Friday, September 30, 2016

The Good Place 1.03: "Tahani Al-Jamil"

“Eleanor, you don’t know what it’s like to be in paradise and feel like there’s something just not quite right.”

The third episode of “The Good Place,” being the first episode after the very exposition-heavy two-part premiere, had some important work to do. Now that the premise of the show has been established and the ground rules have been laid out, it was time to see what the show was going to be like week-to-week. If this episode was a representative example of what the show will actually be like going forward, I’m happy with it. There was character growth, the plot kept me interested, and there was a rather fantastic twist at the end. I just hope that Eleanor’s journey towards becoming a “good person” doesn’t move too quickly. I’m the opposite of Ted Moseby – definitely a journey not the destination kind of person. I would like to see her have plenty of misadventures before truly fitting in in the Good Place. There won’t be much of a story to tell, otherwise.

As this episode opens, Eleanor is trying to make good on her promise to take ethics lessons with Chidi. She does seem to genuinely want to become a better person, if for no other reason than that she really wants to avoid the Bad Place, but she’s having trouble paying attention. As we’ll discover throughout this episode, that really isn’t entirely Eleanor’s fault. Chidi can ramble, especially when talking about ethics and philosophy. The lesson is interrupted when Tahani stops by with a Welcome to the Neighborhood potted plant. Eleanor is less than impressed, since a houseplant is kind of useless, and she makes that fact known to Chidi. In this episode, we learn that Tahani raised billions (yes, billions with a “b”) for charity, which is guess is why she made it to the Good Place. I still think she’s rather insufferable, though, “good” person or not. There are people who, through no fault of their own, are annoying as hell because they’re just too good and perfect at everything. Tahani is one of those people.

Speaking of Chidi, he runs into Michael in town, and Michal announces that Janet is now serving as his assistant. He tried to program her to interact a bit more naturally with people, but he went a too far. She’s disturbingly bubbly, then way too eager with the “fun facts” then tries to act sexy. Michael mentions that Chidi really only did one thing with his life – write a 3,000 page treatise on ethics. He encourages Chidi to try and find a different hobby to make his time in the Good Place more enjoyable. First up is cartography. That’s not going to work, though, because Chidi has “directional insanity” and can’t navigate his way out of a paper bag. Then it’s journalism, but Chidi isn’t too thrilled about that, either. Michael eventually is forced to admit that he read Chidi’s manuscript, and he hated it. It is way too long and meandering and makes no sense. Because it was Chidi’s life’s work, Michael was hoping he wouldn’t have to actually tell Chidi this, but the situation got dire. Thanks to a pep talk from Eleanor near the end of the episode, Chidi realizes that even if his manuscript wasn't perfect, it was still a great accomplishment. He asks Michael to be his "advisor" for a re-do.

When Eleanor starts going on another rant about how she is sure Tahani is the one who left the threatening note about not belonging, Chidi gives her a talking-to. He theorizes that Eleanor actually manifested the note herself because of her anxiety over the fact that she’s in the Good Place by mistake. Whenever Eleanor is mean to Tahani, the plant Tahani gifted starts wilting. Chidi thinks the plant is meant to be a symbol of Tahani and Eleanor’s relationship, and he suggests Eleanor try being nicer to Tahani. I’m actually Team Eleanor on this one. Like I mentioned, Tahani may be a genuinely good person, as we’ll see in this episode, but she’s annoying as all get out. She presents her niceness in a way that seems fake. Anyway, Eleanor goes to Tahani’s house with a basket of pears as a make-up gift. Tahani immediately throws them out, because apparently in Chinese culture, pears mean bad luck, and she doesn’t want to offend Jianyu. Eleanor continues to try and play nice, however, and she agrees to join Tahani on her planned walk around the neighborhood the next day to make sure everyone is okay following all the strange events in the neighborhood.

Throughout the episode Eleanor has flashbacks that help to explain her rather strong reaction to Tahani. The flashbacks center around her relationship with a former boyfriend. The boyfriend wants to boycott a local coffee shop because a video was leaked that showed him blatantly harassing women who applied for jobs at the shop. Eleanor, however, could care less. She just wants good coffee close to home. Her boyfriend is clearly disappointed in this, but Eleanor just takes making a show of getting coffee from this shop as far as she can go. Remembering all of this makes Eleanor realize that people who try to be good intimidate her and make her feel lesser. That’s why she lashes out at Tahani.

Anyway, Eleanor goes on the neighborhood canvassing walk with Tahani, where she does genuinely try to be nice. It all unravels after the walk, though. Eleanor decides to steal Tahani’s diary, and that makes the friendship plant straight-up explode. Chidi gives Eleanor another talking-to (he’s kind of horrified that she stole Tahani’s diary), and that’s when Eleanor really has the revelation about “good” people intimidating her. She goes to pay Tahani another visit to try and make things right. Tahani confesses that her relationship with Jianyu isn’t quite what she thought it would be. It certainly doesn’t seem like the most ideal match, given that Jianyu has taken a vow of silence and Tahani really, really likes to talk. Tahani feels like something is off, even though she’s in paradise, and Eleanor can really relate to that. She gives Tahani the best pep talk she can.

When she gets home, Eleanor sees that the friendship plant has really blossomed. She’s got bigger problems to deal with, though. Another threatening note has appeared. The note says to meet the writer in the courtyard that evening. As she walks to the courtyard, Eleanor keeps trying to tell herself that the note was just a manifestation of her own insecurities, but it turns out, it really wasn’t. The writer of the note is none other than Jianyu. He tells Eleanor that he doesn’t belong in the Good Place, either, and he begs her for help. See what I mean about an awesome twist at the end of the episode?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Is Us 1.02: “The Big Three”

“What did I ever do those first two minutes without you?”
“You cried and crapped a lot.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.”
- Kevin and Kate

Before we even dive in to this week’s episode, I wanted to share that NBC has already picked up “This Is Us” for a full season (to be comprised of 18 episodes). This is the first new show this season to have gotten a back order and at the time of the pick-up, had only aired one episode! The power of this show is amazing. And boy does it continue to give us unexpected twists and turns.

Life for Jack and Rebecca has changed quite a bit since they brought “the big three” home. The kids are now eight years old and the boys are definitely not getting along. We see very early on that the fact that Randall is black is an issue for Kevin. He keeps calling him “Webster” (a reference I don’t get as I wasn’t around in the ‘80s). We see that Kevin doesn’t like that people don’t think he and Randall are brothers (even at such a young age we see that Kevin was always concerned with what people thought of him). We aren’t quite sure why he craves the approval of others but I’m sure we’ll find out as the story goes on. Randall, in the shadow of at least his brother (and probably his sister) strives to be perfect and good. Again, we see that drive for perfection is reflected in who Randall is as an adult. And Kate seems to have struggled with weight even as a child (given the cantaloupe and cottage cheese breakfast she’s forced to eat).

Perhaps the most interesting part of this look back at the Pearson family is the strain that is clearly evident between Jack and Rebecca. Gone is the happily married, madly in love couple we met in the pilot. The stress of trying to parent three kids is taking a toll and Jack isn’t handling it well. He’s become prone to going out late and drinking with his buddy Miguel (who I totally didn’t realize was Jon Huertas from Castle at first). Jack comes home drunk that night, after picking up lavish gift for Rebecca (in the hopes of smoothing things over) when she sits him down and tells him to man up. He needs to stop drinking and be a father and a husband because she’s putting in the effort to successfully raise their children and he’s not. After sleeping in the hallway that night, Jack promises to quit drinking cold turkey and be a better man. We get an adorable scene where they are making out on the hallway floor and the kids come out and pile on them.

In the present, we pick up three days after the big three’s birthday and things are still in flux for everyone. In the wake of his Man-ny blowout, Kevin is trying to figure out what to do with his life. He thinks everything will be fine and he can just move on to a new project. Too bad his agent reads him the riot act. The network owns him for at least two more years if he refuses to go back on the show, he won’t be able to do any movies and TV on any network for the duration of the contract. Not to mention they could probably sue him for a pretty penny. So now he has to attend a fancy Hollywood party and he insists that Kate go with him. I did really like the scene where he tells her about the party and we really get to see how close they are. They do act so much more like twins than triplets. We do see Kevin reach out to Randall in the hopes of getting some brotherly advice, even if they aren’t that close (although apparently Kate and Randall are closer). I can see Kate being the mediator between her brothers for sure. But after Randall makes them do the chant that Jack did at the top of the episode, Kevin has enough courage to tell the network to screw themselves. Maybe he’ll do theater.

Meanwhile, Kate is struggling with the fact that she’s not losing weight and everyone else around her is. She loses it a little during the support group and Toby tries to smooth things over. It seems like he really wants to be with her and I wonder if trying to smooth things out and make everyone (namely Kate) happy is one of his character flaws. Regardless, I adore them together and we need more of them. Plus, he goes to the party with Kate (who gets drunk) and it’s adorable. But as Kate starts to sober up, she admits that she can’t not think about her weight because it has been such a huge part of who she is (as we saw even from a young age). But Toby understands and he’s going to be by her side. I think this is going to be a good thing.

And then there is Randall. He’s not sleeping much and Beth is worried that William is overstaying his welcome. He’s asking for money and disappearing for the whole day and she is fearful he’s using drugs again and obviously she doesn’t want that round her children. But when she sits down with him in the middle of the night to have a heart-to-heart we learn that where he is going is kind of comical. He is using the money for bus fare like he said to go take care of his cat in Philly. Randall’s youngest daughter has asthma and William didn’t want the cat to cause problems because he likes being with the family. He says he feels better than he had in a long time. I had to laugh when he revealed that it was all about a cat. I like that we are getting to see (especially through Randall’s eyes) that this man isn’t the monster he always thought him to be. And then, as the episode closes, we see that the East Coast Pearson clan is getting a visit from Grandma and Grandpa. William quickly hides away but we are left to wonder what happened when we see not Jack standing by Rebecca’s side, but Miguel!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.22: "Ascension"

“I don't want you to die. I want you to suffer.”

The season finale of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” certainly brought a lot of drama and changes for the team. I think it provided a reasonably satisfying ending to the ongoing saga of Ward and later Hive. There wasn’t really much time left for character development in this one. It was mostly action with a touch of Daisy whining and then grief. I’ve got to agree with what Sarah said back when she reviewed part one of the finale. Daisy’s “I’m not worthy” pity party in most of this episode is kind of exhausting. I think, despite the satisfying resolution, the episode was middle-of-the road to me because it was mostly action and not much character. I like the characters on “S.H.I.E.L.D. and generally like to see them interact with each other. The team had a singular goal to complete in this one – destroy Hive and prevent him from turning the entire world into the “primitive” version of Inhumans.

At the end of the first part of the finale, Daisy was begging Hive to take her back and put her under his control again. She is addicted to Hive’s control, and she’s also feeling super guilty over what she did the last time she was under her control. Hive tries to take Daisy, but it doesn’t work. He says that whatever Lash did to her, it has made her permanently immune to his control. Daisy is enraged by this, and she starts quaking, wanting to unleash all her powers on Lash. It’s a pretty epic fight between the two of the, really – one that has been a long time coming. Daisy’s quaking makes the whole S.H.I.E.L.D. base shake as Coulson and Mack try to debrief. Fitz realizes there is something wrong with Daisy’s containment unit, and he wants to investigate. There’s just one small problem: Radcliffe informs the group that Primitives retain skills from their lives pre-transformation, and there are twenty-eight Primitives in the wind who used to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. They know the base inside and out, and they are approaching through the vents.

The team decides to split up to deal with the various challenges they’re facing, which as we know from horror movies, always ends well. Fitz and May go to the containment unit, and they find it empty. Meanwhile, Daisy and Hive are still fighting. Daisy gets in some good attacks, but Hive keeps coming back, and the whole thing is over when a Zephyr arrives carrying Giyera and James. Hive is able to use the distraction to knock Daisy out, and he takes her on the Zephyr as his insurance policy that Coulson’s team won’t just kill them all. Hive makes use of the memories of Will and Ward to pilot the aircraft, and the Zephyr takes off.

Radcliffe tags along with Coulson and Lincoln, and the trip discover that Primitives have been destroying their servers. Mack and YoYo encounter a Primitive who almost immediately opens fire. At first, it seems like Mack is going to be shot repeatedly, but YoYo uses her powers to basically catch all the bullets. YoYo is seriously injured as a result. There’s just a lot of fighting in this section of the episode in general. When the two groups reunite (Simmons is trapped elsewhere), Mack gets Yoyo to a table, and he and Lincoln try to save her. Lincoln can’t get to the lab to get real medical supplies, so they’re in a bind. Yoyo insists that Mack be the one to use the blowtorch to cauterize the wound.

Meanwhile, the Zephyr is heading for the altitude that is ideal for turning everybody into Primitives. James questions how they are supposed to survive the blast that will disburse the formula, and Hive reveals that they will descend to Earth in the containment unit before the explosion. May and Fitz are hidden on board, though, so this plan may be easier said than done. Fitz tries to open the containment unit, but Daisy begs him not to. She’s still feeling the self-pity and believes she needs to be contained. Remember, I told you the Daisy whinging was still going strong in this one. May is the one who can finally snap some sense into her, telling Daisy that she doesn’t thing Andrew would have saved her if she was supposed to be sequestered in a containment unit for the rest of her life. The conversation is bad timing, though, because Giyera enters, knocks May out, and pulls a gun on Fitz. Thinking quickly, Fitz warns Giyera that there’s a weapon on the Zephyr meant to stop him. Giyera demands to see the weapon, and Fitz promptly shoots him with an invisible gun. His next move is to free Daisy from the containment unit.

Primatives start closing in on Simmons, and she realizes that they can sense her through her heat signature. She turns up the thermostat to body temperature so she’ll blend in. Elsewhere in the base, Lincoln is fretting over whether or not YoYo’s wound is infected. Radcliffe notes that Simmons must have turned up the heat to make them invisible, and his theory is proven correct when Primatives seem to not see them. They follow the Primative, and it leads them to Simmons, who tells them that May and Fitz are on the Zephyr. YoYo needs a hospital, so Coulson summons a Quinjet. He wants to drop YoYo off, then come back and face Hive alone.

On the Zephyr, they have the opposite problem to Coulson’s crew. It’s cold, which means the Zephyr has reached very high altitude. Meanwhile, Hive is trying to pilot the Zephyr when a Primative brings him Giyera’s corpse. Hive orders James to find the stowaways while the Quinjet docks with the Zephyr. As all this is going on, Daisy looks at the cross necklace she currently possesses and remembers the vision she had of the explosion in space. Hive finds Coulson at the docking station, and they taunt each other a bit before Coulson reveals that he’s actually just a hologram. James finds Lincoln and the two begin to fight. Lincoln, however, electrocutes James and May shows up to finish the job by knocking him out.

Before he was unconscious, though, James left some explosive material on Lincoln, and it does indeed explode. Simmons surveys Lincoln’s injuries – she thinks he’ll be fine if he stays still. Daisy figures out Coulson’s big plan (put the bomb in the Quinjet and send it into outer space), and she decides she wants to be the one piloting. Daisy is installing the warhead in the Quinjet when Hive finds her. Hive threatens to use Ward’s memories to take over control of the Quinjet, but it’s too late. Lincoln is in the pilot’s seat, and he has already fried the controls. He then zaps Daisy out of the Quinjet and takes off, both he and Hive prepared to die. Daisy radios Lincoln and says this was her destiny, but then she realizes that Lincoln now has the cross necklace. Eventually, Daisy’s vision comes true and the Quinjet explodes.

We end the season finale by flashing forward six months into the future. Daisy has cause an earthquake, and she appears to be on the run. She’s trying to help out the family of the Inhuman who gave her the visions. Coulson and his team try to catch her, but she jumps up onto a rooftop, and they lose her. Coulson says something about having to inform the "Director” about what happened, which means he must have been demoted. Radcliffe, meanwhile, appears to have created a new, sophisticated artificial intelligence. He wanted Fitz to be there to see it, but apparently he’s preparing a surprise for Simmons.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Once Upon a Time 6.01: “The Savior”

“It’s the fate of Saviors. You give and give, and for what? They pick the fruit, cut the branches until all that’s left is this shaky stump. That’s why you never ever hear these words about a Savior, they lived happily ever after.”
- Jafar

Well folks, we are back for another season of Once Upon a Time and this year, we’re getting back to more of a season 1 format (with shorter arcs instead of two half-season arcs). If you’ve forgotten, we’ve left our characters in quite a pickle. Emma and Hook have been reunited but Hyde has announced that he’s taken over Storybrooke (thanks to a deal with Gold) and the denizens of the Land of Untold Stories are moving in!

Before the real action kicks off in Storybrooke, we find Aladdin—former Savior—hiding out from everyone. A man shows up asking for help when Jafar (not quite as sexy as when Naveen Andrews played him but still formidable) appears and taunts the fallen hero who seems prone to uncontrollable tremors. This is key to a plot that they are setting up with Emma. When we first happen upon her, she and Hook and getting hot and heavy at home when they are interrupted by a crash-landing dirigible from the Land of Untold Stories. Hyde taunts them and Jekyll points out that it could either suck for the town’s residents (depending on whom he brought) or not be too bad. And the blimp is made of the same stuff used in the orderly’s stun gun. As our band of heroes is searching through the rubble, Emma starts having weird flashes of herself fighting someone and her hands start to shake. This gets extra complicated when Jekyll finishes the weapon and Emma’s hands are shaking so much that she nearly lets Hyde choke out Regina before they capture him.

Elsewhere in town, Regina and Zelena are shacking up as roommates and it’s more than a little awkward. For one thing, Zelena’s got boxes everywhere (seriously where’d she get all this stuff?) and on top of that, she can’t find the little gift Roland left for Regina. Regina doesn’t know how to handle things, even when Snow suggests she just be open and honest with her sister. But things get touchy when Regina goes back to her office for the first time since Robin died. She wants to be alone and admits that she blames Zelena for what happened (not Emma for taking her to Hell). Zelena is pissed that Regina got rid of the part of herself that made them similar. This makes me think that when the Evil Queen does show up in town again, Zelena will be siding with that version of her sister. Regina tries to use a locator spell to find the gift from Roland but as Henry points out, it’s looking for Robin and he’s gone. But he doesn’t believe that Robin’s soul was obliterated like Hades said. Rather he’s waiting somewhere heroes go at the end of their stories.

And Rumple, now with the information on how to wake Belle, is heading off to her dream world where he finds a handsome robed British man (aka Morpheus, God of Dreams) waiting for him. As Morpheus explains in short order, dreams pick us and this dream has put Belle in Rumple’s castle and it’s rather dreary. She clearly still sees him as just a beast and she’s terrified of him. Rumple initially thinks he’ll just recreate when they fell in love but Morpheus warns that it would be a lie. So Rumple sets out to make her fall back in love with him properly. And I have to say it was really super sweet. They dance together, like they did on their first day as husband and wife to the theme song and it was lovely. Unfortunately, things don’t go like Rumple hoped. It turns out Morpheus isn’t actually who he says he is. He’s in fact their son (that magic sand got sprinkled on the fetus … embryo? (whatever) and he made sure Mama didn’t fall for Papa’s lies again. True Love’s Kiss works and Belle wakes up. But she is heeding the baby’s warning and not trusting Rumple.

Back in the action, Emma goes to visit Hyde in lock up to demand to know what’s going on with her. He tells her to follow the red bird to the person that can explain everything (I admit, I thought it was Iago and was leading her to Jafar). But after Emma ditches Hook (he was less than pleased), she goes off and we see that it is the young woman who was with Aladdin. She says that the visions Emma is seeing are the story of her future. Well that can’t be good! And Snow and Charming have found some of the refugees and invited them to Granny’s for some food and shelter. I’ll be interested to see who all ends up being there. Anyway, the girl (who is an oracle) shows Emma the final battle that ends in Emma’s death. Despite wanting to change it, the oracle says that the path to the moment can’t change, but the battle and her death are set. Well, that’s gonna suck! Hyde then points out that the villain that kills her could already be someone she knows or someone from his realm. Well crap!

We do get to see Regina and Snow have a very sweet heart to heart (before Zelena arrives home to find the Evil Queen hanging out with cocktails) and Regina decides to start a new story where she is going to be happy. I have to say, I really like the relationship these two have been building over the last few seasons. It is very much a friendship and I really do enjoy it. I feel like this was a really good episode as it lays out the new mystery for the season and we’ve got different villains to pop in and out and Emma now has the dilemma of deciding to help people even if it means she’s closer to her own death. And I did enjoy Archie showing up briefly (it was really amusing).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Summer DVR Dump: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow 1.16: “Legendary”

“Grey you’re not meant to be sitting around answering trivia questions about history. You, me, Firestorm, we’re meant to change history.”
- Jax

Well, I’m still miffed that they killed off the best character on the show. But we still have a mad man to stop. But that’s not going to happen when Rip dumps the gang in Star City 2016, five months after they left. He says he couldn’t put them back right after they left but doesn’t elaborate. Instead, he uses a hologram of himself so he can take off with the Waverider before the team can get back on the ship. But leaving them there doesn’t result in very good outcomes. Sara learns that Laurel is dead and Mick goes back to his criminal ways. Stein is still not overly happy with the fact that they left the mission unfinished (and so is Ray). So independent of each other, the team ends up reassembling at the spot where the Waverider left them and thanks to some tech from Ray and Stein, they get the ship back.

In France in 1944, Kendra is trying to escape Savage and she runs into an Allied soldier. She writes a note and sticks it in his helmet just before Savage finds them and kills the guy. She tries to fight Savage off but he chokes her out and when she wakes up on the ship, he explains that the aliens that the Time Masters were worried about were responsible for giving immortality to Kendra, Carter and Savage. He wants to erase history and start again. So I guess that’s his big plan.

On the Waverider, Sara lashes out at Rip, demanding he take her back so she can save Laurel from Dahrk. Rip knocks her out and when she’s a little calmer, he explains that they can’t go back because it would result in all of their deaths. Luckily, they find the helmet that Kendra left the note in and he convinces Sara to go save their friends. It’s a team effort fighting the Nazis and Savage but it isn’t entirely successful. Kendra gets shot out of the sky and the team has to fall back with only Carter in toe. Despite being confused, Carter explains what he knows about Savage’s plan. And thanks to Jax wanting to try and transmute a vase, Stein realizes how Savage is going to erase history. There were three meteors that hit in 1700 BC and he’s colleting them. With Kendra and Carter’s blood, he will be able to create a temporal paradox which in turn will create a time quake, returning the earth to the first meteor explosion. Well shit!

Even more problematic is that since Savage can travel through time (and is immortal) he can fil his younger selves in on the plan and get them everything they need (including that stint in 1958). He needs to drop one off in 1975 and another in 2021. I don’t know how they are going to manage to stop all three of the explosions. So the team decides to split into teams of two, hoping that given that Savage will be exposed to the same energy that made him immortal, he can actually be killed by people other than Kendra and Carter. So Ray and Mick hit him in 1958 while Firestorm and Sara take him on in 1975 and Rip and the Hawks head to 2021. In an intercut series of fight scenes we see the gang finally succeed in killing Savage. Ray and Firestorm neutralize the meteors in 1958 and 1975 but their efforts to destroy the one in 2021 both fail. Well, the timeline would stay intact but the planet would be pretty screwed. Well you better fix it Rip!

Because it’s Rip, he decides the best course of action is to take the meteor on the Waverider all on his own. He’s going to fly it into the sun and that way everyone and the planet will be safe. The team tries to talk him out of his crazy mission but he won’t be talked down. Even Mick utters that he doesn’t want to lose another friend. That’s kind of a big move for our cold-hearted pyro. But as Rip pilots the ship into the sun, he sees his family and is able to hold them before he gets pulled in by the star’s gravity field. Honestly I thought he was going to get on the jump ship but apparently he has other plans. He and Gideon use some function on the ship to harness the sun’s solar energy to give them one good time jump, returning to 2021 right after he left.

Even though Rip gives the team the option to stay in 2016 and live their lives, most of the team realizes that the mission of policing the timeline is worth pursuing. I say most of the team agrees because the Hawks decide to give up the fight and settle down now that they don’t have Savage chasing after them. It was nice to see Kendra and Ray have a little goodbye. I also enjoyed the scenes where Sara got to say her goodbyes at Laurel’s grave. Mick also gets to visit Snart pre-pilot where he gets kind of emotional and Snart has this look like “what the hell is wrong with you?” But at least he had a scene. I know the writers have said we will still feel his presence on the show in season 2 so I’m curious to see that unfold. And just as the rest of the team is ready to board the Waverider, another version of it crash lands and a guy named Rex Tyler warns them not to get o it or else they’ll die. After all, the team sent him. He’s from the Justice Society of America.

Overall I think the finale tied the season together quite well. It gave us closure on a lot of the storylines (and I must admit I am not going to miss Carter and Kendra) while setting up something new. I think with some tweaks, season 2 can be much stronger. Defending the timeline and all that is a more appealing premise than hunting Savage. I’m sure we’ll get a new bad guy popping up at some point but let’s hope they are more engaging than Savage.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: The LA Complex 1.03: "It's All About Who You Know"

“Not murder. You’re just sleeping. So, this is what counts as a win now.”

In the third episode of “The LA Complex,” it seems like everybody is have a no good, very bad day. Even the characters who are in a good place at the beginning of the episode seem to be struggling by the end. Or they’ve made a decision that is probably going to cause them problems down the road. There’s rejection happening all over the place, both personal and professional. Poor Tariq has issues with both the personal and professional at the same time. “The LA Complex” never fails to bring the drama, that’s for sure. The height of the drama is a bit unrealistic, as is the super hipster Luxe, complete with in-house band, Whale Tooth, but I think that’s part of the show’s appeal to me. It’s a heightened look at what Canadians might imagine LA life is like.

The episode picks up not long after the last one left off. Tariq and Kal are post-coital at Kal’s house. Kal is like a completely different person now, though. He kicks Tariq out of the house. At the studio, Kal acts like he can barely stand Tariq, and when Tariq lays a beat that is in line with what he and Kal had discussed (before the sex), Kal basically says he hates it. This leads Dynasty to kick Tariq out of the studio and put him on car washing duty. Later, Dynasty asks Tariq to drive Kal home, and this seems like it could be hella awkward. Kal tries making the moves on Tariq again, and Tariq is dubious, given how he has been treated all day. Kal says that he has broken all his rules for Tariq (not having any same-sex relationships in California, for instance), and eventually they start making out again.

Abby’s day doesn’t go much better. She arrives on the “Cause of Death” set, and she’s treated pretty dismissively. She decides to drop in on Connor, who happened to be in a bad place (one of the higher ups on his show wants him to work with an acting coach) and got even more upset when neither Raquel nor Abby would answer his call. He decides to drown his sorrows in his costar’s vagina, and Abby catches them in flagrante when she drops in. Later, Connor boils some water and pours it on his arm, so he's clearly in a very bad place. To add insult to injury, Abby falls on her way out of Connor’s trailer and winds up with a gash on her head. To add even further insult to injury, when she arrives back on the Cause of Death set, she is told that she is now “Dead Hooker” instead of a hooker with dialogue, and to make matters even worse, she’s going to be completely zipped up in a body bag. All of this, of course, results in a smaller paycheck, which means she’ll have to crash with Nick longer.

Raquel takes a meeting at her agency, which she hopes will be her chance to sell a script that some other (pretty goofy) Luxe residents wrote (that she can star in, naturally). She and the goofy guys wait and wait until the guys have to leave to go video a bar mitzvah. Raquel stays, and when her agent finally shows up, she finds out she’s being dropped by the agency. Raquel hasn’t booked any jobs for two years, and the agency is under pressure to trim its roster. The irony is that Raquel’s agent had been the one to encourage Raquel to turn down most of the jobs she was offered. Raquel’s manager sends her on interviews with a bunch of slightly smaller agencies, but nobody is interested in her. Meanwhile, she personally options the script that the guys wrote for three months, hoping that she can make something happen with it. The guys were about to give the script to someone they knew who knows Ellen Paige, so Raquel had to move fast.

Nick is also having professional struggles. He still hasn’t gotten the check for the stand-in work he did in the last episode, but the rent is eventually going to come due. He does another comedy set at the club, and it bombs horribly. He does get to go home with the hot lady bartender, though. Unfortunately for Nick, hot lady bartender can only orgasm if someone chokes her (or so she says). Needless to say, Nick is horribly awkward at trying to choke someone, and hot lady bartender actually falls asleep in the middle of it all. Nick is mostly just relieved that she’s not dead. The next morning, Nick is still hanging around the apartment, and hot lady bartender is understandably kind of freaked out by Nick’s description of what happened the night before. Nick decides to show himself out before he gets himself in too much more trouble. When he does his next set at the comedy club, he starts to bomb again until he spots the bartender and starts riffing on how weird their night together was. Part of me is glad Nick finally figured out to be funny, but part of me is sad that his funny is slut shaming the bartender.

Alicia is the only one of the crew who has a mostly good day in the episode. Things are going well with Ricky, although at a dinner with the two of them and Ricky’s manager, Ricky asks Alicia if she would join him for a sex tape. The manager really pushes the idea, noting all the celebrities whose fame increased after they had sex tapes “leaked.” Alicia is skeptical and first, and she doesn’t seem especially happy that Ricky approached her with this, but eventually, she agrees. The manager leaves the two of them in a hotel room. At first, it’s all just awkward, but surprisingly, it is Alicia who steps up and says she really wants to be there making this tape with Ricky. It puts him at ease, and they may just have a viral hit on their hands.

This Is Us 1.01: "Pilot"

“The man left me at a fire station and I invited him into our home. What is happening?”
- Randall

Much like “The Good Place”, I had extremely high expectations for “This Is Us”. After all, I fell in love with the trailer after the first time I watched it (and then watched it again….and again). You get the picture. I was beyond pleased with the premiere of this heartwarming (and at times heart-wrenching) drama. I know we tend to like quirky shows (and a lot of genre stuff) on this blog, but something about this show just called to me. It spoke to a need to have just a window into peoples’ lives.

The more I think about this show, the more I was moved by how everyone’s reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt genuine. Let’s start with Randall (and our quote of the episode). He is a successful businessman with a wife and two adorable kids (one of whom is super competitive and the other who is less interested in sports and more interested in French braiding a teammate’s hair on the field). By all accounts he is a well-adjusted happy guy except for the fact his birth mother was a drug addict who died in child birth and his father left him at a fire station after being born. Thirty six years later, he’s finally tracked the man down. At first he doesn’t think he’s going to reach out but eventually musters the courage to confront the man. In an emotional transition, Randall goes from telling his bio dad just how successful he is and flaunts that he had loving parents who supported him. He’s trying to throw all of that in his father’s face in the hopes of making the man regret what he did. But in the end, we (and Randall) learn that his father was also a drug addict and he barely remembered the day. He’s clean now but he’s dying. Randall can’t quite explain why but he brings his father back to the house and by episode’s end it seems he is going to be staying with Randall and his family at least for a little while.

We also have Kate, an assistant who is struggling—especially on her birthday—with her overeating and her weight. It’s also hard not to talk about Kevin, a dissatisfied sitcom actor (and her brother) at the same time. They are also celebrating their thirty-sixth birthday. As Kate injures herself trying to weigh herself, he is wondering why he even took the part on the sitcom when he hates the show and feels unfulfilled in his profession (while two hot chicks who clearly just want to have sex with him) listen to his ramblings about the Challenge explosion and how it led him to be where he is. There is a glimmer of hope for Kate when she goes to an overeating support group and meets Toby, a wise cracking fella who isn’t afraid to make jokes at his own expense. The go to dinner and things look like they might transition into a more intimate setting when Kevin stumbles in, drunk. In a very impassioned scene (I thought so much what Kevin had to say was spot on) Kevin rants about the ridiculous expectations placed on him on the show. He quits his job and now he’s at a cross-road about what to do with his life. There were some very funny bits, especially with Toby wanting a selfie with Drunk Kevin.

And finally, we have Jack and Rebecca. It is Jack’s birthday (he is also turning thirty-six) and Rebecca is heavily pregnant with triplets. Their scenes were interspersed with the rest of the storylines throughout the episode but they really feel like the anchor of the episode (and for very good reason). Rebecca’s water breaks and in a tragic turn of events, they lose one of the babies. The speech that the doctor gives to Jack is heart-breaking (I’m tearing up just thinking about it right now) but it is empowering and it sticks with Jack (as we’ll see shortly). Jack and Rebecca share a moment when he tells her about their loss (not having any sound made the moment that much more poignant). And then we see the way that all of these characters are connected. Jack meets the firefighter who brought baby Randall to the hospital at the nursery and we see that Jack and Rebecca end up adopting him to complete their family. It was a very tender moment as they stand over the bassinets at home for the first time, studying their new family with a sense of hope. I am excited to see what lays ahead for the family, especially the sibling dynamic between the twins and Randall. I have to imagine they have a particular bond that Randall can’t replicate.

I have to admit, I’d read theories and guessed that Kevin and Kate were Rebecca and Jack’s surviving twins. I did not see them adopting Randall. I really like how we are going to see Jack and his children experience the same time together. The writers and the producers did a great job hiding the more obvious signs that everything didn’t take place in the same time period. All of the actors were able to give such wonderful performances, at times hilarious and others super emotional. Jack’s reaction to finding out about the loss of his baby (where he didn’t process what was being said) was handled beautifully and was so realistic. I can’t imagine going through that (or what Randall went through) but I just felt his reaction was true to that situation. As I said at the start of this post, I think as a viewer, I needed this show in my life and I think that society as a whole needs a show like “This Is Us”. It’s a different kind of escapism from genre fare but equally as important.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2016: "The Aftermath"

“The rest of you, if your show doesn’t have a dragon or a white Bronco in it, go home now.”
-Jimmy Kimmel

Last night Jimmy Kimmel presided over a reasonably entertaining telecast of the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Kimmel’s performance was pretty much what I expected it would be. Competent, but not spectacular. It was really the winners that made the telecast enjoyable to watch. There were some predictable winners (everyone thought “Game of Thrones” and “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” would win all the things, and for the most part, that happened), but there were some awesomely unpredictable winners, too. Ultimately, I think the winners affect my opinion of a given Emmy telecast more than anything else. There can be a middling/competent host with awesome winners, and I will be reasonably happy, as I was last night.

The opening number was a pre-taped bit, where after being thrown out of O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco, Jimmy Kimmel has to hitchhike the rest of the way to the Emmys. He rides with the Dunphys for a bit, then he encounters the motorcade of none other than Selina Meyer. Jimmy gets into one of the motorcade vehicles, and the driver is none other than Jeb! Bush complete with exclamation point. There’s also a really great Carpool Karaoke bit with James Corden, who I am pretty sure will be your Emmy host next year on CBS. Jimmy ultimately gets to the show by riding one of Daenery’s dragons from “Game of Thrones.” There were great individual moments (like Carpool Karaoke), but the bit itself went on a bit too long.

Other bits scattered throughout the show also suffered the same issue. They were funny ideas that dragged on just a touch too long. In what I hope is the last of a series of “feeding the audience at the award show” bits, Jimmy had his mom make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the entire audience, to be delivered by the kids from “Stranger Things.” Much funnier (but still a little too long) was a bit featuring Matt Damon. After Jimmy Kimmel’s show lost the variety talk show award to John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” none other than Matt Damon came on stage to taunt jimmy. The two have had a faux feud going on since the early years of Jimmy Kimmel’s show. This was probably my favorite bit of the telecast. I first became aware of it in law school when Sarah Silverman, who was dating Kimmel at the time, released a humorous musical viral video called “I’m Fucking Matt Damon.” Like most of the comedic bits in this telecast, it was funny, although it went on a little too long at the expense of cutting off acceptance speeches.

Moving on to the winners, I found it interesting that we’ve reached such Peak TV that an actor could win for a television show I’ve never even heard of before. That would be Louie Anderson, who won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for playing a family matriarch in the FX series “Baskets.” I was hoping for Tituss Burgess or Keegan-Michael Key, but an unexpected win was acceptable. I was mostly just shocked that there are shows out there I’ve never heard of. I see that it premiered on FX in January, though, when I was still probably in a bit of a haze from the busy season at my day job. My brain isn’t good for much other than work (and sometimes not even work) from about mid-October through mid-January.

I think the wins that pleased me the most were the awards for Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Drama series. Rami Malek won for his portrayal of mentally ill/morphine addicted hacker Elliot Alderson on USA’s “Mr. Robot.” Tatiana Maslany won for her portrayal of more clones than I care to count at the moment on BBC America’s “Orphan Black.” Both are actors on very niche genre shows that nevertheless have a lot of buzz. I also enjoy watching both shows. I never would have thought niche genre shows would win Emmys, but here we are. As they say in Hamilton, “how lucky we are to be alive right now” in the age of Peak TV, where there is something for everyone, and niche, quality programming gets recognized. I also found it fitting, in our current political climate, where there was no shortage of Donald Trump jokes, that Rami Malek, who is of Egyptian descent, was recognized.

There were plenty of expected winners, too, but they were all charming enough that I was okay with it. Julia Louis-Dreyfus won for the role of Selina Meyer on “Veep” yet again. She gave a heartfelt, genuine speech, though, where she also announced that her father had just passed away several days ago. I admired her strength in holding it together as well as she did given the circumstances. “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” also won the series awards. I really do need to catch up on “Veep” at some point. I’ve seen (and enjoyed) the first few episodes, and from what I’ve heard, the show maintains its high quality. Plus, the show’s creator, Armando Iannucci, is pretty much a comedic genius. Speaking of “Veep,” I was a little sad that Chris Addison, who was an actor on the show’s British counterpart “The Think of It,” lost Outstanding Director in a Comedy Series. I miss Addison’s tweets from places like Camden Yards back when “Veep” filmed in Baltimore. I did see him on stage when “Veep” won the comedy series award, though, so that was cool.

Let’s wrap this post up with a little more “Game of Thrones” talk. As I already mentioned, it won the award for Outstanding Drama Series for the second year in a row. I was pretty excited about the win, because combined with the wins for Rami Malek and Tatiana Malasny, it really shows that genre television has arrived, both on the niche scale, and the bigger budget, prestige scale. I think “Game of Thrones,” with its HBO prestige, really paved the way for smaller shows like “Mr. Robot” and “Orphan Black” to get some recognition. Congratulations to all the winners!

The Good Place 1.02: "Flying"

“Look, I think you are capable of change and I’ll help you try.”
- Chidi

As we saw at the very end of the pilot, Eleanor wakes up to find the neighborhood in disarray. There are giant flying shrimp (and enormous lady bugs) and things are just generally running amok. Everyone seems to be wearing yellow and blue zig-zag patterned clothes, except for Eleanor. Chidi is quick to point out that her attire is off and blames her for whatever is going on. For one thing, she was stealing shrimp and she called Tahani a giraffe and there are now some of those running about, too. Everyone is called to a gathering at Tahani’s house (lord that thing is huge) and Micheal tries to calm everyone down. Being a celestial being, he’s unfamiliar with certain human responses to fear such as sweat. I have to admit I didn’t know Ted Danson could do physical comedy but him licking a sweat-covered hanky was pretty funny. We also get to know Janet (the human-looking super computer with uber Google).

As Eleanor tries to convince Chidi to help her learn to become a better person so she won’t get booted out, we find Michael beginning to unravel. He fears he’s made a huge mistake in designing the neighborhood and for some odd reason he seems to be confiding a lot in Tahani. It’s not like she minds, though. It seems she likes to be the center of attention. Seriously, what did she do in her life that put in the “good place”? She’s really annoying! There’s one scene in particular where she is sitting with her soul mate and she tries to be “silent” but it lasts maybe a second or two. Yeah, she has some control issues.

In the hopes of seeing if Eleanor can be selfless for once, Chidi volunteers them to help clean up the debris from the giant shrimp/lady bug attack earlier in the day. Eleanor is quite miffed by this turn of events since everyone who didn’t volunteer gets to fly (yes, actual flying). Eleanor acts like she’s making friends with a gay couple (who are really into trash pickup it’s almost weird) when she decides to just ditch the trash she was collecting (her bag broke and so she just hides it in various places) because she really wants to fly. Unfortunately, just as she’s about to start flying, a giant trash storm hits them (literal trash coming out of storm clouds). This seems to tip Michael over the edge and he seems ready to give up. Heck, he even kicks a lady’s dog into the sun for fear it was another glitch in the system. He tries to brush it off as nothing but it clearly upsets him that he can’t seem to distinguish between what is supposed to be there and what is a problem. I want to know more about his character and what makes him the way he is.

We get a lot more backstory on Eleanor in terms of how she handled relationships with people she considered friends while she was alive. She drank too much and manipulated them so that she could enjoy herself far more than they did. She wasn’t even upset when they kicked her out of their drink group when she decided hooking up with the cute bartender was preferable to being the designated driver for the group. This bleeds through at first in her approach to the whole trash situation. She tries to cover up her part in it but Chidi isn’t buying it. He decides that she can’t be helped. At least not until she starts to feel some guilt and remorse for what she did. So in the middle of the night, she gets up and starts cleaning up all the trash she put in other people’s yards. In fact she cleaned up the whole neighborhood. Okay, so maybe she was going to dump some trash on the gay guys (there was a bit where during the trash storm a dumpster lands on the couple but they just pop up, saying they are fine and that you can’t die (again) in the “good place”). But it was a solid effort. I’d give it a B- for sure. Chidi sees that she is trying and has the potential for change and ultimately agrees to help her. I have a feeling they are going to be good for each other.

I am interested to explore more of the neighborhood as the show progresses and see what other things go haywire along the way for our characters. It definitely has a “Dead Like Me” and “Pushing Daisies’ vibe which works well for us here at More TV, Please. I do hope that Eleanor gets to rub off a little on Chidi and it isn’t just trying to fix her the whole time. If they could tone down Tahani a little bit that would ideal as well. I get what they are trying to do with her but it is a little too much over the top. Again, I really think Eleanor isn’t the only mistaken identity in the place and I’m intrigued to see what happens when Michael realizes what’s actually going on. Will he kick Eleanor out because based on the elaborate point system she didn’t deserve to be there or will he see the effort and progress she’s put in and let her stay? And will we find out how he came to be able to build his own neighborhood? Will we see other places in the “good place” or are we just staying confined to our candy-coated haven? So many questions need to be answered and we have already gone through 2 episodes of our 13 for the first season. Don’t get me wrong, I like shorter seasons as I believe they allow the writers to tell more cohesive stories most of the time but it is kind of a bummer that we only get 13 episodes for the first season.

The Good Place 1.01: "Pilot"

“Do you think anybody cared that I died?”
- Eleanor

I came into this pilot with pretty high expectations. Unlike Jen, I didn’t have the allegiance to the creative mind behind the show but we are both pretty loyal to Kristen Bell. That said, I have to admit the pilot was a little slow for me. I understand they had to set up the premise of the show (and it is a pretty cool and interesting one) but it felt like that took up a bit too much time. Still, I’ll take whatever I can get with Kristen Bell on my screen!

We open the episode with Eleanor Shellstrop opening her eyes to find herself in a waiting room, soon greeted by cheery and calm (if a bit quirky) Michael. In a very matter-of-fact fashion, he tells Eleanor that she’s dead and that thanks to all of the tremendous good she did in her life, she made it to the “good place”. Also we get the embarrassing details of her death (she was hit by a driving billboard for an erectile dysfunction med). Not quite the “space toilet” approach but still pretty awkward funny. Michael makes clear that it isn’t the heaven/hell construct she was raised on but it’s sort of similar. Through a series of walk and talks and a silly orientation video Eleanor and the viewer are introduced to how the “good place” works. There are various neighborhoods, each with 322 people in them and specifically designed to make those 322 people feel perfectly happy for eternity. They each have their own house designed for them and the afterlife comes with a soul mate. This all sounds great, except for the little glitch that Eleanor is not a good person. She’s not even a decent person. A fact which she confides in her new soulmate, Chidi. Chidi is a bit overwhelmed by Eleanor’s admission (he was a college professor focusing on teaching ethics and morality). Perhaps there may be a reason for why Eleanor ended up in the “good place’ by accident. At a town gathering, Michael admits that he has been an apprentice for two hundred years and the neighborhood is the first one he’s been allowed to create o his own. He’s super excited by that fact, although I suspect that is part of what’s caused the problem. I did find it amusing just how much they rely on “point values” in assessing how much good or bad someone did in their lives. It was nice to see that things like “telling a woman to smile” raised pretty huge negative points. I think that’s a good way to combat gender issues in our society. Michael also reveals that most of the people in the world don’t get into the “good place”. Cue some horrible screaming as a representation of the “bad place”.

I will say that the set design on the show was amazing and pretty hilarious. Eleanor (the one who is supposed to be in the “good place” loved clowns and apparently hated stairs (as there aren’t any to get from the living room of the tiny brightly colored cottage to the bedroom). Our Eleanor hates clowns. It’s pretty funny though to see her reaction to things. One of the best reactions is when she tries to swear and can’t. According to Chidi, some people in the neighborhood are upset by it so it is forbidden. While Eleanor is wondering how she ended up here, we are introduced to her enemy, a chirpy British woman named Tahani. She never shuts up (and oddly reminds me of Sondra from Baby Daddy). Her soul mate is a Buddhist monk who has taken a vow of silence in life (and apparently in death). It does make me wonder if perhaps they were paired so that he could be a calming influence on her. I am curious to find out what exactly she did in her life to get here. Perhaps she, like Eleanor, was glitch?

Anyway, Tahani is hosting a party for everyone and Eleanor and Chidi attend. Eleanor postulates that everyone in the place has faults and calls Tahani a cartoon giraffe. She also steals a bunch of shrimp (they are really huge cocktail shrimp that shoves down her bra) and has more than a few glasses of champagne. Along the way, Chidi realizes just how selfish Eleanor really is when he tries to get her to tell him just one good thing she did in her life. We do get some flashbacks to her when she was alive (selling fake medicine to sick old people…hey she was proud to be the top salesperson five years running). I am interested to learn more about Chidi and see if we can find some flaws in his past, too. Because really, no one is 100% good or bad. Everyone has a little grey in them.

As Eleanor goes to bed, we find that things are about to take a crazy turn. When she wakes up, things are not right (not even a little bit). Overall, I think the pilot started to pick up steam when it really started to dive into the characters a bit. I will say I understand the need to establish the premise and the rules of a high-concept show and I think they accomplished that. But, it did feel like it dragged a bit at the start. I’m not sure how they could introduced the concept (especially the point system) in a different way (I wasn’t a huge fan of the video orientation set up) but I think they could have found a better way to share that information with the viewer (and Eleanor). I do hope that as the series moves forward, we get to see more character growth and I am excited to explore the world Michael has created. I did have to laugh at the overabundance of frozen yogurt shops in the neighborhood. Ted Danson’s delivery that they are in every neighborhood and he isn’t sure why made me smile.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lucifer 2.01: “Everything’s Coming Up Lucifer”

“I suppose it was when my mother abandoned me. Turnabout was fair play so I abandoned her in turn. Didn’t even give her a chance to defend herself. I mean what could she possibly say that could justify what she did? What would she say?”
- Lucifer

He’s back! Goodness it feels like it has been a long hiatus without the hijinks and sexy shenanigans of our resident fallen angel. And last we left him and Amenediel, they were fretting over Mum having escaped Hell. We pick up two days later and Lucifer and Amenediel are tracking down people who have recently died, hoping to find Mum has taken over a body. Unfortunately, they’ve come to the last person on the list and it isn’t her. Lucifer does get to have a little fun with the bank robber they were hunting before he heads off to see Linda and we get an interesting bit of backstory on the family. Things were great for a while until God started creating humanity and Mum got cold and distant. She stood by when Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and so when she got kicked to Hell, he locked her in a cell and did nothing. He fears that because of his inaction, she is going to find him and kill him. He actually looks scared.

On a slightly lighter note, Lucifer and Chloe are back to work on a case of a stand-in actress found dead on a movie set. Chloe managed to get some of his blood from the shooting and she’s going to test it. I wonder what she will find. I suspect Lucifer is curious, too. We are also introduced to our newest team member, Ella. She’s a spunky forensic tech who appears to believe in God but thinks Lucifer got a bad rap (although she doesn’t believe that Lucifer is who he is). And things are also kind of awkward because Dan is still around (albeit demoted). So Chloe tasks him with interviewing the crew on set while she and Lucifer look into their dead girl. They get some useful information about a possible motive from her land lady (the actress she was a stand-in for had a heavy cocaine problem and OD’d a few days earlier. Of course this means Lucifer thinks he’s found Mum.

When he pops by Lux for a drink, he finds Amenediel brooding and they have a bit of a tiff over Maze leaving and then Amenediel gets really pissed about Lucifer letting Chloe test his blood. Apparently humans having proof of the divine is a very bad thing (and keeping it in a police database is super taboo). So while Lucifer goes to continue the hunt for Mum, Amenediel is going to try and tackle the bloody issue. And boy does Lucifer get himself into a very awkward situation with the actress. She’s high and for a bit he still thinks she’s his mother and he kind of freaks out when she starts tearing her clothes off and throwing herself at him. Of course, that’s the perfect time for Chloe to come in! They quickly uncover that the stand-in was paid under the table to be the lead actress’ sober companion (and it clearly wasn’t working well). So now they need to track down the dealer.

But first, Amenediel has something to show Chloe (after he tries and fails to get the blood from the police precinct). He lures Chloe to Lux and then shoots himself (using a bullet proof vest and blood packs). He spins a story about them having a bad childhood (okay so that part probably is true) and that Lucifer just uses the power of persuasion to get people to tell him things. He feeds her what she needs to hear to cover up the fact that they are angels. I have to admit, though, I thought for a second Amenediel might have changed his mind and he was going to reveal it to Chloe. While they’re having their little heart-to-heart, Linda and Lucifer are having their own. Lucifer is ranting and putting all the blame on everyone but himself for the whole situation, while Linda wonders if the sessions are hurting more than helping. It’s a good question and I can definitely see why she would be concerned about that.

The case leads them to an AA meeting where Lucifer gets rather real for a moment about his lowest point being when his mother abandoned him, so he did the same to her without giving her a chance to explain or defend herself. Chloe was really impressed with that admission and they even manage to find their drug dealer. But he’s not the killer (for one thing he’s kind of a wuss and he also pukes after seeing the dead girl’s picture). He does turn Chloe on to the lead actress’ former dealer. That person probably wasn’t pleased with the fact he stole the actress in the first place. And back at Lux, Maze appears to save Lucifer’s butt from some random assailant. I have a feeling that person may have been sent by Mum.

It turns out it was the lead actress’ boyfriend who thought he could threaten Lucifer for hitting on his girl. Stupid, stupid boy. Left alone with Maze (after she denies any involvement in springing Mama Morningstar and shares that she was with Linda getting some help), he gets covered in feathers. It’s pretty funny. But he does give up some key Intel on the case that Lucifer takes to Chloe. Amenediel then gets to have his reunion with Maze which is equally as chilly. You can just see the sadness on his face that she needs space. Meanwhile, Chloe has a spiritual chat with Ella which was rather interesting. I’d never heard the explanation that doubting made for stronger faith. Very interesting. I also suspect things are going to get extra complicated once Ella tests Lucifer’s blood.

At this point, Lucifer realizes that his mother isn’t linked to the case anymore but he knows who the killer it. He goes to confront her (the dead girl’s landlady) and he almost gets his butt handed to him (thank you Chloe for showing up) but in the end they take her out. Lucifer heads back home and we are treated to the sweet pipes of one Tom Ellis (on vocals and piano) and as the episode comes to a close, we finally meet Mum. Hello Tricia Helfer (aka Six from Battlestar Galactica). Well isn’t this just a giant twist!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1.12: "Josh and I Work on a Case!"

“I don't trust you as far as I can throw you, which is not far because you eat bagels after 8 p.m.”

This episode was the first of a pretty epic two part episode of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Josh hasn’t talked to or texted Rebecca since the rock through the sliding glass door incident, and Rebecca is getting desperate. She and Paula cook up a crazy scheme to create an opportunity for Rebecca to spend some quality time with Josh, and as you would expect, it quickly spirals out of control. I think my favorite thing about this episode is the music. There’s a super funny and true song that combines both the frustration at the lack of romance at a group hang and restaurants that can’t figure out what they really want to be. There’s a really fun “Music Man” inspired song that Rebecca, Paula, and Darryl sing when they are trying to recruit plaintiffs for a class action lawsuit. There’s also a funny little 30 second bit where Rebecca recalls “romantic moments” with Josh and the singer tells us that he probably didn’t think those moments were romantic. It was just a fun episode overall, and even though she was veering too far towards mania for my comfort (you’ll see what I mean soon enough), it was nice to see Rebecca with a goal and not wallowing anymore.

As I mentioned, early in the episode, Rebecca is fretting because Josh has stopped all communication. Paula still swears she’s going to fix it all, though. She and Rebecca cook up a fake boyfriend for Rebecca so that Josh will feel less intimidated. On Facebook, they find a guy named Trent who went to Harvard when Rebecca did and now lives in LA. Next, Paula prints off a fake free drinks coupon for a restaurant called Jalapeño Jack’s. Then Paula tells Rebeca to take her car to a particular mechanic for a smog check. Josh also shows up at the mechanic to fix a ding on his car that was obviously caused by Paula. Rebecca tells him she has a boyfriend now, and she shows him the coupon. Since both their significant others aren’t going to be available that night, and the coupon is about to expire, Rebecca suggests they go together. Josh agrees, to Rebecca’s delight.

Meanwhile, Darryl hires White Josh as his personal trainer. As they’re working out, White Josh mentions he’s gay, which throws Darryl for a loop a little bit. Darryl says that he should be Gay Josh instead of White Josh, and White Josh thinks that’s just silly. He says in that case, Darryl should be Old Gay Darryl. This makes Darryl even more upset, and he goes too far in overcompensating. He goes on and on about his ex-wife and daughter, and he stops training with White Josh. Instead of the personal training, Darryl decides to take a cardio mambo class, which White Josh points out isn’t exactly a huge signal that Darryl is straight. In the middle of the class, Darryl finds himself admiring both men and women, and he comes to the realization that he’s actually bisexual. He rushes over to White Josh’s house to deliver the news in his “aw shucks” Darryl way, and they kiss. I thought the depiction of Darryl’s journey here was interesting. I’m glad he eventually learned something about himself and could stop being horrible to White Josh. White Josh, for his part, took everything admirably in stride, being much more patient than he had to be.

Anyway, Rebecca arrives at Jalapeño Jack’s and starts asking the server rapid fire questions about the menu before Josh arrives. When Josh does join her, things aren’t as awkward as they could be, which is a good sign for Rebecca. Unfortunately, the mood is ruined when a bunch of Josh’s friends, White Josh, Hector, and a couple guys we’ve never met before, show up, and the evening turns into a very expensive group hang for Rebecca. The nachos and drinks are flowing as Rebecca sings both about how un-sexy group hangs are and how she is frustrated by the confused goal of the restaurant. She can’t decide if it’s Mexican, Cali-Mex, or Cali-Mex-Italian. I can most definitely relate to both of these dilemmas. Group hangs are decidedly unromantic, and that can be very frustrating. And one of my pet peeves is a restaurant that can’t decide what it wants to be. I guess Rachel Bloom and I share a brain? There are definitely worse things, considering she’s a creative genius and all. The situation gets even worse when Rebecca overhears Josh thanking White Josh for coming to the restaurant. Apparently he thought dinner with Rebecca would be awkward, so he called for backup.

Rebecca tells Paula about what happened at work the next day, and Paula already has another plan lined up. They need to do something that will result on Rebecca and Josh working on a legal case together. Rebecca, to Paula’s chagrin, insists that the case needs to be legit. They can’t frame Josh for anything, for instance. Rebecca remembers Josh telling her that he hasn’t had hot water at his apartment for a little while. That’s their in. They call Josh and Valencia in and tell them they can sue their landlord. Josh seems on board, but Valencia is skeptical. She (rightfully) figures that Rebecca must have an ulterior motive. She talks to Greg about it, and of course he agrees. The two conspire together throughout the rest of the episode. Josh is the only one on the lease, though, and he ultimately gives the go-ahead to file the lawsuit.

Preparing the lawsuit is going swimmingly from Rebecca’s perspective. She and Josh are spending a ton of time together, and they’re eating meals from practically every restaurant in West Covina. The dream comes to a crashing halt, however, when Rebecca’s opposing counsel calls and offers a very generous settlement. Josh and Valencia should absolutely take the settlement, but Rebecca doesn’t want her time with Josh to end. She decides to try and get Josh’s entire apartment building to participate in a class action lawsuit. Valencia and Greg both try to tell Josh this is a bad idea, so he hesitates to make a decision. While he’s dithering, Rebecca, Paula and Darryl, hustle the entire rest of the apartment building into signing on, Harold Hill style, with a Music Man inspired number called “Cold Water.” In it, Rebecca compares cold showers to crack. And that tells you all you need to know about why I love “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

Rebecca remembers a flyer about a water conspiracy she saw at Jalapeño Jack’s, so she and Darryl go to visit Bert, a disgruntled former public works employee. He takes them down into the sewer, and he shows them that water is being diverted from the San Gabriel Valley to Hollywood. Rebecca thinks she’s found her case. She goes to Josh’s apartment to tell him about what she found, and she is greeted by an intervention of sorts. Valencia and Greg have found the real Trent, and he’s standing in the living room. Rebecca plays it like they’re really dating, kissing him and everything, and Trent seems to go with it. We shall see how long the ruse is able to continue.

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2016: The Players

The Emmys really snuck up on me this year, probably because I spent most of August in Australia (I’m slowly but surely getting back into blogging now, I promise!). Nevertheless, the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast tonight on ABC. Our host is Jimmy Kimmel, who also hosted the Emmys in 2012, where I believe I found him competent but not spectacular. I think the choice of winners that year kind of ruined the telecast for me. Hopefully this year will be better on that front. The Academy has certainly chosen some interesting nominees this year, so hopefully the winners will be equally interesting. It can’t possibly be worse than ABC’s previous Emmy telecast in 2008 where all the nominees for best reality competition host shared telecast hosting duties. That one was an unmitigated mess. Anyway, as always, I’ll give the usual disclaimer. I’m by no means an Emmy prognosticator. I’m just a fan of TV in general and the Emmys in particular. If you want real analysis, there are plenty of people who get paid to do that and do it well. This post is where I pick a few categories that interest me and tell you would win if I had my druthers. On with the speculation!

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
Laurie Metcalf (Getting On)
Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)
Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer)
Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie)

My Pick: Ellie Kemper

There are several very deserving women in this category, but I’m going to have to go with Ellie Kemper, because I adore her portrayal of recently rescued doomsday cult victim Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Kimmy has been through some horrible, unspeakable things, but she tries her best to approach life with a sunny optimism that I find very admirable. Ellie Kemper does a fantastic job of making Kimmy a winning, enjoyable-to-watch character, both when she’s being silly and loving life, and in those moments when she realizes that she does indeed need to deal with some of the things she has been through. Julia Louis-Dreyfus will probably win this one, though, because she is a perennial Emmy darling, going back to her multiple wins for Seinfeld in the 90’s. I’m a fan of her and a fan of “Veep,” I just like to see things get switched up sometimes.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Louie Anderson (Baskets)
Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tony Hale (Veep)
Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele)
Matt Walsh (Veep)

My Pick: Tituss Burgess

The Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category this year is really an embarrassment of riches. I love Andre Braugher’s dry humor in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Tony Hale is fantastic in everything he does, including “Veep.” Keegan-Michael Key has done barrier-breaking work on “Key and Peele,” and I especially love his appearance as Luther, President Obama’s anger translator, at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Ultimately, however, I have to give this one to Tituss Burgess, also of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Burgess plays Titus Andromedon, Kimmy’s Broadway star wannabe roommate. Burgess is a fearless actor, who is never afraid to do anything in service of the joke. His music video “Peeno Noir” in the first season instantly became a classic. In season two, I liked how the character of Titus was able to evolve. He went from goofy player to exploring a committed relationship. Burgess did a great job at portraying both Titus’ fun-loving silliness and his fear at actually giving commitment a try. All that being said, if any of the men I’ve mentioned win the award, I won’t be upset.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Claire Danes (Homeland)
Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder)
Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)
Keri Russell (The Americans)
Robin Wright (House of Cards)

My Pick: Taraji P. Henson

This is another tough category due to, yet again, an embarrassment of riches. I also feel obligated to mention here that Sarah feels very strongly that Tatiana Maslany should win this one, due to the way she effortlessly plays multiple characters on “Orphan Black.” It’s a strong argument, and I will certainly be very happy if Maslany wins (in fact, I was equally torn and went the other way last year), but I’ve got to give this one to Taraji P. Henson because she has created an iconic character in Cookie Lyons on “Empire.” While she hasn’t had quite as good material to work with in season two as she did in season one, Henson just steals every scene she is in. She’s making the best of the material she has to work with, and Cookie Lyons is not going to be leaving the zeitgeist any time soon. That is a testament to Henson’s talent as an actor.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

The Nominees:

Kyle Chandler (Bloodline)
Rami Malek (Mr. Robot)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan)
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)

My Pick: Rami Malek

I’ve been a huge fan of Kyle Chandler since his “Friday Night Lights” days (his win for playing Coach Taylor made me very happy), but since I haven’t gotten to watching “Bloodline” yet, I’ve got to get this one to Rami Malek. Malek, who I had previously only seen in “Night at the Museum” (he played King Tut), plays Elliot Alderson, a computer hacker suffering from significant mental health issues and a morphine addiction. He and “Mr. Robot” (I won’t spoil who Mr. Robot is, in case you haven’t tried the show yet) work together to try to bring down the massive E Corp and change the world economy forever. Malek plays all these aspects of the character in a believable way and is the most interesting actor to watch among the very talented “Mr. Robot” cast.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Summer DVR Dump: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow 1.15: “Destiny”

“Everything I have done has been to save my family. No one controls me!”
- Rip

Let’s see how our team gets out of this. It is kind of sad when you have to trust a resurrected assassin and a petty thief to make the rescue. Before they can mount a rescue though, they have to stop fighting each other. Sara points out that Snart isn’t the same cold bastard she met five months earlier. He’s got a code that’s expanded to include the team. And for the moment, most of the team is alive. Kendra was dragged off to a time ship with Savage where he’s going to I don’t know force her to marry him or some such nonsense. Well actually he’s going to kill Rip’s family and it looks like he succeeds. I was kind of hoping Kendra would get in the way and stop him. Perhaps the more interesting plot point is one of Rip’s mentors info dumping on him that the Time Masters have been shaping history and time to their own will, killing Rip’s family to spur him to action so that Savage could unite the world so that when an alien invasion happens, hey can lad humanity to victory. Rip is undeniably enraged and pissed about this reveal.

Oh and we also get a jump back in time to 5 months ago in Central City where Rip first recruited the team. It appears Jax made it back to earth but he needs Stein’s help (from the past) because he clearly doesn’t look like he’s been cured of his temporal illness. Or maybe Jax just wants to get back to the future so he can save Stein from going nuclear. Yeah, that’s probably it. But he has to get past Stein to stop being so arrogant and self-centered and all that first. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds. But they manage to work together to get the jump ship fixed and able to travel forward in time again. Yay Firestorm!

Just as Rip is totally in despair about the future (having seen the team’s death), things take a turn in their favor. Sure it looks like Mick has been reconditioned into Chronos again, but hey he beat the conditioning once before. And thanks to Gideon, Sara and Snart have kind of a fun plan to keep everyone else sidelined while they make a daring rescue of the rest of the team. They manage to time jump and then a virus uploads into all the other ships, grounding them. And then Mick gets to stomp a guy’s face. Gross, but effective.

Back on the Waverider, Rip fills the team in on what he was shown and told about their path being predetermined by the Time Masters. They may be able to fight back at the Vanishing Point since the time viewing thingy doesn’t work there. Of course, they’ve just narrowly escaped that place so going back seems stupid. But Ray thinks maybe this is what the Time Masters aren’t expecting. And if he’s going to die, well he’s going to eat a yummy cupcake first and share a moment with Mick who admits he cared enough about the team to focus on that when they tried to turn him into Chronos again. And Snart and Sara have a moment where he admits he’s been doing some thinking about what the future might hold for himself and for the pair of them. Can I just say, yes please? I know Sara’s been dating ladies of late but she and Snart just have this fun chemistry that needs to be explored more!

Not surprising, the team gets back to the Vanishing Point and the Time Masters are waiting for them. Why it’s like they knew they were coming back! But Jax arrives just in time to help take out some of the soldiers, giving the team time to get into the chamber to try and destroy the viewing thing. But Ray realizes there’s a fail-safe and the only way to ensure destruction is to maintain contact with a particular piece of the device. So he resigns himself to die there, until Mick punches him in the face and takes over. This then prompts Snart to knock Mick out and stay which leads to Sara kissing him. And the whole freaking thing blows up. I will be super mad if they kill Snart. He’s one of the best parts of this show!

But it does seem like he’s lost when Gideon confirms that the viewing thing was destroyed. But then again we spent most of the season thinking Carter and Mick were dead, too, so I’m going to be cautiously optimistic. I figure the team needs that without a map guiding them and news reports confirming Rip’s family was still murdered. Perhaps there is one small consolation, the team can now hunt down Savage on their own without the Time Masters interfering, which gives Mick the chance to get revenge for Snart. And Kendra laughs as Savage learns he doesn’t have the support of the Time Masters any longer, too. But he thinks he can still make things work and change the world. After all, he’s got a time ship of his own.

I really hope the team succeeds in next week’s finale and kills Savage because I am getting tired of him big time. Personally if they wanted to get rid of some of the other cast, they could get rid of Kendra and Carter, too. They are pretty useless. I still really want Snart back so he and Sara can explore everything that kiss entailed. Besides, he had the most interesting journey this season of everyone. Finally becoming the hero he was meant to be, even if he did fight it tooth and nail most of the way. But I suppose we will have to wait and see where the writers take the show in the finale and in the upcoming season.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: The LA Complex 1.02: "Do Something"

“Look, you can’t kill yourself over every audition. You just have to do them and forget about it. Not all of them are going to be winners for you. But, some will. Assuming you don’t totally suck.”

In the second episode of “The LA Complex,” all of the characters are hustling, and some do better than others at it. Abby and Raquel find themselves fighting over the same audition and the same man. Connor and Nick spend a day on set together, where Connor stresses over the demands of the job of a series regular and Nick frets over his lady troubles. Alicia meets a new friend who may have the key to her success. Tariq gets the chance to work with famous rapper Kaldrick King, and he almost ruins his chances several times. Everybody (other than Raquel) really gets more than they bargained for in this episode. Nothing about LA life is easy, and the hustle is key.

The episode starts with Alicia and Abby at the strip club, where Abby has decided to work along with Alicia. Needless, to say, it doesn’t go well. Abby is nervous to go up on stage, so Alicia encourages her to take someone into the champagne room. If she does that, her turn on stage will be skipped and she’ll make more money. Abby decides to give it a try, and when her first client says he’d consider casting her as a relative of Vanessa Hudgens in a project he’s working on, it seems to be working out well. Then the client gropes Abby’s chest and Abby calls for security. Apparently, though, groping is allowed at the strip club, and the client raises a huge fuss over the situation. Abby throws a drink in his face, and she is promptly fired. Ironically, as she’s leaving the strip club, she gets a call from her agent that she has an audition to play a hooker for CSI-clone “Cause of Death.”

Alicia, meanwhile, really wants to get out of work early to go to an audition, but her boss won’t allow it. Former child actor Ricky Lloyd is sitting at the bar and hears this exchange. He makes a big scene of wanting some private time with Alicia, and Alicia reluctantly agrees. When they get some privacy, however, Ricky tells Alicia to go to the audition and that he’ll cover for her. Later, when she returns, after not having done especially well at the audition, they have a drink together and swap entertainment business war stories. Ricky is planning to go to a vodka launch party in the hopes of meeting some important people, and he invites Alicia to come with him in the hopes that she might make some helpful connections too. She has a great time at the party, and afterwards, Ricky offers to let her keep the fancy gift bag. They make out in her car before she goes back to her room at the Luxe.

Abby goes to the Cause of Death audition to find Raquel there too. Raquel is known and loved by all of the staff at the casting office, so Abby immediately feels inadequate. In actuality, Raquel doesn’t feel all that confident, either, but she doesn’t let Abby see that. When Abby comes out of her audition in shock at how quickly it was all over, Raquel genuinely tries to offer her support. Then she goes and sees Connor after telling Abby, who also wanted to see Connor, that dropping in on someone’s set unannounced is uncouth. Raquel and Connor seem to be getting along at first, but then Connor sees he has a missed call from Abby and tells Raquel he has other plans and she should go. Raquel gets a call from her agent saying that Cause of Death “put a pin” in her (meaning they are holding her for potential casting), so she’s all enthusiastic. Abby, who is evicted from her room at the Luxe and ends up crashing with Nick temporarily (because that’s going to end well) gets the job instead. Raquel is devastated.

Connor has convinced his television show to hire Nick as his stand-in for the day. Nick makes a pass at Connor’s co-star’s stand-in, and she is not amused. Catching the hint, Nick decides to ask her for relationship advice instead. Because that’s not awkward. She tells Nick that he things too much and that he should trust his instincts, even if his instincts to kiss her earlier were wrong. Nick has a great time at the shoot since, you know, there’s actually food there for him to eat (he had skipped a few meals prior due to lack of money), and when he gets home, Abby asks if she can crash with him for a while, since, like I mentioned, she got evicted. They have a good time hanging out, but when Nick tries to kiss her, things go south. Abby is interested in Connor right now, so she moves away from the kiss. She and Nick decide they’re just going to be friends, and Nick does his best to be supportive.

Tariq actually sort of gets rewarded for the stunt he pulled in the last episode, sending Drake one of his beats. Dynasty, the producer Tariq works for, has an assignment for him. He’s going to work with Kaldrick King, aka “the King of Cali,” who is a well known, temperamental rapper. Kal has Tariq drive him around Los Angeles – he wants Tariq to show him some place important to him. All Tariq does is work and sleep, so he first takes Kal to a record store, then to the Luxe, both of which piss off Kal. Kal doesn’t want to talk music with Tariq during this personality vetting session (hence the record store pissing him off), and he gets a bit mobbed by fans at the Luxe. Once Tariq explains why he doesn’t have any other places to visit, though, Kal calms down a bit. They go for taquitos, and Kal beats up a fan who tries to take their picture. His reason for this becomes more clear at the end of the episode. Back at Kal’s house, Kal puts on a record and makes a move on Tariq. Tariq kissing Kal, and the rest is history.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

2016 Pilot Preview: "Speechless"

“You fight and fight to make sure JJ has a normal life. Maybe he’s not the only one who deserves that.”
- Jimmy

If you’ve noticed, the amount of pilots available to view before they premiere (unless you are industry insider which alas we here at More TV, Please are not) has gone down drastically. In fact, it looks like “Speechless” may be the only one available before things really start kicking off which is too bad because there were a lot of shows I would have checked out if they’d been available. As it is, I watched this pilot twice as I was getting ready to blog it. So let’s dive in to the plot a bit.

“Speechless” centers on JJ and his family. JJ has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal. He and the family have moved around quite a bit recently. As his younger brother, Ray, mentions they’ve been to six schools in two years. It’s clear that Ray is tired of all the upheaval in his life but mom is convinced she’s found the perfect situation for JJ. Up until this point he’s been stuck in Special Ed classes without a voice. But at this new school, he’s going to be mainstreamed and have a full-time aide to be his voice (reading off his board). I’ll admit I didn’t realize that he was wearing a laser pointer clipped to his glasses on first watch through. The aide they get at first has a really annoying voice and ultimately gets fired. But it seems by the end of the episode, JJ has found his voice in cool janitor Kenneth. IT also appears the family is staying put, which makes Ray happy because he found a girl who likes him (even if she’s got a boyfriend for now) and their younger sister is thrilled with the super expensive running track (even if the whole “believing everyone can do their best” is stupid).

There are some good things about this show that I think need to be pointed out. The first is that I think it is admirable they cast someone with cerebral palsy to play JJ. The young actor, Micah Fowler, is relatively new to the acting scene but I’m intrigued to see how he does. The second, somewhat related, is you don’t often see shows (comedies or otherwise) that focuses on someone with a disability. Sure you had “Growing Up Fisher” a few years ago (which really was great and shouldn’t have been cancelled) but on the whole, it is a segment of society that is not often given a voice or shown in the mainstream media. Bringing awareness to the world about people who are differently abled but still equally as awesome is a lofty goal and I hope the writers and actors on this show achieve that goal as “Speechless” goes forward.

Now, I did have some quibbles as well. I understand that not every disabled kid can have parents like mine that let me advocate so strongly for myself as I grew up. And I get that with JJ’s limitations, it’s hard for him to speak up. But I did think that Minnie Driver’s Maya was a bit over the top in that she seemed to be so laser focused on what JJ wanted and needed that she ignored her other children, to their detriment. In fact, it seemed the whole underlying plot of the episode was that her zealous advocacy for one child overshadowed the needs and wants of Ray. Yes, in the end they came to a resolution of sorts but it kind of hurts my heart to see that. Also, I don’t know if they wanted to balance it out gender wise but the daughter (whose name I’m not even sure of at this point) didn’t have much to do. She was very low on personality or memorability. I think the pilot would have been fine without her.

The biggest turn off for me (and who knows, maybe it will be toned down in later episodes) was the people at the new school. For starters, the principal talked with her hands as if JJ didn’t understand anything which annoyed me. And then when JJ got to class, the teacher had all the students clap and stand when he entered (oh and one kid—whose cousin is deaf—made a sign saying JJ should be Student Council President). The teacher also couldn’t bring himself to say that they’d never had a disabled student before (which let’s be honest, was pretty evident from the fact there was an entire scene about the fact that JJ had to use the garbage ramp at the back of the school to get into the building). It drives me up a wall when people treat individuals with disabilities as if they don’t understand anything or assume that all people with disabilities are the same. I’ve had to deal with that my whole life and it’s insulting and rude. I would be very displeased if they continued to portray the characters at the school this way beyond the pilot.

Overall, I think the pilot did a good job of establishing most of the characters (the sister needs some work as she is very one dimensional at this point and almost forgettable) and the basic premise. It will be interesting to see where the show goes next and what kind of issues they will tackle. I do believe the creator grew up with a sibling who was at the very least in a wheelchair so I trust they will have some unique perspectives and challenges ahead of JJ and his family. This show may be one that I set to record and let build up and just binge from time to time (as I do have a lot of other shows on my list right now). As I said, I generally enjoyed the episode and would like to see where the characters go next. It is certainly a breath of fresh air on our TV landscape of never-ending reboots and remakes and TV to movie tie=ins. And hey, it got me to watch a comedy (not something I do very often).

Summer DVR Dump: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow 1.14: “River of Time”

“As long as he’s alive and breathing, Savage is a threat to everyone on this ship.”
- Snart

Why Rip thought it was a bright idea to bring and keep Vandal Savage on their ship is beyond me. The man (Savage) is a lunatic and a crafty son of a bitch. Of course he’s going to find a way to manipulate the team and escape. Foolish Captain Hunter, foolish! Before we pick up on the ship though, we see that Rip was held prisoner in 1700 BC Egypt shortly before Savage and the Hawks got their mojo. Which is kind of ironic given that Savage is now a prisoner on the ship. But the team acknowledges that having the psycho on the ship is dangerous. They’re still debating whether to kill him or not when Ray and Jax figure out at the robot Ray fought had future tech beyond 2166. So Savage has been doing some time travel of his own. Rip confronts Savage with this revelation and all our tyrant has to say is that he learned it from Rip in 1975 and spent two centuries figuring it all out. But since Savage used future tech in violation of what the Time Council stands for, Rip thinks they can finally bring Savage to justice that way.

The team also has to contend with brainwashed Carter (which apparently is the Carter we met at the start of the season). Interesting. The whole situation has to be super awkward for Ray, given that Kendra still feels so tied to Carter and everything. I have a feeling this won’t end well for anyone involved. Kendra tries to reach Carter by showing him a photo of their son but all he does is try and choke her out with his legs. So Ray decides to go confront Savage. It doesn’t end well (in fact it results in Kendra and Ray breaking up). We also get a flashback to Ray saying goodbye to Felicity (since Savage reminded him he’d also lost her, too).

Of course they have to survive the trip to the Vanishing Point and that isn’t looking so likely at the moment, what with the Waverider having a busted time drive. While Sara goes to make sure Savage is still secure in his cell (he does bring up Laurel which makes me think he’s the one to drop the bomb about Laurel being dead), Jax is sent to fix the time drive. He gets it working again but he also gets blasted with temporal radiation and has a memory of his mom giving him a watch she bought for his dad. Unfortunately, all of his internal organs are aging rapidly and the rest of him will soon follow. There is nothing they can do.

Rip is also feeling kind of down about the whole thing and Sara questions whether he’d sell them out to save his family. He admits he would and wonders if sending Jax to fix the time drive was his way of trying to ensure he kept on breathing. She’s kind of disgusted with this admission and rightly so. And in the kitchens, Snart and Mick are snacking when Snart shares that he’s got a feeling things are about to go sideways. I really like that Snart has become more of a grey character. He’s shown some real growth since being on the Flash. I wouldn’t call him a hero necessarily but I also wouldn’t brand him a villain, either.

Things are getting tense around the ship, especially when Snart and Mick decide to confront Rip about the whole mission. He promptly tells them that they can leave if they want and the jump ship is pre-programmed for one jump to 2016. Too bad for them that Stein drugs Jax and puts him on the ship (after a visit to Savage and a flashback to saying almost-goodbye to his wife). We also get a flashback to Sara saying goodbye to Nyssa. Lots of flashbacks this week. I’m not entirely sure they were necessary.

Much to Snart’s credit, he was right that having Savage on the ship would be dangerous. Ray is just super angry and goes to wail on Savage a bit but gets his ass handed to him. In the process Savage gets out of the cell. Well, damn that’s not going to be good! Since Gideon is now nonoperational thanks to Savage, Sara, Rip and Stein must pilot the ship while the rest of the team try to apprehend Savage. Things aren’t looking too good for the team until Rip shows up and then Carter gets his memory back. Carter ends up saving Kendra which is nice and everything but I was kind of wondering why since Carter had his mace, she didn’t just bash Savage’s head in. I did enjoy the little bit of banter between Snart and Savage though where Savage asks who would challenges him (destroyer of empires) and Snart replies with “Leonard Snart, robber of ATMs”. It was pretty hilarious.

Anyway, they make it to the Vanishing Point but plans go very much awry. The Time Council has been in league with Savage the whole time and now the team and Rip have been arrested. Savage is going to be returned to 2166 and Rip’s family is going to die. I have no clue how the team is going to get out of this one but they’re going to have to get pretty crafty. At least it looks like Snart and Sara are stowed away somewhere so that they can be the ones to mount the rescue. I like it when the two of them work together. They make a very interesting team and bring out some fun attributes in each other. I should have probably realized that the Time Masters weren’t to be trusted but I was honestly a little surprised. Then again, they have been an adversary to the team since the start so they couldn’t be that good. I do wonder if they will be the main villain for season 2. I know I’ve heard that Savage is going to be dealt with in the next two episodes so that is a very good thing in my book. He hasn’t been that compelling of a Big Bad to be honest.