Friday, October 13, 2017

REVIEW: ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Mayor,' 'Designated Survivor' and 'Grey's Anatomy (October 8-14)

Various reviews from ABC shows for October 8-14, 2017:

ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.02 "First Day"
ABC's Black-ish - Episode 4.02 "Mother Nature"
ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.04 "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"
ABC's Designated Survivor - Episode 2.03 "Outbreak"
ABC's The Mayor - Episode 1.02 "The Filibuster"

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 8-14, 2017. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "First Day"
It's the first day of high school and Eddie wants to join the football team to impress Alison, despite Jessica forbidding him to try out. Emery finds out that Evan has been moved up a grade and is in middle school with him. Louis battles with Kenny Roger's right-hand man over changes at the steakhouse. Written by Laura McCreary and directed by Alisa Statman

This felt like a piece-moving episode. It's weird. It's mostly just setting up the status quo for the new season. The season finale ended in a precarious position with the premiere largely bringing everything back to normal. It didn't restore everything completely. But it did most of the heavy lifting. And now, "First Day" continues to make things happen that will be important to note throughout the season. So, Eddie and Allison break up because he gets jealous over her probably spending a lot of time with football players now that she's in the marching band. She's absolutely right to break up with him because he tried to trick her. It backfired spectacularly. It's also fitting that that's the thing to restore his friendships with the rest of the gang. It's great that they finally get to discuss the ER finale too. But it mostly just establishes that high school won't ultimately be that different from middle school. Meanwhile, Evan has skipped a grade and Emery suddenly has a ton of bad luck. Those are less episodic stories and more setting up things for the future that could be complicated for both of them. It may be nice to see them challenged in this way. And finally, it's amusing to see the changes coming to Cattleman's Ranch from Kenny Rogers' team - though it's also clear the show couldn't get Kenny Rogers like they did with Michael Bolton. But it's even better to see Louis stand up and punch back. But the ownership of the restaurant hasn't changed. So, that will probably be an ongoing concern as well. B

Black-ish - "Mother Nature"
Bow is feeling overwhelmed after the birth of DeVante and learns she is suffering from postpartum depression. Dre urges her to get help and stands by her side while she works through it. The kids baby-proof the house in an effort to help their parents out. Written by Corey Nickerson and directed by Ken Whittingham

The show has gotten off to a terrific start with its fourth season. Black-ish is back and better than ever before. These opening two episodes are just so strong, smart and insightful. They've covered important subject matter. Here, it's fascinating to see the family adjusting upon realizing that Bow has postpartum depression. The show definitely plays to the broader qualities of the disease to make it more visible and amusing. But it's still very effective. Dre isn't the fool who is completely oblivious to what's going on either. He's the driving force to make sure Bow gets the help she needs. Yes, it comes from the selfish place of him wanting her to be the woman she used to be. But it's still a sweet and understandable sentiment. And more importantly, he's on her side throughout all of this. He sees her struggling and remains her champion when Ruby challenges her judgment. Sure, it's not surprising that Rudy's banishment from the house doesn't last forever. But it's such a vital turning point in the story as well. Dre has always taken his mother's side. He's very close with her. But here, he needs to do right by his wife first and foremost. He struggles with that and needs to be reassured by Pops that he's doing everything he can. It's a genuine story that digs deep into a very serious issue. It makes it emotional and very funny to watch. It's a roller coaster for Bow with highs and lows. She does end the episode truly connecting with DeVante and the rest of the family. It may be too simple of a solution. But it doesn't take away the power of this episode at all. A

Grey's Anatomy - "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"
Amelia confronts a difficult situation. Meredith deals with the fallout from her conversation with Nathan. Maggie finds herself at an awkward family dinner. Jackson receives big news. Richard and Bailey search for the stars of tomorrow. Written by Marlana Hope and directed by Geary McLeod

Amelia's diagnosis of a brain tumor could have only indicated two things in her story: 1.) the show was killing the character off, or 2.) the show wanted to rehab the character after how annoying she's been for awhile. This episode reveals that it is the latter option. I have conflicting feelings about that. Amelia hasn't been a great character in a long time. She can be so stubborn and annoying. She has a tendency to make everything about her. She can be very dramatic without it being that genuine. And now, the audience is suppose to get swept up in the precarious nature of this surgery and the lingering effects she feels post-op. The moment with DeLuca saying she's not used to not having the feeling of something being wrong is suppose to be uplifting. Instead, it's a little weird. It highlights how a piece of Amelia is missing and she's not sure who she is without it. It's an identity crisis the show plans on exploring. It's just doing so in the context of Amelia and Owen working on their marriage - which is a path the show has gone down many times before. So, it's all a little too lackluster right now. Of course, things are very heartwarming when Meredith and Nathan are able to bring Megan's son to Seattle. That's a huge surprise that is very special to see. The dinner between Maggie, Jackson, Richard and Catherine is appropriately awkward. The show is really ramping up the sibling connection between Maggie and Jackson despite their possible romantic intentions. Again, I'm not sure what the show is trying to do with them. It's a little too confusing. And then, there's just the surprising but really effective moment with April and Arizona bonding over divorce and missing their kids. It may happen just to set up the final reveal with Sophia returning to Seattle to be with Arizona. But I wouldn't mind seeing more of April and Arizona together because they are going through similar things. B-

Designated Survivor - "Outbreak"
President Kirkman is faced with a viral pandemic that threatens to kill countless Americans. FBI Agent Hannah Wells and MI6 Agent Damian Rennett discover evidence that could change the lives of the first family forever. Written by Ashley Gable and directed by Chris Grismer

"Outbreak" is a competently made episode of television which makes it a vast improvement over last week's episode. That's a good sign. It's still not a great episode. The show is still trying to find its new identity this season. Right now, it feels like it is simply throwing a lot of plot into each episode to keep everyone busy. Well, everyone except Natascha McElhone. Seriously, she's barely been in this season at all. That's probably setting up for the inevitable expectation of her not being a necessary part of the show. But it's just odd to see the show juggling so many stories and trying to be topical with all of them. It's the drama highlighting just how difficult the job of President is because it features so many things to be aware of. But this hour feels overwhelming with plot. The outbreak storyline feels underdeveloped. It's effective in those brief conversations between President Kirkman and the representative from the CDC. That gives it a nice grounded hook. But the rest of the story is just a compulsive desire to be topical. The same is also true of Kendra's story with the confederate statues. It's surprising that the two storylines are able to dovetail together in the end. That was unexpected while showing just how connected the show wants all of this to be. Plus, an explanation is given as to why Patrick Lloyd when to President Kirkman's mother-in-law's house before his bunker last week. Sure, it's annoying for the show to wait a week before providing a satisfying answer. Even now, it still seems like a needlessly complicated mystery. Of course, it gets Damian sent away. That's good because he has been just so bland and boring this season so far. Chuck is a vast improvement on him in every regard. But neither Chuck nor Hannah can make this new mystery exciting despite it having a family connection to the President. C+

The Mayor - "The Filibuster"
Courtney makes his first mayoral appearance at his old elementary school and discovers that their music program, which helped changed his life, is in danger of being eliminated. Val educates Courtney about how he needs to "work the system" in order to provide the school with appropriate funding, and they work together to outsmart Councilman Ed Gunt. Jermaine proudly embraces his new role as communications director, as Dina pushes T.K. to realize the significance of his job as director of Constituent Services. Written by Vijal Patel and directed by James Griffiths

It's surprising and remarkable just how fully formed The Mayor already is in its second episode. It's very impressive. It's the only new comedy this fall that I actually find myself enjoying and laughing at. Yes, it's topical and plays differently in our current political environment. There is so much biting commentary from Courtney only paying attention to presentations when his name is mentioned multiple times. But there is such a strong aspirational quality to what Courtney wants to do for the city as well. Sure, he's selfish and doesn't know what he's doing. But he's delivering a hopeful message too. It's heartwarming that he wants to keep the city's music program. He understands how important it is and knows he has to fight for it when everyone else doesn't care at all. Val is still figuring out how to be the best chief of staff for him while Councilman Gunt is a strong antagonist who isn't just a mustache-twirling villain. It's nice to see Jermaine and T.K. developing personalities as well. It could be problematic that they are given high-ranking positions too. It gives this administration even more potential to go awry. Jermaine doesn't know when he should be live streaming something. Meanwhile, T.K. has no idea what his job actually entails. It's a lot of fun to see Dina drive T.K. around trying to get him to realize he's the man who can solve these basic but disruptive problems. It's also great that the final punchline is him realizing she could have been more blunt with that information in the first place. Also, it just feels good to see Larry Wilmore on TV again. B+