TV: Help! It’s Sweeps Month and I can’t keep up! “Anne with an E”, “Riverdale” and “The Catch”

TV:

With all the Season Finales coming at me fast and furiously and my DVR piling up with episode after episode of Billions, Guerrilla, and Legion, I took a break to binge a new Netflix series that you should watch and as for the rest, it will come as soon as I can get to it!

Season Premiers:

Anne with an E – Netflix

I read all the Anne of Green Gables books as well as seeing the brilliant 1985 PBS series with Megan Fellows rather late in life.  It is difficult for me to believe that any remake of this remarkable children’s story could top what is already out there so I went into Netflix’s new “Anne with an E” with some skepticism.  The new Netflix version which dropped its first season this past Friday is a much darker rendition of the orphan girl who settles with a new family on Prince Edward Island.

Netflix’s “Anne” played almost perfectly by Amybeth McNulty hides many scars from her past as she navigates her new environment.  This adds a richness to her character that was missing in the simpler versions of her story as she struggles with acceptance in a family, and a community that initially doesn’t accept her.  McNulty successfully captures the upbeat personality of a child that has survived using her vivid imagination as well as books to take her out of the world that has treated her so cruelly.

There are changes to the original in this version of Anne including a love interest for Mathew, a much nicer best friend for Marilla, the premature death of Gilbert Blythe’s father and two thugs who are going to move in to Green Gables at the end of Season 1. However, we still have the broach incident, the dress with the puffed sleeves and the saving of Diana Barry’s young sister to keep us linked to the original.  I enjoyed this version of “Anne with an E” despite the writers adding additional drama and darkness to make the story more reflective of what current TV audiences look for.  This drop has only 7 episodes and given the positive critical reception, I expect there will be many more seasons.   Lovers of this charismatic young red headed girl should check it out as well as those who have never experience this classic.

Season Finales:

Riverdale – CW

Speaking of red hair, there is an abundance of it in Riverdale.  I got through this spring’s new take on the Archie comic books and it was quite good.  I’m not sure that I’ll return to it in the fall as a show about a bunch of beautiful teenage sleuths is not generally my thing but that is not to say the show isn’t well written and acted.  Riverdale, like “Anne with an E” is a much darker version of the comic books we loved as kids.  The town has become a home to gangs, murderers and drug traffickers and there are even a couple of gays in this more modern version.  The season’s plot revolved around the murder of a star athlete Jason Blossom who was the boyfriend of Betty’s sister and son of the wealthiest person in Riverdale.  His twin sister is, of course, captain of the cheerleading squad and out to find her brother’s murderer.  Betty, Veronica (who is now a good person) and Jughead (a more complex nerd) try to solve the murder as well.

The finale has several big cliffhangers with the shooting of Archie’s father; Jugheads apparent assimilation into a criminal gang; his father’s continued incarceration for Jason’s murder although he is innocent and Veronica’s criminal father about to be released from jail.  Note:  he will be played next season by Mark Consuelos (Kelly Rippa’s husband) now that Pitch has been cancelled.  Meanwhile Jason’s sister burns down their family estate and Betty’s sister is pregnant with Jason’s baby.  Well, maybe I will turn back in to see what happens next season!

Series Finales:

The Catch – ABC

This was not supposed to be a Series Finale but The Catch was cancelled the day before the final episode aired.  Thus, it is left to our imaginations as to what will happen to Ben and Alice and whether they will ever be reunited.  The 2-part season finale was probably the best show in the series and Shonda at her finest.  It wrapped up the season-long arc that identified Rhys as the criminal mastermind “Mockingbird” rather than the easy going reformed thief that the audience believed him to be throughout the season.

The Catch struggled to find its niche in Shondaland and retooled this season to make it more of a Rom Com than a hardcore PI/Cop show and it worked for me.  The acting was always great with Peter Krause, Mireille Enos, Sonya Walger and John Simon.  This year we got more Gina Torres and the introduction of Philippa Coulthard as the long-lost daughter of Ben and Margo.  I could watch these actors all day no matter how ridiculous the plot is and I did.  So, the show fades into the sunset but I had some fun with it before it did.  It won’t be one I’ll miss terribly but it wasn’t bad and I look forward to seeing Krause and Enos in something new.

 

 

TV: The Americans, Billions, The Catch, Feud, Big Little Lies, 13 Reasons Why and Colony

 

I am so behind on TV for several reasons and April TV which is an entire season in and of itself is beginning which means even more premiers so I’m just going to jump in and hit some of the highlights for shows that I’m watching which have recently started or ended.

Season Premiers:

The Americans (FX)

My favorite TV show is back for its fifth (and next to last) season and seems even more relevant given the current “Russia” headlines.  At the end of last season, Philip (Mathew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) were on the verge of being discovered and seriously contemplated taking their family back to Russia.  Their daughter Paige is aware of her parent’s profession and struggles to come to grips with it as she pursues a relationship with the next-door son of an FBI counter intelligence officer.

The season opens with the immediate crisis passing and a new mission involving a recently settled Russian family.  The father is very anti-Russia and the son Pasha is having difficulty adapting to American life.  There are connections to the real Russian wheat shortage of the time.  Also in transit, presumably on his way to America is Philip’s son Misha.  The premier has the longest grave digging episode in the history of television but we do get past that albeit without a surprise death.  Thankfully, Margo Martindale (Claudia) and Frank Langella (Gabriel)are back in their handler roles.  As the season progresses, things get more complicated as Philip struggles with the morality of his work; Paige has no idea how to deal with having a boyfriend whose FBI father could destroy their lives and Claudia and Gabriel are losing some confidence in their star spy family.

Note:  If you haven’t seen the Peabody award winning “The Americans”, you can see the first 4 seasons on Amazon Prime.  There isn’t anything better on Television and each season gets better and better.  This is a great show.

Billions (Showtime)

I missed Billions last year because my Sunday nights were filled with TV shows that I was watching so I caught up on Season 1 and am have watched about half of Season 2.  I like Billions.  The interplay between the lead character Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis) and his arch enemy Chuck Rhodes (Paul Giamatti) is fantastic and there has rarely been a more despicable character than Rhodes.  Even though Bobby, a billionaire hedge fund magnate has obtained his money through shrewd insider trader schemes and taken advantage of 9/11 victim’s families, you still want him to win against the Feds (headed by Rhodes) who are on his trail.

Season 2 again pits the two main characters with a laser- like focus on eliminating each other.  Bobby is consumed by a desire to destroy Chuck and this single-minded focus seems certain to wreak havoc on both his personal and business life.  Chuck, who was hit hard both personally and professionally at the end of last season is still out to get Bobby but seemingly in more devious and creative ways.  There are a couple of new faces at Axe Capital which so far are very intriguing.  One is the performance coach (replacing Chuck’s wife) and the other is a transgender whiz kid whom Axe is immediately ready to take advantage of.  Billions may be the first Showtime drama that hasn’t crashed and burned its second season.  I’m in for the ride. 

The Catch

The Catch, Shonda’s Thursday night replacement for HTGAWM, premiered its second season a few weeks ago.  I gave up on HTGAWM a long time ago.  Viola Davis couldn’t make up for all the obnoxious 20 something year olds that were on the show along with their ridiculous storylines.  The Catch isn’t going to win any awards but it has much better leads (Peter Krause, Mireille Enos, Sonya Walger) and supporting characters (Gina Torres for one).  I love to watch all of them at work – even with the crazy over the top plots.

In my opinion, the thing that worked best last year with this show was the Pink Panther-like escapades that Ben (Krause) was engaged in during his various heists.  Season 2 quickly gets him out of jail and sets him up to do undercover work for the FBI doing the same type of work.  This is a fun show and after all those seasons of the Killing where Enos never smiled or changed her clothes, it is great to see her do both.  There is a freshness to this Shonda show that makes for a good, light-hearted crime series that hopefully will continue to grow and get better.  

New Series:

Feud (FX)

Feud is the story of Joan Crawford (played by Susan Sarandon) and Bette Davis’s (played by Jessica Lange) relationship.  This should have been a great series given the actresses involved but I have found it boring and hard to stay awake for.  It is worth it, however to stick with it (or just skip directly to episode 5) to watch the epic Oscar dual that that pits a vengeful Crawford against Davis who is nominated for Best Actress.  If you love movies and the Oscars, episode 5 gives great insight into the political side of the Oscars. of the past. Sarah Paulson is fantastic in a brief appearance as Geraldine Page.  Feud can be skipped but you may want to check out the last couple of episodes. 

Big Little Lies (HBO)

Big Little Lies is based on the book by Liane Moriarty which is a total beach read.  I didn’t care for the novel so wasn’t going to watch the miniseries produced by Reese Witherspoon (and others) as a vehicle for great women parts.  It stars Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley along with Alexander Skarsgard.

Even knowing how the mystery ends, I found this mini-series so well done that I couldn’t miss it each Sunday.  The acting is phenomenal, the writing (David E Kelly) great and I enjoyed the show so much more than the book.  If you have HBO and somehow missed this series, go watch it.  It is great.

Thirteen Reasons Why (Netflix)

 13 Reasons Why dropped on Netflix last week.  At first I was hesitant to watch a show about a teenager who commits suicide but it hooked me from the get go.  Hannah (Katherine Langford) commits suicide and leaves 13 cassette tapes about the people in her life who impacted her decision to kill herself.  Langford is riveting as the lead in her first major role as is Clay (Dylan Minnette) her (questionably?) best friend.

I am less than half way through but I understand from those who have watched the entire 13 episodes that it drags in the middle. Also, you will be very frustrated by Clay’s slowness in listening to the tapes.  It is irritating.  Apparently the 13 people who had tapes about them, don’t necessarily deserve an entire episode devoted to their character.  It would have been much better to do some doubling up and have maybe 9 or 10 episodes.  I also understand that the last few episodes are great so it is well worth sticking with.  I’ll let you know when I finish it up if that is the case. 

Season/Series Finales:

Colony

Colony ended its second season with what we are led to believe is LA being blown to bits by the aliens as the Bowman family and Snyder escape the city.  Madeline and Broussard’s fates are unknown.  We also get a glimpse at an Alien in a closing segment that ties to the season’s opener.  Colony was renewed for season 3 a few days before the finale and it has been announced that the show is being moved from LA to Vancouver.  Colony isn’t the best show out there but it fills my Sy Fy needs and I will always hold on to a Carlton Cuse/Josh Holloway show.

 

 

 

 

 

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TV: A slew of finales

In no particular order, below are my thoughts on a number of finales I watched over the past week.

Bates Motel (A&E): Mommy dearest

I really like Bates Motel. The acting is top notch. Where are those Emmy nominations for Freddy Highmore and Vera Farmiga anyway? They certainly deserve them. Both are amazing in this show. Olivia Cooke (Me Earl and the Dying Girl) and Nestor Carbonell (Lost) are excellent as well. The writing is crisp and the storylines hang together. The characters have depth and we can empathize with all them despite some rather sketchy activities. Who would ever have imagined that they could have gotten four really good seasons (and a fifth and final one coming next year) out of a story that we know the ending to. A lot of credit has to go to Exec. Producer Carlton Cuse (Lost), the writers and the actors for making us care about these characters and what happens to them.

So we knew Norma had to die but I’m not sure anyone was thinking it would be this season. The finale set the stage for how we are going to see Vera Farmiga next season as “alive” in Norman’s mind.   Meanwhile, Norman starts his descent into total madness digging up his mother and setting her body in the living room. Things are not good for the Sheriff either as he is arrested by the DEA. Norman has not told his brother that their mother is dead and I really hope he and Emma stay the heck away in another state but having Norman sitting with his dead mother and murdering motel guests would be a pretty narrow storyline next season so I’m thinking that they will head back to town. Good season and good finale.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC) – this time Grant Ward is really dead.

S.H.I.E.L.D has ups and downs and gets confusing at times but I have stuck with it for two years, more to help me understand the broader Marvel universe than because it was any good. The show never really found it’s groove and the whole “Hive” infestation this season to keep the “Grant “character in the show was just a little over the top – even for a show like this. I’m on the fence about staying with the show. Whether I do or not will likely be influenced by whether there are any better network shows in the fall. In a world of peak TV, it is hard to stick with mediocre shows. The new top gun at ABC just cancelled Agent Carter and a new S.H.I.EL.D spinoff so the commitment to Marvel on this network seems dubious. Netflix does a better job with their Marvel shows and the CW is doing a better job with the DC universe so I’m just not sure that watching a Marvel show on ABC is the best use of my time.

One of the issues with the show is that unlike the Flash or Netflix’s Jessica Jones or Daredevil, it is hard to bond with most of these characters. Of the entire team, only Fitz and Simmons have any real appeal. May is pretty good but not exactly loveable and the rest are hard to relate to. That being said, the finale did a nice job with the deaths of Lincoln and Hive so there is some hope. The scene between Daisy and Lincoln was surprisingly emotional as were the last moments between Lincoln and Hive. A quick look six months down the line gives us an idea where the show is going next season and a “Goth” Daisy has gone rogue while Colson is no longer the S.H.I.E.L.D. Director. I’d like this show to be good….I really would.

The Catch (ABC) isn’t catching my interest

The Catch is a new spring show with 3 of my favorite actors (Peter Krause, Mireille Enos and Sonya Walger (Penny from Lost). It is so fun to see these actors play characters that are completely opposite from the ones they played on the Killing, Parenthood and Lost respectively.  Despite the lousy ratings, it has been renewed. I assume because it is a Shonda show and she seems to own ABC programming right now. Even though it has several of my favorite actors, the show is going to have to get a lot better next year for me to continue on with it.

The two-hour finale was surprisingly ok and brought in “Mrs. Padmore” (Downton Abbey) to be Margo’s mother. That was a treat – she looks pretty good in make-up with her hair styled and she was a baddie at that! Complete opposite from her other role at least until she donned a chef outfit and cap, which was such a great tribute to Mrs. Padmore. That was pretty much the highlight of the episode. So we leave Allison in FBI custody with Ben confessing and begging for himself to be arrested in lieu of Allison.  Margo is in charge of the Kensington firm after outmaneuvering her mother,  and her brother hightailed it to Togo (I assume). This show is not clicking on all cylinders and the chemistry between Enos and Krause is lacking.  That’s a difficult problem for the show runner to solve. I’d rank it above HTGAWM in the Shonda shows but just barely and only because I find those students in the latter to be so obnoxious and irritating.

The Blacklist (NBC) – Thank god they didn’t really kill off another female lead in the spring of our discontent

I’ll watch Blacklist each week just to see James Spader. The plots are all over the place but he is such a joy that it doesn’t matter. Before the final, it was announced that the Tom Keene character would be in a spinoff next year. With that news, I had to assume that Megan Boone was not really dead and she would be back on Blacklist next season and indeed that is the case. The explanation of how she survived was really weak but I was very surprised that Kaplan and not Red was the one responsible.  At any rate, Tom, Elizabeth and Agness are reunited in Cuba to live out a long and happy live on the beach.

They had about 5 minutes of happiness before Elizabeth and the baby were kidnapped and Tom beaten to a pulp.  Because of the spinoff, I’m assuming this is the last we see them together which is a bummer. The finale did confirm one long standing mystery.  We now know who Elizabeth’s father is (and it isn’t Red) but where are Tom and Agnes and what will Red do with Kaplan? I’m not sure how all this is going to work next fall but I will be tuning in to see.

Greys Anatomy (ABC) – A Grey’s finale with no disasters or death? What????

I haven’t watched all 12 seasons of Greys – fell off it for a few years in the middle – but there is a reason that it has lasted 12 seasons and that is because it has a formula that really works. There is the weekly medical case(s) that is usually interesting along with multiple longer-term story arcs about characters that we really care about.   Throw in Shondra killing off actors on a regular basis and some fresh writing and it’s generally a pretty good hour of TV.  This year has been a little less interesting. I have not been thrilled with the way Calle has been written off the show – the judge’s custody ruling was ridiculous (and they fixed that in the finale) but I am glad to see her girlfriend go – did not care for that actress at all. Hopefully Calle will be back after taking a year off.

Greys was the only Shonda show that didn’t rate a two-hour finale this week so for once, there was no airplane crash, ferryboat crash, maniac shooter or other kind of disaster. Owen and Emilia were married, April had the baby with some drama and we potentially have a new love triangle. This almost seemed like a series finale with a few loose ends – none of them compelling enough to carry next season. Karev’s storyline is not particularly good – the once homeless doctor he proposed to won’t marry him because she doesn’t want her abusive ex to find her. Not the strongest of story lines but I guess the show hasn’t tackled domestic abuse for a while. Bailey is back with her husband – never good for a drama.  Jackson and April seem to be well on the road back to marriage although I’m sure there will be some bumps along the way and Meredith’s love live isn’t enough to carry 22 episodes. I am concerned that none of these plotlines are good enough to carry us through an entire season. Could Grey’s have run out of good material after 12 years?

Legends of Tomorrow (CW) is not a legendary TV show

I gave Legends of Tomorrow a good run because I am a huge fan of Victor Garber but have to say, I doubt I’ll be back next season. The plot was confusing and towards the end just ridiculous. This group of time travelers spends an entire season tracking a not so great villain (Randal Savage) through time in order to kill him and prevent him from performing the horrific acts he inflicted on mankind only to find that the Time Masters were keeping him alive for other reasons. The “Legends” were able to eliminate Savage in the end and the show got set up for a new season with a couple of interesting propositions. Who is this guy from the Justice League anyway? I don’t think I’ll tune in but if the critics like what they see at the beginning of the year, I might give it another whirl. They will have to have a better villain; stop making up rules about time travel every episode that contradict each other and give the remaining characters much more depth – more like Flash – to get be on board.

The 100 (CW) probably should be renamed the “50” after all those deaths

The 100 was very good in seasons 1 and 2 but it got a bit off track this season as the A.I. Storyline took over everything and the best relationship of the show between Clark and Lexa ended when the show runners controversially killed off the strong female Lesbian character. There was also the ridiculous plot line of some guy just taking over the Sky people and killing Grounders but thankfully he was offed in the last scene of the finale. There have been fits and starts all season and the show just really needs to get back to its roots and delve into the characters that through the first two seasons made decisions that always had difficult and sometimes deadly outcomes.  The finale made a good start in that direction. The characters made were back having to make choices where there were no good alternatives and sacrificed themselves to overcome the A.I..  Lexa reappeared and got the exit she deserved. I’m hopeful the writers heard the feedback and next year will be better. I already like the new storyline of the Earth dying better than this year.

 

TV: Mr Selfridge, Daredevil, and the Catch premier; Colony ends.

 

It is a slow period in TV right now. We are between February and May “sweeps”; Most of the current shows are mid-cycle in their runs and we are waiting for some blockbusters to start in April. That being said, there are some premiers and finales to discuss.

Premiers:

Mr. Selfridge (PBS)

Mr. Selfridge returned for it’s final season. This is a story without a happy ending. Harry Selfridge, founder of one of the most successful department stores in history has been descending into a dark place over the last couple of seasons and it continues this season. You just have to check it out on Wiki to see how it all ends but apparently the Dolly sisters who are introduced in the premier have a big part in Harry’s financial downfall. This isn’t one of the greatest series in Masterpiece Theater’s history but it is solid. I really like Jeremey Piven and am invested in the series so I’ll be there until the bitter end.

Daredevil (Netflix)

Daredevil returned for Season 2 this week. I enjoyed Season 1 although it was pretty dark. The new season is even darker and more violent. I’m only a couple of episodes in but I’m concerned about the show. I have read that the latter episodes have a kick-ass Wonder Woman and are better so I’ll see if I can get through until then. In the meantime, I guess I will just try to look away during all of the “Punisher’s” (new villain) brutal attacks. Violence doesn’t usually get to me but it has to move the plot forward. So far I’m not seeing much of that but we’ll see where this goes. In the meantime, it is a good thing that Charlie Cox is easy on the eye and engaging as Daredevil. If they turn him into a bad guy (I’ve seen some theories on this), I won’t be happy! I’ll keep you posted on this one as I get through more episodes.

The Catch (ABC)

Pilots are generally not strong and the premier of Catch is no exception. Still, it is worth it just to see Mireille Enos smile and appear sexy after several years of “the Killing”. In that series, she wore the same Fair Isle sweater throughout each and every episodes while grimacing for the entire duration. I also like that Peter Krause is in something very different from Parenthood and I’m always happy to see Sonya Walger (Penny from Lost). In this show, Enos plays a private investigator that falls for Krause. When he disappears taking all of her money, her PI firm’s reputation is at stake and she sets out to find him. There is just enough here to keep me coming back for a few more episodes. I’ll update on this one after a few shows to see if it gets stronger.

Finales:

Colony (USA)

When Colony premiered, it was expected to be a solid Sci Fy show. It started slowly with a lot of questions and not many answers, which wasn’t a shock given that Lost’s Carleton Cuse produces it. Some questions began to be answered as the show progressed  and the plot started a slow build toward the season finale providing moral dilemmas and good characterization along the way. The last show set up a lot of different threads for Season 2 including an introduction to Will and Katie’s son Charlie on the other side of the LA wall. I assume next season will explore Will’s search for Charlie in the Santa Monica underworld; Katie’s life without her family; explore who or what is watching Katie and Will’s house as well as Snyder and Nolan’s respective changes in status. The resistance is damaged but they will clearly be a factor. Hopefully next season, we’ll continue with the stronger character development and plot lines while continuing to answer questions. This could be a very good show but is still on the fringes looking in.