Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pilot Review: Self Made

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: Better Things

Better Things: Season 4, Episode 4 “DNA” (B+)

It wasn’t always the case that people could swear so flagrantly on basic cable. I distinctly remember years ago when Vic Mackey got so angry on “The Shield” and slammed his hand down on the dashboard of his car to cover his use of an expletive. That’s no longer how things are, with cable networks over the past few years opting to no longer self-censor. I still wouldn’t have imagined a scene like the one between Sam and Max where they lobbed a particularly crude and hateful word back and forth at each other, but I suppose it was its severity that made them realize how they really felt about each other. Max sounded extremely entitled and ungrateful when she expressed her frustration at Sam not having done the laundry, and their little heart-to-heart after seemed to be rather therapeutic in the end. There were some random moments in this episode, like Sam tackling her mother to get her spit for a DNA test and Sam waking up to find an owl at the foot of her bed before Duke walked in calmly to bring it out, and I don’t really know what to say about those. Sam playing the piano and singing at the start was rather moving, which made the transition into Phyl and her friends lamenting new standards of political correctness all the more jarring. I like that Jessica Barden called Sam to tell her that she never existed before this moment and that she was going to discover her, a peculiar sentiment, but one that’s likely to get Sam to a good place that she hasn’t found herself in for quite a while.

What I’m Watching: Indebted

Indebted: Season 1, Episode 7 “Everybody's Talking About A Web Of Lies” (D+)

This was not a good episode. I’ve been trying to give this show the benefit of the doubt, channeling relatable notions through an admittedly less than satisfying lens, but there’s no excuse for an episode like this. It should have been simple – Dave and Rebecca needed a minivan simply because they’re parents who drive carpool a lot. Sure, they also have parents and a sibling who tag along for no apparent reason all the time, but it’s generally just a family thing to want to have a bigger car that can always fit everyone and everything. It was obvious from the moment that Dave decided not to tell Rebecca about the job that fell through that it was all going to go awry, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so dumb. Stew having a second cell phone which he used to pretend to be the assistant he let go several years earlier was absurd enough in its own right, and then things got much more ridiculous when Deb revealed that she took had a second cell phone. The entirety of the communication between the two second cell phones and the lack of intelligence present in any of it was grating, and I was relieved that Rebecca finally understood what was going on enough to put a stop to the whole thing. Deb and Stew being entertained by the ways they’re able to keep their marriage alive is fine, but excitedly watching as they encouraged their kids to have sex was definitely more than a bit much.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 15 “Broadway Boundaries” (B-)

I’m finding that I’m not particularly invested in this show’s characters anymore, though there are only three episodes left before it signs off for good, so it doesn’t feel like too much of a commitment. Will and Grace are both panicking about being parents, and the latest instance of that was their obsession with the gender balloons, neither of which got popped in the way that they wanted. Karen and Jack weren’t about to sit through an entire speech from Will, and he seemed to be very happy with the news that he was having a girl. Grace freaked herself out when she thought about how she would ruin her daughter like her mother did and then might prevent her son from ever being able to have sex before deciding to let go of the balloon. Her phone call to the nurse to find out the gender was definitely the best part of the episode thanks to the nurse’s attitude and her suggestion that she look between the legs of her child for the answer. Will wanting a continued relationship with Jenny after the baby was born was nice, even if he had to get to that realization after an awkward sort-of date with Chris Parnell’s newly out doctor. Jack getting an understudy part for a nameless dual role on Broadway is hardly the big break he’s always wanted, but it’s something. And I’d say it’s for the best that Karen gave the team away to Friday, even if it now leaves her without much to go other than drink and laugh at people who are less fortunate than her.

Monday, March 30, 2020

What I’m Watching: Outmatched (Penultimate Episode)

Outmatched: Season 1, Episode 9 “Black Mold” (C-)

Technically, this show hasn’t been cancelled yet, but with just one filmed episode left, there’s practically no way that anyone would choose to bring this series back for more episodes, even this initially enthusiastic viewer. This episode crossed a new line in terms of absurdity, and it’s hard to find anything of quality buried within it. Nicole hacking into the casino’s reservations system to get her parents a suite felt like a bad idea to begin with, leading to this narrative devolving into Mike getting into bed with an older couple that he didn’t realize had been let into their room. Kay could definitely have avoided getting dragged into a work thing by Rita, and you’d think she would have some concept of the fact that she was widely regarded as a cooler. Things were definitely going much worse back at home where Brian was put in charge before he immediately deferred to a mutinous and terrifying Nicole, and their efforts to tranquilize the younger two children didn’t work at all. Everything got much stupider when Irwin came over and fell down the stairs that had been eaten by the black mold and the kids left him for dead, terrified that a childnapper had broken into the house when it was really just Mike trying not to be noticed. I’d like to hope for something slightly more satisfying and endearing in the show’s final airing – this show had some potential to be entertaining enough but hasn’t really delivered on that.

What I’m Watching: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 1, Episode 9 “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1” (B+)

I’ve often said that penultimate episodes are the most action-packed, and this hour definitely was, which makes me excited for a satisfying finale, though it’s usually hard to live up to an installment like this. I suspected, as I’m sure most did, that Brent Spiner would show up in a role on this show, though I figured he’d be playing Data and not a human scientist serving as caretaker for the many androids on Coppelius. His presence threw Picard for a loop, while the famed captain also commanded a serious degree of respect from Soji’s sisters. Maggie also inhabited a weird space, earning condemnation from Dr. Soong and expressing admiration for the creations that so impress her. Sutra explaining that the message was never meant for humans and instead interpreted in a different way as a prophecy for synthetics added another layer of complication to all of it, and her subsequent actions with their hostage Narek are certainly cause for concern. Seven of Nine, Elnor, and the entire Borg Cube following them so that they could provide backup against the giant flower and any other threats is a good sign, though Commodore Oh is also close behind and ready to attack. Raffi has come to terms with her feelings about Picard and forcing her to get back into a life she didn’t want anymore, and Rios also seems to be in better shape after going down a dark path in the previous episode. Bring on what’s sure to be an explosive and intense finale!

What I’m Watching: Brockmire (Season Premiere)

Brockmire: Season 4, Episode 1 “Favorable Matchup” (B+)

In all of the television that I’ve been watching over the past couple weeks, this is the one that comes closest to addressing the current coronavirus epidemic, though not in a particularly favorable way. Skipping ahead to 2030 is an interesting choice, though it’s not as if this show had all that much more to cover in the present. Presuming that disease outbreak would be responsible for mass chaos isn’t a far-off notion, and I doubt it’s comfortable for anyone looking for an escape from the real world right now. This show has never been for the overly polite or sensitive, and though the profanity was less extreme than usual in this half-hour, the sentiment was still there. I’m thrilled about the introduction of Brockmire’s daughter Beth, played by Reina Hardesty, who I’ve previously seen in guest appearances on “The Flash” and “Timeless.” She seems to be completely ready to go head-to-head with Hank Azaria, and this show has thrived for the past few seasons on two-person dynamics. This episode felt much more expansive than it was, in that it focused on just its two new main players and their insular world, which was plenty interesting enough to sustain the half-hour. Brockmire wasn’t happy at all with the idea of becoming the commissioner of baseball when approached by the Yankees owner played by John Ales from “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” and “Sneaky Pete,” but he’s never exactly been good at letting go. The notion of traveling to New York to live with his daughter so that he doesn’t have to be left alone was decidedly extreme, but it’s totally up his alley. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Pilot Review: Little Fires Everywhere

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, March 29, 2020

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers: Dark Ages

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages: Season 2, Episode 8 “First Date” (B)

I compared this season to “Galavant” in my review of the premiere, and this episode opening with a song about how awkward Al and Chauncley are made it feel very much like that. It was sweet – and uncomfortable – to watch as Chauncley struggled to identify their relationship, unsure of whether they should purchase the lovers’ special or two single tickets. I remember encountering the same debacle when the only options to send flowers on Valentine’s Day in high school were secret admirer, friend, or love, and I made the wrong choice to send the love ones to a crush who I thought knew my feelings (it didn’t end badly, but it was incredibly awkward). Fresh from defending the archaic laws of the royal court, Vexler did his best to help the poor prince clarify his feelings, which manifested as extreme jealousy and played out in cringe-worthy fashion, namely when Chauncley gave Al money to distract her from the newfound object of her affection. Al probably should have been able to read the situation better given that she’s much smarter than anyone else, but hopefully they’ll be able to get back to a good place and actualize their romance in the two remaining episodes. Eddie being slow to defend his new friend from discrimination wasn’t a home run, and the news being squawked by a madwoman also felt like an odd and irreverent choice. I did like that Al and Archibald bonded over their shared controversial opinion that the Earth revolves around the sun, and that Chauncley tried to be part of the conversation by pointing out that the moon also exists.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 17 “After the Fire” (B+)

What was most interesting about this episode is that, had it come at a different point, it would have felt emotionally manipulative and unnecessary. Yet now it’s actually extremely poignant, not because it offers viewers an opportunity to imagine what could have been, but more due to the way in which it completely gets into Randall’s head, playing out the thoughts he has on such a regular basis. That’s also why the casting of Pamela Adlon as his therapist makes so much sense now, since she was able to interrupt his idyllic fantasy of Rebecca and Jack telling him about William right after his imagined survival, giving him three parents to enjoy for most of his life instead of just one. She was on-point to object to that fairytale re-envisioning, especially since Rebecca didn’t tell him about William when she did lose her husband, and pretending that she would have done so if he had survived isn’t logical. Prompting him by asking what he was most afraid would have happened presented a much more harrowing picture of how it could have gone, with Randall sleeping with random women and totally disconnected from his family. This show is uniquely able to channel emotions on screen with many actors to portray its characters over the course of time, and this episode was extremely effective as a result. The conclusion that Randall came to that he needed his mother to do what was important to him is evidently one that doesn’t take her and his siblings into account, and now, just in time for the season finale, that choice is going to push him further away from the family he so desperately needs.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 8 “Romeo V. Juliet: Dawn of Justness” (B-)

I’ve been reading for a while about the impending exit of actors Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford, who are married in real life, and how fans weren’t happy with the fact that they were being sent off, an idea that apparently wasn’t their own. Once she became good – and a fairy godmother – Nora wasn’t as interesting a character, while Ray has still been front and center, the only legend to accompany Sara during the crisis. I don’t see a reason they need to go, but I suppose this show wants to focus on some of its other characters. This exit was moderately clunky but not all that terrible, and I think it’s time that Nate took on a more prominent role, especially as he continues his romantic pursuit of Zari, who herself should soon be recalling memories of her previous life as a far less vain member of the legends. I find it pretty absurd that the Wave Rider has only one bathroom, and that Zari is the only one who’s made it a problem. Having to put on their own production of “Romeo and Juliet” after Shakespeare penned a far more fantastical, science fiction book instead was entertaining but definitely over-the-top in a way only this show can (barely) pull off. At least Zari got to show off her acting skills, which weren’t bad at all. I liked the notion of the men going wild at Ray’s makeshift bachelor party and the women going overboard on the ship during a book club meeting, two storylines that appeal to me considerably more than Astra being ejected from her astral spying on Constantine. I enjoyed Mona’s return much more than I thought I would, and I’m glad that she convinced Mic to reconsider his relationship with a daughter who definitely inherited his volatile nature.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 15 “The Exorcism of Nash Wells” (B-)

I’m not so big on episodes like this since they don’t serve a greater purpose, expelling one threat that hadn’t really come to fruition just yet simply as a building block for future storylines. Eobard Thawne’s return was not a bad thing since he’s always been one of the better nemeses for this show, and instead now he’s been defeated while all of the other versions of Harrison Wells theoretically live on in Nash’s head. We finally got the link to Allegra, that she was the doppelganger for Maya, Nash’s protégé who plummeted to her death on one of their archeology adventures. It was helpful that Barry was able to use Thawne’s efforts to make him angry or devastated to channel positive memories instead, and that he’s planning to use that and Nora’s journal to create his own new speed force. Things were getting tense with the rationally-minded Caitlin, and hopefully the original brain trust of Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin can work together to figure out a new way to power Barry’s speed. It was comforting to see Joe and a Barry running not particularly fast take down the meta Sunshine by cutting off the one thing that she needed in order to use her abilities. The fact that Kamilla is now just like Bizarro Iris and working for Eva is disconcerting, especially since Barry and Joe still refuse to pick up on the many signals that the most dangerous threat in their midst is currently posing as one of the most important people in their lives.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

What I’m Watching: Breeders

Breeders: Season 1, Episode 4 “No Lies” (B+)

I like that this show conveys much of its plot through humor, revealing subtler drama underneath that’s just as effective. That was present most in the unexpected bonding between Michael and Paul, who came to a serious moment of clarity when Paul understood how much playing house and spending time with his family meant to the man whose own daughter called him by his first name. Paul suggesting that he should stay longer but only for a set amount of time was generous and fair, and they’ll continue to have lighter interactions like Michael overhearing Paul muttering his real feelings about Liam to himself. Not everything the man who couldn’t remember where his reiki certificate came from and admitted that life was not his strongest suit did in this episode was productive, like encouraging his grandchildren to rip apart the house looking for presents and guiding his grandson through his mother’s wedding album. Paul’s parents seemed much more upset than anyone else, and Ally and Paul do have a good understanding even if they don’t quite agree on the decision to have gotten a new mortgage, whether Ally had postpartum (or postnatal, in British terminology) depression, and whether they should upsize or downsize. The montages of Ally’s after-birth behavior and Paul’s ability to lie were entertaining and enlightening as always, and I liked the reference to how kids beat paper in the game of Kids, Paper, Scissors, which Paul’s father seemed to think was something more concrete than just a metaphor.

What I’m Watching: Dispatches from Elsewhere

Dispatches from Elsewhere: Season 1, Episode 4 “Fredwynn” (B+)

As expected, the deep dive into the show’s fourth main character was extremely intriguing and satisfying. Octavio’s classification of Fredwynn as a “hardcore” who spoils the game of life for everyone wasn’t entirely off-base, and we saw that the big conclusions he came to about their being a script and a prompt book were gathered very quickly and without much extensive research. Learning that he was a self-made millionaire by age twenty-one and that he used to own a porcelain car before he realized that he didn’t like driving added to his irreverence, as did the fact that he barely sleeps because he’d much rather be furiously calculating the many things running through his brain. Going back into his memory palace (something I’ve heard about from a friend who says he accesses his frequently) to review what he missed the first time felt a lot like what Octavio did with Janice and the footage, and Janice was genuinely excited when she was finally able to access her memory palace after considerable encouragement from him. There was a beauty to both her and her younger self being in sync to be able to relay the address to Fredwynn, though her subsequent call to action on Simone’s doorstep did sound a lot like she was being held hostage. After all that, the team managed to get back together, and now, thanks to some moderate conversation and avoiding falling into large holes, they may have finally found the one person who can provide some serious clarification: Clara.

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 5, Episode 5 “Dedicado a Max” (B+)

It often feels like things are cyclical on this show, which isn’t necessarily bad since its slow-burn nature is one of its greatest assets. That’s not the case right now, since all threads are about to reach a boiling point, which makes it even more watchable than usual. It’s hard to read Kim at times, and her demeanor in this episode didn’t reveal too much. Chasing after Rick when he took her off the Mesa Verde work and insinuated that she had encouraged Jimmy to step in and represent Everett felt deliberate since it was a public spectacle, one that showed Kim fighting not to be slandered even though what he was saying was very much true. She’s always tried to be honest, but she seems genuinely enthralled by the fight to take down Kevin and help the man who believes her to be a corporate con artist. Jimmy was having a blast coming up with absurd delays, and I liked his first appearance next to the construction workers where he pointed out the initial problem he had concocted. Mike’s recovery seemed to get him back into the right frame of mind, and he and Gus are about to start working on one of the key storylines of this show, the battle between Gus and the Salamancas. We’ve already witnessed some of the intensity and violence involved there, and with Mike aware of the mission and Jimmy at the ready to work his magic when called upon, I’m eager to see how it plays out.

Pilot Review: The Plot Against America

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.

Friday, March 27, 2020

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 9 “Beep Panic” (B+)

Much of what befalls Larry is his own fault, and it’s hard to feel particularly bad for him when he would have been even less humane and understanding to someone else than they are to him in the same situation. I agree that it probably wouldn’t be too appealing to hear from my waitress that the food was late because she had diarrhea, and a drop of sweat falling into my soup wouldn’t be too pleasant either. Yet, it’s always Larry who actually says something when most of us would choose to be polite, which made his theoretically charitable actions later all the more surprising. His desire to eat as much of the free Bavarian licorice as he could led to him having to buy a new car and for some reason thinking that giving the car he drove to the dealership to his fired waitress was a good idea. Her hitting and damaging his brand new car just moments later because she experienced beep panic was somewhat expected, but the hilarity of her offering to drive him home in her car was well worth it, as was her subsequent decision to sell the car and not come in for her new job because she was now planning to travel. I imagined that the actress portraying Diane was someone I should know, and it turns out it was Abbi Jacobson, one of the stars of “Broad City,” a show people love that I unfortunately haven’t seen. The denouement of the licorice storyline was considerably more cringe-worthy, with Richard about to have uncontrollable diarrhea while performing onstage, and I much preferred Mocha Joe’s clever idea to distribute Larry’s screeners so that he could be immediately caught by the FBI.

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

Black Monday: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 “Mixie-Dixie” and “So Antoine” (B+)

When this show finished its first season almost a full year ago, it hadn’t yet been renewed for a second season, and I was more interested in seeing its stars in their next project than a theoretical new iteration of this one. Fortunately, this two-part premiere has reinvigorated my faith in this premise and the viability of this show. It’s definitely outrageous, and whenever it seems like it might not take the wilder route, it always does. I liked seeing Dawn in charge of an almost entirely female company, though she’s definitely inherited a lot more of Mo’s management style than she’d like to think. It was entertaining to see them finishing each other’s sentences when they did finally reunite, though the newly chilled-out Mo is already ready to hatch some new comeback while helping Keith not get murdered by the cartel. The absurd most wanted video at the start was funny, and I like that the host couldn’t even report that he had found his target without waiting on hold. Blair and Tiff are doing well for themselves, and I liked seeing both Tuc Watkins from “Desperate Housewives” and Patrick Fabian from “Better Call Saul” as important personal and political contacts for the very hot Blair. Their new arrangement is very beneficial and should allow them plenty of success, especially now that they’re on the one desirable block in Manhattan. Larry seemed heartbroken about the death of his brother, but the revelation that Lenny is very much alive and eager for revenge means that Dawn is going to have to watch her back since her TBD Group is not as Mo-free as she wishes it was. Bring on more of the ridiculousness!

What I’m Watching: Avenue 5 (Season Finale)

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 9 “Eight Arms But No Hands” (B+)

This was a rather chaotic way to end this season, fittingly out of control to ensure that there is plenty more of this show as its characters are now stuck in space for much longer than they were before. That said, it was awfully easy for Rav and the pilot to dock and meet them, and you’d think they could have sent a bigger ship to take all of the passengers home instead. But alas, it was a sequence of musical chairs with different people frantically running into and pushing each other out of the passenger seat, with Ryan nearly taking off before Billie issued a harsh reminder that his hand was very much needed. It will be sad not to have Iris on board, but I look forward to seeing how she steps into Rav’s place as the public relations face of this disaster on Earth. Rav is also going to bring some more negative energy to the ship, and she’s going to keep Judd in line in a different way. Matt changing the airlock codes and then disappearing, potentially to kill himself, was worrisome, but I enjoyed the ensuing subgroups Ryan split everyone into to search for him. Doug and Spike were a fun couple, and Mia got plenty sick of Mads while he was describing his very attractive physical appearance. The big misstep of the episode came from a surprising person – Karen – as she took her made-up passenger liaison role a bit too seriously and made an executive decision to change the airlock that more than doubled their journey time instead of shortening it. I can’t wait for season two, and I hope that some of the actors earn some Emmy attention for their great work here.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Hugh Laurie as Ryan

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 3, Episode 5 “Au Jus” (B-)

This is one of the shows that I watch weekly with my wife, and we both agreed before we started this episode that we were going to give up on it if it didn’t present something new or intriguing by the end of the hour. It may still be cyclical, but at least now something has happened to demonstrate to our main characters that they have to take this seriously. It was sad to see Lucy, a goodhearted person who just wanted a friend, killed by Rio to make sure they understood the gravity of the situation, and also didn’t entirely track since she might be needed again whereas Annie and Ruby don’t offer the same skill crucial to the operation. She’ll also be missed, and her disappearance might attract too much attention. Dean continues to be the worst character on this show, stupidly breaking the frame because he somehow thought that gave him power over Beth and Rio, unaware that it got someone killed. I’m not sure what comes next, especially with Rio now fully in charge of the moneymaking scheme, and Mick not providing too much help as a more sympathetic ally in trying times. Ruby wasn’t about to let Sara get away with her providing cover in front of Stan, and it’s a good thing that, unlike the obnoxious Dean and the useless Greg, Stan is actually capable of being a real, productive partner for his wife, better working as an ally than being kept in the dark.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 15 “Reality Bytes” (B-)

I know that Lena has been allowed to operate pretty freely, and in this newly modified universe that Lex didn’t have full control of crafting, Luthor movements are even more unlimited because of their power and revered status. Yet it’s hard to believe that Obsidian could reach the place it has without anyone, especially Andrea, being fully aware of the many risks posed by allowing people to create their own virtual spaces. Kelly commenting that she had reported a bug that made it so that the failsafe escape button didn’t appear in moments of crisis months earlier begs the question of how she could possibly not have followed up on this severe error in the system. The fact that someone was able to build a place that couldn’t be seen and surveilled by the designers of the tech is also cause for concern, and a development that doesn’t logically track. I do think it’s exciting that Dreamer is being featured as the first transgender superhero on television, but the execution of this storyline felt particularly clunky. Nia getting to say to the predator she caught that he was “going away for a long time” was certainly premature guesswork, even if the extent of his crimes wasn’t up for debate. Featuring a character like Nia is certainly great, but Kara explaining that they can’t wipe out hate but they’re starting by protecting one community came off as a bit preachy and overly idealistic. It’s also very clear that Alex isn’t ready to fight with her Martian weapon yet, and I’m ready for us to get to the point where she’s fully able to channel it.

What I’m Watching: Westworld (Season Premiere)

Westworld: Season 3, Episode 1 “Parce Domine” (B+)

I watch a lot of shows, but I don’t feel the same way about all of them. I’m prone to distractions during some, and find others to be less than fantastic while I can’t bring myself to stop watching them. This premiere was probably the most riveting hour of television I’ve seen in a while, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this show’s return. I had always said that, in its first two seasons, even if the twists weren’t entirely shocking, the path towards them was full of such rich and deep storytelling, demonstrating an immense and layered story I and so many others could barely hope to comprehend. I’m still not entirely sure about a few things, but I don’t want to look anything up to confirm for fear of spoilers, especially considering I’m more than a week behind on all my shows. It was exciting to see a number of familiar faces joining the cast here, including Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad,” Lena Waithe from “Master of None,” John Gallagher, Jr. from “The Newsroom,” and Tommy Flanagan from “Sons of Anarchy.” I don’t know how many of them, aside from Paul, will continue to be part of the show down the road this season, but they were all solid in their respective roles. It’s thrilling to see (almost?) the entire episode take place in the real world, a sleek future with visually astounding technology. Dolores exactly her revenge and building her power is a formidable thing to watch, as is the new Charlotte’s ascension to power. Bernard is headed back to Westworld from whatever far corner of the world he’s found himself in, and I can’t wait until we get to see Maeve again. I’m hooked, and I need to catch up on all my shows just to be able to watch episode two as soon as possible.

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 6 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Night Out” (B)

It’s a good thing that Simon decided to leave rather than stay and sleep with Zoey, but in a sense they may as well have since Jessica heard Zoey and her mom talking and assumes the worst anyway. That information couldn’t have come out in a worse way, and then Zoey had to go ahead and set the banner on fire before making a clumsy exit. It would have been smarter for Zoey to stay away from the party as she had originally planned, though she’s helpless to Joan’s whims, which in this case involved proving to her employees that she’s fun. That may have implications of its own when they go back to work, though I suspect it’s going to be much more awkward for Zoey and Simon. I like when characters who rarely interact on a show are given more of an opportunity to spend time together, and that’s happening in a major way for Max and Mo. Max was clueless to think that Autumn was just going to want to be friends after he broke up with her, and I enjoyed her coffee shop musical number that culminated in Max thinking he got the wrong drink because of the harsh name written on the cup. It was nice to see Mitch enjoying his visit from his good friend Paul, and his fall while Maggie was out isn’t likely to make her feel like she can ever leave again, though she’d be much better off finding regular care for him so that being with him all the time doesn’t end up being a crippling emotional burden.

Round Two: Amazing Stories

Amazing Stories: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Heat” (B)

The difficulty of getting into an anthology series is that one episode might be riveting and of particular interest while the next has nothing to do with it and feels altogether very different. I liked the time travel present in the first and the way in which its protagonist used what he knew of the future to set events in order to match them. In this hour, one character’s inability to move on and communicate with the living after her death was an unexplained event, one that had to be resolved and managed to do so in a way that I found less compelling. This reminded me a lot of the film “Wander Darkly” with Sienna Miller and Diego Luna that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, an intriguing effort that boasted some of the same issues this episode had. Tuka and Sterling talking out loud to themselves as they pieced together was a bit hokey at times, and the notion that Tuka could only be heard when they were both running was fairly predictable. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant narrative, namely with Sterling being hit with a baseball bat just as she was about to run her big race. I thought I recognized a few of the cast members, and I think the only one I knew before was Shane Paul McGhie, a strong part of a lackluster film I also saw at Sundance this year, “The Last Shift.” I’m ready to give this show another chance with episode three, but if it doesn’t hold my attention, I’ll settle for remembering the excitement of the first hour as I stop watching this show.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Pilot Review: The Pale Horse

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: Better Things

Better Things: Season 4, Episode 3 “Escape Drill” (B+)

It was definitely a surprise to see Sam bring two of her friends who are potentially unhappy in their marriages in to meet a legendary cutthroat divorce attorney – who represented her ex-husband. Lala seems much more ready to move ahead and move on than Lenny, who remains seduced by the notion of her marriage working out and getting back to a good place. It was a fitting opportunity for Jeff to return and help Sam with her furniture project before he confessed a slew of misdeeds to Sunny, who seemed almost amused by the sheer volume of his admissions and the extent to which he was terrible to her. We haven’t seen either of them for a while now, and I hope that Sunny will return again soon. After Max made it seem like she knew better than her mother because she had a few notions of how to plan ahead for her future when talking to the manicurist, she made her mother proud by similarly springing into action when a frantic mother was looking for her lost child. Suggesting that all of the women in line in front of her were extremely old didn’t come off as politely as she meant it, but she’s due for some awkwardness just like Sam always encounters, like when she walked in on Frankie in bed with a boy she didn’t know. Duke continues to grow up fast, obsessing over makeup, selfies, and doing most of her homework, seeming more like her oldest sister every day.

What I’m Watching: Indebted

Indebted: Season 1, Episode 6 “Everybody's Talking About Doctor Uncle” (C)

My assessment of this episode is the same as the one before it – some of its content is relatable, but the way that it’s all presented can be a lot to take. The number of terms coined by this family was certainly excessive, with the original two, “mominated” and “little-sistered,” as the only truly resonant ones. I like Richard Kind, who was most recently seen in a bit role as Rudy Giuliani in “Bombshell,” but his role here was overbearing in a way that made Fran Drescher seem palatable and normal in comparison. His obsession with his one meeting with F. Murray Abraham was representative of his overall inability to perceive the world around him. Many of the big jokes in this episode were obvious to me from the start, like the fact that Stew’s unusual love of maximizing the effectiveness of driving to the airport would result in him taking the absurdly named Doctor Uncle to the wrong airport, and that Joanna, who’s bad at relationships but considerably more perceptive than most members of her family, would trick Rebecca into thinking that her first act of little-sistering had resulted in her missing out on befriending one the coolest people ever rather than the antisocial person she did end up dining with for four hours. There are three filmed episodes left of this show, in which I’m hoping to find more laughs and less stupidity since this show seems to be emphasizing much more of the latter and not delivering enough of the former.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 14 “The Favourite” (B-)

This episode was decently entertaining, though it was far from sophisticated or imaginative. It’s not a stretch to point out that Jenny is younger and more energetic than Will and Grace, though they also complain a lot about who they don’t want to do anything while they’re actually pretty active. It didn’t start out too creatively, with Jenny wanting to go to an experimental noise concert that didn’t start until very late and both Will and Grace trying to seem exciting enough for her. Grace not being able to hear anything and Will not being able to move after he tried twerking were unfortunate consequences of their night out, and I preferred the favorable comparison by Jenny of Will and Grace to her grandparents. I liked the shout-out to Perquackey, a game that I used to play with my grandparents! Jack and Karen going to Stan’s to try to get her ring brought back a fan favorite, Molly Shannon’s Val, who it turns out didn’t mind being drugged since it was just another opportunity to spend time with her friend Karen. Jack and Karen did enjoy dressing up to pose as a butler and maid with indistinguishable accents was silly, punctuated by Jack’s convenient ringtone for his mother. Somehow, it all worked out, giving Karen a slight sense of closure and resulting in Jack finding a gift for his mom that was nowhere near as much of a financial or emotional commitment as taking her on a cruise would have been.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What I’m Watching: Outmatched

Outmatched: Season 1, Episode 8 “Couple’s Friends” (C)

This episode was a real callback to “American Pie,” bringing back actress Alyson Hannigan, more recently well-known for her work on “How I Met Your Mother,” and an unrecognizable Eddie Kaye Thomas as a couple that Kay and Mike set their sights on who would probably have been better friends for whenever their children somehow manage to grow up to become adults. Their responses to everything Kay and Mike suggested were entertaining, if considerably over-the-top, and getting them drunk had extremely negative consequences that showed they should really stick with the friends they have, even if they don’t always invite them to every party they throw. Mike’s concern with being the “wrong Mike” was funny, and I give a lot of credit to Jason Biggs and Maggie Lawson for how they work with often lackluster material to give it their all. Overall, I think this episode demonstrated why stunt casting often demonstrates a show having run out of ideas, though that tends to be more apparent years into a once-great series when it’s struggling to maintain some of its quality that’s clearly been lost. This show was never superb, though I feel like in the current climate it’s brainless and harmless enough that it’s worth spending twenty minutes each week laughing a few times and rolling my eyes at the rest of the episode. With just two filmed episodes left, it’s all but guaranteed that this show won’t get more than that, so I may as well ride it out and enjoy what’s been made.

What I’m Watching: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 1, Episode 8 “Broken Pieces” (B+)

This was another strong episode, one that connected the many plotlines on this show to create a unified greater narrative going forward. I’d like to think that I’m keeping up, but it’s still helpful to have characters explain it all to each other just in case I missed something. Opening with Rizzo and Oh witnessing the terrifying proclamation was just as intense as when Oh showed it to Agnes in the last episode, although it’s scarier to think that they wanted to use it for nefarious purposes. Understanding that the Romulans were responsible for the attack on Mars and that Oh had been planted in Starfleet to rise through the ranks gives our ragtag team a new sense of purpose, especially since Agnes nearly killed herself so that she could deactivate the tracker and is now determined not to kill Soji despite what Oh tried to compel her to do. Rios was not in good shape, and Raffi trying to get to the bottom if it was more comical than expected due to the multiple holograms with different accents who filled in part of the story. Seven of Nine was formidable in her ability to connect to the cube, activate the Borg, and then disconnect to return to her human self, taking Rizzo down and giving Picard and company a fighting chance to win this fight. I hope that she’ll continue to be part of the show, aiding them in taking down the Romulans in the two-part finale that’s still to come in this season.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers: Dark Ages

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages: Season 2, Episode 7 “Day in Court” (B+)

I liked this episode a lot because it managed its absurdity in a great way, framing its ridiculousness with a great overarching love story that I think actually eclipses the one from the first season. Chauncley was so worried when he walked into his father and spilled pudding on him that he was going to get thrashed, and instead the new therapy patient wanted to take a walk and do a puzzle with him, aware that he hadn’t been a warm parent up until then. Their bonding was going well until Chauncley saw an obvious trigger with an insult about the state of the kingdom, and any progress made was completely undone by the time he burned down his therapist’s house for charging him for the full hour and made it clear just how much he hated his son for doing what he did for Al. Fortunately, that didn’t stop him from intervening to try to help her, bringing all the books from the library to her home, and then sanctioning the marriage between the goat and Eddie to save his life. Coming to dinner to eat the vegetables still labeled as exhibits was a nice way to end what only Eddie thinks has been a relaxed past few weeks. Lord Vexler was having fun putting on a show in this episode, assembling a jury made up entirely of goat-herders, sucking up to the judge by giving him goat’s milk, and publishing a book allegedly written by the goat called “If I Ate It.” This show does enjoy hitting as many targets as possible.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 4, Episode 16 “New York, New York, New York” (B+)

We’ve been waiting to find out what it is that Randall did that make Kevin, Kate, and Rebecca stop talking to him, and though this might not be all of it, it’s definitely enough to make it clear that Randall thinks he knows best and doesn’t want to hear anyone else’s opinion. Seeing his reimagined version of events in which his timid teenage self was able to channel his adult determination to tell his father that he shouldn’t run back into the house to save the dog explains so much of how he holds himself responsible for not preventing his father’s death. Rebecca was lucid and unambiguous when she said that she wanted to spend whatever time she had left with her family, and after ignoring Kevin’s request to let her have one good night away from fears of the future, Randall still wouldn’t accept that. Flashing back first to her childhood memories of visiting New York with her father and then the big family trip with Jack failing to navigate a city he didn’t know helped to encapsulate this family’s connection to New York City and what it meant to them. Rebecca leaving dinner with a bickering Kevin and Randall to go to the Met herself after missing it years earlier was a nice opportunity to truly take some time for herself, and Mandy Moore is definitely getting a great multigenerational chance to work with difficult material this season, which is nearly over with just two episodes to go.

Monday, March 23, 2020

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 5, Episode 7 “Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac” (B)

It’s a bit hard to take an episode like this seriously, but that’s just the nature of this show. I wasn’t sure why it was that Ray was watching an obvious rip-off of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” with Pippa, and I was grateful that the team being vaulted into the world of that show only lasted a few minutes. I was perplexed but happy to see Neal McDonough return as Damien Darhk, a character we last saw die at the hands of the giant Beebo in season three, but I suppose that no one ever really stays dead on this show and in this multiverse (or the one that’s left). His return was all played for slapstick comedy as Nora tried to hide the fact that she was dating Ray, impressing her father instead with a romance with the legendary Constantine. The ring being in the poisoned mousse provided an inopportune moment for the entire deception to fall apart, but fortunately there was never any real risk anyway, and Damien was the only casualty, at his own hands, of the night. He did tell Ray that they’d have to leave the ship, marking an inevitable departure for the real-life married couple that plays Ray and Nora which I’ve been reading about on my Facebook feed for months. At least they’ve contributed positively while they’ve been on the show, and they may just return someday, especially Brandon Routh after his successful stint as Superman in the crossover. Sara and Ava were dealing with their own relationship issues that were quickly resolved when they briefly appeared as puppets in the “Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac” segment, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a problem anymore.

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 6, Episode 14 “Death of the Speed Force” (B)

Of the many characters who have come and gone on this show, I never found Wally West to be all that memorable, especially in comparison to his onetime girlfriend Jesse Wells, who I doubt will be returning to this show at any point soon both because actress Violett Beane is now starring on “God Friended Me” and because she presumably doesn’t exist anymore following the consolidation of the multiverse during crisis. I also remember that Wally left Team Flash to become a regular on “Legends of Tomorrow,” but then actor Keiynan Londsale decided to leave to take a break from acting, so that stint didn’t last long. Either way, he’s very zen now, and he was angry with Barry for not telling him that the speed force, another element of this show that is far from my favorite, appeared to be fading. Wally has a long walk ahead of him, so he’s off, and now Barry is going to work with his stressed, distracted colleagues to develop his own speed force just as his greatest enemy, Eobard Thawne, is back and just as intent as ever on killing him. Iris reacted negatively to Kamilla taking a picture of her, since it seems that there is a “Get Out” style power to photography that reveals her true nature. It’s not clear what she did to Kamilla with that gun, but let’s hope that people start paying attention to her acting abnormally and figure out that she’s a threat they need to identify and take seriously.

Take Three: Breeders

Breeders: Season 1, Episode 3 “No Accident” (B+)

This show deals with the struggles of parenting and how things sometimes get out of control, but it’s not one that’s about to have its central characters sent to prison or seeing their children taken away from them by protective services. That doesn’t mean there’s not an opportunity for fun in the form of the hospital administrator letting Paul know that she absolutely remembers him from the many visits he and Ally had with their son after a number of accidents. The series of unfortunate events didn’t recommend Paul and Ally as terribly cautious or protective parents, and luckily their good nature came through during the social worker visit even if Paul couldn’t make a gracious exit that showed he knew how to operate a childproofed apparatus. Opening the episode with Paul struggling to keep his parents from getting themselves into more trouble with Ally had to distract her son while her daughter was shouting about needing to poop set the tone for an entertaining half-hour. Michael wanting to stay for longer because his unemployment benefits weren’t coming through and he wasn’t having any luck finding something else was predictable, and while Ally wasn’t able to do much to prevent it from happening, her mother wasn’t about to even enter a home she knew he had visited, presenting a more irritating and likely repetitive problem. Michael doesn’t seem like a bad person, just someone whose behavior isn’t ever likely to change and who manages to always charm his way back into the same situations over and over again.

Take Three: Dispatches from Elsewhere

Dispatches from Elsewhere: Season 1, Episode 3 “Janice” (B+)

This was another fascinating episode, one that delved into a character who initially seemed the least interesting. Covering Janice’s backstory with animation was effective, but not nearly as much as seeing her travel back into her own past with the Jejune goggles. I almost didn’t recognize the actress playing her younger self as Tara Lynne Barr from “Casual,” who delivered a tremendous amount of attitude as a hopeful dreamer who was disappointed and even a bit angry to learn that she hadn’t accomplished all that she set out to in her life. It’s hard to know what part of that was actually real, but the concept that a memory is only experienced once and then recaptured as remembering it rather than reliving it is pretty formidable. How that enabled Janice to talk to a younger version of herself isn’t clear at all, and even more impressive was the fact that, in “Inception” fashion, she was lucid enough to emerge from that space and immediately hug Octavio so that she could pickpocket him. Seeing her return home to her bedridden, apparently comatose husband excited to tell him all about her day explains why it is that she wanted so much to connect to something fun and adventurous. I don’t know who the kid was outside watching her, and we also didn’t get a Fredwynn intro for the next episode. His perspective seems even more intriguing, reading out the choreography that he had somehow discovered in his research that showed him that Jejune and Elsewhere are one and the same.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What I’m Watching: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 5, Episode 4 “Namaste” (B+)

I’ve always been fascinated by the character of Howard, who I think is played terrifically by actor Patrick Fabian. The energy with which he delivers each line makes Howard hard to read, so intent on coming across as genuine yet not necessarily being sincere. Chuck was the one who harbored ill will towards his brother, but Howard is just as much to blame for not pushing for Jimmy to have a chance. Following his apparently honest job offer, Howard got the response that probably should have been expected from Jimmy and definitely from the much more unscrupulous Saul Goodman in the form of bowling balls to his car, which he calmly unlocked from his balcony. Kim asking Jimmy to get involved in her Mesa Verde case was the latest instance of her compromising her legal integrity so that she can achieve a moral and ethical success, and I’m curious to see if she’ll be able to pull it off without Saul being connected back to her. Gus was meticulous about making sure that his DEA plant went well, and Hank seemed to be putting a positive spin on things even if the operation wasn’t quite as successful as it should have been. Mike has been spiraling for a while now, and choosing to walk past the guys he had dared to mess with him was simple bad math, not accounting for the fact that he’s much older than them and there were more of them. Hopefully he’ll come out the other side with a new outlook.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 8 “Elizabeth, Margaret and Larry” (B+)

It’s so funny to look at the trajectory of Jon Hamm’s career after his token part on “Mad Men,” and it’s totally plausible that the very affable actor would so intensely shadow the inspiration for an upcoming role. The way in which he acted, unsuccessfully, like a fly on the wall and then became Larry, first at the lunch with Richard and then when he went to Mocha Joe’s with Cheryl, was fantastic. For someone without many scruples, Larry wasn’t comfortable with the idea of someone thinking that he had a bleeding rectum, which played out very humorously when Richard’s girlfriend Michelle, played by Sasha Alexander from “Rizzoli and Isles” and “Shameless,” and from the pilot episode of “Amazing Stories,” didn’t want him to sit on a real chair for fear of him ruining, which of course he ultimately did. I wasn’t sure who would play Cheryl’s sister Becky, and I was thrilled to see Kaitlin Olson from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” as the superb choice. She and Larry were actually pretty good for each other, though even she wasn’t okay with the fact that Larry only showed up a day after she called desperate for him to be there because a seat in first class wasn’t available – bleeding rectum or no bleeding rectum. Leon’s bathroom business was as ill-conceived as most of his ideas, not fully thought-through for the many possible new problems created like the employee not coming back and the coverer needing to go the bathroom or somewhere else.

What I’m Watching: Avenue 5

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 8 “This Is Physically Hurting Me” (B+)

Watching this episode, I hadn’t processed that there’s just one more installment left this season, but fortunately there will be more craziness when this show returns for its second season sometime in the future. It was hard to imagine things getting worse on the ship, but Judd firing Ryan so that he could have a very public meltdown where he freely used his British accent and showed off his (lack of) real hair managed to get the passengers to that point. Decrying that it was all a simulation and that they could just walk out of the airlock since none of it was real created a pretty wild horror show, one that included multiple installments of people walking outside, being immediately killed, and then explained away as VFX to the other passengers. That’s one small victory for Judd that his nemesis Harrison is gone, but it’s going to be hard to put a positive spin on this ill-advised passenger suicide trend. I like that Doug and Mia almost reconciled but then saw it all go to hell when she was mad that he was making him wanting her to live all about him again. Rav didn’t think too hard about what would happen to her when she went to get Judd and bring him back, and I imagine there’s going to be a ferocious battle for that one prized seat back to Earth, which may make the pilot’s very necessary presence a question that means no one will end up getting home.

What I’m Watching: Kidding (Season Finale)

Kidding: Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10 “The Nightingale Pledge” and “The Puppet Dalai Lama” (B+)

That’s the end of this season, marking a disappointingly quick five-week airing which makes little sense to me since it would have been much more worthwhile to enjoy it over the course of ten separate sittings. There’s little hope of a third season at this point due in part to the current industry-wide production shutdown and the potential that more of this show isn’t at the top of anyone’s priority list. Given how strong this season was, I hope that’s not the case. The specifics of who the man was who nearly set the Pickles home on fire and who approached Will in a giant Mr. Pickles head weren’t anywhere near as important as the message he wanted to convey and the response he elicited from Jeff, who hulked out to step in and defend his son when he saw that he was in danger. I liked that there was such a focus on Jill in this final two-parter, flashing back to their courtship when Jeff said he was married to his mission and then picking up in the present with her distress about the notion that Jeff might hold her responsible for Phil’s death. Deciding not to tell Jeff about the donors made sense, and bringing him to meet the runner who had his heart was a really incredible way of achieving a slight degree of closure, punctuated by the unexplained but totally appropriate freezing of time. The newly-trimmed Will may not have been able to turn back time, but he did manage to get his parents back to a good place. Seb is in a different place now, apparently attaining some level of happiness and serenity in losing his perception of reality. Deirdre watching Astronauter take off was powerful, eclipsing a truly transformative season that I’ll continue recommending to people and thinking about for a while to come.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Catherine Keener as Deirdre

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 3, Episode 4 “The Eye in Survivor” (C+)

This show is becoming irritating for a number of reasons. There’s an undeniably cyclical nature to the relationship between Rio and Beth, and that final scene with him watching her make the money had an obvious resolution, which puts her forever in his debt but also makes her his most valuable employee. What I’m finding more obnoxious at the moment is how all of the supporting characters are being given lackluster plotlines that do nothing to add to the overall story. I’ve never liked Dean or found him useful – I would have been happy to see him die as a result of Rio making a point to Beth – and now he’s going in to buy guns so that he can endanger his family and have absolutely no plan ready to use them if need be should harm actually be imminent. Annie always manages to get herself into trouble, and trying hard to seduce her therapist went predictably poorly. Ruby talking about how she had to dig the jersey out of the toilet holding the plunger end was a waste of time, and this show would do better to put more of an emphasis on her having to hide her daughter emulating her criminal behavior from her husband so that he could focus his aggression on his wife instead of ruining his impression of their daughter. That’s reminiscent of Ruby’s complete panic when she imagined herself behind bars, one of the few times that this show actually contemplates true consequences for any of its characters.

What I’m Watching: Supergirl

Supergirl: Season 5, Episode 14 “The Bodyguard” (B-)

This wasn’t a bad episode, but as I’m racing to catch up on so many hours of television from the past few weeks, this one just felt utterly uninteresting. After the crisis made things much more exciting and repositioned Lex as a major villain who maybe just wanted to be a hero, we’re back to the same lull that this show had been experiencing for a while. What I did like was how Kara was awkwardly avoiding William before he came over and eagerly introduced himself to Supergirl, which convinced her to change her mind and opt to accept his proposal for a date. Andrea came into focus as she tried to soldier forward with the Obsidian launch with Supergirl assigned by Lex as a bodyguard, and Lex managed to take an important step forward with Gamemnae ready to put him in touch with the people he needs to continue his plan of world domination or whatever it is he wants. It’s also not entirely clear whether Lena really does want to achieve good rather than evil as she presses ahead with testing her technology. We got to see Willie Garson from “White Collar” and “Sex and the City” again as Steve, who had no destructive inclinations until he helped to show Lena that what she was working on could have negative implications for those even with good intentions. Now that she knows that, she may just be able to save the world if her brother’s ulterior motives don’t get in the way.

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 5 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Failure” (B)

The structure of this show and how Zoey gets to experience the problems of others through the songs they sing to her continues to be effective, but I think this show still feels a bit clunky in the way that its characters interact. Zoey had this incredible power and she’s still navigating how to use it, and having Mo to confide in about it all is helpful, even if she’s not always interested in how she resolves what she hears. Trying to intervene in her brother’s marriage would have gone better if she had pressed him about why he was spending time away from home before talking to his wife, a character we’ve barely seen featured on this show thus far, and planting a problematic seed of doubt in their impending parenthood. Joan’s approach to delivering anonymous feedback to her employees was definitely not a good one, and Zoey ended up in an unfortunate place as a result of what Leif was told. I did like his rendition of “Everybody Hurts,” and Peter Gallagher’s latest musical performance was also a strong spot of the hour. I didn’t really touch in my review of the previous episode on Maggie talking to Zoey about how she was interested in an engaged man, and this installment took that a whole lot further. Simon’s song was energetic and intense, and ending with him standing so close to Zoey at her door about to kiss her was an agonizing way to close. The one benefit of being behind on TV – the next episode is already available!

Pilot Review: Amazing Stories

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.

Friday, March 20, 2020

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

Better Things: Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2 “Steady Rain” and “She’s Fifty” (B+)

It feels like so long since this show was last on, but it’s actually been less than a year since season three ended. I’m impressed with how this show has become increasingly stylized, using a lot of music, little dialogue, and some creative choices to express how its characters are feeling and moving through life. Frankie and especially Duke seem much older, and their time away with their father has changed them both. It’s made Frankie even more troublesome than before, determined to have a quinceañera that she claims isn’t cultural appropriation and forcing her mother to invite her father even though she’s the one who cares about him being there. Max is just as unaware of how the real world works, assuring her mother that she paid for the new pet – with her mother’s credit card. Duke made her mother cry when she said exactly the right thing to make Rich feel better after his breakup, demonstrating some of the same maturity she had when they did their mock funerals. Things have evidently gotten much worse with Phyl, as emphatically summarized in flashbacks and then seen playing out when Sam kicked her out of the car in the rain following her unfiltered road rage. I was happy to recognize two notable guest stars: Jessica Barden and Lance Henriksen. I’m a huge fan of Barden, who stars in Netflix’s “The End of the F***ing World,” and I hope she’ll be back to collaborate with Sam on an acting project. Henriksen, a familiar face from “Aliens,” was at Sundance for Viggo Mortensen’s “Falling” this past year, and was a superb choice to play the man with the classic car to the rescue when Sam needed it most.

What I’m Watching: Indebted

Indebted: Season 1, Episode 5 “Everybody's Talking About The Tooth Fairy” (C)

Buried somewhere under the unfunny casing of this episode is a humorous and effective send-up of something that most parents can probably relate to: teaching their children the value of things. How much to give children when they lose a tooth is a perfect example of that, and obviously Dave and Rebecca put more thought into their costumes for the operation than how much they wanted to give their kids. In addition to Deb and Stew undermining their parenting, someone – probably Dave or Rebecca – should be shouting from the rooftops that they’re currently broke and need to stop spending all their money, namely giving their grandson one hundred dollars for each tooth when a simple quarter or dollar would suffice. That’s not likely to happen, and neither of them is aware enough to realize that they should be thinking more intelligently. Dave and Rebecca thought things were fine when Asher got excited about his parents being the tooth fairy and him getting to inherit the job when he died, but then they opened up an entirely new can of worms when they accidentally revealed to one of his classmates that parents die. We already know that Joanna is bad at relationships, but you’d think she would know by now to avoid bringing her dates home to meet her family, even if it was just an attempt to rectify her earlier lie about having kids. I’d like to continue finding this show endearing, but it’s getting dumber and dumber every episode.

What I’m Watching: Will and Grace

Will and Grace: Season 11, Episode 13 “Filthy Phil, Part II” (B+)

I liked how this episode resolved the Filthy Phil plotline, allowing Will and Grace to panic a lot more before Phil played his true hand and Karen played hers. Showing her handcuffed to the bed during sex was an expected red herring, and Phil got to say a few more threatening things when Will and Grace showed up with Friday to prevent him from doing the many terrible things Will got in his mind after listening to too many murderous podcasts. I loved that he responded to Grace asking about him being pregnant by saying that men have “ways of shutting those things down,” a hilarious mockery of a former Republican representative’s absurdly unintelligent comments on rape, and that Karen knew he wasn’t a doctor because he spelled MD wrong on his fake diploma. Grace’s eagerness to eat the soup even if it was indeed Karen was funny, and I like that it turned out to be the badger that Karen had officiate the faked marriage between her top alias and her dim-witted suitor. Grace earlier making the case to Phil that, unlike her, Will didn’t need to be alive for his child was a terrific example of how the two of them constantly try to throw the other under the bus. Jack trying to get good press on the reopening bar by lying about Judy Garland’s shoes was a mistake, and the New York Gayzette reporter played by T.R. Knight from “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Catch” wasn’t at all impressed. Fortunately, he found exactly the right way to rectify the situation by heartwarmingly renaming the bar to “Queers.”

What I’m Watching: Outmatched

Outmatched: Season 1, Episode 7 “Failing” (C)

This show is getting less and less intelligent as it goes on, and I’m not exactly sure why I’m still watching it. It’s really representative of exactly the type of sitcom that comes along all too often and represents a lack of effort when it comes to inventive storytelling or new ideas. Nicole has been the most featured child thus far, somewhat able to function in society even if she gets a bit too attached to certain notions, like needing to be ripped apart by dogs because she only beat her brother by three hundred points in an illogical game they invented. Having her enter a beauty pageant to show that she’s missing a social component of her intelligence wasn’t a bad idea, but this show’s execution of it left plenty to be desired. Repeatedly suggesting that the reason it was being turned into something for humans was because it wasn’t suitable for dogs wasn’t funny after the first time it was uttered, and Rita being the judge who was obviously being bribed was yet another instance of the clunky integration of Rita and Irwin into this show. Somehow, it all worked out, with Nicole failing at trying to fail, and therefore getting to understand some of what Kay and Mike have been trying to teach her. Brian tends to let his emotions get the best of him, with Marc nearly crippling him after beating him in chess, and it was sweet that he realized he could enjoy time with his less intelligence-obsessed sister without having to beat anyone.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pilot Review: Devs

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: Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard: Season 1, Episode 7 “Nepenthe” (B+)

I’ll go ahead and say that this was my favorite episode of this show yet. The introduction with Agnes being approached by Commodore Oh was extremely intense, explaining why it was that Agnes would be working to sabotage Picard and the search for Maddox because she was totally convinced of the disastrous implications of synths. It’s still not clear what her mission is, and poisoning herself just as Cris was sure that Raffi was the one working against them is a strange and disconcerting development. Things did not work out well for Hugh when Narissa came in to clean up after her brother, and Elnor did his best to protect him up until the very end. Fortunately, Picard got to have a reunion that I’m sure delighted fans of the original series, and I’m pleased to report that I recognized both Enterprise crew members, both by character and cast member name. Riker and Picard really did seem like old friends, able to pick up exactly where they left off, while Troi was able to see the situation a bit more objectively and try to steer Picard and Soji on the right course. Kestra and Soji really bonded, and hopefully she was able to show Soji that she can trust certain strangers who just have her best intentions at heart. There’s still a lot to be discovered about who she is and what she can do, and having her feel comfortable about those around her will make that a lot easier.

What I’m Watching: Miracle Workers: Dark Ages

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages: Season 2, Episode 6 “Music Festival” (B+)

This episode was primarily about two things: friendship and romance. Al just wanted to spend time with a friend who she feels has other things going on, and Chauncley was determined to impress the girl he has eyes for and to not be like his father in the process. I’ve enjoyed watching Lolly Adefope on this show and “Shrill” simultaneously, and she really has the perfect delivery for the absurd versions of the professions we know well, like marketing executive, that represent devout beliefs that, upon the slightest bit of examination, should be seriously questioned. I wasn’t quite as into the no tongue jokes about Trish – probably because they were too reminiscent of similarly medieval but far more disturbing practices featured in “The Handmaid’s Tale” – but the overall message about Al being jealous about Maggie having other things going on in her life resounded. Fred Armisen was a humorous and fitting choice to play the musician so obsessed with his own creative process that he didn’t want to deliver on what he had been hired to do, and I like that Chauncley hulked out only when he realized that was what it would take for him to ensure Al’s happiness. His desire to help people, namely the peasants and Al, rather than to crush them like his father continues to do with his skull demonstration, is positive, and Lord Vexler seems to be realizing that the idiot he always had to babysit may be capable of much more good than he ever realized.

Round Two: Breeders

Breeders: Season 1, Episode 2 “No Places” (B+)

I wasn’t sure whether I needed to continue watching this show since I’m evidently so far behind on television thanks to chaotic and unexpected events of the past few weeks, but then I realized that I really did enjoy the first episode and would like to continue following these actors in their latest project. I was impressed by Martin Freeman’s ability to get angry so easily in the first episode, and this follow-up installment allowed me to further appreciate Daisy Haggard, who was so terrific at making faces and noises on “Episodes” and then seemed to be great in the pilot for “Back to Life,” another show I wanted to continue but didn’t end up sticking with past episode one because there was too much else on. I was pleased to see Michael McKean, a recent Emmy nominee for his superb work on “Better Call Saul,” joining the cast as Ally’s father, who believes education is only for idiots and wants to invent stories for his grandchildren with them as the stars rather than read anything already written. Asking to stay with his daughter’s family was inevitable, and it’s not as if Paul is free from any parental burden thanks to his again parents’ decision to essentially ask him to euthanize them at a certain point. Claiming not to be depressed but instead to be a realist was very fitting for Paul, and I’m glad to see that he’s well-matched by his wife, who was on board with her equal hatred for the Hicksons, just as unsure of whether or not they should actually try to cause friction in their marriage so that they could have a shot at getting the house that could lead to great school opportunities. Having them embrace their son’s role as the lighting director just a second before he completely messed up and lit up the entire stage was a great way to send off a solid second installment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Round Two: Dispatches from Elsewhere

Dispatches from Elsewhere: Season 1, Episode 2 “Simone” (B+)

I’m pleased that this second installment felt a whole lot like the first, embracing the same sense of wonder that so intrigued me at first. The casting of Richard E. Grant is particularly fantastic, and I like how he tells the audience to picture themselves as a particular character, which was Simone in this hour and will evidently be Janice in the next one. It’s interesting to see Sally Field in this project after she appeared in Netflix’s miniseries “Maniac” last year, which has a lot in common with this show. It feels so dated at times, especially in its portrayal of futuristic technology, and that works very well. I’m pretty blown away by actress Eve Lindley, who shares so much of who Simone is and how much she’s still working out her place in the world. Choosing to retreat back into the French music coming through her air pods rather than embrace the noise of the trans pride parade around her demonstrated how uncomfortable she was celebrating herself when, historically, she hasn’t felt loved by everyone. Feeling at home at the protest towards the end of the episode and speaking her truth into the megaphone to apologize to Peter was rejuvenating, and her mesmerized attitude which watching the animated explanation, which reminded me of Ari Folman’s “The Congress,” was infectious. Peter was the spotlight of the first hour, but we still got to see some of his perspective in this hour as he pedaled hard for the video to work and parted ways with Simone after he felt he had sufficiently excited himself for the day. I’m on board with this show for the foreseeable future, which is good considering I have a few episodes to catch up on already!

Pilot Review: Breeders

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: Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul: Season 5, Episode 3 “The Guy for This” (B+)

I was talking to my brother earlier this week about how astounding and meaningful all of the opening sequences on “Breaking Bad” were, only revealed for their connections to episodic events towards the end of each episode. This opener felt very much like that, with the ice cream cone Jimmy was forced to drop on the floor when Nacho came to pick him up seen being covered by bugs, spotted later by him when he got dropped off again. This was actually a pretty formidable hour for our main character, who found incredible success in his new business when he tried to get out of having to do explicitly criminal work by naming a very high price and having it honored immediately. He really is the man for this, so skilled at putting on an act and distracting those in his sights at exactly the right moment. Bringing back Dean Norris’ Hank Schrader was certainly an act of fan service, but it’s a welcome one that may involve him again, especially as Gus determines what to plant for them to find so that Nacho can remain safe and working subtly against Lalo. Mike isn’t doing great, and he showed those who wanted to jump him that he’s not to be messed with despite appearing to be old and vulnerable. I’m sure that, come Emmy time, Rhea Seehorn will once again not be nominated, but this is another truly extraordinary display of her work, particularly when she went back to talk to Barry Corbin’s furious tenant and expressed a genuine desire to help him move that he took as a very Jimmy-like con job.

What I’m Watching: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10, Episode 7 “The Ugly Section” (B+)

Sometimes, this show points out the things in life that are obvious to most of us, and other times, it takes them a bit further and manages to be funny if a bit less realistic. The notion of an ugly section is a restaurant is exactly the kind of thing that only Larry would notice, and that he would try to test so that he could see what he needed to do to get into the good-looking section and how he could manipulate his way into a permanent spot. Getting the bathroom attendant fired for leaving his post was a humorous subplot, and I enjoyed seeing Nick Kroll in the role of the restaurant manager who, when he really needed to use the bathroom without anyone else there, admitted what Larry suspected and took him up on his deal. There were a handful of great guest stars in this episode, including Skyler Gisondo from “Santa Clarita Diet” as the son of the doctor, played by Ed Begley Jr., and Jane Krakowski as the widow with the apparently magical vagina. I wasn’t sure how a suicide was going to play on this show, but leave it to Larry to go after the widow right away and then screw it all up by asking her for the money back that he felt he was owed because Richard was cheating with his illegal club. I loved the last scene of the episode where Sam jumped up when they asked for a doctor, exclaiming “No, but my dad is!”

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pilot Review: Dispatches from Elsewhere

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: Kidding

Kidding: Season 2, Episodes 7 and 8 “The Acceptance Speech” and “A Seat on the Rocket” (B+)

This show has really been impressing me this season with the way that it portrays its characters’ approach to the world. Framing that through childhood disappointments like their mother leaving and the Challenger exploding is fascinating, and helps to explain so much about why Jeff, and the considerably pricklier Deirdre, are so committed to what they do. One of the most astounding notions is the facility where Jeff and others pretend to be people in the lives of those who have memory loss, comforting them by reminding them of familiar times and nostalgic surroundings. Like in “Synecdoche, New York,” a film that serves as the best framework for this show’s creative universe, it all feels natural and real, even if of course it isn’t so. We met Annette O’Toole’s Louise, who seemed to be Jeff’s mother, possibly standing in for the real person when he was talking to her, and then had Seb convinced he was with her too, when instead it was really Blair. These were powerhouse episodes for Catherine Keener, who got to freak out with Jill and then get very angry at her ex-husband about his misuse of one of her most influential characters, and I was also happy to see Judy Greer get another opportunity to express just how little she wanted to be affiliated with the Pickles family. While Jeff rushed to Jill to make the case for her to marry the man he ran over with his car just a short time ago, his son was upset that he wasn’t even trying to get back together with his mother, yet another development he’s set on undoing with his pursuit of time travel.

What I’m Watching: Good Girls

Good Girls: Season 3, Episode 3 “Egg Roll” (B-)

It’s continually confounding that Rio doesn’t just kill the woman who shot him and left him for dead when she had the chance. Part of it is that Beth really is resilient and clever, and also that Rio likes her and wants to keep her around. He also recognizes her value and that he can use her, though he’d be smarter to get rid of one of her less productive companions, namely her troublesome sister, but that wouldn’t happen on a show like this with three co-leads. I did appreciate how Annie’s mostly one-sided therapy sessions motivated her to question the command structure of this operation, even if the conversation didn’t get far when Beth came clean about Rio being alive. Beth trying so hard to get pregnant and then having Rhea talk to the doctor so that she could lie and say that she was certainly was a bold move, and it’s one that’s worked thus far but isn’t likely to be quite as convincing when she doesn’t actually produce a baby in whatever number of months the doctor claims it will be. What was far less sophisticated was the latest attempt to give Dean depth by allowing him to speak in a series of metaphors as he let down his extremely flirtatious boss. I bet that Beth would be totally fine with him having an affair so that he could earn more money if he just asked, and now he’s going to blame her for her extralegal antics without taking any responsibility for letting his illicit romance build up. Stan and Ruby’s “egg roll” strategy to not have to ask each other questions is entertaining, and it’s probably the smart thing today from a legal perspective as well.

What I’m Watching: Avenue 5

Avenue 5: Season 1, Episode 7 “Are You a Spider, Matt?” (B+)

I don’t think I’ve taken the time to fully appreciate the totally absurd and completely inappropriate video messages that often pop up on screen from Matt, most of which appear to have been prerecorded and therefore all the more ridiculous. The ones that clearly reference new events and still made it onto the screen are even funnier, and I continue to be impressed with the fact that there was no one else who could have been as perfect for this role as Zach Woods. I was also very excited to see Paterson Joseph, who was on “Timeless” and “Babylon,” as Harrison, the very litigious passenger who made Judd incredibly nervous and who constantly made fun of him. Iris’ job sucking up to her boss isn’t easy, and complimenting his regrettable comebacks is among the hardest parts of it. Rav being blamed for trying to kill the passengers and responding by saying that she was just following orders didn’t go well, and I love that she decided to rectify the situation by hopping aboard the rendezvous ship so that she could bring Judd home herself, screaming as she lifted off into space. The obsession with the pope’s face in the illuminated circle of feces was odd, and Frank just wanted to have something that no one seemed to want to give him. I’m intrigued by the notion that Billie and the lackluster comedian might be a thing, though she seems too focused and serious to let romance distract her at all. The mention of Tobey Maguire having his throat slit in a prison shower was definitely irreverent, but that is the best way to describe this show.

Monday, March 16, 2020

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 1, Episode 4 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Neighbor” (B)

This was a pretty packed episode, toning down the intensity of the musical performances to allow Zoey to really try to understand why she was hearing those songs and what she might be able to do for the people whose inner feelings were manifesting themselves to her and no one else. Mo was a big focus of the hour, with Zoey very surprised to see her gender-nonconforming neighbor dressed in male clothing and presenting as such in the church choir. It did feel somewhat strange to feature a gender reveal party in the same episode, but I suppose that was just representative of a big moment that could make Mitch feel like he could be a part of something again. The emphasis on faith was interesting, with Zoey clearly coming from a non-religious background and less prone to assigning meaning to things others emphasized as signs or miracles. Hearing the tropical desires of her agoraphobic neighbor provided a nice opportunity for her to really try to be selfless and help someone who was clearly feeling isolated and eager to feel more okay venturing out into the world. Mo was particularly taken with her showing up holding a rent check, and that coupled with Pastor Steve’s accepting attitude made this a rather heartwarming episode. Joan wasn’t as prominent, but I enjoyed Lauren Graham’s rendition of “Wrecking Ball” and her accompanying motions, including taking her anger out on the bread station that she decided might have to be replaced thanks to her decision to cut out carbs.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Round Two: Hunters

Hunters: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Mourner's Kaddish” (B)

After a heavily expository ninety-minute opening episode, this normal hour offered a true sample of what this show will likely be like going forward. It’s undeniably and unapologetically gratuitous, showing depravity and cruelty by the Nazis in the camps, exacted in turn by the hunters, and then revisited upon those few actually trying to do the right thing by the sadistic Travis. The opening with Hava Nagila being defiantly played by the Jewish musicians was haunting, and also quite disturbing, as most plotlines on this show seem to be. Introducing the hunters as bat mitzvah guests all coming up to light a candle was clever, and is emblematic of this show’s very committed and purposeful style. I imagine we’ll get into the backstories of each and how they really came into this work in each successive episode, and this hour was just about naming them and their general roles, with Josh Radnor’s Lonny Flash seeming to be the most disposable member of the team aside from its newest and most conscientious member, Jonah. Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek are definitely comic relief as Mindy and Murray, the bickering couple that is also skilled in deactivating alarms. It was obvious that Jonah would take pity on the Nazi pianist, and his codebreaking skills are only going to come in so handy if he constantly wants to take the kinder approach. If he knew what Lena Olin’s Colonel and her horrible henchman Travis were capable of, he’d probably be less reticent about his approach. Let’s hope that the determined Millie doesn’t push too hard and instead realizes that she’d be better off working with the people hunting Nazis than being snuffed out by those trying to rebuild a reich in America.

Take Three: High Fidelity

High Fidelity: Season 1, Episode 3 “What Fucking Lily Girl?” (B+)

I liked that the unfortunate news that Rob received at the end of the previous episode instilled considerably more energy and angry enthusiasm in her, making her very animated as she marched around obsessing about her ex’s new girlfriend. Cameron didn’t make the situation much better when he showed up at the store trying to sell back some records and adding the information that Lily and Mac met in London a year ago and moved to New York together. She was never going to be appropriately distracted by someone like Liam, and she almost ruined it for herself when she wouldn’t stop talking about the specifics of how she couldn’t get over Mac and all Liam wanted to do was kiss her. She still didn’t give in and abruptly exited the situation to go back and reflect on the state of her life with Debbie Harry. Her phone call claiming to be her neighbor’s first girlfriend didn’t go very well at all, but I do like when she reacts in a big way to anything that surprises her. Not much time is spent on our supporting characters here, and as a result I was pleased to see Simon and Cherise interacting when they went to the show, with him asking her why she hadn’t released any music, a question that she appeared to dodge. He also gave Liam some information that Rob didn’t seem to want him to know but ultimately was probably pretty helpful to establish expectations, which didn’t even come to fruition.