TV: More Fall Shows: Easy, Westworld, Pitch, Timeless, Transparent, and the Flash

 

New Premiers:

Easy (Netflix)

Easy is a series of eight one-half -hour mini films that recently premiered on Netflix. A few of the more minor characters appear in multiple episodes but the two biggest stars (Orlando Bloom and Malin Ackerman) are only in one episode. The stories are primarily about couples and love and range fairly significantly in quality. Several are quite good and a couple are not so great. The good news is that even the worst of them only last 30 minutes.

My favorites were:

  • “Brewery Brothers” (Episode 3) starring Aya Cash, Dave Franco, Evan Jonigkeit and Zazie Beetz. This is a story about two brothers reconnecting and starting an illegal brewery business. It concludes in an almost as good “Hop Dreams” (Episode 8) with the same cast and explores what it means to be in a family and how that impacts a relationship when there is a different agenda.
  • Orlando Bloom and Malin Ackerman star in “Utopia” (Episode 6) as a loving couple with a baby who realize they missed out on the “Tinder” era and decide to explore what it would be like to have a ménage et trois.  Instead of it culminating with some stranger from Tinder, they explore with a close female friend. This is one of the most upbeat of the episodes and it is hard to take your eyes off of the genetically perfect Bloom and Ackerman.
  • “Chemistry Read” (Episode 7) is a heart-wrenching story about a relationship that is ending as the two individuals explore whether it is better to be single and free or together and wanting something better.
  • The others are just ok except “Art and Life” (Episode 5), which I just found very boring and paid little attention to it.

Overall, I’d rate the series at about a B-. By all means, go in and watch Episodes 3,6,7 and 8 and if they intrigue you, check out the others if you have the time/interest. You won’t miss anything if you don’t. 

Westworld (HBO)

I was so looking forward to Westworld and then the reviews started coming in – they are definitely mixed. On one point however, almost every critic agrees; the pilot is hard to follow. For 75 minutes, we are introduced to a multitude of characters and the overall workings or the park. It is unclear which beings are human and which are artificial intelligence (Hosts). There were groundhog-like reboots which were confusing until you realize the character being killed multiple times isn’t who you thought he was. I am definitely going to have to go back and watch the 75 minutes again to try and figure out everything which is a bummer because the pilot wasn’t all that great.

Westworld utilizes a lot of violence including rape in this first episode to a degree that is beyond necessary to move the plot forward. It is disturbing just how many shows of late are using this plot technique and I’m not convinced that this show needs to do it. Westworld has an impressive cast of producers/executive producers and a troubled history getting to the premier. It isn’t amazing like the Leftovers or Game of Thrones and the question in my mind is whether it can get to that level. There are some seeds that could bear fruit and some intriguing notions of where it could go that give me some hope. No show should be judged on its pilot so I’ll give it some more episodes before I decide one way or the other. As of now, I’m afraid it is going down the path of Vinyl rather than the Leftovers. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the great cinematography which is the best thing going for it at the moment (excluding James Marsden of course!). 

Pitch (Fox)

It took me an extra week or so to catch up to Pitch, a new show on Fox that is about a female African American pitcher who is the first woman in major league baseball. I hesitated at first to check out the show as I really dislike baseball but the reviews have been so positive I reconsidered. Pitch is good. It uses a little plot twist in the first episode which is unnecessary but overall, the acting and writing are well done and the characters interesting. Kylie Bunbury is quite good in the lead and apparently has had to learn how to throw a ball which can’t be easy. I have very little knowledge of Baseball but even I realized that the San Diego Padres (her team) are in the National League and pitchers have to hit in that league. The show entirely skipped this little fact in the episode and it’s hard for me to believe that a female in the major leagues is going to be able to hit the ball decently. The show runners might have been smarter to put her in the American League.  I have seen two episodes and the show has promise although I wonder if the plot can be sustained through a full season of episodes.

Timeless (NBC)

Timeless premiered this week and I tuned in as I’m a bit of a sucker for time-travelling shows even if though I’m not always great at following the timelines. This one was pretty good. I actually understood what was happening  – it wasn’t a Donnie Darko which fries my brain. I love Abigail Spencer in Rectify and she does a nice job on this show. I hope that if Timeless is successful, she will still have time for her 6 episodes of Rectify a year. The other leads are also good and there is some diversity in the cast, which is always welcome. Again, it is hard to make a determination about a show based only on the pilot but I’m hopeful that this show will be a keeper. 

Returning Series Premiers:

Transparent (Amazon)

The Pfeffermans are back for a third season and they are as dysfunctional as ever. This is the only family that will make even the blackest sheep in your family look pretty good. There were some lovely moments like the flashback to Shelly and Maura’s childhood showing how they got together and the finale where Shelly sings Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” in one of the most moving sequences in the history of the show. Judith Light shines in this moment of self-actualization.

As for Maura, she decides to continue her transformation through surgery only to find out her heart is not strong enough for the various operations and she is faced with living the rest of her life in her male body. Jeffery Tambour is just brilliant in how he conveys the range of emotions Maura faces as she deals with this obstacle. Maura also ends her relationship with Vicki and I’m sad to see Anjelica Huston leave the show. As is typical with completely dysfunctional people, by the end of the season, all the Pfeffermans are single except for Ali (Gabby Hoffman) who is in a very tenuous relationship.

There is also a crisis of faith theme as Rachel struggles with still being in love with Josh while she attempts to hook up with a guy she went to seminary school with. This does not end well and she visits a mikvah (ritual bath) to restore her purity. It doesn’t help that Sarah attempts to enlist Rachel to help her become an active participant in the Synagogue’s hierarchy as she attempts to find meaning in her life through religion. Unsurprisingly, there is not a successful outcome for either one of them.

In addition to religion, finding one’s true identity and meaning in life, there is also a death theme this season as Rita, the woman who sexually abused Josh, committed suicide and Josh has difficulty coming to grips with it. In the end, he spreads her ashes in a moving finale that finds the Pfeffermans on a cruise ship as the journey from life to death is explored through symbolism, which includes the boat.

If all of this makes you wonder why Transparent is classified as a comedy, you have every right to question this assignment! This year’s comic relief comes by way of a pet turtle that escaped when the children were small and which hides safely behind the walls of the Pfefferman ‘s home for 30 years. His discovery by the family puts its existence in peril, which solidifies its position as a true Pfefferman. I binged through this season in two days and now am ready to take a break for a year but I’ll be back next fall for more.

The Flash (CW)

We revisit Barry after he has kept his mother from being killed by Thwane and reset history in an alternative timeline. At first life is good, Barry is living at home with his mother and father and keeping Thwane as a prisoner. However, there are some changes in this universe and Thwane warns Barry that he has “birthed a fiction that will end us all”.

The new world has Cisco as the richest man in the world; Barry has to court Iris who doesn’t know him; Joe is a drunk detective; Kidflash is Iris’s brother Wally and Barry begins to have painful flashes every time he thinks of the past. In addition, every time he uses his speed, his memory erases some and   the alternate timeline is becoming more “set”. A reversal to the original timeline ensues but with additional issues.

The Flash is back and it’s wonderful. It has heart, great characters and humor. The superhero stuff is secondary to the characters and unlike many of the other shows out there, you don’t have to know the comics to understand and enjoy it. Can’t wait to see where it goes this season because Barry is in deep trouble right now!

 

 

 

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