Saturday, November 18, 2017

REVIEW: ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Mayor' and 'Grey's Anatomy' (November 12-18)

Various reviews from ABC shows for November 12-18, 2017:

Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.07 "The Day After Thanksgiving"
Black-ish - Episode 4.07 "Please Don't Feed the Animals"
The Mayor - Episode 1.07 "Here Comes the Governor"
Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.08 "Out of Nowhere"

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 November 12-18, 2017. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "The Day After Thanksgiving"
The Huangs' idea to skip Thanksgiving this year doesn't last long when Louis plays matchmaker and invites Grandma's ESL teacher, Bernard, to dinner after he notices their flirtation in class. To Jessica's amazement, Grandma Huang offers to cook the entire meal to show her appreciation. To prove his maturity, Evan lets Eddie and Emery sneak him into his first R-rated movie. Written by Keith Heisler and directed by Sean Kavanagh

It's definitely harder to watch this episode following the sexual harassment allegation against George Takei. It was clear from his first episode that Bernard was going to be a recurring character this season. It was just too small of a part in that first appearance to justify hiring him. Grandma Huang learning English is a strong story as well. But now, it has already reached its conclusion. That's probably a good thing because I don't know if the creative team will be eager to have Takei back any time soon. This episode is essentially all about Bernard though. Louis thinks he's setting his mom up on a date only to realize that Bernard is weird. It's a very thin main story. The episode is all about Bernard being weird at the Thanksgiving dinner. But there's something off-putting about a character played by Takei who has no idea how his inappropriate actions are coming across to the world around him. That's basically the entire joke of this episode. And so, it's probably the weakest one the show has done in awhile. It's problematic even if one doesn't know about the real-life headlines with Takei. Of course, the subplot with Evan seeing an R-rated movie for the first time is pretty amusing. It's great that he learns how to be the knife instead of the balloon. The visual of the float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade falling apart and the parallel it has to this story is quite strong. This continues to be an excellent season for Evan maturing while still acting like a kid in many ways. Plus, it's rewarding that he gets exactly what he wants in the end as well. C+

Black-ish - "Please Don't Feed the Animals"
Bow keeps in touch with Dre's incarcerated godbrother, Omar, but when they find out he is being released from prison, Omar's future sparks debate. Ruby lets it slip to the kids that she's been to jail and they push her to tell them more secrets from her past. Written by Hale Rothstein and directed by Michael Schultz

It's a little frustrating how impersonal the story of "Please Don't Feed the Animals" ultimately becomes. The show frequently succeeds in tackling important subject matter by making it personal to the Johnson family. It's one thing to have an abstract debate about some pressing issue. It's another thing entirely for that issue to affect someone in this family. Those personal stakes make it more meaningful for the comedy and the audience's reaction to all of it. This story never really has that. It attempts it by saying that Dre has a relative in prison who is being released because he was proven innocent. That feels like a strong personal connection. But the story never really gets out of the philosophical debate about the mass incarceration of African Americans in this country. Yes, the office scenes that depict the difference between white and black collar crimes are amusing while providing some truly biting commentary. But it still ultimately feels like this episode is the first draft of this story. The show is trying to make the argument that people on the outside need to remind the people in prison of their humanity. It's easy to get lost in the system that wants to treat people as numbers for the crimes that they've committed. And yet, the show never treats Omar as a person. He's just this figure who is frequently talked about but never seen. Yes, it's powerful for Dre and Bow to be sitting united and ready to welcome Omar back to the real world. But it's a story that ends on the debate and uncertainty. That is different from the norm of this show. It's just not as successful as this show so frequently is. B-

The Mayor - "Here Comes the Governor"
As the mayor's office plans a tour for the governor of California's official visit to Fort Grey, an old rap video of Courtney's resurfaces that puts potential funding for their city in jeopardy. Dina finds herself in an unwanted competition with her friend, Krystal. Written by Monica Padrick and directed by Tristram Shapeero

The show could really only have Courtney as an oblivious and incompetent newcomer to politics for so long. There is only so much story that can be derived from Courtney having no idea how the procedure of it all works. He can't be clueless about the game for a long time. And so, it's empowering to see him work throughout this episode. This is now a man who has had this job as the mayor for awhile and knows how to play the game a little more. He's now becoming aware of the tricks that need to be played in politics in order to get what's good for his town. Courtney is now capable of having a frank and honest conversation with the Governor while being able to get a good deal for Fort Grey. That wouldn't have been possible awhile ago. It may still be a little startling. But it represents growth with the character and the storytelling. Plus, Courtney still doesn't have all the answers about how to best handle this job. Yes, it's odd that it has taken this long for the media to discover all of his old music videos. It feels like this one should have come out at some point before now. That's a trick the show can't play multiple times either. But it's also relevant because it exposes the differences between how Courtney can communicate as a citizen versus a politician even when he still shares the same beliefs. He now knows how to play the game. And in the end, his speech that addresses the problems his city still has is effective. It's not a case where the characters are telling Courtney he did a good job when he improvised his handling of this scandal. The audience gets that sense as well. Courtney is growing and that's so important to see. It represents a changing story in the show that could really go anywhere in the future. B+

Grey's Anatomy - "Out of Nowhere"
A hacker compromises the hospital's computer system, causing monitors, phones, labs and patient files to all go down. As technology fails them, Bailey attempts to keep the peace but chaos erupts and the doctors are forced to get creative in their methods to treat the patients. Written by William Harper and directed by Kevin McKidd

As "Out of Nowhere" went along, it became pretty clear that this story wasn't going to be wrapped up by the end of the hour. It was a midseason finale building to a cliffhanger where multiple lives were in jeopardy. That's a trick the show has played before. It can still effectively do it as well. And yet, the premise of this hour and the execution are really lackluster. This is a show that wants the audience to believe it has its pulse on the ever-changing influence of technology in medicine. Technology has changed the way these doctors operate. The show has evolved. What was common in the early days of the show is much more streamlined now. And yet, it also wants the audience to believe that everyone falls apart once the technology is no longer there to support their jobs. It's mostly just the show devolving into erratic chaos for the week. A story where tons of characters are just spastic running throughout the hospital seemingly out of control. It's a way to get the tension up. But it doesn't seem like the rational response to have. It feels like a bunch of plot complications are dictating the story and sacrificing character in order to do so. It's weird that Richard has to teach even his fellow attending surgeons how to do their jobs without technology. It's a lame and easy joke for multiple characters to have no idea what a newspaper is. It's weird that Bailey doesn't know what Bitcoin is. The show wants to be current and edgy. But this ultimately feels like a story about hacking that would have been more prescient and edgy around five years ago. Yes, hacking is in the news more and more in 2017. But the show definitely reveals its age and the older demographic it is appealing to with this story. The only really effective twist is Jo's ex-husband showing up in the end. That was unexpected. Yes, it was obvious he was always going to show up at some point during a very unfortunate time for her. But here, his appearance puts a kid's life in jeopardy and Jo seems incapable of moving after seeing him even though she needs to. Again, it's a cheap thrill. But at least, it's deeply based in the characters and their various stories this season. C+