Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Pilot Review: Utopia Falls

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Round Two: Indebted

Indebted: Season 1, Episode 2 “Everybody's Talking About Dav” (B)

After enjoying the first episode of this show and watching this installment, I was curious to see what the general consensus was. A Metacritic score of 36 is pretty bad, and while this show might be relatively predictable and expected, it still manages to be funny. The actors are all used well, with Fran Drescher and Adam Pally allowed to be themselves and follow their characters’ whims in reacting to each moment. Steven Weber is terrific as usual, and I also like the two cast members I’m least familiar with, Abby Elliott, daughter of actor Chris Elliott, who plays Rebecca, and Jessy Hodges, who plays Joanna. Rebecca’s shock at the notion that Dave was part of a gifted program as a child due to his regular display of a lack of intelligence was fodder for Dave and Linda to get into their own heads about their lies, prompting Dave to do the same thing for Asher to get him into the program. I like that Rebecca wasn’t just blissfully supportive of her son but instead went a little overboard in representing her newfound elite group. Joanna’s love life is definitely a mess, and having her father happen to be her rideshare driver home didn’t help too much. It was nice to see the two of them bond when she needed her father, and it’s helpful to have five characters on this show so that they can split off and interact with each other. It seems like the ratings may be just as poor as the reviews, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get to enjoy this show for a while before it gets cancelled.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 10, Episode 11 “Of Mouse and Men” (B)

This show goes to great lengths to paint Will and Grace in certain ways, particularly in the eyes of their friends, and many of those traits and summarizations aren’t terribly believable. Yet it makes sense that Jack and Estefan would have their own notions of what each of them do in their relationship, and that they’d like to think that they were the more put-together part of the dynamic. Jack setting hundreds of mouse traps all across the room presented a great opportunity for him to do acrobatics as he had to show how easily he’d be able to get to and from the door when Estefan challenged him, and of course the mouse would end up on his head so that both of them would need to step on almost every single trap in their panic to get away from it. Ending with Grace as the one to dispose of the mouse they found when Will didn’t know how to deal with it was perfect. Grace being auditioned by dog trainers so that they could adopt her baby rather than hire her as an interior designer was considerably less worthwhile as a plotline, and it took her way too long to realize what was going on. At least she got a hug from Marilyn while no one was looking and her marginal support. Will didn’t waste any time in pegging the homophobic baseball player as a closeted gay man, and he got to help someone think a different way about how he could embrace the things about himself he didn’t want to admit.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What I’m Watching: Outmatched

Outmatched: Season 1, Episode 4 “Bad Guy” (B-)

This show definitely isn’t too concerned with being sophisticated, but the plotlines it features do continue to be entertaining. It’s not at all surprising that Brian and Nicole would come to the conclusion that they didn’t need their parents since they were far more intelligent than them, though their lack of life experience was their undoing since they were never actually prepared to be on their own in the first place. Kay being tired of always having to be the bad guy was relatable and funny, and she finally got the chance to come to the rescue and be the good guy when she told the kids that they didn’t have to move out after Mike, for once, was the bad guy. Offering his approval just to get a hug wasn’t a particularly glorious moment, and they seemed pretty angry about it when he refused to let them go as he delivered the bad news. Kay was perhaps a bit too direct when dealing with her own problem at school, taking down Kourtney, played by Helen Hong, recognizable from her role as Tracy from HR on “Silicon Valley,” by telling her the reasons no one liked her. Fortunately, that didn’t seem to have too many repercussions, at least not any that she wasn’t prepared to deal with in her headstrong way. Mike’s obsession with Kay helping to figure out what kind of bird he is probably most accurately defines this show’s maturity level in addition to highlighting its often questionable irreverence.

Monday, February 17, 2020

What I’m Watching: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 1, Episode 4 “Absolute Candor” (B)

Now we’re getting somewhere. As soon as a mysterious ship appeared, it was clear that a fan favorite character was back. I expected it to be someone from Picard’s show, and was pleasantly surprised by a different character I know well, Seven of Nine, played by Jeri Ryan. I can’t say I remember what happened to her at the end of “Star Trek: Voyager,” or how she knows Picard, but I’m very excited to have her on board. The rest of the episode wasn’t entirely thrilling, but at least it did cover an interesting time from Picard’s recent past, when he bonded with a young boy who looked up to him and was later abandoned as a result of Starfleet pulling out. Picard is definitely guilty of becoming too attached to causes and to experiencing problematic dismay when things go awry, unable to contribute to something good if he isn’t able to save everyone. His return to the planet of Vashti, which just makes me think of the Queen Esther story, read on the Jewish holiday of Purim, enabled him to find a protector in the form of that young boy, now all grown up, though he’s only pledged himself to Picard because he’s a lost cause. I’m enjoying Agnes’ presence on board, particularly her assessment of the potentially irritating nature of the overly candid race and her attempts to engage with the captain who would rather just be reading when he’s not being overshadowed on the bridge by another former captain.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers: Dark Ages

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages: Season 2, Episode 3 “Road Trip” (B+)

It’s very clear that the only two intelligent people on this show are Al and Lord Vexler, and neither of them get much credit for their manifestation of original and productive ideas. Vexler got in the king’s good graces when he suggested a tax workaround involving claiming the peasants as his dependents, and that set him up pretty well. Being forced to bring Chauncley along with him to sign the diplomatic treaty seemed like a real punishment, but unfortunately he misread the situation and thought that the bro bonding Chauncley did with Prince Ya-Shayn was unproductive rather than exactly what was needed. It was nice to see Chauncley grow a lot and take the blame for the failure of the treaty, even going so far as to praise Vexler’s handling of the situation so that it didn’t get worse, something that didn’t seem like it would work when the king asked for clarification on just what happened. I did enjoy the human party playlist, though the closing black-and-white bummer remix was quite creepy. Eddie bringing Al with him to the convention totally upended his feeling that he was a trailblazer in his industry, and his resistance to the notion of the hole was strong. Planting snakes in the holes of his previously loyal customers was devious, and fortunately the whole experience ended up as a way for him to learn more about how the holes can work and to expand his business to removing snakes from holes and all that.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Pilot Review: For Life

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 4 “Slay Anything” (B)

I probably would have appreciated this episode a bit more if I was a fan of teen horror movies, though I do get the appeal of sending up 1990s fashion and music. I’m intrigued to know more about Ava’s side gig as a serial killer podcaster, which had a bit too excited about going back to the site of a number of killings. Their initial efforts weren’t successful, and I’m glad that they finally did what I’ve always thought would be a good idea, to go back further to change history before they screwed it up again. Nora getting summoned as Freddy’s fairy godmother to make his wishes come true was convenient, and she was extremely useful in assuring that his dance performance wasn’t upended by the angry bullies trying to get their way even after their initial plot was foiled. The twist that his mother became the killer was unexpected, and Behrad showed up to save the day after Zari cluelessly got in a limo with high school students going home from prom. She did have one flash to her old life when she used the computer to hack Gideon’s locked door, and having her stick around should be a good thing for the team overall. I’m glad that Charlie was hiding out at Constantine’s old home and not gone from the show, though whatever’s going on out there isn’t good. Mick being recognized by an old flame was fun, and I enjoyed his clarification at the end that she was in fact feeling his gun.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 13 “A Hell of a Week: Part Three” (B+)

These three-parters which explore the similar experiences of the big three are always enlightening, and the continued focus on the insecurities of children that carried over into adulthood was very informative. When we first met Marc, he seemed nice enough, but it seemed unlikely that things would end well for Kate to go down the path that she did. Feeling shown up by her impressive knowledge at the record store and trying to limit her candy bar consumption were warning signs of problematic behavior, but that wasn’t sufficient preparation for his freak-out in the car that found him both driving very dangerously and leaving Kate on the side of the road. Much more worrisome was the fact that, after crying on the phone to her mom, Kate hung up and seemed to accept Marc showing up with a blanket as an apology. Rebecca coming with Kevin and Randall to get her means she’ll be safe but may also inform her fractured relationship with her mother later in life. It was sweet that Rebecca showed up to go to the retreat with Kate and go swimming with her, which then turned into her opening up about her memory problems. It’s deeply troubling that Kate felt like she could call Gregory to share her excitement about what she was experiencing rather than Toby, but hopefully the time he’ll spend with Jack on his own will help send them in the right direction to repair their relationship. We also know that Kate and Kevin soon won’t be talking to Randall, but it’s still not clear why that is.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 11 “Love is a Battlefield” (B-)

I never understand why shows like this need to have episodes themed around Valentine’s Day or other holidays. In this case, there wasn’t much going on for Barry other than the fact that Iris was acting decidedly unlike herself, something he sort of realized but wasn’t attuned enough to for him to do anything about it. That episode-ending shot of the real Iris trapped in the mirror and watching her doppelganger, or whatever she is, with Barry confirms that there’s something nefarious going on, and the fact that Barry’s concerns have been allayed means that he won’t even go looking for signs of trouble. Frost has been utilized in strange ways recently, in this case trying to help Allegra rekindle an old romance. I’m always happy with any opportunity to see Katee Sackhoff, particularly when she chews plenty of scenery as Amunet, though this was far from the best appearance she’s had on this show. I think this reminded me most of when Barry and Kara sang to each other and then realized they weren’t a romantic fit, a theoretically entertaining storyline but one that felt considerably less serious than it should have in execution. Nash continues to be a bit of a pariah, but the fact that he saw another Wells suggests that the multiverse isn’t as transformed as it should have been, and I’m curious to see what comes of that. Saving Iris will be the next challenge, and hopefully this fractured team will come together to focus and bring back one of their most important members.

What I’m Watching: Dollface

Dollface: Season 1, Episode 9 “Feminist” (B+)

I know that I’ve been saying that I’d prefer to have fewer of the fantasy scenes and more of reality, but this entirely allegorical episode actually worked pretty well. Jules as Dorothy was a fitting metaphor on its own since she is eternally lost in her own life, and it worked especially well here when she tried on the shoes that Madison had left at Celeste’s to try to cover for her. Describing herself as “femin-ish” was funny and typical, and having the Women’s March as the central event was an interesting concept given that I’d imagine many people were offended by this show’s initial setup and likely judged it as anti-progressive without really sticking with it to see where it went. Celeste constantly trying to confront Jules as the Wicked Witch was clever, and I liked the way in which Stella and Izzy were both incorporated as well. Leading them to a speaker who threw out her fake eyelashes and padding seemed to be a confirmation that sometimes putting on an act is necessary, so long as you’re content with who you are and where your life is. Jules waking up to learn that it was all a dream and that she actually got calls from all the people she encountered during this fantasy trip was a helpful way of wrapping it all up and returning to reality, and I hope that the final episode sets things in a good direction. I’m pleased that Hulu has renewed this show for a second season, a fate that was less of a concern for me than for those who finished this show back when it first premiered in November.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 1, Episode 9 “‘Faith’ is a fine invention” (B+)

This episode was pretty powerful in a lot of ways, and it’s a real shame that it had to end in tragedy. The excitement about watching the eclipse was palpable, and there’s a sense of wonder that came with it which isn’t quite the same as the recent fervor involved in a similar event due to advancements in technology and all-too-reliable science that can predict the specifics of what will happen. Ben coming out to watch with her despite his bad cold made for a wonderful evening, complete with an un-proposal that demonstrated just how much he got Emily. Coughing up blood right after the eclipse was a bad sign, and trying to bargain with death later indicated just how much in denial Emily was about his condition. Flashing back to her time at the Christian school where she was constantly unable to feel Jesus in her heart and telling her mother that she’s dead inside already indicated the depression that’s sure to follow this unbelievable loss. Mrs. Dickinson seemed very worried about her husband, and superstition appears to dominate her life, as evidenced by her insistence that Ben not be allowed in the house. Lavinia seemed happy with Joseph, but his betrayal of her kindness was cruel, and now she might be ready to not take it lying down. Sue didn’t understand the implications of her dress not fitting, and that’s news which is sure to send Emily spiraling even further downwards and away from a positive place.

Friday, February 14, 2020

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 3, Episode 9 “Imbroglio” (B+)

This episode multi-tasked in an unusual way, spotlighting Charles’ latest misfortunes while also showcasing government-protestor issues that Elizabeth had to try to manage with a new prime minister who’s less of a team player than she’d like. Opening with the Duke of Windsor’s funeral made it possible for Charles to receive an emphatic message from his late wife about how his family really doesn’t mean well, and he saw that plentifully as they engineered someone else to marry the love of his life so that he wouldn’t be tempted to go down that route. Elizabeth seemed like she was trying to do something nice by pointing out that Charles was clearly in love with Camilla based on what she had read in his letters to David, but Philip best exemplified the family’s response, which was already being put into action by Lord Mountbatten and the Queen Mother. Getting a posting he shouldn’t have tipped Charles off to the fact that intervention was already happening, and it’s a shame that he blamed his mother entirely when she consistently advocated a gentler and more humane approach that isn’t all that typical of her. Deciding that Lord Mountbatten would have to be the one to tell him was probably the best thing, but it’s understandable that his notion of having replaced his great-uncle made a lot of sense given the treatment he endured. Regarding the other focus of the episode, it’s astounding to think that an entire country might conserve power in the way dictated in this hour, both as a collective accomplishment and also an unfortunate method of dealing with unrest that can’t be sufficiently brokered into a compromise.

What I’m Watching: Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 3, Episode 7 “Chapter Seven: The Bite” (B+)

The final scene of this episode was the big payoff we’ve been waiting for all season, reuniting all of our young characters and preparing them for one last epic battle where their number one weapon may be down for the count. It looked like Dustin and crew were about to be shot by Russians with guns – admittedly a dark turn of events even for this show – before Eleven was able to set the car alarm off and then hurl it at the aggressors to crush all of them. Bringing them together is very exciting, and I’m sure there will be more entertaining interactions now that they’re an even bigger group. Steve and Robin tripping and then leaving the movie to go get water led to their eventual vomiting and the revelation that Robin likes Steve but just isn’t into guys in that way, something that took him a minute to process. I like that Max clashed with Nancy on wound management, followed by Mike not quite saying that love makes you crazy as he tried to express his feelings for Eleven. Lucas’ affinity for New Coke and everyone else’s failure to comprehend that was an odd but amusing subplot. Murray was right to diagnose an unresolved romantic connection between Joyce and Hopper, but who has time for more than hand-holding when you’re being forced onto rides while confronting other parents and dealing with newfound Russian allies getting shot just after they win big at the carnival? At least Joyce got to vent some of her frustration with a few well-placed blows to more than Larry’s public image.

What I’m Watching: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 3, Episode 7 “Marvelous Radio” (B+)

I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on when this episode started and we kept seeing Midge go into studio after studio to record a radio ad, only to be paid in unbelievable quantities of the product she was selling. The repeated humorous quips about Susie not reading the contracts closely enough had some entertaining consequences, like her accidentally doing porn at one point, and when she had to be replaced first by Susie and then by someone else in the studio because she really just how heinous the message she was spreading on behalf of a far-right candidate who thought Nixon was too liberal was. It had an even more important influence on Susie’s relationship with her other client. Missing her cue and then speaking softly were signs that Sophie wasn’t ready for the big stage, but Susie was convinced by the end that she had tanked in on purpose. Telling her that she’ll never be worth what Midge is probably supports what viewers of this show want to hear and believe, but it was a harsh and unusually authentic sentiment from Susie. Abe chasing one of his former colleagues down the hall made it seem like no one was ever going to take him seriously again, but apparently he got published in the New York Times in time to give away copies of his piece at his grandson Chaim Christian’s bris. It was nice to see Benjamin again, who proved that he really is the nicest guy in the universe when he expressed that he holds nothing against Midge and assured a distraught Rose that he’s going to be fine.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

What I’m Watching: Kidding (Season Premiere)

Kidding: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 “The Cleanest Liver in Columbus, Ohio” and “Up, Down and Everything in Between” (B)

It’s been a while since this show last aired, finishing up its first season in the beginning of November 2018. This is undeniably a weird show, once whose existence I had almost completely forgotten. For some unknown reason, ten episodes will air two at a time over the course of just five weeks, which I guess is the equivalent of it being an hour instead of a half-hour. This episode opened rather hectically, with Jeff driving Jill and an unconscious Peter to the hospital while flashing back to an equally chaotic drive to the hospital when Jill was about to deliver the twins. For a while, Jeff was really in Jill’s good graces, slipping back into a comfortable place when he and Will tried to host a perfect Christmas with gifts found around the house, but that all fell apart when he realized he had to be honest. Hearing him swear and choose a bad word meant that there must not have been a good one, and Jill wasn’t interested in hearing any excuses about why he is the way he is from Deirdre and Seb. There’s something about the puppetry on this show that’s always felt magical, but in this case Jeff’s dream was much more hallucinatory and twisted. Starting with the doctor telling Jeff that she didn’t care for his speech right before he went under and the bird flying in, things got really weird. I liked that Peter got a chance to be very upset about where they were but couldn’t hit him anymore because his body was accepting Jeff’s liver. Singing because Jeff was becoming a part of him was a creative expression of that process. I’m intrigued to see what happens next, especially after Jeff woke up and promptly fired Seb.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 4 “You're Not Going to Get Me to Say Anything Bad About Mickey” (B+)

This episode was slightly longer than usual, but that just allowed for more time to showcase how Larry ends up being unlucky because of the terrible way in which he behaves towards others. The most truly cringe-worthy plotline of the episode was his reaction to his new girlfriend Donna showing her a picture of herself considerably heavier on their first date, carefully watching her candy and chip consumption in a truly offensive and horrible way. Everyone refusing to give him their weights for the private plane was predictably going to end poorly (they could just have told the pilot and bypassed Larry), and I expected him to be left behind, though I didn’t think that he’d want to stay behind with his prized coffee beans. Spinning everyone around so that the weight-guesser at the carnival could tell him what they all weighed was both absurd and funny. I like that Cheryl got some grief for wanting to just hop on the plane and not contribute, though she got out of that later when Ted’s surprise presence was somehow assumed to be part of what she originally paid. Ted confirming that Larry slept with Cheryl came at the worst possible time, and somehow it was Larry who got blamed for ruining the wedding. I was thrilled to see Timothy Olyphant, who showed just how hilarious he can be on “Santa Clarita Diet” and “The Good Place,” as Mickey, who perfectly delivered his rationale, similar to what Larry might have said if the tables were turned, that he couldn’t lend him his emergency toothbrush because he might need it in cage of his own emergency.

What I’m Watching: Avenue 5

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 4 “Wait a Minute, Then Who Was That on the Ladder?” (B+)

This episode had me laughing out loud quite a few times, and, even if the plot is a bit out of control, it’s very entertaining. I love that Ryan was learning from a kid about space since he knew absolutely nothing, though there’s no denying that he knows what to say and sound like he knows what he’s talking about when the moment demands it. The bridge crew, on the other hand, was not nearly as impressive, wanting coaching on their lines and what their characters are supposed to know, and thinking that they were supposed to leave when calls for non-essential personnel to leave the bridge were made. Ryan’s response to Billie’s proclamation of “code not good, code bad” was fantastic, and who would have thought that Sarah-Sarah could come through at exactly the right moment with an improvised speech to distract from what was really going on? Now, Ryan’s going to have to do something he never expected, and we’ll see how that works out for him. Judd is absurdly over-the-top, suggesting that anyone who makes a fuss should be banned from future cruises, which they’d surely welcome, and giving people three-second hugs while refusing to answer questions. Asking the widow about her husband and then referencing her as such was typically callous, and I don’t even know what to say about the fact that he autographed Beatles skulls himself, which definitely don’t all belong to the Beatles. Doug and Mia’s arguments continue to be ferocious and entertaining, with another man spelling cuckold for him and their fight over the last tiramisu standing out in this half-hour.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What I’m Watching: Shrill

Shrill: Season 2, Episode 3 “Skate” (B+)

As a fellow freelance writer, I can totally understand Annie’s experience of being told just how perfect an applicant she is but that she’s only being offered an unpaid internship. It was much worse for her because she was reminded that most interns get other jobs to make money, which was the very reason she was applying for this job. I think that did catapult her in the right direction even if it took her some time to realize that, and hopefully Gabe will emerge from his mellow state and remember that he rather pleasantly agreed to give her a job again. Ryan going back to his grocery store to tell his former coworker that he was stacking items wrong showed how he’s trying to find his own sense of purpose, and he returned to some sense of that when he went over to his kindred spirits at the party. It was sweet that he told Annie that she was there for her and wouldn’t go over, only to be reassured by her that she saw her friends and appreciated that he wanted to put her first. Saying I love you to each other was nice too, and I’m glad that this show isn’t just following a predictable path that keeps her unemployed and him uncommitted to a real relationship, instead heading in an interesting and creative direction. There is definitely an irreverence to this show and some of the things its minor characters do that isn’t always necessary, but it’s not too distracting or detrimental.

Pilot Review: Locke and Key

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: Tommy

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Pilot Review: Briarpatch

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: Outmatched

Outmatched: Season 1, Episode 3 “Grandparents” (B-)

I’m not sure that the addition of new characters who also can’t relate to these young geniuses was necessary, but it was helpful because it showed how what they did and continue to do shapes the parenting skills of Mike and Kay. Tony Danza, last seen in regular TV roles on “There’s Johnny” and “The Good Cop,” and Caroline Aaron, known for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” were good choices to play over-the-top grandparents, whose arrival immediately changed the dynamic in the house. Jay bringing frozen meat from Florida in his carry-on luggage was a decent rival for Sylvia’s inability to talk to Kay about anything other than Mike. The lessons ultimately learned about why they do those things – and why Jay didn’t want Mike to play soccer – were worthwhile, and the road there was decently entertaining if not full of heavy laughter. Brian’s inflating vest was pretty hilarious, especially when Mike and Jay went out driving look for him and Mike initially thought that some idiot had left his raft by the side of the road. Nicole experienced quite the makeover after Sylvia got to her, and hearing her talk with a strong accent she didn’t know she possessed was humorous. Marc was so focused on death that no one really got to him, while Leila best internalized her grandparents’ relationship dynamic, agreeing that a beer tastes better when a woman delivers it, a reverse psychology move on Sylvia’s part to get her husband to remain completely dependent on her.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 9 “Bi-Plane” (B)

This episode was decidedly over-the-top in its construction, but it was still pretty funny. I feel like we’ve seen Will and Grace talking to couples where one member is very clearly gay and purporting to be straight in the past, and so there was something familiar about that plotline. Yet what I think worked best about it was that, after they talked through it all, Fiona and Trevor left still together. Will revealed his own closemindedness to the notion of bisexuality, judging it as someone who just needed to make up their mind about being gay or straight, and this may have opened his mind slightly. Their banter is on-point as always, and it’s still fun to hear them bicker. Karen’s flight experience flying in coach was very entertaining, and it was helpful to have Friday there to narrate her journey without fully understanding just how uncomfortable it was for her. Her reaction to going first beyond the first row and then beyond the curtain she didn’t realize led to anything other than the vast space was funny, and she really committed to it as she had to endure the entire flight in coach. Jack’s obliviousness to Ryan Phillippe sitting down next to him on the plane right after he announced that he was his celebrity hall pass was pretty great, and kudos to Phillippe for playing along and getting Jack to offer to have sex with him. I love that Estefan ultimately stepped in to stop them, creating the best possible way for Phillippe to learn about gay sex.

Monday, February 10, 2020

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers: Dark Ages

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages: Season 2, Episode 2 “Help Wanted” (B)

I almost forgot about this show’s regular time slot after seeing the first episode of the season at the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago, but fortunately I remembered just in time to post this review before episode three airs tomorrow night. I wasn’t entirely sure about the reframe of this show after its first season focus on God and his do-gooder minions, and there’s definitely an air of stupidity very prevalent in this new setup. I understand that the idea is to mock how stupid people can be, like Al giving the right scientific answer to a question only to be told that the true trivia response is something much more unbelievably inane that’s not even close to right. Getting a job as a doctor was a big score, but unfortunately she was too honest to turn that into the legitimate medicine it could have been, only managing to stop her totally incompetent boss from telling people to cut off and eat body parts to cure things like the common cold. I can tell this is going to be a cyclical and frustrating season, one filled with moments like Al being told that she made others jealous before getting relentlessly mocked just a short time later. Mikey was all too willing to give up his prized duck when Vexler suggested that Chauncley lie to him, and the idiotic prince grew just a little bit when he realized that he’d have to be the one to dealt with his guilt rather than ordering someone else to do it for him. Concluding that the best thing to do with his two coats was to carry one wasn’t quite the same accomplishment, but it’s minor progress. On the guest star front, I immediately recognized actor Jamie Demetriou from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” by his voice when he was interviewing Al about her big exposé.

Pilot Review: Indebted

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Pilot Review: Katy Keene

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Pilot Review: Interrogation

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Take Three: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 1, Episode 3 “The End is the Beginning” (B-)

I’m still committed to getting into this show, but I’m finding the pacing to be fairly glacial. We got a peek at how Raffi’s perspective on her beloved “JL” changed drastically from the aftermath of the attack to the present day, and why she was so unwilling to help him when he showed up so many years later telling her he needed a pilot. One of my favorite characters from any Star Trek series is the Emergency Medical Hologram from “Star Trek: Voyager,” and the interaction of Picard’s latest recruit and the hologram version of him wasn’t nearly as compelling as most of his onscreen moments. If Picard wasn’t yet sure that he needed to pursue this, he should be now. I’m happiest that Alison Pill’s Dr. Agnes Jurati made such a strong case for her inclusion on the mission, partially because she’s one of the most interesting characters on this show and also because I’m a big fan of Pill’s from her past work on “The Newsroom” and “In Treatment.” Hearing that Raffi is on board just for a ride is far from convincing since that never works out as planned, and she’ll likely end up playing a more major role in this trip. There are a lot of people who seem to grasp that they don’t know as much about themselves or what they’ve been through as they should, and I think that watching all this play out will be considerably more gratifying once everyone realizes their true abilities and purpose.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 3 “Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me” (B)

I liked that this episode started with a longer opening featuring shots of each of the characters we know best, though the content of this hour was a bit on the silly side, which I don’t always love. It was jarring to hear Constantine slip into an American accent to pretend to be an old-school private eye, while Sara was the bait and Ray got the chance to be the one honest cop left after making a friend who turned out to be deeper in with the mob than any of the others he had met earlier. It’s clear that Ava needs more of a sense of purpose than she currently has, and no one was nearly as entertained by her distracting musical performance as she was. Sara finds her endearing at least, and hopefully she’ll work to give her a more substantial role on the team. I’m never overly fond of hell-centric episodes, but at least the Bugsy connection made it more interesting. After the episode-ending revelation Nate got about Zari’s existence, I didn’t expect us to meet a different version of her right away, and certainly not in the form of an airheaded social media star. Fortunately, she was smarter than she appeared, and managed to piece together that her stalker Nate wasn’t actually a professor. Behrad wasted no time in bringing her on board the Wave Rider, and it’s hard to know what will happen next. I keep thinking that Sara and Ray should remember her, but I guess not since that was altered at Heyworld not as a result of the crisis. Also, where the hell is Charlie? Is she coming back? I certainly hope so.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 10 “Marathon” (B)

We’re checking back in with this show in its first outing since the crisis that was supposed to kill off its main character happened, and there’s considerable pressure for a new focus after this show hasn’t really back on track for a while now. I like that we got a more extended opening credits sequence after Barry triumphantly saved the newly-reopened Jitters from a robbery. It’s also worthwhile to see the effects of the crisis still being felt in Cisco’s treatment of Nash and the trading cards he’s assembled as he tries to comprehend the way that the multiverse no longer existing has led to returning villains and the erasure of some others. The fact that he was wearing a Superman shirt that he didn’t remember owning was upsetting him enough, and hopefully he’ll soon get back to a productive place where he can help Team Flash fight their enemies without distraction. Iris was pushing hard to get her story with the help of her female crime-fighting team, and while she neutralized the public face of her foe, she managed to get herself trapped in a magic mirror of sorts, which felt a bit hokey and horror-like for this show. Barry’s also focused on other things with his pursuit of whatever Oliver left behind, and I’d like to see a return to what this show does best in the coming weeks as we get a number of new episodes in a row. I’m still hopeful that this show can remain exciting and enjoyable.

Friday, February 7, 2020

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 3 “Artificial Fruit” (B)

Some things about this episode worked a lot better than others. Larry asking Laverne Cox questions about whether you can donate a penis to a person who’s transitioning was uncomfortable enough, but then he had to go and choose to physically pull away when she went to give him a hug because of their previous conversation about how she had a cold. Recognizing social conventions like that has always been one of the strongest parts of this show, and that just happened to come at a very poor time after he had earlier thanked her for being upfront with him about not wanting to get him sick. I’m not sure what all the fuss about the presentation trash and the decorative fruit was, but it was entertaining enough until the much sillier bit that found Larry, Leon, and Jeff all dumped into trash cans for appearing to make fun of people’s accents after chipping their teeth and tongues. It was pretty funny - and typically horrible - that Larry showed up to the funeral of his favorite waiter Esai Morales’ aunt so that he could give him his credit card to pay for the meal that Richard Lewis was trying to pay for instead, resulting in some unexpected charges on Larry’s card that he may have conveniently misunderstood were to cover funeral costs. Larry keeps doing everything wrong related to his lawsuit, and deciding that he couldn’t give the heimlich after forcing her to try one of his scones doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out too well for him in the end.

Take Three: Avenue 5

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 3 “I’m a Hand Model” (B)

Overall, I think this show is working, though it’s definitely a bit wilder and more out-of-control than past Armando Iannucci efforts due to the scope of its disastrous events. Of course Cyrus would have forgotten to account for every single person on board the ship, which meant that his six-month calculation had to be added to the three years that the actually intelligent Billie had already confirmed was the correct estimate. Ryan freaked out when he was told that everyone on the bridge was actually just an actor, something that shouldn’t have surprised him all that much given that he was one and the same! At least there is a crew of real scientists who just weren’t attractive enough to meet Judd’s standards, and maybe they’ll be able to help defray some of the total chaos that’s reigning at the moment. I was happy for one victory in the form of Ryan’s successful manipulation and enlistment of Karen to be the passenger liaison after he accidentally revealed his British accent and shared more with her than he meant. Taking the brunt of the heat for the new delay by suggesting five years as the reported timeframe was smart, though there are too many other passengers like her who aren’t going to easily accept that. Rav is having a tough time holding down the fort, and the videos that Matt sent her didn’t alleviate that stress at all. He really is capable of turning anything bad into something good, but also the opposite, which doesn’t always serve as productive in the moment.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

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

The Good Place: Season 4, Episode 13 “Whenever You’re Ready”

I’m a full week late on watching this show, partially because I’m still catching up after my time spent watching up to five movies a day at the Sundance Film Festival. Ironically, on the day this finale actually aired, I saw a very compelling dramatic film called “Nine Days” that looks at beginning and departing life in a similar way, though I wouldn’t have known that until now. For a show that was always laced with comedy, this extended ender was quite serious and thought-provoking. Starting with Jason as the one who wanted to walk through the door was a surprise, and I love that he ended up not going through, waiting around for many bearimys in monk-like fashion for Janet to return, and then immediately jumped through thinking that he was following Chidi. Tahani deciding to become an architect is a great idea, since it’s true that some people wouldn’t necessarily get bored of life and instead would want to find a new purpose. Eleanor tried hard to keep Chidi around but he knew that he needed to go, and she could only leave once she had helped both Mindy and Michael to fulfill desires they didn’t even realize that they had. The cameos by Nick Offerman and Mary Steenburgen were brief and perfect, not taking away from an episode that also saw short final moments with Shawn, Vicky, Simone, Derek, and the judge, whose comments and fashion statements on the television she loves are always hilarious. Michael getting the chance to live life as a human was a very sweet way to end this show, one which certainly could have gone on for much longer but wrapped up in a wonderful way right here. I’d love to rewatch it some day, but for now, I’m perfectly pleased with what we got.

Series finale: A-
Series grade: A-
Season MVP: Ted Danson as Michael
Season grade: A-
Series MVP: Ted Danson
Best Season: Seasons 1 and 2
Best Episode: “Everything is Bonzer!

What I’m Watching: Shrill

Shrill: Season 2, Episode 2 “Kevin” (B+)

I like this new Annie, who isn’t afraid to confront the people who have made her life miserable and not entirely certain exactly how to follow through with all of them. One of the more satisfying moments from season one was seeing her track down her troll, played by Beck Bennett, and confront him at his home. He went into a complete panic when she showed up at his work and threatened to expose him if he wasn’t willing to talk to her, and she seems set on writing about the experience even if he isn’t going to participate. Going back into work could have been disastrous, and instead people had mixed reactions on seeing her and Gabe put on a confrontational front to try to make it seem like he didn’t care that his most interesting employee was no longer working there. The freelance life isn’t easy, and Annie is starting to discover that as even Kevin seemed disappointed that the interview she wanted to have wouldn’t be run in a more prestigious publication that something she was putting out herself. Fran hasn’t had too many focused plotlines of her own in the past, and for someone who has been through a good deal of relationships, she was very ready to write a partner off completely and delete her from social media and her phone upon learning that they weren’t exclusive. The most powerful moment of the episode, which has been playing in my head since, was the performance of “God Only Knows” that closed it out on a dramatic and haunting note.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Round Two: Outmatched

Outmatched: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Talk” (B)

I could tell when I watched the pilot of this show that it wasn’t going to be terribly sophisticated, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s rare to find network sitcoms that are actually enjoyable these days, and, when they’re funny enough, they’re harmless and refreshing compared to the most sophisticated concept series that are more plentiful at the moment. I don’t have strong affinity for Jason Biggs but enjoyed his work on “Orange is the New Black,” and I’ve been a big fan of Maggie Lawson’s since “Psych” and have been disappointed that none of her follow-up projects have lasted. The two of them are indeed giving this show their best effort, expressing their inability to cope with three of their children being infinitely more intelligent than them. Of course, the best thing to highlight in this case is the lack of street-smarts and life experience possessed by their little geniuses. Having their children respond by asking them what they wanted to know when they tried to have the sex talk was hilarious, and I love that their scientific descriptions ended up getting into their heads and knocking off their rhythm. Kay’s determination to start breaking bad didn’t last long, and they managed to get their groove back while their two oldest kids panicked about 3-D-printed mouths to practice kissing on and their general social incompetence. I don’t expect to watch this show too long, but for now, it’s not a bad way to spend half an hour.

Round Two: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 1, Episode 2 “Maps and Legends” (B)

I’m eager to get into this show because I think it’s going to be very popular, and I’d like to continue watching it. I only made it through the first half of the first season of “Star Trek: Discovery,” at which point I just wasn’t all that invested anymore. I remember watching late episodes of “Star Trek: Voyager” with my parents during my childhood and loving that show, and my experience with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is more limited simply because I didn’t watch as much of it. But I like Patrick Stewart and I think that he still has sufficient energy to anchor a show like this. Picard’s interview didn’t do him any favors when he later went to Starfleet to try to get reinstated so that he could use their resources to solve this mystery, and I imagine that other characters that we know will be similarly conflicted about the idea of working with him again because of these negative sentiments. It’s often hard to recognize guest actors on a show like this because of their alien makeup, but it was easier to spot two who looked as they usually do: David Paymer playing Dr. Benayoun, and Peyton List as Lieutenant Rizzo, who is part of an elaborate plot that’s designed to help the Romulans eventually be victorious against the unsuspecting humans. I’m going to stick with this show for a bit, but I’d like to see a bit more of the energy of the first episode present in successive episodes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Pilot Review: The Stranger

Check out my one-minute take on every new pilot, which is embedded below and you can also watch by subscribing to movieswithabe on YouTube.

Round Two: Awkwafina is Nora from Queens

Awkwafina is Nora from Queens: Season 1, Episode 2 “Atlantic City” (B-)

I wasn’t overly fond of this second installment, which I think leaned into the over-the-top premise of this show more than the pilot did. Nora’s plan to stay at home enjoying herself to “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” all day seemed ready to please her, but then her grandmother, who obviously passed down some traits to her, guilted her into coming to Atlantic City for the day. I’m not sure why “Hostel 2” was the film of choice for that ride, but Nora was evidently in the right mood, ready to gamble as much as she could and make some money. She should have stuck with the slots since there aren’t rules against how you play there, and her excitement about her strategy failed her quickly when she announced that she was counting cards. Grandma didn’t fare too much better when her grandmother had to contend with another group of Asians hogging the one outlet in the food court. I suppose it’s possible that such things actually happen, but this felt unnecessarily exaggerated. Half an hour doesn’t feel like too much time to spend on this kind of show, but it’s going to have to prove itself as a bit more worthwhile and slightly serious if I’m going to continue with it for more than another episode or two. I’m also still not entirely clear on whether Awkwafina’s name is supposed to be in the title or if that’s just a marketing strategy to make sure that people watch no matter what series it is.

Monday, February 3, 2020

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

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages: Season 2, Episode 1 “Graduation” (B)

I had the chance to screen this episode last week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, my only sampling of television but a very worthwhile one. I liked the first season of this show because of its creative approach to the ideas of an “answered prayers” department in heaven that could only do very small things like blow a leaf. This second season is totally different, and I think that it’s definitely gotten a bit less sophisticated. That said, it was absolutely hilarious hearing from series creator Simon Rich and several members of the cast, and I can tell that they’re all about the parody, which should hopefully make this show somewhat funnier. Rich emphasized that it’s not a medieval comedy that’s supposed to mimic “Game of Thrones” but instead that setting which brings the light the issues of our time. Each character having a last name that explains their family profession, like Pervert or Shitshoveler, is clever, and I definitely like the performances by Steve Buscemi and Geraldine Viswanathan. Daniel Radcliffe seems to be having fun too as the hapless prince who has no idea what he’s in for, and I’m ready to get into what this season is offering. Alexandra helping her father to elongate the shoveler they use is the first productive act against their fate, and I hope for such similarly helpful and humorous workarounds in the near future. I’d like to see a little less outright stupidity, but I’m confident that this show can deliver, even if it’s in a way similar to that of “Galavant” in the past.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 12 “A Hell of a Week: Part Two” (B+)

I thought it was a bit of a strange scheduling decision to split up this latest three-parter by a few weeks, but apparently the first two episodes were back-to-back and now we’ll have a week off for the State of the Union before the third one airs. This focus on Kevin was interesting but sadly didn’t feature this season’s strongest player, Justin Hartley, all that much since it looked back a lot more at his history. We’ve always seen Randall and Kate as the more sensitive ones while Kevin was rebelling or making fun of someone, and this was a chance to see him a bit more intimately. We’ve also encountered Beth’s mom but hadn’t previously seen another parent of a Pearson spouse, even if they’re no longer married. Jennifer Westfeldt, best known for the film “Kissing Jessica Stein,” was a great choice to play Claire, who was warm to Kevin even if she didn’t want to give him a family heirloom until he had really earned it. He was extremely sweet with the adult Sophie when her mother died, and let’s hope that they’re deciding to get back together to have a baby and that he’s not going to get Madison pregnant instead, since I think everyone can agree she’s one of the only truly bad characters this show has invented. I’m interested to see what’s been going on with Kate during this time, although it doesn’t sound too good from her summary to Kevin. I’m also curious if M. Night Shyamalan will be making more guest appearances like this now that his Apple TV show “Servant” has taken off.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

What I’m Watching: Work in Progress (Season Finale)

Work in Progress: Season 1, Episode 8 “3, 2, 1” (B+)

Things weren’t looking good going into this finale, and they didn’t approve all that much by its end. Calling Melanie to talk to her about their relationship was an unexpected move, and one that was met with understandable hostility by the woman who broke up with her specifically because she didn’t want to have to be there for her in this way anymore. Going to Julia’s shows could have been a positive move, but instead she found out that the woman who inadvertently ruined her life was trying to reclaim a character that wasn’t actually hers to reclaim, going back on stage as Pat in some attempt to redefine her positively. Chris showing up was the final nail in the coffin, since, after expressing that he just needed more time that Abby wasn’t at all willing to give him, he decided that he couldn’t be the one thing keeping her going. It’s a real shame since they were such a great couple, and he was absolutely there for her in all the right ways as long as she talked to him about what she was thinking. Fortunately, he did do one thing right, which was to show her that she should keep going without him thanks to the one almond that he had taken from her apartment during their first date. That was a highly meaningful gesture, one that’s sure to stick with Abby and motivate her towards somewhere good in the second season that I’m very much looking forward to seeing.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Abby McEnany

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 2 “Side Sitting” (B+)

I haven’t seen every episode of this show, only watching consistently since season seven, but I’m honestly very surprised that Larry hasn’t tried to blame the mailman before this. I liked that he insisted that he was wearing his postal-issued uniform in response to Larry’s insistence that he couldn’t take him seriously in shorts, and that he demanded an apology for putting a stain on his reputation. The cancer plotline wasn’t all that enticing to me, just creating more awkwardness than laughs. What I did enjoy was the concept of side-sitting, which Larry managed to use to throw Ted off the scent when he heard about how Larry was side-sitting Cheryl at a restaurant. This show is humorously handling the notion of consent with Larry managing to comprehend it well enough to record himself asking permission to do certain things with his unexpected date but failing to read the signals and realize that she wasn’t as into progressing as he thought. I loved the ending of the episode with Ben Shenkman’s lawyer no longer being interested in the case but instead with getting Larry to admit under oath that he used his bathroom. Larry getting Susie a portrait of herself for her birthday was indeed a strange occurrence, and of course that backfired when he prepared to have it redone as revenge on Jeff only to have the contractor who so hated her throw it out, making her once again believe that Larry is quite possibly the worst human being on earth.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

What I’m Watching: The L Word: Generation Q (Season Finale)

The L Word: Generation Q: Season 1, Episode 8 “Lapse in Judgment” (B+)

Well, I’m glad someone got a happy ending. That one person is Alice, who gave up on her relationship all too quickly and was fortunate enough to have Nat come on her show while she was talking to Roxanne Gay and make a big public gesture that was enough for them to get back together. It took me a while this week to recognize Sepideh Moafi, who plays Gigi, in the film “The Killing of Two Lovers” at Sundance, and while she was certainly good, I was always a fan of Stephanie Allynne, who plays Nat and who I could never understand why was not credited as a series regular despite her role in Alice’s life. Things aren’t looking so sunny for Dani and Sophie, who apparently haven’t heard of cell phones in this very technical age and instead opt not to communicate and just wait classically until boarding has almost finished or there’s somewhere else to run to in the airport. Finley seemed content to go home, but I suspect Sophie will value their connection more than the distant one she’s had recently with Dani. It turns out that Dani and Bette didn’t sleep together, and Dani doesn’t seem interested in continuing to work with Bette following her loss. Shane’s relationship was never the most involving part of this show, and seeing her out there will probably be more worthwhile than if she stays with Quiara. And it’s a real shame about Micah meeting a man claiming to be Jose’s husband - that seems like the kind of thing you clarify by explaining by shouting through the door. I’ll look forward to seeing season two of this show and what comes next.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Stephanie Allynne as Nat

Round Two: Avenue 5

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 2 “And Then He’s Gonna Shoot Off…” (B)

This second installment was definitely entertaining, if a tiny bit unsophisticated. I like the premise of this show and I think it can run successfully for a while, but it’s going to take some getting used to regarding some of its more outrageous elements. What’s clearest is that no one aboard the ship in a leadership role of any sort has a clue what they’re doing, and they’re actively making decisions which are worsening the situation. Neil Casey is everywhere on HBO after appearing on “Silicon Valley” and “Mrs. Fletcher,” and his engineer Cyrus has an awfully positive idea about how long the delay would be, which Ryan of course opted to share with the chattiest and most troublesome passenger, thereby ensuring that it would be passed along to everyone else in no time. The lengthy delay between transmissions is irritating, and that time allows Judd to come up with even more terrible ideas than he already had. Having funerals aboard the ship was problematic enough, and now having dead bodies stuck in space orbiting the ship for their entire journey home is a true nightmare. I saw Zach Woods in a more normative role in the upcoming film “Downhill” at Sundance this week, and he really is such a natural here at playing a certain part, which in this case finds him haplessly trying to provide customer satisfaction while failing miserably, just like everyone and everything else on this doomed space cruise. Let’s see what’s in store for episode three.