What I Watched This Week: 17 Sept 2017

Jerry Before Seinfeld (A-)
It’s all material we’ve heard before, but Seinfeld’s delivery is so effortless that it doesn’t feel old hat. I could have easily watched another hour.

The Mindy Project – “A Romantical Decouplement” (B+)
A major improvement on the premiere in a joke-packed episode that finds no fewer than five characters realizing what they really want. Mindy isn’t growing, and that’s frustrating, but at least she’s not hurting Ben anymore. (What am I even saying? How did I get emotionally invested in this stupid show?)

The Good Place – “Everything Is Great!” (A-) / season premiere
The show resets (and then resets again) in an hour-long episode that can’t quite manage to be as engaging as that brilliant pilot, but still packs in a ton of jokes, some of which work because we know what makes the four tortured souls tick, and some because they reveal that Bad Place employees care just as much about a fun workplace and fulfilling roles as anyone else.

The Sinner – “Part VIII” (A-) / season finale
The show reaches is its end and finds about as much resolution as it can. Cora finally remembers what happened on that fateful night, and the horrifying months after. That mystery had a satisfying reveal. But as good as Bill Pullman was in this show, all his dark sexual proclivities and broken marriage still never cohered, so that all fell like filler. That means this won’t be a show that makes my top 10 this year.

Black Mirror (Season 3) – “San Junipero” (A)
I still haven’t gotten around to all of Black Mirror, but I decided it was high time to watch the most acclaimed episode, which shocked everyone by winning the Emmy for Best Made-for-TV Movie. (Is this a made-for-TV movie? Absolutely not. But it was still better than the competition.) Yes, it is as good as everyone says it is and the rare example of an episode of this show that’s not quite a cautionary tale and one with a rare hopeful ending.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 10) – “Charlie Work” (A)
A brilliant, madcap gem from one of the recent seasons I never got around to. I’ve long believed that Charlie Day is giving the best performance on the show, and this is yet another showcase for his laser-focused insanity.

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2017 Emmy Predictions: Limited Series and Made-for-TV Movies

Big Little Lies (HBO)
Fargo (FX)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Genius (Nat Geo)
The Night Of (HBO)

Could win: Fargo
Should win: The Night Of
Will win: Big Little Lies
Should have been nominated: N/A

Sherlock (series 4)
Black Mirror: “San Junipero” (Netflix)
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (NBC)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)
Sherlock: “The Lying Detective” (PBS)
The Wizard of Lies (HBO)

Could win: The Wizard of Lies
Should win: Black Mirror: “San Junipero”
Will win: Sherlock: “The Lying Detective”
Should have been nominated: Apparently Oh, Hello on Broadway was eligible for this so, that.

Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Ewan McGregor, Fargo
Geoffrey Rush, Genius
John Turturro, The Night Of

Could win: John Turturro
Should win: Riz Ahmed
Will win: Benedict Cumberbatch
Should have been nominated: Not sure how this counts, but Chris Gethard submitted himself for Career Suicide, and that was magnificent.

Carrie Coon, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies

Could win: Susan Sarandon or Jessica Lange
Should and will win: Nicole Kidman
Should have been nominated: Melissa Leo, The Most Hated Woman in America

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What I Watched This Week: 10 Sept 2017

The Mindy Project – “Is That All There Is?” (C+) / season premiere
An apt title, as the show jumps forward a few months, then tries to backtrack everything that happened during the jump. I understand that the show is mostly about Mindy’s search for happiness and fulfillment, but her continued indecisiveness is reaching Lorelai Gilmore levels of fury in me.

South Park – “White People Renovating Houses” (B) / season premiere
Could have done a bit more with its richly deserved targets of ignorant white people and the glut of home renovation shows, but it still gets some great shots at morons who wave the Confederate flag, thereby screwing up whatever actual “economic anxiety” might be present. Probably would have been funnier if I had an Alexa or a Google Home.

The Sinner – “Part VII” (A)
Told completely in flashback, we finally learn what happened that awful night in 2012. It’s both simpler and more complicated than we’ve been led to believe, but even more tragic.

Louis C.K.: 2017 (A-)
Starts stronger than it ends, diving head-first into controversial topics (abortion and suicide), before getting a little lost and questioning his sexuality, particularly when Magic Mike is on TV.

Neal Brennan: 3 Mics (B+)
Not as strong as Chris Gethard’s Career Suicide, but what is? A solid gimmick – one mic for one-liners, one for traditional stand-up, one for a brutally honest discussion about clinical depression – makes it memorable.

Jim Gaffigan: Cinco (B)
His weakest special to date, yet his jokes about food and religion are still like comfort food to me.

Jerrod Carmichael: 8 (B-)
Dude’s got jokes, but his uncertain delivery means they don’t always land. And when many of the punchlines are meant to needle our bubbles, it doesn’t make them nearly as effective as they could be.

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2017 Emmy Predictions: Drama

Lonnie Chavis and Milo Ventimiglia on This Is Us
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Westworld (HBO)

Could win: The Crown
Should win: Stranger Things
Will win: This Is Us
Should have been nominated: Legion (FX)

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Anthony Hopkins, Westworld
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Could win: Liev Schreiber
Should and will win: Sterling K. Brown
Should have been nominated: Dan Stevens, Legion

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Claire Foy, The Crown
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Could win: Claire Foy
Should and will win: Elisabeth Moss
Should have been nominated: Mandy Moore, This Is Us

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2017 Emmy Predictions: Comedy and Variety

Atlanta (FX)
Black-ish (ABC)
Master of None (Netflix)
Modern Family (ABC)
Silicon Valley (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Veep (HBO)

Could win: Atlanta
Should win: Master of None
Will win: Veep
Should have been nominated: The Good Place (NBC)

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Zach Galifianakis, Baskets
Donald Glover, Atlanta
William H. Macy, Shameless
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Could win: Donald Glover
Should win: Aziz Ansari
Will win: Jeffrey Tambor
Should have been nominated: Ted Danson, The Good Place

Pamela Adlon, Better Things
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie
Allison Janney, Mom
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Could win: Allison Janney
Should win: Pamela Adlon
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Should have been nominated: Kristen Bell, The Good Place

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What I Watched This Week: 3 Sept 2017

Twin Peaks
“The Return, Part 17” (A)
“The Return, Part 18” (A-) / limited series finale
“Part 17” is everything you could possibly want from a finale. Then “Part 18” reminds you that this is David Lynch we’re dealing with, and if you thought everything was going to wrap up neatly, you’re an idiot. I’ll still be processing my feelings over this frequently brilliant, occasionally messy revival, but I know I’ll never forget it.

The Sinner – “Part VI” (B-)
Gets much ickier as resolution continues to elude us. Maybe this should have only been six episodes?

Police Squad! (A-)
Aside from the second episode, which tries a little too hard, this is one of the most brilliant things to ever air on network TV. Even at six episodes, there’s more killer jokes here than most sitcoms had in their entire run.

CSI – “Grave Danger” (A)
The only episode of TV ever directed by Quentin Tarantino, and it definitely elevates this procedural, with extra attention to detail and a playfulness the show (at least as I remembered it) didn’t always have.

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What I Watched This Week: 27 Aug 2017

Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 16” (A)
“I am the FBI.” Coop is back, and thus I was cheering. The terrible Audrey scenes make a bit more sense now, given that she’s been somewhere else this whole time. And Diane is apparently not the real Diane. Will we find out what really happened? Next week we’ll have our answers.

The Sinner – “Part V” (B+)
Seemed to rip off The Night Of and True Detective more than usual, but the addition of the state investigator is an interesting wrinkle. The big takeaway is that lots of people are good at manipulating Cora.

The Tick – Season 1, Part 1 (A- average)
A much deeper show than its silly but essential forbearers. This is smartly absurd writing. Much like Legion, the only other superhero show I’ve invested in, it’s more interested in characters’ mental health than their superpowers. And that makes it all the better. That being said, I hope Part 2 shows up soon, because this is definitely only half a season.

The Good Place – Season 1 (A average)
I appreciate it even more upon this rewatch. It’s just so well-calibrated and sweet and hilarious and thoughtful. And the acting is just phenomenal, especially Ted Danson and D’Arcy Carden.

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Netflix Picks: September 2017

Carol – 9/20
One of the best films of 2015 was this romance that got six Oscar nominations, which still wasn’t enough. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, this is an LGBT drama with real power, as well as incredible performances, perfect costume and production design and sumptuous cinematography.

American Vandal (Season 1) – 9/15
Netflix bites its own tail with this parody of its breakout documentary series Making a Murder. Only instead of being framed for murder, this white kid is set up for spray painting dicks all over town.

Jerry Before Seinfeld – 9/19
The legendary comic gives a peak into his creative process, as well as a lot of new jokes.

LEGO Elves: Secrets of Elvendale (Season 1) – 9/1
Little Evil – 9/1
Narcos (Season 3) – 9/1
Resurface – 9/1
Marc Maron: Too Real – 9/5
#realityhigh – 9/8
BoJack Horseman (Season 4) – 9/8
Fabrizio Copano: Solo Pienso En Mi – 9/8
Greenhouse Academy (Season 1) – 9/8
Joaquín Reyes: Una y no más – 9/8
Spirit: Riding Free (Season 2) – 9/8
The Confession Tapes (Season 1) – 9/8
Jeff Dunham: Relative Disaster – 9/12
First They Killed My Father – 9/15
Project mc2 (Part 5) – 9/15
Strong Island – 9/15
VeggieTales in the City (Season 2) – 9/15
Fuller House (Season 2, Part 2) – 9/22
Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father (Season 1) – 9/22
Terrace House: Aloha State (Part 4) – 9/26
Big Mouth (Season 1) – 9/29
Club de Cuervos (Season 3) – 9/29
Gerald’s Game – 9/29
Real Rob (Season 2) – 9/29
Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip (Season 1) – 9/29
Our Souls at Night – 9/29
The Magic School Bus Rides Again (Season 1) – 9/29

The Blacklist (Season 4) – 9/7
The Walking Dead (Season 7) – 9/8
Portlandia (Season 7) – 9/9
Offspring (Season 7) – 9/13
Gotham (Season 3) – 9/21
Dark Matter (Season 3) – 9/25
Murder Maps (Season 3) – 9/30

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What I Watched This Week: 20 Aug 2017

Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 15” (A-)
The first 10 minutes were the happiest I’ve been watching TV this entire year. The rest of the episode can’t quite live up to that. Part of that isn’t David Lynch’s fault, since David Bowie is no longer with us. Regardless, none of the other scenes have nearly as much emotional weight. But we’ve got three more episodes that might make me feel the way I did when Norma kissed Big Ed as Otis Redding played on the jukebox.

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition – “August 24, 2017” (B)
Solid without grasping at straws. Cecily Strong was clearly this week’s MVP.

The Sinner – “Part IV” (A-)
The best episode yet, with the plot moving forward at a rapid pace. I’m a sucker for scenes involving therapists talking to their patients, trying to get painful memories out of them. Not sure what that says about me, though.

GLOW – Season 1 (A-)
Possibly the slowest I’ve ever consumed a Netflix Original, but it did have a rough go of it in the beginning. But this show’s arc, its focus on female friendship and its deep love for all its characters, was so rare that I felt like I was part of something special while watching it. Also, has been noted elsewhere, Marc Maron is so much better as burnt-out director Sam than he was playing himself on Maron. He should win Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series at the Emmys next year.

The Simpsons
I’m going through some of the highlights from the previous three seasons. At the end of Season 25, I gave up on the show except for the annual Halloween specials. I’ve seen a couple here and there, but I’m going back to hit the big parodies, travelogues, holiday specials and episodes that were actually well-received.

Season 26
“The Princess Guide” (B+)
This is a sweet-natured episode that lets Moe be the big softie he really is underneath that gruff exterior, and I love when that happens. It’s no “Moe Baby Blues,” but it’s a solid episode with no unnecessary subplots. All the action is directly related to the deal Mr. Burns is trying to close with a Nigerian king. Homer has to watch the princess, but she sneaks out of her hotel room and ends up seeing the sights with Moe, who’s finally with someone who’s nice to him.

Season 27
“Much Apu About Something” (B)
Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart? Apu still, apparently. After losing his beloved convenience store after a police tank crashes into it, his nephew takes it over, filling it with organic food and high-brow magazines. I do like Bart’s subplot about his new prank-free life, but the millennial jokes are too frequent and lame to land.

“Gal of Constant Sorrow” (B+)
A surprisingly heavy episode that features Lisa looking up to another washed-out musical icon (in this case, a junkie folk musician voiced by Kate McKinnon with singing by Natalie Maines), only for her to be let down by an addict. But it still finds plenty of laughs, including a Drake-set montage with Bart going on a shopping spree at the dollar store and Homer’s misadventures in home repair.

“The Burns Cage” (A-)
Starts with one of the most downer beginnings in show history (“0 Days Without a Heartbreak” is one of their most depressing sight gags), but then lets Smithers disentangle himself from Burns and find temporary romance. Instead of Homer taking over, a series of lawyers and other employees do, to hilarious results. Of course, it’s all going to reset at episode’s end, but this did have Smithers declare, in plain English, his love for Mr. Burns, and his acceptance that that love will never be reciprocated.

Season 28
“There Will Be Buds” (A-)
Unless I’m forgetting one, this is the best kids’ sports episode the show has done since Season 6’s “Lisa on Ice.” A sly parody of Friday Night Lights (the show), the town becomes obsessed with lacrosse after the entire pee-wee football team gets concussed. It’s an extremely strong showcase for Kirk, still Springfield’s most pathetic man.

“The Last Traction Hero” (B+)
Homer is immobilized yet again, but this time doesn’t grow closer to Marge. Instead, she gets her emotional fulfillment from Smithers, while getting sexual gratification from Homer. (“I’m the luckiest man alive!” he says to himself.) Meanwhile, Lisa becomes the school bus monitor, which unexpectedly becomes a Snowpiercer parody.

“A Father’s Watch” (A-)
One of the best episodes of the last five years without a doubt. Bart, Homer and Abe all connect over an inherited pocket watch in a story about resentment, pride and bad parenting. But again, there are plenty of laughs as Springfield falls prey to “parenting gurus” who have opposite views on raising kids.

“Moho House” (B)
Combines two plots the show has already done before: Marge and Homer split up AND Moe remodels his tavern. It can’t help but feel redundant, even if Marge’s sadness still hits like a punch in the gut.

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What I Watched This Week: 13 Aug 2017

Twin Peaks – “The Return, Part 14” (A)
The best episode yet. It’s all mystery and forward movement, with a supernatural twist at the end. Don’t fuck with Sarah Palmer, redneck truckers.

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition – “August 17, 2017” (B-)
Not nearly as sharp as last week’s installment, with cameos from past alumni defining “missing the point.” Still, I had a lot of chuckles, especially Michael Che’s stealthy Cosby Show joke.

The Sinner – “Part III” (B+)
The most intriguing episode yet, though some of its “dark material” still feels tacked on. It may have also painted itself into a corner with Cora’s official guilty plea. But I’m hooked enough to stick out until the end. Also, I must apologize. Mare Winningham doesn’t play Bill Pullman’s wife. That’s Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season 8 (B+)
Not quite as great as the Seinfeld reunion, but it does have “Palestinian Chicken,” which is one of the greatest half-hours of TV ever produced. And it also has Larry’s hilarious feuds with Rosie O’Donnell and Michael J. Fox.

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