Saturday, February 18, 2017

REVIEW: 'Superior Donuts,' 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'The Real O'Neals,' 'Superstore' and 'Mom' (February 13-16)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from February 13-16:

CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.03 "Crime Time"
ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 3.13 "Neighbors with Attitude"
ABC's The Real O'Neals - Episode 2.12 "The Real Brother's Keeper"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.14 "Super Hot Store"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.14 "Roast Chicken and a Funny Story"

Due to the demands of Peak TV, it is becoming more and more difficult for this website to devote the time to full length episodic reviews. And yet, there are still thoughts to be had about the ongoing adventures on a number of series. So I thought it would be good to still write down a couple of brief thoughts about each episode on a weekly basis. Of course, you can still probably expect full reviews for premieres and finales. If the networks should make screeners available, those episodes would get detailed analysis as well. But for now, this will be the way to continue to provide content for these shows while also being a lighter workload for me.

Superior Donuts - "Crime Time"
Franco encourages Arthur to increase his security when Fawz's dry-cleaning store is robbed, but becomes concerned when Arthur buys a gun. Tush offers Maya his personal approach to protecting herself. Written by Peter Murrieta and directed by James Burrows

In "Crime Time," Superior Donuts proves that it wants to do more than just cliche sitcoms hijinks. That has been pretty common on a number of CBS comedies at the moment. This episode decides to have a more topical focus with the characters engaging in debate and actions that draw real-life parallels. Of course, it's not a complete success either. It's ambitious. But the show is still just figuring itself out. The story with Maya and Tush is just completely dropped for no reason - and didn't really have a unique perspective in the first place. The story with Fawz, Randy and James was good for the running joke about Fawz coming into Superior Donuts needing the cops and they chose to take their time. It didn't have much depth to it beyond that though. And yet, the main story with Arthur and Franco was very interesting and well-executed. It had moments of laughter - like seeing how many ways Arthur's apartment could be broken into. But it also had genuine emotion with Franco concerned for Arthur's safety especially once he bought a gun. Sure, most of it was still ultimately about playing for the laughs. But it was a solid first step at establishing something more with these characters. That's much appreciated. B-

Fresh Off the Boat - "Neighbors with Attitude"
Jessica is disappointed to learn that she is excluded from the Neighborhood Watch, because she has a reputation of not being a team player. But when Ann's son goes missing, Jessica proves that her independent security measures work better than everyone else's. Meanwhile, Eddie sets the stage for the perfect first kiss with Alison. Written by Abbey Caldwell and directed by Bill Purple

Every week, my review of Fresh Off the Boat could easily boil down to me praising just how terrific Constance Wu is on this show. She's not the only great actor and character on this show. It does a number of other things extremely well too. But she has just been so wonderful to watch for the entire series. In fact, most of the 2017 episodes so far have been terrific showcases for her. Her story in "Neighbors with Attitude" is excellent. It has so many well-executive comedic moments. The running joke about Jessica being great at "Where's Waldo?" has an excellent payoff. That montage about her learning to be a team player is phenomenal. Plus, it felt so good to see her proven right. Sure, a kid was lost in the process but it was great to see her emerge victorious as the neighborhood watch leader this community really needs. The subplot with Eddie was a little less solid. It's odd that Eddie and Alison have been dating all of this time but have never kissed. So, the story felt a little predictable with Eddie hyping it up in his head only for things not to go according to plan while still ending in a sweet and genuine place. It was good. It was just paired with a terrific main story that outshone it. A-

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Brother's Keeper"
Jimmy wants to teach his younger brother the rite of passage of drinking. When Shannon gets a comp hotel room due to a scam she's pulling, Jimmy thinks this is the perfect time to teach Kenny how to drink, but it all goes awry when Kenny invites Brett to join in. Meanwhile, Eileen discovers that Pat has a new girlfriend, her nemesis, Sheila DeMars. Written by Steve Joe and directed by Eyal Gordin

The show could always tell more stories of the three siblings actually bonding with each other. That's an interesting dynamic that gets cast aside a little too much. It's understandable that Jimmy wants to be a good big brother and introduce Kenny to a number of new experiences. But it also feels right that the experience is much different than how he'd imagine it. It's great that Shannon has this amazing hotel room. But it's mostly a story about the brothers realizing the importance of spending time together. Sure, it comes a little too late. But Kenny is able to stop Jimmy from doing something he might regret later on. That shows how great they are together. Meanwhile, the "throuple" term was only recently used to define the bond between Eileen, Pat and Clive. However, it's essentially been what has defined a number of their stories together. Of course, it's interesting to see that get complicated by Pat dating someone new. He deserves to have stories about romance as well. And yet, it still comes right back to Eileen and how she reacts to his new girlfriend, who happens to be her nemesis. So, it's really Eileen defining this story and being proven right that Sheila was only with Pat to hurt her. That's awkward since Pat is capable of carrying his own story as well that can be completely separate from Eileen. B-

Superstore - "Super Hot Store"
The storewide heater malfunction magnifies angry tensions between Amy, Jonah and the back warehouse employees after both sides refuse to clean up a spill. Dina and Garrett find a way to pass the time. Cheyenne helps Glenn through an existential crisis as he tries to fix the heater himself. Written by Joe Barrasas and directed by Michael Spiller

It's so odd for Superstore to do a story about the store being extremely hot in the middle of winter. And yet, that just adds to the absurdity of the premise. It also buys into one of the show's central themes - the dehumanization of these massive corporations. Everything is so automated that errors like this can happen and have profound effects on the people who work in these stores. Sure, the main story with Amy and Jonah fighting with Marcus is a pretty simple story with an escalation of events. Everyone involved acts crazy and over-the-top with the easy and rational excuse coming from the heat. But it's still a really funny story that acknowledges just how outrageous it is. However, the physics of Amy's fall were a little too weird to full work. Elsewhere, one of the great running stories of the show is Glenn realizing his long-held beliefs mask some truly dark truths. Here, that means him realizing his ancestors built slave ships. That's an amusing existential crisis to watch especially as he clings onto the idea of traveling the world with Cheyenne to compensate for his lack of importance. And finally, the Dina and Garrett romance is still so random. And yet, they have such an interesting dynamic where they just enjoy the sex but hate the other person. Them sitting in silence in the cold office just works so well. B+

Mom - "Roast Chicken and a Funny Story"
When a heartbroken Bonnie drives everyone crazy, Christy begs Adam to take her back. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Nick Bakay, Marco Pennette & Adam Chase and teleplay by Alissa Neubauer, Susan McMartin & Anne Flett-Giordano

It would be easy for Mom to get Bonnie and Adam back together as quickly as possible. They were on the marriage track until Bonnie's kiss with Joe last week. A reunion now would get them back on that path. But that would also undercut just how serious Bonnie's betrayal was. This isn't the first time she's self-sabotaged her relationships. The opening scene points that out with her going on and on at the meeting. That joke wasn't too great but it did lead to some deeper emotions as well. Bonnie and Adam can't just be together again and not talk about what happened. Relationships don't work like that. It's funny to watch them try to be this normal couple but it's clear the spark is gone. Christy celebrates them getting back together because it means Bonnie is no longer constantly whining about him. But this isn't healthy for any of them. Christy may have to put up with this uncomfortable energy for awhile. She's good at giving advice to Bonnie and Adam in separate instances. But it's still up to them to decide if they should be together. Odds are they'll probably find their way back to each other at some point this season. But it's good that they aren't jumping back into things. The trust is no longer there. They can't just pick up where they left off. They can't just replace that with sex or TV either. They had the serious conversation - which is funny because it happens at a sports bar. And now, it's unclear what will happen next with them. But at least, they are being honest about their feelings. B