Sunday, September 22, 2019

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2019: The Players

I’ll admit I haven’t been watching a ton of scripted TV lately (the latest season of “Glow” is awesome, though, by the way). The real world is too stressful and dramatic right now for me to want to add more stress and dramatics in my downtime. I’ve been writing about the Emmys here at MTVP for a decade now, though, so I’ve still got some opinions I’d like to share. As always, my usual disclaimer: I’m not a professional awards prognosticator. There are plenty of better known sources you can go to on the internet for that. My choices here might not even be who/what should objectively win. There is so much TV these days, and I’ve scaled back on my watching at the same time, so there’s plenty of Emmy-worthy stuff I haven’t even seen. This is just a few categories where there is a particular possibility of a winner whose work has made me happy. Also, a brief aside, there will be no host for tonight’s telecast on FOX, so I don’t have that to chat about here, either, this year. The choice of host is always one of my favorite things to speculate about, so I’m a little disappointed. Just because the Oscars couldn’t get their act together to choose a decent host this year doesn’t mean the Emmys had to follow suit. Anyway, with that, on to the discussion of specific categories.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nomiees:

Christina Applegate (Dead to Me)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)
Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll)
Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek)
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

My Pick: Rachel Brosnahan

I’m going with Rachel Brosnahan for this one because hers is the only show I’ve seen. Applegate, O’Hara, and Louis-Dreyfus are all seasoned comediennes, and I’m sure they have turned in outstanding performances. I do especially want to try watching “Schitt’s Creek” someday, because I’ve heard great things. But as of today, I’ve only seen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Brosnahan has been consistently fantastic in it. She can be subtle, such as when you can sense how much pain her mother running away to Paris has caused her, and she’s also not afraid to be big and completely go for broke in any stand-up comedy scene. I think that broad range of talent makes her a deserving winner in this category of very talented women.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Sarah Goldberg (Barry)
Sian Clifford (Fleabag)
Olivia Colman (Fleabag)
Betty Gilpin (GLOW)
Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)

My Pick: Betty Gilpin

In some ways, this one was tough for me to make a pick, and it some ways, it wasn’t at all. Seeing Betty Gilpin’s name here was pretty much the only nomination that has gotten me really exited out of the whole shebang. On the other hand, Marin Hinkle and Alex Borstein both turn in consistent excellent performances on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The sequence where Rose (Hinkle) goes to Paris in season two is especially memorable. Betty Gilpin, however, is a tour de force. I’m actually surprised she was submitted as a supporting actress instead of a lead actress (it was probably strategic), considering she was the glue holding GLOW season three together. Her character Debbie’s struggles balancing being a mom with advancing her career was really compelling to watch. I appreciated her determination to try and find the right balance that worked for her. I also appreciated that Debbie could be ruthless (I won’t spoil the end of season three if you haven’t watched it yet, but she’s definitely ruthless). There are also plenty of moments where she shows her humanity, as well, especially in her friendship with Ruth. Gilpin handles it all effortlessly and deserves all the kudos.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Bill Hader (Barry)
Don Cheadle (Black Monday)
Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
Eugene Levy (Schitt’s Creek)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method)

My Pick: Ted Danson

This was another tough category for me, as I have seen and enjoyed the work of most of the actors on the nominee list. The inclusion of Eugene Levy again makes me really want to catch up on “Schitt’s Creek” (I’ve watched too many Christopher Guest films to not be excited about another Levy/O’Hara team-up). Since “The Good Place” is the only show I’ve watched, however, and Ted Danson is excellent in it, I’ve got to give him the nod. I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that I have only seen seasons one and two of “The Good Place” thus far (planning to watch season three soon to get this blog caught up), but at least in those two seasons, Danson successfully left me wondering whether his character, Michael, was good or evil. Of course, he’s a demon, so there’s at least a bit of an evil core there, but he does seem to be genuinely trying to help the humans, though. I’m still wondering, though, since he also seems to care quite a bit about saving his own skin, if he’ll keep trying to save them. Only time will tell!

Outstanding Competition Program

The Nominees:

American Ninja Warrior
Nailed It!
RuPaul’s Drag Race
The Amazing Race
The Voice
Top Chef

My Pick: Nailed It!

I still love “Top Chef,” and this past season in Kentucky was fantastic, but I’ve got to give this one to “Nailed It!” for trying to do something different. In a world of food TV where everyone is striving for perfection, “Nailed It!” stands out for showcasing ordinary people just trying to do their best with extraordinary baking tasks. The results are what we’d expect when any of us civilians (as opposed to pastry chefs) decides to try and recreate some beautiful decorated baked good we saw on Pinterest. The show embraces the ordinary. Hosts Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres also have fantastic chemistry and play well off each other. Byer, a comedienne, goes for the joke whenever she can and has a really big personality. Torres, an acclaimed chocolatier, lends some prestige to the proceedings, but he also is always game for some banter with Byer. The combination of all this is the perfect way to get sucked into a major Netflix binge.

The Good Place 3.01: “Everything is Bonzer!”

“I know what you mean. My goal in life was to be completely different, too.”
- Michael

When we last left our core four, Michael had convinced the Judge to send them back to earth as living people to see if they could be better people. Throughout this episode, we see Michael go down to earth and save them all from the incidents that would have killed him. But, unfortunately, while they all have short-lived bouts of wanting to be better people, inevitably, all four revert back to their original selves. Eleanor gets bored of being good, Chidi suggests a friend get in shape and his friend then ends up seriously injured. Tahani spends time in a Buddhist monastery for a while until a news reporter finds her and she ends up back in the spotlight and Jason assembles a dance crew but after repeatedly losing competitions, he goes back to a life of crime.

Despite the Judge’s instruction that the core four needs to succeed on their own Michael can’t sit by and just let them all fail. He’s invested in this little experiment and against Janet’s better judgement, he goes back down to push them together. He thinks at first that it just needs to be Eleanor and Chidi. He had a lot of fun playing the bartender for Eleanor and the librarian (whom Eleanor dubbed as sexy) and it does get Eleanor to head to Australia to ask Chidi for help. I enjoyed the little forays into the year of their lives from when they had their near-death experience and where they end up during the present timeline of the episode. I also found it interesting that there is going to be a love interest for Chidi, just so that he and Eleanor don’t’ end up together too fast. Clearly as it stands now, they have very little in common. Although, it was pretty funny to see Eleanor play match maker while Chidi underwent another MRI. It does seem like a semi-reformed Eleanor thing to do.

This prodding by Eleanor sparks Chidi’s third thesis idea (thank goodness he dumped the first one). He wants to study survivors of near-death experiences and see what impact it has on ethical decision-making. And he gets to partner with Simone, the neuroscientist that he’s now kind of dating. As much as I want Eleanor and Chidi to be together I kind of like Simone as a romantic prospect for Chidi. She’s bubbly and quirky and fits into the group really nicely. I like that she has a way of bringing Chidi out of his shell.

I think I liked Michael’s persona the most when he was talking to Jason. I feel like he was able to get Jason to express himself. It was honestly the first time we’ve really seen Jason act like not a complete idiot. He had feelings and emotions and he didn’t sound like a dope. He was invested in his dance crew until he got caught stealing to try and pay rent on the rehearsal space. I just know that Michael’s little scheme to get all four back together is going to backfire somehow. The Judge isn’t that stupid. She was pretty all knowing last season. I can’t imagine she would see past Michael’s antics. And it may be sooner than he expects. Then again, he is convinced he made it through without anyone the wiser. He even bribed the Doorman with a frog covered insulated mug for his decaf anti-matter. I highly suspect the “key” made from the first atoms of the universe is going to come into play before the end of the season. They made a big deal about it. It can’t just be a throw-away gag. On his last trip, I thought Michael may have used the mug to distract the Doorman while he took the key. But, I think the Doorman would have realized it before Michael had a chance to get away. Still, it has to come back at some point.

While the Judge may not be aware of Michael’s meddling yet, Sean, Michael’s demon boss, is certainly aware. He has demons working to hack the Judge’s system so they can see what’s going on down on earth. They finally get access during Michael’s last trip down to earth. I was half-expecting Sean to pop down to earth and try to directly mess with our gang. But, it turns out he’s going to use one of his lackeys to do his dirty work. He sends one of the demons who got run over by a train in the fake Good Place to be part of Chidi’s study. Michael and Janet see this at the end of the episode and realize it’s bad. I will be interested to see where this goes.

Overall, I think I enjoyed this episode more than the season 2 premiere. Part of it was because we didn’t rehash the same plot line we’d spent all of the first season building to over and over again. I liked that we got to fill in the blanks on their lives during their second chance but we still ended up with everyone together by the end. I do think they have a lot of chemistry together and you can see little hints of the people they will become. I still think Jason and Tahani have the farthest to go but I suspect they will eventually get there. That said, I’m not sure where they can go with the storyline after this season. I’m assuming the whole season will be spent on earth trying to get them be good people so that they get into the real Good Place. Still, even if they are successful, to me that feels like a series ending arc. Given the popularity of the show and the caliber of the cast, I don’t see the network saying goodbye after only three brief seasons. NBC needs more successful comedies and they aren’t going to want to let this one go anytime soon.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Good Place 2.12: "Somewhere Else"

“The point is, we’ve all gotten better. Why should we have to go live alone in a boring void because of a messed up system? How is that justice?”

The second season finale of “The Good Place” gave us yet another of the show’s signature twists. I think part of what makes “The Good Place” such an entertaining and worthwhile show to watch is that the paradigm is always changing. In that sense, it kind of reminds me of “Fringe” about ten years ago, which really got interesting when the creative team worked to flip the script each season for the last three seasons or so. Both with “Fringe” and with “The Good Place,” sometimes the twist works and sometimes it doesn’t (can Chidi and Eleanor just be together already without all this rebooting!), but I always appreciate the effort to try something different and keep things fresh. I have a feeling that Mike Schur and the team at “The Good Place” will keep us entertained with their creativity for some time to come.

We pick up with this episode in the Judge’s court room, where Michael is trying to argue that the Good/Bad Place system is fundamentally flawed and our four humans shouldn’t be punished for it. After all, they have become “better” since their death, and the current system, which just tallies up what you did in life, doesn’t account for that. Tahani and Eleanor chat while the judge is figuring out what she’s going to do, and they actually acknowledge that they have become friends, which was nice. Janet also takes the opportunity to appear next to Jason and confess her love for him. And yes, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of Japan Youtube, and the Japanese concept of “confession” pretty perfectly describes what Janet does here. Chidi has an epiphany when he sees this, and he grabs Eleanor and kisses her. Eleanor’s response is to say “hot diggity dog!,” which she is embarrassed by at first, but then she decides to own it. I thought it was pretty adorable, myself.

Michael and the judge try to work out a compromise that will test Michael’s theory that people can become “better” after death. Their first potential solution is to send everyone to the medium place while Michael does more work to build his case. When the humans learn that this means they will have to be separated and alone for as long as it takes (a medium place has to be fine-tuned to be perfectly medium for each individual), Eleanor throws a fit. She doesn’t think it’s fair that they all have to be alone because of a faulty judgment system. Michael and the judge then come up with an alternative plan that will test his theory. He needs to prove that humans will become better without a promise of reward.

Suddenly Eleanor is alive again and waking up in her bed in Phoenix. She goes to the store and harasses the guy who wants to get her to sign a clean energy petition, just like on the day she died, but she gets pulled out of the way of the flying shopping carts and truck, so it’s just a near death experience instead of actual death. Eleanor, to the surprise of everyone who knows her, decides to go on a self-improvement kick and become a better person. She quits her job at the shady pharma company right before it gets shut down by an investigation, and she joins the Clean Energy Crusaders. She also spends time hanging out with the guy who always tried to get her to sign that petition. She’s drinking less and generally trying to be kind to people. Michael is very happy at the results he is seeing.

After a few months, however, being good all the time starts to get tiring for Eleanor. She gets kicked out of her apartment for telling her roommate the truth about something she did the previous year. She writes a note when she bumps someone’s car and gets sued by the owner. Eventually, she quits her job with Clean Energy Crusaders and goes back to her boss from the pharma company, who has started yet another shady pyramid scheme. Michael is very disappointed and decides to try and intervene. Eleanor goes to a bar to drown her sorrows, and the bartender is none other than Michael, which gives Ted Danson his “Cheers” moment for the series. Elanor thinks trying to be good is hopeless. She is, after all, the person who “cyberbullied Ryan Lochte until he quit Instagram” (seriously…he’s so pretty, but so very dumb).

Michael tells Eleanor that the question to ask is “what do we owe each other.” While moping at home, Eleanor googles this and finds a video of a lecture by Chidi. He is faulty at a university in Australia now. This gives Eleanor yet another epiphany. Next thing we know, she has hopped on a Qantas jet and is headed for Australia. She shows up at Chidi’s office and tells him she’s a fan of his lecture. And I’m swooning. With all the twists this show keeps throwing at us, one thing seems constant. Eleanor and Chidi are meant to be together.

I’m pretty excited to see what this latest reset is going to bring for the next season. Presumably, at least for one episode, we’ll get to see all the humans back on earth, and we’ll see how they all reacted to their own near death experiences. I’m especially curious to see what Jason has been up to during his time on his own. I’m also excited to see how things will progress with Eleanor and Chidi now that they’re reunited (although I’m sure they’ll be reset again soon enough – it’s already happened several hundred times!). Even if this ends up being one twist too far, I think attempts at creativity and changing things up should be appreciated.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Food TV Friday: "The Chef Show" Season 1: Volume 1

“Part of the reason we do this is because I used to cook with Roy all the time when he was training me, and then the movie came out and it all ended.”
-Jon Favreau

I started watching “The Chef Show” on a flight home to the East Coast from Seattle earlier this summer (yes, it’s still summer for a few more days, damnit!), and I binged the whole thing pretty quickly. I think it’s safe to say that Jon Favreau’s “Chef” is my favorite movie. It incorporates several of my favorite things, like talk about how food evokes memories of a place and New Orleans. Although my favorite thing to eat in New Orleans isn’t beignets. Beignets are great, but I’d rather stuff myself with oysters, po boys of all types, jambalaya, etouffee, and I’ll stop there before I basically recreate that Simpson’s bit where Homer describes his eating in New Orleans. That bit basically describes me every time I go to the Crescent City, by the way. Anyway, “The Chef Show” features Favreau and chef Roy Choi, who was a consultant on the movie, talking and gabbing, sometimes with celebrities. It’s just an enjoyable way to spend time when you want to take a break from the world and have fun nerding out about food. Since season two premieres on Netflix today, I thought I would share my thoughts on season one.

Several episodes feature Favreau, Choi, and friends recreating iconic dishes from the movie. The grilled cheese sandwich and the pasta aglio e olio are both memorable, of course. They also make mojo pork and use it to make Cubanos. Oh and there’s a running beignet fail gag, too. Note to all: if you ever pick up a cannister of CafĂ© du Monde beignet mix while in NOLA, make the beignets before the mix goes stale. It’s fascinating to get some insight into Roy Choi’s process through the cooking sequences. He’s very intense in the kitchen (which you can tell if you watch the sequence in the “Chef” credits where he walks Favreau through making the grilled cheese sandwich), and he cares about his craft deeply. One of the things he seems to really concentrate on while cooking is controlling the temperature. Even when just making a simple grilled cheese sandwich (which is loaded with multiple types of yummy cheeses, of course) or toasting bread for cubanos, he’s paying attention to the temperature of the grill at every second. He also has a habit of constantly changing up his recipes. There’s a funny bit where Choi loves a dish Favreau makes, and Favreau tells him that Choi texted him the recipe years ago. Choi had already added multiple additional ingredients into his own version.

There are many celebrity guests, primarily either chefs (like Aaron Franklin and Dave Chang) or Marvel actors (like Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow). Director Robert Rodriguez also makes an appearance. I think I enjoyed the chef appearances more. I really enjoyed the moments in the series that involved serious nerding out about food. I’m a bit of a barbecue snob (one of my favorite food memories is of trying the Sunday special prime rib at Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas), so I especially liked seeing how Aaron Franklin prepares one of his famous briskets. I’ve been a fan of Dave Chang for a while (I promise I really will write about “Ugly Delicious” here soon!), and it was fun watching him and Roy Choi compare food memories from growing up Korean American. There’s also an episode (the first filmed, I believe), where Favreau, Choi, and a bunch of Favreau’s Marvel actor friends get “crushed” by the staff at The Optimist in Atlanta. The towers of seafood they were invited to work their way through made my mouth water, and I vowed to check out the restaurant if I ever find myself in Atlanta again. I’m also not really a Robert Rodriguez fan, so I had no idea that he was really into cooking and included a recipe with each of his movies.

One thing I found interesting about the season was that there wasn’t really a standard format for an episode. Several episodes focused around Favreau and Choi cooking with others in a kitchen, but there was variation, too. Episodes filmed in Atlanta and Austin in addition to Los Angeles. The episode that was set in Atlanta, as I already mentioned, had an extended sequence of Favreau and a bunch of Marvel notables talking Iron Man and Spider Man while eating insane amounts of seafood (sounds like my kind of party!). There was also an episode in memory of Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold which, while it did include some cooking, also included a lot of discussion of Gold’s legacy and how he worked hard to promote small restaurants and many different kinds of cuisine. The final episode of the season centered around Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival, where he basically invited a bunch of chefs to Austin to cook whatever they felt like. Roy Choi made some smoked Korean barbecue, which I’m sure was awesome, because I had something similar at Pine Street Market in Portland, Oregon earlier this summer.

Overall, I think one of the things I enjoyed about the show the most was getting to know Favreau and Choi better as people. Favreau makes Gwyneth Paltrow laugh by using Yiddish words, talks about making beignets with his daughter because she first saw them as a little kid when “Chef” was filming, and is actually a pretty accomplished amateur cook thanks to Choi. He also is a talented visual artist and quickly pulls together an impressive drawing for Robert Rodriguez’s guestbook. Roy Choi, as I said earlier, is very intense and serious about his craft. He also takes a lot of pride in how he was able to build his business. He seems to always be tweaking his recipes and never just settles on one, definitive version. I think my favorite moment with Choi was when he mentioned how his mother basically has a shrine to him at her house and makes sure all her friends who visit stop to see all the articles and other memorabilia she has collected to document her son’s success.

I’m not sure how much someone who isn’t a super fan of “Chef” like I am would like “The Chef Show,” but I found it just as uplifting as the movie. I think anyone who is interested in food or Marvel, or just creativity in general could find something to interest them in the show. I’m looking forward to diving into the second set of episodes as soon as I can because Favreau and Choi have succeeded in creating an environment where I just want to hang out and watch them cook and chat for a while.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Food TV Friday: "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat"

“I’m just gonna live here now. Eat cheese and butter until I die.”
-Samin Nosrat

I’ve gotta admit, “Salt Fat Acid Heat” is my current obsession. I’ve watched all the episodes multiple times, and I have the book (I’m reading through the whole thing in addition to cooking from it, because it’s really more instructional than recipe-focused). “Salt Fat Acid Heat” is the product of Iranian-American self-described cook Samin Nosrat. While working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, she discovered that four elements are common drivers in flavor in cuisines all around the world: salt, fat acid, and heat. She developed this concept into a cooking class and eventually worked with food writer extraordinaire Michael Pollan. That eventually led to the book and now the Netflix show. The show itself combines some of the cooking instruction of the book with a travel element. Each episode takes place in a different country: Japan, Italy, Mexico, and the US respectively.

The show really works because Nosrat is such a charming personality. She really engages with the people she talks to, and she clearly loves food. She’s quick to both laugh and cry. Let’s go back to that loves food aspect for a minute. It is so rare to see a woman on television, especially one who isn’t skinny, just plain enjoying food. Nosrat never holds back in her enjoyment of food. She weeps in a parmesan cheese factory and erupts in tears and laughter when some salsa in spicier than she expected. She never hesitates to dig in and taste something, even seaweed. The conversation about women and food can be so fraught, and Nosrat just smashes through it all with pure joy. She’s gotten a reputation as a modern day Julia Child thanks to her bubbly personality and tall frame, and she is a delight to watch. Here’s a great video that captures Nosrat’s personality…plus, biscuits!

Another aspect of the show that I like is how many women Nosrat talks to about their food. She enlists the help of Italian Nonnas and Mexican Abuelas in her quest to show how her four elements unite cuisines around the world. So often it seems like food doesn’t become trendy until a hipster bro male chef makes it and sells it in a restaurant, but women have been doing plenty of cooking for centuries. Some of my favorite segments involved making pesto in a mortar and pestle in Italy, making miso in Japan, and making Pavo en Escabeche in Mexico. All of these women have mastered their craft over decades, and Nosrat delights in learning from them. And so did I, come to think of it! It’s such a different way of looking at food television in general. We often idealize a grandmother’s cooking, but we rarely see it on television, especially taken seriously.

As I mentioned before, Nosrat travels to a different location for each of the four episodes. The “Salt” episode takes place in Japan, where we learn about Japanese salt, miso, and soy sauce-making. I had no idea that so many, subtly different types of salt were produced in Japan. The “Fat” episode takes place in Italy, and the parmesan cheese, olive oil, and various types of cured pork made my mouth water. In the summer, I’m a big fan of making a meze platter for lunch with caprese and salami among other things, and this episode made me feel like I do when I’m eating that lunch. “Acid” took place in Mexico, specifically the Yucatan peninsula, and I was fascinated watching a cuisine I don’t know much about. Sour oranges figure prominently, a fruit I didn’t even know existed prior to watching. There was also a sweet lemon, which was also a surprise to me. “Heat” took place in Nosrat’s home of Berkley, California. The highlight of the episode was Nosrat’s mother helping her cook the iconic Persian dish, Tahdig. She also makes a beautiful buttermilk roast chicken, which has become something of a winter holiday tradition for me now. I even figured out a rig to keep the smoke down so I don’t have to constantly man the smoke alarm (I live in a row home, and the first floor is pretty small).

The production value of the show is extremely high, which is probably part of the reason there are only four episodes. I would have loved to have watched more episodes, but I can’t imagine how much it would have cost! The visuals are just stunning. The serenity of being on a boat in Japan and the many colors of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico are really brought right to the screen. Even the “Heat” episode, which takes place near Nosrat’s home in Berkeley California (not as exotic as the other three episodes) contain little visual details that make it feel inviting. I also have to mention that the beginning of that episode introduced me to a band I really enjoy, The California Honeydrops.

Nosrat has repeatedly said in interviews that if nothing else, she wants her work to inspire people to just get out there and cook. I think she has definitely succeeded. While I’ve enjoyed cooking for quite some time now, she’s definitely made me more intentional in the kitchen. While my doctor doesn’t want me to salt things as much as Samin would anymore (I would seriously give up sugar before salt – this is not easy, people!), she has taught me little details, such as macerating onions in acid before pulling together a vinaigrette, that has made my cooking better. I’ve also heard many people, some of whom I haven’t known to be that into cooking, talking about that buttermilk chicken. The chicken is delicious and not very hard to make. You really should try it!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

This Is Us 3.18: "Her"

“I’ll tell you one thing. I don’t think we figure out who we are all at once. I think it happens over a long period of time, piece by piece.”
- Kevin

Oh man, I was not expecting that ending of the episode! Before we can get there, though, we need to take a look at the drama unfolding for the Pearson clan in the present and briefly in the past. We find the Big Three as preteens and Rebecca ends up in a car accident due to careless driving. She’s banged up and has a broken arm. Her injuries freak the kids out a bit, as does her speech thanks to the pain meds. She insists Jack take them home and he does so but that just doesn’t go well. I’m not sure how or why Jack is so inept with parenting in this episode. I suppose it could be still around the time he saw Nicky so he could just be off. But, ultimately, he takes the kids back to the hospital and convinces a bleary-eyed nurse to let them see Rebecca before visiting hours start. This actually ends up tying more into the future storyline but we’ll get there in a minute.

In the present, Kate and Toby are still dealing with baby Jack in the NICU. He’s now two weeks old and has started to breathe on his own. Still, he may forget so they just need to tap his foot to startle him to remind him he needs to keep breathing. I don’t know if I had that problem, but I know my heart would stop sometimes when I was fed so similar scariness of preemies! Rebecca is dutifully taking notes on everything and asking the doctor a zillion questions which kind of annoys Kate. Then, when Jack stops breathing and alarms go off, Kate slightly panics and then Rebecca remembers what to do and the baby is fine. Kate snaps at h3er mother which sends Rebecca home. Kate ends up apologizing to her mom. So for now, it seems, they are in a good place.

That leaves us with Kevin and Randall, whose stories are somewhat intertwined. Randall has to take Deja to a debate tournament while Beth goes to teach ballet classes. Kevin and Zoe agree to watch Tess and Annie which leads to Kevin realizing he does still want kids. Especially after he gets to give Tess a pretty good speech about how you figure out who you are over time through different life experiences. Kevin also observes Zoe with Annie and thinks Zoe would make a great mom. But, later that night, she confirms that she in fact never wants to be a mom. I suspect she’s one of those people who likes being around other people’s kids but doesn’t want her own. Kevin finally acknowledges that he does in fact want kids some day and thus they end up breaking up again.

It turns out that Deja is a bit crafty. She took Randall on a long car ride to deliver a speech of her own, much like when he wanted her to sign the adoption papers. She brings him to the worst foster home she was in. The parents were abusive and took in too many kids just for the money so they could scratch lotto tickets. This is all to say that Randall and Beth need to sort their stuff out because she and Tess can feel the tension. And she thinks Randall “won the lottery” when he got adopted and when he met Beth. As Randall processes the wise words from his oldest daughter (she really is a pretty wise girl), he calls up his campaign manager to ask a question I was honestly surprised he would ask. He wants to know the procedure to resign. Unbeknownst to him, Beth is reevaluating some things on her end, too. We see her meet with a realtor in Philly and in true This Is Us fashion we think it means she’s looking at houses. But when she gets home, she tells Randall she wants to open her own dance studio in Philly so they can move there and that way Randall doesn’t have to give up his political aspirations and she can teach dance how she wants to.

This leads us to the future storyline we’ve been wondering about all season. We know from prior hints that it’s set probably 10-20 years in the future given Tess being a grown-up and social worker. We know that folks are gathering to see Rebecca. We quickly see Tess, Randall and Beth catch up with one another and it seems that Beth and Randall are in fact in a good place (as also evidenced by how things went down in the present). I am a little confused about why Deja and Annie aren’t around but who knows, maybe they are coming. Toby arrives, too, and says that he talked to Jack and “they” are on their way. That does not say that he is with Kate, although it could. We don’t know. It makes me wonder a little if Toby and Kate are no longer together. We also learn that everyone is gathering at Kevin’s huge house. We also meet a nameless child who it sounds like is Kevin’s son. So he eventually becomes a dad, too. We have no idea who his mom is (other than we know it isn’t Zoe). And then, Randall goes to see Rebecca and she is very old and it seems like she doesn’t remember Randall. Whether it’s just old age or dementia is yet another question to be answered. Perhaps the biggest twist in the future storyline is that it is not Miguel sitting vigil by Rebecca’s bedside. It’s Uncle Nicky! Okay, I was not expecting that and I need to know how Nicky ends up there given how much he brushed off the rest of the family when last we saw him. I did like how this scene was cut to show young Randall walking into Rebecca’s hospital room in the past. It was very well done. Now we just have to wait six months to see what happens next!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 2.04: "When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?

“Life doesn’t happen to you. You make decisions. Right now I’m deciding to move forward with my life.”

I’ll be honest, the events of this episode are the main reason why, even though the first season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is one of my very favorite seasons of television, I haven’t gotten very far beyond it in watching the show. In honor of the series finale airing this coming Friday, though, I thought I ought to dive back in. You see, I first started watching the show when a close friend moved across country under somewhat painful circumstances, and I was trying to cheer myself up with a quirky comedy and some pepperoni pizza. While watching the first season, I got very invested in Rebecca and Greg. Then when I found out that Santino Fontana was leaving the show and I saw the video for “It Was a Shitshow,” which featured their big airport goodbye, I knew I wasn’t in an emotional place to watch the whole episode. Just about three years later, I can confirm I was actually able to watch the whole episode (including the departure scene) without crying, so that’s progress. A lot has happened in the past three years, I suppose.

The episode opens where the last one left off, with Rebecca rushing to the airport just as Greg is about to board his flight to Atlanta to attend Emory University. Greg explains his reasons for leaving with the aforementioned “It Was a Shitshow,” and I was mostly reminded that damn, Santino Fontana can sing. I’m now contemplating a spontaneous trip to NYC to see him in Tootsie (although my bank account and work that needs to be done on my house may make me decide to do otherwise). Greg’s got a good point with this song. While Greg and Rebecca have crazy chemistry, they’ve done some pretty awful things to each other. Their relationship hasn’t been rosy, for sure. Greg does admit he loves her (which will have to sustain me until season four), but pursuing his dreams in Atlanta is the best thing for him at this point.

Rebecca is completely broken by both Josh and Greg leaving her in such a short space of time. She’s feeling very abandoned, and Paula, even though she’s dealing with her own issues (more on that in a bit) does try to comfort her. Josh and Greg keep appearing to her as visions, and they perform a rather epic song and dance number called “We Tapped that Ass All Over This House.” Rebecca decides to try burning everything that reminds her of both Josh and Greg in her kitchen sink, and it turns into a major fire and a 911 call that goes viral (probably because it involved Rebecca describing pooping in her backyard). Rebecca goes over to Heather’s house to see if she can stay there, and she learns that Heather still lives with her parents. Heather and her parents are all cool with Rebecca crashing at their place temporarily. Heather’s dad even makes her pancakes at 2 AM), and Heather’s mom gives her clothes to wear to work the next day.

Rebecca, looking quite disheveled, is devastated to find out that all her coworkers have been watching the viral 911 video. She thinks she’ll feel better if she throws herself into work, though, so she sits in on a meeting with Petra from “Jane the Virgin,” who in the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” universe, runs a company called Miss Douche. Since douching isn’t really in fashion anymore, she’s desperately trying to rebrand the company (Whitefeather is helping them with legal transactions required for their new headquarters). She especially wants to replace their illustrated “Miss Douche” mascot with a real woman. They’re running a social media contest from which five winners will be chosen. The rebranding talk really appeals to Rebecca, because she desperately wants everyone to forget about that 911 video.

Back at Heather’s house, Heather’s mom is super supportive of Rebecca’s desire to have a post break-up makeover. Rebecca even comes up with a pretty silly song to accompany the makeover. Next thing we know, Rebecca is walking into Whitefeather with blonde hair and looking like she’s dressed for Coachella. She also made the Instagram post for the contest and has spent thousands of dollars on bots to give the post likes. Even though reaction to the new look was surprise more than anything else, Rebecca is feeling pretty confident in herself when she happens to run into Josh on the street. Josh doesn’t recognize Rebecca at first, but when he does, he tries to be kind. He makes the mistake of calling what Rebecca is wearing a “costume,” though, and that completely throws her off her game.

Meanwhile, you may recall that in the last episode, Paula found out that she’s pregnant. Her husband, to his credit, is still super supportive of the idea of her going to law school, but his attempts to show that he can manage the house somewhat to give her space to study doesn’t really go well. The house is more chaotic than ever, and Paula doesn’t see how she can possibly juggle her job, school, the kids they’ve got, and a new baby all at once. Her husband reminds her she has “options,” but Paula views that as a teenager’s way out. She thinks the right decision is for her to drop out of law school. She also doesn’t want to talk any of this through with Rebecca (even though Rebecca asks her a couple times how she’s doing), because she thinks Rebecca has too much on her plate and wouldn’t understand, anyway. She ends up presenting Miss Douche’s case to the planning commissioner, however, and he seriously compliments her work, so Paula finally makes her decision. She has an abortion. It’s all handled in a very matter-of-fact way (and she still doesn’t tell Rebecca), which was very interesting to see on television.

When we next see Rebecca, she’s officially a finalist for Miss Douche, but Heather is having a terrible time trying to get her out of bed to go to the competition. Heather’s parents aren’t helping. They’re totally cool with Rebecca just staying in bed not trying to win the competition. Heather’s taking this personally, I think because she wishes her parents had pushed her a bit more to not be a perpetual student. Eventually, Heather succeeds, and Rebecca shows up at the competition just in time. The ladies all have to answer questions from the judges. Petra (I don’t know her character’s name on this show, so I’m just gonna call her Petra) mentions that Rebecca seems like the kind of person who does it all – success ful attorney, living her best SoCal life, etc. Fundamentally, though, she wants to know who Rebecca is. The planning commissioner asks Paula who she is in a cut scene, so I’m guessing this is the theme that is tying the whole episode together. Rebecca ends up giving a speech where she says she doesn’t deserve to be Miss Douche because her life is a mess, and she suggests they choose Heather instead.

Heather does end up as the new Miss Douche, which is not what anyone would have ever expected. She wants to take the money and strike it out on her own. She’s tired of her parents enabling her to keep living in her safe bubble. And she wants Rebecca to be her new roommate. This is going to be quite an interesting combination! Later, the two of them start looking at listings, and they see a familiar face gorging on a donut. It’s none other than Valencia – since when does she eat carbs! The three ladies are all surprised to see each other and don’t know quite how to react. Do I detect a potential third roommate? This could get interesting.