Saturday, October 29, 2016

Week in Review: Tom Hanks on 'Saturday Night Live', ABC's Halloween Week, 'The Walking Dead's Graphic Premiere & More!

For the week of October 22-28, 2016, here are the great, the questionable and the bad in television according to Brett Hense, TV Critic of TV-Recaps-Reviews. This week includes the return of The Walking Dead, the debut of Amazon's Good Girls Revolt and Tom Cavanagh playing even more characters on The Flash.




THE GREAT

David S. Pumpkins

Tom Hanks hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend to promote his new film Inferno. Instead, the conversation has been around how great of an episode it actually was. It had the best ratings of the season and had a couple of skits go viral. David S. Pumpkins is a weird and simple sketch but it was very effective and had a nice payoff in the end. I was more partial to the new edition of "Black Jeopardy" that saw Hanks play a Trump supporter who was surprisingly good at the game until the end. But it was an overall strong episode that showed that Saturday Night Live can still be great four decades in.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Sidelines Rebecca Bunch

"When Will Josh See How Cool I Am?" did something surprising by letting Rachel Bloom's lead character, Rebecca Bunch, slide into the background for the week. The show is still hers. But this week examined how her actions affect the people around. In the process, it continued to highlight just how strong the supporting cast is while forcing their characters to confront some of their underlying fears and insecurities. It was a great and unexpected hour with some truly amazing and unique musical performances as well. "Ping Pong Girl" gets better with each repeat viewing.

The Flash's Tom Cavanagh Goes Full-Tatiana Maslany

Overall, "The New Rogues" was just a meh episode of The Flash. Mirror Master is a villain the comic book fans have been waiting to see on the screen. In the end, he was largely just a formulaic villain with nothing all that special or unique about him in the context of the story. That was disappointing. But the show more than made up for it with the subplot of the team trying to find a new Harrison Wells in the multi-verse to join them. It was so much fun watching Cavanagh put on these different variations of the same character. Sure, he'll never be Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany. But it's still great to see him play a new character every season which shows just how versatile an actor he really is.

THE QUESTIONABLE

ABC Overdoes Halloween

Halloween-themed episodes can be great. And yet, this year it seemed like a mandate from ABC ordering all of its comedies to do one. Of course, ABC's comedy brand is so strong. It's one of the most distinctive brands out there at the moment. But it really got tiring after awhile to see all of these great shows do the same kind of over-the-top Halloween episode. Across two nights, that list included The Middle, American Housewife, Fresh Off the Boat, The Real O'Neals, The Goldbergs, Speechless, Modern Family and black-ish. Too much of a good thing really can be an issue.

What's Going On with Superstore's Jonah and Amy?

Superstore only continues to get stronger and more consistent in its second season. But it's still unclear what the show is trying to do with Ben Feldman's Jonah and America Ferrera's Amy. In the first season, romantic tension was the subtext of their dynamic. It wasn't the only thing that defined their connection on the show. But it was present. Over the last few weeks though, it has become more of the text which only highlights how awkward it is. Amy has a husband and a daughter who figure quite prominently in the story even though they are rarely seen. Meanwhile, everyone else at Cloud 9 talks about them kissing or hooking up constantly. The show is commenting too much on it right now and ruining why they might work as a coupling.

Good Girls Revolt is a Fine but Formulaic Drama

Amazon dropped its new drama series Good Girls Revolt on Friday. It's a '60s period drama centered around female employees filling a sexual harassment lawsuit against their workplace. It's based on a true story of what was happening at Newsweek at the time. But the show suffers from following some truly conventional plot beats. It's hard to do '60s period drama after Mad Men. Any new show set in the period needs to stand out by doing its own thing. Too much of this just feels like a watered down version of the great AMC drama. It still has its moments. The cast makes the story work. But it doesn't completely overcome its problems either.

THE BAD

CBS Goes 0 for 6 with Its New Fall Shows

This past development season was rough for CBS. The executives felt confident and decided to launch six new shows in the fall. They staggered their premieres across two months. That was a smart decision. Unfortunately, all six of them are truly dreadful. Kevin Can Wait, Bull and MacGyver had awful premieres but still did well in the ratings. They got the back nine pickup a week ago. This week saw the additions of Man With a Plan, The Great Indoors and Pure Genius to the schedule. All of them were distinctly awful in their own unique ways. None of them are shows I want to see a second episode of. Sure, they may play well to the loyal CBS audience. But they sure won't appeal to anyone outside of that which could be a huge problem for CBS in the future - especially if the ratings don't hold up by midseason.

The Walking Dead Delivers a Horrific Premiere

After a cliffhanger ending and months of speculation, The Walking Dead returned on Sunday to answer the question of "Who does Negan kill?" Instead, the show spent an hour torturing its audience and the characters for no reason other than to be nihilistic and manipulative. "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be" didn't present us with any reason to care about the violence happening towards the characters. It was largely just a chance to show how great Greg Nicotero is as a director and makeup artist. Glenn and Abraham's deaths are these big moments. But again, it's more about the mystery of who was killed and not the emotion that comes from these deaths. Glenn's was slightly more moving just because he has been on the show since the first season. Abraham's felt expected because he would be a reasonable choice that wouldn't change things too severely while still giving weight to the moment. Putting them together and then spending the rest of the time just torturing Rick was a poor storytelling decision. If this series is nothing more than heightened violence against a group of characters in bad situations in a bleak world, then nothing is special anymore. The audience has grown numb to these kinds of decisions. It's most grating because the show doesn't seem to recognize these understandable problems and just wants to keep going for more outrageous moments and deaths without figuring out a consistent and solid through-line for the story first. Why should the audience care?


What did you think were the big moments of the week? The "Where is Jack?" reveal on This Is Us? The final season premiere of Rectify? The "San Junipero" episode of Black Mirror? The Cubs facing off with the Indians in the World Series? Let us know in the comments below.