Monday, May 31, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method (Penultimate Episode)

The Kominsky Method: Season 3, Episode 5 “Chapter 21. Near, far, wherever you are” (B+)

Now that everyone is aware of her condition, Roz has taken center stage, and, as usual, she’s pretty set on what she wants to do. Sandy was adamant that he wanted to take care of her rather than have her move into an assisted living facility or go on hospice, and he’s being there for the way that he very much wasn’t when they were actually married. It was sweet to see how they spent the time after that with the montage of Sandy working on the movie and coming back to find Roz asleep in his trailer, and I’m glad that the role appears to have worked out rather than having been a false start. After the painfully overdramatic “Titanic” scene was recreated by two of his students, Sandy shared a very heartfelt sentiment about how death scene monologues aren’t real and the living are irrelevant for the dying which could well serve as a key Emmy clip for Michael Douglas if he deservedly earns another nomination this year for his work. It was not great to learn that Martin’s mother had almost immediately offended Mindy by making a joke about her weight and that Martin had simply giggled rather than admonishing her for it. Telling “Sammy” that there was nothing “sandy” about him was pretty ferocious, and that’s not going to be easy to resolve. I did enjoy the brief appearance by Phoebe and Robbie in which they pitched a philanthropic foundation that almost won Sandy over until they clarified about the salaries they intended to collect. I don’t know what to expect from the finale but this has been a solid and fun season so far.

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 3, Episode 4 “Chapter 20. The round toes, of the high shoes” (B+)

I was glad to see that guest star Morgan Freeman was used in exactly the way he should have been, simply showing up in the opening scene and showing that he was more than capable of subverting Sandy’s class and using it for his own aims, or rather for a fun little bit of improv. Sandy’s response of “Are you saying I’m not the horse?” was a highlight of that exchange. In the aftermath of Sandy having to apologize to Martin, it turns out that he was right to be concerned, since Martin went overboard with his purchase of a new car and his plans to break ground on a home theater. Sandy’s new dynamic with Roz was fun, and it was entertaining to hear them talk about how they used to not like each other and to see Roz pour more salt on Sandy’s food after chastising him for having it in the first place. Identifying herself as a replacement for Norman was astute, but of course it was also indicative of her declining medical condition, one that’s sure to change things for everyone. I’m not sure if it will affect Sandy’s big break role in Norman Levinson’s new movie, which is an interesting development. I like Levinson’s work, which includes “Rain Man” and “Bugsy,” and I thought that he fit in well on this show, especially as a friend of Norman’s. Phoebe and Robbie’s desperate efforts to get Sandy to give them money are getting worse and worse, but they show no signs of giving up anytime soon.

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 3, Episode 3 “Chapter 19. And it's getting more and more absurd” (B+)

I wasn’t sure how the big visit to Sandy’s house was going to go, and I’m glad that didn’t end up being a giant confrontation but instead split up into two camps as Sandy quickly convinced Phoebe and Robbie that they should reconsider having a scientologist lawyer present who was going to take thirty percent of whatever they got for himself. They’re doing a very poor job of showing that they deserve to have the money given the instructions that were left for Sandy, and I have a feeling that he might actually be inclined to give it to them if they stopped for one second to mute their desperation to get what they believe they’re entitled to. Martin took a much different approach, startled to hear about the amount that Mindy was getting but far more offended by the fact that Sandy didn’t trust him. He played it extremely cool when Sandy came in to his shoe room with a half-hearted apology that ended up being sincerer than I expected, and his reaction as soon as he walked away indicated his true feelings of elation. I hope that whatever wedding Mindy does plan will be a pleasure to watch, though it’s good to know that she, like her mother, enjoys messing with her father. Seeing Roz and Sandy interact is a lot of fun, and they’re managing to do a good job of being parents to their adult daughter after what’s evidently been a rocky history. This show manages to incorporate famous actors in a subtle way, and I’m curious to see how Morgan Freeman does in front of Sandy’s class.

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method

The Kominsky Method: Season 3, Episode 2 “Chapter 18. You only give me your funny paper” (B+)

This show has twice been nominated for a SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series, which is a bit strange given that it’s a mostly two-man show with a supporting cast that doesn’t always have that much to do. That said, to me the most underappreciated member of the ensemble is Sarah Baker, who plays Mindy and makes her more than just an eye-rolling daughter who scoffs at the belligerence of her stubborn father. This episode showcased that as her mother came to visit and she called Martin out on doing with her the same thing he always does with her father, to go on about the glory days that are long gone that she couldn’t possibly have experienced given how much younger she is. The complexity of dealing with money in relationships is an interesting theme to explore, and I suppose it says something about Sandy that, even though he gets along swimmingly with Martin, deep down maybe he’s not sure that he’s the right for his daughter. Sandy isn’t always in touch with what’s going on in the moment, like the fact that one of his students landed a gig and shouldn’t have told the rest of the class about it since they now resent her instead of expressing happiness for her success. Though he had his ex-wife labeled as “Queen of Pain” in his phone, it doesn’t seem like she’s out to get him, but it should be fun to see Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas share more scenes together if she sticks around for a bit.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Kominsky Method (Season Premiere)

The Kominsky Method: Season 3, Episode 1 “Chapter 17. In all the old familiar places” (B+)

I’m honestly quite surprised that this show is going to end up being the only Emmy nominee for Best Comedy Series from last year to return in time to be eligible again this season. It’s impressive that it was filmed and finished during the pandemic, returning more than a year and a half after the second season for its final run. I had heard months ago that Alan Arkin wouldn’t be coming back and thought that might mean this show would be scrapped entirely, but instead this was a heartfelt episode paying tribute to Norman and looking at what life is going to look like for Sandy going through it all on his own. Those brief snippets of Norman were fantastic reminders of Arkin’s unrivaled line delivery, and he will definitely be missed. I’m not sure his three-scene appearance here is substantial enough to merit Emmy attention, but he really was superb in this role. It’s not clear whether Phoebe or Robbie will continue to appear now that Norman is no longer alive, but I wouldn’t mind checking in with either of them on their rather wild and unhinged endeavors. Paul Reiser’s Martin has earned a major promotion to the role of Sandy’s potential new best friend, and Sandy seems to like him enough to tolerate him even if the nature of their relationship given that he’s dating his daughter is a bit peculiar. Sandy’s nighttime rendezvous with his housesitting neighbor was unexpected, but it all made much more sense when it turned out to be a freebie given by the prostitute as a thank you for finding her cousin’s dog. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next over the course of this last season.

What I’m Watching: Rebel

Rebel: Season 1, Episode 7 “Race” (B+)

This was a fun showcase of a lighter side of Cruz, one who gets his children together to ask them for permission he doesn’t need to exhume his late wife’s body and refuses to affirm his son’s vegetarian diet by putting a little bit of chorizo into his omelet. It did seem obvious from the start that Carmen was pregnant, but it was still nice for her to reveal that when she did. I was curious how Ziggy’s friend Mallory was going to figure into this episode once she showed up, and Rebel swooped right in with Cassidy’s help to make sure that Coach Gibson made up for his racist actions and then even called in a favor to get Ziggy and the entire volleyball team on a Stonemore stage to put out a call for whistleblowers. After getting booted from the case before of the fallout from the revenge porn video, Luke was in no mood to learn that Cassidy was helping her mom in a way that influenced the case, and I’m sure that Benjy will also be unhappy about that. It is interesting to see him grapple with his conscience, especially when his sister was nearly killed as a result of something related to the case. Angela showing up to see Lana after she had been looking for took a grimmer turn than I had expected, and I have a feeling that Grady’s secret child is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her dangerous knowledge, not that we’ll have too much time to find it out given that this show is almost over.

What I’m Watching: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 1, Episode 9 “Birthday/Kaleeza” (B+)

One of the most rewarding elements of this show is the way in which it identifies assumed parts of American culture that just don’t exist the same way in Afghanistan and manages to find meaning in them rather than just basic comedy. I wanted to ask what date of birth Al had printed on his passport or whatever document he needed in order to fly across the world to the United States, but I realize that’s not quite as relevant as the idea that he has never celebrated his birthday or given its occurrence any weight. I like the way Hazel sees the world and encourages Al to do the same, and though she got into a noise-making fight in the store with him, she was the more mature one when Lizzie had fun sucking helium to get her voice to be high-pitched. Riley’s attempt at magic was unfortunate and it was very clear to Al and the audience where he was hiding the tiny handkerchief, and Freddy’s bowling ball stunt was far more impressive. Riley is occasionally mature, and acknowledging, however begrudgingly, that Freddy was going to be sticking around was a big step. I enjoyed Art’s response to Riley warning him not to hurt his back while lifting something that the joke was on him and his back always hurt, and it’s good to have him around for his one-liners. Al taking so long to make his wish and looking around happily was a sweet way to punctuate this episode’s message and this show’s heart.

What I’m Watching: Hacks

Hacks: Season 1, Episode 6 “New Eyes” (B+)

So this was it, the turning point in Deb and Ava’s relationship that officially makes them friends and no longer only adversaries. It didn’t get off to a great start, with Deb still managing to insult Ava just after she had come out of surgery and didn’t look great herself, but pranking Perla showed their enjoyment at getting to be in on a joke together, before things got serious and Ava was the one who ended up in the hospital. I enjoyed the fact that Ava was able to unlock Deb’s cell phone by using her wax museum figure, and that the two of them wanted so much to close their eyes that they insisted on doing so while pretending that they could continue to work at the same time. There were some sincere revelations, like the fact that Deb didn’t actually burn down her ex-husband’s house but only joked about it, and more humorous ones, like Deb’s eagerness to teach Ava how to play mahjong and how Deb’s marriage therapist wanted them to work on their own relationship after he pursued her. It will be fun to see how they work together going forward, and whether these events will make their relationship more contentious, and as a result, more capable of spewing comedy gold. Marcus coming home to find his mom house-sitting and throwing a rager was an amusing start to his own time alone, where he used a whole lot of water just to place a call to the hot water cop who was absolutely interested in him too.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

What I’m Watching: Hacks

Hacks: Season 1, Episode 5 “Falling” (B+)

It was good to see Ava interact with other people over the course of this episode, not that either of those ended up working out particularly well. I enjoyed her banter with the front desk agent who had no interest in helping her until he felt so bad for her because of how uncomfortable her interaction with old friends was that he gave her a pity toothpaste. I recognized Madeline Zima from “The Nanny” and “Californication” as Ava’s old friend who seemed somewhat happy to see her but quickly lied to her about them having plans before letting slip later on in line for the club that she was directing the next Marvel movie. I thought that Ava should have bonded with the new addition to the group because she was similarly-minded, but Ava doesn’t stop to think much and instead just acts in the moment. The guy she met was truly what she needed, and their night of many highs and many drugs was really quite wonderful. The fact that he jumped out the window and killed himself was a dark turn, but instead of this show letting Ava sit in that grief, she just has to keep going as if everything is normal and wait for Deb to listen to the voicemail and chew her out for it. Deb wasn’t particularly polite to Ava when she met her with her new friend, and she’s also cutting Marcus out because she feels like he’s being too honest and disloyal. Blackmailing Marty and ensuring that his ex-wife showed up at the table to light a fire under him was bold and direct, and she’s gradually making sure that any of the friends she has left aren’t going to want to help her when she needs it most.

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4, Episode 7 “Home” (B+)

The idea of June getting out of Gilead always seemed so unlikely, and there were three times where it almost happened – at the end of season one, the end of season two, and the time in between when she was on a plane that wasn’t able to take off – but she was never quite this close, or so out of it to not realize what was happening. I’m sure there is a part of her that feels as if she’s betrayed the people she left behind, not just Hannah but Janine and all the other handmaids who might be made to suffer because of her actions, but it’s likely that she can do more good from the outside as a living witness to all the horrors that continue to transpire in Gilead. Her readjustment to being with Luke and even just in a supermarket where she could pick her own bag of chips was stark and difficult, and the sight of a hijab was enough to make her believe for a moment that she was looking at a handmaid. She was able to laugh as Moira declared a “Lydia-free zone” before she found out about Serena, something that was bound to come up eventually. That confrontation was harsh and unforgiving, and wishing a miscarriage on her was even worse than the punishment I thought she would propose – that her child be taken from her and raised by someone else. She’s determined and now she’s working directly with Mark, and I’m eager to see what change she’s able to accomplish now that she once again has resources and power.

What I’m Watching: This Is Us (Season Finale)

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 16 “The Adirondacks” (B+)

I had the fantastic opportunity to be able to watch this finale in the company of many other eager viewers at a drive-in screening in Los Angeles, and to hear from creator Dan Fogelman and stars Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz immediately after to clarify some of the big reveals that came in the last few minutes of the episode. One thing that this show has consistently done since it began is to give teases to future events that don’t play out exactly as they seem, which can be rewarding but also immensely frustrating. Now we’re at the point where this show is headed towards its end with just one season to go, and its direction should be becoming clearer and clearer with every new episode. It’s devastating to learn that Kate and Toby aren’t meant to be together forever and equally shocking to find out that Philip, played by Chris Geere from “You’re the Worst,” is the man that she’ll soon marry. But Fogelman pointed out that he’s at a point in his life where he’s going to the second weddings of people whose first unions seemed perfect and ideal to him at the time, and this show does a good job of reflecting real life even if not everyone’s family is exactly like this. The same is true for Kevin and Madison, who made some sense as an unlikely couple and obviously get along well enough by the time of Kate’s wedding to be very civil to each other. It also appears that Nicky is married, which suggests happiness might be out there for all. There was some fine work by Sterling K. Brown and Mandy Moore in this episode in the Randall-Rebecca scenes, and it was also sweet to see Jack and Rebecca forced to get married again by their children after Jack nearly blew it by taping over the finale of “Dynasty.” This has been another terrific season, boldly and compellingly incorporating what’s going on in the world in a way that felt natural and appropriate. I’m looking forward to season six.

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Justin Hartley as Kevin

What I’m Watching: Superman and Lois

Superman and Lois: Season 1, Episode 7 “Man of Steel” (B)

Things would be considerably simpler if everyone was just honest, right? Maybe not when people have truly nefarious aims, like Morgan Edge, and are only recruiting top talent because they’re meant to be guinea pigs for his latest super-powered experiment. I’m glad to see that Lana is secretly spying for Lois, though Kyle would be just as angry to learn that as he would that Lana apparently didn’t recommend him for the executive program, something that will likely save his life down the road if he ever comes around to appreciating that fact. I am very intrigued by Captain Luthor’s story and the fact that he worked so hard with his daughter to create a suit that could render it possible for him to fight back against the destructive and evil Kryptonians on his earth. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in the world we know, and he’s too blinded by the capacity for corruption that he saw to consider that it might not be an inevitability. What’s actually hardest to believe on this show is the idea that someone could be looking right at Clark and not have any concept that he’s also Superman, but I suppose that’s something that must be forgiven since it’s part of the whole comic book mythology. Jordan did a good job of focusing his powers on hearing just one thing, and it’s a relief that, after he got very angry with his brother for allegedly flirting with his would-be girlfriend, they bonded in a brotherly way and will continue to confront both their slowly-emerging powers and teenage angst together.

Friday, May 28, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 7, Episode 11 “Family Matters, Part 2” (B)

Well, this all came together in a way that didn’t involve many casualties and instead spoke to the Flash’s mantra of never trying to kill anyone but instead finding another solution. That wasn’t looking too good for a while, especially as Bashir followed up on his clever illusion with some secret communication with Alexa designed to wrest control of the situation away from Iris. Nora did seem like she was turning into a villain, and collateral damage was going to be a certainty with all of these forces going up against one another in the middle of Central City. Fortunately, good prevailed, and Nora being shown a future where the speed force was all alone with nothing else around it was a sobering reminder of what was important, and they were all able to work together to fix things after that. I like that Barry and Iris have finally stopped talking about their future children as something that might happen, and now we might be at the point where Nora is being rewritten into the timeline. Cisco’s departure is creeping up as he’s being forced to give an answer on a new job, and that news is going to prove devastating to the team. I’m baffled that Frost was released so quickly after being given a life sentence, and while she’s enjoying her current crush, I think things will get much more serious quickly when Kramer finds out that she’s, at least in her mind, again a threat to society.

What I’m Watching: In Treatment

In Treatment: Season 4, Episode 4 “Brooke – Week 1” (B+)

I had forgotten that, during the first three seasons of this show, Paul would have his own therapy session each week, first with Dianne Wiest’s Gina and then Amy Ryan’s Adele in season three. I thought when I saw the episode’s title that might be the case here, but it seems like it was just a chance to see Brooke in her normal life when she’s not expecting to have to unpack someone else’s personal business. That’s another interesting facet of operating an office out of your home, particularly for therapy, since it means that she already had the setup there for the same dynamic with Rita as she does the rest of the time with her patients. I’m not familiar with actress Liza Colón-Zayas other than from brief research that indicates that she’s married in real life to the underrated David Zayas, best known for “Dexter.” Rita was an immediately memorable presence, someone who knew what it was that Brooke might be trying to hide and had the right questions to prepare to check in with her friend to see how she was really doing. I’ve been a fan of Joel Kinnaman since I saw him on “The Killing,” and he’s done plenty since then, including “House of Cards” and “Altered Carbon,” and I’m eager to see more of the man who Rita knows so well as a bad influence for Brooke who was more than ready to combat his reputation head-on when he came face-to-face with her when he still showed up after Brooke told him not to come.

What I’m Watching: In Treatment

In Treatment: Season 4, Episode 3 “Laila – Week 1” (B+)

One of the most compelling things about this show historically has been its use of young actors, which I mentioned in my review of the season premiere. I’m not familiar with Quintessa Swindell, though I did see them in “Voyagers,” which debuted a few weeks ago in theaters. It’s an impressive and mature performance in its portrayal of youthfulness, ready to challenge Brooke just as much as Colin did but from a theoretically less aggressive vantage point. Like with Colin, Brooke was ready to head it off by meeting Laila where she was, moving away from the couch and trying to connect with her on an intimate level. She wasn’t content to let Laila diagnose herself as a sex addict and just let it go, instead challenging her to consider that some of what she was feeling and experiencing might not be all that unusual or wrong. It’s certainly not what her grandmother had in mind when she brought her in hoping that Brooke would warn her about how difficult it would be to go through life “choosing” to be a lesbian, and I imagine we’ll see her return for part of a future session to express her displeasure at how that’s not the message she’s receiving at all. It’s so interesting to see how working from home in a profession like this leads to lines being crossed since patients make far too many observations and assumptions based on what they see around them that can’t be hidden in the way an office can present less readable neutrality.

Pilot Review: Flatbush Misdemeanors

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.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

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

Black Monday: Season 3, Episode 1 “Ten!” (B)

I’m honestly very surprised that this show is still on since I don’t know anyone who watches it and I’m curious who exactly it might appeal to. I like it because it has echoes of “House of Lies,” another Don Cheadle-starring Showtime series that I liked very much, and because it’s just so committed to its absurdity. Just as things changed in a big way between seasons one and two, that’s true again here, with Mo looking older and more buttoned-up in his latest wild ventures, which included a music label and trying very hard to get Dawn out of jail. She did seem much happier being in charge of the whole operation there and getting luxurious meat sandwiches and lobster brought to her, and she managed to figure an easy way out by getting her fellow prisoner to confess to far more serious crimes than she had previously alleged. It’s strange not to structure things around financial trades, but this show has done a good job of developing all of its larger-than-life characters, so it all still works. Though they’re not always on exactly the same page, Larry and Keith do have an entertaining and effective rapport, and they’re both relishing the opportunity to lord anything over Mo. Blair’s congressional life wasn’t nearly as glamorous as he had hoped, working in a closet where every single passerby stopped in to fart, and he was about to go and change it all before he got shot. I’m not sure whether he’s actually dead, which would be a shame given Andrew Rannells’ value on this show, but there’s something to unpredictability, I suppose.

What I’m Watching: Mare of Easttown (Penultimate Episode)

Mare of Easttown: Season 1, Episode 6 “Sore Must Be the Storm” (B+)

That opening scene with someone in the hospital was ambiguous just for a second, and Mare’s recovery was confirmed at the same time as Colin’s death. He really was a terrific character, and it doesn’t help that multiple other people remain strong suspects for things other than abducting Katie Bailey. Mare getting slapped by Colin’s mother when she went over there to give her condolences was brutal, but Mare did get a much sincerer and more heartwarming thank you from an emotional Dawn. Even Tony seemed remorseful about the way that he treated Mare, and Brianna retreated from her previous stance to try to help in whatever small way she still could that wasn’t received as all that genuine by law enforcement. Dylan has become an increasingly unsympathetic character, especially in his vicious efforts to track down Jess and ensure that she didn’t continue talking to the police. A distraught Mark is now in custody, but it seems that he’s said as much as he knows. The Ross brothers, on the other hand, have considerably more to hide, and Lori didn’t hold out very long under questioning given what John had just told her about Billy. It’s a simple reveal regarding Billy being the one to kill Erin, but it seems increasingly likely, especially from the Chief frantically telling Mare to stand down and wait for backup, that John is complicit in some way, even if it’s just him being the father of Erin’s baby. One more episode won’t be able to resolve all the mess that can be found in this town, but there’s still plenty to be unpacked and covered.

What I’m Watching: Pose

Pose: Season 3, Episode 5 “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” (B+)

I was a bit confused when this episode started since I worried this was some sort of flashback to Elektra’s life of excess and riches that had all been torn down, but instead it was a far more positive and uplifting story of luxury. Elektra’s excitement at laundering drug money through her phone sex business was entertaining, and I loved the way she said “The mafia was wonderful to work with.” Her delivery is truly terrific, with a handful of other great lines in this hour like “Look at me if your eyes can handle the sparkle of my jewels.” Taking care of her daughters was a very sweet way of sharing her good fortune, starting with all-new furniture to replace everything of Blanca’s and a dream wedding for Angel. They all had a lot of fun shopping for the perfect wedding dress, and the shop owner coming down to tell them he wouldn’t take their money was a cruel and disappointing twist. But leave it to Elektra to have the last word, getting her mafia buddies to steal all of the dresses so that she could give one to every person coming to Angel’s wedding. Unfortunately, Papi didn’t seem nearly as excited by the idea of a lavish wedding that he wasn’t paying for, and the timing of him finding out that he had a son whose mother had just died couldn’t have been worse. I don’t think this is the end for Angel and PApi, but it’s certainly not a good sign.

What I’m Watching: In Treatment

In Treatment: Season 4, Episode 2 “Colin – Week 1” (B+)

Now here’s a fantastic actor that I’m thrilled to see is a getting a role that’s absolutely perfect for him. I liked John Benjamin Hickey a lot when I first saw him on “The Big C,” and I enjoyed his subsequent appearances in “The Good Wife” and Eytan Fox’s “Sublet,” though I could never get into “Manhattan.” The way that he delivers his lines is just so fantastic, and he uses that energy here to create a character who thinks he knows everything yet isn’t nearly as in control as he’d like to think he is. I don’t know if she’ll be back, but I was happy to see Madeline Zima from “Californication” and “The Nanny” dropping Colin off at the session, and she made an impression even if she was there just for a moment. It’s good to see Brooke fighting back and refusing to let Colin dictate the terms of the session, teasing him about his comments about Black people before containing any response to his regressive statements that he dismissed as just part of who he is and his authentic self. He is a strong representation of people who would like to excuse their actions and worldviews as simply the most effective or reasonable outlook, regardless of how that makes certain populations or individuals feel. I like that she resisted the incursions into her own personal life and how he tried to reduce the value of her profession, and having this be in person was a welcome change from the Zoom session Eladio had that I thought would define this entire show. I’m eager to see Colin again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

What I’m Watching: In Treatment (Series Return)

In Treatment: Season 4, Episode 1 “Eladio – Week 1” (B)

I’m not sure I even knew that this show was coming back, and only realized that it was premiering again so soon when I started my Emmy coverage for The Film Experience and indicated it as a possible contender given its history of acting nominations. Looking back at my reviews of the show, it looks like I really wasn’t into season one at the time when I began it, though I remember checking in later and being much more impressed, I didn’t review season two at all since it aired during my semester abroad, and I appreciated season three as I reviewed four episodes at a time. It’s crazy to think about some of the tremendous young talent working today who started on this show, like Mia Wasikowska, Alison Pill, and Dane DeHaan, as well as the presence of some now-deceased actors like John Mahoney and Irrfan Khan. Whatever its history, this show is back now with two episodes at a time, twice a week, following four patients. It’s interesting that Brooke is linked to Paul since this show didn’t have to be about Gabriel Byrne’s character, and I’m not sure whether he’s planning to return at some point. I do like Uzo Aduba, an Emmy winner for “Orange is the New Black” and “Mrs. America,” though I don’t think I would have thought to cast her for this role. Anthony Ramos, who plays Eladio, is probably best known for “Hamilton” and the upcoming “In the Heights,” but I also remember seeing him as a not-terrible part of the Liam Neeson movie “Honest Thief.” I would like to get to know him better, and this episode served as more of an introduction to both characters. I was intrigued that we only saw Brooke’s surroundings while she watched Eladio on screen, but things flipped towards the end, which was an effective way to remind viewers that there is a real world on both sides. Let’s see what episode two and the other patients are like – I’m on board to explore with this show.

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 6, Episode 4 “Bay of Squids” (B-)

This show really is over-the-top, but it does make for entertaining television. I didn’t even realize until I sat down to write this review that Sara and Gary didn’t appear at all in the hour, but we did get a chance to see Kayla after she ended up in 1962 right at the heart of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had a feeling that she might eventually transform into a human so that she could better communicate with Mick, but I did not foresee that she would choose a form that would so entice him. He’s not going to be happy when he learns that she was formerly engaged to Gary, but this should be a fun ride back to rendezvous with those two. Mick definitely shouldn’t run missions going forward, but he did propel the legends much closer than they’ve been to finding Sara, even if he nearly started a world war in the process. Behrad’s stoner vibes were perfect for Fidel Castro, though his Jay Guevara charade only lasted a short while until his very real cousin Che called. Nate and Zari had more success with JFK, whose enthusiasm for football and Harvard was exaggerated for comedic effect when they had to literally get the nuclear football back from the warmongering General Kilgore. The opening scene with Nate happening upon an unbeautified Zari was indicative of the inevitable romance that’s going to happen between them, especially considering how absent Constantine has been lately. You’d think this team could use all the members it’s got considering their current challenging quest to find their leader.

What I’m Watching: Master of None (Season Premiere)

Master of None: Season 3, Episode 1 “Moments in Love, Chapter 1” (B+)

I really did not expect this show to return, and seeing the announcement about the upcoming premiere one month ago caught me by surprise. It’s been four years since season two dropped, and it’s an unexpected pleasure to experience more of this show. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Aziz Ansari is that he’s happy to share the spotlight, allowing his co-winners at both Emmy ceremonies, Alan Yang and Lena Waithe, to deliver speeches while he stood silently by. I, as I’m sure many others did, wondered whether him stepping back from the lead role was in response to the issues brought up about his conduct a few years ago which didn’t quite derail his career but led to a lengthy absence, and I didn’t think that he was going to appear in the show at all. But instead, like at the Emmys, he just pivoted focus to someone else he wanted to spotlight, and showed up again as a very unlikeable and unkind Dev who was unnecessarily brutal to his girlfriend when the truth came out in front of Denise and Alicia. Denise’s story is definitely different than Dev’s but it also works well, and just as the season two installments in Italy felt like a departure from reality, so too did this opening episode, which ran very long and covered a lot of ground. Naomi Ackie is a fantastic addition to the cast, and it makes me want to watch the second season of “The End of the F***ing World” since I somehow never managed to get around to it (I did see her in “The Bisexual”). There’s something so natural to their relationship, and while it’s not all happy, it’s very intimate in a way that doesn’t feel invasive or overly dramatized. It was nice to see Darius, played by Anthony Welsh, a standout supporting cast member from “Pure,” so eagerly volunteer to be their sperm donor and for that process, however unsuccessful, to be easy, familiarity, and only slightly humorous in nature.

Round Two: Halston

Halston: Season 1, Episode 2 “Versailles” (B+)

Five episodes is not a common length for a show, and it’s strange to think that we’re almost halfway through this story. But, thus far, it’s all been very interesting, and we’re being introduced to new characters and situations that only make it more appealing. Bill Pullman is an actor I think I associate most with his role in “Independence Day,” though I know he was also in “Surveillance,” which was a very different part, and has played in numerous other projects the past few decades. I like the quiet excitement that comes alive in him when David Mahoney describes the proposals he has for Halston, and he’s a businessman very capable of dangling incredibly enticing opportunities without making them sound like they’re anything notable, like the figures he suggested to Halston as he tried so hard to get him to consider his fantastic offer. Halston, of course, isn’t much of a team player, and he walked around throwing tantrums when he found out that he would have to share Liza and that he wouldn’t be going last. I also enjoyed that he was walking around New York complimenting women’s dresses because he knew that their response would be, “Thanks, it’s a Halston.” There’s evidently much more fame and fortune to come, but his ego is surely going to get in the way. Eleanor knows how to deal with him, and I do hope that Kelly Bishop earns deserved Emmy consideration for her scene-stealing turn and superb delivery of all of her lines.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Pilot Review: The Bite

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: Marvel's M.O.D.O.K.

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: Solos

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: Trying

Trying: Season 2, Episode 2 “The Sun on Your Back” (B+)

I enjoyed the opening description of Jason as not a cartoon character but someone who needs more than one outfit for work now that he’s a manager, though it didn’t help him much since he struggled considerably to get everyone’s attention and then promptly lost it when he couldn’t stop looking at his phone. Getting management advice from a typically smug Freddy was obviously useless, but his American girlfriend turned out to be much more helpful, and she’s infinitely more intelligent and put-together than expected, though Freddy is hopeless to keep up with her. Nikki was not the center of attention as she went wedding dress shopping with her mom and sister at the store that was hilariously operated by a husband who didn’t know what to call sleeves and was startled by the price of the garment that he was selling. That was a fun and dramatically effective outing, punctuated by her mom commenting that she’s always been happy and that she just wanted Karen to smile. Penny’s bad news burst a bubble of overinvestment that included her drinking out of a mug labeled James, and the park event might have changed all that had the comic delays with the wrong park and the tourists on the bus not caused them to miss it entirely. But Nikki seeing the one girl who didn’t want to go and finding her princess wish in the trash was almost better, and it looks like hope may be on the horizon. On a more humorous note, I enjoyed Jason’s defense of his having forgotten most of his martial arts moves: that his opponents wouldn’t be able to see them coming if even he didn’t know what he was doing next.

Monday, May 24, 2021

What I’m Watching: Trying (Season Premiere)

Trying: Season 2, Episode 1 “A Nice Boy” (B+)

I’m so happy that this show is back since it was absolutely one of my favorites in 2020 and seems to fly way too under-the-radar given its quality and charm. This opener wasn’t actually all that much about Nikki and Jason’s relationship but instead about how they were watching their best friends be torn apart, dueling even during the baptism itself and coming up with new names for their baby son on the fly. I enjoyed that they went with the priest’s name since it was a neutral compromise, but that was about all they were able to agree on until the end of the episode and Erica jumping in to the water to save the plant made things suddenly seem a lot less contentious. Freddy was being the worst as he expected Nikki and Jason to drop everything to go pick up all of his stuff when Erica wasn’t home and then complained to them that they had forgotten one item. Jason did manage to put him in his place, but Nikki just seemed so floored that they were able to simply move on after a heated argument. Nikki declaring the entire male gender unsalvageable because they might turn into Freddy, Jason made a decent case for how they could turn out okay, and they may well be on track to getting this boy that Penny told them ahead of time would be available. Let’s just hope that his sneaking olives is just that and not a metaphor for a more significant yearning for something he doesn’t presently have.

What I’m Watching: The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast: Season 1, Episode 5 “Elvis, Jesus, Coca Cola” (B)

As if Justin Theroux and Melissa George weren’t already formidable actors to make watching this show worthwhile, now we have Ian Hart, an underrated performer who many might recognize from his role as Professor Quirrell in the first Harry Potter movie but who I know from his TV credits like “Dirt,” “Luck,” and “The Bridge.” He’s playing a formidable assassin reminiscent of Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Men” who appreciates a bit of style with his vicious killings but also has an incredible network of young contacts to ensure that he’s able to find these fugitives with very little time or effort, albeit just after they got taken by another party. It’s not a surprise that Allie wouldn’t understand how much people are not into helping him given his penchant for disappearing, and his surefire ally didn’t want to have much to do with him, and, after putting him and Margot through a rather exhausting scavenger hunt, they’ve now both been taken to some unknown destination. Dina and Charlie may be relatively mature and capable, but they weren’t able to stay by themselves without revealing how they got there to and brandishing a gun at a group of clueless stoned tourists. More problematically, Dina googled her father, revealing that he kidnapped her as a child, which may or may not be an invented story by the agents very much on her tail who now know exactly where to look for her. With only two episodes to go in this show’s first season, things are not looking great for any of these family members.

What I’m Watching: Rebel

Rebel: Season 1, Episode 6 “Just Because You're Paranoid” (B)

It’s disappointing that this show isn’t going to continue for another season, but unlike another cancelled ABC show, “Call Your Mother,” we at least have a four installments left before it’s done, meaning that there’s plenty that can happen during that time. It was jarring to see the lengths that Angela went to in order to conceal the fact that she was actually working for Mark Duncan, and that of course didn’t work given that she still had to run out of Cruz’s bedroom when she knew it was over. It also doesn’t speak well to Duncan’s purported goodness since he’s playing this responsible corporate entity who’s doing clearly illegal and devious things. Cruz and Rebel did not handle their interrogation process all that well, managing to anger all of their suspects who it turns out were all trying hard to do the right thing. Cassidy should have known that coming home to work with Luke wouldn’t go over well with Amir, and he showed up at exactly the wrong time. Misha and Nate seem headed for a better place, even if she’ll return to her fast-talking, no-nonsense self once they’re both sober again. It’s good to know that Sean is a good guy and that Grady was at least willing to give him a second chance, offering some stability for Ziggy as her parents’ relationship once again deteriorates. Lanalee sprang into action when Angela bolted but now seems to have ended up in a bad situation, and it’s hard to know whether a supporting character on this very large ensemble is invincible or expendable.

What I’m Watching: The United States of Al

The United States of Al: Season 1, Episode 8 “Roht/Sweet Bread” (B+)

It was fun to get to see Al involved in the first romance we’ve seen for him on this show, one that seemed destined to go great places despite the lengthy drive necessary for Al to get to his newfound Afghani second home. I didn’t realize that actress Azita Ghanizada, who had a starring role in “Alphas” and appeared recently opposite William Jackson Harper in “We Broke Up,” was actually born in Afghanistan, another instance of real life reflected on screen that isn’t the case with the admittedly charming but very South African portrayer of Al, Adhir Kalyan. What I didn’t expect was that his service with the United States military would rub her the wrong way and ruin the budding relationship, and though she could return again, I think this may just be something that wasn’t meant to work out. It was entertaining to see how into this possibility the family was, teasing him in the car, and I also enjoyed Hazel sneaking food in the backseat and licking her snacks so that Riley couldn’t have any of them. Art looking in the phonebook to try to find roht bread was endearing if not all that effective, and I like that he didn’t let Lizzie making a sex joke in front of him go, pointing out more than once that he’s her father. The relationship dynamics, particularly between different generations, aren’t always appropriate or normative, but that’s part of why they work well and why they’re appealing to watch.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

What I’m Watching: Hacks

Hacks: Season 1, Episode 4 “D’Jewelry” (B+)

It was great to see more of Kaitlin Olson in this episode as DJ, especially after I had the chance to interview her along with Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder. Being Deb’s daughter can’t have been easy, and it’s interesting to see how they accommodate each other’s differences in their very rocky relationship. “It’s like watching Picasso sing” was a particularly cruel way for Deb to comment on her talents, and telling Ava to “do yourself a favor, take the afternoon off and get your tubes tied” was somehow meaner. Ava coming to DJ’s show just to piss Deb off was an opportunity for the two of them to connect and for DJ to open up a bit, and it was fun to see Ava spring into action to pretend to be a buyer so that an actual buyer would express interest in her line. Even though she hates Deb, Ava ran right to her when she found out how DJ actually supports herself, and we found out that Deb knows all about this and purposely deglams for the cameras so that it can help her. I’m excited to see that Jane Adams, a fantastic actress who has appeared in such shows as “Hung” and “Sneaky Pete,” is playing Ava’s mom, and I hope we get to see more of her in the future. Their relationship doesn’t seem to be much healthier. One dynamic that has more baggage to it is the one between Deb and Marty, who really do see something they need in each other even if they’re spending most of their time trying to sabotage each other and Marty was ready to push Deb aside instantly when a photographer mistook her for his wife.

Take Three: Hacks

Hacks: Season 1, Episode 3 “A Gig’s a Gig” (B+)

It’s definitely true that Ava isn’t treated well, but she doesn’t exactly do much to recommend herself, like being caught by Deb trying to take a naked photo while she was supposed to be endlessly digitizing the library of all of her work. Ava also doesn’t do a good job of following directions or respecting her new boss’ privacy, bringing the envelope from her sister to her and then taking it out of the trash despite repeated instructions to leave it alone. Deb also showed that she’s more than capable of hitting back when she feels that she’s been wronged, picking on Ava as the girl with the big hands on the tour bus, making another joke about her physical appearance, and then sharing the embarrassing moment from earlier with everyone there. The brief peek we got into Ava’s social life was informative, since she and Ruby were clearly not on the same page but there was still affection there which meant that it wasn’t entirely Ava’s fault for not moving on. I was pleased to see Brent Sexton from “The Killing” and “Justified” as the father of Jimmy’s terrible assistant, who went out for lunch but of course wasn’t going to bring her boss back anything despite that being her job. As if Deb and Ava’s relationship wasn’t bad enough, there’s also clearly a strain on her dynamics with Marcus and D.J., potentially preventing a relationship with the water cop for the former and eviscerating any self-confidence that her adult daughter might still have.

What I’m Watching: Call Your Mother (Series Finale)

Call Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 13 “Jean There Done That” (B)

It’s hard to be invested in the outcome of this episode when this show is completely over, but that’s not anyone’s fault since this installment was surely filmed long before anyone knew that would be the case. It was a pretty big step for Jean to bring Danny back to Iowa with her simply because they couldn’t get any privacy (though that door managed to lock just fine later on when Freddie and Jackie once again tried to burst in), and Jean regressed quickly into old habits of avoidance. I thought the issue might be that her house was impossibly messy or that there were photos of her husband everywhere, but instead it was just her not wanting to commit, something she opted to do in the end by returning to LA since apparently flights between Iowa and California are very easy to book last-minute. I knew that the children’s investigation into Danny as a serial killer wouldn’t lead anywhere, but it was more just fun to see them spin their conspiracy theories brought on by the disturbing content they were choosing to watch. I do feel that, though this show wasn’t always superb, it was consistently enjoyable, and the main cast was great. Kyra Sedgwick was a good fit for the lead, and, as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m eager to see what some of the younger cast does next, particularly Rachel Sennott, who played Jackie, Joey Bragg, who played Freddie, Emma Caymares, who played Celia, and Austin Crute, who played Lane. I doubt it will earn any Emmy attention, but I’d be happy if it did.

Series grade: B
Series MVP: Rachel Sennott as Jackie

What I’m Watching: Home Economics

Home Economics: Season 1, Episode 7 “Opus Cabernet, 2015, $500” (B+)

We don’t see too much of the grandparents on this show aside from that one episode in which they nearly moved way too close to all of their adult children, but that montage from early on in this installment that showed how Tom, Sarah, and Connor managed to ruin every single one of their anniversaries summed it all up. In this case, they simply celebrated the peace and quiet that came with not having them in the way and instead being able to indoctrinate their tamer if culturally uneducated grandchildren while sitting out by the pool in bathrobes. Tom sending the info about his book deal to Connor by mistake was unfortunate, and I enjoyed the complete lack of maturity that followed, including the threat from Sarah and Connor that it would be them or the book. Denise being mad at Marina for betraying their secret married-in club was especially funny, and that bottle of wine took the brunt of the aggression both of them felt. Relationships like those are one of the main reasons I enjoy ensemble comedies, and I hope to see more references to that in the future. The existence of the entity known alternatively as Alicia Silverstick and Sticolas Cage was amusing, and of course the whole wine cellar saga would end with every bottle breaking in a slow-motion domino-style horror show. I do think that Nicole Byer, best known as the host of “Nailed It,” is a great choice to play Amanda, Tom’s editor who enjoys his attitude but wants to always be the one to hang up on him in the future.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4, Episode 6 “Vows” (B+)

I was startled to see that this episode was only thirty-eight minutes long, even though that’s close to the length of an average installment of a network drama. I appreciate the fact that, with streaming television, things are only as short or long as they need to be based on the content, and some narratives just don’t take up the same amount of time. The flashbacks in this episode were intriguing because they were very intimate, showing only the relationship between June and Moira and how it was fractured by June’s decision to move in with Luke, something that Moira did not approve of and thought would end badly for her. It’s crazy how insignificant what they were fighting about feels compared to the world in which they now live, where the notion of infidelity would be the worst horror Moira could imagine for June. Years later, Moira has evidently shifted her perspective, and she gave up her own relationship to protect her best friend and ensure that she wouldn’t be sent to certain death. June was ready to turn herself in and be captured so that no one else had to get hurt, but that’s not what happened, and Moira stepped in to make sure that Rachel Smith wasn’t detected. Her reunion with Luke was underwhelming because she was in such a state of shock, and I’m hopeful that she’ll soon get to work using her knowledge of what Gilead is doing to continue fighting, this time from the outside and ensuring that the world knows what this young nation is truly capable of and what they believe about the worth of women.

What I’m Watching: Big Sky (Season Finale)

Big Sky: Season 1, Episode 16 “Love is a Strange and Dangerous Thing” (C+)

I honestly didn’t know how this finale was going to leave things since we got this entirely new storyline and set of characters midway through that appears to have been mostly killed off, with only the women left standing. That takes us back to the original villain of this show, Ronald, who has now been rewritten as this impossibly clever and manipulative mastermind who, despite being incapable of resisting demeaning criticism from his mother, has no problem holding the upper hand against three trained law enforcement officials and orchestrating his rescue from their custody. I don’t think that Rick would have read Ronald into the details of his trafficking operation, and even having access to the hard drive feels like a stretch. It’s clear that Ronald’s twisted morality involves an emphasis on caring for certain people and fighting the rest of the world, and now, as I suspected, the future is going to be all about Ronald and Scarlet on the run, looking for Phoebe and then trying to escape to whatever future awaits them. Jenny’s injuries appear to be much more severe than just a flesh wound, and Cassie getting angry and taking a cruiser full of guns isn’t going to do much to fix that. This show has at least been different than a lot of what I’ve seen, even if its plotting is often thin. Given that it’s a show I started watching with family, I’ll probably continue in season two even though I know I really shouldn’t.

Season grade: C+
Season MVP: John Carroll Lynch as Rick

What I’m Watching: This Is Us

This Is Us: Season 5, Episode 15 “Jerry 2.0” (B+)

This episode did indeed feature one of the most awkward bachelor parties on record, but it tracks that the Pearsons would be there for their own given that we so rarely see any of these characters interacting with friends and instead spending a great deal of time with family. Randall was the only one of the attendees who seemed to be in a pretty good place, especially considering what he’s recently been grappling with regarding his identity. Nicky was his typical curmudgeonly self, and I’m surprised it took him this long to look up Sally Brooks. It would be very on-brand for them to be able to reunite so many years later, and for a romance to be somehow possible. It was sweet to hear Miguel’s interpretation of his unwritten destiny with Rebecca and how he’s come to accept that. Toby considering a job in San Francisco is a big step, but, as Randall pointed out, he’s is a funk that’s consuming him. Watching Madison – and Kate – react to Kevin’s answers on video was uncomfortable, and all the references to “Jerry Maguire” and to Sophie make me very nervous that they’re going to decide that they shouldn’t stay together. At least they both seem to be coming to that conclusion and not on completely different pages. We don’t usually get to see Tess and Rebecca interacting, and so it was great to get a glimpse of some positive encouragement that came at exactly the time Tess needed it most.

What I’m Watching: Superman and Lois

Superman and Lois: Season 1, Episode 6 “Broken Trust” (B)

This young show returns from a two-month hiatus with more new episodes, and it’s already been renewed for a second season, which is hardly surprising given how popular all of the CW Arrowverse series have been and continue to be. I like that this show seems to be pairing up characters and letting them explore things together, like Lois and her byline-seeking stranger who is revealing himself to be far more than just a journalist. I’d also imagine that him spending time with her will open his eyes to the fact that the Superman of this world is not the villain he thinks he is, and that Morgan Edge is a far more dangerous foe that they should team up to fight together. Kyle continues to be blind to any criticism of Edge as Lois merely trying to settle a score, and Lana is still caught in a difficult position as she wants to support her friends and be loyal to her husband. Jordan’s powers do seem to be out of control, and Jonathan getting competitive with the Metropolis football team didn’t help matters. Clark’s strategy of having Jordan hurt his hand by trying to punch through it did end up working, and his strategy of nonviolent conflict resolution is obviously not shared by everyone, including his own father-in-law who would rather neutralize threats with force rather than risk them continuing to grow. It’s interesting to see how few people in this universe know Superman’s true identity, a number that is sure to grow as Jordan’s powers continue to manifest and the Kent and Cushing families spend more time together.

Friday, May 21, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Flash

The Flash: Season 7, Episode 10 “Family Matters, Part 1” (B)

This is something new which I think I like – the approach to try to get villains to reform their ways and control their abilities rather than hold them accountable for the damage and destruction they’ve caused. Obviously there is a difference between Alexa not being able to control Fuerza’s power and Bashir wielding Psych’s nightmares as a weapon to deliberately hurt those who had wronged him, but the notion of getting someone to confess or to surrender themselves willingly to spend their lives behind bars has never made all that much sense as a strategy. I was happy that we got to see Ennis Esmer’s face after enjoying the actor on “You Me Her” and “Dark Matter,” and it’s good to see him getting an opportunity to not just play a masked villain but someone with a bit more complexity and depth now that his true motives are being revealed. Alexa did a great job of emulating Caitlin and talking to Fuerza so that they could work together to take down Psych, and it’s good to see that Barry and Iris’ approach did work. Unfortunately, Nora got to Deon first and it looks like she’s just taken out all three of the family members around Barry. There’s no way that Iris is dead so presumably both Alexa and Bashir are also okay. Joe’s departure from the force was very dramatic, and stepping down so that he doesn’t cross a line may not be all that effective if it gives Kramer too much unchecked power.

What I’m Watching: Breeders (Season Finale)

Breeders: Season 2, Episode 10 “No Power, Part II” (B+)

It’s stressful to watch this episode and not know if this show will return for more episodes, but I really, sincerely hope it does. I now interpret this episode’s title as an indicator of the power that Paul currently doesn’t have in his relationship with his son, unable to assert himself as the father of a child because Luke can no longer tolerate his father’s aggression enough to even be in the same house as him. Flashing forward to Leah and Alex’s wedding when there was talk of how Luke wouldn’t be able to stay there once they left for their honeymoon made the mystery dissipate, instead focusing things on how Paul could repair their rapport. This show’s uncomfortable humor made its biggest and best appearance in this episode when Ally was offering unhelpful information up to the investigating officers that painted them as terrible, dangerous parents and didn’t actively serve the situation at all. Seeing how well Luke and Alex got along indicated what Luke really wanted from Paul, and I found the moment in which Paul helped him open the car door and then smiled as the two of them drove off together very poignant, indicative of how Paul could be there in the way that Luke needed him to be. Paul deciding to move out so that Luke could feel comfortable at home was a startling and major decision, but one that he realized was necessary to show the lengths he was willing to go to for his children. Ava calling him to say goodnight was sweet and a great way to close out what hopefully won’t be the last moment of this series. I’d also like to take a moment to acknowledge the quiet hilarity of Jim and Jackie arguing about the lyrics to a song they wanted played as the poor pianist was trying to perform. Let’s get this show brought back for season three, and how about Emmy nominations for the entire cast while we’re at it?

Season grade: A-
Season MVP: Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard

What I’m Watching: Mare of Easttown

Mare of Easttown: Season 1, Episode 5 “Illusions” (B+)

It’s never a good sign when a character in a dark drama gets a special spotlight and seems like they’re about to change their lives for the better. I like Evan Peters a lot and have greatly enjoyed seeing how he plays Colin and the way in which he interacts with Mare, and it was good to see him start to stand up for himself when Mare didn’t even pretend to want to be on a date with him for any reason other than to be able to work on the case. She didn’t even offer him a bite of her tortellini when he explicitly asked for it! Things got serious fast when they tracked down the man they were looking for and didn’t entirely realize it, and it certainly looks like he took a gunshot straight to the head that doesn’t give him any chance of surviving. That was an extended very tense scene when Mare managed to outrun Wayne and then eventually shoot him with Colin’s gun, and it’s going to be a difficult road back to normal for everyone involved. This episode was packed with other worthwhile content, like Helen’s affair being exposed by Glen after his wife’s death, Helen explaining her motivations for helping Carrie, and Dylan and Brianna comparing their options for the future given recent revelations. Though the main mystery has been solved, there should be plenty more collateral damage and relationships to deal with in the final two episodes of this limited series.

What I’m Watching: Pose

Pose: Season 3, Episode 4 “Take Me to Church” (B+)

It’s hard to imagine a better Emmy submission for Billy Porter than the one that won him the prize in season one, but this may be it. This episode was a remarkable journey into Pray’s life, a chance for him to go home and greet the ghosts of his past while being his authentic self. It’s a notion that I think is representative of the experiences that so many had or would have liked to have, and while he didn’t gain the acceptance he needed from everyone, he did have some breakthrough moments with a good number of people from his childhood who were formative in his life. There’s no denying the power of that musical performance in church, and I found myself getting even more emotional in the next scene where he got a degree of security in the knowledge that his Aunt Jada, played by Jackée Harry from “Sister, Sister” and “227,” was going to be looking out for his true wishes as he faced certain death in the near future. This star-studded episode cast also included Anna Maria Horsford, from “Amen” and “The Wayans Bros.,” and Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” I couldn’t quite place another strong performer from the episode, Michelle Hurd from “Star Trek: Picard” as Vernon’s wife Ebony, who knew her husband was gay and wanted advice from Pray on how to please him. This show has such a distinct, dated feel to it that works especially well for deeply involved hours like this one.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

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

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: Season 2, Episode 13 “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye” (B+)

It’s always stressful to watch an episode when the fate of a show is uncertain, especially when it delivers a game-changing twist like this one did. While I’ve always been on Team Max, I do like Simon and it’s good to know that, as confirmed by his heart song celebrating being okay, he’s happy being single and thrilled to be able to pursue a job that actually makes him excited about the work he’s doing. It was extremely awkward to hear Zoey joke about Max not getting the job and have everyone point out that wasn’t the case, and even Danny tried to be diplomatic about in the way that he could. Opening with everyone around her singing while she wasn’t in the mood and then including a dream number with Peter Gallagher and a full orchestra felt appropriate for a finale of this magnitude, and it was nice to see that, even though the two major couples of this season and Maggie’s almost-romance didn’t work out, the rest of the relationships are really blossoming, namely Tobin and McKenzie and Mo and Perry. I liked Rose and would have enjoyed having her around more, but Max getting back together with Zoey makes a lot of sense, and it’s going to be fun when this show is renewed to see them deal with the fact that he can apparently hear heart songs now too, at least from his new girlfriend. This show is fun and has really upped its musical quality in season two – bring on the awards love, especially for the spectacular Jane Levy!

Season grade: B+
Season MVP: Jane Levy

What I’m Watching: Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 6, Episode 3 “The Ex-Factor” (B+)

This episode was a bit over-the-top but actually worked pretty well, and it was a clever vision of a future where technology has evolved mainly to further fuel entertainment more than actually better society. I like that Lord Knoxacrillion was searching right away for the king of Earth without any knowledge of how its countries really worked, and the completely clueless graham cracker-head DJ S’More Money nearly got himself killed in the process. It was fun to see Zari spring into action, doing what she does best to distract the cameras so that the rest of the team could sneak in to the studio and then performing to get the votes so that she could ensure her place as the final-round competitor to beat. Lord Knoxacrillion shrewdly calculated what song and voice would net him the best possible scores, but Zari managed to win with the help of Constantine, whose participation in their spontaneous duo was a real highlight. It’s hard to know if this recent relationship will last, but it’s more rewarding than expected at the moment. Spooner and Mick are not getting along right now, and it would probably be helpful if some other legends were around to act as a buffer between those two distinctly incompatible personalities. Sara got creative in suggesting that Gary shift back to his alien form to eat all of the invading enemies, though she’s going to be in for more than she bargained for when she gets the full details on where and why she is following Gary’s discovery that the entire army was made up of Ava clones. So much for Sara being reunited with the Wave Rider crew anytime soon.

Pilot Review: Halston

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: Rebel

Rebel: Season 1, Episode 5 “Heart Burned” (B+)

I’m sad to report that this show has been cancelled and will not return for a second season, which is a shame given that it’s great light entertainment and has such a great cast. At least there should be a few episodes left to enjoy before it’s off the air. Grady and Rebel really have made up, and Ziggy wasn’t happy to walk in on them having a great morning rather than trying her proposed solution of therapy. I was just as startled as everyone to see a video of a nude Luke playing guitar, and the character who had previously seemed like an oily opportunist was quite humanized as he dealt with a major revenge porn situation. Cassidy was eager to step in and help, though her reasoning for doing so was mostly to ensure that the more common victims of revenge porn – women – can now be protected based on this precedent. It was interesting to see the dynamic of honesty and respect between Cruz and Benji, and to hear from a passionate Mark Duncan that he isn’t some corporate villain but instead a man who believes strongly in the integrity and helpful nature of his product. It was sweet that Ziggy offered up her college fund when Helen desperately needed to pay off her $143,000 outstanding bill, but the joy of that successful operation was short-lived since Angela had bugged Cruz’s office and stepped in to steal the valve so that it couldn’t be studied. There’s going to be a lot of rage soon from both Rebel and Cruz, especially when they realize that Angela is the one behind it.