Saturday, February 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Jane the Virgin,' 'Superior Donuts,' 'Superstore' and 'Mom' (February 20-24)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from February 20-24:

The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 3.12 "Chapter Fifty-Six"
CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.04 "Trust Me"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.15 "Wellness Fair"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.15 "Night Swimmin' and an English Muffin"

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.

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Fifty-Six"
When Jane is offered a book deal, she debates quitting her awful publishing job. Xo finds out that Rogelio has been lying to everyone all this time. Petra is running damage control on the Marbella's reputation after a grisly discovery is found on the property. Rafael is ready to be involved again in the Marbella and his first order of business is finding the perfect person to manage the hotel lounge. Written by Valentina Garza and directed by Matthew Diamond

How Jane the Virgin continues to deal with Michael's death has been really impressing. It hasn't undercut the emotions of grief by jumping ahead in time. Instead, it's used that time jump to hit a couple specific emotional memories and material without it overwhelming the entire show. There are still mysteries to the time period after Michael died. Here, the audience learns that Jane was suffering from panic attacks. Her whole story is figuring out how to deal with them again once they return. Even after all this time, she still cherishes her memories of Michael and is still hurt by the betrayal from his former partner. It's very nice and mature to see her embrace and accept these feelings and not try to push past them. It's also great that Rogelio comes to grip with his own reality. His search for American fame has ruined his relationship with his family. So, he needs to return to his roots in telenovelas in order to win back their trusts. That makes sense (and is much better than apology baskets) even though he'll be sued for breech of contract. Elsewhere, shady things are still going on at the Marbella. That's nothing new. It should just be fascinating to see what Petra and Rafael's motivations are for their actions. Is Petra helping her new boyfriend with the investigation of Scott's death because she cares for him or to cover up her moving the body? What did Rafael and his new prison pal have to do with the death? Why is the Narrator still deliberately forgetting that Abbey is in scenes? These people are still capable of being good friends for Jane. But their own mysteries are just being set up right now too. B+

Superior Donuts - "Trust Me"
When Arthur is reluctant to let Franco make the shop's bank deposit, Franco accuses his boss of not trusting him. James regrets confiding in Randy after she shares an embarrassing secret about him with other cops at the station. Written by Bob Daily, Neil Goldman & Garrett Donovan and directed by James Burrows

Superior Donuts
 still has a ton of potential but it's starting to feel like the show hits the same plot beats and character dynamics in every episode. Arthur and Franco clash because they have different ideas about the business. It's ultimately about Arthur's stubbornness and unwillingness to change. He apologizes and trusts Franco with more of the business. It's a fine dynamic. It's just something the show has done a lot of so far. It'd be interesting to see a main story that isn't inherently about the two of them. Pairing them with some of the supporting characters could give them more depth. Fawz, Randy and James have been amusing characters so far while Maya and Tush have been annoyingly one-note. There are some interesting details about the main story of "Trust Me" - like Randy never having an embarrassing moment or the emotional beats during and immediately after Franco was robbed. But the rest of it felt fairly predictable and conventional - with the two of them working out their trust issues by actually talking. C+

Superstore - "Wellness Fair"
When Amy sees Mateo out on a secret date with Jeff, she ignores Garrett's advice to stay out of it, and ends up throwing multiple relationships - both real and imagined - into chaos. Glenn resents Jonah for outshining him during Cloud 9's Wellness Fair. Dina tries to prove that Amy faked an illness. Written by Owen Ellickson and directed by Alex Reid

It's been inevitable that the truth about Jeff, Mateo and Sandra would come out eventually this season. It's really funny when it does too. "Wellness Fair" succeeds because every story and character gets caught up in this reveal. It's all centered around Amy who keeps getting trapped in more and more outrageous lies because she simply couldn't do nothing. It's a fun premise for her. It really gets out of hand once Jonah and Glenn get into an argument about abortion in the middle of the store. That dynamic is the only wobbly part of this episode. It's okay and understandable for Glenn to be pro-life and Jonah to be pro-choice. It's wrong as soon as they both start harassing Sandra about it. That's simply wrong. And yet, the show makes sure to explain away why Glenn did that but not Jonah which is a little odd. However, it doesn't take away from the enjoyment of that sequence where the truth is revealed to all the employees. Sandra comes clean about Jeff. Mateo exposes his relationship with Jeff. Dina lets everyone know about her and Garrett. And Amy reveals she's never seen Jurassic Park. That's just a well-executed sequence exposing all of these ongoing stories. It should be interesting to see what the aftermath will be with it all in the open now. B+

Mom - "Night Swimmin' and an English Muffin"
When Bonnie discovers Adam is still close with his ex-wife, Danielle, Christy worries the emotional fallout could jeopardize Bonnie's sobriety. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Eddie Gorodetsky & Gemma Baker and teleplay by Chuck Lorre, Warren Bell & Sheldon Bull

It still feels like a cheat for the show to bring Bonnie and Adam back together so quickly. That's especially true with the knowledge that his ex-wife cheated on him and that's what ended their marriage. So, cheating is clearly a big deal to him. That's why he reacted so strongly to what Bonnie did. They realized last week they couldn't just not talk about their feelings. But this week, they are right back to having sex with each other and trusting each other again. Of course, there is still amusement from that story - from the neighbors complaining about all the noises to Bonnie going to see Adam's ex-wife. Allison Janney and Wendie Malick have a fun dynamic as they realize they are pretty similar. But it still all feels like Bonnie and the audience getting to know more about Adam and learning that he's a good guy who should be trusted. That feels like a plot beat that the show has hit before this season many times. Plus, it still doesn't resonate completely given what has just happened. So, it should be interesting to see if caring for a dog continues to build on their bond. The narrative seems to be saying this fight is now over and things are good again. But the more serious moments of this episode are the more fascinating ones to watch - like Christy worrying her mother will drink again because of Adam and Jill worrying that she won't be a good parent to her future foster child. B