What I Watched This Week: 20 April 2014

The Following – “Silence” (C+)
Better executed (no pun intended) than last week’s debacle, but it’s readily apparent – if it wasn’t already – that this show goes for the easiest, most obvious twists and never tries to be smarter than the audience. That’s a shame, because there’s a sequence here, with no music or sound effects, that’s probably the best thing the show has ever done. It just sucks that they had a prime opportunity for some religious satire and completely whiffed it.

Modern Family – “Australia” (B-)
Would have been better served as an hour-long episode, since, as usual, the stories (five by my count) are half-baked. Also, needs more Rhys Darby.

The Americans – “Martial Eagle” (A)
A truly devastating episode, and an acting showcase for Matthew Rhys. I wish we would have spent more time at the covert training facility, since we spent so much time building up to it. But the show has plenty of familial tension to make up for it.

Hannibal – “Shiizakana” (B+)
There is a LOT of talking, and a few not so graceful homages to slasher movies. But this is still the most gorgeous show on TV, and it’s been on a string of amazing episodes, so I can’t be too hard on this one.

Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays (A)
A brilliant, hilarious and heartbreaking one-man show from the indefatigable Billy Crystal. His impression of his vitriolic uncle is a genius piece of comedy and his “meeting with God” after his dad dies is incredibly touching.

Fargo – “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” (A-) / series premiere
For the first 20 minutes, it just feels like an impression of the 1996 film. But once it gets going, it becomes its own weirdly funny thing. Billy Bob Thornton gives his first great performance in ages and Martin Freeman is terrific as the put-upon Lester Nygard. But the real person to keep an eye on is Texas native Alison Tolman, who plays the new sheriff in town.

Modern Family – “Spring-a-Ding-Fling,” “Other People’s Children,” “Las Vegas,” “A Hard Jay’s Night” (average: B+)
Each episode had plenty of funny moments, but the kid-free Vegas episode was the best of them all.

The Simpsons – “The Man Who Grew Too Much” (B), “You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee” (B-), “Days of Future Future” (B)
These are three episodes of the six or so I missed that I decided to watch. Part of growing older means you give up on latter day Simpsons. None of these were particularly bad, but just weak sequels to Sideshow Bob episodes, a trip to Brazil and visions of the future.

The Simpsons (Season 7) – “Two Bad Neighbors” (A-)
George Bush vs. the Simpsons. Still the best appearance by an ex-President, which has had plenty (except Dubya, which might be because that would be like shooting fish in a barrel). I love how this is essentially an episode of Dennis the Menace taken to extremes. Locusts! Bad wigs! Poorly drawn banners! Now, let’s give it up for Table Five.

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