What I Watched This Week: 5 June 2016

Silicon Valley – “To Build a Better Beta” (B+)
Is it possible to feel bad for Erlich Bachmann? Maybe not, but it will be interesting to see how the show keeps him involved going forward, considering he had to sell his shares in Pied Piper to pay his debts and endure prank calls from Jian-Yang. But this episode also shows that it’s possible to have an enjoyable sitcom that’s not predicated on continual screw-ups by Richard et al. In fact, this was a win for them, because it is an absolute delight to see Gavin get screwed over by his hubris, both because his character is awful and also because Matt Ross has some of the best reactions in the business.

Veep – “Congressional Ball” (A-)
Yet another showcase for both Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Hugh Laurie, who have a vicious tête à tête and end up screwing on the couch, much to the horror of Gary. And of course Jonah inadvertently kills his own campaign. He finally stands up to his abuser (Patton Oswalt) but it looks like he was lambasting a woman with Down’s syndrome. Only Veep can pull that off without making it look tasteless.

Last Week Tonight – “June 5, 2016” (A)
An episode that’s very close to home, as John Oliver focuses on the shady world of debt buyers, which is closely connected to my day job (I audit them to make sure they’re not doing anything shady). It’s not anything I didn’t already know, but then John Oliver had to one-up himself and the whole TV world by buying, then forgiving nearly $15 million in medical debt. Bravo, John.

The Mindy Project – “Princeton Charming” (B)
Poor Maria Thayer doesn’t get nearly enough to do here as Jody’s new girlfriend/catalyst for Jody and Mindy’s eventual DTR. But Garret Dillahunt is proving again why he’s one of the best actors on TV, coolly playing Jody’s surprisingly dynamic emotional range. Mindy’s random hook-ups are, I guess, positive. I suppose it’s the point that we are not getting attached to any of these fellas, but I’d like a little more substance to these relationships.

“Phase 3” (B+) / season premiere
“Trivial Pursuit” (A-)
A nice little reset as the school year starts and Alex volunteers to home-school Laura. Of course, any activity Alex does is just to avoid dealing with his legitimate heartbreak over Emmy. The second episode is much better, with Valerie’s awkward dinner party crash that ends with a sweet moment with her ex-husband. Laura bails on Alex’s trivia because she bails on absolutely everything, but at least Leon got laid. Despite last year’s rocky finish, this is one of my favorite shows and having it back is like seeing an old family member.

The Americans – “Persona Non Grata” (A) / season finale
Another stellar finale to close out another stellar season. Dylan Baker is phenomenal in his final turn as William, and the show ramps up the tension just enough on an already tense year with the Jennings. Next year marks the beginning of the end.

Bo Burnham: Make Happy (A-)
Possibly the stand-up special of the year. More mature than Words Words Words, but not as dark as What, this is the best of both worlds, with spot-on song parodies and some deep soul-searching.

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