Happy Friday! It’s the end of the work week and that means it’s time for the Best TV Shows on TV. Every week, we watch so much TV it borders on self-parody and then we pick out our favorite shows and tell you about them. Even when our Internet is out and we have to get up early to bum some Steak and Shake WiFi. That’s just how we live now.
We’ve already discussed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Dancing with the Stars (How’s that for a Venn Diagram?) but we’ve got so much more.
Brockmire – This new IFC comedy turned out to be surprisingly delightful given that the promos were not especially appealing. Hank Azaria plays the titular Brockmire, a Major League announcer who had an on-air meltdown ten years earlier after catching his wife cheating on him. The show follows his return to baseball, doing PA work for a (very) minor league franchise. It’s a weird show with plenty of surreal elements. Brockmire himself is a weird anachronism – he’s kind of a guy in the Vin Scully tradition that doesn’t really exist anymore, only he talks that way all the time. He doesn’t know what the Intenet is despite having been an MLB announcer in 2007. The Internet was a thing then. Heck, this site was a thing then. And then he went and traveled the world, calling play-by-play all over like some sort of announcer hobo. The idea that there are back alley color commentator jobs (per the show, he was calling cock fights in Myanmar) is patently ridiculous. Heck, there’s a running joke where the games are so poorly attended that there’s always a guy fixing his lawnmower in the front row. The nature of reality is pretty fluid in this show in a way that feels like mid-period Simpsons. (Probably appropriate, given Azaria’s involvement.) Heck, the team is “The Morristown Frackers” which is so absurd that there’s no attempt to even justify it.
And if that sounds like a complaint, it isn’t. It’s a weird show that still has some emotional grounding and great performances. Brockmire’s meltdown is hypnotic – he never stops calling the game while he gets into details of his wife’s infidelity and as funny as it is, when you see Azaria he’s shaking with rage and confusion. It’s amazing work and it makes Brockmire real in a way that carries you through the surrealism that follows. Amanda Peet is great as team owner Jules – she’s in over her head financially but never lets her confidence slip. The first episodes set up some interesting subplots (including one with spunkyfave David Walton as Jules’ ex who sabotaged her loan and is preparing to foreclose on the stadium) and combines realistic small-town desperation with silly bits where Jules loads the bases with hitters who are so fat that their strike zone is nonexistent and they’re going to get hit by a pitch. It’s well worth checking out.
Powerless – This DC Universe comedy has been a solid B-minus for a while now. Despite a great cast and a clever premise, it hasn’t quite landed the way it needs to, but it’s still funny enough to stick with it. However, we feel obliged to inform you of a development that could not be more aimed at us. Well, specifically EJ. Let’s drop the first person plural for a bit because come on. My favorite comic series ever is the Keith Giffen / J.M. DeMatteis run on Justice League International. And despite the million DC shows on the air, nobody is really touching those characters. Heck, the CW has most of Justice League Detroit on the air in some capacity or another, and that’s the worst version of the League. (Pre-Zack Snyder.) Powerless got points from me by including JLI member Crimson Fox as the city’s hero. But this week’s episode went even further by bringing in one of the key members of the team – Fire! Yes, they call her “Green Fury” which was the name she used before joining the JLI (back when she was with the Global Guardians, and you don’t want me to get into how often this show references members of the Global Guardians), but it’s still Fire. And she’s played by Natalie Morales (The Middleman, Parks and Recreation, The Grinder), who is awesome and really needs to be on a hit show soon. So I couldn’t be happier about this development – especially since she seems to have an ongoing story with Danny Pudi. So Abed is hanging out with a JLI member? Yeah, that’s pretty much my jam.
Saturday Night Live – Hey, Louis C.K.! He returned to host the show, and after the last few standups to host (Aziz Ansari, Dave Chappelle) have been explicitly political in their monologues, Louis mostly told animal jokes. Which was weird but sometimes silly jokes about moose are all you really need. There were some decent political sketches, including the Trump opener and a later bit that, bizarrely, had Alec Baldwin playing both Trump and Bill O’Reilly. (They get that he’s not a cast member, right?) Louis did more character work than he has before, including a lawyer with alluring eyelashes, a creepy old time soda jerk, and a guy who just really loves sectionals. In the final sketch, he and Kate McKinnon kept breaking in response to Louis’ terrible Polish accent (at one point, you can see him realize that he’s just become Borat, and they lose it). It was a lot of fun with some really strong film pieces. There was a musical number glorifying online slacktivism, a bit about an adult who hires a clown, and a great one with Beck Bennett as the director of that Pepsi ad, realizing where he went wrong at the last possible minute. Overall, it was a strong episode with some real standouts.
Samurai Jack – After a break for last week’s Rick and Morty, Jack returned with another good episode. His battle with the Daughters of Aku left him without weapons, armor, or transportation. And he’s still traumatized by having killed humans. The last surviving daughter, Ashi, attacked him and after a brief fight, a giant monster burst out of the ground and swallowed them whole. At that point, the rest of the episode was Jack trying to find a way out of the monster and facing various microbial threats while keeping Ashi safe. And she kept trying to kill him. Even when she was tied to his back so he could carry her without fuss, she’d headbutt him. As is common with Jack, the story itself was quite simple, but the visuals and animation turned it into something special. In this case, the beautiful design work on the monster’s insides and the creatures within were stunning. And when they finally escaped and ended up on an uninhabited island, Ashi had the chance to kill her enemy. But in a nicely-executed moment, she realized that maybe the guy who spent all day keeping her safe and embraced nature and showed only kindness maybe wasn’t the bad guy that the cruel woman who raised her only to kill would have her believe. So now we’re left with reluctant allies stranded together with no resources. Man, it feels good to have Samurai Jack back, doesn’t it?
Angie Tribeca – The third season began with Angie retiring from the force to raise her child and then almost immediately sending the kid to boarding school and returning to work. The whole force had to work an urgent case where rich white men were being abducted, and it was the usual array of silliness. Timothy Omundson as a trophy hunter was a hoot and spunkyfave Jessica St. Clair just killed us as his wife. In terms of the actual plot, this set up a multipart story where an animal rights activist was killing hunters and (possibly) dressing animals in their clothes so they could blend into human society. And hopefully that theory proves to be correct because that means next week we could see animals wearing people clothes. Also, the Chief started dating and the brief scene we saw of his date was great – he basically treated her the way he treated subordinates. Just giving a lot of orders and not having time to take any backtalk. You know, telling her to secure some breadsticks while he tried to assess the drink situation. Oh, and the bit where they questioned the helicopter pilot. That was really funny. Angie is as delightfully silly as ever.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine - After an extended midseason break, the Nine-Nine returned this week. And in case you were worried about that cliffhanger ending where Gina was hit by a bus, they resolved that immediately when she returned to work, albeit still sporting a halo and support brace. You know, we sort of thought that whole bus bit was to write her out of the show for a bit to cover up Chelsea Peretti’s real-life pregnancy but she didn’t actually miss an episode. Anyway, they came back to the news that the department needed to shut down one precinct for budgetary reasons, and the person evaluating the Nine-Nine was Amy’s ex, Teddy. You know, the most boring man in the world. And after Jake and Amy called him that while his phone was recording, they had to make sure to destroy that phone. That meant going to a jazz brunch with Teddy and his new girlfriend and faking an argument, which was enough to get Teddy to fall back in love with Amy and propose to her in front of his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, the rest of the squad tried to whip things into shape. Terry tried to fix the very expensive copy machine that C.J. bought when he was in charge, just to make it seem like a legitimate expenditure. Terry Crews speaking Japanese? Awesome. Rosa tried to fix the rat problem but ended up exposing those rats to cocaine and they attacked Boyle, who was stuck in the ceiling. Luckily, while everything was falling apart, Teddy recused himself from the evaluation and they had to bring in a replacement. Only the replacement turned out to be an ex of Terry’s who hates him and vowed to close down the Nine-Nine. (And she’s played by Vice Principal‘s Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who is hilarious.) Welcome back, guys! Now never leave us again!
Better Call Saul – The third season began and we couldn’t be more excited to catch up with Jimmy, Kim, and Mike. As is tradition, the season premiere opened with a black-and-white flashforward to Jimmy’s post-Breaking Bad life as Gene, the Cinnabon manager. This time, we got to see him eating his lonely man lunch in the mall when he spots a shoplifter. After some cajoling, “Gene” points out the kid’s hiding place to the cops but when they start to take him away, Jimmy speaks for the only time in the flashback, yelling out “Say nothing, you understand? Get a lawyer!” He’s still Saul, after all. And it seems like he’s fighting to keep Saul Goodman quiet. Later, back at work, “Gene” passes out, and it’s clear that he’s struggling with this new life.
In the present (actually the past, but you know what we mean), we picked up exactly where we left off with Chuck surreptitiously recording Jimmy’s confession and Mike returning to his car to find that “DON’T” note. (Which we all know is the handiwork of Gus Fring or an associate, but they haven’t actually revealed that on the show yet.) It’s worth noting how little Jimmy himself had to do in terms of plot advancement. There are big things circling him, but he’s blissfully oblivious for now. That’s not to say Jimmy was sidelined – we got to see him in fine form when the Air Force Captain he scammed in order to shoot a commercial showed up to confront him. Jimmy stood up to his threats despite being completely in the wrong and it was fun to watch those wheels spin.
Jimmy also had a nice talk with Chuck, where they briefly bonded over The Adventures of Mabel, a very old children’s book that probably saw quite the uptick in Amazon sales over the last few days. And then Chuck played the tape for Howard, who admitted that Jimmy committed fraud but the tape was virtually useless as allowable evidence. It’s not clear what Chuck plans to do with the tape, since he realizes how problematic it is, but he’s obsessed with it.
Kim not only picked up some clients from Jimmy (who’s a little lax about showing up to the office) but she impressed Mesa Verde with her herculean efforts. But there’s something worrisome about the way she frets over each semicolon. Kim won’t settle for anything less than superhuman and nobody can keep that up.
Most of the screen time (and almost no dialogue) went to Mike, with a couple of lengthy, intricate scenes. After finding the note, he drove off in a panic and then took his car to a junkyard where he took the whole thing apart. It was a long scene of Jonathan Banks just breaking down a car piece by piece, and it was mesmerizing. Ultimately, he found a tracking device inside the gas cap. And here’s where Mike is the smartest guy on TV – he got his own tracker from that vet who has the right connections. He replaced their tracker with his own, and then ran down the battery on their tracker. So when Fring (or whoever) came by late at night to pick up the tracker, they actually picked up Mike’s and now he can find them. It was a long, dialogue-free series of scenes that made up the end of the episode and it was so gloriously procedural. It felt like The Wire in a lot of ways.
Man, this season is going to be good!
Hap and Leonard: Mucho Mojo – They crammed a lot of story into this one. Our heroes connected the missing kids to the annual carnival (every year, the third Saturday in October, a boy would disappear – that’s the week the carnival comes to town). So Hap and Leonard went among the carnies to try to figure out which of them was a serial killer. There were an alarming number of candidates. Also, we met that contortionist the guys talked about earlier this season as she tried to rekindle her relationship with Hap. Note that she’s a redhead named Judy. Hap’s ex was a redhead named Trudy. Hap has a type!
Florida uncovered Hap’s research on the murders but the cops showed up right after she did and a room full of murder research is, yes, the kind of thing somebody trying to stop a serial killer would have. It’s also something the serial killer would have. So every cop in town was at the carnival, looking for Hap. Unbeknownst to him, of course – he actually thought calling the cops would be a great idea because he and Leonard came up with nine suspects and they couldn’t follow all of them. (Also? There are nine potential serial killers working the carnival? Do not go to that carnival.) Leonard tried to get all the kids out of there with the help of Reverend Fitzgerald but they couldn’t find Ivan, who was forbidden to go but did anyway.
When the cops finally caught Hap, Leonard showed up on an actual white horse to take him to safety, and that was awesome. The guys figures the killer had to be taking the kids to the site of the old church, since that’s where all the bodies are. And sure enough, they found a passed out Ivan and TJ (their developmentally impaired friend who played a minor role). TJ explained he was “making angels” but he wasn’t acting alone – it was Reverend Fitzgerald. He saw this as an annual sacrifice, rescuing kids before they fell into lives of drugs and crime and sending them to Heaven. And while it seemed like that came out of nowhere, it actually fits pretty well. There was a standoff and a fight, cut short when the cops arrived. Fitzgerald blew his own head off, and when a confused TJ picked up his shotgun, Detective Blank shot him.
And it got worse. Hap and Leonard asked the cops to let them tell MeeMaw about TJ and the Reverend and when they did, it broke her heart. Irma P. Hall brought what felt like a lifetime of sorrow to these few minutes where MeeMaw’s grief overpowered her and she died right in front of them. And for all that, there’s still one episode to go. See, the Reverend was burying his victims in the basement of the burned-out church. That means he didn’t kill B.B., who was tied to the gate and tossed in the lake. Roy Valentine seems to know something about it, and that means it’s Hap and Leonard versus the Valentines to clear their names.
It was a really well-constructed episode that took some big tonal swings and felt like the finale right up until you remember B.B. Honestly, they should maybe have gone to eight episodes for this season rather than cramming it into six, but that likely wasn’t an option available to the showrunners. Regardless, we’re looking forward to next week’s finale and hope the announcement of another series is imminent. (There are still more books to adapt! Get on it!)
Archer – Most of this episode focused on Archer’s new client, Charlotte VanderTunt (the Dreamland version of Cheryl) and her plot to fake her own death. She’s just as impossible as our Cheryl but even more out of touch with the non-wealthy. Like, Cheryl at least has a job. Charlotte thinks waitresses are “food perambulators”. Anyway, she wanted to get away from her controlling family, and that was the best way to do it. Or the worst way, most likely. She had the body of a dead maid who sort of matched her description and she and Archer planned to fake a car accident.
Hey? In a reference that should not have existed in 1947, Archer named the maid “Berenice” as they were walking her around. Modern day Archer is bleeding through. Aside from that, the visual gag where they cut to the absolute carnage left behind by walking a dead woman through a hotel lobby is very high up on the list of best Archer jokes ever. And spending an episode with Archer and Charlotte was a lot of fun – the real-world versions don’t usually get this much time together and it’s a really funny dynamic.
Elsewhere, Len Trexler brought in an expert to replace Barry’s feet and that expert was none other than Krieger, who speaks German and designs futuristic prosthetics when he isn’t tending bar. Cyril is in Trexler’s pocket, so he and Pam spent the episode trying to figure out what happened to the Chinese women even though Pam knows full well and is, in fact, hiding them in her apartment.
At the end, Cyril and Pam caught up with Archer just as he was dragging Berenice out of the trunk and getting ready to torch the car, which is going to be hard to justify. Unlike last week’s episode, this one didn’t really lean on the noir rhythms at all and it just feels like Elseworlds Archer. There are some interesting bits with Archer’s WWII flashbacks (including a gun-wielding nun) and we saw this week that he’s got some noticeable scars all over his body. That’s something real-world Archer doesn’t have, no matter how many times he gets shot or stabbed. (The only wound that ever carries over is a scar from when Lana shot him in the foot in Season One.) It’s like his fantasy version of himself isn’t as indestructible as the real thing, which may be Archer’s subconscious way of dealing with the concept of mortality. We’re probably going to keep reading more into it than intended, so you’ll have to deal with that.
That’s all we have time for this week, but rest assured that we enjoyed The Americans quite a bit. (Short version – Oleg arrested the grocery distributor and then burned the CIA’s tape, even though that was only his copy and they can still blackmail him. Everybody worried about Phillip as he dealt with unnecessary murder and learned about his father. Gabriel decided to retire and the Jennings closed out the episode by bringing Paige to meet him. Also, Henry appeared again. What is that, three episodes in a row? How long has it been since that happened?) We’ll be back next week with more, including hopefully some thoughts on the return of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Plus, Doctor Who and The Leftovers return this weekend, so recaps ahoy!