Saturday, December 15, 2018

Homicide Episode Guide: Forgive Us Our Tresspasses

Written by Tom Fontana
Directed by Alan Taylor

It has always been difficult to know with any degree of certainty, when Fontana and company knew that Season 7 was going to be the last one. I have always held the belief that they had been informed, due to the continually shrinking ratings and the fact that support for the series, which had always been borderline, was diminishing at the executive level. Even now, though, they seem to hold that they were preparing for a Season 8 regardless. As someone who had been a long time viewer, though, I had always made the supposition that Homicide was on its last legs by the spring of 1999, and that the writers were finishing up accordingly.
Admittedly, Forgive Us Our Trespasses doesn’t play like the typical series finale, but let’s be honest, Homicide never played by the rules when it came to anything else, so why should they do so when they were writing their last chapter? And to be perfectly honest, there are a lot of things in this episode that seem like Fontana is saying goodbye to the show he basically created. (There’s no final scene of a young boy looking at the squadroom through a snow globe, but I think even Fontana knew you could only ring that bell once.) So, let’s consider this as if were the end.
Bayliss and Sheppard are seen going to the court repeatedly to try and see Luke Ryland brought to justice for the murders he committed a few months back. No courtroom is available the first time, the defendant isn’t brought from pre-trial detention, and the last time, Danvers isn’t there. Russom (proving again he’ll represent anybody) brings up a loophole in the law, and Ryland walks through it. Bayliss and Sheppard confront Danvers angrily on this, and in a rare show of frustration, Ed complains openly at just how unfair the Baltimore prosecutor’s office is.  But Bayliss, who is usually so equitable about this, snarls at him, and when Danvers snarls back, Tim assaults him, a move which shocks even Sheppard.
Meanwhile, Giardello is, believe it or not, finally being promoted to Captain – a move that somehow brings Theresa, the only Giardello child we haven’t met yet in from out of town. (Multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald makes one of her earliest TV appearances as Theresa.) Gee is feeling equal parts reminiscent and uneasy. He calls Tim into his office, and relates how he got the nickname ‘Gee’ – and despite everything we’ve assumed during the life of the series, it’s not because of a simple shortening of his first name. When he waxes back to his rookie days, and tries to convince Bayliss to apologize to Danvers, Tim refuses. We don’t know why Tim is taking this particular murder skirting justice so seriously – he’s seen far worse happen over the course of the series. – but the implication seems to be that he misses Frank. Sheppard picks up on this very quickly, and whereas she mocked Pembleton the first time, now she diagnoses that Tim, who has been all over the place this season, is rudderless without Pembleton influence. Bayliss admits that he thought that Frank’s resignation last year was for show (and considering that’s what happened the first time he resigned, he has every reason to hold to that), and its very clear he’s still holding on to this.
With all this, there’s actually a murder to be solved going on, and Lewis and Falsone are investigating. In a throwback to early days, the victim is a drug dealer named Joanna McQueen, who looks ten years older than her date of birth. Unable to locate her husband to ID the body – at his home, they speak through the door to a woman who claims to be holding a shotgun on them, and when they bust the door open, it’s a woman in a wheelchair with a golf club – they end up tracking down her sister. When they find her sister, they are stunned to learn that she is a woman of the cloth, who has spent the last year believing Joanna has been married to an architect. Falsone doesn’t want to tell her the truth, but Lewis knows he has too. They don’t, however, until they arrest her murderer after he’s caught killing the man Joanna was sleeping with.
All of these stories are, in true Homicide tradition, running concurrently. The first to resolve is Al’s who, now that the promotion he’s longed for is his, can’t find it in himself to take. In that sense, Al is an outlier for a series that held itself to realism. When you get a promotion in any department, you take it. Al’s ultimate refusal may be fitting in with the character we’ve come to know, but it still seems wrong somehow. Mike’s saying that he’s proud of his father doesn’t make any less false.
Another element comes when Meldrick and Bayliss have a faceoff after he takes another opportunity to bring up Sheppard’s beat down. Bayliss tells Lewis he’s never been able to let anything go, and Lewis (who’s always had issues with him) tells him that Tim has always taking every murder, ever since Adena Watson, far too personally.
While all of this is going on, Munch’s wedding day to Billie Lou has arrived, and compared to all the drama going on everywhere else, this one actually goes with less trauma. Munch brings up his usual conspiracy theories about the Vatican, when he announces he’s marrying her in the church, and Lewis seems a little grateful not to be in the wedding party, saying that you have a better chance of survive a nuclear holocaust than having a happy marriage. At the time, we assume he’s talking about himself and Falsone, but it turns out he has Munch’s number.
The ceremony however goes on fine. It’s the wedding night that’s the problem. Munch shows up in the Waterfront late at night, and eventually tells Lewis that the vow of celibacy that he bitched about two episodes ago really backfired. He got into bed, and in his words: “World series, bottom of the ninth… I swing before she pitches the ball.”
The last ten minutes seem to cover a lot of ground.  Joanna’s sister upon learning the truth feels heartbroken, but wants to meet her brother-in-law ‘to offer her forgiveness’ Meldrick is so stunned by this that when Falsone tells him to consider it for Sheppard, he seems to take it seriously
Mike and Al have another conversation about Mike’s future now that he’s quit the Bureau. As a domestic disturbance unfolds around them, Mike says that as his father belongs to the streets, so does he. He doesn’t know how he’s going to get back there, and neither do we, but we eventually find out.
Bayliss has a confrontation with Ryland telling him they will get him. Ryland remains unrepentant, saying he’s heading to New Orleans, where he intends to continue his killing. And then, sometime later, Bayliss shows up at the Waterfront, and has a conversation with his partner where he brings up Gordon Pratt, who shot Felton, Howard and Bolander in Season3, never was charged, and ended up dead. Munch tells Bayliss that he believed Pratt should’ve died, and that his murder should have gone unsolved. Bayliss tells him about all of the drama he’s gone through this year, and that when he shot Larry Moss, he knows what it means to be a killer, like whoever killed Adena Watson. He then says Frank said he would never be a good murder police because he didn’t have a killer’s mind, something that even now still galls him. And then, he casually tells Munch that he always thought he killed Gordon Pratt. When Munch gets pissed (but gives nothing away) and asks why he bringing up Gordon Pratt, Tim draws back and says. “Just thinking about it”
Bayliss wraps up his night, by telling Danvers: “I want you to know I’m sorry. Truly sorry, for what I’ve done.” We know there’s a darker implication there, but Danvers accepts his apology. And when he tells him we’ll get Ryland. Bayliss says he knows. And that as a murder police, he knows that Justice is a bitch.
The next day seems like a typical day. Gharty and Stivers separately announce they’re going on vacation, which leads Falsone to start flirting with Ballard again. (Ick.) Lewis gets a call, and asks Sheppard to partner with him. Bayliss is seen cleaning up, saying he’s just ‘getting rid of some things he doesn’t need anymore’. He finishes up with his name plate. And the last three minutes of the episode are what make me certain Fontana was wrapping up the show. Bayliss walks through the squadroom the same way he was walking through it in the pilot. He goes to the door, and in a series of flashes, the editors seems to show at least one scene from every episode of the series it about a minute. You’ll have to play the DVD frame by frame to be sure but it always seemed that way to be, with the editors pausing on certain dramatic moments – the shooting of Bolander, Felton and Howard, Bayliss shattering the box window, Frank’s stroke, Luther Mahoney being shot, the squadroom being shot up, and Bayliss taking a bullet. And then, over his idealistic speech to Giardello, about Homicide always being where he wanted to be, he leaves.
The scene shows Sheppard and Lewis looking over the body of Luke Ryland. It seems to be a stone cold killing, with no clues or witness. When Sheppard says whoever it is knew what he was doing, Meldrick says “He or she.” Then Lewis says: “If I could just find this thing, I could go.” Sheppard: “You won’t find it. It’s a mystery. “Lewis: “What?” Sheppard: “Life. It’s a mystery.” Meldrick: “That’s what’s wrong with this job. It’s got nothing to do with life.” Word for word (albeit with Lewis saying Crosetti’s lines and Sheppard saying Lewis’) those are the lines from the first scene of the show. And as Meldrick and Renee look over a darkened crime scene with flashlight, the camera pulls up on an alley, and the credits roll
In that sense, this last scene seems like a goodbye. We’ve come full circle; even though it’s hard argue that anything has really changed in one way or another in Baltimore. The characters have grown, some in a bad way, some not. And while the implication is that Bayliss has killed Ryland and has left the squad because he can’t handle the guilt, the ambiguity that has been so much a part of Homicide all these years is still. Maybe Bayliss killed Ryland. Maybe Munch killed Gordon Pratt. Without evidence or witnesses, there’s no way to know. If this had really been Homicide’s final statement, I think I would still have been satisfied by it.
So why doesn’t Forgive Us Our Trespasses not achieve perfection? Well, basically because it wasn’t the end. All of the performances are excellent; especially Secor and Kotto, and the writing and cinematography are excellent. I realize that a bunch of people might have been upset that they didn’t get closure on a lot, but Homicide has never been about giving us closure. The last scene proves that – the circle is closed, but nothing has ended. That the fans wanted an ending is great. That the network gave them one… well, we’ll get to that.
My score: 4.5 stars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Critics Choice Nominees Reaction, Part 3: TV Movie/Limited Series

Though the movies aren’t as much of a factor, one must give credit to critics for recognizing two  nominees that worked on the stage Jesus Christ Superstar and Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field. The category is, as per usual, dominated by HBO, but I’m glad to see The Tale getting more recognition than it did from the Emmys.

No argument for Assassination of Gianni Versace, Escape at Dannemora, or Sharp Objects. One can hardly fault them for recognizing A Very English Scandal (which now I have to see). And given that everybody now recognizes what American Vandal was trying to do, it’s hard to ignore it. I would have preferred Patrick Melrose over Genius:Picasso, but at least they didn’t nominate The Alienist.

Darren Criss continues his hot streak. Paul Dano and Benicio Del Toro finally got the recognition the Hollywood Foreign Press denied them. And I can see the logic in nominated Hugh Grant and Antonio Banderas. But where is Benedict Cumberbatch? I have no problem with John Legend getting nominated in principal, but at the expense of Cumberbatch’s superb performance, I do have an objection. Well, this is how it works sometimes.

Just as with the Golden Globes, I really don’t have an objection to any of the nominees in this category. Adams, Arquette, Britton and Dern were among the best performers of the years. Carrie Coon more than deserves to be her for her superb work as the cult leader in The Sinner. And considering just how all-encompassing Anna Deavere Smith’s work was in Notes From The Field, I’m glad she was honored, even if it was at the expense of Regina King.

As always, an interested mix.  Ben Whishaw was nominated for the Golden Globes, so it makes sense he’s here. Brandon Victor Dixon received an Emmy nomination for his work as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, so that makes sense. Eric Lange is a pleasant surprise as the cuckolded, buffoon of a husband in Escape at Dannemora. And I’m glad to see Finn Wittrock here for Gianni Versace, even if they couldn’t nominate Edgar Martinez.
Peter Sarsgaard is a strange choice for The Looming Tower – one wonders why they chose to select him rather than Jeff Daniels. And if you’re going to nominate one actor for Picasso, one might as well nominate both, which is probably why Alex Rich got nominated. It would’ve been nice to see Chris Messina or Jason Ritter, but you can’t have everything, even here.

Another interesting group. One expected to see Penelope Cruz and Patricia Clarkson here for their fine work in Giannia Versace and Sharp Objects, respectively. It’s slightly surprising to see Judith Light here for the former (though considering she got an Emmy nod, not that much of one), and more surprising to see Elizabeth Perkins for the boozy friend of the family as the latter. It’s not that she wasn’t great, just a little bit of a shock.
Ellen Burstyn more than deserved to be nominated for an Emmy for her fine work as Laura Dern’s mother in The Tale. I didn’t realize that Julia Garner had been so busy this year, even though I knew she was playing one of the daughters in Dirty John. Still, it is a little strange that of all the great actors and actress, she’s the one who double-dips. Not bad, necessarily, just strange.

I’ll be back later as I try to make my best guesses as to who will win.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Make The Critics Choice Your Choice: Part 2, The Comedies

Atlanta is one of the best series of the year. So is The Good Place. Barry continues its remarkable run, and I have little doubt the second season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is as wondrous as the first. And really, The Middle is one of those shows that a few years from now, the Emmys is going to look really foolish for having ignored.
One Day At a Time has been incredibly well received, even among Netflix series, and though I still think GLOW would’ve been a better choice, The Kominsky Method has deserved high praise. I’m not entirely sure if Schitt’s Creek is as funny as everyone says it is, but that’s why I like the Critic’s Choice.

Donald Glover more than deserves to be here. So do Ted Danson and Bill Hader. This is probably a valedictory nomination for Jim Parsons, and frankly, Andy Samberg has been getting robbed by the Emmys ever since Brooklyn Nine-Nine came on the air.
Michael Douglas – still a questionable choice, but if the Golden Globes are going to nominate him, I can’t really argue with. Hank Azaria has a very loyal fan base, but seriously Brockmire isn’t even the best comedy series on IFC. Couldn’t they nominate John C. McGinley for Stan Against Evil? Okay, we’ll let it go.

Well, two of the killer B’s are here, and both Rachel’s Bloom and Brosnahan have more than earned their spots. Ditto Allison Janney, and I’m glad to see Issa Rae is here.
I still have questions about Debra Messing getting nominated for Will & Grace, but she had some good moments. Now, I’m always liked Justina Machado, as far back as Six Feet Under, and I’m glad they nominated her. But couldn’t they have found room for Tracee Ellis Ross or Alison Brie or Kirsten Bell? Seriously. They have six nominees for Comedy Actress but seven for Actor? Get the balance right, critics.

Its about forking time William Jackson Harper got recognized for his work on The Good Place. I have no problem with Tony Shalhoub, Henry Winkler, or Bryan Tyree Henry.
I’m glad Superstore was nominated for something, considering that its been a little comedy gem for three years with very few people noticing. And I can’t even really raise an objection to Sean Hayes, considering how much pull he’s had with awards voters in the past. Would I have liked to see Marc Maron here? Of course. But you can’t have everything.

The most interesting conversation of the night is where will Laurie Metcalf sit? With her nominated group at The Conners, or with her daughter Zoe Perry at the Young Sheldon table? Considering Perry is essentially playing a younger version of her, full marks. And I’m glad to see Annie Potts, one of my favorites, back in the awards hunt.
I have no problem with Alex Borstein or Betty Gilpin, especially after last season. Rita Moreno remains a force of nature, and I’m glad to see her still in this category. I’m still not sure why Miriam Shor is here – if you’re going to nominate someone for Younger, why not Sutton Foster? You’ve done it before. I’d still rather have seen Eden Shor of Mayim Bialik back for one last possible taster.

We wrap it up with movies and limited series tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Critics Choice Should Be Yours Too: Part 1, Dramas

Less than a week after  the Hollywood Foreign Press delivered some fascinating first looks as to some of the best TV, the Broadcast Critics have announced their annual nominees in film and TV. And for those few but faithful among us who have following them ever since they began broadcasting their awards in 2011,  we know that the Broadcast Critics can often shine an interesting light among series that the Emmys either should acknowledge or (more likely) have chosen to ignore. Sometimes, their ultimate selections presage the Emmys (they picked Breaking Bad, Homeland, and Game of Thrones before the Emmys did) , and often they shine a light on series that the Emmys should be considering (The Americans, Orange is the New Black, Mr. Robot,). And almost always, the nominations themselves will recognize series and actors that never quite get their just deserts (Walon Goggins, Mayim Bialik, and John Noble have been frequent guests at this ceremony even though the Emmys have never given them their due.)
The actual awards can often be far more entertaining than so many others (though last year, when they cut their three hour ceremony to two for the CW was horrible to watch). When it officially airs January 13, they’ve blocked 3 hours for it, though hopefully they’ll also have a more engaging host than the usually reliable Olivia Munn.
In any case, here are my reactions to this year’s nominees in television. As always, I will begin with the dramas.

It’s hardly a surprise The Americans is the leader; the Broadcast Critics have always thought more favorably of this show than the Emmys. Killing Eve and Homecoming aren’t exactly shocks either, giving the high reviews for both. Neither is Better Call Saul, which remains one of the best shows on the air. The Good Fight more than deserves to be here; I’m just disappointed that there were no acting nods this year. And My Brilliant Friend given the immense critical reception for it, also deserves to be acknowledged. Even Pose isn’t much of a shock, considering that the Globes looked favorably on it last season.
The only real stunner is Succession, the HBO freshman drama about a billionaire family fighting over a media empire. Personally, I’d prefer Billions or This is Us to be here, but then again, they didn’t put Bodyguard or Handmaid’s Tale, either. It’s just an odd choice.

Matthew Rhys, hardly a shock. I really hope he wins this season. But Bob Odenkirk will offer formidable competition, considering he’s already won twice in this category. I’m intrigued that the Critics thought that Milo Ventimiglia’s performance on This is Us was more worthy than Sterling Brown, but it’s not a bad choice.  Freddie Highmore isn’t a shock, either (critical response to Good Doctor aside, the Broadcast Critics loved his work in Bates Motel). I raised my objections to Billy Porter and Richard Madden in the Golden Globes last week, but I may now need to reassess it.
The bigger shock is Diego Luna for Netflix’s critically acclaimed Narcos series. He’s not a bad choice over all, but I still would’ve preferred to see Brown or Paul Giamatti for Billions. But nominations like this are why I like the Broadcast Critics.

Keri Russell deserves to be here. So do Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer for Killing Eve. Julia Roberts in Homecoming is a strong series. And I’m delighted that someone saw enough of The Deuce to give Maggie Gyllenhaal a nomination for her fine work. I’m even willing to give credit to Elisabeth Moss for her still fine work on Handmaid’s Tale.
Elizabeth Olsen in Sorry for Your Loss,  a series that aired on the Facebook’s venture into original series, is just the kind of nomination the Broadcast Critics will give. You wonder if anybody else actually saw it. Frankly, Claire Danes or Mandy Moore deserved it far more.

This is where things get fun, and often, there are a lot of pleasant surprises. I was overjoyed to see Noah Emmerich recognized for his superb work on The Americans – his confrontation scene with the Jennings alone should’ve gotten him something from the Emmys, and I’m glad they made up for it here. Justin Hartley was also ignobly shunned for his superb work on This is Us, and I’m glad the Broadcast Critics remembered him. Asia Kate Dillon is one of biggest talents working on TV today, and I’m glad Billions didn’t forget them (gender assignment aside) And Shea Whigham has been a favorite actor of mine since the early days of Boardwalk Empire, so I’m glad he got recognized for his performance as the government agent on Homecoming. I’m even willing to give a certain amount of latitude for Richard Schiff as the elder statesmen in The Good Doctor, because I’ve always liked his work.
The other two – Richard Cabral’s recognition for Mayans M.C. strikes me as a little arbitrary. The Critics have always had a fascination with Sons of Anarchy, and they may be carrying it over into the spinoff. And Matthew MacFayden while a good actor, seems to be something of a random choice, even for Succession – is he any better than Kieran Culkin, who the Globes nominated last week? Maybe I’m just bitter because neither Jonathan Banks or Delroy Lindo is here.

Interesting mix here, too. Thandie Newton ahs more than earned her spot. Holly Taylor was shunted aside so often on The Americans, I’m glad the Critics remembered her as a farewell. I’m hoping Rhea Seehorn, who’s been overdue an Emmy nod for her superb work on Better Call Saul for at least two years, will be able to use her nomination her as a springboard. And Dina Shihabi’s work on Jack Ryan was a new chapter in how female Muslims should be portrayed.
I have the same objection to Yvonne Strahovski’s nomination for The Handmaid’s Tale as I did at the Globes –  there are so many great female candidates in this category, why Strahovski in particular? Julia Garner as the daughter is an interesting choice from Ozark – hell, if you can steal scenes from Laura Linney and Jason Bateman, you deserve a nomination. Still, considering every other category had room for seven, couldn’t we have found room for some of the superb ladies in The Good Fight?

Tomorrow, the comedies.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Homicide Episode Guide: Identity Crisis

Teleplay by Willie Reale; Story by Tom Fontana & Eric Overmeyer
Directed by Joe Berlinger

For all of the problems with scheduling (this episode was supposed to be the penultimate one, it ended up airing fourth from the last) Identity Crisis is one of the better episodes of the series, and continues to demonstrate that once again, Homicide was firing on all cylinders. There’s a perfect mix of three equally compelling stories, there’s a lot of humor that has been noticeably absent for the last two weeks, and there are some major plot points revealed.
The major story of the episode is Lewis and Falsone’s case. They’re called into investigate the murder of a barbecuing man who has two bullets in his head, and his nose has been bitten off, something that actually unnerves these hardened detectives. The case begins to pick up steam when while interviewing a neighbor of the deceased, Falsone begins to pick up a vibe about her that Meldrick doesn’t. It’s not until they interrogate her husband ‘Selwyn Weatherbee’ that it solidifies. Because of the way ‘Weatherbee’ gestures and the phrases he uses, Falsone suspects that he is Italian, trying to pass himself off as a WASP from New Hampshire. (The fact that the family is ostensibly from Grover’s Corners, the city at the center of Our Town, should also be a clue, but no one picks up on this) When Falsone relates these gestures to Gee, he naturally intends to agree, and Paul then goes on to postulate that the husband is involved in witness protection. Al asks him to see if Mike has any connections that might tell them if there is a mob informant in Baltimore, and Mike makes contact about a mob trial in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, things very quickly spiral from here. When Meldrick and Falsone return to the couples house, the FBI is preparing to whisk them away, and it is only because of the most brazen of bluffs that they are able to get Weatherbee into the squadroom. Mike immediately butts heads with the ASAC in charge, who tells him that Weatherbee needs to testify in the trial, but that he won’t skate for it. Then Mike goes to see Gail Ingram from the Bureau, and learns the truth – Weatherbee is going to thirty years, all but three suspended, and Mike has been compromised by the same ASAC.
The relationship between Mike and the rest of the squad has been shaky ever since the McBride case, but now he sees that he has been completely compromised, and resigns from the Bureau before he is transferred out. Mike is very bitter about what has happened, and has decided that the FBI, which he considered part of his identity, no longer belongs to him.
If it were just for this storyline, this would be a compelling episode. But the other two plots are nearly as good. The episode involves the ME’s going through what has been ‘a typical Saturday night in Baltimore’, and Grissom cheerfully orders them to clean the freezer out. They do a spectacular job doing so – and then Grissom learns that there is an extra body with no paperwork. (His initial reaction “No reservation, no service’ is one of the great lines in Homicide history.
He calls Bayliss and Munch in for help, and they initially offer almost none, telling him to call them back when Grissom has a crime scene. A few hours later, he does – it’s one of the freezers. (“If nothing else, you have to give credit for its efficiency.) The victim, a bullyboy named Mack came in last night to identify his uncle. In the course of their interview, they find that the late uncle was wearing an expensive Rolex which is now missing. Then they find out that another Mack cousin came in earlier to identify the body. Munch and Bayliss interview the cousin, who cheerfully gives every detail of how he tussled with him, and then stabbed him in a fight over the watch. The cousin is in fact befuddled to learn his relative is dead – “I cut that peckerwood a dozen times, and he never died on me before.” The case is closed (though for some reason it’s never written in black) even though Grissom admits they never answered the question “how in God’s name someone in the Mack family could afford a $1200 watch?”
Austin Pendleton gives one of the great performances in his time on Homicide. Of the many regrets about the show not going on is the fact that we never got any more work of this cheerful character. In a series that put the ME’s front and center, he was by far the most entertaining, and it would’ve been great to see him continue in whatever basis he could.
And we’re still not done. Ballard and Gharty get called into investigation a robbery-murder at a strip club, where they find a bloody footprint from a ‘do-me pump’ (we all know there’s no censor at NBC that would dare let them say the real phrase). The two detectives look into armed robberies and find a robber who, if anything, is even dumber than the Mack family. He stepped up to rob the bank teller with a note that was written on the back of a check. A personal check. Apparently, he asked for it before returning dressed in drag. He left fingerprints and a heel mark. Gharty: “The criminal mind.” Ballard: “If you can call it that.” When they bring the robber in, he confesses very quickly. He’s a junkie, and unlike most of the ones on this show, he’s a methhead, who killed the victim because he got nervous.
The episode also wraps up one last recurring storyline for the seventh season. Gharty seems to think that he was in the bar where the robbery took place, but can’t remember clearly. He clearly has a couple of drinks before he finishes his initial interviews. After a conversation with Ballard, and probably from seeing the robber here, he goes to the Waterfront… and tells Billie Lou he’s going to start drying out. Billie Lou’s forgiven him enough to invite him to the wedding, but he politely declines. The series, however, doesn’t forget the moment.
Identity Crisis really does make you question whether Fontana and company really knew whether or not they were coming back next year. It plays as one of the best Homicide’s in tone and in character. There’s even a wonderful in-joke, when Lewis asks Falsone if anyone knows someone in Witness Protection. Falsone says they just exist – “They’re like Nielsen families.” One last poke at the bĂȘte noire of the series. In an episode that’s about identity and its masking, one more jab at the think that says how TV defines them – and how this series has established one for lack of them.
My score: 4.5 stars

Friday, December 7, 2018

Golden Globe TV Nominations Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Assassination of Gianni Versace, Sharp Objects, and Escape at Dannemora  were all almost certain to be here, with the latter two likely to dominate the Emmys next year. A Very English Scandal is a slight surprise, but not much of one considering how favorably it was reviewed. The Alienist is something of a shock, even though it was short-listed among last seasons Emmys nominees. Having seen it, I still think Patrick Melrose was superior.

Darren Criss and Benedict Cumberbatch were certainties for this category. Antonio Banderas for Genius: Picasso is mildly surprising, but considering his work and the Emmy recognition, not a great one. The same can be said for Hugh Grant. The big shock is Daniel Bruhl for The Alienist.  By comparison, Eric Bana in Dirty John and either Benicio Del Toro or Paul Dano in Escape were far more layered performances. This is why the Globes can be… weird.

No real shocks here at all. Adams, Arquette, Britton, and Dern have all given among the finest performances by any actresses this year. The surprise isn’t that Regina King wasn’t recognized, but that she was, considering that the Globes haven’t exactly been favorable to her in the past. This may be a sea change, considering that she was recognized twice this year. Will the Globes shock as the Emmys did? We’ll see.

The supporting categories for the Globes can always be hard to interpret, given how wide a net they cast. I still think at the very least they should give separate awards for series and TV movies, but it doesn’t look like that’s ever going to happen. Anyway…
Edgar Ramirez more than deserved his nomination, as did Henry Winkler. Alan Arkin has a good history with the Globes, so it’s not that much of a shock. Ben Whishaw is a mild surprise, but not nearly as shocking as the appearance of Kieran Culkin for his work in Succession, a series that has been mostly ignored by the awards so far, even though its well received and on HBO. I still think Jeffrey Wright or Ed Harris would’ve been more deserving , but I don’t work for the HFPA.

This category is less surprising than the male counterpart. Alex Borstein and Thandie Newton, both of whom won for their superb work in Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Westworld  respectively, more than deserve to be here. So does Patricia Clarkson for her mother of a performance in Sharp Objects, and Penelope Cruz, who was robbed of an Emmy for her superb work in Gianni Versace.
The major surprise is Yvonne Strahovski for her work in The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes, she was nominated by the Emmys, but the series was ignored, and considering the incredibly level of supporting female talent in that show, it’s a little odd that she’s here, and not say Alexis Bleidel. I’d obviously have liked to see Chrissy Metz or Margo Martindale, but generally this is a good mix.

See you next week at the Critic’s Choice Nominations.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Award Season Begins: Reactions to the Golden Globe Nominations, Part 1

Last year I praised to the skies how great a job the Golden Globes did in recognizing the best in television. This year, well… they returned to where they usually are, which is the more eccentric of all the awards series.
That isn’t to say there weren’t a lot of good choices, as well as some pleasant surprises. Considering that Stranger Things, The Crown, and Game of Thrones were ineligible, they did a generally good job in the drama category. And considering the overall tendency to remakes and reboots, they did fine when it came to comedies as well. Still, one wonders if the HFPA’s tendency to always honor new faces hasn’t work against them. It’s better than the Emmys which have the tendency to nominate the same faces year after year, but last year the Globes had managed perfect balance. This year, not so much. And its worth noting there are a lot of old faces in with the new.
But let’s go through the nominees.
Excuse me. YES! YES! They finally nominated The Americans for Best Drama! And it’s actually the leader in nominations of Dramas! Best Day Ever! Ahem. In all seriousness, it’s hard to disguise my utter delight that one of the greatest series of all time finally got recognition from an organization that basically shut it out.
The other series are a mixed bag. Killing Eve was so well regarded by so many people that’s it earned its slot. And Homecoming had such good press it would’ve been hard to ignore it. But Pose? It was a good series, but not even the second best drama on its network. And I’m pretty sure Bodyguard was a limited series, though that may depend on ITV or Netflix. Still, couldn’t they have nominated Better Call Saul or This is Us?

Matthew Rhys would’ve been hard pressed not to get nominated. Jason Bateman in Ozark earned his Emmy nod, so I’m glad he repeated. I can understand why they nominated Richard Madden for Body guard and possibly Stephen James. But really, Billy Porter for Pose? Couldn’t we have nominated  Sterling Brown or Bob Odenkirk or Ed Harris or any of a dozen other good choices?

            I don’t have any real problem with any of the nominees in this category. Russell, Oh and Roberts all earned it, Elisabeth Moss is one of my favorites, and Caitriona Balfe has earned her place here. I’d have liked to see Mandy Moore or Christine Baranski, but I gets that wishful thinking.

            BEST COMEDY
            I’m nearly as thrilled by The Good Place being here as I was that The Americans was for Best Drama. I’m also really glad they recognized Kidding for all its low ratings. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has already received ecstatic reviews, so I’m glad it’s here. And I really have to start watching Barry.
I’m a little uncertain amount The Kominsky Method. Great cast, decent reviews, I’m just not sure it’s at the level of Atlanta. And I’m pretty sure a lot of other people will feel the same way.

Donald Glover more than deserves to be here. I’m glad to see Jim Carrey here as well. He might actually have a chance at winning. Bill Hader was inevitable, and not a bad choice.
I have issues with the other two. Michael Douglas is a great actor, but even given his rich portrayals in the past, it’s hard to see him at their level. And I’m not sure whether Who is America is actually a comedy series in the traditional sense of the term, therefore I have questions about the legitimacy of Sasha Baron Cohen’s nomination. Or maybe I’m just angry Anthony Anderson and Ted Danson were ignored.

The Killer B’s assembled. Last year, I advocated for nominations for Kristen Bell, Allison Brie, Rachel Brosnahan and Rachel Bloom. Well, three of them are here. I really question Candice Bergen’s presence here, particularly since Murphy Brown the reboot was neither critically nor publicly enjoyed, but she has a history with the Golden Globes that is hard to ignore. As for Debra Messing’s nod, the Golden Globes have always had a thing for Will & Grace, and I guess they still do. Couldn’t they have nominated Tracee Ellis Ross or Issa Rae? Maybe I’m just shooting my mouth off.

To be continued…