Tuesday, October 31, 2017

This Is Us 2.06: “The 20’s”

“Sometimes babies die right in the beginning. But your dad and I had all this room in our hearts for three babies and we met you. So yeah, you are a miracle.”
- Rebecca

Happy Halloween Pearson clan! It’s time to celebrate another holiday with our favorite family. It’s 1990 and Rebecca is furiously trying to get everyone’s costumes ready while Jack comes home to help carve pumpkins. It’s a little hard to tell if this takes place before or after last episode’s camping trip but even if it’s after, I suspect the good will between Kevin and Randall has dissipated because Kevin thinks Randall’s map and plan of getting candy is stupid and he just wants to hang out with his friends. Kate changes her mind at the last minute to be Sandy from Grease (pretty Sandy not tough Sandy) and it becomes evident later on that she’s trying to impress a boy. According to Kevin, she is hoping the boy will hold her hand during a haunted house in the neighborhood. Jack is clearly not happy about his baby girl liking a boy and there is definitely some tension between him and Rebecca on how they treat the kids, Kate and Randall specifically. And they aren’t wrong about each other either. Ultimately, Kate gets her hand squeezed by the cute boy and Jack sees that Kevin paid him off in candy to do so. It’s sweet that Kevin did that for his sister but at the same time, it kind of is enabling her. And while Jack is dealing with the stirrings of young love, Rebecca has a much harder task ahead of her. She tries to get Randall to be spontaneous and improvise and it leads to a very serious discussion thanks to one of the neighbors telling Randall he was miracle because Rebecca and Jack had lost their third baby. So now, Rebecca has to explain to Randall all on her own that their third baby died but that Randall wasn’t a replacement. It was beautiful and moving.

And as young Randall exhibits somewhat OCD tendencies in his youth, we also see him in the wake of his nervous breakdown in 2008. Beth is one day away from delivering Tess and Randall isn’t exactly doing well. Rebecca is flying in to help out and be there for the birth of her first grandchild. The fact that Miguel didn’t come with her makes me question when they even got together. Randall is trying to install a ceiling fan but it just isn’t working. And Beth is worried that he’s not the same and they’ve just been super polite to each other the last few months. Rebecca insists that Randall is stronger than he appears but Beth doubts it. Things all come to a head when Randall is out getting a replacement fan and Beth goes into labor. It takes some sage advice from the hardware store clerk that snaps Randall out of his haze. I did find it moving how Randall kind of saw parenthood, that at six months gestation babies start to dream and he wasn’t sure he could handle being in charge of a whole person. But in the end, he and Rebecca are there for Beth and do a successful home delivery. A little later, Rebecca has dropped a teacup and she shares with Randall that all of these new milestones in their lives are going to be bittersweet. They’re happy but they will always be sad without Jack.

Meanwhile, Kate is working in a diner while going to night school. She’s got a cute customer who flirts with her and kind of invites her out to a local bar. He’s kind of surprised when she shows up but he then asks her if they can go somewhere. They end up hooking up and Kate reveals that she knows he’s married. But she thought she would just take a chance on something and hope it would feel right afterwards. Clearly it didn’t, although their whole conversation is interrupted by Rebecca calling about Tess. I’ hoping this is the catalyst for Kate and Kevin to team up. I’ve never been a fan of their codependency issues but he’s kind of hopeless without her (even in present day). And speaking of Kevin, he’s still a struggling actor (not having yet landed the Manny) and his roommate just got cast in a big film and he acts kind of ridiculous at a cast party. He’s trying to get the director to let him read for the part his roommate got and he’s just super upset that he’s washing women’s hair while waiting for pilot season. His looks can only get him so far and he knows it. He really is the most insecure of the Big Three. Not to say they don’t all have their issues because they do but even a short time ago (eight years really isn’t that long) he was really not doing well. But then again, Kate’s been sitting in her car at the site of their old house as if Jack would somehow come back if she waited there.

And as everyone gathers to see the new baby, we get a whole lot of blanks filled in. We see Rebecca in both the very distant past (when the Big Three were born) talking to baby Randall and also Rebecca in 2008 talking to baby Tess. We see Kevin and Kate admit their lives suck and we see Kate move out to LA to help Kevin out and we get to see that Miguel is in fact not in the picture at this point because they haven’t spoken since 2000 (based on Miguel’s message to her that notes they haven’t seen each other in eight years). So, that solidifies a few things for me. Rebecca spent much of her life after Jack’s death mourning his loss and Miguel didn’t just swoop in to get his best friend’s wife. The writer said we would eventually not hate Miguel and damn it if they aren’t true to their word.

Fresh off the Boat 4.03: "Kids"

“Did it sound dumb? I’ve only had half a beer, but the voice in my head that criticizes me constantly has gone quiet.”

“Kids” was an episode of “Fresh off the Boat where I could especially sympathize with the Huangs, even if they did take things too far. As a single woman now, as of earlier this month, officially in my mid-30’s, I understand how kids change friendships. I’m not recently out of “kid jail” as the Huangs put it – I’ve never been sentenced in the first place. But plenty of my friends have been, or they’ve made other big life changes that have fundamentally changed their relationships with me. I don’t begrudge them that by any means – the kids of my friends are all awesome, and I want the people I care about to be happy in general. The change, however, is real. I can only imagine that how the Huangs feel, having just gotten to the point where they feel like their lives don’t have to be completely ruled by their kids anymore, when they learn that their best friends are now seriously considering kids. It’s got to be more intense, since they’ve been sequestered for so long and just now feel like they can regain some of their own identities again.

The episode opens with Louis and Jessica hearing a bunch of sodas being opened out in the kitchen. We learn that before he dated Alison, Eddie would make “Soda Suicides” that combined four types of soda and a red Jolly Rancher. He’d then stumble into the living room and spill the sugar bomb all over the couch. Now he’s back to making the diabetes in a cup, so Louis and Jessica want to make sure he doesn’t spill as usual. They enter the living room to find Eddie sitting calmly on the couch, the soda sitting on a coaster on the coffee table. Eddie says it finally occurred to him to put the soda on the table before sitting down. Louis and Jessica are thrilled, considering this a sign that finally all three of their kids are self-sufficient enough where they don’t need constant supervision. They’re finally out of “kid jail.” They realize they can go out for “dinner, and…” instead of just dinner, because they no longer have to rush home to Eddie. Jessica wants to invite Honey and Marvin to dinner and Karaoke right away. She even splurges for a private room and the four microphone package.

Meanwhile, Eddie gets home from school to see Alison of all people hanging out with Evan playing a game. Evan says that he and Alison became friends over the years when she was waiting around for Eddie, because Eddie is always late. Apparently they bonded over, among other things, POGs and Tamagotchis. Alison is a 90s tween/teen after my own heart. I think my POGs and my Tamagotchi are somewhere in my parents’ house to this day. Anyway, when Evan goes to the kitchen to get some dino nuggets, Eddie and Alison have a serious talk. Eddie doesn’t want Alison and Evan to be friends anymore, because it will be too hard to move on from her if she’s always around. Alison agrees that this situation is less than ideal, and she’s mostly been sticking around because she cant bear to let Evan down. As a child of divorce herself, she wants to make sure Evan still feels loved. Eddie, for his part, didn’t realize that Alison’s parents were divorced. Or that her family is Jewish (he asks if she gets double Christmas presents).

Louis and Jessica sit down at Chez Dennis, super excited for their night out. Honey and Marvin are a little late because Marvin had to finish cleaning Joy Behar’s teeth. Marvin says they can’t stay out late, though, because he’s having a medical procedure done the next day. He’s getting his vasectomy reversed because Honey really wants to have a baby. You can almost hear the record scratch at that moment. Jessica, who is, as you’ll recall, very happy to finally be sprung from Kid Jail, asks Honey if she’s sure she wants a kid at this point. Jessica emphasizes how great it is to finally not have to constantly mind children. Honey seems to think pinching baby legs and buying baby hats will outweigh all the negatives. Honey and Marvin leave early to prep for Marvin’s procedure, and Jessica and Louis end up going to karaoke by themselves. They find it’s just not the same without Honey and Marvin there to share in the fun. They just can’t do Paula Abdul justice.

Everyone’s been avoiding Emery because it’s his bad luck year and nobody wants the bad juju. Nobody but Grandma, that is. She is wise enough to use the bad juju for her own gain. First she has Emery “rearrange” breakable ceramics she doesn’t like that she had just been holding on to because they were gifts. He drops them and they shatter, of course. Then she takes him to mah-jongg at senior center, where she thinks Emery’s bad luck powers can take down her arch rival, Cheryl. Emery stands behind Cheryl, and Grandma does indeed win the mah-jongg match. Emery is a little upset at the idea of being used in this way at first, but he brightens when Grandma calls him her good luck charm. She has many enemies, and she needs Emery to help take them down. Because she is seriously the coolest and most badass grandma on television.

Eddie and Alison are supposed to be talking to Evan about how he and Alison can’t be friends anymore, but Eddie is late as per usual. Apparently he saw a red fox and decided to chase it. Anyway, Alison is about to tell Evan the news herself, but she looks at his “best friends” arrow necklace and just can’t do it. Instead, she tells him that she and Eddie are back together. When Eddie does eventually arrive, he’s surprised to hear this. Alison promises to tell Evan the truth, but the second time she tries, she says they’re going to go for a pony ride instead. This is supposed to be a whole play on the divorcing parents stereotype, with Alison and Eddie trying to keep up a happy front as Evan rides the pony. Evan doesn’t have a clue anything is wrong.

Afraid of losing their best friends, Louis and Jessica offer to drive Marvin to his procedure. They make a pit stop at the park on the way, though. Marvin remarks on how many homeless people there seem to be in the par, but then Jessica points out that they’re actually just all exhausted parents. She reminds Marvin, who has been through parenthood once already, how difficult raising a child is. He said that with Nicole, Nicole’s mom did most of the work, but he knows that won’t fly with Honey. Honey will expect him to actually parent. Louis and Jessica drop Marvin off at the outpatient clinic. When he thinks they aren’t looking, he walks past the door and on to a city bus. Louis and Jessica celebrate their victory. Jessica re-books her favorite karaoke room (complete with four microphone package) and everything.

Eddie, Alison, and Evan arrive home from their trip to the park, and Evan’s got a big chocolate ice cream cone. Alison tries to tell Evan the truth, but eventually Eddie has to do the job. He is sorry he tried to cut Alison out. They aren’t together anymore, but he doesn’t want to forget Alison, either. He wants Alison and Evan to stay friends, and he hopes to be Alison’s friend too. Evan’s very angry about the lies, though. So angry that he smears his chocolate ice cream into the nice white couch Jessica took out of storage once she thought the kids wouldn’t ruin it. She and Louis stare at the couch stain at the end of the episode, angry that they still can’t have nice things.

While Jessica is happily talking about rebooking karaoke, Honey storms over and says that Marvin no longer wants a baby. Jessica thinks that they should all try to have fun to forget about the argument. Honey and Marvin, however, turn karaoke into a karaoke fight. She sings “All that She Wants” (Ace of Bass is very mid-late 90s), and he sings “Respect.” Then they storm out of the karaoke room. Jessica and Louis do eventually regret not better supporting their friends, and they stop by Honey and Marvin’s house to apologize. This leads Marvin to say that he thinks Honey would be a great mom, but he’s not sure if he’s ready for his life to change again. Honey says she’s scared too, but she thinks they can make it work together. And so the Honey and Marvin baby train is back on course.

Halloween "Classic" Recap: Ghosted: "Bee-Mo"

“Duct-taping you to the seat was legitimately my pleasure.”

“Ghosted” is one of only two new shows (along with “The Mayor”) that I’ve been watching this season. I wouldn’t say it’s a spectacular show, but it’s got a fun premise (two guys get recruited to help investigate supernatural happenings), and I’ve been a big Adam Scott fan for quite some time, so I’ve found it enjoyable enough. I think some rearranging the episode order hijinks were going on, because this Halloween episode was the second episode of the show to be broadcast, and it aired in early October. Although, since the show airs on FOX, the World Series could also have played a role in the scheduling. As longtime (are there any of you out there?) readers of MTVP know, I’m a big fan of Halloween and Halloween episodes of television, so I certainly wasn’t going to complain about getting a Halloween episode super early in a show’s run. Plus, the episode did some good work deepening the character of Leroy, who is played by Craig Robinson, aka Doug Judy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And there were werewolves! Sort of. More like werecats, I guess.

One thing I do really enjoy about “Ghosted” is the 80’s vibe they try to have going on sometimes. The soundtrack to this episode opens on “Power of Love” from “Back to the Future.” One of my happiest memories is dancing to this song with two of my closest friends, one of whom has since moved out of state, by the dock in the town where I live on New Year’s Eve 2015 (aka the beginning of the “Future” from the movies), so the song holds a special meaning for me. Anyway, the song is playing as Leroy and Max are driving to work, with Max droning on about how great his week has been and how excited he is to be working at the Bureau Underground. Then he asks Leroy about his Halloween plans. Leroy is planning on taking Jermaine, the son of his late LAPD partner, Trick-or-Treating. Max manages to passive aggressively guilt Leroy into extending him an invite, too.

Meanwhile, the Bureau gets word of a creature with glowing eyes and fangs (the aforementioned werecat, although they don’t know that yet), and they need to put a team on it. Since it’s Halloween, there are all sorts of paranormal things happening, and they’re understaffed. Leroy and Max are the only team available for the assignment. Leroy isn’t happy about this considering his Trick-or-Treating plans, but he doesn’t really have a choice. The guys pick up Jermaine, who really just wants Leroy to drop him off at a party being thrown by a girl he likes. First, though, he has to tag along while Max and Leroy investigate their new assignment. They start hunting around a warehouse, and Leroy tells Jermaine to stay in the car. Of course Jermaine doesn’t stay in the car, and he tries to pick up a cat he sees hiding between some boxes. The cat bites him, so Jermaine gives up. Next thing we know, Jermaine has glowy eyes, and he kicks the door to the car open and runs off.

Max and Leroy start looking for Jermaine, and they realize that the cat back at the warehouse must have been what infected him. They call the situation in to HQ, where LeFray gives some directions on what to do next in the middle of putting out multiple other fires. Max and Leroy track Jermaine to the house where the Halloween party he wanted to go to is taking place, and LeFoy tells Annie and Barry to meet them there with a whole bunch of tranquilizing weapons. They’re going to bring everybody infected to HQ for testing and hopefully a cure. Jermaine is indeed at the house. He gave the girl he likes quite the scare when he started foaming at the mouth. When Max and Leroy check out the house, the girl is infected now, too, and she tries to attack Leroy. Leroy holds her back with a table while Max knocks her out with a vase (he understandably had some hesitation about knocking out a child). They go into the next room and find that all of the kids have been infected, and the hightail it out of that house as fast as they can.

Outside, Max and Leroy meet up with Annie and the weapons truck, and they gear up to go back inside. Max tells Annie that if he makes it through this, she owes him a really stiff Midori sour. Annie then makes fun of Max’s drink choices, which I think is totally justified. As they are about to enter the house, Leroy says that Jermaine used to call him “Bee-Mo,” which is short for “Beast Mode,” hence the title of this episode. The fight in the house actually goes mostly okay. Leroy manages to tranq a bunch of kids easily, of course. Max is less successful. Jermaine jumps Leroy, and Max wastes four darts unsuccessfully trying to stop Jermaine. Jermaine leaves the house, and Max has to stab the mom of the house with a dart while Leroy has to shoot Jermaine before he can infect some more Trick-or-Treating kids. Jermaine’s mom even called in the middle of the whole mess. Eventually, though, all the infected are successfully loaded into the van.

As Max and Leroy are driving back to HQ, Max starts to feel a little funny. He feels warm, and just not well in general. Leroy ends up duct taping him to the seat of the car in case he’s infected. It turns out, though that Leroy is the one infected, and when his eyes start glowing, it becomes the car ride from Hell. Leroy, who isn’t infected after all, tries to steer the car with his feet. Eventually, they do crash, although not at high speed. At that point, Annie shows up and tranqs Leroy. Back at HQ, everyone who was affected is recovering nicely, even Jermaine, although he’s taking a little longer to recover than the rest, considering he was infected first. On the car ride home, Jermaine and Leroy have a heart-to-heart while Max pretends to be listening to his ear buds. Leroy says he’s always going to try and protect Jermaine, because he promised Jermaine’s father that he would. Jermaine is grateful for Leroy, but he misses his dad. Then he calls Leroy “Bee-Mo” again. Max thinks this is adorable, and he tries to join in, but Leroy and Jermaine aren’t having it.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Mayor 1.04: “City Hall-oween”

“Ma, I just wanted to give Fort Grey a fun Halloween like you gave me.”
- Courtney

It is Halloween in Fort Grey, folks, so get in the trick-or-treat spirit! Courtney and the boys seem to love Halloween. They had a great time as kids hanging out in the building and trick or treating. Although, they didn’t know it at the time that Dina worked her butt off to make that happen. When Courtney is out trying to hand out some candy and he runs into his little buddy Elijah (the kid he found hanging in the commons before they cleaned it up), Courtney is hurt o hear that it isn’t safe for the kids to go out on Halloween. He’s even more annoyed at the Chief of Police when she says basically don’t go out and that they are going to be increasing police presence to try and combat the crime rate.

In typical Courtney fashion, he comes up with a crazy (but lovable) idea on the spot. Instead of towing the party line, he says that he wants to give the town and the kids a fun, community-based party at the Town Hall. They’re going to deck the place out and invite everyone in for some fun. The Chief is not impressed with this and says as much in a follow-up meeting. Courtney isn’t concerned, though. He’s just excited to have some fun. Oh, and he and the boys are having a hell of a time pranking Valentina. She freaks out over their zombie masks and then when she gets her hand stuck to a draw with a live tarantula in it, she really freaks out. To be honest, I don’t blame her. I hate spiders. They freak me out so much! And she didn’t even know she was walking around with it on her back. That just gives me the creeps!

I have to admit, I really enjoyed some of the costumes. Courtney was dressed up as an iPhone with only one bar of reception which is kind of amusing in our digital age. And the other guys came as a hashtag and a fidget spinner. People were having the most fun with spinning the fidget device which was pretty fun. Dina came as Maxine Waters which is obviously a very timely costume. It was somewhat uncomfortable with Valentina trying to connect with the guys and just constantly putting her foot in her mouth. I did appreciate her comment that the government building wasn’t a place for childish pranks—it wasn’t the White House after all. This show is definitely not afraid to go there in our current climate. At least our cast of characters is more endearing than the terrible excuse for a leadership team we have running our country.

During the party, Dina and Valentina have a heart to heart where Val admits that she doesn’t want to have to parent the guys at work because she spent her childhood basically raising her three younger sisters. It’s nice to know a little bit of backstory on her for once. It makes her only marginally less irritating. Dina suggest Val just have fun with them and treat them like the siblings she never had. So, she goes all in on that and gets one of the other staffers to pretend to be a severed head to scare them. What scares Courtney is that the party didn’t have its intended goal: lowering crime. In fact, it went up. When Dina later finds him on the fire escape gorging on candy, she reminds him that things don’t change in a day and that the party certainly won’t change it. So, the next morning he decides he’s going to give the police everything they want to hopefully combat the crime rate rising. But then, a group of parents shows up and thanks Courtney for giving their kids the chance to safely have fun. They also make a point of saying that no politician in the city had ever cared what the parents and community though. So, Courtney calls a press conference to announce his new advisory council which will consist of parents, other community leaders and representatives from the police department to try and resolve all of the issues. I think it’s a good idea for sure and starts to bridge some of the gaps we see in a lot of government these days. The Chief of Police even seems impressed by this idea. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her in the coming weeks.

In the closing scene as the credits roll, Courtney decides to donate their leftover candy to the troops. While donating things to the troops is an admirable notion, sending them candy is probably a really stupid idea. I mean, it will take a while to get there and clearing Customs has to be a pain. Plus, it’s just kind of sad. It is kind of funny when T.K. admits he’s got a horde of candy stashed but it’s in a floor safe that requires two other keys to open it. It was a pretty ridiculous way to end the episode but I do think the characters were a little better this week. They are still following the general formula of Courtney having an issue, trying to solve it, failing, getting advice from Dina and then making a breakthrough. Formula can be a good thing given the right type of show but I feel like this is getting too predictable—even four episodes in. Honestly, I noticed it in episode 3 as well. I think the writers need to change things up a bit, or at the very least have Courtney begin to grow more as a mayor and implement some of the things he's learned over the last few episodes to better address upcoming issues. He doesn’t always need his mother to set his head straight. He’s an intelligent guy. He should be able to resolve things on his own.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Mayor 1.03: "Buyer's Remorse"

“Lying. Dishonest media. Sad.”

The third episode of “The Mayor” wasn’t bad per se, but it was the first episode of the show to really make me question if I want to keep watching long-term. I like the characters and the tone, but it feels like the creative team is a bit out of their depth with a show about politics and government administration. As much as I loved that last week’s episode highlighted the importance of the government budget process/budget office (I’m a budgeteer in my day job myself), this episode missed the mark for me. I also didn’t love the resolution to Courtney’s dilemma of the week. Yes, I’d love to see a bit of a return to (outward, at least) civility in our politics, but politics has always been a bit dirty. I have personally had multiple lessons in that. There are obviously exceptions, but to be a politician, you’ve got to have the ego to think you should be representing your neighbors in government. Courtney’s going to just get eaten alive if he keeps going the way he’s going. We need more compromise in our politics (bring back earmarks – then our politicians would actually have tangible things to bargain with!), but Courtney takes it too far to the point of killing his political career before it even starts.

Overall, I thought the episode relied way too much on Trump humor, and as I’ve said already, while he’s still in office, it’s too soon for me to find his utterly degrading to our country antics funny. There were three Trump references even before the opening titles. First, TK and Jermaine hang a “congratulations” banner in Courtney’s office because they want to stay in his inner circle and correctly believe he thrives on meaningless praise. Then Courtney, the guys, Val, and Dina watch a very distressing news report. Courtney has a 23% approval rating, and the people of Fort Grey have buyer’s remorse. For Trump references two and three, Council President Gunt speculates that voter fraud lead to Courtney’s election, and TK gives the Quote of the Episode above when the news report shows him saying something unflattering about Courtney. It was just way too much all at once, even though the parallels between the premise of this show and the current Liar in Chief are obvious.

Val encourages Courtney to try and get a small win for the people to get the momentum going in the right direction. Courtney is inspired by his press secretary, who was drenched while waiting for the bus and is trying to blot herself off with a tissue. Fort Grey has no covered bus benches, and Courtney thinks it’s time they get some. The idea sounds even better when Val says she thinks that somewhere between 61-64% of Fort Grey residents use public transit. She warns Courtney, however, that he can’t just make this happen on his own. He needs to get approval from the City Council. At Courtney’s direction, she sets up a meeting with Gunt. The meeting, as you’d guess is a disaster. Gunt makes it clear that because he thinks it’s a good idea, he’s going to block the bus shelter plan. In fact, he plans to block anything Courtney wants to do so that there will hopefully be a recall election by the end of the year. Val is conspicuously silent through all this, only managing some stammering at the end. It doesn’t make sense to me that she’d be so intimidated by a slimeball like Gunt, and it doesn’t make sense to Courntey, either. He’s pretty pissed about it, actually.

There’s a little side plot where Jermaine and TK are supposed to be hiring a receptionist, but they fail because they’re using it as an occasion to one-up each other. Then they move on to trying to buy Courtney gifts. Dina puts a stop to that pretty quickly, though, reminding Jermain and TK that the three boys have been friends for years, and they’re pretty much family now. Plus, Courtney’s not going anywhere as long as he still lives with his mama and rides a bike. Courtney asks their advice on whether they think Valentina has one foot out of the door (we’re talking about someone who can’t even take the protective film off of her cell phone), and they agree that of course she does. This gets problematic when Valentina actually has a good idea for making the bus shelters happen. She’s got some contacts at the transportation department who told her that they could sidestep the Council if they declare the bus shelters a safety issue.

After Courtney thinks about it, though, he doesn’t trust Val, so he passes up the meeting with the transportation director to instead try and make his case on a local political talk show called “The Grey Area” hosted by none other than Parks and Rec’s (and Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party’s) Jim O’Heir. Val thinks this is a bad idea, but Courtney thinks he can handle it. Of course Courtney gets eaten alive. The host starts right in on Courtney’s terrible approval rating. The worst part is when Gunt calls in and gets the transportation director on the line to say that bus shelters would cause a safety issue, not solve one. Courtney is so completely embarrassed by all of this that he basically runs off the show He runs home to his mama, who was watching the Bachelor, but can clearly tell something is wrong. She takes him out for a hamburger and doles out some of her famous advice. Courtney’s not built for conflict. He’s gotten things in life by compromising and collaborating with his adversaries.

Courtney takes this advice and surprises Val with a new plan. He marches straight into Gunt’s office, and he raises the window shades. Outside is a billboard with both their pictures on it and a picture of a new bus shelter. He’s very willing to publicly share credit for the bush shelters if that’s what it takes to get Gunt to approve. Gunt takes the bait, and the bus shelters are a go. In real life, though, it’s not so easy, and somebody like Courtney would indeed get eaten alive. That’s why I’m not an aspiring politician myself. It’s way less soul-crushing to wield power from behind the scenes! Anyway, Val seems to approve of Courtney’s move. After a long evening of answering constituent phone calls (his boys still haven’t managed to hire a receptionist), Courtney sees that Val has finally actually unpacked her new office. The public isn’t so impressed though. One particular lady is grateful for the bus shelter until she falls in a pothole. Then she just wants the pot hole fixed. Welcome to government! There’s always something new brewing.

This Is Us 2.05: “Brothers”

“It would be so easy for you to be nice to him but it takes you more energy and causes more trouble being mean to him like you are. So, why can’t you be nic3e to him?”
- Jack

Well, Kate’s happy news from the ned of last week’s episode is perhaps the only bright spot in this episode. And even that had a bit of a damper put on it by Kate and all of her fears. She’s now eight weeks along and she’s finally able to tell Toby the good news. He’s beyond excited and happy about the news but she begs him to temper his excitement and hope because there are a million ways it could go wrong for them given her weight and age. But, after she gets into an argument with one of the people at her weight loss therapy group and the gets into a fender bender with her, Kate shares the news of her pregnancy (she was momentarily terrified she’d done something in the accident to harm the embryo. This gives Kate the boost she needs to let Toby share the news with random strangers. Which he does in typical over-the-top Toby fashion.

While Kate and Toby are sort of sharing their happy news, things with Kevin and Randall are a little tougher: especially for Kevin. He’s in New York for a gala event where he’s being “auctioned off” for a date to raise money. He makes a somewhat stupid and insensitive comment to Randall about wanting to be auctioned off (sometimes Kevin doesn’t think). Anyway, Randall is going to gala and Deja expresses interest in attending. Randall thinks it is a good idea and a chance for him to connect with her. Beth is skeptical, especially since she thinks (and rightly so) that the girl is crushing hard on Kevin. But, Deja gets all dressed up and they go to the gala. While trying some shrimp cocktail (presumably for the first time), Randall makes a move to stop her from eating the tail and she flinches and runs off to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Kevin has run out of his pain meds and so now he’s medicating with alcohol, which Sophie notices and warns him to pace himself. He clearly doesn’t listen because he’s pretty hammered at the event and he even totally misses the auction. He’s off having a very angry conversation with his doctor about the fact they can’t refill his prescription because they already gave him one refill more than they should have. Kevin is just sliding down his father’s (and grandfather’s) destructive path and it’s kind of heartbreaking to watch. At least Deja manages to open up to Randall in the bathroom (Randall preparing to go in was pretty hilarious). I’m glad she was finally able to put into words why she feels so uncomfortable with people (men specifically) touching her. And it’s as sad as we expected. She suffered physical abuse at one of her last foster homes.

Back in the 1980s when the Big Three are around nine or ten, Jack decides to take the boys on a camping trip to try and strengthen their brotherly bond while Rebecca and Kate plan a fun girls’ weekend of manicures and movies. Rebecca and Kate’s movie-going is quickly put on hold by a call from the nursing home where Jack’s father resides. He’s dying and Rebec a decides to go since Jack isn’t around. She doesn’t have a lot of interaction with her father-in-law. He lies in bed not speaking for most of it. When she finally gets in touch with Jack at the campground (oh the difficulties of reaching people before the era of cell phones) he has no interest in saying any goodbyes to the man who tortured him as a child. In a rare young Jack flashback, we see him in the car with his father going on a fishing trip. His father decides he needs a beer (or several) and pulls into a tavern, leaving young Jack alone in the car. Jack is sure his dad will come back but until he does, he’ll have to content himself with looking after his younger brother Nick! The fact that Jack had a little brother (who if Jack’s late-night trip to the garage to look at Vietnam photos is any indication may be dead) makes his desire to get Randall and Kevin to get along all that more poignant. He knows what it’s like to have a brotherly relationship and he just wants that for his boys. I’m not sure he’s going to get it before he passes, though. Hell, even as adults they don’t get along that well. At the campsite, the boys are setting up the tent and Kevin purposely lets it collapse on Randall. Jack sends Kevin into the tent (once it’s put back up properly) as punishment. And when Jack goes to try and talk to Kevin about why he’s so mean to his brother, Kevin doesn’t want to talk about it. In fact, we know he’s really good at hiding and not dealing with his feelings. But later, while Randall and Jack are cooking hot dogs over the camp fire, Kevin finds Randall’s notebook where Randall has noted all sorts of things that Kevin likes in an attempt to get his brother to like him. While it may not be a permanent fix for their brotherly bond, it’s enough to get them toasting marshmallows together with Jack.

While I wasn’t moved to tears entirely this week (which is a rarity with this show) I did like that we got see some new facets of Jack’s character and pieces of his past that make him the man he is today. I’m kind of anxious to see him back in the 1990s dealing with his alcohol recovery. He’s already told Rebecca about taking money his father. I wonder if she knows about his brother. I can imagine Jack deciding that his brother (and that possible loss) weren’t worth mentioning to Rebecca because they were part of the past he was trying to forget.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Lucifer 3.04: “What Would Lucifer Do?”

“I’m what I’ve always been: a punisher and for reminding me of that, I salute you.”
- Lucifer

Lucifer seems to be living up to his promise to get back in the favor game. He even manages to sort of save a judge’s marriage by sleeping with the new wife so the judge can reconnect with his ex. Very weird but Lucifer seems to be enjoying himself. He even is mildly interested when Amenediel says he believes that God’s task for him relates to Lucifer. Our angel isn’t sure exactly what dad had in mind but Lucifer suggests he walk a mile in his shoes and grants big brother access to his social media and closet. This is going to be interesting. He certainly rocks the duds but his attempts to “be” Lucifer falls painfully flat the first two times at Lux. But hey, he manages to get a pretty lady to ask him to buy her a drink in the end!

While Amenediel is doing a little soul searching, Chloe is miffed at Pierce for turning her down as a union rep (I’m not quite sure that’s how it works but whatever) and they land a new case: a counselor at a reform program for juvenile drug offenders was murdered. Lucifer is skeptical (of course he is) but it seems he may be right that one of the kids is to blame for the crime when a tool belt with a missing knife is found in the counselor’s office. Only the residents get those types of toolbelts. The search for the missing tool leads our team to a resident named Tyson who has gone missing. Dan does a little digging and finds camera footage of the kid in downtown LA but since his juvenile record is sealed, they have no idea what his crimes are. Oh, and Pierce is being a total dick to Chloe by saying he thought they’d be farther along in the case by now. Ella insists he’s got the hots for our lady detective but Chloe isn’t buying it.

Lucifer uses his favor with the judge to find out Tyson’s crimes and finds him boosting a high-end muscle car (which in the past he’d used to buy drugs) and Lucifer decides to scare the literal crap out of the kid by driving real fast toward a ledge and dangling the kid from the open passenger side until Tyson says he’ll tell Lucifer everything. According to young Tyson, the victim was planning to expel a resident and she wouldn’t leave with him (Tyson was in love poor sod). Peirce is still annoyed with Chloe’s lack of progress and a lack of consensus about the crime and he event ells Lucifer that our devil is being a “good” influence. That rankles Lucifer to no end and he ends up paying the reform program a visit and chatting up all the kids. It’s kind of an odd situation as he is discussing with them about drug distribution tactics (he’s desperately trying to prove he isn’t a good influence at all) when one of the residents clues him in to a giant pot field. Someone’s been busy!

Lucifer has the kids cultivating the cache until Chloe shows up and arrests the girl who had been growing the pot. She at first says she’s not going to talk and then decides to cough up that she saw Tyson burying something by a sundial on the property the night of the murder. And while Lucifer, Chloe and Ella are digging up the murder weapon—and Chloe is lamenting how Pierce hates her—Dan is bailing Amenediel out of jail for paying a prostitute. The poor guy had no idea what he was getting himself into and Dan is totally amused. Gotta love when Amenediel is uncomfortable in social situations. It’s almost endearing. And later, at Lux, he and Dan get to bond a little as Amenediel explains what he’s been doing. Dan recounts what basically amounts to Lucifer’s life and Amenediel realizes what a lonely existence his brother lives, even if Lucifer doesn’t see it that way.

Even though the evidence is mounting against Tyson, Chloe isn’t ready to call the case solved. The other resident’s alibi was that she was Skyping with her boyfriend. But as previously explained by the head of the program, kids had to earn such privileges and if she was on the verge being booted, she wouldn’t have had computer time. So, Chloe is going to head back to the program to chat with the head of it and Pierce is tagging along. She kind of lays into him about all the crap he’s been giving her but he explains that she’s one of his best detectives and he wanted to see her work. Unfortunately for him, the program head has a shot gun and Pierce takes one to the abdomen. Ouch!

Lucifer ends up tracking the guy down and beating him half to death before Amenediel shows up and sort of talks some sense into his brother. And with the case solved, Chloe goes to visit Pierce in the hospital and she is way more emotional than I expected and it makes me worried they are going to throw another love triangle at us! Oh, and Dan go the union rep gig which Pierce told Chloe is for “has beens” which annoys me. Dan is a good guy who did one bad thing. He shouldn’t still be punished for it. And Back at the penthouse, Amenediel shares with Lucifer what he thinks his task now is: to be there for Lucifer when he needs him. Lucifer isn’t convinced and recounts a story about a soul he tortured for centuries and one day when he didn’t, he realized that whatever meager attention he paid the soul made the guy feel like he mattered and that is exactly how Lucifer sees Amenediel. Lucifer rips into his brother but Amenediel won’t take the bait. He’ll take his brother’s harsh words but he will still be there when Lucifer needs him most.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Going Boldly: When The Orville is more Trek Than Star Trek

If you’ve been paying attention to sci-fi tv shows of late, you are probably aware that Star Trek: Discovery (the latest tv-verse Trek show in quite some time) has finally made it to air. After a lot of behind the scenes drama (creator Bryan Fuller jumping ship primary among them) it is finally here and it just so happens that this season also saw the release of Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. While there is some debate of whether it was supposed to be a straight comedy or a Trek parody, it definitely has tones of Trek in its DNA. And therein lies the problem. Because The Orville, to me, feels like it belongs in the Star Trek universe more than Star Trek: Discovery.

Let’s start with the cast of characters first. Within the first episode of The Orville, we’ve met the core crew of the ship and by episode 2 we’ve learned enough about each of them to relate to them in some way. Yes, the constant reminders of Captain Mercer and Lt. Greyson’s failed marriage due to her infidelity was a bit grating at first, but it gave us real insight into these characters and what we could expect moving forward. Sure, there are some things that seem kind of gimmicky (every time Ed can’t open a door, he asks his super strong crewmember, Alara, to “open this jar of pickles”) but we really get to see how these people interact with one another. I really enjoyed the episode where we got to see the Machlin culture and their perceptions on gender and gender identity.

In contrast, the first two episodes of Discovery only introduce us to two of the characters with whom we’d be going on this journey: Lt. Michael Burnham and Commander Saru. Everyone else (for the most part) is dead by episode 2’s end. We don’t actually meet the crew we are supposed to be spending the season with until episode 3 and even then, we barely know anything about them. I suppose we know the most about Burnham’s new roommate by the sheer fact she won’t shut up about her issues. The ship and the rest of its crew is shrouded in mystery and by that point in any show, if you aren’t connecting with at least one character, it’s not worth sticking around. I’ll be honest, I made it through episode 4 but by at that point, I still didn’t care about any of the characters and have since given up. Even the Klingons, which should feel familiar given their long history in the Trek universe, feel distant. I’m happily awaiting the next new episode of The Orville (episode 7) later this week. I want to spend time with Ed, Kelly and the rest of their motley crew.

In terms of visual effects, I will give it to Discovery that it looks super slick and shiny with lots of cinematic effects. Honestly, it feels like it belongs in the film franchise universe, rather than the TV verse. That’s not to say that The Orville’s visual effects are terrible. They are quite good for a TV budget and we’ve come a long way in special effects for science fiction than when Trek first began. But, Discovery does have that slight edge here in presenting a prettier picture, if you will. A lot of the camera angles are used artfully as well on Discovery to convey the personal view, especially from Burnham’s perspective in the first episode. I also have to ding The Orville just a bit for their overdramatic musical cues. They’ve been toned down a little (or maybe I’ve gotten used to them) but the first few episodes, the music was way overdone and too loud.

But even pretty pictures aren’t enough to overcome the lackluster characters and the plot that feels the most un-Trek ever. By the end of episode 2, we are thrust into a brutal, bitter war between the Federation and the Klingons. It’s literally all about this war and its casualties and costs. I can’t remember a time when Star Trek dealt so heavily with such a plotline. It was always with an eye toward exploration and interaction of new cultures. It was a positive outlook on what life could be like centuries from now. Even Deep Space Nine, which arguably was the closest to Discovery in terms of dire battle cries had time for light-hearted episodes and wasn’t quite so dark and dismal. With the Orville, they don’t take themselves too seriously although they always manage to address topics that are kind of weighty with an interesting twist. The aforementioned Machlin plotline was very interesting to see how it resolved, even if it wasn’t what we the viewer (and many on the ship) expected. The Orville is very much an homage to the fun, meeting new people, vibe of the old Trek. And I feel like given our world these days, that’s the kind of show I want to watch.

I can’t even say that I would want to watch Discovery as a movie. At first, I wasn’t sure I cared about the massive change in the Klingon appearance (without any sort of explanation like what we got in later Trek years after The Original Series). But the more time we spent with them (in their dimly lit ships) I got annoyed. It didn’t help that for authenticity sake the Klingons primarily spoke in Klingon with English subtitles in a font that’s really hard to read. Ultimately, I was more than happy to give up watching Discovery to spend more time with Captain Mercer and his merry band of misfits traveling through the stars and just trying to have a good time along the way. It reminds me of The Next Generation and Voyager (my two favorites of the original run of shows) and that just makes me even more excited to check in with the USS Orville every week for a new adventure.

The Good Place 2.05: “The Trolley Problem”

“Teaching him to be good is like teaching me to not be hot. How would you even do that?”
- Eleanor

I can’t really say that the characters moved forward a whole lot in this episode. While, yes, technically time passed by the end of the episode, I’m not sure much was really accomplished. And that’s part of what worries me a little about this season overall. It feels like the writers don’t quite have a plan together at this point. Anyway, Chidi is teaching the gang and Michael about a new philosophy problem. You are driving a trolley and the outcomes are don’t change track and kill five people or change track and kill one. Which do you choose. Eleanor gives the answer of killing one (as does Tahani after making one of her annoying “oh I know famous people” comments). Jason is just bummed it isn’t a game. And Michael misses the point entirely. Instead of trying to deal with the moral dilemma by applying various other theories (which is what I’m sure Chidi was hoping for), Michael instead comes up with a way to kill all six of them, completely with fairly graphic depictions. Dude has some drawing skills.

Over the course of the episode, Eleanor and Chidi try to find a way to help Michael connect with the material. First, Chidi tries to sort of chide Michael on his most recent homework assignment about analyzing Les Misérables. But that doesn’t really work out well. Michael seems to not grasp the concepts in a way that really matters to him so Michael decides to act it out in person and take notes on what Chidi does under various different scenarios. By about the seventh time (while Eleanor is simultaneously amused and horrified by everything that’s going on) Chidi realizes that Michael is in fact torturing him again. Michael admits it and says it was a joke and he needed to blow off some steam. But, Chidi is really upset by all of this (understandably). He rants that Michael never intended to help them and he would rather just be tortured than choosing to be tortured by trying to help Michael. Chidi kicks him out of class which leads Eleanor to drop some truth bombs on Michael. She realizes that he’s acting a lot like she would when she was alive. She’d blame other people and not take responsibility and be the adult. This momentarily makes her question what she was doing with her life. Ultimately, Michael brings peace offerings to everyone and while the other three are bought off with their shiny giant diamonds, Pikachu balloons and shrimp dispensers, Chidi won’t stand for it. He won’t be bribed. Then, Michael gives what sounds like a heartfelt apology, although we know it isn’t. Still, Chidi welcomes Michael back to class. I don’t really want to believe that Chidi is that naïve to think that Michael really apologized to him but I suppose they needed to resolve this particular bit of the story before the next episode.

While the rest of the group is wrestling with moral dilemmas, Tahani and Jason are dealing with a slightly less death-inducing one: telling their friends about their relationship. Jason thinks it is a good idea to tell people and Tahani flat out refuses. But in his kind of dumb way, Jason manages to convince Tahani to talk to someone about why she doesn’t want to share the news with their friends. So, Tahani talks to Janet which ends up causing some weird problems. Janet isn’t programmed to be a therapist but since her entire purpose to make the humans happy, she acquires all the knowledge on psychoanalyzing human emotions and becomes one. Tahani explains that she’s never dated below her “station” before and she can’t handle it. Jason eventually butts in and shares that Tahani is nice but she’s kind of mean to him and he doesn’t get why. I kind of felt bad for him a little bit. She is so controlling and I can’t figure out why she’d even go for him. I mean, she even says that he’s not her type and she wouldn’t shag him if he were the last man on earth … except she is shagging him and he is kind of one of the last people on earth or in the afterlife or whatever. So, they try to do some couple’s counseling with Janet and things start going wonky. First, her thumb pops off and goes floating away. Then, when Jason and Tahani reach a compromise about their relationship status out in the world, Janet barfs up a frog. It’s all very strange and then after a month, the neighborhood starts shaking and we learn that there’s something seriously wrong with Janet. And now, I suspect Michael and the gang will have to fix the problems before Vicky and the rest of the demons (who we didn’t even see any of this episode) find out.

You know, this season I did start to wonder if perhaps Tahani and Jason and Eleanor and Chidi were meant to be soul mates anyway. But, I’m not really that invested in either relationship (perhaps a bit more Eleanor and Chidi because they are more fully developed characters0. I still find Tahani’s name dropping incessantly annoying and Jason’s stupidity is kind of mind blowing. Like, how can someone really be that dim. So, spending half the episode on the pair of them wasn’t really that enjoyable for me. I’m hoping we move things away from that in the coming episodes. Although, I’m not really sure what I’d like to see them move to since what they’ve been doing this season so far hasn’t really wowed me. I think I liked the show better when we and the core four were duped into thinking they knew what was going on. Maybe next week’s episode with Janet on the fritz will be a better episode than this one.

Book Review: Spoiler Alert!: The Hero Dies

As you can tell by the meager two other entries under this tag, we do not do Book Reviews very frequently here at More TV, Please. But as anyone who follows this blog knows, TVLine and its head honcho Michael Ausiello are frequently our go-to for tv related gossip. A little over a month ago, Michael published his memoir chronicling his relationship with his late husband Kit. I give it five stars. And I recommend you listen to it in audiobook format, narrated by Michael.

As I mentioned, I have been a huge fan of Michael’s since he started TVLine up a little over six years ago in 2011. I first went there for their daily ratings (although I have to acknowledge the slight superiority of tv by the numbers if only because they provide updated final daily numbers) but they are now my go-to for pretty much anything TV related. From fun episode recaps to cast and creator interviews, I wouldn’t trust my entertainment news to anyone else. So, I was eager to hear what Michael had to say about his and Kit’s relationship, knowing only very little about them and Kit’s battle with terminal cancer. What I got was a truthful, if at times painful, glimpse into the lives of these two men who loved each other a hell of a lot.

First, I’d like to touch on the format of the book which contained a combination of numbered chapters, previously on segments and a final flash forward. This may seem a little haphazard (especially when you are listening to it) but it fits Michael to a T. Given his extensive background in TV (watching, covering it professionally and guest-starring in it) it made perfect sense to frame his narrative as a pseudo tv program. It was a fun way for Michael to slowly introduce the reader (or in my case listener) to Kit and their thirteen-year relationship. We got taken on their first date, their first time together sexually and even Michael’s first time meeting his future mother-in-law (after Kit had an emergency appendectomy). These are intermixed with detailing the final eleven months of Kit’s life after being diagnosed in March 2014 with an aggressive neuroendocrine tumor.

I really felt like we got to know Michael and Kit not only through this harrowing ordeal (of which Michael had previous experience) but as people just living their lives and going through the ups and downs of relationships. All with a healthy dose of black humor and f bombs. Oh boy, does he like to drop the f bomb. I know the tagline of the book is “A memoir of love, loss and other four-letter words” but still. There were a lot of them. Most of the time they were used to accentuate an emotion (both positive and negative throughout the narrative) but there were a few times I felt it was a little overdone. That is probably the only thing I would have to ding him on. But, I also have to give him heaps of credit for being able to write this memoir only a few short years after Kit’s passing. And I loved the little touches of locations and places they’d gone to, especially Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River (and thank you for pronouncing it correctly. As someone who went to Susquehanna University, I’m a tad touchy on that front). I do suspect some of the content (wherein he read emails between himself and Kit or Facebook posts he’d shared during Kit’s cancer battle) was easier to put out than the others. Oh, the morbid benefits of the digital age.

Perhaps the best of this book for me was listening to Michael regale the listener with all of their trials and tribulations. I listened to a lot of audiobooks as a kid but I got out of the habit as I grew older. I’ve recently started getting back into the habit since a phone is a bit easier to carry around than an e-reader tablet but I’ve also discovered that I do better with audiobooks that are non-fiction. Granted, I’ve done one other similar to this (Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”) which was equally enjoyable. But getting to hear Michael tell this story in his own voice and in his own way made it so much more relatable. There were definitely times when he was talking about the harder parts of dealing with cancer (Kit becoming ill, delirious even) to losing his mother to cancer as a young boy where the emotion of it all would just choke him up and I could just imagine the tears in his eyes, him fighting to keep them at bay. There is definitely something to being able to hear his words from his own mouth that lets you connect on a deeper level. It’s like he was telling me this whole story and just me. You can’t get that same connection from a printed book.

In the same way one feels like they know a celebrity, before reading this book, I felt like I knew Michael. I’d seen countless TVLine interviews from Comic Con to have a sense of his style and humor. I’d read plenty of his articles to get a sense of his writer’s voice. But now, I feel like I really know him on a deeper level. And I just want to reach through my computer screen and give him a big old bear hug and say “thank you” for sharing this with me. In a way, this was Kit’s memoir more than it was Michael’s, since memoirs usually come at the end of a person’s life. But, I can definitely say that this was Michael’s memoir, too. The Michael who lived this life with the man he loved. That man, in a sense, died the say day as his husband. But he is thriving and I have no doubt that he is a better person for having had Kit in his life. In a small way, I feel like I am, too.

The Good Place 2.04: "Existential Crisis"

“I worked so hard on my torture ideas, and theirs are so basic. These Millennials, they have no work ethic. Oh, sorry, a Millennial is someone who has only been torturing people for a thousand years. Millennial.”

So in the last episode of “The Good Place” that I blogged, I expressed my surprise that nobody has mentioned Sartre and “Huis Clos” yet. This episode involved a full-on existential crisis (hence the title) and a shout out to “French books,” but still no Sartre love! This is the first episode following the humans’ decision to help Michael eventually defeat Vicky and her blackmailing scheme. We split the party in this episode, with Eleanor and Chidi spending most of their time with Michael and Tahani and Jason doing their own thing (in many senses of the word). I think I liked the Eleanor/Chidi/Michael plot best because (spoiler alert!) Michael having an existential crisis is delightful, but I want to go to the party that beat the party Tahani tried to throw. I want a puppy pit and unicorns, damnit!

The episode opens with Vicky smugly sitting at the big desk in Michael’s old office and Michael giving her a file full of torture ideas. Vicky is unimpressed by the file. Much like our current President (and it’s still too soon for me to find Trump jokes funny while he is actively destroying our country), in the future, Vicky says she only wants Michael to give her one page memos with pictures. Plus, one of her goons has already come up with a great new idea to torture Tahani. They’re going to convince her to plan a birthday party for Gunnar, then throw an even better birthday party for him at the exact same time (so nobody will go to Tahani’s party, of course). Michael immediately warns Tahani and Jason of this plan. Jason doesn’t seem to think this is really a bad thing, and Tahani tries to put on a brave face, but it’s obvious that the idea of somebody putting on a better party troubles her. She decides to use a fancy restaurant for her party and recreate the décor of her 2007 Red Cross gala. She thinks she can create an even better party than the party that is supposed to be better than hers.

Meanwhile, Chidi, Eleanor, and Michael start ethics lessons (Tahani and Jason have to deal with the party). Michael is not paying attention, is acting childish, and is joking about how ridiculous humans are. After half an hour, he has completely checked out. Eleanor is a little pleased with herself that she’s now the best student as a result. Chidi speculates that perhaps Michael can’t appreciate ethics because he’s immortal. Chidi feels strongly that it’s the impermanence of life and thinking that one day you won’t be there that makes people good. Eleanor says she pretty much never thought about death. Chidi tries a little experiment and asks Michael if Bad Place demons can die. Michael tells the group about “Retirement,” which happens when a demon really screws up. Their essence is scooped out and scattered among suns. Chidi points out that since Michael is working with humans right now, Retirement might actually be in his future, and Michael might not be around one day. Michael thinks about this for a moment, then has a complete break-down, laying his head in Chidi’s lap from the enormity of it all.

After Chidi leaves the room, Eleanor does her best to try and cheer Michael up. Michael asks her how humans live with the knowledge that eventually they’re not going to exist anymore. Eleanor says that humans learn about death as kids, and it’s not a big deal. We then get a flashback to when Eleanor learned about death. She was a little kid, and her mom, drinking white wine from a straw, announces that their dog, Max, has “passed away.” She even tries to tell the rainbow bridge story. Eventually, though, she tells Eleanor the truth. Max died be cause he was left in a hot car, and now he’s in a duffel bag under the deck. Her mom also tells Eleanor not to cry, because that would be just one more irritating thing to add on to the top of a very bad day. Chidi and Eleanor bring Michael to Tahani’s party to try and cheer him up. Parties seem pointless to him now, though. Eleanor tells Michael to just shove his feelings down deep like everybody else and get over it. We see a flashback where her mother was absolutely horrid at her father’s funeral which probably explains most of her reaction.

The group heads over to Vicky’s party, which is truly epic. It’s animal themed since Gunnar was an animal rights activist in life. There’s a flying station where you can fly like a falcon, a puppy pit, and an opportunity to hang out in a kangaroo pouch. Jason especially is all over that last one. Tahani looks miserable. She has always judged her self-worth by her event planning skills, and she’s getting shown up big-time. Eleanor says she and Chidi will take care of Michael while Tahani takes a spin around the party, only then she realizes Michael is missing. He shows up in a red sports car, with Janet who has died her hair blonde and now answers to Jeanette. She also says that since Michael asked her to, she’ll make ditzy comments on command. Michael has clearly transitioned from existential crisis to mid-life crisis.

Michael goes all-out in mid-life-crisis mode. Vicky goes to give a speech inviting everyone to move along to Tahani’s party, but Tahani says they should stay put because it’s the superior party. Michael then interrupts to give a very drunken speech, but somehow manages not to give up the greater plan or give Vicky a hint that all is not as it seems. Chidi and Michael get him out of there before he can do any more damage. Chidi warns Eleanor that Michael’s tamping down all his feelings is not a good thing at all, and Eleanor has one last flashback to bring things home. She remembers a time (not long after her father’s death, presumably) where she had a complete, crying into a plunger, breakdown at a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. After remembering that time, she knows what to say to Michael. She tells him that because all humans are aware of death, they’re always a little sad, and that’s okay. Michael is finally able to pull himself together.

Back at the restaurant, Jason finally realizes that Tahani is very upset about the whole party situation. Jason tells her about how they used to audition people for his dance crew in Jacksonville. They would rate them 1-13 (with 8 being the best…long story) in five different areas, and Jason says he would give Tahani all eights. Tahani is touched by this, and she tells Jason he’s pretty great, too. Jason tells Tahani to be nicer to herself, which I think is advice we could all use sometimes. When I was really struggling after a big promotion at work and feeling like I couldn’t do my new job, a coworker reminded me of all the new things I was taking on with the promotion and reminded me to give myself “a little grace.” It definitely helped me get through that extremely stressful time. Anyway, by the end of the episode, they wind up sleeping together, which I guess we should have predicted by now. Tahani is both horrified by and smitten with Jason at the same time. The rest of the gang goes back to ethics lessons, and Michael no longer is quite so disruptive.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fresh off the Boat 4.02: "First Day"

“One of the flautists went missing, but they found her in a bog.”

This episode found almost all the Huangs trying to deal with big life changes. Cattleman’s has new ownership. Eddie and (surprise!) Evan have new schools. Eddie’s still feuding with this friends from the neighborhood, and his relationship with Alison becomes shaky as they adjust to life in their new school.

Eddie is rather excited for his first day of high school. He wants to wear a cap that says “Booty” on it, but Jessica forbids it. He ends up sneaking it to school and wearing it anyway. I’m surprised it wasn’t confiscated, actually. I was only a year behind the real Eddie in school, and people got dress code violations for much less in my high school. Grated we also got “I’m so disappointed in you” speeches from our principal on the maybe two occasions in three years when there was a food fight in the cafeteria, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, Nicole drives Eddie to school, and on the way, they drive by his former friends, and they all jeer at each other. Eddie is glad that, even if his boys abandoned him, he still has Alison and Nicole. Nicole has to correct him on that one. She can’t be seen with a freshman at school, so she drops him off nine blocks away, and he has to walk the rest of the way.

Emery is excited that, as the lone middle schooler in the family (Eddie’s starting ninth grade and Evan should be starting fifth), he’ll finally be able to go his own way in school without one of his brothers around. He’s super excited to have a chance to spread his wings. He gets on the bus, and he’s rather confused when Evan sits down next to him. Apparently Evan is skipping fifth grade, so he’s now going to be in middle school with Emery. Emery asks Evan why he didn’t tell him about this, and Evan figures that since they never talk about anything in their family, when they were about twenty-five, they’d just look back at that time he skipped a grade and nobody said anything and laugh. Emery finds this plausible. At school, Evan is greeted with a big hug and a fancy pencil by the principal, because he’s the school’s first grade-skipper. Meanwhile, Emery picks up a chemistry book that a girl dropped, and he’s shocked when she is cold to him. Usually the girls all love him.

Eddie is not having the easiest time in his new school. When he arrives, he finds Alison surrounded by a gaggle of football players. They all want to hang out with her because she’s in the marching band, apparently. As somebody who was in color guard in high school, I can attest that this is not at all accurate. Not a lot of marching band/football cross pollination happening in my high school, even if we were at all the football games. When Alison tells Eddie that some of the football players want to sit with them at lunch, Eddie is rather incredulous. When he goes home that evening, he tells Jessica he wants to try out for the football team. Jessica absolutely forbids it. She’s convinced he’s going to end up with a concussion, which is actually pretty forward thinking of her. Eddie ends up forging her signature and trying out for the team anyway.

Meanwhile, Louis can’t get a hold of anybody at Kenny Rogers headquarters since they took over his restaurant. He finds the “Kenny Rogers’ Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch” sign a bit ridiculous (don’t we all) and he wants it taken down. Eventually, somebody from Kenny Rogers corporate shows up at the restaurant, and it’s Louis’ worst nightmare. The sign’s not coming down, because Kenny wants to memorialize his victory. The corporate guy also wants to replace some of the steak dishes on the menu with chicken, get rid of the host position for a casual, seat-yourself vibe, and sort the salad bar in descending level of crunch. When Louis complains about all of this to Jessica, she says that instead of being upset with the changes at Cattleman’s, he should be taking his Cattleman’s success and starting more restaurants. Louis is about to take Jessica’s advice when the corporate guy says Louis needs to give up his favorite taxidermy bear, Mark. At that point, Louis decides it’s going to be war.

At home, Emery complains to Grandma about how nothing seems to be going right for him, and he blames Evan for following him to middle school too early. Grandma doesn’t think it’s Evan’s fault, and she says she’ll tell the boys what’s going on if they buy her a red Gatorade at the 7-11. After she chugs her Gatorade, Grandma explains. Emery is twelve, which means it’s the first time his Chinese zodiac animal has come up in the rotation since his birth. Apparently in Chinese beliefs, your zodiac year always brings bad luck. Evan thinks this is right – Emery has indeed been having bad luck since before the school year started. He got Evan kicked out of private school, and they missed seeing the big peanut roadside attraction, among other things. Later, on their way to school, Evan explains to Emery that maybe Emery’s bad is everyone else’s good. Emery has lived a pretty charmed life. As Evan puts it, normal people get ignored sometimes. Evan offers to let Emery borrow his school supplies to ease the pain, but that ends once Emery accidentally drops them all on the ground.

At football tryouts (where there is a rather nonsensical bit where it’s supposed to be funny that the football coach is a woman…what is this, the 1950s?), Eddie meets a kid named Max who has a similar build to him and is also trying out for the team. Later in the hallway, he tells Alison that he made the team, and he’s going to be number 22. Word eventually gets to Jessica that Eddie is on the team, and she goes to practice to try and stop them. Of course as she’s watching, number 22 takes a pretty nasty hit. She and Alison rush over to find that it’s not Eddie, but Max. Eddie has been hiding, watching from the sidelines. Can I say at this moment how much Alison seems to dress like I did in the mid-late 90s? At one point she’s wearing a horizontal striped shirt, and in another, a beaded choker necklace. Both were staples of my late middle school/early high school wardrobe. Alison is upset that Eddie thought she’d break up with him for a football player, so she…breaks up with him. A dejected Eddie prepares to eat lunch alone in the cafeteria, but his boys have his back and join him. They heard about what happened, and they’ve decided to let bygones be bygones.

At home, Jessica is fretting over Eddie’s football antics, and Louis is fretting over what is going on at Cattleman’s. Jessica doesn’t understand why Louis doesn’t just start some new restaurants until she has a realization. Cattleman’s is Louis’ Eddie. His first baby (restaurant) that he will continue to fight for even if it’s sometimes a bad idea. With that realization, Jessica fully supports Louis continuing the war. Louis goes to the restaurant and tells the corporate guy in no uncertain terms that he founded Cattleman’s and nothing is changing. The corporate guy is surprisingly cool with it. It turns out that concussed football player Max is actually his son, so he’s got bigger things to worry about. Louis is elated that he’s succeeded in “saving” Cattleman’s.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lucifer 3.03: “Mr. and Mrs. Mazikeen Smith”

“Burn brighter, Mazikeen. Go out and hunt the most challenging human you can find.”
- Lucifer

Maze is finally back on the scene (or more accurately the actress portraying her is back from maternity leave). Maze is hanging at Lux with Linda (they’ve been drinking for the last 3 hours and Linda isn’t holding up so well) when Maze realizes she’s even getting bored hunting humans. Lucifer suggests she goes out and finds the biggest, trickiest bounty hunting case to get some thrill back into her job. So, she does just that and decides to find a cold-blooded killer who has recently popped up in Canada.

As Maze is packing her things to head out, Chloe warns her to be careful. Also, our dear detective (rightly) critiques Maze’s cold weathering packing skills. And then there’s the matter of Trixie trying to stow away to watch Maze’s back. Chloe and Maze convince Trixie to stick around as Maze heads off. At the precinct, after bidding farewell to Dan for a few weeks in Hawaii, Chloe is not only tracking the last known whereabout of Maze’s bounty but she’s also trying to keep tabs on Maze through reports of violence. We see part of one of the alterations when she gets to a ski lodge and his shivering and a kid bumps her and laughs. She steals his jacket and sticks him headfirst into a snow pile. Later, she humiliates a concierge at a different lodge to get the location of her man.

Maze is definitely hot on the guy’s trail as Chloe and Lucifer bring in her query’s lawyer. Lucifer even gets Chloe’s approval to use his power on the woman to learn that she’s in love with her murderous client and has been helping him out financially. She explains that no matter who you are, his charm will win you over. Which could be a problem for our resident demon when she puts on a blond wig and meets the guy at a bar (pretending to be his girlfriend). She has the sense to at least cuff him to a rail under the bar. They share a drink and he ends up cuffing her to the bar and taking off. Maze doesn’t seem too miffed by this situation as she likes the chase. She also isn’t pleased that Chloe is checking up on her.

At first, Lucifer isn’t happy with Chloe’s helicopter parenting of his favorite demon, either. But after Chloe finds the bounty’s address and Lucifer then sends it to Maze, things take a dangerous turn. Sure, Maze gets to handcuff herself to the guy and they tussle for a bit. But then another bounty hunter with a big ole machine gun pops in and he gets nicked by a bullet. Cue a Skype call to Linda (while in session with Lucifer) and even our devil is now worried. Maze is going to stick up the bullet wound but after she knocks the guy out so he doesn’t fight her trying to remove the bullet, she sticks a pillow under his head and fluffs said pillow. This convinces Lucifer that the man is a devious con man going after his Maze.

When he wakes up, he fills Maze in that he used to be a bounty hunter for the same Lieutenant that Maze is working for. But the kids he’s accused of killing weren’t his fault. He refused to kill them and then he got framed. We still don’t know if he’s telling the truth when Dan shows up (from one of his many layovers) because Chloe called and asked him to check in. He starts to report the bounty as a fugitive to Canadian police but Maze takes off, intent on finding her bounty and the woman who tried to kill them both. Back in LA, Chloe gets a weird feeling about the Lieutenant and brings in the security guard who testified that the bounty was the shooter. In short order, Chloe and Lucifer manage to get him to admit he was lying. But things don’t stop there. Maze still has to attempt a daring rescue (with a little help from Dan). I’m glad Maze is back and that she got to kick so much butt this episode. I also liked that we got to see her evolving as a character and while she may never have a soul, she’s at least gaining emotions and learning that there are people in her life that matter to her.

In the end, Chloe and Lucifer get to arrest the Lieutenant and all seems well. Maze tells her former bounty that with the cop’s arrest, he’s a free man and she doesn’t have to bring him in. I was almost expecting her to still ask him for the money for the bounty so she wouldn’t have a wasted trip but she didn’t (which is probably progress in and of itself). But he insists that the cop wasn’t the only piece of the puzzle. He worked with other people who know all about him and won’t stop hunting him. He tells Maze that they know more about her than she thinks too and now that she had contact with the Lieutenant, she’s in their cross-hairs, too. She’s not too worried. I mean, she is a crazy powerful demon. But that might be what they know. And now I’m wondering if this is all connected to the Sinner Man and Lucifer’s abduction. Maze shares a kiss with her former bounty (who offers to let her run away with him) before heading back to LA to be with her roots. As the episode ends we see someone putting photos of Maze and the bounty into a folder and then into a cabinet. That really doesn’t bode well. But, I did enjoy the episode and thought it was a lot of fun seeing Maze kind of in her element with the rest of the cast having to support her.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This Is Us 2.04: “Still There”

“I just wanted to say … I’ve had two nervous breakdowns in my life. One right before Tess was born and one just earlier this year. And they happen when I let myself get stressed out and it just builds up inside and then boom. But, one of the things that helps me feel less stressed out is running. I run every day. It just helps me clear my mind. So, if you ever feel like you want to I would love to go running with you.”
- Randall

A few more weeks have passed for our favorite family and in the 1990s, a crazy snowstorm is on the horizon. The family is at Blockbuster picking out movies for the inevitable snow-in when Kevin kind of loses it. He’s got a fever and it turns out both he and Kate have chicken pox. Oh, I remember that. It’s not fun. Randall isn’t sick but the doctor says it’s easier if all the kids get them at the same time. So, Randall goes around trying various methods to get sick. He walks around in his underwear when it’s really cold out and is then chasing Kate around the kitchen for her germs. This would all be kind of adorable if Rebecca’s horrible mother didn’t show up unannounced and try to take over everything. We know that she disapproves of Jack and she clearly doesn’t think Rebecca can do anything right either. First, she gives the kids presents and while Kevin’s is fine (a football helmet), Kate gets a too-small dress and Randall gets his third basketball. We know he’s not really into sports very much. And then, she insists on making soup because Rebecca isn’t doing it right and she banishes Jack off to the upstairs when he, too, comes down with a fever. I do like that we are getting to see more of Kevin and Jack’s relationship. Kevin is suffering pretty bad and Jack gets him to scream his “battle cry” to focus on something other than the itch. It’s a sweet scene until Grandma ruins it. Later that night, Rebecca has it out with her mother. She points out that she could kind of explain away her mother’s disapproval with Rebecca’s cooking and cleaning skills and the family income but she won’t it around while her mother treats Randall like a second-class citizen. She outright calls her mother a racist which is totally true but neither of them realize that Randall has heard the whole thing. Jack and Rebecca try to explain that racism can come in many forms to Randall but he just wants to go to bed. The next morning, the whole family is avoiding going downstairs so they don’t have to face Grandma. But Jack mans up and he and Kevin go dig her car out of the snow. Grandma admits she’s trying to deal with the whole thing but I suspect the relationship won’t be mended any time soon. Even if she does tell Randall he’s special when he shows her his finished science fair project. I’m glad Rebecca had the strength enough to finally confront her mother about her feelings. I just hope it allow the whole family to move forward in a positive manner.

In the present, Kevin has been hobbling around on his bad knee for a few weeks and the producer on his movie sends him to the doctor. He’s got a tear in his knee which they can fix in a pretty quick surgery. While he’s laid up, Kate and Toby plan to take care of him. Which is all well and good except Kate got her first big paying gig and she’s obsessing over losing enough weight to fit into a particular dress. She abandons Kevin with Toby to go to yoga and Kevin promptly declines the pain medication and starts unwrapping his knee. He’s convinced he can be good enough in a week to finish filming. Kevin is pretty but god is he dumb sometimes. One of the guys from set brings over a fruit basket and updated script pages for Kevin while Kate is out trying to find a quick way to fit into her dress. It turns out that she wasn’t buying a quick fix to fit in her dress. Kate and Toby are expecting! I have to say, I didn’t see that coming at all. Sadly, I did see Kevin wallowing in his pain and succumbing to the use of prescription pain meds. That’s going to lead down a bad road I can just tell.

The more interesting present-day arc is Randall and Beth and the girls. Deja still isn’t really feeling comfortable at the house. Namely because she hasn’t showered in like two weeks. It’s pretty gross. Beth and Randall agree they need to talk to her about it but Randall wants to take the lead and try to make her feel welcomed before discussing the issue. His solution is taking the girls bowling. But Deja isn’t wearing socks and she isn’t about the idea of giving up her shoes. When another girl in the alley calls her out for her hair, Randall immediately jumps in to defend her but she just walks away. Beth agrees to take her own approach the next morning and I have a feeling while Randall’s heart is clearly in the right place, Beth is going to have a better shot. And in fact, she does. Deja lets Beth do her hair and we learn that Deja has alopecia and it gets worse in times of stress. The condition is also apparently somewhat common with African Americans. I did not know that. Unfortunately, the little bit of trust Beth built with Deja goes out the window when Randall shares his nervous breakdowns and his running. She takes a pair of scissors to her braids. I really feel for Randall. He is trying so hard to find a way into this girl’s comfort zone and he just keeps getting rejected at every turn. He was right, though. This is really as hard as people say.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Mayor 1.02: “The Filibuster”

“I would be nowhere if it wasn’t for the lessons I picked up right here. Music kept me out of trouble.”
- Courtney

Now that Courtney has been in office for a few days, he thinks he’s got the hang of things. But Valentina has different ideas. I have to admit Lea Michele is the least awesome part of this show and really needs to tone things down. She always comes off as overbearing in all of the roles I’ve seen her in. Anyway, Valentina wants to prep for a budget meeting later that day but Courtney and his boys have set up a visit to the local elementary school where Courtney got his start and love for music. It starts out as a pretty awesome gig. He’s chatting with some kids and shares how music kept him out of trouble and ultimately led him to becoming mayor. And then as he surveys the crappiness of the instruments the kids have to work with, he promises to provide them with a whole new music center and brand-new instruments. Valentina reminds him that he shouldn’t be making promises he can’t keep (although that’s textbook politician) but he insists he’s going to make it work.

At the pre-budget meeting with a really snooze-fest worthy guy, Courtney realizes that the town budget completely cuts music programs. This is an unfortunately very real issue in a lot of places where the first things to be cut are arts and sciences. How people expect kids to grow up and be functioning adults without these avenues to express themselves is beyond me but then again, maybe I’m biased as I grew up with the arts. Anyway, Courtney gets all fired up about the lack of music and he thinks he has the power to change the budget and just veto the whole thing. His buddy starts livestreaming which only sends Courtney into more hot water when his veto gets overruled by the budget committee. I suspect he won’t make that same mistake twice. While all of this is going on, TK (the Constituent Services liaison) his bumming around with Dina because he thinks the position is a pity job (especially since the post hasn’t been filled since 1976). What she eventually shows him (it is kind of sad how long it took and it was pretty obvious what she was doing from the start) that there are issues he is aware of (including a set of traffic lights with a whole mess of sneakers thrown on them and only one semi-functioning light and a giant puddle) that he can fix in his position and he’s going to work on doing it. I like that we are starting to get to see some of the supporting characters and how they fit in and what their backstory is.

Courtney is clearly upset that he got overwritten and he’s even more annoyed when Valentina points out that she could have told him that but he wasn’t interested in the process. She eventually explains that they need to use the system that is in place and find ways to break it and get around it. The next morning, Dina gives her son some important advice (as it seems she has to do at least once an episode) and explains that she cut money here and there when he was a kid to get him the things he wanted. This gives him the idea to go through the budget and find places to take money from other departments and put it toward the music program. But he’s going to need a distraction to keep the committee from voting. So, as the episode title suggests, he does a filibuster. It’s pretty amusing (far more so than the intercuts to Valentina and the budget guy trying to find places to cut). Ultimately, Courtney must yield the floor when Valentina informs hi they couldn’t find the money.

Valentina suggests that while they may have lost this fight, they should focus on the next thing to fight for. In a rather touching speech that really speaks to many issues, including the treatment of children based on race in education, where he tells Valentina that the first time he was told “good job” in school or any teacher showed any support for him was after the fifth-grade winter concert where he played solo trumpet. Sure, it sucked even though he practiced really hard but it was someone validating the work he had put into it. He’d always been told he was a screw up and now he’d been given a chance to do something more with him. He wonders how they could take away that chance from the kids, leading Valentina to maybe check her white privilege for a hot minute because she races off. While she’s gone, Courtney goes back to the committee hearing and starts talking as just a concerned citizen about taking all of this away. And then the kids bust in and Courtney’s other friend starts living streaming the performance. Courtney even gets to rap a little bit before the lead committee member pulls him aside and remarks that it won’t change his vote. The kids themselves may not make the change but all of the other constituent’s calling their reps to make sure the music program isn’t going anywhere certainly does. I thought it was a somewhat obvious decision but also kind of ingenious and it worked. I don’t know that I necessarily want to see Courtney win every battle he faces because that’s not realistic. But I do like that he is learning that he needs to sometimes work within the confines of the system to make the change he wants. And hey, with TK getting the sneakers off the street lights, they’ve got some new kicks (even if they’re filled with bugs and other creepy crawling things). Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid second outing for “The Mayor” and I will continue to watch and enjoy Courtney’s journey and the wisdom his mom and those around him provide him.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Mayor 1.01: "Pilot"

“Courtney Rose is a no-nothing egomaniac whose entire campaign is a stunt. Voters won’t fall for that. Not in America.”

I’ll admit, as your garden-variety “Hamilton” fan, the involvement of Daveed Diggs was what first put “The Mayor” on my radar. He’s an executive producer of the show, and he even had a bit of a cameo in the pilot episode. Given the current political climate, especially as someone who has dedicated all of her education and career to government service, I was a little wary of the “guy runs for office as a publicity stunt and accidentally wins” premise. Unlike our current President, however, rapper Courtney Rose actually does seem to care about other people, and deep down, he does want what is best for his city. I think it’s just going to take him a little time to get good at it and stop getting distracted. There’s a memorable cast of characters, from Courtney himself, to his mom, to his best friends, to his chief of staff Valentina (Lea Michele). I think I’m going to enjoy spending time in this world and with these characters for as long as the show lasts. It’s nice to see popular culture depicting somebody actually trying to do good through government, because for many of us who work in government in real life, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re there because we really do want to make things better, and that’s partly why the past year has been so painful.

Courtney Rose is an aspiring rapper who lives in the Northern California town of Fort Grey. I get the sense that it’s supposed to kind of be like pre-gentrified Oakland. Courtney lives with his postal worker mom, Dina, and he has only had minimal success with his rap career so far. He desperately wants a gig at the 8:30 club. Early in the episode, Courtney excitedly shows his mom a news story about his candidacy. The best part of the news story is when the story shifts to his two friends TL and Jermaine, who are helping him with his campaign. The actors who play TK and Jermaine have excellent comedic timing as they riff on how they’ve been financing the campaign on credit cards and TK is using his personal phone for the campaign. Dina doesn’t quite know what to make of all this. I get the sense that she doesn’t think her son needs to engage in this kind of publicity stunt in order to eventually become a successful rapper.

Even though he doesn’t actually want to be mayor, Courtney still has to participate in a debate against his rival, a stuffy city councilman played by David Spade. Working for the councilman is Valentina, who happened to be Courtney’s tenth grade lab partner. Valentina is a go-getter to an extreme degree, and the sideshow nature of Courtney’s campaign disgusts her. Courtney struggles at first with the debate when he is asked for his stance on a school choice bill. When the councilman tries to say he’s been leading the effort to restore the Fort Grey Commons (a small park that is basically now a dump), Courtney has had it. He tells it like it is, saying there is no way the Commons has been restored – it’s still a trash heap. When the councilman vows to have it trash-free by 2020, Courtney points out that there will be a lot of trash added in 2018 and 2019. He doesn’t understand why the place can’t be cleaned up right now, and the audience applauds.

On Election Night, Courntey, his pals, and his mom are watching television, and they are shocked (Courtney perhaps most of all) when Courtney actually wins the thing. Courtney’s first instinct is that he really, really doesn’t want to be Mayor. He wants to go to City Hall and withdraw (although TK says he should be Mayor for at least a day so he can get the cool, ceremonial ribbon cutting scissors). At that, Dina screams “fire,” which means that she wants to have a serious conversation with Courtney on the fire escape. It still kind of freaks out TK and Jermaine, though. In a speech with the type of optimism about government that I have only ever seen on “The West Wing,” she reminds Courtney that in this country, putting your name on a ballot means something. It means you’re offering to help make lives better for people. And in Courtney’s case, the people said, “okay!” She also points out that Courtney is a rapper because he’s a commentator and observer of the status quo, but this might actually be a real opportunity to do something to change the status quo. Courtney’s ready to give this whole Mayor thing a shot.

Courtney wakes up the next morning to Valentina hovering over hims (he’s understandably disturbed by this). She wants to be his chief of staff – she wants to outmaneuver Kellyanne Conway one day, after all. Courtney eventually agrees. They go to City Hall where Valentina introduces Courtney to the staff she’s sired, and Courtney reveals that TK and Jermaine are going to be on staff too. Valentina wants to write out note cards to plan Courtney’s first 100 days as mayor, but Courtney has other ideas. He wants to start off by cleaning up the Commons, and he thinks he can do it for free by organizing a “Turn Up and Clean Up” party. Valentina agrees, but she warns him to get the right permits.

The clean-up party is a big success. Lots of people show up to help clean, and the after-cleaning party is rocking. Courtney even shows Valentina that he filed for the right permit. As the party is in full swing, Courtney gets a call from the 8:30 club. Their opening act dropped out at the last minute, and they want him to open for Mac Etcetera, his favorite rapper (who also happens to be none other than Daveed Diggs). Jermaine tries to convince Courtney to stick with his current responsibilities, but this is a chance he can’t pass up, so he runs off. While Courtney is having a blast rapping with Mac Etcetera, his party gets shut down by the cops because he’s the one with the permit and he isn’t there. Dina manages to get herself arrested in the process too, and the guys and Valentina have to bail him out.

Courtney is the last to show up at the police station, and everyone is pretty pissed off at him. He and his mom end up having a heart-to-heart conversation in her mail truck. She reminds Courtney how many people are counting on him as Mayor. This thing is bigger than him now. The next morning, the gang can once again not find Courtney. Valentina suggests the Commons, and Courtney is indeed there, trying to finish the clean-up. He tries to play it off like he’s been doing it all himself, but one of the neighbor kids has been helping him. Valentina says that maybe Courtney isn’t completely hopeless after all, and the next four years won’t be a complete waste. Courtney, up until that point, did not realize that being Mayor was for four years.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lucifer 3.02: “The One With the Baby Carrot”

“I thought this would be a bit more … reverential, less angel wing dumpster fire.”
- Linda

Things for Lucifer aren’t going too well this week. I mean sure, he’s got a hot lady he’s about to hook up with but she ruins the mood after his wings accidentally unfurl and she makes some quip about cosplaying as a devil. This prompts Lucifer to hack off his wings anew, which has Linda concerned because it’s technically self-mutilation. I’d be honestly worried if she wasn’t worried about him. I just wish Lucifer could see beyond his laser focus to actually understand what she’s talking about. But he’s more concerned with the Sinner man and how he’s coopting Lucifer’s “schtick” of giving out favors with the expectation of repayment at the to be determined time. Then again, as Linda points out, he hasn’t been giving out favors very much of late.

Chloe is not interested in his theories about this new villain and shuts him down when Lt. Pierce comes by with a new case. Chloe begs Lucifer to drop things unless he can give her some actual proof. Knowing our devil, he’s not going to give up. So, they head to the crime scene of a struggling comic who was murdered. He posted a video online about how a famous comedian stole his jokes. Ella is a huge fan of the famous guy and her reactions to everything were really ridiculous. He’s totally an asshole when they go see him on his set but all Ella sees is him calling the make-up artist “honey” and telling them to stay for the taping. As they watch the start of the show, both Lucifer and Chloe are somewhat baffled by what’s going on. The guy is talking to puppets and Ella explains they are his imaginary friends. In typical fashion, Lucifer ends up interrupting the taping and trying to get the man to confess. He pulls out a puppet from the bag—I’ll give Tom Ellis credit for doing a pretty good puppet voice—and ends up discovering there’s a gun in the puppet and he inadvertently shoots the guy. The guy ultimately admits that he stole the jokes from the victim but he was going to let it run its course so he could get fired and keep all his money. Oh, and he was being threatened by anonymous email.

While all of the case stuff is going on, we get to see Amenediel and Linda spend some time together. She invites him for a drink at Lux to thank him for his part in saving her life. She even says it must be great having his powers back. He confides that it was a one-time thing until he completes the test his father is putting him through. That test, you ask, is getting rid of Lucifer’s severed wings…which he’s hiding in a closet! They pack up the wings in garbage bags and take them a dumpster where Amenediel lights them on fire and with Linda’s insight, realizes that Lucifer is his test. Everything his brother does has a way of hurting Amenediel. We need some family therapy again!

While Chloe has the cyber division looking into the emails—we also learn that whoever the victim stole the jokes from had a micro-penis—Lucifer tries to get a still-absent Maze to hunt down the Simmer man. When he gets home, he finds Lt. Pierce has broken in. The new guy shares that he had a run-9in with the Big Bad in Chicago and lost someone very close to him in the process. And later on, when Lucifer still won’t back down, Pierce agrees to work together but they have to keep Chloe out of it. As a favor, Pierce has brought in the killer of the man who kidnapped Lucifer but all Lucifer’s devilish interrogation tactics yield is a jealous guy who didn’t want his girl sleeping around anymore.

Back on the case, the gang discovers that the sender of the emails always sent them from a comedy club during an open mic night. Dan gets roped into doing stand up to try and draw the guy out but he’s terrible. In his defense, he does improv which is a different comedic skillset. Lucifer ends up tossing out some good jokes in an attempt to heckle Dan and draw out the killer that way. It works but the guy didn’t kill our victim. Sure, he was mad at the rich guy stealing his material but he kind of had sympathy for the victim, being a struggling comedian and all. He also reveals that there is a subset of women who sleep with comedians—like groupies—and he once shared stories with one who likely passed it along. He also clues Chloe and Lucifer in on the fact that our victim had been dealing with the warm up comedian for Ella’s idol (well she’s less thrilled with him now knowing he’s a thief). Our duo heads to the setup of the rich guy’s show and it’s all very creepy and dark with all the puppets. Chloe finds the rich guy who has a nasty wound on his head from the butt of the warm up lady’s gun whom Lucifer then corners on the catwalk. She gets to have her little Evil Speech of Evil and say that it isn’t about the content of the joke but what you do it with that mattered. Lucifer gets to punch her out and save the day, though so he’s pleased. And he takes her words to heart and decides he’s not going to keep cutting off his wings (as they’ve come back for the third time now). He’s just going to pretend they don’t exist and then decides he’s getting back into the favor business. Basically, he’s doing his very best to revert to the man we met in the pilot. That’s not a good road for him to go down and I hope he realizes that error sooner rather than later.