What I Watched This Week: 13 May 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Amy Schumer/Kacey Musgraves” (B+)
A solid episode with no dud sketches is rare enough, but this was just consistently funny, with “The Day You Were Born” and “Graduation 2018” proving to be some of the most hilarious, relateable sketches the show has ever done.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “White Whale” (B+)
A solid penultimate episode with three equally delightful subplots.

Silicon Valley – “Fifty-One Percent” (A) / season finale
Would serve as a perfect series finale. As a wrap-up to an abbreviated but largely successful season (and a major step up from last season), it’s terrific.

Barry – “Know Your Truth” (A) / season finale
The chance of an escape comes to a violent close, with this show echoing Breaking Bad pretty explicitly, with Janice the Hank to Barry’s Walter White. I knew what was going to happen as soon as Janice went to the pier, but it wasn’t any less devastating.

Legion – “Chapter 15” (B)
Um, what?

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Seeds” (A)
As devastating and intense as the show can be, it hasn’t always tipped into full-on horror like it does here. What I assumed was June practicing her part to avoid further abuse is actually the beginning of a full-on psychotic break, exacerbated by a the stomach-churning “Lea and Rachel” ceremony: a mass marriage of drivers and other young men to girls no older than 16. The show also manages to make holy scripture sound bone-chilling (in the mouths of people who abuse and twist it) and uses excellent camerawork to remind the characters and the audience of the secrets they all share.

The Americans – “The Summit” (A-)
The opening scene is shot and scripted like Philip confessing an affair, which makes you feel Elizabeth’s betrayal. But Philip’s decency throws her off her game, as she refuses to assassinate one of her fellow countrymen, lets her contact who figured out her scheme walk away, and even questions Claudia.

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What I Watched This Week: 6 May 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “Donald Glover/Childish Gambino” (B)
I was greatly anticipating this episode, not only because Glover is such a creative force on Atlanta, but also because he has improv experience with Derrick Comedy (featuring SNL alumnus Bobby Moynihan). Yet, the writing was kind of limp, so none of the sketches really stood out in a memorable way, often going for “weird” instead of “funny.” But as a musical guest, he blew me out of the water, using SNL‘s tiny space and terrible acoustics to his advantage, and I don’t even love “This Is America”!.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Show Me Going” (A-)
It almost pulls off the perfect blend of humor and high-stakes drama, but doesn’t completely get there. But this show is so earnest that putting Rosa in an active shooter situation doesn’t feel phony, unearned or tone-deaf, which is more than a lot of prestige-y broadcast dramas can say.

Silicon Valley – “Initial Coin Offering” (B)
Throws a bunch of subplots in a blender and doesn’t quite come out smooth. Though Laurie’s cutthroat nature will set up a big-deal season finale, it now feels like it’s rushing to finish a shortened season (which I ordinarily would not complain about). But the entire scene at the landfill was some of the best comedy the show has ever done, and I’d like to know more about Tesla actually being a pyramid scheme.

Barry – “Loud, Fast and Keep Going” (A)
The show takes a devastating turn as Barry has to make a crucial, heartbreaking decision. It’s the show with the least amount of jokes, but all of the ones it needed landed perfectly.

Westworld – “Virtù e Fortuna” (B)
So here’s the problem with this show: the first season’s mystery was compelling. This season, it’s just plot advancing, and the mystery as it were just doesn’t captivate. Although it’s certainly onto something with its opening scene. More jungle adventure, fewer robots monologuing about the nature of humanity.

Legion – “Chapter 14” (A)
A fascinating diversion of an episode that ends up being the most moving thing the show has ever done. And they still found time for a mouse to sing Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love.”

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Other Women” (A-)
June learns the horrors of not following the program, thinking she can be defiant because she’s pregnant (and seen the outside world for herself), but it only brings more physical and emotional abuse.

The Americans – “Harvest” (A)
The extraction of a fellow agent in Chicago goes horribly wrong in gory fashion. But more crucially, Stan’s basically figured out what’s been right under his nose since the pilot. These last three episodes should be substantially higher-stakes. This also gave Henry his most important episode by far.

Atlanta – “Crabs in a Barrel” (B+) / season finale
The moment in the airport security line is one of the most intense, heart-dropping scenes I’ve seen in a show recently. But the one-upmanship finally shows Earn taking some initiative, but because the show remembers that Earn is only there to get stunted on, it doesn’t quite work out how he planned. I have no idea if there will be another season of the show (I’m sure FX wants it), but I know Donald Glover is basically the most important cultural figure now, so it won’t be until 2019, or maybe even later. If so, this was a fitting send-off.

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What I Watched This Week: 29 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Bachelor/ette Party” (A)
One of the most joyous episodes of the season, with a Die Hard-themed scavenger hunt for Jake and a drunken encounter with an old one-night stand for Amy. Plus, Drunk Holt in a Kangol hat! But wait, there’s more! Reginald VelJohnson shows up as himself! And Hitchcock and Scully cosplaying as Cookie and Lucious from Empire!

Silicon Valley – “Artificial Emotional Intelligence” (B)
Lori has proven to be a notable foil, but it’s still such a bummer that we couldn’t have seen more of the guys with Christopher Evan Welch, because the writers only have one joke to go to with Lori. So her rivalry with Richard did next to nothing for me. But I loved everything in China and Dinesh vs. Guilfoyle is always a source of pleasure.

Barry – “Listen with Your Ears, React with Your Face” (A)
Another solid episode, until the action ramps up in the last 10 minutes, and then ends in the most shocking manner possible. It just proves this show has gears we don’t even realize.

Westworld – “Reunion” (A-)
A significant improvement on the premiere, with lots of time-shifting revealing more about both Delores and Bernard, and the more sinister backstories of William and Logan. The pitch meeting is one of the best things this show has ever done.

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (A)
Mulaney does it yet again, with a hilarious special that mines his childhood awkwardness and overbearing father into comedy gold, while touching on the weirdness of religious rituals, CAPTCHAs and the futility of going to college.

Legion – “Chapter 13” (A-)
Another devastating episode devoted to a single character, as we explore Lenny’s tragic backstory (geez, is there anyone in this group who didn’t grow up with trauma?) and learn the disturbing fate of David’s sister Amy. (Sorry, Katie Aselton, the show’s greatest misstep is that it never quite knew what to do with you.)

The Handmaid’s Tale – “Baggage” (B+)
An intense episode that makes the most of its long running time. While its ending is intense, it feels like a step back for a season that was going in a thrilling new direction. We’ll see.

The Americans – “Rififi” (A-)
Philip’s act of defiance leads to an awkward Thanksgiving and F-bombs from him and Elizabeth. But they end the episode back together, since the FBI is onto a comrade in Chicago, and Elizabeth can’t exfiltrate him alone.

A.P. Bio – “Drenching Dallas” (A-) / season finale
A poetic ending, as Jack ends up back in Toledo, but not by choice. See, his season-long quest to bring Miles down causes his own downfall. But maybe sticking around won’t be so bad. This show’s probably not getting renewed, but I’d love to see what they do with it if they get a second season.

Atlanta – “FUBU” (B+)
This flashback episode proves a universal truth, no matter what decade it is: Kids are the absolute worst.

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Streaming Picks: May 2018

FILMS
Top Picks
Thief – Hulu and Amazon 5/1
Coco – Netflix 5/29 (Academy Award winner)
I, Tonya – Hulu 5/31 (Academy Award winner)
Thief is Michael Mann’s searing debut, featuring one of the all-time great villain performances, and impressive cinematography and an astonishing score. It’s been on Netflix in the past, but it’s making its debut on Hulu and Amazon.

The other two are Oscar winners, even if the latter shouldn’t have been. Coco is one of Pixar’s best efforts of recent years, tweaking a staid formula into something moving. I, Tonya is messy but fascinating biopic about Tonya Harding and her difficult life and path to stardom. Allison Janney is all quips and chain-smoking, and while her Oscar should belong to Laurie Metcalf’s turn in Lady Bird, it’s an indelible performance all the same.

Recent Selections
Blame – Amazon 5/1
Goat – Amazon 5/1
Holy Air – Amazon 5/1
Psychopaths – Amazon 5/1
Saturday Church – Amazon 5/1
Thirst Street – Amazon 5/1
Last Flag Flying – Amazon 5/4
Faces Places – Netflix 5/5 (Academy Award nominee)
In the Fade – Hulu 5/11
Baywatch – Hulu and Amazon 5/12
Frank Serpico – Hulu 5/12
Jane – Hulu 5/12
Tonight She Comes – Hulu 5/13
How to Be a Latin Lover – Hulu and Amazon 5/15
Take Every Wave – Hulu 5/15
The Strange Ones – Hulu 5/15
Knights of the Damned – Hulu 5/16
Beatriz at Dinner – Hulu and Amazon 5/19
Small Town Crime – Netflix 5/19
American Folk – Hulu 5/21
Neat – Hulu 5/21
Half Magic – Hulu 5/23
Curvature – Hulu 5/24
Mad to Be Normal – Hulu 5/25
Just Getting Started – Amazon 5/27
The Wedding Plan – Hulu and Amazon 5/27
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story – Netflix 5/31
Please Stand By – Hulu 5/31

Originals
Sometimes – Netflix 5/1
Anon – Netflix 5/4
Forgive Us Our Debts – Netflix 5/4
Manhunt – Netflix 5/4
The Kissing Booth – Netflix 5/11
Cargo – Netflix 5/18
Catching Feelings – Netflix 5/18
Ibiza – Netflix 5/25
Sara’s Notebook – Netflix 5/26

NEW SHOWS & SPECIALS
Top Pick
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Amazon 5/25
Peter Weir already adapted the haunting novel into a terrific film in 1975. A miniseries is probably unnecessary, but this Australian co-production features Natalie Dormer, who’s just begging for a bigger, better role after she was killed off on Game of Thrones.

Originals
Busted! (Season 1) – Netflix 5/4
Dear White People (Season 2) – Netflix 5/4
End Game – Netflix 5/4
Kong: King of the Apes (Season 2) – Netflix 5/4
The Rain (Season 1) – Netflix 5/4
Diablo Guardian (Season 1) – Amazon 5/5
All Night (Season 1) – Hulu 5/11
Bill Nye Saves the World (Season 3) – Netflix 5/11
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist – Netflix 5/11
Rocky & Bullwinkle (Season 1) – Amazon 5/11
Spirit: Riding Free (Season 5) – Netflix 5/11
The Who Was? Show (Season 1) – Netflix 5/11
Inspector Gadget (Season 4) – Netflix 5/18
You Are Wanted (Season 2) – Amazon 5/18
Dino Dana (Season 2) – Amazon 5/22
Mob Psycho 100 (Season 1) – Netflix 5/22
Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Part 2) – Netflix 5/22
Explained – Netflix 5/23
Fauda (Season 2) – Netflix 5/24
The Toys That Made Us (Season 2) – Netflix 5/25
Trollhunters (Part 3) – Netflix 5/25
Howards End – Amazon 5/29
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 4) – Netflix 5/30

OLD SHOWS
Queens of Comedy (Season 1) – Netflix 5/1
Simon (Season 1) – Netflix 5/1
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (Season 2) – Netflix 5/1
Drunk History (Season 5, Part 1) – Hulu 5/5
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (Season 1) – Hulu 5/5
Star vs. the Forces of Evil (Season 3) – Hulu 5/7
Claws (Season 1) – Hulu 5/11
Orphan Black (Season 5) – Amazon 5/12
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (Season 4) – Netflix 5/15
Scandal (Season 7) – Netflix 5/19
12 Monkeys (Season 3) – Hulu 5/16
The Strain (Season 4) – Hulu 5/16
Senora Acero (Season 4) – Netflix 5/21
Shooter (Season 2) – Netflix 5/22

COMEDY SPECIALS
Top Picks
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City – Netflix 5/1
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life – Netflix 5/25
I sadly missed the former on his recent tour. Mulaney’s one of my favorite comedians and his recent turn on Saturday Night Live (where he used to write) was spectacular. I was able to catch Steve Martin and Martin Short during a show on my birthday last year, and they were every bit as hilarious as you’d expect.

Other Shows & Specials
A Little Help with Carol Burnett – Netflix 5/4
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Tina Fey – Netflix 5/4
Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives – Netflix 5/8
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife – Netflix 5/13
Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here – Netflix 5/22
Hollywood Game Night: Red Nose Day Special – Hulu 5/25
The Break with Michelle Wolf – Netflix 5/27
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Howard Stern – Netflix 5/31

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What I Watched This Week: 22 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Gray Star Mutual” (B+)
Even if I wouldn’t mark this episode as one of the best of the season, the fact that all three subplots hum along AND advance the plot is an example of this show firing on all cylinders, and I’m going to miss that when it’s gone.

Silicon Valley – “Facial Recognition” (B+)
2018 is probably a little late for an Ex Machina parody, but Todd Louiso is bringing his A-game as a creepy A.I. programmer. Also, Zach Woods continues to be the best actor on this show.

Barry – “Do Your Job” (A)
Maybe having Barry do a Macbeth monologue is too on-the-nose, but who cares. This is the show’s best episode yet, balancing its off-kilter humor with horrifying violence. It was already confident, but now it knows for sure where it’s headed.

Westworld – “Journey into Night” (B-) / season premiere
A lot of exposition. So much exposition. Too much exposition, but damn if it didn’t look gorgeous. Depending on if the show picks up, this might be the first casualty of the busy spring season.

Legion – “Chapter 12” (B)
An episode where the visuals are more than just cool, they have meaning. It’s just too bad that this emotional journey into Syd’s past is spelled out as obviously as possible.

The Handmaid’s Tale
“June” (A) / season premiere
“Unwomen” (A)
Two startling episodes that both raise the stakes and change the game for this series. June on the run sets up the tension for Season Two, while spending an entire episode in the Colonies with Emily (Alexis Bledel) and diving into her backstory gives us another character to root for. Also, it’s early, but so far John Carroll Lynch and Marisa Tomei deserve Best Guest Actor and Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

The Americans – “The Great Patriotic War” (A)
One of the series’ best episodes, as Philip loses his shit after finding out the depth of the training Elizabeth has been imparting on Paige. That causes him to tip off Kimmy, which sets off a chain reaction for the rest of the season.

A.P. Bio – “Walleye” (B+)
Jack pushes too hard in his quest to embarrass Miles, hurting a student in the process. But he may have gotten what he wanted: out of Toledo. Props to NBC for shooting on-location, but I think we know Jack’s going to want to stay.

Atlanta – “North of the Border” (A-)
This is what this show does best when it’s not experimenting: starting out fairly traditionally, turning a corner and going wild, then having that experience change a character’s perspective. This also proves it could go anywhere next season, even if Earn and Paper Boi aren’t on speaking terms.

CURRENT SHOWS & SPECIALS
Andre the Giant (B+)
A satisfying documentary about a larger-than-life character. Also tells the story of how wrestling became a national phenomenon, which is explained elegantly for a non-fan like me, but that’s the least interesting aspect.

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The Optimist’s Summer Movie Preview 2018

Marvel has thrown down the (Infinity) gauntlet, by moving their big tentpole to kick off the summer movie season back to the end of April. It traditionally started around Memorial Day, and moved up to the first weekend of May some time in 2001. But in 2018, those distinctions are nearly irrelevant. Read on for the 10 movies I’m most excited about, plus some bonus picks I’m not including because we have yet to see a trailer.

Some of the massive cast of Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War
(April 27)
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt
Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo
The MCU finally reaches its inevitable conclusion as a cast of dozens of heroes unite to take on Thanos (Josh Brolin, in one of three giant movies this summer). There’s the possibility that this is just staid going-through-the-motions, but that seems highly unlikely, since almost every Marvel movie (especially in Phase Three) has a lot to recommend.

Charlize Theron in Tully
Tully
(May 4)
Starring Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass
Written by Diablo Cody
Directed by Jason Reitman
My most-anticipated non-IP movie of the summer. Diablo Cody’s last collaborations have given us Juno and Young Adult, two of my favorite movies ever. Even though I’m not a parent and probably never will be, I’m sure to find a lot to love about this ode to motherhood in 2018.

Julian Dennison in Deadpool 2
Deadpool 2
(May 18)
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison
Screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Directed by David Leitch
As with the first one, there’s always the risk that this film tips all the way over into pure obnoxiousness, and that expanding its roster undercuts some of the profane magic that made the 2016 film such a phenomenon. There’s also the T.J. Miller problem. But with excellent casting (including Terry Crews), this has the potential to surpass the original, and put it near another time-hopping sequel about protecting a punk kid from a stoic assassin.

Donald Glover in Solo
Solo
(May 25)
Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke
Screenplay by Jon & Lawrence Kasdan
Directed by Ron Howard
*Deep breath* While of course I’d much rather see what Lord & Miller could have done with a Star Wars universe that needs some shaking up, Ron Howard is a great choice to bring a troubled production in for a smooth landing. We’ll see if reports of Alden Ehrenreich’s performance are true, or if they were just exaggerated because he’s not instantly iconic. (The opposite is true of Donald Glover’s fur-covered intro as Lando.) This one won’t be a disaster, but we’ll see if it lives up to what it could have been.

Continue reading

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What I Watched This Week: 15 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Saturday Night Live – “John Mulaney/Jack White” (A-)
Former writer John Mulaney (creator of some of my favorite characters and sketches) returns to the show as host, and lets his freak flag fly, with hilarious sketches about revenge drag, a musical about diner lobster and an interview about a creepy ’90s sitcom. Bring him back regularly, Lorne.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
“NutriBoom” (B+)
“DFW” (A-)
Two extraordinarily funny episodes as the season (and possibly series) comes to a close. The former takes on multi-level marketers and Amy’s first day as a sergeant, while the latter features a killer guest turn from former SNL star Nasim Pedrad as Jake’s sketchy but affable half-sister, who keeps a bag of glass shards with her to get free meals and casually asks Amy for a Plan B pill. I hope we see more of her (and this show) in 2019.

Silicon Valley – “Tech Evangelist” (A)
The season’s best episode and one of the show’s highlights. A.D. Miles (Role Models) guest stars as the developer of a gay dating site who threatens Pied Piper’s growth simply because Richard outs him as a Christian, a no-no in uber-liberal Northern California. It’s a great recurring gag, and taps on the hypocrisy of even the most tolerant Millennials.

Barry – “Commit… To You” (A-)
Barry learns the limits of the advice he gets. He doesn’t realize the line between being assertive and being an asshole, and that causes everything to spiral out of control. Hader’s so good that he genuinely seems like he can’t understand what happened.

Legion – “Chapter 11” (A-)
The most inventive episode of the season, even if it doesn’t really advance the plot too much. Its ability to give each character their own distinct personae is really remarkable.

The Americans – “Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” (B+)
A mission goes wrong, in one of the show’s best setpieces. But Philip’s money woes grow deeper, and Elizabeth is too wrapped up in her own responsibilities to be a good spouse and shoulder to cry on anymore.

A.P. Bio – “Eight Pigs and a Rat” (A-)
Started as another standard episode, but developed into one of the season’s most clever and heartfelt. Really hoping this show gets a second season.

Atlanta – “Woods” (A-)
Brian Tyree Henry gets another acting showcase in an intense and intimate episode, where even his fans are out to steal from him.

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30 Before 30: The Recap

Last year, I had just turned 29, and I was realizing how much my film education was sorely lacking. Sure, I’ve probably seen far more films than many of my friends will ever see, even if I stopped seeing movies altogether. But the real classics, or at least efforts from the filmmakers who really changed cinema, were a real blindspot for me. So while I couldn’t get through some directors with vast filmographies, I at least saw what many people would say is their best or most representative work. I also made sure a third of the slots were reserved for female directors, since I’m not committed enough to do #52filmsbywomen, let alone devoted to see an older film every week anyway. I was a week late in finishing this project, but I’m glad I did. Below, I break down the films I saw by tiers. Almost everything was good, and a few films were truly great. I won’t rank them all from top to bottom, but John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence would be at the top, while Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless would be at the bottom. That might seem like blasphemy, but that’s my take.

woman_under_the_influence-rowlands

BEST OF THE BEST
(Federico Fellini, 1963)
The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)
Hard Boiled (John Woo, 1992)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)

TRULY EXCELLENT
13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)
Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001)
The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999)

ENJOYED BUT DIDN’T WHOLEHEARTEDLY LOVE
Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991)
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1928)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)

DISAPPOINTING, GIVEN HOW MUCH I HAD BEEN HYPED UP
Blow-up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)

By the numbers:
1929 – oldest film (Man with a Movie Camera)
2016 – most recent film (13th)
68 minutes – shortest film (Man with a Movie Camera)
155 minutes – longest film (A Woman Under the Influence)
1 – Best Picture nominee (The Piano)

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What I Watched This Week: 8 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Puzzle Master” (B+)
A solid “normal” episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, with Jake and Amy collaborating on their last case before she gets promoted to sergeant. We also get a rare Holt-Gina pairing, which leads to great, deadpan burns. Also, was not expecting Alison Tolman as the antagonist for this final stretch of episodes, but I’m definitely here for it.

Silicon Valley – “Chief Operating Officer” (A-)
A whirlwind episode, with Dinesh drunkenly leaking information to his new roommate, a resulting lawsuit, a new deal, and a search for a new COO that ends in one of the show’s few heartwarming moments.

Barry – “Make the Unsafe Choice” (A-)
While I’m less interested in the continuing machinations of Chechen organized crime, Barry prepping to do Mamet is a dream come true, and Sally’s sad audition gave her some real depth.

Legion – “Chapter 10” (B+)
Stylishly explores Farouk’s shadowy (pun intended) plans, while once again forcing David to unravel, not knowing who he can trust, even himself. There’s potential for this to get repetitive, but so far so good.

The Americans – “Urban Transport Planning” (B+)
Philip channels his best Don Draper as mounting bills have him teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Elizabeth and Paige deal with the aftermath of the former’s disastrous meeting with the general. But really this episode is about two fracturing marriages that may be too late to save.

A.P. Bio – “Durbin Crashes” (B+)
Patton Oswalt gives his best performance on this show to date, suffering the wrath of his insane wife (Angela Kirsey) for daring to watch a popular show after she forbade him from it, then holing up at Jack’s place. It’s quite funny, and doesn’t feature any unnecessary B-plotting, but then kind of just ends. Hopefully there’s more to the arc for the rest of the season.

Atlanta – “Champagne Papi” (A-)
An excellent Van-centric episode that’s essentially Waiting for Drake, who we knew wasn’t going to show up. This is exactly the kind of episode that makes Atlanta great, where any night out has a ton of potential, but mostly to go wrong.

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What I Watched This Week: 1 Apr 2018

NEW SHOWS
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Box” (A+)
The best episode the show has ever done. Masterfully stages an interrogation of a murder suspect (Sterling K. Brown, who has locked up this year’s Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy) for the entire 22 minutes. It’s so beautifully done, with perfect delivery from all three principal actors, that you don’t even miss the rest of the squad.

Silicon Valley – “Reorientation” (B+)
Richard finally finds some inspiration, which of course doesn’t get him anywhere. Top-notch Guilfoyle-Dinesh bickering and another appearance from Andy Daly keep this season moving in the right direction.

Barry – “Use It” (B+)
I was already in the tank for this show, but Bill Hader wondering about the comedic potential of a scene from Doubt sealed the deal. A fleet episode that left me wanting more, this sets up the rest of the season but still manages to take its time.

Legion – “Chapter 9” (A-) / season premiere
Throws even the most attentive viewers into the narrative deep end, starting with David’s rescue, then circling and zig-zagging back to reveal what happened in the year since the events of last season’s finale. It’s as stylish as ever, even if this premiere feels a mile wide and an inch deep. Still, there’s absolutely nothing like it on the air, so I’m more than willing to simply be dazzled for an hour each week.

The Americans – “Tchaikovsky” (A)
Professional turmoil affects both Philip and Elizabeth, but only one ends with them being held at gunpoint. One of the most devastating endings this show has ever produced.

A.P. Bio – “Rosemary’s Boyfriend” (A)
Another incredible, darkly funny episode. Michael Gross is wonderful as the lover of Jack’s now-dead mother, the health-class baby subplot is creepy with a horrifying but cathartic end and the not-dating-janitors C-plot sidesteps cruelty by making it about petty revenge.

Atlanta – “Teddy Perkins” (A-)
So, I’m still not sure how I feel about this episode. It’s extremely well-executed and the weirdest thing this show has ever done, but it also feels like just a detour. You might have said that about “Barbershop,” but that at least felt relevant to Alfred’s character. This is just another weird story for Darius, that doesn’t add anything to him (despite Lakeith Stanfield crushing it as usual).

CURRENT SHOWS
A.P. Bio – “We Don’t Party” (A-)
Arguably the best episode of the season thus far, with Jack meeting his immature match in Chase, the doctor boyfriend of Meredith (the luminous Collette Wolfe), the nurse he’s pining for. It’s a magnificent display of childishness. Meanwhile, the class gets drunk (or in Victor’s case, fake drunk) and grows closer. Plus, the reveal of a hunky party guest who’s into “toes clothes.”

Atlanta – “Barbershop” (B+)
Brian Tyree Henry’s finest hour yet on the show, as Atlanta proves once again it can do anything. The entire episode is devoted to Paper Boi’s ongoing efforts to look fresh for his photoshoot, and the obstacles his con artist barber puts in his way. It’s magnificent and the funniest episode of the season thus far.

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