Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What I’m Watching: Fargo (Season Premiere)

Fargo: Season 4, Episode 1 “Welcome to the Alternate Economy” (B+)

I’ve been anticipating the return of this show for a while now, and didn’t realize that it’s been more than three years since the third season ended. I wasn’t actually too fond of the most recent iteration but thought the first two rounds were very good, and it’s nice to know that this is a completely fresh start with a totally new cast. At first, I thought it was very crowded with the many ethnic families and all their sons and soldiers, but I think we’ll have the opportunity to get to know each of them over the course of the season. There’s also a second episode that aired right after this one that I’ll be reviewing separately. Chris Rock is a great if unexpected choice to lead this season, and having Glynn Turman from “In Treatment” and “How to Get Away with Murder” by his side is superb. Jason Schwartzman is always fun, and he’s been cast in a very fitting role. Ben Whishaw from “A Very English Scandal” is another terrific member of the ensemble as Rabbi Milligan, and the immediate standout to me was Jessie Buckley from “Wild Rose” and “Beast” as the Minnesotan nurse whose bedside manner initially seemed wonderful before it turned deadly. The construction of this show is formidable, and I realized toward the end that I was fully drawn in by the music and the way that it continued to get louder and more intense as things looked less and less calm. Opening with narration was an intriguing choice, and this whole notion of exchanging sons to ensure peace is sure to create plenty of fascinating culture change within all the families. I’m in and ready to go straight into episode two.

What I’m Watching: The Comey Rule (Series Premiere)

The Comey Rule: Season 1, Episode 1 “Night One” (B+)

I’m choosing to review this show, which technically constitutes a pilot, in written form rather than as a video since it only has one more episode (two of two, which aired this past Monday night) and I feel like I have a lot more to say than would fit into a one-minute video. It’s strange to see what counts as relatively current events dramatized on television with actors playing most of the parts since I feel like I’ve seen pieces of this story in documentary form on a few occasions. Movies like “Vice” and “Bombshell” and the limited series “The Loudest Voice” have similarly featured a large cast of recognizable actors portraying recognizable figures, but Trump has been largely tangential and usually not mentioned so explicitly by name. Here, it’s all about referencing Clinton and Trump and their campaigns. Adapting this from Comey’s own book makes it clear that it’s weighted and based on his version of events rather than a more objective truth, but there’s no way to know what actually happened aside from gathering different accounts from sources that may or may not be reliable. Comey’s emphasis on sharing the existence and then progress of the Clinton investigation with Congress while maintaining absolute silence on the allegations that Trump might be a Russian asset was jarring, and this first part ended with everyone expressing horror that the way this was all conducted was largely responsible for Trump’s victory. It’s hard to picture Jeff Daniels as anyone other than himself, or at least the character he played on “The Newsroom” a few years ago. The rest of the cast, including Michael Kelly, Michael Hyatt, Holly Hunter, Steven Pasquale, Oona Chaplin, Brian d’Arcy James, and Steve Zissis, was pretty decent, and I would name Jennifer Ehle as Patrice Comey and Kingsley Ben-Adir from “High Fidelity” as Barack Obama as the standouts. There’s a straightforward nature to the way that these events are presented that feels effective, even if some moments and speeches are overdramatized. I’m absolutely interested in watching the second and final part while simultaneously acknowledging that I’m trying not to digest it entirely as fact.

What I’m Watching: Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country: Season 1, Episode 7 “I Am.” (B)

So now we’re back to what’s happening in the United States…at least for a time before all of that space-hopping began. Last week’s episode doesn’t feel particularly relevant right now since this episode pretty much just continued from where the one before it ended. The focus shifted almost entirely to Hippolyta, who got the chance to really discover herself when she was sucked into that portal. It was pretty disorienting to see her transported first to Paris and then back to another time where she got to train as a warrior, and I certainly did not expect to see literal aliens and spacesuits, though I guess that shouldn’t have been such a surprise given this show’s opening scene that featured alien monsters. We also got to see George again, which was nice, and he was awfully aware of the fact that, even as he was talking to her about whether what they were experiencing was real, he might merely be a figment of her imagination brought back to life by this incredible power. Back in what we know to be the real world, Atticus is going to have to face the consequences of what they did, and leaving behind evidence that is the artistic form of what Hippolyta is experiencing seems like, at the very least, a bad omen. Ruby and Leti did have some productive conversations, though it would be good if they were both just a bit more honest about what they’ve seen recently because of how much their stories should be overlapping. I suspect Ruby will soon return to Christina to work with her even if things are just a bit too weird and alienating right now for her to feel safe.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A “Walking Dead” for a New Generation and a New Moment

The Walking Dead” has become a phenomenon over the past decade since its premiere ten years ago next month. It was recently announced that its upcoming eleventh season will be its last, and its existing spinoff, “Fear the Walking Dead,” shows no signs of slowing down as it heads into its sixth season. Multiple other series are in the works, and now is the time when a spin-off that exists in the same world but without too much connection to the original is debuting. I had the chance to hear from the cast of the forthcoming “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” about this show, their characters, and what it means to have the show premiere during a pandemic.

“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” begins in a safe environment in Nebraska where a group of people live within the confines of a campus, including a group of teenagers still discovering who they are. They call the walkers “empties” and rarely encounter them aside from guarded visits outside the wall. As the show’s title indicates, staying safe and contained doesn’t last long, as its two young protagonists, sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) begin a treacherous journey to find their father, who left months earlier to work for a shadowy organization represented by the mysterious Elizabeth (Julia Ormond). Accompanying Iris and Hope are Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas (Hal Cumpston), two teenagers who have never felt like they fit in, with Iris and Hope’s surrogate big brother Felix (Nico Tortorella) and the sarcastic, strong-willed Huck (Annet Mahendru) hot on their trail, eager to find and protect them.

Each member of the cast emphasized that a familiarity with the comics or either of the two existing shows is not necessary to appreciate and enjoy this one, though they note certain moments might be exciting for regular watchers. This show has a two-season order, meaning that its story will be wrapped completely over the course of twenty episodes, representing a wholly more finite commitment than the other shows. Some cast members, like Cantu and Tortorella, described their own histories playing zombie video games or acting in dark drama, while others, like Royale, had “no relationship with the undead” and found themselves in for an intense transition. The cast was amazed by the sophistication of the makeup on the “empties” and found it jarring to eat lunch with those actors and see a zombie talking on the phone with his mother.

Starring in an action series meant considerable weapons and combat training, something that the cast described as enjoyable but extremely challenging. Royale recalled the emphasis on making a fight look good and moving in a particular way for the camera, and Mansour pointed out that the weapons, once they received them, were much heavier than they had expected. Mahendru also noted that having so many weapons around her belt added some unintentional comedy since it meant her pants were constantly falling down, which cut her into the bad-ass vibe of her character. Tortorella praised the “full-fledged choreography” and expressed his desire to be an action star for the rest of his life.

When I asked them whether the current pandemic and quarantine life around the world now had informed or changed their perspectives on their characters and this show, I got some very interesting answers. Cantu was relieved that we don’t have zombies roaming our streets but acknowledged that quarantine has helped give him insight into the thought process of living through an apocalyptic event like the one depicted in the show. Royale offered that the scariest part of the show isn’t the walkers but who the characters become when the threat is presented. Mahendru was grateful to Huck because of her incredible attitude about survival, which she has used to help herself on a regular basis since the pandemic began. Tortorella believes that there are no coincidences, and getting to “live through this story and this character for six months before this happened” helped center him to be in a place where, as he puts it, “we don’t have time to grieve anymore as a world. Normal is gone but that’s freedom.”

Talking to the younger actors on this show demonstrates the camaraderie they’ve built and the true joy they feel working together on this show, and Tortorella and Mahendru have also created a real relationship that has brought them closer both to each other and to their characters, whose backstories are slowly revealed to add complexity to the strong fronts that Felix and Huck display. Ormond shared that it was difficult to play someone whose journey was so separated from the rest of the cast, and that not having them in the same place presented an isolating challenge.

Tortorella repeatedly underlined that viewers will have no idea what’s about to happen next, while Cumpston joked that every single question that’s brought up over the course of the show will be answered. Their passion for this universe and for the relationships that they’ve built came across as genuine and endearing, and sets up strong expectations for a show that many might otherwise write off as more of the same. I, for one, hope that this will be a positive re-immersion for me into a universe that I decided to exit almost three years ago midway through the eighth season of “The Walking Dead.” Knowing that an end is in sight and that this story knows where it’s going gives me a good sense that this show and its world beyond may just be worth it.

“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” premieres on Sunday, October 4th at 10pm. Episodes will be available to stream early each week on the preceding Thursday for subscribers of AMC Plus. Reviews of each episode will be posted here at TVwithAbe.com shortly after each episode airs.

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

This is the twenty-fifth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: Fleabag, The Good Place, Jane the Virgin, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Shameless

Finalists: The Politician, Why Women Kill, Ramy, Avenue 5, Insecure, Jane the Virgin, High Fidelity, The Righteous Gemstones, Dickinson, Better Things

The nominees:

The Good Place
Shameless
Kidding
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The winner:

The Great stacked its cast with an overwhelming representation of talent, making it nearly impossible to pick a standout since every felt relevant and vital, no matter the size of their role.

Next up: Best Limited Series

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

This is the twenty-fourth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Counterpart, Doom Patrol, Game of Thrones, Humans, Pose

Finalists: This Is Us, Orange is the New Black, Better Call Saul, The Handmaid's Tale, Westworld, Succession, Ozark

The nominees:

The Crown
Pose
The Morning Show
Stranger Things

The winner:

Perpetual Grace, LTD made every member of its ensemble matter thanks to the selection of performers uniquely equipped to represent characters with vastly different life experiences and attitudes.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble in a Limited Series

This is the twenty-third category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Ensemble in a Limited Series
Last year’s nominees: I’m excited to introduce this category for the first time this year after watching more limited series than ever in my life.

Finalists: Mrs. Fletcher, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Plot Against America, Years and Years, Unbelievable, The Loudest Voice

The nominees:

Watchmen
Mrs. America
Little Fires Everywhere
Dispatches from Elsewhere

The winner:

Our Boys tackled a difficult subject and made its depiction even more meaningful thanks to the rich and extraordinarily layered performances from a cast of dedicated performers who seemed most interested in truly understanding their characters.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Drama Series

Monday, September 28, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Limited Series or TV Movie

This is the twenty-second category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing for a Limited Series or TV Movie
Last year’s nominees: I’m excited to introduce this category for the first time this year after watching more limited series than ever in my life.

Emmy nominees: Shirley (Mrs. America), Episode 3 (Normal People), Episode 1 (Unbelievable), Part 1 (Unorthodox), This Extraordinary Being (Watchmen)

Finalists: Simone (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Part 1 (Unorthodox), Episode 8 (Normal People), Fredwynn (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Chapter 1: Out of the Depth, I Cry to You (Our Boys), 1995 (The Loudest Voice), Hooray for Hollywood: Part 1 (Hollywood), This Extraordinary Being (Watchmen), Little Fear of Lightning (Watchmen), Episode 12 (Normal People), Episode 11 (Normal People), Part 2 (Unorthodox), Part 3 (Unorthodox), Part 4 (Unorthodox), Episode 3 (Unbelievable)

The nominees:

Episode 2 (Normal People)
It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice (Watchmen)
Peter (Dispatches from Elsewhere)
Jill (Mrs. America)

The winner:

A God Walks into Abar (Watchmen) is headache-inducing to consider thanks to the complexity of its concepts, but the way in which its content unfolds is gripping and captivating.

Next up: Best Ensemble in a Limited Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Limited Series or TV Movie

This is the twenty-first category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing for a Limited Series or TV Movie
Last year’s nominees: I’m excited to introduce this category for the first time this year after watching more limited series than ever in my life.

Emmy nominees: Find a Way (Little Fires Everywhere), Episode 5 (Normal People), Unorthodox, It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice (Watchmen), Little Fear of Lightning (Watchmen), This Extraordinary Being (Watchmen)

Finalists: Peter (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Episode 4 (Normal People), Episode 12 (Normal People), Episode 9 (Normal People), Part 4 (Unorthodox), Simone (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Little Fear of Lightning (Watchmen), Houston (Mrs. America), Fredwynn (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Hooray for Hollywood: Part 2 (Hollywood), Empty Best (Mrs. Fletcher), This Extraordinary Being (Watchmen), 1995 (The Loudest Voice), Chapter 7: Judging by Its End (Our Boys), Part 6 (The Plot Against America), Part 2 (Unorthodox), Part 3 (Unorthodox)

The nominees:

Hooray for Hollywood: Part 1 (Hollywood)
It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice (Watchmen)
Chapter 1: Out of the Depth, I Cry to You (Our Boys)
Part 1 (Unorthodox)

The winner:

Episode 11 (Normal People) extracted such depth from its two characters basking in heat and emotion, adding considerable meaning to a simple setup.

Next up: Best Writing for a Limited Series or TV Movie

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Comedy Series

This is the twentieth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing for a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: Finale (Casual), Episode 1 (Fleabag), Episode 6 (Fleabag), Everything Is Bonzer (The Good Place), Janet(s) (The Good Place)

Emmy nominees: Whenever You’re Ready (The Good Place), The Great (The Great), Happy Ending (Schitt’s Creek), The Presidential Suite (Schitt’s Creek), Collaboration (What We Do in the Shadows), Ghosts (What We Do in the Shadows), On the Run (What We Do in the Shadows)

Finalists: If Only You Knew (Dead to Me), Meatballs at the Dacha (The Great), Panty Pose (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), It's Comedy or Cabbage (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), 180 Almonds (Work in Progress), Run (Run), HR (Shrill), Pilot (The Politician), Chapter One Hundred (Jane the Virgin), Insufficient Praise (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Favorable Matchup (Brockmire), 162 (Work in Progress), Wait a Minute, Then Who Was That on the Ladder? (Avenue 5), We Know the Way Out (Trying)

The nominees:

And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great (The Great)
I Wonder What Grass Tastes Like (Kidding)
They (Ramy)
Pilot (Upload)

The winner:

Whenever You're Ready (The Good Place) was an endearing and fitting goodbye for its characters, providing the kind of resolution that truly feels right.

Next up: Best Directing for a Limited Series or TV Movie

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Comedy Series

This is the nineteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing for a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: Finale (Casual), Episode 1 (Fleabag), Episode 6 (Fleabag), Midnight at the Concord (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Ne Me Quitte Pas (Ramy)

Emmy nominees: The Great (The Great), It’s Comedy or Cabbage (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Marvelous Radio (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Finale Part 2 (Modern Family), Miakhalifa.mov (Ramy), Happy Ending (Schitt’s Creek), We Love Lucy (Will and Grace)

Finalists: Uncle Naseem (Ramy), The Death of Fil (Kidding), Chapter One Hundred (Jane the Virgin), If Only You Knew (Dead to Me), Pilot (The Politician), Strike Up the Band! (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Marvelous Radio (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Pilot (Upload), Lowkey Lost (Insecure), Frank in the Future (Ramy), Ballad of the Lonesome Loser (High Fidelity), Favorable Matchup (Brockmire), ‘Faith’ is a fine invention (Dickinson), 14 (Pt. 2), 12, 11, 10 (Work in Progress), 180 Almonds (Work in Progress), Atlantic City (Ramy), Citizen Carl (Shameless), You Are Naked in Front of Your Sheikh (Ramy), Steady Rain (Better Things), Five Stars (Upload), Beep Panic (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

The nominees:

Whenever You're Ready (The Good Place)
No Dad (Breeders)
Parachute (The Great)
Run (Run)

The winner:

The Beaver's Nose (The Great) was the immensely satisfying capper to a season of build-up, taking all of the best elements of the show and blowing them up into something new and wondrous.

Next up: Best Writing in a Comedy Series

Sunday, September 27, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Writing for a Drama Series

This is the eighteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Writing for a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Twin Cities (Counterpart), Pilot (Doom Patrol), A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Game of Thrones), The Word (The Handmaid’s Tale), The Comedian (The Twilight Zone)

Emmy nominees: Bad Choice Road (Better Call Saul), Bagman (Better Call Saul), Aberfan (The Crown), All In (Ozark), Boss Fight (Ozark), Fire Pink (Ozark), This Is Not for Tears (Succession)

Finalists: Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy? (Stranger Things), Bad Choice Road (Better Call Saul), Acting Up (Pose), The Hospital (Undone), Flip a Coin (This Is Us), Parce Domine (Westworld), In the Dark Night of the Soul It’s Always 3:30 in the Morning (The Morning Show), Handheld Blackjack (Undone),

The nominees:

Margaretology (The Crown)
Eleven (Perpetual Grace, LTD)
The Crash (Undone)
The Winter Line (Westworld)

The winner:

Tywysog Cymru (The Crown) felt like an immersion into an entirely new world thanks to the intimacy and starkness of its narrative.

Next up: Best Directing in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Directing for a Drama Series

This is the seventeeth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Directing for a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Episode 1 (Bodyguard), Twin Cities (Counterpart), Pilot (Doom Patrol), The Long Night (Game of Thrones), Replay (The Twilight Zone)

Emmy nominees: Aberfan (The Crown), Cri de Coeur (The Crown), Prisoners of War (Homeland), The Interview (The Morning Show), Fire Pink (Ozark), Su Casa Es Mi Casa (Ozark), Hunting (Succession), This Is Not For Tears (Succession)

Finalists: Moondust (The Crown), Bagman (Better Call Saul), The Crash (Undone), The Hospital (Undone), Parce Domine (Westworld), Chapter Seven: The Bite (Stranger Things), Night (The Handmaid's Tale), The Cabin (This Is Us), A Seat at the Table (The Morning Show), Nepenthe (Star Trek: Picard)

The nominees:

Acting Up (Pose)
Felipe G. Usted. Almost First Mexican on the Moon. Part 1 (Perpetual Grace, LTD)
Pilot (Euphoria)
Handheld Blackjack (Undone)

The winner:

Aberfan (The Crown) powerfully conveyed the weight of a tragedy and the subsequent responsibility of those with authority to respond to it.

Next up: Best Writing for a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the sixteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: May Calamawy, Rachel Grate, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Sally Phillips, Christine Woods

Emmy nominees: Angela Bassett, Bette Midler, Maya Rudolph, Maya Rudolph, Wanda Sykes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Finalists: Judith Light (The Politician), Maya Rudolph (The Good Place), Bette Midler (The Politician), Tiya Sircar (The Good Place)

The nominees:

Cush Jumbo (Trying)
Imelda Staunton (Trying)
Jane Krakowski (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Run)

The winner:

Kaitlin Olson (Curb Your Enthusiasm) was the rare psychological match for Larry as Becky, aware of what she wanted and didn’t but still ready to voice her own fury at the inevitable selfishness of her ex-brother-in-law.

Next up: Best Directing for a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the fifteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: Luis Guzman, Jake Lacy, Zachary Levi, Rufus Sewell, Tyrel Jackson Williams

Emmy nominees: Adam Driver, Luke Kirby, Eddie Murphy, Dev Patel, Brad Pitt, Fred Willard

Finalists: David Corenswet (The Politician), Griffin Gluck (Love Life), Freddie Fox (The Great), Skyler Gisondo (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Chris Williams (Upload)

The nominees:

Timothy Olyphant (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Justin Kirk (Kidding)
Matt Lauria (Dickinson)
Zachary Levi (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

The winner:

Jon Hamm (Curb Your Enthusiasm) managed to mock his own persona as a nice guy who enjoys overacting by becoming something else entirely, mimicking Larry to a terrifyingly accurate degree.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Saturday, September 26, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

This is the fourteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Nina Arianda, Alexa Davalas, Jessica Lange, Sanaaa Lathan, Phylicia Rashad

Emmy nominees: Alexis Bledel, Laverne Cox, Cherry Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Cicely Tyson, Harriet Walter

Finalists: Alexis Bledel (The Handmaid's Tale), Sophia Bush (This Is Us), Pamela Adlon (This Is Us)

The nominees:

Rachel Hilson (This Is Us)
Kerry Condon (Ray Donovan)
Cherry Jones (Succession)
Jennifer Morrison (This Is Us)

The winner:

Annabelle Dexter-Jones (Succession) managed to assert Naomi’s right to exist and to interact with snobby elites, determined to remain her own person while choosing to fulfill certain expectations to keep her family at bay.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

This is the thirteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Damson Idris, Kumail Nanjiani, Samuel Roukin, Jeremy Allen White, Bradley Whitford

Emmy nominees: Jason Bateman, Ron Cephas Jones, James Cromwell, Giancarlo Esposito, Andrew Scott, Martin Short

Finalists: Christopher Meloni (The Handmaid's Tale), Gil Bellows (The Handmaid's Tale), Harry Lloyd (Legion), John Ortiz (The Handmaid's Tale), Clancy Brown (The Crown), Ștefan Iancu (Killing Eve)

The nominees:

Mark Lewis Jones (The Crown)
James Cromwell (Succession)
Martin Short (The Morning Show)
Timothy Omundson (This Is Us)

The winner:

Timothy Spall (Perpetual Grace, LTD) completely nailed the notion of taking yourself far too seriously, backing up DeLoash’s no-nonsense attitude with an attitude that made his unbelievable criminal record feel all too believable.

Next up: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Pilot Review: Utopia

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: Tehran

Tehran: Season 1, Episode 3 “Jasmine’s Girl” (B+)

This show continues to be fast-paced and fervently interesting, and I also like that, when things aren’t entirely clear, they’re then explained in no uncertain terms just a scene or two later. That was the case with Arezoo, who was not happy to see Tamar showing up at her door and didn’t tell her family that it was actually her niece who had shown up seeking refuge and a place to lay low. Yael didn’t waste any time in trying to deduce where Tamar might be, and she got the confirmation from Tamar’s father that his sister-in-law had converted to Islam to stay to be with her Muslim husband. Polite as he was, Sick-boy did not seem to get the urgency that Tamar had to get the passport and get out of the country, and instead she ended up being recognized by multiple people at a protest that made things much more complicated. We already know that Masoud doesn’t have a problem crossing any line to keep the mission going, though he didn’t realize, as Meir pointed out to him, that he was the one being followed who nearly got Tamar caught rather than the other way around. Fortunately, he tested that theory and ended up being taken into custody by an angry Ali, and I’m sure he’ll think twice about using a company car with a recognizable logo on his next top-secret job. Razieh didn’t like Tamar from the moment she met her, and let’s hope that Tamar can come up with a legitimate excuse to prevent her conservative-minded from getting her into much more trouble.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Round Two: Tehran

Tehran: Season 1, Episode 2 “Blood on Her Hands” (B+)

There’s a degree to which events have to play out a certain way on this show if it’s going to continue, and knowing that the first season is eight episodes means that, for instance, Tamar can’t get arrested by Iranian authorities and detained as an Israeli agent in the second one. Despite that, things did get way out of hand and Faraz was literally just a few flights of circular stairs behind her with full knowledge of who she was impersonating. It’s interesting to see the spotlight on Faraz and how he is a man most concerned with doing his job well, while his boss wanted to be sure to embarrass the Israeli government as part of the long game instead of neutralizing the threat right away. It’s terrifying to see just how quickly he was able to amass all of the information he needed to understand what was going on and identify Zhila, but it is fair to say that the Israelis also have quite a lot of knowledge they shouldn’t have about the goings-on in Iran. Masoud, a.k.a. Eagle, was a good ally for Tamar but didn’t succeed in hiding the body well enough for the few minutes it took for someone to discover it, and he crossed a line she wouldn’t have by murdering Zhila’s husband to save Tamar. She managed to get away, in part because no one expects her to be strong and capable, but now she’s trapped in a country where she can easily be identified and doesn’t have any way to get out since they know she’s there. I’m not sure what her episode-ending reunion means and whether the necklace is actually hers, but she needs all the help she can get from anyone willing to provide her shelter and safety.

Pilot Review: Tehran

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: Ted Lasso

Ted Lasso: Season 1, Episode 9 “All Apologies” (B+)

It’s very reassuring to know that this isn’t the second-to-last installment of this show that we’ll see, and that, even during a pandemic, Apple TV Plus was secure enough in this show’s longevity and popularity that it was renewed for a second season almost right away after it premiered. I was especially impressed with the way this episode ended, with Roy showing up to display enthusiasm for their practice and everyone just sort of mulling around as the credits rolled. It wasn’t looking great for a while there, with Roy struggling to keep his anger in check and reacting very poorly to Ted trying to talk to him about needing to bench him. Fortunately, Ted knows how to get in there and make sure he’s heard, as he did when he sat right next to him despite every other seat in the stands being empty, and it was a relief to see Roy show up to prevent Ted from walking straight into traffic after he drank too much so that they could sit and have Ted’s least favorite drink – tea – together. Coach Beard was ready to mutiny and even got Nate roped in after Ted made the call not to bench Roy, and it’s almost disappointing that Ted gave in, even if it was the right call. Keeley was of course helpful in bolstering Roy’s self-esteem with her strong analysis of his value and her use of his niece to make her point. Ted took Rebecca’s confession exceedingly well, and it’s good to have Higgins back on the team with a renewed sense of purpose. I hope the finale will be memorable since, even though this show will be back for more, it likely won’t be for a long time.

What I’m Watching: Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves: Season 1, Episode 9 “Umbilical” (B-)

Two camps are clearly forming, with all of the children that Mother “rescued” from the ark aligning themselves with the maternal necromancer, which was far from guaranteed even one episode ago. The religious zealots seemed excited by the idea of punishing Sue as an example but quickly tired of Marcus’ obsession with her, and his decision to kill the man who was supposed to be on watch when Hunter and Father got away didn’t turn out too well for him. It’s about time that Lucius finally confirmed that Marcus isn’t who he says he is, and his desire to pray for those who were impure was an obvious giveaway. No one important seems to truly die on this show, and so it’s not yet clear whether Marcus is indeed gone. I would have thought that the actual Mithraic believers hated Mother more than Marcus did, but his behavior lately has indicated such an opposition to her despite the fact that he doesn’t, or at least didn’t, truly adhere to the faith. Mother and Sue had an intriguing conversation about motherhood and human emotion, and Sue seemed shocked that Mother asked her why she cared about Paul. She surprised Mother when she decided to save her, and I suspect that Sue will soon come to see what the children have regarding their adoptive matriarch. It’s good to have Father back, and I like that the mere start of a joke was enough to show Campion that it was really him. I’m glad that the prisoner is dead after indulging in more predatory and alarmingly powerful behavior, and now this camp is just going to have to face off against those who really want to lure them away from what they see as a horrible influence, which may just be a better environment for them than continued Mithraic indoctrination.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

What I’m Watching: Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves: Season 1, Episode 8 “Mass” (C+)

This episode opening with brutal, disturbing scene, one which I now see was symbolic of how Marcus feels that he’s coming apart and losing his sense of self. He and Sue have diverged completely on their perspectives, and hearing him pray before setting fire to the church indicates both that he’s become a true believer of sorts and a man determined to do everything possible to preserve his power. That includes locking his wife in a tower in full view of all of his loyal supporters, crying out to Saul that she has lost her faith. Fortunately, Paul is a good egg, and he was already making sure to give Campion fungus before he realized just how poorly his father was treating his mother. It was interesting to see how Campion kept himself focused by reciting jokes one after another, and I liked his sarcastic response to Paul’s suggestion that he start digging. Father really has been reprogrammed, communicating in Morse code “Saul is the answer” and then trying to kill Campion when he found him out in the snow. The biggest revelation came to a startled and unhappy Mother that she is intended to give birth, with Campion and all the other babies merely practice for the ultimate mission to create a future for humanity. That could at least be worthwhile as a new direction for this show, especially if Sue, then Lucius and maybe even Marcus become aware of it, and I’m hopeful that the final two episodes of this season.

Pilot Review: The Murders at White House Farm

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: Dead Pixels (Season Finale)

Dead Pixels: Season 1, Episode 6 “Hive-Mother” (B+)

It’s an interesting notion to be so involved in online gameplay that any sort of real-world socialization means dressing up in costumes to look like characters. I forgot for a moment that Meg and Russell had met in real life when he showed up at the door and eagerly introduced himself to an unexcited Nicky, though of course we’ve seen them together at work numerous times. Nicky’s many attempts to poison Russell by inserting a number of deadly items into his food were entertaining, and Russell definitely didn’t take the hint that he should watch what he was eating because of just how much Nicky hated him. Meg wanted to stay grounded in who they were cosplaying rather than address each other by name, and she didn’t want to stand for any of Nicky’s antics. Russell’s cluelessness didn’t help much, but she did, in a way, choose Nicky in the end. She seemed considerably less thrilled than he did when they found out what the big prize was and it hardly felt like it was worth all of the effort. Usman’s wife showing up to chat with him was a shock, but he was hiding in a motel room away from her just so that he could have peace and quiet to play the game. Sacrificing himself so that he could have a noble exit from the game was a fitting plan, but naturally a sequel game has just been announced, so walking away to do something crazy like learn how to play the flute or how to drive isn’t going to happen so easily. A second season was ordered by E4 more than a year ago, and I hope that the CW will decide to pick that up and air it at some point in the future – this has been fun.

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Alexa Davies as Meg

What I’m Watching: Manhunt: Deadly Games (Season Premiere)

Manhunt: Deadly Games: Season 2, Episode 1 “Centborn” (B+)

I watched “Manhunt: Unabomber” back when it aired on Discovery back in August 2017 and found the entire show very impressive. I hadn’t realized that it was indeed commissioned for further seasons, and I missed it entirely when it premiered in February on Spectrum. Fortunately, in the absence of new television programming, CBS will now be airing it on Monday nights, and I have the opportunity to watch along with other broadcast viewers. The topic for this season is of particular interest to me because I was very impressed by the film “Richard Jewell,” which opened at the end of 2019 and flew mostly under the radar, earning an Oscar nomination for Kathy Bates as Bobi Jewell but little else in the way of attention. This show’s title and focus means that it may be focused more on the law enforcement aspect than on Jewell himself, though I believe that, like in the film, the FBI agents are fictional composites rather than based an actual person. I don’t think he compares to Paul Walter Hauser, but Cameron Britton, an Emmy nominee for playing serial killer Ed Kemper on “Mindhunter,” is a strong choice to play Jewell here, with Judith Light, a familiar TV face who has recently appeared on “Transparent” and “The Politician,” portraying his mother. Arliss Howard from “True Blood” seems like the standout of the supporting cast as the determined ATF agent who wants to “listen to the bomb,” while Desmond Harrington from “Dexter” appears to be humorless and far from energetic as the FBI director. Since I do find this story interesting and I appreciated the approach of the first season, I’m on board to see how this show dissects and conveys the events that played out during this very botched investigation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Round Two: We Are Who We Are

We Are Who We Are: Season 1, Episode 2 “Right here, right now #2” (B+)

This episode felt different than the first hour, mainly because we followed someone else and only got to see Fraser in the few moments where he had interacted with Harper in episode one. There was plenty to unpack before that we didn’t quite get resolved, and that’s even truer here as all of the relationships Harper has with the people in her life were introduced. Her brother Danny wants to connect with his religion but still goes out and parties with everyone, while his friend Craig is protective and caring in a much gentler way. Sam just doesn’t quite get her even though he’s very much into her, and she and Britney are close mainly because they don’t seem to judge each other at all. She doesn’t relate at all to her mother, while she and her father are close in a way that makes them seem much more like siblings than anything else. Seeing him order MAGA hats for them to wear secretly in the house was jarring, but it’s just one of the many things about the people on this base that’s contradictory. Fraser isn’t one who makes judgments but he also doesn’t ask questions, and the gift that he got for Harper could signal that he is like her and willing to accept her for whoever she is and wants to be, even if he can’t express that. I’m curious to see more of the two of them interacting together now that we’ve gotten, presumably, as much backstory as we’re going to get for the moment before their paths start intertwining more and more.

Pilot Review: Filthy Rich

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: The Third Day

The Third Day: Season 1, Episode 2 “Saturday – The Son” (B)

There is an unquestionably nightmarish feel to this show, as Sam’s efforts to resist the allure of this mysterious island proved to be unsuccessful, even when he literally had the opportunity to get away. Waking up in the morning in bed with Jess was a shock to both of them, and she seemed particularly angry about it because she was concerned that she would get pregnant, which in turn would further trap her in a bad marriage. I’ve found Katherine Waterston to be entrancing since I first saw her in “Inherent Vice,” and she takes this role to a whole new level, exhibiting tremendous energy that’s usually channeled into either opinionated anger or scientific curiosity. Jude Law, who also stars in a film that just opened this past weekend, “The Nest,” is great at capturing the feeling of being the only person in the room not to acknowledge that crazy things are happening all around, something that took place throughout almost this entire hour, especially when he was nearly killed in the woods. Paddy Considine and Emily Watson continue to deliver superbly unreadable performances, exuding such warmth as hosts but also obviously harboring secrets about what they do and what they know. It’s strange to think that there’s just one more episode left which will feature Law’s Sam, although maybe, like the “Red Riding” film trilogy in which Considine appears, we’ll see the same supporting cast and understand how they interact differently with Naomie Harris’ new protagonist. I’m not convinced clarity will come, but I’m still somewhat intrigued.

What I’m Watching: Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country: Season 1, Episode 6 “Meet Me in Daegu” (B)

I think I just have to accept that this isn’t going to proceed along in a straightforward narrative fashion, and instead we’re building toward something with all these flashbacks and seemingly standalone storylines. What I think I’ve learned more than anything on this show is that sex is never a good idea, since this episode managed to one-up the disturbing scene from the previous installment with multiple snake heads coming out of Ji-Ah’s head and body to pretty much destroy her sexual partner. I’m glad to see Jamie Chung, who was previously on “The Gifted,” in a role that demands plenty of her, and she delivers well. This felt for a while like its own little movie, starting with her own love for the screen manifesting into dreams of a more exciting life. It was harrowing to see Atticus so coldly shoot her friend in the head just to intimidate the others into confessing, and her desire for revenge was an important driver of the plot. I think she started to soften when Atticus and his fellow soldier laughed at her question about having met Judy Garland and responded that it would only have bene possible if they were her butler or chauffeur. Atticus did rig up a sweet date with the Judy Garland screening, even if she had to pretend to be a prostitute to be allowed on the base. I still thought that she wanted to kill him when she was going much faster than he was, and deciding to warn him to leave instead was a sign of her feelings having truly manifested. What was most effective for me about all of this was the notion of someone being a monster, which she was called, then she called herself, and then called Atticus. I’m not so sure how this all relates to the larger show, but I imagine I’m going to have trouble not thinking about this episode for a while to come.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie

This is the twelfth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Last year’s nominees: I’m excited to introduce this category for the first time this year after watching more limited series than ever in my life.

Emmy nominees: Uzo Aduba, Toni Collette, Margo Martindale, Jean Smart, Holland Taylor, Tracey Ullman

Finalists: Kayli Carter (Mrs. America), Sarah Paulson (Mrs. America), Sally Field (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Mrs. Fletcher), Jade Pettyjohn (Little Fires Everywhere)

The nominees:
Toni Collette (Unbelievable)
Hong Chau (Watchmen)
Elizabeth Banks (Mrs. America)
Ari Graynor (Mrs. America
 
The winner:

Lexi Underwood (Little Fires Everywhere) expressed a true sense of wonder that Pearl felt at experiencing a new life that looked so little like what she knew while continuing to maintain a sense of self and humility.

Next up: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

This is the eleventh category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Last year’s nominees: I’m excited to introduce this category for the first time this year after watching more limited series than ever in my life.

Emmy nominees: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jovan Adepo, Tituss Burgess, Louis Gossett Jr., Dylan McDermott, Jim Parsons

Finalists: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), Richard E. Grant (Dispatches from Elsewhere), Amit Rahav (Unorthodox), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend), Jeff Wilbusch (Unorthodox), Don Johnson (Watchmen)

The nominees:
Or Ben-Melech (Our Boys)
Andre Benjamin (Dispatches from Elsewhere)
Tim Blake Nelson (Watchmen)
Joe Mantello (Hollywood)
The winner:

Jony Arbid (Our Boys) masterfully conveyed the devastation and grief that Hussein felt coupled with the irrepressible anger at the inequality of the situation.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

This is the tenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: Hiam Abbass, Alex Borstein, Linda Cardellini, Sian Clifford, Marin Hinkle

Emmy nominees: Alex Borstein, D’Arcy Carden, Betty Gilpin, Marin Hinkle, Kate McKinnon, Annie Murphy, Yvonne Orji, Cecily Strong

Finalists: Tawny Newsome (Space Force), Suzy Nakamura (Avenue 5), Zoe Chao (Love Life), Hiam Abbass (Ramy), Natalie Morales (Dead to Me), Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Michelle Veintimilla (The Baker and the Beauty), Lenora Crichlow (Avenue 5), Belissa Escobedo (The Baker and the Beauty), Edi Patterson (The Righteous Gemstones), Reina Hardesty (Brockmire), Becki Newton (Divorce), Brenda Song (Dollface), Lolly Adefope (Shrill), Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), May Calamawy (Ramy), Zoey Deutch (The Politician)

The nominees:

Aisling Bea (Living with Yourself)
Yvonne Orji (Insecure)
Allegra Edwards (Upload)
Alexandra Daddario (Why Women Kill)

The winner:

Phoebe Fox (The Great) perfected the notion of sass by constantly reminding everyone around her of Marial’s intellectual superiority and her complete lack of faith in their competence.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

This is the ninth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Last year’s nominees: Alan Arkin, Steve Buscemi, Andrew Scott, Tony Shalhoub, Timothy Simons

Emmy nominees: Mahershala Ali, Alan Arkin, Andre Braugher, Sterling K. Brown, William Jackson Harper, Dan Levy, Tony Shalhoub, Kenan Thompson

Finalists: Jake Lacy (High Fidelity), Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Jimmy O. Yang (Space Force), Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method), John Goodman (The Righteous Gemstones), Walton Goggins (The Righteous Gemstones), John Malkovich (Space Force), Michael Zegen (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Jay Ellis (Insecure)

The nominees:

Mahershala Ali (Ramy)
Theo Germaine (Work in Progress)
Adam Godley (The Great)
Sacha Dhawan (The Great)

The winner:

James Marsden (Dead to Me) pivoted entirely from the character he played in his show’s first season, bringing an astonishing and refreshing positivity to Ben that felt comforting in the face of other characters’ bleak outlooks.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

This is the eighth category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Nazanin Boniadi, April Bowlby, Keeley Hawes, Susan Kelechi Watson, Maisie Williams

Emmy nominees: Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, Julia Garner, Thandie Newton, Sarah Snook, Fiona Shaw, Meryl Streep, Samira Wiley

Finalists: Laura Dern (Big Little Lies), Holly Hunter (Succession), Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), Janet McTeer (Ozark), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (The Morning Show), Indya Moore (Pose), Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria), Stephanie Allynne (The L Word: Generation Q), Julia Garner (Ozark), Sarah Snook (Succession), Maya Hawke (Stranger Things)

The nominees:

Bel Powley (The Morning Show)
Dominique Jackson (Pose)
Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)

The winner:

Hunter Schafer (Euphoria) crafted one of the most intriguing characters on a show filled with mesmerizing personalities, putting up shields to protect herself while allowing Jules to be vulnerable even knowing the risks it brought.

Next up: Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

AFT Awards: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This is the seventh category of the 14th Annual AFT Television Awards, my personal choices for the best in television during the 2019-2020 season. This year, I’m including a shorter list, with just nominees and a few finalists, if applicable. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Last year’s nominees: Matt Bomer, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Dinklage, Harry Lloyd, Alan Tudyk

Emmy nominees: Nicholas Braun, Billy Crudup, Kieran Culkin, Mark Duplass, Giancarlo Esposito, Matthew Macfadyen, Bradley Whitford, Jeffrey Wright

Finalists: Steve Carell (The Morning Show), Tom Pelphrey (Ozark), Matthew Macfadyen (Succession), Kim Bodnia (Killing Eve), Christian Slater (Mr. Robot), Vincent Cassel (Westworld), Kieran Culkin (Succession)

The nominees:

Luis Guzman (Perpetual Grace, LTD)
Billy Crudup (The Morning Show)
Justin Hartley (This Is Us)
Bradley Whitford (The Handmaid's Tale)

The winner:

Josh O'Connor (The Crown) displayed remarkable humanity and decency as a man whose life was proscribed for him, desperate to show those who misjudged him that his status did not define him.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series