What I Watched This Week: 18 Sept 2016

Documentary Now! (Season 1)
“Kunuk Uncovered” (A)
“The Eye Doesn’t Lie” (A-)
“A Town, a Gangster, a Festival” (B-)
“Gentle and Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee” (A)
Other than the muted “A Town, a Gangster, a Festival,” which features no Hader and almost no Armisen and it doesn’t quite work. All the rest is genius, especially “Gentle and Soft.”

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2016 Emmy Predictions: Limited Series and Specials

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Courtney B. Vance in The People v. O.J. Simpson
American Crime (ABC)
Fargo (FX)
The Night Manager (AMC)
The People v. O.J. Simpson (FX)
Roots (History)

Should and will win: The People v. O.J. Simpson
Could win: Fargo
Should have been nominated: Show Me a Hero (HBO)

Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock
All the Way (HBO)
Confirmation (HBO)
Luther (BBC America)
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (PBS)
A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix)

Should win: Confirmation
Could win: All the Way
Will win: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Should have been nominated: N/A

Courtney B. Vance in The People v. O.J. Simpson
Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Idris Elba, Luther
Cuba Gooding Jr, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager
Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson

Should and will win: Courtney B. Vance
Could win: Bryan Cranston
Should have been nominated: Oscar Isaac, Show Me a Hero

Sarah Paulson in The People v. O.J. Simpson
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson
Lili Taylor, American Crime
Kerry Washington, Confirmation

Should and will win: Sarah Paulson
Could win: Kerry Washington
Should have been nominated: Catherine Keener, Show Me a Hero

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2016 Emmy Predictions: Drama

Jonathan Pryce in Game of Thrones
The Americans (FX)
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Homeland (Showtime)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Mr. Robot (USA)

Should win: The Americans
Could win: Mr. Robot
Will win: Game of Thrones
Should have been nominated: Hannibal (NBC)

Liev Schreiber in Ray Donovan
Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Should win: Matthew Rhys
Could win: Rami Malek
Will win: Liev Schreiber
Should have been nominated: N/A

Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder
Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Keri Russell, The Americans
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Should win: Keri Russell
Could win: Robin Wright
Will win: Viola Davis
Should have been nominated: Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black

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2016 Emmy Predictions: Comedy

Tony Hale, Kevin Dunn and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep
Black-ish (ABC)
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Transparent (Amazon)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Veep (HBO)

Should and will win: Veep
Could win: Black-ish
Should have been nominated: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
William H. Macy, Shameless
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Should win: Aziz Ansari
Could win: Anthony Anderson
Will win: Jeffrey Tambor
Should have been nominated: Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Should and will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Could win: Tracee Ellis Ross
Should have been nominated: Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project

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What I Watched This Week: 11 Sept 2016

Atlanta – “Go for Broke” (A-)
I don’t want to overrate this episode, especially for a show so new. But this feels like an episode I’ll come back to quite a bit. Nothing much happens per se, but this show has so much to say about living right on the edge of poverty that it feels revolutionary frankly. And it does this all with humor that’s often out there and macabre.

South Park – “Member Berries” (B+) / season premiere
Has way too much on its mind, but it’s mostly about the dangers of nostalgia and how people get way too wrapped up in something as ultimately insignificant as the national anthem. But any show that can sneak in the C word repeatedly and make a reference to a Morton Downey, Jr. incident and call out J.J. Abrams as the savior of our most important properties while essentially changing zilch still has it.

Difficult People – “High Alert” (A)
My first real encounter with this show is a doozy. It’s vulgar, filled with heart and packed to the gills with pop culture references. Even without really getting to know these characters yet, I already know this is a show for me. Bonus points for casting Bill Bogert (who played Frontline-esque host Kent Wallace on Chappelle’s Show) as a 97-year-old ho finally settling down.

OJ: Made in America
“Part 2” (A)
“Part 3” (A-)
“Part 4” (A)
For more than six hours, Ezra Edelman has essentially been building the prosecution’s case – that O.J. Simpson was an abusive husband who brutally murdered his wife and Ron Goldman – and the defense’s case – that the L.A.P.D. was filled with racists and that racism was built into it institutionally. Both things are true, but unfortunately the jury didn’t see it that way.

Documentary Now! (Season 1)
“Sandy Passage” (A)
“Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon” (A-)
As I said above with Difficult People, this is another show aimed directly at me. Its attention to detail is magnificent, and it masters the tone of each of the docs it parodies. It’s masterful.

The Wire (Season 5)
“Late Editions” (A)
“-30-” (A)
Marlowe goes down, and the whole operation might go up in smoke since it’s all predicated on a lie (an Iraq War metaphor made explicit by Bunk). “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it,” as was said last week. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Nothing’s fair in Baltimore. But what a powerful final statement.

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What I Watched This Week: 4 Sept 2016

“The Big Bang” (A-) / series premiere
“Streets on Lock” (B+)
An extremely confident pilot, followed by an extremely baffling follow-up (which I also loved). It’s early, but I doubt any new show this fall will live up to this show’s creativity, humor or diversity.

OJ: Made in America – “Part 1” (A-)
Provides crucial context for OJ’s difficult childhood and rise to prominence. Plants the seeds of OJ’s narcissism, charm, talent and intense desire to be disassociated with the black community. The most powerful scene, though, is when Jim Brown talks about standing up against the disparate treatment African-Americans received during the Jim Crow era, only to be met with a refrain of, “You’re a successful black athlete. What do you know about suffering?” The fact that we’re hearing similar criticisms lobbed at Colin Kaepernick today – fifty years later, no less – proves just how little we’ve come in race relations.

The Wire (Season 5) – “Clarifications” (A-)
I knew it was coming at some point, but I didn’t expect Omar to be felled by a little kid – even if that kid was planning to set a cat on fire. It’s just one of many devastations as we come to the home stretch. The detail may be this close to catching Marlowe, but I’m not expecting anything good to come of it. Also, I hope Scott is fired in disgrace.

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What I Watched This Week: 28 Aug 2016

The Night Of – “The Call of the Wild” (A-) / series finale
A lot more satisfying than I thought it would be. Yes, they could have treated Chandra better. (Though like almost every character here, her hubris brings her down.) But this is still a bleak ending for an exhilarating but depressing show. We may have finally gotten an answer as to who killed Andrea, but no (human) character is actually better off now than at the start of the series.

The Office (Christmas Special)
“Part One” (B+)
“Part Two” (A-)
The first part makes David Brent even more unlikable than ever before, especially as he goes on a series of disastrous dates of women he finds beneath him (in a figurative sense). Yet when he finds happiness in the second part, it’s still kind of a triumphant moment. I still think the finale of “Part Two” would have been better had it ended a few minutes earlier, with Dawn weeping in the back of a taxi. But that seems too bleak for what Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant intended. I still cheered when Dawn came back to the office, kissed Tim, and grabbed his hand.

The Wire (Season 5) – “Took” (A)
Everyone’s made a fool, as their hubris comes crashing down. Rhonda finds that even with Clay Davis confessing on the stand, that’s not enough for a conviction. McNulty finds out that trying to bring some good karma by helping out a fellow officer has other people begging. And Greggs can’t even put together a damn crib. Unsurprisingly, the teleplay is great because it’s written by Richard Price, who just closed out the incredible The Night Of.

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Netflix Picks: September 2016

High-Rise – 9/1
One of my favorite films of 2016 thus far isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. You have to be on its sadistic, pitch-black comic wavelength. I was, and found myself mesmerized, even as I was frustrated.

Luke Cage (Season 1) – 9/30
I also slept on Marvel’s Defenders series thus far – both season of Daredevil and the lone season of Jessica Jones – but this might be the first that I can’t make any excuses for. Filled with righteous fury and propelled by a hip-hop soundtrack, I’ll have to make time for Mike Colter’s indestructible antihero.

I Am the Ambassador (Season 1) – 9/1
Chef’s Table (Season 3) – 9/2
Kazoops! (Season 1) – 9/2
Kulipari: An Army of Frogs – 9/2
Narcos (Season 2) – 9/2
Extremis – 9/13
Cedric the Entertainer: Live from the Ville – 9/16
The White Helmets – 9/16
Easy – 9/22
Audrie & Daisy – 9/23
Longmire (Season 5) – 9/23
VeggieTales in the House (Season 4) – 9/23
Amanda Knox – 9/30

Crashing (Season 1) – 9/1
Game Winning Hit (Season 1) – 9/1
Heartland (Season 7) – 9/1
Hellevator (Season 1) – 9/1
The IT Crowd (Season 5) – 9/1
Shameless (U.S. Seasons 5 and 6) – 9/1
The Womanizer (Season 1) – 9/1
The Year of Happiness and Love (Season 1) – 9/1
Baby Daddy (Season 5) – 9/2
Young & Hungry (Season 4) – 9/2
The Blacklist (Season 3) – 9/7
Galavant (Seasons 1 and 2) – 9/7
Supergirl (Season 1) – 9/10
Hawaii Five-0 (Season 6) – 9/13
Goldie & Bear (Season 1) – 9/14
The Walking Dead (Season 6) – 9/15
Luther (Season 4) – 9/17
Penny Dreadful (Season 3) – 9/17
Call the Midwife (Season 5) – 9/19
Gotham (Season 2) – 9/19
New Girl (Season 5) – 9/20
Last Man Standing (Season 5) – 9/23
Portlandia (Season 6) – 9/24
Family Guy (Season 14) – 9/25
The Fosters (Season 4, Part 1) – 9/28
Scream (Season 2) – 9/30

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What I Watched This Week: 21 Aug 2016

The Night Of – “Ordinary Death” (A-)
The kiss between Nas and Chandra is the only misstep the show has made thus far. But who has time to worry about such things, when the testimonies of Detective Box and Dr. Katz are such compelling television. I think we may be headed for a mistrial, which is the best possible outcome as a television viewer. Having the stepdad get arrested on his way out of the courtroom would feel too easy and having Nas be found guilty or get shanked in prison would feel like a cheat, so we’ll find out if they stick the landing next week.

Casual – “The Great Unknown” (A) / season finale
This season was kind of a mess for a good chunk of the middle section. But this finale might be the best episode the show has ever done, and it wouldn’t work without having seen all the previous messy, sometimes ugly episode. It’s basically the “Goodbyeee” for shows about disaffected L.A. people. It was quite a jump to get to an episode that reflects on death and sadness this much, but it absolutely works.

The Office (Series 2)
“Charity” (B)
“Interview” (A)
The first episode pushes the limits of cringe comedy. There are two consecutive scenes that aren’t just uncomfortable, they’re physically painful to watch. What David and his pals do veer straight into abusive territory, and it makes it not actually funny. But the rest of the episode is great, particularly the final minutes. The series finale is great from top to bottom, and features the most downer ending to a Britcom since Blackadder.

The Wire (Season 5) – “The Dickensian Aspect” (A)
Bunk learns just how deep the budget cuts affected the city’s ability to affect crime. Templeton learns how to do some honest-to-God reporting. Marlowe’s people learn just how bad their life will get with Omar still on the loose. It’s a big episode with big lessons.

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What I Watched This Week: 14 Aug 2016

The Night Of – “Samson and Delilah” (B+)
The show slides into its comfort zone as a more artful courtroom drama/prison horror show as the trial begins. And after last week letting the audience question if maybe Nas did kill Andrea, it shifts our attention to her stepdad, who might not have done it, but has all the reasons to do so. If that means more Paul Sparks, I’m all in.

Casual – “40” (B+)
Valerie is now the worst, and her ill-advised return to Drew is interrupted by her dad’s arrival at home, which should set up an interesting finale. Also, I’m impressed with how the Sebastian-Laura relationship is giving me the feels.

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – “August 18, 2016” (B) / series finale
Mostly highlights from a show I didn’t watch, but am sorry it’s gone. As Jon Stewart indicated, Larry “started a conversation that wasn’t happening before” he started the show. I hope late-night pushes for more diversity going forward.

I Love Dick (B+)
Finally, a leading role for Kathryn Hahn. She of course rises to the occasion because she is wonderful. But this is also the best thing Kevin Bacon has done in years. He plays Dick as all mystery, bluster but supreme intelligence. No wonder she loves Dick.

Jean-Claude Van Johnson (A-)
Exceedingly clever and entertaining. The most fun of the pilots.

The Tick (B)
Didn’t make me laugh as much as the animated series or the Fox live-action series, but it has a ton of potential and some actual stakes.

The Office (Series 2)
“Party” (A-)
“Motivation” (B+)
I’ve noticed the second series of The Office is noticeably dirtier than the first (“As the actress said to the bishop”). But I’ve also noticed that it’s hard to know if Gervais and Merchant want us to laugh at or with mostly terrible characters like David and Gareth. There’s also a ton of casual sexism, but I can tell that it’s meant to be negative. Still, it’s wildly funny, and David’s motivational class is a top moment of the show for sure. Yet I can’t help shake the feeling that there’s something keeping from absolutely loving the show.

The Wire (Season 5) – “React Quotes” (B+)
Until the final 20 minutes, this is just a plot-mover. But then it gets crazy intense. Bubbles being disappointed at his HIV-negative status is heartbreaking. He still wants to be punished for his boy’s death. He might not be behind bars, but he’s still in prison. And there’s Omar’s miscalculation which might lead to his own untimely end.

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