Saturday, April 29, 2017

COMEDY ROUNDUP: 'The Last Man on Earth,' 'Veep,' 'Jane the Virgin,' 'Superstore' and 'Mom' (April 23-28)

Some brief reviews for various comedies from April 23-28:

FOX's The Last Man on Earth - Episode 3.15 "Name 20 Picnics... Now!"
HBO's Veep - Episode 6.02 "Library"
The CW's Jane the Virgin - Episode 3.16 "Chapter Sixty"
NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.20 "Cheyenne's Wedding"
CBS' Mom - Episode 4.20 "A Cricket and a Hedge Made of Gold"

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.

The Last Man on Earth - "Name 20 Picnics... Now!"
The gang throws a huge celebration canvassing every major holiday, but Tandy and Todd's bro-mance hits a rough patch that threatens to end the fun. Written by Matt Marshall and directed by David Noel

The Last Man on Earth
 is in a bit of a rut at the moment. It seems like the show is simply waiting for something big to happen. That event may finally arrive at the end of this episode with a satellite crashing to Earth and starting a fire. But that's just a tease for the future. The bulk of this episode largely relies on familiar character pairings and dynamics. Of course, there's a lot of fun to be had with that. The production design of the party Carol throws celebrating both major and minor holidays is incredible. That room is filled with so many fascinating visual jokes. But Carol's fight with Erica about their pregnancies feels a little half-baked. Meanwhile, the fight between Tandy and Todd is compelling. But it also felt inevitable that it would be wrapped up by the end of the episode with Melissa and Jasper liking each other. However, there were specific jokes in this episode that really worked as well - like Melissa putting silverware into a blender, Todd getting drunk, Tandy asking for 20 specific picnics, etc. B

Veep - "Library"
Selina attends the opening of President Hughes' library. Jonah gets advice on how to rise in the political ranks. Dan suffers through Jane's whims. Amy releases an attack ad. Written by Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck and directed by Craig Zisk

Selina Meyer is not a normal former President. She wants to be recognized for the historic nature of her time as the most powerful person in the world. And yet, she's basically reduced down to nothing. She's still struggling for that recognition as an important and memorable politician. As such, the show is still a little scattered in this episode as it tries to find a new direction for Selina. She wants to build a presidential library. Instead, she gets sucked into a new scandal when Andrew is caught cheating on her. It was inevitable that reuniting with him would end badly for her. It's just a good thing that it plays out early on in the season. Meanwhile, it continues to be fantastic to see Ben and Kent in full-on self-loathing as they are working for Jonah and trying to find a woman for him to date. It seems like a near impossible task. But it seems like a challenge this show is more than willing to try and find Jonah's perfect match - if Dan doesn't ruin things for him before then. And finally, Amy is caught in her own scandal as well. She sees herself positioned as the "good wife' standing by her man after he's caught doing something horrible. And yet, most of this story just plays as Amy being trapped in her situation and not really enjoying anything besides the work. It'll be fun and necessary to see her get out of this environment soon. B+

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Sixty"
Jane is finally a published author but she's reluctant to talk about her past to help sell her book. Rogelio is intimidated by his new younger male co-star and begins to wonder if the newbie is trying to sabotage him. Luisa and her girlfriend Eileen are back in town to visit Rafael, but Rafael isn't taking any chances when it comes to safety. Petra must convince Anezka to come back to Miami to answer some questions the police have for her. Written by Carolina Rivera & Micah Schraft and directed by Micah Schraft

As a potential longterm love interest, I don't think Fabian is a right fit for Jane. As the possibility of a casual fling though, it does open up interesting ideas about what she wants moving forward. She's ready to date again. She feels like she can have casual sex. And yet, the weight of Michael still lingers throughout everything she does. That's especially true when it comes time to release her book. She doesn't want her crazy story to drown out the actual work. She wants to be appreciated for being a really good author. But she also has to be confident in sharing her own story in order to make sure people actually read her book. It's an interesting dilemma that the show introduces here and she has to accept. There are two really emotional and great scenes that talk about Michael here. The first comes from Alba as she explains how Jane is now in a lifelong relationship with grief that will always pop up in unexpected ways. Jane and Alba's relationship certainly has gotten stronger since Michael's death. And similarly, Rogelio shares that he doesn't want to get close to Fabian because he doesn't want to fall in love with another one of Jane's boyfriends. Michael was his best friend and he misses him every day. That's such a profound and powerful scene. It lands remarkably well - even though the rest of the episode features Rogelio in some broad telenovela hijinks. And finally, Luisa and Eileen/Rose make their first debut following the time jump. It's still largely the same dynamic as ever. But now, Luisa wants to go against Rose because she wants to have a relationship with Rafael's kids. That could be an interesting dynamic moving forward - especially since, as The Narrator reminds us, Rose is still a wanted criminal in Miami. A-

Superstore - "Cheyenne's Wedding"
It's Cheyenne and Bo's dream wedding, but not everything goes according to plan. Relationships unravel as Amy and Jonah dodge relationship rumors. Glenn tries to change Jeff's mind after learning of upcoming layoffs. Dina talks her way into the wedding party. Mateo dodges Jeff throughout the wedding. Directed by Michael Weaver with story by Vanessa Ramos and teleplay by Bridget Kyle & Vicky Luu

For an episode titled "Cheyenne's Wedding," there really isn't a lot of Cheyenne in this episode. She's just a passive character compared to everyone else's awfulness and craziness. I've questioned Cheyenne and Bo's relationship in the past. But this episode does a good enough job in showing that they are both young and dumb. And thus, that makes marriage seem okay. The big story of this episode is the cringe comedy going on with Amy and Jonah. With Amy, it does feel natural. She has alway felt a close connection to Cheyenne because they are both young mothers who got married. Her rambling on the mic just goes on for a bit too long. But it's fascinating and feels natural. Meanwhile, Jonah so overcompensates to prove he doesn't have feelings for Amy that he pushes everyone else away. That feels appropriate. It's just very difficult to watch. But again, he messes things up with Amy in the end in a way that feels genuine. Those two should not be a couple right now for understandable reasons. That final conversation does a strong job showing that. Elsewhere, everyone else is pretty awful and selfish. But the true love story of the episode is Sandra running into Jerry again. That's true romance that's heartwarming to see. B+

Mom - "A Cricket and a Hedge Made of Gold"
When Marjorie takes a break from the group, Bonnie becomes the go-to for everyone's problems. Christy tries to overcome a painful memory from her past. Directed by James Widdoes with story by Gemma Baker, Susan McMartin & Adam Chase and teleplay by Marco Pennette, Alissa Neubauer & Anne Flett-Giordano

This show has never been afraid to tackle some truly dark stories with its main characters. This episode puts the spotlight on Marjorie and Christy. At first, it seems like a hijinks episode where everyone spirals because Marjorie needs a break from the group for a little bit. It brings her issues to the forefront for once. She's always the voice of reason. And yet, she deserves a life with ups and downs as well. That does provide Bonnie with some amusing moments. But the true twist happens when Christy has her own crisis to deal with. When the mysterious stranger showed up, I thought the show was finally introducing Violet's father who was physically abusive to Christy. That's not it though. Instead, he's a guy who raped her when she was high one night. That's an equally devastating reveal. It shows that there is still trauma and darkness in these characters' pasts that they are still dealing with in the present even though they are several years sober at this point. Christy wasn't expecting to see that guy again. But once he showed up, her life became much more chaotic until she was confident in standing up to admit what happened and make sure she uses her voice for good moving forward. That's a very powerful ending. A