Saturday, October 7, 2017

REVIEW: ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Mayor,' 'Kevin (Probably) Saves the World' and 'Grey's Anatomy'

Various reviews from ABC shows for October 3-5, 2017:

ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.01 "B as in Best Friends"
ABC's Black-ish - Episode 4.01 "Juneteenth"
ABC's The Mayor - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"
ABC's Kevin (Probably) Saves the World - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"
ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.03 "Go Big or Go Home"

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 3-5, 2017. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "B as in Best Friends"
Still homeless, the Huangs move in with Honey and Marvin. Jessica's dreams come true when she gets a chance to compete on "Wheel of Fortune" during Best Friends Week with Honey. Eddie starts high school and is still on the outs with his pals but finds unexpected sympathy from Nicole. Michael Bolton offers to step in at the restaurant to give Louis more time with his family, but does he have an ulterior motive? Written by David Smithyman and directed by Bill Purple

The third season ended on a big note of the Huangs becoming homeless because they tried moving up in the world, didn't like it but couldn't move back to the life they've come to love. The mystery of this season was how long it would take to get the family back into their home and their regular lives. Of course, the reasons for why life has gotten so complicated for them have been pretty funny. But it's also not surprising that they get the house back in the premiere while Louis gets rid of Michael Bolton in the restaurant. Of course, there's still the intrigue of Kenny Loggins now being a partner. That seems intriguing. But this premiere isn't really about those moments of plot reset. Instead, this is a stellar episode of the show because it digs deep and discovers some trying poignant moments between the characters. Nicole has never been a major character on the show. She's just been an object of Eddie's obsession. But even that has died down now that he's dating Alison. And yet, things still resonate in a moving way when Nicole comes out to Eddie and he needs to be a good friend for her and honor the sanctity of her new car. Meanwhile, Jessica and Honey's relationship is much more fleshed out. They've had stories like this before. And yet, they are still moving to watch because Jessica gets ahead of herself without really caring how her actions are affecting Honey. Sure, it's ridiculous that it leads to them competing on Wheel of Fortune. But that's just a fun and random setting for this story as well. A

Black-ish - "Juneteenth"
The Johnsons go to Jack and Diane's school play about Columbus Day, and Dre is dismayed by the historically inaccurate way that the holiday is portrayed. He feels like there aren't enough black holidays, so he enlists Aloe Blacc at work to help him create a catchy song to raise awareness for a holiday worth celebrating, Juneteenth. Written by Peter Saji and directed by Anton Cropper

It's very much appreciated that the show is aware of the seriousness of the conversations it regularly has in many episodes while still addressing the fact that Dre gets obsessed with something for two or three days and then completely forgets about it. This is a powerful episode of the show that embraces everything that it does well. This formula could get tiring after awhile. The show is heading into its fourth season after all. And yet, it's still absolutely powerful to watch. It's able to have a serious conversation about this country's history with slavery and how most people just want to forget all of the horrible things that have happened throughout time. It's easier to forget than to address the flawed nature of so many historical figures. And yes, Dre can still be silly when complaining about Columbus Day and not letting Aloe Blacc help him make his point about Juneteenth. Then, the musical performances can come in and do a phenomenal job in showing off this cast's talents while delivering a message in a compelling way. All of the performance numbers are different enough to stand out in a strong way - though I slightly preferred the animated sequence with The Roots. Meanwhile, the final punchline with Junior not knowing anything about Juneteenth and Dre realizing he needs to do better as a family first is terrific as well. A

The Mayor - "Pilot"
Young rapper Courtney Rose needs his big break. For years he's toiled away in a small inner-city apartment, making music in his junk-filled bedroom closet. Tired of waiting for opportunity to knock, Courtney cooks up the publicity stunt of the century - running for mayor of his California hometown, Fort Grey, to generate buzz for his music career. But his master plan goes wildly awry, ending in the most terrifying of outcomes: an election victory. Written by Jeremy Bronson and directed by James Griffiths

Comedy pilots are difficult. And yet, ABC has a strong and reliable comedy brand. The Mayor is expanding its horizons a little bit. There's a family element to it but it's not the defining aspect of the show. But this is still easily the best new comedy of the fall season. It's not perfect. It's not a strong pilot that immediately tells the audience what the series will be like moving forward. It's a premise pilot that spends half the time setting up the main plot. So, Courtney Rose is running for mayor in order to help sales of his new hip hop album. He makes a couple of good points at a debate and is immediately elected. What happens next will be the heart of the show. Courtney is unprepared to do this job but is motivated to take it on because he has the potential to bring about change to the community he loves so much. There's a nice aspirational message at the heart of this show. Plus, it all completely works because of the charisma of Brandon Michael Hall. This is a star-making performance from him. He also gets a solid assist from Yvette Nicole Brown. She has stood out in a number of ensembles over the years. That continues here with her character bringing the heart to the show. Meanwhile, the Lea Michele character is a bit too much of the straight woman to the wacky hijinks happening elsewhere. She's playing to type as well. I'm intrigued to see how the show plans on incorporating her in this narrative while allowing her to be funny because she can be hilarious. B

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World - "Pilot"
Kevin Finn is not a good person. He's not terrible, but he's selfish and clueless, and values material wealth and status over all else. And he's beginning to realize that those things aren't making him happy - in fact, he's fairly miserable. Just when things seem to be at their worst, he finds himself tasked with an unbelievable mission: saving the world. Written by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters and directed by Paul McGuigan

This premiere is perfectly fine and charming. And yet, I still have no idea what the actual series is or if it is any good at all. This premise basically only works and is entertaining because of Jason Ritter's lead performance. He's an actor who deserves to be on a hit TV show. He's a very capable leading man who just hasn't struck much luck yet - outside of Parenthood where he was just a recurring guest star. I'm not entirely sure that I buy Ritter's character as someone who could be described as the worst person the people around him have ever known. He doesn't seem malicious in his actions. Ritter is playing Kevin more as an adrift guy who has never found a purpose he can be passionate about. That includes his family. He's just disconnected from everyone. That quality works much better than the idea that Kevin is this selfish man who hurt everyone around him in his pursuit of material things. That angle seems forced. The comedic beats can be a little elongated and annoying as well. Plus, I'm already annoyed by the twist that keeps most of the main characters out of the loop for what's really going on in this world. Kevin literally can't tell anyone his new mission. That's strange and could be a hindrance to the show. As the various superhero shows have proven over the years, the world opens up immensely once the awkwardness of the secret identity goes away. That doesn't seem possible here. So, the show better justify keeping JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Chloe East, J. August Richards, India De Beaufort and Dustin Ybarra around. Plus, it's still too early to tell if Kimberly Hebert Gregory is playing a bold, original character or just re-enforcing a stereotype. B-

Grey's Anatomy - "Go Big or Go Home"
Harper Avery arrives at Grey Sloan, putting Bailey on edge. A familiar face from Meredith's past returns as a patient. Amelia tries to manage a secret. Written by Meg Marinis and directed by Chandra Wilson

I am so grateful that the show isn't keeping Amelia's brain tumor a secret for a prolonged period of time. These characters have been very foolish over the years because they've allowed things to be needlessly complicated simply for not telling one another about what's going on in their lives. It was a way to produce melodrama that wasn't all that exciting. The best thing about this story is everyone finding out about it and reacting to it. Did Amelia compromise anyone's health by operating on brains while she had this tumor? Her doctor played by Greg Germann says that she's had it for the past decade. That's as long as she's been a part of this universe - first on Private Practice then here. I'm a little hopeful that this story may bring some of the Los Angeles people back to Seattle for her. The new doctor also bringing up what happened to Dr. Nicole Herman piqued my interest with the potential of Geena Davis returning. And yet, all of those hopes are pushed to the side with Richard saying her mortality rate is one of the lowest in the entire hospital. And yet, the pure emotion that comes from Maggie, Owen and Meredith finding out what's going on is very strong. The other stories don't make much of an impact. The Homecoming proposal gone wrong case was a little too silly and forcing April, Alex and Jo into some pretty obvious moments. The comedy of Harper Avery's death felt a little too broad - especially with the fact that he fired Bailey. Will that ever come up again? That seems doubtful. But it's also refreshing to see Meredith be done with love triangles. She's matured enough to know that she doesn't have time for such trivial things. And yet, her big fight with Nathan is the first time I genuinely bought that they could love each other. So, that's interesting. B-