peacefully – and then not so peacefully – together in Seattle, which became far more allegorical over the course of its run due to current events. I was impressed early on with how the first three season finales completely reframed the format and direction of the show, and while this final run was probably the least exciting and enticing overall, it was still involving and worthwhile. This closer provided some impactful and memorable moments, like Major boldly going on live TV and getting shot repeatedly by Enzo to prove that the zombie cure worked and Liv pushing Don-E into the well after he had just pushed Blaine down there. I for one was always a fan of Don-E, especially in the end, so I’m not sure he deserves to be trapped with Blaine for eternity, but he wasn’t exactly emanating promise after Darcy’s untimely death. Dale holding off on delivering her baby until Clive showed up was sweet, and it’s nice that they ended up raising Michelle’s child too following her death in the bombing of the police station. Flashing forward ten years to a virtual chat with Ravi, Peyton, and Clive was a fitting way to end the show, with the presumed-dead couple of Liv and Major showing up to remind them that paradise on Zombie Island is only a scratch away. This show has been entertaining and enthralling, standing out from other similar projects because of its inventiveness and strong characters, not to mention its comic book storyboard style. I’m glad I chose to stick with it after the pilot surprised me in a great way.

Series finale: B+
Series grade: B+
Season MVP: Rose McIver as Liv
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Rose McIver
Best Season: Season 3
Best Episode: Pilot

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Round Two: Another Life

Another Life: Season 1, Episode 2 “Through the Valley of Shadows” (B)

In its second outing, this show continues the same stakes and intensity it had in the first hour. This is a claustrophobic space drama if ever I’ve seen one, and now the final scene indicates that there might be something going on similar to “Alien,” though we don’t know what just yet. Unlike “Lost in Space,” which also briefly featured Selma Blair, whose Harper Glass had a more substantial role in this episode after her minor appearance in the pilot, this show features a whole lot of cursing, which does in some sense heighten the stakes, but also feels a bit excessive. It’s good to see Jessica Camacho, best known for playing Gypsy on “The Flash,” put to good use as the very angry Michelle, who isn’t about to keep her opinions to herself. Niko was initially horrified to hear the projection of Ian talking about how she would kill them all, but William’s inability to accept what she had done made her think twice about whether she should consider what the dead man had to say. She didn’t hesitate much in front of her people, taking credit right away for killing him and then springing into action when they discovered that they had five hours to live. This show possesses elements of great sci-fi, like the red moon that was nearly as dangerous as that wave-filled planet in “Interstellar,” but I’m not sure that the mix of so many different recognizable plot points is all that compelling in its own right here.

What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin (Series Finale)

Jane the Virgin: Season 5, Episode 19 “Chapter One Hundred”

Now this was a wonderful finale. I was disappointed at first to learn that the ninety-ninth chapter was a retrospective hour rather than a scripted installment, but it turned out to be both a lot of fun and an endearing way to begin to say goodbye to these characters. Clip shows are a thing of the past, and interviewing the cast was a really nice opportunity to look back on all that’s happened over the years. I like how this final episode emphasized this show’s roots as a telenovela, with the narrator promising that this would be a fitting conclusion in the grand style of the format. After Rose showed up to hold Jane hostage before Luisa helped her fall to her death, it was nice that the drama here wasn’t all that excessive, with Rafael getting arrested and Jane commandeering a local bus to make sure they could make it to the wedding after all as the most outlandish plot points. It was generally just all sweet, and what a happy and tear-filled occasion the wedding was. I’ve been rooting for Petra and JR for a while, and her showing up to the wedding before the other Jane was perfect. Lena being pregnant and Esteban proposing to Darcy were nice moments too, and everyone really managed to get a happy ending. Rogelio blowing up on social media and achieving crossover celebrity status in America was fantastic, and I also liked the brief mention of how the show’s narrator was actually a grown-up Mateo. This show has been an involving delight from start to finish, and I’m eager to see what all these cast members do next. It would be fun to revisit this show at some point and review its many engaging arcs – it’s been a blast.

Series finale: A-
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Gina Rodriguez as Jane
Season grade: B+
Series MVP: Gina Rodriguez
Best Season: Season 2
Best Episode: Pilot

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Pilot Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral

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: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 11 “Liars” (B+)

This episode felt like a fever dream more than a nightmare, one that found its characters in unexpected places as they chart unexplored territory that could alter both their own lives and Gilead in extremely influential ways. June’s eagerness to go forward with her new plan hit a snag thanks to Eleanor coming to grips with what her husband has done and how much it has hurt so many people, though June was masterfully able to defuse this situation. June and Joseph understand each other at this point, both aware of the absurdity of their realities but attuned to how best to subvert them increased scrutiny that the household is now under thanks to both the lack of any fruit being borne and Fred’s obsession with his former handmaid. Getting Joseph to take her to Jezebel’s was a win, and she seemed to be making progress before George recognized her. What he was doing there in the first place is a mystery given that his sexual proclivities aren’t tolerable in the Gilead regime, but he was threatening enough to derail June’s confidence. Fighting back and stabbing him multiple times rather than just accepting it as a horrific part of her “job” demonstrated just how fed up she is with giving in and that she’s not going to back down anymore. There does appear to be a network in place to protect her, which will likely be more helpful than the gun that Joseph handed to her. I’m not sure what Serena told Fred about meeting Mark or if she was in on it, but him getting arrested on Canadian soil is a tremendous development that has the power to be truly transformative.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

What I’m Watching: The Detour

The Detour: Season 4, Episode 7 “The Entertainer” (B-)

This was a definite recovery from the previous episode, though I’m still finding this show to be relatively pointless in its pursuit of not too much. Jareb wasn’t even enthralled by his own idea to stage a funeral for Nate so that Delilah would come, and of course she’d end up being the only one who didn’t show up to the miserable affair. Robin was hardly enthusiastic in her delivery of all the comments about Nate, and there wasn’t anyone there with a positive thing to say. Gene’s return was predictably laced with inappropriate advances towards Robin, and when Nate’s mom isn’t the meanest person in the room, there’s a problem. I do like Jere Burns, who I know from “Justified” and who also stars on “Angie Tribeca,” but I found his character of Blu Brown, who almost certainly is not Nate’s father, to be very irritating and over-the-top. This show presents a lot of ridiculous people and situations, and doesn’t shy away from offensive characters whose behavior is clearly deplorable. It does usually take it a bit too far, and that was clearly the case here. No one in the room was particularly happy to discover that Nate was still alive, aside from the ex-girlfriend beloved by his mother who also pretty much started making out with Nate right in front of Robin. I’d rather focus more on stuff like that since it’s fun to see Robin when she’s actually invested in something and not just letting Nate do all the pratfalling for once.

What I’m Watching: Divorce (Penultimate Episode)

Divorce: Season 3, Episode 5 “Away Games” (B)

I liked this episode more before I realized that it was the upcoming installment is the series finale. With her future with Henry uncertain, Frances was more than open to the idea of a romance, or at least an enthusiastic one-night stand, with Jeremy, something that Robert wasn’t even able to truly care about since he had to contend with a disruptive problematic element and an issue of a player breaking the rules. Jackie sent him off with a loaded goodbye, and the question she asked immediately upon his return was indicative of her dismissive attitude towards his unfortunate choice of words and sentiments during the dinner party. It was interesting that Frances was the one to make the call about Cecily being taken out of the game since she’s the only one of the chaperones who’s not actually a coach, and she was least impacted by it even though the game loss was pretty crushing to all of them since they would likely have won with their star player not benched. The big blowout between Jeremy and Robert was pretty intense, and it’s just another stressor Robert doesn’t really need now, not that we’re going to see much of its fallout with just thirty more minutes left in this show’s run. Diane does seem to be contemplating a relationship with an eighty-year-old man so that she can return to a life of luxury and fortune, which will likely make her happy. And though her she’s been featured so minimally recently, it was entertaining to see Dallas in the company of other medical professionals who had more than questionably crossed the line.

Friday, August 2, 2019

What I’m Watching: Legion

Legion: Season 3, Episode 6 “Chapter 25” (B-)

While I can appreciate the excitement of the opening credits finally rolling just ten minutes before the end of the episode when Syd finally found her way back to herself, there’s so little time left on this show that this isn’t how I would have wanted to spend almost the entirety of an hour. I had wondered what had become of Melanie and, to a lesser extent, Oliver, presuming that Jean Smart had simply decided not to return to the show for its final season. Instead, we were treated to this odd dark fairy tale, with Jason Mantzoukas, a standout comic performer from “The Good Place” and “Sleeping with Other People,” as the wolf. This almost felt stranger than anything else we’ve seen on this show, and that was before we got to the point of Oliver suggesting a rap battle. I don’t know why that had a place in this universe, other than as a nod to Jemaine Clement’s real-life involvement with “Flight of the Conchords” and the band, but that made Clement and Mantzoukas stick out on this otherwise dramatic show. I was much more into the final extended scene where Syd asked Cary not to tell her about the return of the time demons, which found Cary absorbing a distraught Kerry so that he could take on her injuries and she could go back out to bravely fight. We have just two episodes left, and I hope that the majority of the time is going to be spent with this crew and with David since I want to see as much as I can before, regardless of what happens on the show, they disappear from my reality for good.

What I’m Watching: Years and Years (Season Finale)

Years and Years: Season 1, Episode 6 (B+)

Well, this was a pretty intense and thorough finale. Seeing the BBC close and journalists banned for challenging Vivienne was an unoptimistic start, but things got a lot better by the end of the hour. Gran planning to sell her house was a sign that the family might truly disintegrate, especially when it was revealed that, not only was Bethany working with Edith, but Celeste was working with them too to try to track down Viktor. To me, their affinity for Viktor both before and after Daniel’s death has been the strongest indicator of the bond that ties this family together. I like that, so many hours of watching and years of events into this show, it transformed into less of a family drama and into more of a triumphant showcase of a revolution. Edith taking her phone out to begin recording and, in her own words, start a war, was an exciting moment that was followed by Rosie barging in with an extra set of legs and a truck, and Bethany broadcasting to ensure that their message got out to the world. While it’s hopeful that it wouldn’t take over a decade to reverse some of the more troubling trends of our day, this was a reassuring finale that also had an eerie forward-facing conclusion. Explaining the framing device as Edith narrating her life so that she could be digitized was an interesting reveal, and having everyone turn towards Señor to see if her consciousness had been downloaded into it was a mesmerizing way of ending the show. At least Stephen got redeemed somewhat too, making the family narrative piece of this worthwhile in addition to the overall global perspective it portrayed. I don’t imagine that a second season will be happening but I’d be somewhat curious to see it. Mostly, I’m hopeful that some of the technological advances predicted do end up becoming real while the global developments don’t.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Ruth Madeley as Rosie

Thursday, August 1, 2019

What I’m Watching: Perpetual Grace, LTD

Perpetual Grace, LTD: Season 1, Episode 9 “The Elements of an Epiphany” (B)

Not much happened with Pa and Ma in this hour, which felt a bit strange given their prominence in previous installments. Instead, those in their lives made moves to propel their own plans forward in ways that aren’t looking good for anyone. DeLoash set his sights right on a perfect target – New Leaf – convincing him of his own invalidity and getting him to leave his gun on the ground for him so that he wouldn’t even have to buy it, and there seem to be fewer and fewer people in this ghost town who we haven’t already met. I do like that Glenn ended up sitting next to James’ dad while he was wearing the helmet, talking all about “now plus one second,” and that they ran off together to hitchhike and ride so that the scenery reflected in his helmet. I liked that we saw Hector again, content enjoying the mundanity of his life and continuing with his novel, though that happiness was disrupted by Valerie’s return with a photo to blackmail him, an option he’d rather not take in favor of leaving Pa to the cartel. I was relieved that Paul managed to levitate himself after Walker was ready to test him on whether he could actually do magic, though it did look like he might not be able to get himself down. Everything is sure to come together in the finale, and I’m hopeful that Epix will decide that this show – and that this cast – is worthy of a second season.

What I’m Watching: The Loudest Voice

The Loudest Voice: Season 1, Episode 5 “2012” (B+)

This show can, at times, be a bit much, turning into a paranoid thriller in a way that it doesn’t need to, feeling like it’s stretching believability a bit far with events that might be hard to truly know happened as they are portrayed here. But we are seeing the true narrator of the story now in journalist Gabe Sherman, played by Fran Kranz from “Dollhouse,” who wrote the book that serves as the basis for this show. We saw the ousting of Brian Lewis in this hour after he confirmed that there was indeed an operation actively working to troll Sherman and discredit him, and though he angrily rejected the first offer of hush money from Roger, a much larger sum was enough to get him to leave the building and then call Sherman to warn him that he better stop digging. We also met Casey Close, played by Josh Charles from “The Good Wife,” who doesn’t have any clue what it is that Gretchen is experiencing on a regular basis. It was very gratifying to see her push the play button on her phone at the end of the episode so that something can finally be done to try to stop Roger from his oppressive behavior. Joe just wanted to get away for a bit but Roger didn’t want to lose control over him, demonstrating just how important and majestic he thinks he is in every arena. His downfall may not be imminent, but he’s sealed his fate with his horrific treatment of everyone around him.