Saturday, February 11, 2017

REVIEW: 'Superior Donuts,' 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'The Real O'Neals,' 'Superstore' and 'Mom' (February 6-10)

Some brief reviews for various shows from February 6-10:

CBS' Superior Donuts - Episode 1.02 "What's the Big Idea?"
ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 3.12 "Sisters Without Subtext"
ABC's The Real O'Neals - Episode 2.11 "The Real Third Wheel"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.13 "Valentine's Day"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.13 "A Bouncy Castle and an Aneurysm"

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 - "What's the Big Idea?"
When Franco's creative new donut flavors become bestsellers, Arthur tries to prove he's still relevant by coming up with a unique one of his own. Fawz works to dream up an inventive password in order to keep Maya and James from stealing his store's WiFi. Written by Betsy Thomas and directed by James Burrows

This comedy isn't quite there yet. It has potential to be great. All of the pieces are in place. It just needs time to develop and figure itself out on an episodic basis. That's good though. It can't just be written off after one episode like all of CBS' other new comedies this season. With them, you could tell exactly what they were from that first episode and that they wouldn't get any better than that. This one though has the potential to really dig deeper into a unique worldview. Right now, it's limited a little bit by focusing too much on Franco being the free-styling artist who is inexperienced in a lot of ways and Arthur being the stuck-in-his-ways old man who can't accept that he needs to change to survive. Plus, it's only going to be amusing so many times for Fawz to offer to buy the donut shop and have it yanked away from him at the last second. As far as second episodes go, this one does a solid job restating the basic premise while also doing a bit more with the supporting characters. Katey Sagal has stood out as a great foil for both Judd Hirsch and Jermaine Fowler. However, David Koechner is playing an extremely broad character with very little relevance whatsoever. B-

Fresh Off the Boat - "Sisters Without Subtext"
Jessica is thrilled that her sister Connie is finally taking the opportunity to go to college. But when she discovers that she wants to pursue an art degree, Jessica disagrees with Connie's passion for art and does not see how it would add any value to her or her family. Marvin and Honey take Eddie, Emery and Evan with them to visit a retirement home. As much as Honey loves Marvin, she realizes that their age difference really does have long-term implications. Written by Rachna Fruchbom and directed by Jude Weng

The running joke about Jessica's conversations with her sister, Connie, needing subtitles to know what they're really saying to one another has been such an acceptable device for their relationship. So, it's startling when nothing shows up when Jessica talks to Connie in his episode. She is genuinely happy for her sister to be going to college and being a productive person. It's a nice twist that is able to happen because of that history between the characters. Of course, Jessica represents a harsh perspective as well by being very critical of anyone who would pursue something that brings no value to the family. It's important that she's the one to learn something by the end of this episode. And that makes it all the more sweeter once it's revealed that the sisters are more similar than they thought. It's great seeing them bond. Plus, the final joke of Jessica using a song in order to apologize - with the subtitles - was great. Meanwhile, it was nice to see a subplot that was largely about Honey and Marvin. Sure, it's a story still ultimately about their age difference. But it was a nice little adventure as well that managed to incorporate Eddie, Emery and Evan in some amusing ways. However, it was surprising that Evan knew to avoid being cute to the elderly residents and Emery didn't. A-

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Third Wheel"
Kenny's jealousy over Brett's relationship with his best girl friend leads him to realize he's been a bad friend to Allison. Jimmy and Shannon start their own ridesharing company. Eileen and Pat are shocked to catch Clive "cheating" on them, but ultimately discover that the three of them make a pretty good "throuple." Written by Becky Mann & Audra Sielaff and directed by Todd Holland

Across two seasons now, the comedy has done a ton of "Kenny expects something to be magical and perfect only for it to actually be imperfect and amplify his own insecurities." It's an okay plot beat too. Kenny is still just experiencing the world with fresh eyes. He's still making new discoveries. However, this story should be about Kenny's friendship with Allison. Seeing Brett with his best girl friend should serve as a remainder that Kenny has been a bad and selfish friend to Allison. Instead, it takes a weird turn once it's revealed that Brett and his friend had sex and dated for awhile. Kenny's relationship with Brett is one of the defining story arcs this season. It doesn't have to be the only thing that defines Kenny right now though. It's okay for an episodic story to largely be about him and Allison. The two still get to a nice place in the end with Kenny choosing her instead of Brett. It's just a little too complicated getting to that point. Elsewhere, the story between Eileen, Pat and Clive just goes to a really broad place. That dynamic between the three of them is interesting. But here, it's just amusing that Eileen and Pat break stuff when they think Clive is cheating on them. Clive had understandable reasons not to want to be with Eileen and Pat on this day. It just seemed like the show was more interested in the "throuple" joke than focusing on the more nuanced dynamic between them. B-

Superstore - "Valentine's Day"
A well-intentioned Amy and Glenn get caught up in the Valentine's Day spirit, quickly learning what happens when you try and force love. Jonah goes undercover to try and catch a serial shoplifter and ends up getting closer to her than Dina would like. Mateo begins to unravel as Sandra's relationship with Jeff takes a new turn. Written by John Kazlauskas and directed by Tristram Shapeero

 tackles a different type of sexual harassment story in this episode. It's a unique stance to take - especially considering how often the characters get paired off romantically. All of it makes sense and is understandable as well. Amy would never deliberately harass someone. And yet, she finds herself in a situation right now where she doesn't know the full story and her actions are doing a lot of harm. She's trying to get two co-workers together not knowing how much of a creep the guy is. Of course, this story takes a really amusing turn when it comes to Glenn realizing that he harassed his wife into dating him. That's such a horrifying realization for him but it does a great job in escalating the tension and hilarity of this story. Elsewhere, Jonah's story flirting with the potential shoplifter didn't have much to it. It was just him losing all rational thought because he was charmed by her. And then, the joke about her stealing from him wasn't even real. Of course, that final beat with Jonah and Amy excitedly breaking all of the store's Valentine's Day decorations was excellent. Moreover, it continues to be fascinating to watch the Mateo-Jeff-Sandra story develop. Mateo is a selfish person who gets jealous even when he knows Sandra is lying. Jeff gets Mateo a nice gift but Mateo does nothing in return. So that doesn't really make this a healthy dynamic. But it's still an interesting and funny story - especially with Garret's reactions to every new development. B

Mom - "A Bouncy Castle and an Aneurysm"
When Bonnie connects with a handsome, sober stranger, Christy worries that she's jeopardizing her relationship with Adam. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Gemma Baker and teleplay by Eddie Gorodetsky & Marco Pennette

Bonnie's relationship with Adam really has served as the backbone for this season. There have been some great arcs with Christy and Jill as well. But the stuff with Bonnie and Adam has had a bit more priority long term. It was just last week that it was hinted at that they may be on the road to marriage. So that makes it a little odd to air this episode right after that. Bonnie flirts with a sober stranger she meets at a food and wine event. She doesn't latch onto the danger of this new friendship because she's afraid to commit to Adam though. That would be an understandable feeling given how startled she was about the idea of marriage last week. Instead, she does everything here because she's mad at Adam for how much he drinks. It has certainly brought an interesting character dynamic to the forefront of this season. How does someone sober date someone who is not? Adam has never been positioned as an alcoholic. But his drinking has been brought up many times this season. And plus, this story ends on an emotionally resonant note with Adam breaking up with Bonnie because she kissed another man. That's understandable too. However, the way Marjorie was written in this episode embraced the broad strokes of the character for laughs without it really meaning anything. Meanwhile, the subplot with Christy trying to find a necklace largely just served as a way to draw laughs out of seeing her searching the entire house and every random spot for it. B