Friday, November 3, 2017

REVIEW: ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Mayor' and 'Grey's Anatomy' (October 29-November 4)

Various reviews from ABC shows for October 29-November 4, 2017:

ABC's Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.05 "Four Funerals and a Wedding"
ABC's Black-ish - Episode 4.05 "Public Fool"
ABC's The Mayor - Episode 1.05 "The Strike"
ABC's Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.06 "Come on Down to My Boat, Baby"

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 29-November 4, 2017. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "Four Funerals and a Wedding"
When Jessica's aunt passes away, the Huang family packs their bags for Houston where the boys see Jessica's father for the first time. While observing the distant relationship, Louis makes it his mission to push Jessica and her father closer together. Evan decides to make Eddie the executor of his will, prompting Emery and Eddie to fight over who is the better older brother. Written by Rachna Fruchbom and directed by Lynn Shelton

Emery's bad luck year was established in the season premiere. Every episode this season has featured something bad happening to him and him basically proclaiming, "This bad luck year is the absolute worst." It was an amusing concept in the beginning to see the luck turn on Emery after so much has gone right for him. But the show has been a little too blatant in giving this a reason to be blamed. It's gotten a little annoying. That's what makes the development of Eddie saying it's just puberty so meaningful. It's the show recognizing that this is a joke that has already run its course. Emery is changing and won't be able to return to the person he was. Now, he needs to accept that things will be different while also enjoying new support from Eddie. That's special. Meanwhile, it was pretty clear that Louis was projecting his own issues with his relationship with his father onto Jessica and her dad. It's surprising to see Jessica's dad pop up for the first time here. He has never been mentioned before. The boys don't even know that he is alive. But it's fascinating to see Jessica and her dad be completely okay with this relationship. They've made peace with it. They don't need anything more from each other. Louis is the one with a problem. He spirals out because of it. He wanted his father to see him accomplish many things in this world and his dad just never showed up. He died right after an embarrassing moment with Louis. All of this is amusing. But it's more of a fun concept than something that is all that great or specific in the execution. Of course, it's also fun to see the neighborhood believe that Evan is dying and the tragedy that happens in Jessica's extended family that ultimately leads to a wedding. B

Black-ish - "Public Fool"
An incident at school threatens Junior's future at his beloved Valley Glen Prep. Written by Kenya Barris and directed by Kevin Bray

After last week's extreme bottle episode, the show is right back to being a comedy about social issues. This time it is about schooling and the differences between public and private schools. The show keeps the discussion exactly over that debate without throwing home schooling or charter schools into the mix. If it tried that, it wouldn't have enough time to do anything else. And even this episode is only focused on the main plot. Yes, there are plot beats of Jack and Diane worried that they have to attend public school too while Ruby tries to blend in as a teenager. But it's mostly about Junior getting kicked out of private school and needing to attend the public school just up the street. Yes, it's a powerful history lesson on the struggles of segregation and opportunity when it comes to schooling. It even presents an argument for the Johnsons being a part of the problem as well. They are eager to give their children a private school education to give them more opportunities in life while being horrified at what public schools have become. They have the money and resources to help improve the system but they don't. As such, it's not surprising that Junior actually likes it better in public school. Of course, it's also amusing that the premise of this story is Junior actually being loved by his family right before he breaks a fellow student's jaw. That seems so out-of-character. And in the end, it's not completely accurate. But it does foster a compelling conversation amongst this family. Plus, it's a solid spotlight episode for Marcus Scribner. Junior has finally found friends who understand him. That could force him to come out of his shell even more going forward. A-

The Mayor - "The Strike"
When Fort Grey's public transportation comes to a crippling halt due to the bus driver's union strike, Courtney also finds himself striking out when he's outmatched by Amber, the fierce Transit Union lawyer who makes him realize he'll need more than his charm and Val's advice to reach a new deal. T.K. and Jermaine attempt to solve the issue by employing a focus group which quickly turns unruly. Dina and her two best friends are excited about their annual tradition of taking a sick day to pamper themselves, but their plans get derailed by an unforeseen chain of events. Written by Matt Fusfeld & Alex Cuthbertson and directed by Tina Mabry

There are a lot of solid ideas throughout "The Strike" but it never seems like the many plots have the room to breathe and shine. The Dina story with her friends suffers especially because it's all action that happens offscreen. The show builds up this sick day vacation for the three of them only to have a lame payoff later on. Meanwhile, the idea that Courtney wants to focus group the problems he faces as mayor is an amusing concept. It feels similar to the public forum concept on Parks and Recreation. That's not a bad idea to copy either. But here, it's good for just a couple of simple jokes that do get a little repetitive as well. T.K. and Jermaine want to conceal Courtney's identity but aren't able to keep the ruse up for very long. Meanwhile, Courtney's story is once again about him dealing with a new problem in local government where he has to find a compromise that will make everyone happy. He wants to be the politician for the people. He doesn't want to be beholden to special interests. He wants to make people happy. And yet, it's somehow surprising to him that every single person in this city has a different idea of what would actually be beneficial. He has to learn that his decisions will carry consequences that will make some people upset with him. In the end, he has to be okay with raising the bus fare and closing the public library on certain days. It's a story that makes sense and the show is very pro-union in the scope of this story. But it also just wants to be a fun sitcom where Courtney deflects responsibilities by saying that people should just drive others around for free if they see someone in need on the street. It's an idea that could go horribly wrong but doesn't. Courtney just needs to learn his lesson another way. B

Grey's Anatomy - "Come on Down to My Boat, Baby"
Jackson decides he needs some time off and invites the guys to join him on a day out at sea. Arizona, April and Maggie treat a woman who is hiding a deadly secret. Written by Kiley Donovan and directed by Lisa Leone

This episode is a little all over the map. There are just a bunch of random stories that don't ultimately go together or feel all that tonally similarly. Again, I appreciate how the show has decided to have a lighter touch this season without losing any of the genuine emotion of this world and the characters. And yet, this episode feels like it's building to just a bunch of random romantic moments because that's what the show is known for. And so, Amelia sleeps with Tom Koracick who is still around the hospital for some reason. Arizona and Carina break up offscreen which sets the stage for Owen to kiss Carina in the end. Andrew is revealed to have some kind of past with one of the new interns. It's a lot and none of it seems all that promising. The show is more successful when it focuses on the stories that have been brewing for a long time. Jackson's restlessness hasn't been that engaging but he may have found the right outlet to become passionate about as well. Meanwhile, it's going to be empowering to see Jo face off with her abusive ex-husband. She's ready to address that part of her life and no longer run from it. That's going to be an intense story. Elsewhere, it's a little surprising how comedic the story with the gun in the vagina is. The gun does go off and seriously hurts someone. But it is still played for comedy while highlighting that Arizona will be a good parent no matter what. And finally, it did seem likely that Meredith's patient was going to die. However, framing that as she gets the news that she's been nominated for a Harper Avery award was very powerful and poignant. Plus, it's completely in line with her character that she focuses on how to save more lives with a new surgery than worry about this prestigious honor. C+