Previously, On Everything…

May 23, 2015

Following shows from week to week feels so 1990; I find it increasingly difficult to do as I get older. Why fracture the narrative with such huge gaps between episodes when you can absorb the whole story in the span of a week? Now that TV story-telling conventions have evolved for the binge era, I find it difficult to remember the threads, especially after weeks-long hiatuses.

But it does seem to be the best way for Jenn and I to keep up with our shared-viewing shows, and stay moderately connected to the serial-viewing zeitgeist in real time. So here are my somewhat sketchy thoughts on what I’ve kept up with over the last little while:

Parks and Recreation - Season 7Parks & Recreation, Season 7. This one ended months ago in the midst of our move, and NBC burned through them two at a time as if dispatching an odious chore—factors that combined to deprive me of blogging about the final moments of one of TV’s best-ever comedies. It’s possible this final season, which propelled Leslie Knope (the incomparable Amy Poehler) and her crew into a kooky near future, lost a step over some of its previous seasons. But it was still consistently, uniquely funny, and did nothing to diminish my love and respect for these characters and the show’s refreshingly positive message. I will miss this series dearly. A-

 

112B99_scn48_080.jpgBrooklyn Nine-Nine, Season 2. Fortunately there’s a Next Best Thing, and that’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which injects Parks & Recreation’s comedic stylings into a Barney Miller-like precinct. Like all the best comedies, B99 has a spectacular ensemble cast, centered around a perfectly leveraged Andy Samberg. (My personal favorites, however, continue to be Melissa Fumero’s adorable apple-polisher Amy Santiago, and a hilariously deadpan Andre Braugher as Captain Holt.) It doesn’t quite have Parks & Rec’s one-of-a-kind mission statement propelling it, but even at its weakest it’s still a joy to watch every week. A

 

communityCommunity, Season 6. Meanwhile, over on Yahoo Screen (where?), the once-brilliant Community is limping through an aimless and uneven sixth season. (Still a few episodes to go, at this writing.) After a brief, semi-rebound in season five, this series has lapsed again, its distinct chemistry eroded further by more departures, especially Yvette Nicole Brown. Fortunately, Gillian Jacobs and Jim Rash have pulled a few episodes out of the fire. “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing” (in which Dean Pelton agrees to pose as a token gay man on the school board to help school PR) and “Basic Safety Features” (wherein Britta’s ex, Subway, returns) are moderately sucessful standouts, and the elevator scene in “Modern Espionage” is almost worth the rest of the season’s failings. But by and large I’m finding the post-Gas Leak Years of Community to be awkwardly paced and strangely unfunny. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. D

shieldAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2. Speaking of disappointing shows, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—after teasing that it might have turned a corner late in its first go-round—showed measurable improvement early in its sophomore season, only to flounder its way to a clumsy narrative intersection with Avengers: Age of Ultron. What went right this season? Well, the writers separated and delineated Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), immeasurably improving them both. Also, some compelling new blood joined the cast, notably Adrianne Palicki (as Bobbi Morse) and Henry Simmons (as Mac). But after a decent start, the season descended into rambling serial incoherence. This show seems destined to be the puppet, if not the punching bag, of the MCU, handcuffed by the scheduled events of the wider universe. But my biggest bone to pick here was with dialogue, a litany of expository logistics and arbitrary disagreement that seemed, line by line, to be almost interchangeable; a singular monotonous voice infects each character. Some actors can elevate their material (Chloe Bennett, Palicki, Simmons, Nick Blood), but many more cannot. The saving grace of the season for me was Kyle MacLachlan, who was season-stealing in a juicy role as the mad, villainous Calvin Zabo. MacLachlan delivered a superbly entertaining sustained performance, his presence injecting every scene with a unique MacLachlaneque mix of humor and menace. Other than that, though, I found myself largely indifferent to it all. I’m afraid I may finally be done with this one. D-

goodwifeThe Good Wife, Season 6. For returning shows that continue to deliver, one can always count on The Good Wife, still remarkably strong after six seasons. Yes, the life journey of Alicia Florick (Julianna Margulies) certainly didn’t reach the series’ previous heights this season: her run for state’s attorney, despite some nuanced interplay with opponent Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce), seemed in some ways a narrative dead end. And the high-jeopardy legal plight of Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) left me with an icky, sinking feeling for half a season. As a swan song for the once-dynamic Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi), it also left something to be desired. But, reservations aside, The Good Wife is still addictive, quality TV, and a veritable factory of memorable characters. Kudos to CBS for picking it up for one more year, despite low ratings, to wrap up its epic storyline; here’s hoping the writers can put a satisfying capper on it all. B-

janeJane the Virgin, Season 1. For brand-new shows, I’m wishing for a long and healthy run for the unexpected Jane the Virgin, which—not unlike The Good Wife—is a textbook example of How Not to Market a Show to Chris East. A bright, colorful, utterly zany series that mimics and riffs off the style of telenovelas, the series stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she’s accidentally, artificially inseminated by the sperm of hot young hotel magnate Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni). Although the upbeat, anything-goes creativity of this series proved difficult to sustain over the course of the year—my interest flagged a bit down the stretch—it’s still a marvelously fun show that’s also refreshingly, uncommonly diverse. Plus, it’s got the hilarious Jaime Camil (#rogeliomybrogelio). B+

izombieiZombie, Season 1. With all due respect to Jane, I’m even more excited about iZombie, the CW’s engaging zombie comedy from the writers behind Veronica Mars. The medical career of young Dr. Liv Moore (Rose McIver) takes a left-turn when she wakes up in a body bag to learn she’s been zombified. Now she can only eat brains, with the weird side effect that she takes on the memories and abilities of the people she eats. This makes her a particularly useful ally to Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin), who needs a leg-up closing cases in Seattle’s homicide division. iZombie is grimly amusing, infectious (haha) fun that gets great mileage out of McIver’s winning smile and personality contortions. A terrific supporting cast includes Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley, David Anders, and Aly Michalka, and the show blends case-of-the-week neatness with a cleverly escalating season arc, much in the way that Veronica Mars did so effectively. It’s promising, confident stuff, with an awesome theme song which is pretty much constantly stuck in my head. A few episodes to go on this one yet, but I’m loving the direction. A-