Thursday, January 28, 2021

Take Three: Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 3 “Quaran-Jean” (B+)

I had asked last week for more of a spotlight on Jackie and Freddie’s lives, and learning more about their individual relationships with their mother and the way in which they saw each other was informative and entertaining. Jackie was understandably annoyed that Freddie was the child who didn’t clearly express as much concern for Jean yet got more of her love, and Jean articulated it perfectly when she said that Freddie was easy, telling her what he needed at every juncture rather than making her guess what she actually wanted. Having them all end up in the emergency room with different injuries was evidently formulaic but it was still fun, and I like that all of the characters are aware of the affections of others. Celia forming an exclusive club with Jackie that she promptly dissolved since she would only ever call her in the event of a hair emergency was a nice subplot that lasted exactly as long as it should have, and it was good to see Celia stand up for herself when Freddie was more interested in having his mom come back to see the doctor instead of her. Danny was smart to go after Cheryl’s very muscular new boyfriend with psychological warfare, but he would have done better not to accidentally attack him physically. Cheryl acknowledging that she knows Danny is falling for Jean was an important step since now he might feel okay moving forward with it, especially since Jean clearly feels the same way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Pilot Review: Possessions

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

Pilot Review: Resident Alien

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: Big Sky

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Wolves Are Always Out for Blood” (B-)

This episode definitely did not go where I thought it would, since all I kept thinking between the December finale and now was how killing Rick wasn’t going to mean much since the traffickers were on their way to pick them up, presumably arriving sooner than Cassie’s backup. Apparently, Danielle, Grace, and Jerrie were too shellshocked to note that particular piece of information, and as a result we’re back to the main characters we know. I’m quite surprised that a bullet to the head didn’t kill Rick, and now he’s going to wake up, potentially with brain functionality, as Cassie is prosecuted for shooting him even though he hadn’t explicitly stated the threat she interpreted. Agreeing to keep the investigation going with Jenny in the aftermath of Cody’s funeral makes complete sense, though I’m curious how Danielle and Grace will remain so involved if they do go back to Colorado. Jerrie and Jenny became fast friends, and it would definitely behoove Jerrie to share the threatening note she found pinned to her door. Ronald is finally confiding in his mother, who seems all too willing to help him get away with his very illegal actions. I understand he doesn’t want to get caught, but everything he’s doing feels like he’s asking to be noticed and found. Going after Jenny isn’t going to be a good move for him, and continuing to pose as Mitchell as he tries to get closer to a clearly uninterested Merrilee seems like a similarly inadvisable option, unless she’s too ashamed of her indiscretion to tell anyone about it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 4 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Employee” (B+)

For being in control of an entire floor, Zoey doesn’t actually seem to be in charge of all that much, and her employees have a better idea of what’s going on than she does. It could be because her mind is always elsewhere, though in this case Mo’s overly strong drinks resulted in her getting way too drunk and accidentally calling George to rehire him thinking he was…Max? Or Simon? That’s not clear, but she did play it far too cool with Max, who wasn’t happy that he felt like he was the only one focused on the business, even though Mo was working his own particular brand of magic. Though it’s not a good idea for Simon to start a relationship with Tatiana for professional reasons, they did connect on a personal level and it could be good for him since, regardless of Zoey and Max not working out and Emily rooting for Team Simon, it doesn’t look like Zoey and Simon are going to happen anytime soon (also because Aidan is back, which is going to complicate things in a big way). Maggie and Roger, on the other hand, does seem like a more possible occurrence, especially if Jenna continues to whisper in Maggie’s ear that it’s a good idea. It’s nice to see David realize what he needed in his life and go for it, and I’m sure that being a stay-at-home parent will produce its own challenges. In embarrassing song recognition, I misattributed “Stronger” by Britney Spears to NSYNC after the first few lyrics George sang and was promptly ridiculed by my wife.

What I’m Watching: Snowpiercer (Season Premiere)

Snowpiercer: Season 2, Episode 1 “The Time of Two Engines” (B)

This show is back just six months after its first season concluded and not too much more than that since it first started. It also just scored a season three renewal, so its characters are evidently going to survive for a while even that doesn’t feel likely at the moment. I do think that the casting of Sean Bean from “Game of Thrones” and “Legends” as Mr. Wilford is very strong, and he’s certainly indulging in the excess of his personality, which is far from kind to Melanie, who everyone seems to perceive as having deeply betrayed them. That’s especially true of Alex, who had no interest in getting to know her mother and only indicated a mild softness in comparison with the harsh, unfeeling nature of Mr. Wilford. It’s interesting to see how things have changed aboard Snowpiercer and how they’ve mostly rallied together, aside from a few rebellious elements and the unfortunate need for Andre to impose martial law. The leadership team of Andre, Ruth, and Bess has a diverse range of allegiances, and they seem most intent on the survival of the train and those aboard it. Zarah’s pregnancy being revealed and her being moved to first class surely won’t be taken well, though I think everyone has much literally bigger things to worry about with the giant who was apparently impervious to the freezing temperatures who managed to stop a full-fledged onslaught on the other train all by himself. The war is just getting started, and from the looks of it, both sides are equally in it to win.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Pilot Review: Bridge and Tunnel

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: Euphoria (Special Episode)

Euphoria: Season 1, Episode 10 “F*ck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blob” (B+)

The first special episode of this show was really terrific, and I also just watched “Malcolm and Marie,” a fantastic film from series creator Sam Levinson that stars Zendaya. Hunter Schafer was my AFT Award winner for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and so it’s fantastic to get to see her almost exclusively anchor an episode. After Rue’s holiday hour opposite Ali, framing this one with Jules talking to a therapist was a strong way to approach it and to allow her to really communicate what it is that she feels. It’s fascinating to me how this show has introduced and addressed her transition, and how she views her connection both with men and with women. It’s also abundantly clear that she feels just as close to Jules as Jules does to her, and that final moment when Jules stopped by to wish her a merry Christmas was indicative of more positive things for them in the future. Hearing about her relationships and how she thinks she got to know Tyler better than she ever knew Rue was intriguing and heartbreaking, and the way she described the sexting with him as the best sex she ever had until he turned out to be such a horrible, manipulative fabrication was very intense. Coming home to find her mother there and eager to apologize after so many years of being absent was not what she was expecting, and that formative relationship, or absence of it, explains a lot about how she sees the world and how other people perceive her. I’m eager for this show’s official season two return.

What I’m Watching: Shameless: Hall of Shame

Shameless: Hall of Shame: Episode 4 “Debbie, Carl and Liam: They Grow Up So Fast” (B+)

I suspected that this hour was going to be about Debs and Carl and guess it makes sense that Liam would be part of it too. It’s crazy to me that both Emma Kenney and Ethan Cutkosky were only eleven years old when the show first started, and that Christian Isaiah was even younger than that on his first appearance – only nine! All three of them worked out superbly, and it was fun to end the episode with Kenney and Cutkosky being interviewed way back when. I’d say that the structure of this hour wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the previous halls of shame, but it was still a blast to see the very violent impulses that both Debs and Carl exhibited as children and the many irresponsible decisions they both made. I most enjoyed Carl not even pretending to exhibit remorse and then insulting the judge just so that he could sent to prison. I forgot that Frank had made Carl think he had cancer and then used Liam to beg for money, and also that Fiona had her own issues that led to a rock-bottom moment of Liam getting into her cocaine supply. Carl getting his nephew arrested was also something I didn’t remember, and I feel like there’s so much more that could have been into each retrospective episode and easily filled an entire season for each character. Carl selling guns when Fiona told him not to deal drugs and ending up with all of the teachers pulling out what he sold them when they heard a noise in the cafeteria was another moment that only this show could produce. Of all the significant others, I think that Kelly was my favorite, though I also liked Dominique. I do not miss Kassidi, who I’m pretty sure was murdered, which was pretty startling but not something I thought too much about since she wasn’t a great part of the show. Debs didn’t have much luck in the relationship department, with Claudia and Julia being the highlight, and it was a bit strange that Sandy didn’t even merit an appearance. Liam is probably the most ethical member of the family, but he seems more than eager enough to let the Gallagher influence corrupt him.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Take Three: WandaVision

WandaVision: Season 1, Episode 3 “Now in Color” (B+)

I’m still so curious to know what’s really going on and whether the developments we’re seeing are actually happening or if they’re merely something designed to keep them safe from whatever foreign elements are trying to intrude. The comedic storyline of this episode was an obvious send-up of many typical sitcom plotlines, like putting fruit in front of actresses to hide their pregnancies. I appreciated the unexpected segue into Wanda remembering that she too was a twin, which prompted Geraldine to break character and acknowledge that Pietro was killed by Ultron. She didn’t seem to understand why she knew that, and we just got that brief shot of her being ejected into a field with many modern-day vehicles. Vision also started to notice something was wrong when the doctor made his comment about not being able to leave and Agnes and Herb were suspiciously fixing the fence damage while noting that Geraldine didn’t have a home. Compared with the first two episodes, this one had more of a focus on the unexplained, dropping just a few hints to distract from the blissfulness of the sitcom, and making it seem that, though the other people in town might have noticed that something weird is going on, they may already know it. The doctor was nauseated by the speed he traveled with Vision but not all that floored by the fact that he did it. I’m particularly mesmerized by Elizabeth Olsen’s performance and her superb handling of the changing tone on this show.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 5 “Forbidden Fruit a flavor has” (B+)

Emily spent this entire episode telling herself that everything that was being said about Samuel being a player wasn’t true, and then she went ahead and indulged in a very passionate moment at the end, at least in her mind. Sue seemed more distraught about it then she did since she actually knows Samuel’s wife and cares about her. I’m not sure why I never clicked through to figure out who the actor portraying Samuel was since I’ve been certain that I recognized him since his first appearance, and it makes so much sense now that he was Danny Rand on “Iron Fist.” This show and role are infinitely better uses of his talents. Everyone did seem to pivot to pretend like they were Emily’s most devoted fans as she appeared to be becoming famous, aside, of course, from her own family members, who couldn’t be bothered to come since they wanted to make a statement that they didn’t support Austin and Sue’s frivolous lifestyle. Those two aren’t on the same page on anything at this point, and it has nothing to do with the problems – namely, Sue and Emily’s feelings for each other – that initially plagued their relationship. Without a promising career as a poet to look ahead to, Lavinia, who is quickly becoming my favorite character, is trying to keep herself occupied and interested, and I like how she took Ship’s lackluster attempt at becoming smart as an opportunity for some academic role play, proving that “The Scarlet Letter” can be relevant in many ways.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Pilot Review: Losing Alice

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: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 1, Episode 4 “Therapy” (B)

It seems like Kat tends to leave her employees unsupervised at the cat café quite often, and at least they’re not deliberately irresponsible even if they always encounter some big problem within moments of her departure. In this case, it was not being able to distinguish the batch with drugs from the one without it, and having each of them try one was a smart way of figuring it out. It became quite obvious as soon as Phil wanted to take off all his clothes to be invisible which one he had tried, and Randi did her best to take care of him. Tim Bagley, a familiar face from “Will and Grace” and “Monk,” was well-cast as Wyatt, the ever-present patron who would rather make up fake reasons to have his coffee replaced than just ask for the already free refills. Usman Ally from “Veep” had a mostly silent role as the therapist who was overshadowed by his clients, but what he did say was emphatic and indicative of a resentment towards the unkind comments so flippantly made by Kat and Sheila as they delved into the meat of their relationship. Picking apart the shortcomings of others wasn’t a very healthy way of seeing the world, and I don’t know what to say about Kat’s defense of galloping other than that it’s the kind of thing that only really exists in television or movies since no one would take it seriously in real life. At least it’s moderately entertaining to watch, even if it’s not thoroughly believable.

What I’m Watching: B Positive

B Positive: Season 1, Episode 6 “Open Heart Surgery” (B)

It’s no secret that Drew has control issues and is relatively high-strung, and he would naturally impart his own neuroses a psych evaluation that his kidney donor was requited to have. I enjoyed her typical ribbing at the start of the episode, adding previous and future events to the shared calendar just after they were mentioned so that she could pretend she had properly informed him about them. Gina’s sudden obsession with her ex and his new girlfriend did threaten to derail her, but just as she’s able to function normally every day at work, she did perfectly during the evaluation even if Drew nearly messed it all up by trying to peek in through the outside window. Taking her shopping for cheap items was a nice present, and I love that she forced him to shoplift by hiding something on his body, a pack of gum that he was happy to share with his dialysis friends. Their bantering is pretty funny, and I like that Samantha isn’t the least bit ashamed to have gone to a different dentist than Jerry who had a better Yelp rating and that she shared the “Crazy Rich Asians” plot instead of her own personal details so that she wouldn’t be letting her guard down in any way. Eli being the one who others got hung up on was also quite entertaining. My favorite part of this show, however, is the fact that Gina makes Drew star in her videos and that, even though he’s incredibly awkward, he manages to play his assigned roles decently.

Friday, January 22, 2021

What I’m Watching: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 1, Episode 4 “The SAC” (B)

This show is still deeply peculiar, but I did find myself cracking up uncontrollably twice during the episode, and that’s not something that happens all that often. The first time was Neil asking Tommy how his sister’s cousin wasn’t also his cousin, and Neil’s response to Orly wanting to move 24,000 miles away so that she could travel all the way around the earth and then back was number two. I also loved Arpi’s immediate response to Jayden’s icebreak question about her favorite salty snack as bran flakes, which apparently have more sodium than you’d think. Arpi was very excited to go to Sacramento to combat oil drilling, and while her fears that Neil was sending her to sabotage her turned out to be unfounded, she was nearly felled by the giant blueberry pancake that Jayden stepped in to eat for his new best friend. I was quite concerned that he was up for a staring contest while he was driving, and fortunately no one was hurt in the process. It wasn’t a surprise to see Rachel Dratch, a frequent guest on “30 Rock,” as Ms. Adams at school, and of course Orly wasn’t actually doing anything bad but instead just rebelling in a relatively harmless teenage way that mostly involved being bored by her dad. Tommy got a little too into creating the finsta, attaching himself to the idea of Emmy even though she didn’t exist, and tipping Orly off in a big way as if his overuse of modern slang terms and abbreviations wasn’t obvious enough in itself. I would also beg to differ that no one under sixty is named Nancy – I have a good friend my age with that very moniker.

Round Two: Call Your Mother

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 2 “Distressed Jean” (B)

This second outing was moderately predictable but still fun, and I think that this premise should work well as its characters develop beyond the initial setup. Jean getting a job to keep her busy, for instance, is one such positive change. Now her family members won’t have to argue about who has to babysit her and will instead only see her maybe once a day for a meal or even less frequently if she starts to build more of a social life. I like that the attraction between Jean and Danny is something that’s being so openly talked about, even in front of her children, while the presence of his wife, though they’re separated, is hindering any substantial progress on that front. Jean’s constant conversations with Sharon on her propped-up tablet feel very pandemic-relevant, but of course that’s just something that’s happening in normal life since this show makes no mention of our current situation. I would like to learn more about Jackie and Freddie’s lives apart from their connection to their mother, and I’m hopeful that they’ll get more of a focus going forward aside from just a little love life trouble and playing video games all day, respectively. Celia and Lane are being used pretty well, both far more into spending time with Jean than either of her children are and possessing more personality and individuality than you might expect from supporting characters. I’m happy continuing with this show – it’s light and fun, and I can’t really say that about most of the programming I currently watch.

What I’m Watching: The Stand

The Stand: Season 1, Episode 6 “The Vigil” (B)

It turns out that Harold’s cameras didn’t put him a step ahead of Frannie when she refused to dismiss her concerns about him being creepy, but he still showed up just as she had discovered everything and locked her in the basement long enough to execute the big explosion that was set to happen during the vigil. Nadine showed up and smiled while she was actively planting the devices, and it’s interesting to see the semblances of morality that emerge, like her not wanting children to get hurt even though they’re theoretically just going to grow up to be part of the wrong generation allied with Mother Abagail. Having her run into Flagg in the woods showed the different ways in which they view their power, and how she is legitimately afraid of what he might do, whereas he doesn’t feel threatened by her, merely annoyed. He dealt swiftly with Bobby Terry, played by Clifton Collins Jr. from “Thief” and “Westworld,” who tried to betray and assassinate him only to be violently dismembered in full view of everyone in Las Vegas by the angry Flagg in the elevator. As soon as he heard mention of Mr. Moon, he knew that was the third spy, but fortunately Tom’s reading abilities enabled him to find the same text elsewhere, learn its meaning, and escape in a truck right before he got caught. I’m not sure he’ll be able to make it back to Colorado or that they’ll be able to focus following their own disastrous events, but at least he’s safe for now.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 6 “The Thoughtless Woman” (B+)

It’s so hard to read Dory and to figure out if she’s just playing games with Chip or she’s really been convinced by all the mind work he’s done on her. Taking her out into the world was a bold and surely risky move, and I don’t even think that leaving her alone with the keys in the ignition was meant to be a test. He freaked out when the ice cream place that made his beloved caramel balsamic swirl – which sounds disgusting, by the way – and Dory managed to salvage the situation by suggesting another place which made her much happier, mostly because it’s a welcome change in her diet. Running into Marc was a worrisome development, but it didn’t even seem like Chip noticed, though he managed to post her name and location to social media very quickly after she reacted very poorly to being identified. It was a welcome “break in the case” for her friends, who did manage to finally see through the elaborate deception that was put on for them at the factory by Chip’s publicity-fearing parents. Portia’s “we actually did it, we put our minds to it and found Dory” was a bit too congratulatory, but they are indeed close now to finding her, even if she may not be eager to come with them if they do show up to rescue her. The role of Chip’s father was a good fit for Griffin Dunne from “This Is Us” and “House of Lies,” and Deborah Rush from “Orange is the New Black” and “Billions” was a great choice to play his mother. I’m curious to see how much following up they’ll do on these troubling allegations. I don’t often comment about the song choices on this show, but the closing number was really perfect.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 5 “Doctor Mindbender” (B+)

I had excused the dim-witted trio of Drew, Elliott, and Portia believing that Dory had written a letter that sounded nothing like her because of their gullible tendencies, but you’d think the police would be a bit more discerning than to trust that kind of correspondence which almost gives away the fact that she was being held hostage. Fortunately, the newly-formed search party wasn’t about to accept that, even if Drew did want to be politer than his friends, but after getting helpful information in the least helpful and most poorly-communicated manner, they got themselves into yet another regrettable situation with no clothes or money and a long walk back to civilization. Recognizing Chip’s face on the food Portia was desperately trying to open was a positive ending note, and maybe that will lead them at least to where Chip is currently holding Dory and actively brainwashing her. I assumed he would be angry about the fact that she admitted to killing Keith and April, but he’s just convinced himself it’s not true, something he’s now trying to do with her too. Telling her that she was holding a pear and not a murder weapon was indeed trippy, and April’s postcard in which she talked about being a “jumpy girl” before the doll’s head fell off was just as joltingly problematic yet somehow still seemed to soothe a very troubled Dory. What I’m not sure is if she’s resigned herself to this alternate reality or if she’s still fighting back, but Chip’s use of that very real voicemail will definitely make her feel at least temporarily closer to her kidnapper than to the people who call themselves her friends.

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 4 “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig” (B+)

So much for Ann Dowd being an enduring part of this show. Her refusal to accept any part of her situation didn’t resonate with the very resigned Dory, who didn’t bother to ask any helpful questions other than identifying the state where she was being held captive. I would have thought that Paula Jo would have done herself in by insisting on the many food allergies she had, but, while she appeared to asphyxiate on a nugget cooked in peanut oil, it was her demand to be kept separately from Dory the murderer that did her in. Though it does seem to have resulted in her death, it may be worse for Dory, who chose that moment to beat herself up for her past actions and confess that she did in fact kill Keith, something that will likely lead to the intense setup we saw in the season three scenes where Dory was being forced to recount everything that really happened. The movie version of this story didn’t actually feel too fake, and Portia is hardly the only one who needs acting notes. Busy Phillips’ Donna is over-the-top in a very different way than Portia, and I think this whole starring role thing isn’t going to last too long. Elliott is finding lots of fame with the network, and though he wouldn’t have wanted Charlie to be ousted or killed by a falling book, he’s not exactly doing much to stop it. Drew going through his storage locker for three hours was a good use of time, and let’s hope they can be slightly more motivated than they seem to track down Chip and the missing Dory.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Pilot Review: The Sister

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

Pilot Review: Walker

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 3 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Dreams” (B+)

This show is full of light and positive energy, and the dreams Zoey was experiencing felt all the darker and more haunting as a result. It was unnerving to see Zoey seek into this bad place and to tune out the completely affable Max, who stopped cooking his tagine – a dish I’ve started making and enjoying – when he realized that she wasn’t opening up to him. Choosing Max over Simon was always going to be complicated, and Simon is going to win every time in terms of being tapped into what it feels like to be mourning a parent. Max singing the lyrics “I’m giving up on you” was one of the saddest moments I’ve seen on this show so far, and it shows how other people’s feelings are going to force Zoey to confront hard choices that she needs to make. Consuming an increasingly larger dose of caffeine each day was never a sustainable plan, and snapping when one of the boxes broke after the terribly sexist jerseys arrived was probably better than what could have happened. Maggie inviting Jenna to stay so that she can work with her will probably be beneficial since it gives her a business partner to fill in for the one she no longer has, but it’s definitely going to drive David and Emily crazy. I’m all for adding to the ensemble and bringing more characters in, and I’m continually impressed with this season and how it’s handling Zoey’s mourning process and her difficulty readjusting to any sense of normal.

Pilot Review: Miss Scarlet and the Duke

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.

Monday, January 18, 2021

What I’m Watching: Your Honor

Your Honor: Season 1, Episode 7 “Part Seven” (B-)

It’s hard to fully suspend disbelief when watching the many, many steps Michael makes to cover his tracks and to try to fix his current situation. There’s one thing that he’s managed to do very well, which is to divert all suspicion away from Adam, since Jimmy fully believes that he’s the one who was driving the car. Swearing at Michael in such a blatant and disrespectful way felt a bit too obvious, and anyone in that courtroom should now doubt Michael’s ability to proceed in a neutral way, as appears to have been the case since it was assigned to someone else. Having Sara pulled over and arrested to somehow cast doubt on her soundness of mind was cruel, and saying “I love you” to Lee to distract her from seeing Sara on the side of the road was a bold and likely foolish move. He was completely clueless not only about the fact that it was his birthday but that his friends would be waiting for him at home to throw him a surprise party. How he hasn’t made any mistakes aside from calling the police that night and then being identified at the convenience store by the clueless clerk is pretty unbelievable – and I’m not really buying it. I didn’t recognize Maura Tierney at first as the defense attorney with that wig, but as soon as she started speaking, it was impossible not to place her voice. I’m waiting for the moment Fia realizes the link between her new boyfriend and the judge trying her second favorite brother’s case, and I’m wondering how Jimmy will respond to her clear affinity for the young woman neither of them realizes actually hit Rocco.

What I’m Watching: Shameless: Hall of Shame

Shameless: Hall of Shame: Episode 3 “Lip and Tami: Once Upon a Phillip Gallagher” (B+)

These flashback episodes are really showing how much these characters have grown up since the show started. Lip is now such an adult, both a father and a partner to someone who asks a lot of him, but has at least become somewhat nicer after their initial meeting and her endearing “Jabby” nickname. While this show continues to be excellent, I forgot just how good this show was when it first started. I didn’t remember anything about Karen, that she had a baby, that Mandy hit her with a car, and that Amanda, his roommate’s girlfriend at college, was the one who made his relationship with Helene public after she felt that he had broken her heart. There was also so much criminal activity and so much smoking, but of course his most serious vice is his alcoholism, which was featured midway through this episode as he found himself unable to remember what he had done as he was being kicked out and also saw him watch Professor Youens experience the consequences of his addiction. I’m glad that it wasn’t too focused on Frank, even though Lip has definitely been affected by the negative influence of his father in his life. Framing it as a fairy tale or bedtime story to tell Fred as he went to bed was cute, and I enjoyed how he finally got around to introducing Tami towards the end of the hour and made it seem far more pleasant and romantic than it initially was.

Pilot Review: WandaVision

I'm pleased to present not one but two reviews for the first two episodes of Disney Plus’ “WandaVision,” a one-minute video review, embedded below, and a longer written take published on Awards Radar.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 4 “The Daisy follows soft the sun” (B+)

I’m always impressed with the way this show casts its guest roles, utilizing typically comedic actors to play iconic figures from history. I got to meet Timothy Simons, best known for “Veep,” at South by Southwest a few years ago when he was there playing a priest in the very funny movie “Yes, God, Yes.” I thought that he’d be cracking jokes or at least being obnoxious here, but instead he was rather serious and intellectual as Frederick Law Olmsted, who I have now learned was the architect of Central Park. The way he approached his work and life in general mesmerized Emily, who was very much in need of a different perspective after experiencing writer’s block following the submission of her poem to Samuel. Talking about the bench and the excitement of getting lost seemed to help Emily, even if she then found herself alone, running into Samuel moments later, whose news about accepting the poem and her now being famous forever didn’t sit well with her. I’m enjoying the focus on Lavinia and her desire for a passionate relationship rather than just the typical period romance Ship thought was ideal, and his proposal, followed by the excitement over her saying “okay,” left a bit to be desired. Austin volunteering to adopt the girls was an unexpected decision, and one that Sue was not happy with at all, further driving a wedge between them that will hopefully send her back to Emily since both of them could benefit from that relationship restarting. Mrs. Dickinson made a statement by not helping Edward up out of the hole, and maybe now that they’re rid of their new children and he’s had some time to think, he can start paying her more attention. I enjoy Maggie’s brief scenes, including the one where she commented about how some people get a kick out of someone being the master.

Take Three: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 1, Episode 3 “Vacation” (B-)

This show might be leaning a bit too much into the typical sitcom structure, though at least it’s managing to still be entertaining while it does that. Kat not wanting to go by herself to Puerto Rico after everyone else had an excuse was understandable, and she definitely seems like someone who rarely takes the easy way and instead gets caught up in the web of lies she spins to try to get out of tricky situations. Louisville obviously isn’t that big a place, and she managed to run into so many people she knew in a remarkably short period of time. Taking the opportunity to taste some alcohol for free ended up being a much bigger operation than she had planned, and I’m glad at least that her getting very drunk didn’t feel too much like what happens on every other sitcom. It was predictable that the real expert would show up, but fortunately we were spared that interaction and instead just found Kat focused on making the best of her hotel stay to throw a big party. I was startled when Max delivered a romantic proposal on the rooftop, but it made sense moments later when Kat returned to reality from the fantasy she was imagining. Randi and Phil are indeed good employees, doing what they could to figure out how to keep the café running when they couldn’t open the register and working hard to find a way to get it open. Sheila’s activities were the least entertaining, but Swoosie Kurtz handles any material she gets pretty well.

Take Three: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 1, Episode 3 “Brentwood Trash” (B-)

I feel like I’m going to be offering up the same general conclusion about every episode of this show, which is that it’s so irreverent that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. The opening scene actually worked decently for me, mainly because the woman eating on the bus reminded me of one of the things that I joke about wanting to be able to do once the pandemic is eventually over, which is to eat on the New York City subway. Having to fight a guy with no pants who declared himself the true mayor was a typically absurd development, and then the Brentwood meeting was a bizarre parade of celebrities playing themselves which, unrealistic as it may have seemed, is probably pretty accurate. David Spade’s appearance felt unnecessary, while Andie MacDowell got Neil so hot and bothered before Arpi teed her up to clue him in to just how self-centered and horrible everything they were saying was. Chrissy Teigen’s moments were fine, but I don’t want this show just to be a cameo opportunity for everyone who feels like they’d have fun mocking their public personas. Orly stopping by so that Mikaela could show her how great real life is didn’t work too well, and the conclusion that it’s always high school is one that doesn’t always apply but this episode was really trying to tell. Jayden’s interview process was flawed at best, with humorous moments like bringing his own underwear to help nervous contenders picture him that way and misreading PR as Puerto Rico, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end following his discovery of his exact clone Derek. Finding a much more qualified female candidate whose obvious hiring meant Derek ghosting him was at least a bit unexpected and funny, so that’s something.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Stand

The Stand: Season 1, Episode 5 “Suspicious Minds” (B+)

This was an extremely enlightening episode, showing us just how the other half lives and what the influence of evil represents in a very literal way. Mother Abagail was right to warn her disciples that they shouldn’t try to go get information on Flagg since he would know that they were coming, and only Tom seems to have evaded suspicion because he processes things differently. Dayna was not particularly subtle, asking constant questions about Flagg so that she could go straight to the top and talk directly to him. My curiosity about Julie was satiated when we saw her living the life there as Lloyd’s top girl and channeling her toxic energy into something that felt good. She recognized Tom but didn’t think much of his presence, a lack of concentration and certainly willpower that could perhaps be a side effect of the hypnotic sway Flagg has over everyone. Killing Flagg predictably didn’t work, and now Dayna is dead and Flagg is well aware of where she came from, even if Mother Abagail hadn’t ordered the incursion and is presumably now setting off on her own to mitigate the damage in whatever way she can. I was glad that Frannie was taking clever steps to distract Harold so that Larry could search his house, but unfortunately he was fully ready and used the opportunity not only to monitor Larry in his own home but also to install cameras in Frannie and Stu’s bedroom to keep a closer eye on them. The story he told from his childhood that didn’t have him in it was such a red flag for worrisome behavior, but somehow Stu still doesn’t find it suspicious. Nadine showing up at Larry’s door initially seemed like she was trying to distract him, but she may well be making a sincere effort to escape her dark fate.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Pilot Review: Call Your Mother

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: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 3 “Escape to Nowhere” (B+)

I’m glad that each of Dory’s best friends, who came to her in a hallucination in a moment of need, are finally starting to realize that all isn’t right and that maybe Dory didn’t just run off to Europe. Elliott finding out from his irate wedding planners that no one died at his wedding wasn’t quite as startling as Drew seeing his sweater in Dory’s Italy picture, and hopefully they’ll talk about those inconsistencies and come to a helpful conclusion. Portia is also coming around to the idea that Dory isn’t so terrible as she begins what’s going to be an incredibly cringe-worthy job playing her former best friend in a project that she already feels is far too fictionalized. Dory was always the most intrepid of the group, and so I don’t have too much faith in the other three, especially considering their recent life choices. Making up a friendversary and starting a food fight to get back into that shower was quite resourceful, and she really is starting to understand how Chip works and what’s going to get him to do exactly what she wants. I’m not sure that’s going to be too useful going forward after her successful escape attempt ended in a car crash and Chip just tracking her down again. I do hope that the very nosy neighbor played by Ann Dowd from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Good Behavior” will show up to unknowingly help her escape again, and I’m continually impressed by this show’s superb casting.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

What I’m Watching: Search Party

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 2 “Something Sharp” (B+)

Dory is trying her hardest to find a way out of her captivity and seems to be making Chip much angrier in the process. Forcing him to give her a shower always enabled her to escape, but now he’s threatened deadly retaliation if it happens again and is not going to be nearly as enthusiastic about preparing her something other than the same exact meal three times a day. The sight of those many stickers on the door and wall as a marker of time was haunting, and Chip’s repeated insistence on his many degrees that confirm his sanity are hardly convincing. The fact that he’s keeping up her social media to make it seem like she is indeed traveling through Europe is a surefire way for no one to express enough interest to affirm their authenticity. Portia also called not to ask her permission but to tell her that she was going to do what she wanted no matter what she said, and that’s not exactly the best position for any kind of relationship. There would have been something far too meta about Portia playing herself – which only she would be interested in – and the notion of her portraying Dory instead is just bizarre and should be plenty awkward. Elliott selling his soul for a paycheck and fame wasn’t too surprising, but it will be hard even for him to give up this ultra-conservative act. Drew’s situation is the most unexpected, since he’s now going by Andrew, posing as a foreigner with no discernable accent and engaging in a relationship with a woman playing a princess while having the truthful time of his life being a character in costume.

What I’m Watching: Search Party (Season Premiere)

Search Party: Season 4, Episode 1 “The Girl in the Basement” (B+)

I really like this very odd show, and I’m happy that this season will air over a longer stretch of time this year, following previous rollouts of one week, two episodes per week, and the entire season in just one day. Three episodes at once with four the third week feels fine to me, and, while I’m writing this review, I’m already looking forward to the next two installments that I’m about to watch. I was worried that the main storyline might be a bit creepy and disturbing, with Dory now being held captive with a shaven head and chains all around her by her delusional wannabe best friend Chip. While there is definitely something unnerving about it, Dory did embrace her notorious celebrity status in a big way in season three and literally got away with murder. Now, it’s intriguing to see how she’s trying to manipulate the man holding her hostage, and I assume that her cleverness is only going to get her into more trouble. What I enjoyed most about this episode was the way we saw Elliott, Portia, and Drew react to the note that was so clearly not left by Dory but that they didn’t even suspect might have been written by someone else. It’s going to take them a while to even realize that Dory has been kidnapped and not gone off to discover herself in Europe. I’m not sure how they’re going to spend their time this season, aside from Elliott doing his talk show and some weird drunken threesome make-out sessions, but I am very excited to see what they do and just hapless they are as their friend could really use their help.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Pilot Review: Trickster

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: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 6 “Birth Mother” (B-)

This show is so flashback-heavy in general that episodes which find themselves grounded almost entirely in the past are never as satisfying. That’s due mainly to the fact that the regular cast members are appealing and it’s disappointing not to see them featured. Knowing that Randall isn’t any less blunt with people he’s just met about things he perceives as wastes of his time is informative, and unfortunately Hai would have liked if his comment about the story being like “The Notebook” had in fact been true. The chronicling of Laurel’s past wasn’t a very positive one, with a harsh prison sentence and an unrequited love interrupted by that resulting in a reunion far too late in life and into her disease. I’m not sure what this newfound knowledge is going to do for Randall and how necessary its inclusion was – even though I was gung-ho about this new twist at the end of the premiere – since he was already going through plenty and coming to grips with some of his most formative issues without this being part of it. Choosing to call Kevin in the car on the way home was an interesting move, and it seems like he may have waited too long since he was already distracted, panicked, and not open to the idea of taking that moment to be appreciated and thought of by his brother. Even though it’s a pandemic, hopefully Randall will choose to show up in a good way and try to mend the relationship that Kevin’s not able to concentrate on fixing right now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 2 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Distraction” (B+)

I’m impressed with the way that this show is building on its established elements and making them work even better as it continues to develop. Zoey’s gift has always been a somewhat awkward part of the show since the characters don’t know that they’re singing their heart songs, and there’s a uniqueness to Max since he knows it’s happening but isn’t aware of exactly what Zoey hears. His inability to stop focusing on baseball and alternately getting way too excited was entertaining and also uncomfortable, and it was wonderful to hear Zoey say that she knew the song he was singing and opt to duet with him, even if he wouldn’t be able to hear his part and there was no music to score hers. That’s a cool way of adapting to something she can’t understand or change, and it helped her get to a better place with other problems in her life, like the bro culture at work that she’s actively working to change with Leif and Mo’s worries about partnering in business with Max. I’m not sure either of those will go completely smoothly, but it’s nice to see them both proceeding positively after an uncertain start. Jenna’s visit was an excellent opportunity for Maggie to step in and help provide both her and her sister with some much-needed support, not to mention a worthwhile song performance. I like that there’s some variety to the types of songs that are being featured and the different energies that are being conveyed in them.

What I’m Watching: Coyote

Coyote: Season 1, Episode 4 “Juan Doe” (B-)

It’s hard to shake the notion that there’s far too much access to almost everything that the cartel needs to make holding anything over Ben’s head at all worthwhile, but he did get tapped to do the one thing only he could: walk into an immigration detention facility and try to simply escort a detainee out. That went somewhat awry, leading to a violent double beheading that seems like it would attract far too much attention from American law enforcement. It makes little sense that the sicarios wouldn’t be able to follow them through the hole he cut in the fence – or just shoot them from the other side – but killing two government employees, leaving them with no heads, and freeing a group of detainees wouldn’t be seen as too potentially visible? I also found myself mapping out the distance between Guerrero and the California-Mexico border, which is apparently very far and would take more than thirty-six hours to travel, which explains why Dante was so upset to return to Guerrero again. The opening flashback to the scarring experience endured by Sultan was informative about his worldview, and his uneager participation in this episode’s activities make it unlikely that he might have a soft spot for Ben and somehow help him. Instead, there’s a new member of the family for Ben to contend with, someone who seemed anonymous but is apparently much more influential than he first thought and might have different plans for Ben than El Catrin, which isn’t likely to be a good thing.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Take Three: Coyote

Coyote: Season 1, Episode 3 “Sin of Origin” (B-)

One frequent facet of TV and movies is that characters will be trapped in an inescapable situation in which they are forced to do something only they can do, yet somehow those pulling the strings have seemingly unlimited resources to tail them constantly and exert influence over everyone in their lives, no matter how safe they may theoretically be. That begs the question of why that person is so necessary in the first place, if the cartel was able to track Ben’s movements, find out he called Frank, and bring him to Mexico in the trunk of a car within a few hours. What can Ben do that they can’t? He also can’t naively expect that they’re going to let him go if he does do what they ask, which wouldn’t be smart given that El Catrin’s promise that Dante can take care of him once he’s served his purpose. I would also have thought that Ben would have seen Neto as an ally even if he did look the other way with the cartel rather than someone he needed to hold at gunpoint to get to the private plane that he thought was taking him back home. He does have Silvia and the guy nice enough to help him do a good deal of work on the house without realizing Ben just wanted him there for his cellphone, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough to get out of this mess. Acting normal in front of his wife and daughter who don’t realize that Frank is dead is likely to be the most difficult part of it all.

What I’m Watching: Your Honor

Your Honor: Season 1, Episode 6 “Part Six” (B)

Well, now we know how this show is going to be able to continue for four more episodes. It took the entire hour for Jimmy to find Michael, who was completely distracted with hunting down Trevor and arranging a boat for him, but that was exactly the time he needed to come up with the perfect way to save himself. Ensuring that Carlo’s case gets assigned to his courtroom feels like it’s not going to be the easiest thing to pull off, and it’s sure to raise red flags given the highly publicized nature of Michael’s car being stolen and used in the hit-and-run that killed Rocco. It’s also likely to raise suspicion with Fia, who thinks Adam is just a friend of her brother’s who she’s started getting close to, when she realizes the unexpected connection her new boyfriend has to the judge who will decide if her living brother spends the rest of his life in prison. I find the lavish tales Michael spins to be a bit excessive and obvious, and there’s an unnecessary gravity to Bryan Cranston’s performance that doesn’t feel anywhere near as realistic or believable as his “Breaking Bad” character. I was worried that Lee was getting herself into trouble asking too many questions about Carlo, but it seems like she’s cleared that hurdle and is now sure to be upset, just as Charlie will be, when she learns that Michael is getting much more involved in this business than he should be and only burrowing into a deeper hole.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

What I’m Watching: Shameless

Shameless: Season 11, Episode 4 “Nimby” (B)

Parts of this episode felt a bit too formulaic and forced, and were really only worthwhile for the place they eventually got to. That’s truest of the Little Miss Southside pageant, where both Debs and Veronica gave in to their competitive instincts and ended up cancelling each other’s chances out, but it might have all not been for nothing since Veronica, despite being named as a drug dealer onstage, could have an unexpected political future as a result of her charged speech. The Milkoviches moving in next door to spew their racist views is probably something that should attract the attention of all the Gallaghers, but they seem too distracted for anyone other than Frank, Liam, and Kev to actually focus on that threat. Mickey and Ian getting hired to make weed deliveries is a smart plan, even if Mickey was able to seem like a military man by bragging about wiping out a village since he had no clue what conflicts were still ongoing when he was asked if he had served. I don’t know what exactly to make of Carl having to watch Leesie mistreat people and plant evidence, but at least he’s coming to terms with what he can do to make up in some small way for that general abuse of power. I was worried that Lip meeting Tami’s teacher who she was clearly still into would make him out to seem jealous, but instead Tami got to realize how wrong her situation was while Lip got the rare chance to be right. I was trying to figure out how I knew the actor, and seeing his name in the end credits reminded me that British actor Phillip Rhys was a part of one of the shows I first watched regularly, “24,” back in season two.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Round Two: Coyote

Coyote: Season 1, Episode 2 “Silver or Lead” (B)

This show is undeniably involving, setting itself mostly in one place and following the main characters as they try to escape the very literal desert. It’s all sort of like an extended version of the “Better Call Saul” episode from this past season, “Bagman,” though not quite as compelling. It was difficult to imagine that Ben could walk for so long with two extremely heavy bags across his shoulder, though Maria Elana was quick to point out that he was fat and the extra weight was only going to slow him down more. He had a few clever ideas on how to evade their trackers, and taking out his power tools to cut through the fence was an especially impressive move. I wasn’t sure why it was that he was able to return to Mexico without the very precious asset he had manage to get across, though I did think that maybe it was because anyone capable of getting into his daughter’s bedroom was probably just as capable of bringing Maria Elana back home even when she was already in border patrol custody waiting for asylum. It still would have been smart for Ben to share the fact that his daughter was in danger given the nature of their relationship, which of course he doesn’t know exists. It all made more sense when it was revealed that El Catrin was pulling the strings, sacrificing Dante’s happiness for something that he believes will be much more rewarding to his business. Dante torching the unbuilt house was a harsh but not unexpected form of revenge, and Ben is going to have an uphill battle to fight once he regains consciousness and gets called in to work.

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 3 “The only Ghost I ever saw” (B)

I’m not so big on séances, and this episode gets a few points off because of some wasted moments trying to summon the spirits. Fortunately, it didn’t have too many of those, and instead we got some humorous modern-day commentary that did not sit well with most of the people in the circle and a serious realization that came to Emily as a result of her latest visit from her haunting visitor who pointedly asked if she was nobody too. That sermon in church got everyone riled up, and it’s good to see that the terrifying cousins are already making an impression, giving the minister the finger and causing plenty of other trouble. Both Emily and Lavinia were happy to invite them to join their séance, and I like that the two sisters seemed to be really on the same page for once since I often feel that Emily ignores Lavinia when they are uniquely qualified to see and understand each other. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Sue anymore, who was happy that Emily finally wanted to be known by others but couldn’t comprehend the hesitation she still felt about it. Samuel’s response was jarring and off-putting, going from his supercool “I’m a baller, I go to balls” to an attitude of complete detachment and lack of investment in her future. Lavinia’s objection to Ship’s casual chauvinism was pretty fantastic, even if people didn’t quite agree with her about it. Mrs. Dickinson’s nighttime excitement and the controversy of Henry’s anonymous newspaper were interesting subplots that I hope will soon be revisited.

Friday, January 8, 2021

What I’m Watching: Dickinson

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 2 “Fame is a fickle food” (B+)

It was strange to see Emily in the spotlight in this episode, and it’s clear that she doesn’t handle attention all that well. Her cake was evidently delicious, but she was a bit too eager with sharing all of the ingredients, like the fact that she soaked it in brandy for a month, which seems excessive to me even though I’m hardly the most adventurous or experienced baker. The way she interacted with Samuel was intriguing, and they did share a connection even though he brought up the fact that she reminded him of his wife, which isn’t necessarily the obstacle it should be. Her recitation of the poem wowed him, though she received another grim visit from her hallucinated friend, who warned her of the dangers of fame and those who seek it for her. Mrs. Dickinson was quite startled and disappointed by Edward’s lack of interest in their special night together, and the two new additions to their household seem like an absolute nightmare. Sue really does enjoy the lavishness she has thanks to the Dickinson family’s wealth, and she did not respond well to Austin’s well-meaning request to discuss the idea of having a baby. I’m eager to see if anything happens between Jane and Austin since he’ll likely seek her companionship in the absence of attention from his wife. The two most memorable lines from the episode were Lavinia being told that “there are actually a lot of Native Americans in this time period” and the response to being asked about Morse code: “I’m fluent in it!”

What I’m Watching: Dickinson (Season Premiere)

Dickinson: Season 2, Episode 1 “Before I got my eye put out” (B+)

I’m happy that this show is back since I really did like season one, though it took me many months to finish it. I’m much more committed to getting through it more quickly this time, which will correspond with the more ideal airing schedule of three episodes premiering now followed by one new episode per week, rather than all ten installments at once. This episode started with a great opening montage after the melancholy introduction and did a formidable job of maintaining its very unique tone, which is alternately mysterious, humorous, casual, and devastating. I knew I recognized the rather hapless doctor in the beginning of the episode, and I spotted James Urbaniak’s name in the credits, who I recognize from “Difficult People.” Being told to avoid the sun isn’t actually a terrible recommendation given how much she loves being alone writing and dreaming of Sue. It’s odd to see what her relationship with Sue has become with Austin as their awkward go-between, and all Sue wants is the best for Emily, hoping to get her noticed at the party. The haunting presence of the man only she can see kept her from being able to deliver, and I’m sure she’ll only retreat further inward after this. I’m enjoying the new side of Lavinia, and I like this show’s embrace of current concepts like influencers and being cancelled, another slate of anachronisms to add to this show’s distinctive energy. Henry’s barn meetings are also an interesting subplot, and I’m eager to see what happens with all the supporting players this season.

Round Two: Call Me Kat

Call Me Kat: Season 1, Episode 2 “Double Date” (B)

It’s possible that my perception of this show is being positively influenced by the dearth of other original content out there, putting it up there with “B Positive” as a very traditional laugh-track sitcom that I’m still enjoying even though I don’t regularly watch many of them. Opening with the “oh, hello” and a metaphor about putting people in boxes made me think of Mr. Rogers, though Kat is certainly clumsier and more awkward, even if she too likes to see the good in disastrous situations. She and Max seem like a great pair, and it’s great that Brigitte is an actual character that she continues to imagine being in front her and obnoxious every time Kat thinks about what she would say. Max is also clueless, though it’s possible that he thinks they’re just best buds doing piano karaoke duets since she’s the one who mentioned seeing other people. Learning that Brandon wanted business advice did make a lot of sense, and at least she still got to use the microphone to pretend to be a track announcer. I was excited to see Lamorne Morris from “New Girl” as the non-tipper Daniel, a much more self-assured version of his “Woke” character who I hope will be around for a while to date Randi. Phil really does get all the best one-liners, and while some of his comments, like a mention of “sports ball,” weren’t slam dunks, marveling at the fact that Kat was able to spell diarrhea (I was too!) was considerably more entertaining.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Stand

The Stand: Season 1, Episode 4 “The House of the Dead” (B)

It’s interesting to see just how minimally both Flagg and Abagail are featured, though the influence they both carry is incredible. Nadine made a strong impression on Harold when she went to him and gave him the mission that Flagg has set for him, and it was useful to learn that Harold, unlike everyone else, wasn’t having the same dreams with Abagail in them as everyone else but instead latched on to the details others said so that he could pretend he was. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that casualties would come as a result of their subversive actions, and anyone who didn’t already suspect Harold was psychotic and dangerous isn’t likely to now see what he’s doing as any more suspicious. He wasn’t quite as brutal and heartless as the man who nearly killed both Harold and Frannie on the road, and it’s clear that Colorado is a utopia that’s about to implode as a result of Harold and Nadine’s efforts. The team of volunteers being sent to Las Vegas is an interesting development, and Tom sees set for his task even if it’s a risk to send him behind enemy lines when he might say something that he shouldn’t in service of completing his assigned task. Our introduction to Julie was very memorable, and the possession of a fierce survival instinct is definitely important in this world, even if you’re in the presence of two of the more harmless people, Nick and Tom. I’m intrigued to see where and how we’ll see her next.

Round Two: Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor: Season 1, Episode 2 “Mayor’s Day Out” (B)

I’m trying to get a handle on this show’s irreverence and how it balances that out with coherent and occasionally funny storylines. While I’m not overly fond of characters getting high and acting absurdly, Ted Danson does pull most things off pretty well, and he definitely managed to showcase enthusiasm for the meatless lunches and other moments of his very boring and procedural day. There’s still something disappointingly formulaic about the structure and the way that Tommy and Jayden need to program him, and I’m not entirely sure how long that’s going to last, especially if Neil isn’t going to be eating pot gummies every episode. There is a real immaturity to most of the characters on this show that’s most reminiscent of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and I find myself wishing that this was a bit more like “30 Rock,” even if I don’t consider that show to be quite as unspectacular as most do. It had seemed in episode one like Mikaela was the smartest person on the staff, but it now seems that Arpi might have a much better idea of what she’s doing than she pretends. Mikaela was all about the selfies and trying to keep Arpi busy looking for tape for the whole day, but then we got that big reveal that she was flashing the PPPORN brochure during each of their meetings. It’s an evidently stupid name, but it does serve the dual purpose of attracting attention because of that and of enabling her to make her boss look like a fool, announcing her replacement name of RATFART instead.

Pilot Review: Mr. Mayor

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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Pilot Review: Coyote

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: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 5 “A Long Road Home” (B+)

I’m glad that this show is back so early in the new year since it was really a tease to have only four episodes back when it started in late October. I think viewers like me probably needed the closure with Marc even more than Kate did, and it was affirming to learn both that he reacted terribly to Kate showing up and almost telling him about her abortion, and that he hadn’t accomplished much with his life when she tracked him down in San Diego. The fact that he didn’t recognize her at first and had no concept of the negative impact he had on her life was indicative of how much he wasn’t right for her and how terrible he was. Randall finding out that his mother might have been alive until 2015 without him knowing and thinking that his father had lied to him was a gut punch, and Kevin deciding to call at that very moment to tell him how much he meant to his adopted family only made that more intense and complicated. Making that call was a big step, and Hai’s openness helped to clarify things, not that it will give him all that much more closure, although an in-person visit and tour through her memories likely will. Madison was understandably not comfortable with the idea of Kevin wanting to jet-set with the kids all the time, but it seems like he’s committed to at least seeing her perspective and finding something that can work for their growing family.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

What I’m Watching: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (Season Premiere)

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 1 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Return” (B+)

It feels good to have this show back right now. Its future was uncertain until more than a month after its first season ended, and it’s nice to approach it now knowing that it’s at least going to continue for the rest of the season. Meeting Zoey in such a place of grief made for a worthwhile reintroduction to this show’s universe and a gradual return to some sense of normalcy for our tortured protagonist. I liked the way the songs were incorporated into this episode and how they served to ground its story, with Zoey trying desperately not to let them take over even though she was powerless to stop them. Finding out that Max, Simon, and Mo are now best buds was a bit jarring, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that both of her would-be beaus are still pining for her. I’m happy with the choice that she made, though I’m sure it’s going to make things plenty awkward with Simon, who is already going to be tiptoeing around Zoey after she freaked out at him for asking her if she was okay. I presume that Joan is going to be appearing at lot less frequently, which I’m fine with since I never found her role to be all that consistent or worthwhile. I recognized actor Harvey Guillen, who plays new employee George, from his role as Guillermo on “What We Do in the Shadows,” and I hope that he proves to be a positive addition. I am glad to see that Emily is getting more of a focus after appearing in only surface storylines in season one, and I think that the loss of Mitch will provide many opportunities for worthwhile spotlights in the coming episodes.

Pilot Review: The Great North

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.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Pilot Review: Call Me Kat

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

Pilot Review: The Watch

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, January 3, 2021

What I’m Watching: Shameless Hall of Shame

Shameless Hall of Shame: Episode 2 “Kev and V: God Doesn’t Give with Both Hands” (B+)

The second installment of this nostalgia series felt very different from the first, as if Kev and V exist in a different universe than Ian and Mickey, who were barely present in any of these flashbacks. We also got to see a good amount of Fiona, and it makes me hopeful that she’ll get a retrospective episode too even though I realize that’s somewhat unlikely since I don’t believe that Emmy Rossum has any plans to return to the show. I forgot that Kev used to have a full head of shaggy hair, and I think his new look suits him. Centering the antics of this episode around the assessment that Amy takes after her mother and Gemma takes after her father was a clever way to come around to Gemma being creative and able to market a skill that doesn’t necessarily call for traditional intelligence. I definitely didn’t remember the numerous times that Kev had to have sex with V’s mom so that they could get pregnant, or that Kev had breast cancer. I had also forgotten how much Svetlana changed their dynamic with her incredible sexual prowess and then bought their business out from under them before V got her deported. It’s fun to see all the clips assembled in this way, with V having been a nurse coming up all the times that she showed up to diagnose something or suggest a way of dealing with an injury. It’s nice that these supporting characters really did get such a showcase and feel just as much like a part of the family as the Gallaghers.

What I’m Watching: Your Honor

Your Honor: Season 1, Episode 5 “Part Five” (B)

It’s hard to know where things could possibly go from here, since it didn’t take any time at all for Jimmy to deduce Michael’s direct involvement as soon as he found out from Big Mo that he really shouldn’t have bombed Kofi’s house since he wasn’t actually responsible for Rocco’s death. That was an impactful ending to the previous episode, and the sight of Eugene walking with a second line procession wearing a shirt featuring his deceased family members’ faces was indeed upsetting. It was fortunate at least that Big Mo was resolute in the way that she went boldly to Jimmy to tell him that war was coming unless he did, in his words, his due diligence and confirmed what he should have before Kofi died. Less fortunate was the fact that Michael’s lie about how someone was sleeping with his wife was so generously and immediately shared by the talkative convenience store clerk, who has now made it impossible for Michael to deny any involvement in Rocco’s death. Somehow, that wasn’t the most cringe-worthy moment of the episode, which instead found Adam seeking out Fia and flirting with her during a mock college interview. I’d argue that his actions most closely resemble the intense risk-taking popularized by Carrie on “Homeland,” which is not a good thing. Michael being blackmailed makes things even worse, though I’m curious if whoever it is who already knew that Adam was responsible will somehow end up shielding him from Jimmy’s wrath in an effort to get the money, but I can’t imagine that will be the case.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

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

The Crown: Season 4, Episode 10 “War” (B+)

It’s so interesting to compare this episode with the season two finale, which found a much younger Elizabeth and Philip confronting their marital difficulties. They’ve now come to a very different place, where Philip accepts the role that he’s been given and Elizabeth is bold enough to decree what she will and will not allow to happen. I recently read that both Josh O’Connor, who plays Charles, and Emma Corrin, who plays Diana, will compete as lead performers at the Golden Globes, which I think makes sense since so much of this season has been about them with Philip and even Elizabeth taking a major step back (Tobias Menzies is heading to the supporting race, while Olivia Colman remains a lead). Charles really does seem cruel after being such a genteel and sympathetic soul in season three, and Diana was so genuinely happy in New York, only to return home to find that Charles was furious at her for behaving in what he deemed was a frivolous manner. Their tableside conversation did seem like mediation at best and a contentious divorce hearing at worst, and the tough love that Elizabeth gave to her son is still more than she’s willing to offer the daughter-in-law she considers spoiled. I would recommend that this episode serve as a possible Emmy submission for Colman, who also nailed her scenes opposite an equally excellent Gillian Anderson as the now-defeated Margaret Thatcher, who didn’t want to go down without a fight. I think I liked season three best but there’s no arguing with this show’s quality, and I’m just sad that it will be back for two more seasons with a completely different set of actors since these have been absolutely terrific. Bring on the awards!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Emma Corrin as Diana and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher

Friday, January 1, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Crown

The Crown: Season 4, Episode 9 “Avalanche” (B+)

The date March 10th, 1988 was important here as when an avalanche nearly claimed the life of Prince Charles, but it’s also a significant day for me in that it’s when I was born. It’s strange to place these events at that time, especially because I remember learning about Princess Diana as a child when she died years later. The fear of Charles having died was a helpful trigger for a bit of marital intervention from Elizabeth and Philip, but the effort, however well-intentioned, backfired considerably when Diana got to speak and then Philip essentially told Charles that his opinion didn’t matter at all given that she had said she wanted to try. Anne’s damning report of their marriage to her mother was fairly honest, and somehow Diana got cast in a bad light for having multiple affairs while Charles’ longstanding romance with just one woman, Camilla, was somehow more excusable. She did get him a series of gifts she thought he would like that he completely detested, and things took a much more serious and disturbing turn by the end of the episode when he refused to take any of her calls. On a lighter note, I did appreciate Anne’s very dry summary of how no one lived happily after and Philips’ amused reaction to Elizabeth asking who Billy Jo-el was. There’s only one episode left this season, and it’s odd to think that it’s the last time we’ll see this cast since seasons five and six will bring all-new actors to revisit these same characters.