What I Watched This Week: 14 Oct 2018

NEW SHOWS
Harvey Birdman, Attorney General (B+)
Its parody is a little too on-the-nose, yet it’s also more equipped to mock our current absurd situation than more political shows. If they want to do one of these every year or so, I’m on board.

This Is Us – “Vietnam” (A-)
A really great episode, though the fact that the confrontation doesn’t happen, and it’s just a set-up for a subplot for the rest of the season is a little frustrating. Even so, Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Angarano are doing great work, and I’m looking forward to seeing them the rest of the season.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Does a Clip Show” (B)
I’m generally against clip shows as a rule, but at least this episode does some very clever things with it. It’s not Community’s Paradigms of Human Memory (what is?), it does a lot of fun, occasionally twisted, often brilliant things with it, at least in its back half.

South Park – “Tegridy Farms” (A-)
Not the show’s sharpest satire, but easily one of the funniest episodes I’ve seen in years, up there with “Sarcastiball” and “Butters’ Bottom Bitch,” where it takes an absurd situation at the school and keeps ratcheting up the insanity until it becomes something so silly it’s sublime.

The Good Place – “Jeremy Bearimy” (A-)
The first great episode of the season, with Michael explaining what’s really going on to all of them, leading our quartet to their own breakdowns/regressions, then the realization that being good and kind and encouraging other to do act the same way *does* matter, even if it doesn’t seem like it. It’s yet another new direction for the show. Let’s see if they can pull it off.

CURRENT SHOWS AND SPECIALS
Flight of the Conchords: Live in London (B+)
The new songs are great, and of course I loved the old songs. Wish they would have done “A Kiss Is Not a Contract,” which would have been perfect for this era we’re in, but you can’t get everything you want. Best addition: the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (aka one cellist with an afro and a surprisingly angelic voice).

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Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – 15 Oct 2018

BEST PICTURE
The Favourite
First Man
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice
Widows

Falling off: Beautiful Boy; Mary, Queen of Scots; On the Basis of Sex
Rising star: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The skinny: The movie that wins the People’s Choice Award at TIFF can almost certainly count on a Best Picture nomination. That means that Green Book, which hearkens back to the racial dynamics of Driving Miss Daisy (not to mention Hidden Figures or The Help), is your new front runner for the moment. Now, critics have almost uniformly said the performances of Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali elevate it above what you would expect of an historical drama from one of the Farrelly brothers, but we’ll see if it’s more of the same. A Star Is Born, which didn’t even make the top three at TIFF, is right behind it.

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Steve McQueen, Widows

Falling off: Yorgos Lanthimos
Rising star: Spike Lee, Black Klansman
The skinny: Two rematches (Chazelle vs. Jenkins, Cuarón vs. McQueen), plus newcomer Bradley Cooper for the fourth version of a popular story. If Spike Lee can finally get an overdue nomination, this might be the most diverse slate this category has ever had.

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, Vice
Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Ryan Gosling, First Man

Falling off: Joaquin Phoenix
Rising star: Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun; Clint Eastwood, The Mule
The skinny: Bale swaggered in with a killer trailer for Vice (previously titled Backseat). Packing on more than 100 pounds, he’s the clear leader, though he’ll be facing off against a group of former nominees who have never won before. And there are two octogenarians in what might be their final performances fighting for the geriatric slot: Redford and Eastwood. Both are in roles tailor-made for their particular set of skills, but The Mule has the edge since way more people will see it.

BEST ACTRESS
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Viola Davis, Widows
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Falling off: Saoirse Ronan
Rising star: Nicole Kidman, Destroyer
The skinny: Ronan falls victim to no one having seen her period piece yet (which is also hurting co-star Margot Robbie at the moment). So she’s off the board while Lady Gaga hollers her way into the line-up. With such great reviews, she now seems like the only lock alongside Felicity Jones. Mixed reviews for Destroyer mean Nicole Kidman could have enough support from enough people to be nominated again. But this may be a case like The Paperboy, where great notices and some precursor awards don’t translate to a nod for work in a film that won’t have broad appeal.

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What I Watched This Week: 7 Oct 2018

NEW SHOWS
This Is Us – “Katie Girls” (A-)
I didn’t quite love Kate’s anesthesia hallucinations, but any time the show focused on the fundamental decency of Jack, it becomes one of my favorite things on TV. And look at that, Kevin gets an emotional scene that works.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Solves the Bathroom Problem” (A-)
For the second time this season, the show has taken a topic that seems spectacularly ill-conceived for its particular brand of humor, yet turned it into one of the funniest episodes of the year. It’s not as crazy as the Time’s Up episode, but it does everything the show does best, namely showing how awful everyone in is in their own unique, horrifying ways.

The Good Place – “The Snowplow” (B+)
The show charges ahead, ending with yet another twist. Whether this turns out to be another brilliant example of painting itself into a corner, it can’t help but feel a little bit like it doesn’t even know what it’s doing. So I’ll just have to trust Michael Schur that it will be worth it.

BINGEING
American Vandal – Season 2 (A- average)
I was a big fan of the first season, so I expected this follow-up to be very funny and very clever. What I was not expecting was a season of television that explored identity and alienation in the social media age. A more sincere show might have come off as corny, but couched in jokes about poop, it has even more of an impact.

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What I Watched This Week: 30 Sep 2018

NEW SHOWS
This Is Us – “A Philadelphia Story” (B)
Tries to do way too much, including some necessary flashbacks to ’98 and some unnecessary ones to Randall’s dad pre-reunion. But that last moment, as Randall here’s a devastating off-hand comment from Kate (via Kevin) as the Fox fanfare plays, is perfectly done.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Gets New Wheels” (B)
Would have been much better if this was just “Dennis Loses His Mojo.” The other subplots are funny, but spreading each member of the Gang out on his/her own adventure dilutes the best and funniest story.

The Good Place – “The Brainy Bunch” (A-)
Yes, it felt a little weird, with all the events happening on Earth, but I find Adam Scott as the evil Trevor so irresistible, I was in stitches the entire time. And yet again, the show upends the rules we just thought we were used to, as Janet and Michael defy the entire system.

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Streaming Picks: October 2018

FILMS
Top Picks
Mulholland Dr. – Prime and Hulu 10/1
22 July – Netflix 10/10
You Were Never Really Here – Prime 10/26
If it took you several tries to get through David Lynch’s failed pilot/fever dream, you’re not alone. But it’s a magnificent work that’s scary but not a horror movie, and erotic but not an adult film.

Paul Greengrass returns to his intimate roots in this account of the terrorist attack in Norway in 2011. This certainly won’t be an easy watch, but it will be rewarding.

Finally, Joaquin Phoenix is scary good as the hitman with PTSD, who rescues girls from sex trafficking and extracts violent revenge on their captors. It’s a disturbing but powerful film, anchored by its terrific lead performance.

Recent Selections
Beacon Point – Hulu 10/1
Bees Make Honey – Hulu 10/1
Beta Test – Prime 10/1
Capture – Hulu 10/1
Charlotte – Hulu 10/1
Cocaine Godmother – Hulu 10/1
Game Changers – Prime 10/1
Go Against the Flow – Prime 10/1
Good Enough – Prime 10/1
How to Get Girls – Hulu 10/1
It Ain’t Pretty – Prime 10/1
Life of Significant Soil – Prime 10/1
Saving Banksy – Prime 10/1
September Morning – Prime 10/1
Never Goin’ Back – Prime 10/2
Dheepan – Hulu 10/3
RBG – Hulu 10/3
Truth or Dare – Netflix 10/3
The Gospel According to Andre – Hulu 10/4
Lowlife – Hulu 10/6
Night of the Living Deb – Prime 10/6
A Prayer Before Dawn – Prime 10/6
Pyewacket – Hulu 10/6
What We Become – Hulu 10/10
The Quest of Alaine Ducasse – Hulu 10/11
The Strangers: Prey at Night – Prime 10/11
The Yellow Birds – Prime 10/13
Bleeding Steel – Prime 10/14
The Miracle Season – Hulu 10/14
Birthday Girl – Hulu 10/15
Slice – Prime 10/18
Black Water – Prime 10/20
Daddy’s Home 2 – Prime and Hulu 10/25
Bad Samaritan – Prime 10/25
Racer and the Jailbird – Hulu 10/29
Westwood – Prime 10/31

Originals
Malevolent – Netflix 10/5
Private Life – Netflix 10/5
Super Monsters Save Halloween – Netflix 10/5
Apostle – Netflix 10/12
Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil – Netflix 10/12
Feminists: What Were They Thinking? – Netflix 10/12
The Kindergarten Teacher – Netflix 10/12
Gnome Alone – Netflix 10/19
Illang: The Wolf Brigade – Netflix 10/19
The Night Comes for Us – Netflix 10/19
Been So Long – Netflix 10/26
Dovlatov – Netflix 10/26
Jefe – Netflix 10/26
Gun City – Netflix 10/31

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What I Watched This Week: 23 Sep 2018

NEW SHOWS
This Is Us – “Ave Maria” (B+) / season premiere
It’s not a good sign that I’m already a little frustrated with Kate, but this excellent season premiere reminds me why I love this show so much. And instead of giving Justin Hartley material he’s not capable of handling, he gets a forbidden love affair, which is much more that actor’s speed.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “Time’s Up for the Gang” (A-)
Possibly the absolute worst week for this particular show to do an episode on sexual harassment and assault. There were a million ways it could have gone wrong, but like last season’s episode about race, it’s a lot sharper than you’d normally give this show credit for. It also focuses on what makes this show such a profane treasure: everyone in the gang, even when they think they’re not, is a truly terrible person.

The Good Place – “Everything Is Bonzer!” (A-) / season premiere
Even back on Earth, the show is still committed to puns, humanity and finding out why it’s so hard to be a good person. It’s another reset episode, but one that adds a new wrinkle: the deliciously awful presence of Adam Scott as Trevor.

BINGEING
Forever (B+ average)
When it knows what it’s doing, it’s up there with the best shows of the year. Unfortunately, even for a show with an eight-episode run, there was a lot of filler. Two of its episodes (the opener and “Andre and Sarah”) are magnificent half-hours for wildly different reasons. But unfortunately, a show about getting out of aimlessness and routine finds itself trapped in there for a mid-season lull. I don’t know if there will be more, but if there will be, it needs more focus.

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What I Watched This Week: 16 Sep 2018

NEW SHOWS
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Reboot” (B+)
No mere retread, this is one of the show’s smartest dumb episodes, commenting on everything from the very nature of all-lady reboots, to profiting off the #resistance, to internalized misogyny. But it’s also funnier and grosser than the original episode.

OLD SHOWS
Black Mirror (Season 4) – “USS Callister” (A-)
An surprisingly sharp takedown of toxic masculinity and how it can hide under the appearance of “nice guys.” But it’s still filled with a ton of Easter eggs for fans of Star Trek. But the real revelation (and casting coup) is Jesse Plemons, who’s spent his career playing genuine nice guys, as the seemingly sweet-but-quiet CTO hiding a disturbing secret in his virtual life.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Season 10) – “The Gang Beats Boggs” (B)
Not quite as legendary as its reputation suggests, but it’s a clever episode that gets them out of Paddy’s. Mac should play the straight man more often.

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2018 Emmy Predictions: Limited

Godless
LIMITED SERIES
The Alienist (TNT)
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
Genius: Picasso (National Geographic)
Godless (Netflix)
Patrick Melrose (Showtime)

Could win: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Should and will win: Godless
Should have been nominated: Twin Peaks (Showtime)

Benedict Cumberbatch in Patrick Melrose
ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE
Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
Jeff Daniels, The Looming Tower
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Jesse Plemons, Black Mirror

Could win: John Legend
Should win: Jesse Plemons
Will win: Benedict Cumberbatch
Should have been nominated: Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks

Laura Dern and Isabelle Nélisse in The Tale
ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE
Jessica Biel, The Sinner
Laura Dern, The Tale
Michelle Dockery, Godless
Edie Falco, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King, Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Cult

Could win: Regina King
Should win: Jessica Biel
Will win: Laura Dern
Should have been nominated: Carey Mulligan, Collateral

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What I Watched This Week: 9 Sep 2018

NEW SHOWS
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – “The Gang Escapes” (B-)
Some funny moments, but Dee’s side-quest is almost too disturbing to glean any humor out of it.

BINGEING
The Good Place – Season 2 (A average)
My rewatch confirms that this is the best comedy on television, uproarious with its jokes but insightful with its philosophy, and honest about how hard it is to be a good person in a world that rarely rewards good behavior and rarely punishes bad behavior.

Ozark
Season 1 (B+ average)
This is the thrilling, pulpy show I’ve been wanting for a long time. It’s got the prestige budget but without a lot of the prestige trappings. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are terrific, subtly tweaking the images they’ve (intentionally or not) honed over the last 15 years. It’s not perfect, but it’s never less than gripping.

Season 2 (B+ average)
More of the same, with a lot of major twists or character deaths to end each episode of the home stretch. Laura Linney emerges as the victor of the season, giving a great performance as she morphs into the leader of the entire criminal enterprise. There’s also great supporting work from Janet McTeer as the cartel lawyer.

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2018 Emmy Predictions: Drama

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale
DRAMA SERIES
The Americans (FX)
The Crown (Netflix)
Game of Thrones (HBO)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
This Is Us (NBC)
Westworld (HBO)

Could win: Game of Thrones
Should win: The Americans
Will win: The Handmaid’s Tale
Should have been nominated: Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)

Milo Ventimiglia in This Is Us
DRAMA ACTOR
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Ed Harris, Westworld
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Could win: Sterling K. Brown
Should win: Matthew Rhys
Will win: Milo Ventimiglia
Should have been nominated: Dan Stevens, Legion

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale
DRAMA ACTRESS
Claire Foy, The Crown
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Keri Russell, The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

Could win: Sandra Oh
Should win: Keri Russell
Will win: Elisabeth Moss
Should have been nominated: Jodie Comer, Killing Eve

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