Saturday, October 28, 2017

REVIEW: ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Mayor,' 'Designated Survivor' and 'Grey's Anatomy' (October 22-28)

Various reviews from ABC shows for October 22-28, 2017:

ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.04 "It's a Plastic Pumpkin, Louis Huang"
ABC's Black-ish - Episode 4.04 "Advance to Go (Collect $200)"
ABC's The Mayor - Episode 1.04 "City Hall-oween"
ABC's Designated Survivor - Episode 2.05 "Suckers"
ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.05 "Danger Zone"

In 2017, it's impossible to watch every scripted show out there. There are over 450 of them. It's even more impossible to even provide adequate coverage of some of them. Great shows slip through the cracks. Some shows take awhile to figure themselves out. So as a way for me to provide more coverage of various shows, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on ABC from October 22-28, 2017. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "It's a Plastic Pumpkin, Louis Huang"
On Halloween, Louis is disappointed that Evan doesn't take his childish delight in the holiday. Eddie and the gang plot to crash a cool older girl's party. Jessica and Emery are spooked when they hear a strange man's voice emanating from Grandma's room. Things get even creepier when a mysterious group of costumed strangers whisk Grandma away, making them suspect the supernatural worst. Written by Sanjay Shah and directed by Alisa Statman

Didn't one of the show's previous Halloween episodes also feature a plot where Eddie and his friends are trying to be invited to a popular kid's party? It definitely feels like it. As such, that part of this episode feels very repetitive and lame even though I liked the final payoff with Trent getting in. Meanwhile, it's surprising how little George Takei is in this episode after being teased in all of the promos. It could very well be a recurring role with Grandma learning English so she can better understand her family. That's an amusing story that should become a recurring feature of the season. Too much of it is wrapped up in the idea that she has been possessed though. So basically, this episode succeeds because of its main story with Louis and Evan. That's always been a fascinating character pairing. Evan is much more mature than his brothers. He's very precise and wise. He doesn't enjoy various childish things. He's not amused by the holiday like Louis is. That's a great story. Yes, it's a little rushed as well because the episode has to service other stories. It only tells this story because Evan and Emery can't do their typical Halloween costume because of Emery's bad luck year. But it does a strong job in highlighting how Louis needs to let his son be true to himself while acknowledging the many ways he is still needed in his life. That's a very moving conclusion. Plus, it's still funny to see Evan form this new rivalry with other people who dress up as Tom Cruise characters while Emery slides into a room upon opening a door just like Seinfeld's Kramer. B-

Black-ish - "Advance to Go (Collect $200)"
Dre brings everyone together for a rowdy family game night and the competition is fierce. The game of choice is Monopoly and as the night progresses, alliances are formed and some are pushed to their limits. Bow makes it clear how she feels about Junior's girlfriend, Megan. Written by Gail Lerner and directed by Anton Cropper

This episode feels like a cost-effective bottle episode. It's basically one of the most blatant cost-effective bottle episodes I've ever seen. Of course, it makes sense too. The season premiere probably cost more than an average episode of the show. As such, the creative team needed to make up the difference later in the season. And so, they forego a typical Halloween episode with lots of crazy and outrageous costumes for an episode that is primarily set in the living room where the family is just playing a game of Monopoly. It doesn't inherently seem like a great idea for an episode of this show. The execution is great but I would still only call it an average episode. It makes great use of montages. The episode is at its most humorous once Dre thinks he can survive on his own. He has a run of success only to come crushing back down to reality in the end. It was a predictable story. Dre can easily spiral out when things aren't going his way. But the show is aware that this is a consistent pattern of his. It even comments on that with the joke about him owing everyone a hundred dollars if he flips over the board game. That needed to pay off in the end and fortunately it does. I didn't really care for the story with Junior's girlfriend and Bow's disdain for her. It mostly happens because he needs a partner and Zoey is apparently gone for college now (or something like that). Meanwhile, I'm intrigued by the idea that Pops and Ruby could get back together. I'm not sure it will happen - or if it'll be any better this time around. But it's still an intriguing potential development. B

The Mayor - "City Hall-oween"
As Halloween approaches, Mayor Courtney Rose and Police Chief Fox find themselves at odds on how to handle the community's first annual spook-tacular celebration at City Hall. During the night of the bash, it dawns on Courtney that throwing a party to keep kids safe doesn't address the bigger issues in Fort Grey and plans to work with Chief Fox going forward. Dina gets into the spirit by dressing up as Congresswoman Maxine Waters, while Jermaine and T.K. set out to prank Val who has the last laugh when she outsmarts the guys at their own game. Written by Regina Hicks and directed by James Griffiths

It still feels like the show is figuring out an identity for Fort Grey. It has to be in enough disarray for Courtney to struggle with figuring out the right decision to make in any given situation. But it also has to be successful enough so that nothing he does will ultimately carry much consequences. Here, he gets a victory simply by throwing a party at City Hall. It's a story that didn't quite work for me because the audience never actually sees the chaos happening outside of those walls. Courtney is able to distract from the uncertainty of Halloween night with this party even though it doesn't do anything to curb crime in the city. He seems particularly naive this week and forgetful of what he was trying to do in the first place. That's a familiar pattern for him. I'm intrigued by Kristen Johnston as the police chief. But I'm not sure if she'll be a recurring face this season because the other episodes have featured characters in similar positions who have never shown up again. So, the show is still ultimately just figuring itself out with its core message of this story. Meanwhile, it's fun to see the various costumes and tricks Dina, T.K. and Jermaine pull off. Yvette Nicole Brown continues to be terrific in this show with her pretending to be a dead body being a great visual. But this story also embraces familiar storytelling beats. Val is still the person obsessed with rules and orders. She doesn't have time for any of the office hijinks. She gets offended and worried about what may happen. And then, she proves that she can pull off a trick just like the rest of them. It's a familiar character type with not a whole lot of nuance at the moment. B-

Designated Survivor - "Suckers"
When a senator appears on the national news and misrepresents a private conversation with the president, Kirkman must win back the American people's trust. MI-6 Agent Damien Rennett joins forces with FBI Agent Hannah Wells to help solve an international murder. Written by Bill Chais and directed by Fred Gerber

It's been pretty clear for awhile but I can now say with absolute certainty that Ben Lawson was miscast in the role of Damian. He is just so bland and forgettable in this role. And the show is trying to present him as a romantic interest for Agent Wells! It's just such an awful story. It was clear immediately that this twist was going to happen between them. But the show didn't even put in the work to have Hannah and Damian banter in an amusing or flirtatious way. As such, it feels more like a plot development than something that has genuinely been building across the season. Plus, there's no reason for Damian to be an ongoing character. Him returning to the country already basically disregards the consequences of his earlier actions that got him kicked out. It's just so bad. Consequences for the various actions seems to be the biggest issue of this season as well. The creative team has embraced episodic stories. Those don't need to bleed over from one episode to a next. But all that President Kirkman and his staff seemingly do is address the episodic plot each week. It's just gotten so boring and repetitive without any sense of how their personal lives are evolving because of this job. Right now, everything feels too stationary. The only thing of ongoing concern is Alex's mom being subpoenaed. And that story mostly feels like filler in this episode with Alex and Kendra clashing despite their good intentions. So basically, nothing in this episode works at all. There's just nothing all that exciting about the story this season. As such, it's making it easy to forgot about the show airing completely. That's a significant problem that could spell doom for the show very soon. C-

Grey's Anatomy - "Danger Zone"
In a flashback to Iraq in 2007, the events leading up to Megan's kidnapping are revealed. In present day, Owen and Megan hash out old wounds. Written by Jalysa Conway and directed by Cecilie Mosli

Heading into this episode, I didn't know if it was all that necessary to actually see the events leading up to Megan's disappearance in Iraq. The show had already done a proper job in explaining that backstory. Megan and Nathan got engaged, then got into a fight after learning he cheated and then her helicopter disappeared. This episode basically tells that exact story and why her helicopter was targeted. It would have possibly been more interesting to see the events after that to see all that Megan had to do in order to survive. Instead, this story is told in order to offer some full circle moments for Megan and Owen in the present. Owen can sometimes be stubborn and frustrating because he is rigid with his ideals. He wants things a certain way and acts out when things don't go according to plan. Megan is right to be furious at him for crashing this road trip to California and not wanting her to move. All the drama about him not recommending her for promotion was a little too melodramatic that didn't reveal anything new. Her saying that she cheated on Nathan as well does enough to establish why they are both willing to give a life together another chance. Of course, this season had already done enough to show why the two of them want to be together. Nathan had the big romantic gesture of bringing Farouk to her. It's a little weird that Nathan and Farouk are already in California waiting for Megan. That separation is strange. But it's necessary to force this conversation between Megan and Owen. It ultimately allows there to be a happy ending for Megan, Nathan and Farouk. This is a fantastic place to leave them in this story. I was questioning if the show was truly writing Martin Henderson off the show. But that's what has occurred. I'm intrigued to see what Meredith's story will be moving forward after the previous two seasons built up her connection to Nathan. Meanwhile, it's very mature of Owen to return home to Amelia to say that he needs a fresh start and a chance to be happy elsewhere. Perhaps that will set up his own exit from the series where he is allowed to be happy with Teddy. In the past, she never seemed like his best option. But now, she's the only person whom he actually deserves. It would be better if he just went off to be with her. B+