Category: Our Reviews

Our Thursday Reviews

Inside Amy Schumer – B+

0527amybox.jpgThe second sketch of last night’s Inside Amy Schumer might provide some insight as to why the fourth season has been a bit uneven. Live from a blimp, Schumer hosts a talk show as an absurdly exaggerated version of herself, trying desperately hard to show how relatable her life is as she orders “coffee,” nothing fancy, while visiting her local coffeeshop flanked by Perez Hilton and her pet dinosaur. The show’s premise is right there in its title, the comedy stemming from what it’s like to be Amy Schumer. As that’s transformed from a somewhat familiar comic living an ordinary life to a borderline A-list movie star hanging out with Jennifer Lawrence because she can. It’s natural the show would have some growing pains.

This episode’s theme holds together more than most this season; it’s fame, and it was inevitable that Schumer would address the recent selfie controversy — when she spurned a fan’s memento attempt — and while that can be incredibly fraught, and there is a tinge of saintly self-projection, the barrage of crazy fans who feel it’s ok to grab her boob and ask for money because they recognize her as a celebrity — even if they’re not sure for what. The highlight of this sketch is the always excellent Aperna Nancharla‘s barista who mistakes her for Rebel Wilson, scrawls “Fat Amy” on her cup, and berates her for not being funny enough in a call to her brother (whose number is an endless series of fives, nice touch). Jake Gyllenhaal delights in the third sketch, hugging a ferret named Falcor, disappointing Amy’s Catfish-craving character by being himself.

If the episode had remained at this level, it would have been a near-masterpiece, and the best episode outside of her 12 Angry Men parody of last year. However, once Jake reveals Paul W. Downs and Kevin Kane — as the Catfish douches — as bags of “hot Chinatown garbage,” the show takes a turn. While it’s hella star-studded, it’s more of a hot mess than the aforementioned rubbish. Harvey Keitel and Sam Rockwell star in an Indecent Proposal parody that is loaded with great comic insights, but commits to none of them. Josh Charles is wasted in a silly throwaway bit about a bad boy chef (although it’s almost worth it for Kyle Dunnigan’s nerdily charming turn as an oblivious and ignored date). The “Amy Goes Deep” segment bumps the episode back up a half grade, however, as she brings out her adoring, if overly giggly, childhood friend for some insight as to the changed nature of friendship once fame hits. Finally, a quick hat tip to Selina Gomez who shines as the voice of sanity and band leader in the zeppelin talk show.
– Jason Thurston


Our Tuesday Reviews

The Real O’Neals – B+

0525onealsboxIt’s prom season in the O’Neal household and all three kids have their own private promposal hell. First off, is that a thing in some part of the country — every grade going to the same prom? I’m no expert on the subject growing up in the city and having avoided my own prom like the plague, so that part seemed a bit off and something of a cheat to drive the plot, but perhaps that’s my own ignorance. Of course, Kenny’s is the most provocative and he opens “The Real Prom” with a willful stride to fight for his rights, wins so easily — it is people-pleaser Vice Principal Murray after all — that he’s suddenly faced with the realization he has no date; in fact, with no fellow clearly out fellow student, it looks pretty bleak. In steps trope-us ex machina, and the count is doubled by a Swedish exchange student presented to Kenny eagerly by our favorite VP. However, in steps the usual complications as Stuart suddenly discovers his sexuality and steals Kenny’s thunder.

Meanwhile, Jimmy has his own parallel troubles as he tries not to stumble over his own tongue while asking the clearly adoring Lacey to the big dance. Devon swoops in just as Jimmy and Kenny are about to unleash their elaborate pinata-blimp to spill Swedish fish. However, the key takeaway here, and what makes this episode, and the show in general, so charming, is that Jimmy and Kenny are working together. As dysfunctional as the O’Neals are, they’re already, one short season in, well-developed as a truly loving unit. Jimmy covers for their disaster by escorting his brother to the prom. This is all before they both have to warmly embrace their mother’s strange love — Jimmy spies VP Murray and Eileen locking lips just as he leans in for his own already insanely awkward kiss with Lacey. Meanwhile, across town, Pat is comforting his dateless daughter Shannon, finds out she had a shot, then encourages her to don a dress and not miss out. Although, she’s in, what, 9th grade? They kind of oversell the potential “missed opportunity” here. And there’s a bit of a problem with the timeline when it’s revealed Pat is Class of 1994 and was nowhere near dating at the time — he’d have to have hustled to get a child who is now roughly 18 into the world, but that one could just be my own aging hang-ups. There’s still a few kinks, but they’re easily overlooked amid the sweetness and wit, and that’s a perfect season-ending sendoff to this year’s smartest sitcom debut.
– Jason Thurston

Fresh Off the Boat – B-

0525fobbox.jpgWhat an odd mix of low- an high-stakes it is that marks the Fresh Off the Boat second season finale. As Louis is faced with his estrangement from — and possible betrayal of — his brother Gene (played in an unusually understated take from Ken Jeong), Eddie is faced with trying to watch that summer’s Chris Rock HBO special so he can talk about it with his boo Alison goes away to band camp for two months. Counterintuitively, it’s the latter that bears fruit, probably because we can all relate with being young, in love, and connecting life-or-death consequences to the inessential. Cool, it, I’m not calling Rock’s groundbreaking comedy unimportant, but the time-frame is, and Hudson Yang’s Eddie plays his interactions with his friends, and the gamesmanship with his brothers who have been deputized by his mom to prevent his viewing, with the perfect level of building helpless desperation. Unfortunately, it has the unintended effect of making the A-story with Louis and Gene seem a bit trite and rushed as they pack it into half of the half-hour, so that when we reach the “Huangs are Going to China” moment, it lacks the proper punch. We end the season on the strangest, but oddly affecting, coda as Trent silently drops his ever-present Browns coat into the trash can and lights it on fire. “Soooo, Trent…what’s up?” It’s 1996, and that’s the summer Art Modell became Cleveland’s Public Enemy #1 by moving the Browns to Baltimore. At first glance, it seems a loose fit, but paired with Cleveland’s own Bone Thugs -N- Harmony’s biggest hit “Tha Crossroads,” it’s right in line with growing up’s inherent loss of innocence and the intrusion of the real world, and strikes the perfect note for the show to leave the viewers with for the summer, even if the episode as a whole was not one of its best.
– Jason Thurston




Our (Animated) Sunday Reviews

Bob’s Burgers – A

0523bobsboxes.jpgBetween all the hijinks, it’s often forgotten that Bob Belcher cooks one unforgettable burger. If you found yourself on the Jersey Shore (look it up, that’s gotta be where they be), and stumbled into his modest, usually unkempt diner, it’d likely be one of those long cherished vacation finds that you’d hearken back to for life, while wondering how the hell could someplace so enchanting be so empty. It’s part of what makes Bob’s Burgers, the show, special — Bob may be a sad sack, but along with the warm heart that’s often hidden beneath a crust of wizened sarcasm, he’s also exceptionally good at what he does. As a viewer, as if you were a customer, you know he deserves better.

You’d also be baffled by the over-chic bathroom Felix Fischoeder foisted upon him, and to the show’s credit, they keep it canon. And that’s where most of the action of the finale, “Glued, Where’s My Bob?,” takes place, specifically on the toilet that he’s stuck upon thanks to Louise’s love of mischief, and mistake of Teddy’s glue for the goo all the Belchers have been using in a prank war (which Louise has clearly mostly instigated). Celebrity chef Skip Marooch (Kumail Nanjiani) was so enamored with Bob’s creations — following a prior episode’s cookoff — he’s alerted a pal at a publication who wants to highlight the burger joint as a hidden gem. Of course, everything that could go wrong, does, and it’s hilarious, and before long a crowd of every beloved supporting character from Marshmallow to Regular-Sized Rudy has gathered. However, when the journalist dismisses Bob for being uninspiring, a chant goes up among the locals who often shun him, and even usually despicable rival Jimmy Pesto chimes in enthusiastically to support Bob. Ok, the chant is “Toilet Bob” and he’s mortified, but that’s the double-edged rapier of vicious sweetness on which Bob’s Burgers thrives. It may be the greatest mortifying triumph in the show’s six seasons, and everyone in the shows Simpsons-esque panoramic cast of misfits is involved, and featured in a wonderful closing credits.
– Jason Thurston

The Simpsons – C

0523simpsonsbox.jpgMarge is sent to prison (…again, something that’s not acknowledged) when she lets Bart go to the playground without supervision, a national conversation we were having before Trump was the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party and we were arguing about who is allowed to use which bathroom. She finds prison a respite from running the family, and the rest of the clan misses her management…another thing that’s been done before. What happens week after week when the source is accused of #SimpsonsDidIt? As Marge relaxes, her inmates are abused by guards and murdered by their peers, adding to the missed opportunities in the episode. America’s prisons need to be changed–and real women are imprisoned while their families await their release at home. When is lazy too lazy?
– Katherine M. Hill

Our Tuesday Reviews

Fresh Off the Boat – B

0518fobboxA too heartwarming episode lacking as many LOLs as last week finds Louis advising Emery (successfully, and bringing the two closer together) and Eddie introducing his not-Chinese girlfriend to Jessica. In a twist, the Chinese girl that arrives at the Huang house is sent by Eddie’s girlfriend, who panics under the pressure of disappointing Jessica and sends a girl from band. But that girl, perfect for Emery, is as boring as Eddie is charmingly rebellious, and Jessica chooses to dislike the girl that’s a perfect Chinese daughter-in-law. Which would be sweet, on any other show, that wasn’t about middle schoolers. As usual, Grandma (who made Evel Knievels cape) and Evan steal the show, with only two scenes, dedicated to Evan’s first suit.
– Katherine M. Hill

The Real O’Neals – A-

0518onealsbox.jpgIf only Papa O’Neal had a friend like Leslie Knope had Ann Perkins, maybe he would have avoided the lifetime’s worth of bad date he encounters in “The Real Rules” — and these first date follies truly are some of the abject worst, and funniest, seen on the small screen. It’s made all the more pathetic by the strong work by Jay R. Ferguson and Jessica-Snow Wilson (as the endlessly tolerant Gloria) who imbue the non-couple with definite chemistry — but as she sagely says, he’s cute, but she “can’t deal with [his] situation.” The awkwardness of the return to dating when still not truly over your ex is the overarching theme of this week’s The Real O’Neals, as Eileen has her own hot messiness, with a beyond screwy flirtation with Vice Principal Murray. And kudos to Matt Oberg for amazing job adding depth to a tropey character who could have been as one-note as Principal Belding, but adds a dash of nuance and comes off more Interim Principal Lynch. The two circle back around over coffee to warmly realize they are not quite as ready as they thought. It’s the sort of non-sappy heartwarming emotion on which this inspired young show thrives. The episode loses points for the kids’ C-plot, a pointless and out-of-character bit about the O’Neal children stealing their dad’s badge. Those points are then partially reclaimed by painfully underused family best friend Lori’s obsession with a barely fictionalized — based on their commercial placement, quirky half-hour comedy is farmer catnip, who knew? But good for them for not having to be lonely anymore.
– Jason Thurston

Our Sunday Reviews

Game of Thrones – A

0515thronesbox.jpgRemember last week when I lamented how stressed I was about Jon Snow leaving Castle Black before Sansa could get there? Well seems like the HBO Gods heard my plea and answered it with this week’s episode. Instead of taking four more episodes to build up to a Stark reunion they dove right on in with Brienne and Sansa showing up at Jon’s doorstep. Finally, something good for the Starks! The seas parted and the sky smiled down as Jon and Sansa share an emotional embrace and then some really bad ale, and reminisce about the good old days. After catching up, Sansa gets down to business asking Jon where he will go next — to which he’s like,”umm I dunno.” Sansa does. She has a plan. She casually suggests they go back home to Winterfell and overthrow her pyscho husband Bolton, no big deal. Jon is like whoa, I was just given a second chance at life and not sure I want to get into a war, especially being I have no army. Can’t I just chill out for a second? He quickly has a change of heart when he receives a letter from Ramsey Bolton taunting him about having lil bro Rickon in his clutches. Sansa is all like see told ya he’s crazy and we gotta go bring him down.

Cut to Tyrion over in Meereen, wheeling and dealing, negotiating deals with the slave masters much to the dismay of Grey Worm and Missandei. As former slaves they are disgusted he is making deals with their sworn enemies but Tyrion is like hey this is how the world works, watch and take notes. He tells the masters they have seven years to transition out of using slaves in return for their loyalty against the Brothers of the Harpy. Everyone is a lil disgruntled that he is carrying out deals on behalf of Queen Dany, they demand to know when she’ll be back. Good question! She is still stuck over in Dothraki widow-land, but not for long if Daario has anything to do with it. He infiltrates the sacred city to try to get his girl out before he completely turns to stone. He finally finds her and she’s all like, great timing, I have an idea follow me. Dany has a meeting with the Dothraki Khals to decide on her fate — whether she stays confined to the widow hut forever or something more gruesome (insert tacky sexual innuendo here). Yeah, keep laughing it up boys, Dany has something for you just wait. Finally, when she tires of their banter she starts her own speech. Of course they can’t let a girl get a word in without interrupting, which one does screaming “Serve, I will never serve you!” to which Dany confidently replies, “Ha! You are not going to serve, you are going to die!!!!” in a Samuel L. Jackson tone and knocks the flame pit over and lights up the whole hut which they are locked in. Checkmate. She is The Unburnt, the Mother of Dragons, she plays in fire for fun, guys. She stands there watching the kings go down in flames totally unbothered. When her work is done she walks naked and unscathed. All hail Queen Dany, the ultimate Boss.

Seems like the common theme here is about going home and reclaiming home at any means necessary. Theon also returns home to face his sister and offers to help her take the throne as a way to make amends. The north is reuniting my friend, and it is about to get really crazy, really fast.

– Navani Otero

 Silicon Valley – A

0515siliconboxPoor, poor Richard! Even when he’s being cool, he’s not. As Guilfoyle puts it after Richard verbally serves Action Jack, but slips on paper — and his own prideful flourish — and falls to the floor with a bloody nose, “that was badass…until it wasn’t.” “Maleant Data Systems Solution” is all about manipulation — so many manipulations. The most noble one comes from Monica, who risks her job to stand up to her Aspergers-y boss Laurie. Erlich tries to play Iago to the only person he possibly can outwit, Big Head, who’s accidentally built an incubator that puts his to shame. Even Gavin Belson’s spiritual guru, when faced with a downgraded parking spot, goes all proactive on his pupil-boss and while “quitting,” hints at swirling rumors, undermining Gavin’s confidence, closing on “clearly we have come far but have far to go, not as far as Lot D, but far nonetheless.”

However, the greatest puppet-mastery comes courtesy of the king of such things, Jack Barker. When the coders can’t help but create above average work — as Jared says Jared-ly, “look what you guys build, you can’t help but be elegant, like Audrey Hepburn” — Action Jack preys upon Richard’s vanity to slyly coerce him to convince another CEO that the hated box was the way to go. At a subsequent shareholders meeting, its revealed the contract Richard fought for essentially kills the platform Richard holds so dear, leading to Monica’s act of minor-key heroics, and Jack storming out of the room. Is this the end of Steven Tobolowsky’s inspired turn as the ultimate Type A MBA’d weasel? Sadly, it may be as Belson buys out End Frame to bring in new blood  — unaware that he’s hiring back the Nucleus team he just fired days ago — and effectively puts a price on Richard’s platform, saving it. When the Pied Piper crew returns to their office, they find Laurie seated in the chair, Jack fired with no replacement — not a return of Richard, and certainly not Erlich — and once again everything is falling apart. But that’s where Silicon Valley gets good.
– Jason Thurston

Veep – A

0515veepboxWhile many of Veep‘s best episodes stem from its use of its extensive dysfunctional family of high-end operative misfits, “Mother” is mostly a Julia Louis-Dreyus tour de force (although Anna Chlumsky has perhaps the funniest moment of the night when she can’t NOT work blue even when chatting with an amused civilian vote observer). Selina Meyer is so established as a political player and chameleon, that when she finally breaks down at her mother’s funeral podium right after hearing she’s lost the recount, it’s near impossible to tell if she’s mourning the likely end of her presidency, her mother’s death, or just everything that’s happened up to now. It’s an ending brilliantly set up by scenes where she’s alternating between publicly grieving to the press, tearing into her mom whenever in privacy of her staff, and (most frequently) calculating the effect her moves will have on her national popularity. Meanwhile, the daughter who’s been shooed out of rooms all season hovers in the background, genuinely distraught at the loss of her “mee maw” and seething more and more with every slight by — and inappropriate celebration of — her President mom. It’s truly poignant moment when Selina obliviously defends her dislike of her mother directly to her, “oh, Catherine, you have no idea what it’s like to be the only daughter 0f a pathological narcissist.” Um, she might have some idea, and Sarah Sutherland must be commended for her subtle reactions as the constantly put-upon Catherine. There might even be some semblance of a real moment when President Meyer collapses into tears, as she relents to play the Tim McGraw song Catherine begged her to let play. Of course, in true Veep fashion, the emotion is cut by a credits coda where Meyer is greeting the famous attendees, all of whom chime in with perfectly cynical notions.
– Jason Thurston