Friday, March 16, 2018

REVIEW: NBC's 'Superstore' 'Will & Grace' and 'Champions' (March 15)

Various NBC reviews for March 15, 2018:

Superstore - Episode 3.15 "Amnesty"
Will & Grace - Episode 9.14 "The Beefcake and the Cake Beef"
Champions - Episode 1.02 "I Think I'm Gonna Tolerate It Here"

In 2018, 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, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on NBC from March 15, 2018. Enjoy!

Superstore - Episode 3.15 "Amnesty"
Written by Eric Ledgin and directed by Keith Powell

This season is currently in a creative upswing. It feels like the show has more confidence because it is finally being upfront about the potential of an Amy-Jonah romance. And yet, it's also just a lot of fun seeing how the show is dealing with such a conventional story as well. It still plays into some very familiar plot beats as well - with Jonah deciding to move in with Kelly even though he's doing that just to make a statement to everyone that he no longer has a crush on Amy. But it's also just a lot of fun having this plot out in the open with Amy and Jonah feeling the need to explain why they don't have feelings for each other to a group of people instead of trying to figure things out themselves. They never really have a personal moment to collect their thoughts on everything that is happening here. Their co-workers keep replaying their kiss over and over again. It's great to see the many edited versions of it that amuse the entire store. But it's also a significant moment when Jonah and Amy accidentally kiss again when trying to play along with the teasing. It's also significant when they both admit that they've had crushes on the other in the past. It's a shock but it's rewarding because it is all out in the open now. That's what this episode is fundamentally about. It's about being honest and open about the sometimes awful behavior of these characters. Glenn still wants to believe that people are fundamentally good. And yet, he is proven wrong over and over again by learning the secrets of his staff - including how Sandra and Carol's feud may turn lethal at some point in the future. Plus, it's just great that Garrett frequently comes across as the guy who will constantly mess with his co-workers but doesn't really know how to break the rules when given the opportunity. And finally, Jeff quitting his job to be with Mateo again may be a rash decision given his love of corporate. But it's also a surprising romantic moment at the end of the episode too. A-

Will & Grace - "The Beefcake and the Cake Beef"
Written by Suzanne Martin and directed by James Burrows

At the start of this revival season, the political humor was absolutely awful. It was the show being broad because it thought that was necessary to prove to the audience that it was still relevant. Since then, it has still shoehorned in a number of political commentary that felt either too broad or out-of-place. And now, the show is nearing the end of its current season. It's relaxed into itself more and things no longer feel as scattered. As such, it's meaningful when an episode does produce a significant political story. Karen and Grace's story this week is all about free speech and wanting to have "MAGA" on a cake. And yet, it still doesn't feel all that meaningful or special. It highlights just how awful and outrageous Karen can be. She has always been a ridiculous character. But here, she's someone so out-of-touch with people that the majority of the story is Grace apologizing on her behavior as she insults everyone in the store. Grace does make a compelling argument in fighting for free speech for all and not just what we personally believe in. But it's still a story fundamentally about Karen saying something ridiculous and Grace ultimately getting a cake in the face. It's good but not great. Meanwhile, the Will-Jack story digs into a deeply personal place. It follows up on Will wanting to reach out to Michael again 20 years after they dated. It's the show continuing to explore the idea that Will isn't completely fulfilled with his life right now. As such, he is moving very quickly in this new relationship. It's meaningful when Jack points out that he may be moving too fast with someone who is just using him. It's heartbreaking when Michael ultimately proves Jack's point about just wanting Will for his money. But it's so significant that Jack is a caring best friend and not someone who mocks Will when he's down. Of course, it's also a story caught up in the idea of Will and Jack being in love with one another. Jack claims the thought has never crossed his mind while Will can admit to one time thinking about it before realizing the friendship was just too important. It ends in a sweet and moving place. But it's also a twist meant to distract the characters for a moment about the real issue at hand with Michael. B

Champions - "I Think I'm Gonna Tolerate It Here"
Written by Charlie Grandy & Mindy Kaling and directed by Michael Spiller

This is a pretty conventional case of the second episode of a series just repeating what worked in the pilot. Vince is freaking out because he doesn't know how to be a parent to Michael. As such, it leads to a tense moment where Michael thinks his father is embarrassed of him and doesn't want him in his life. Plus, there's still the ongoing debate over whether or not Vince has sold the gym. That was a huge concern from the premiere that was left unresolved. It's one of my pet peeves from pilots as well. There was no reality in which Vince actually sold the gym. The entire premise of the show is this family living here and running this business. As such, it was a little inevitable that Vince would come up with the money to save the gym simply by selling his vintage basketball game. That also solved the problem of where Michael is going to sleep in this apartment. Of course, the subplot with Michael actually being a slob doesn't really amount to much. It's good for a couple of quick jokes - plus an appearance from Mindy Kaling. But that's about it. This episode's grand purpose is to further introduce this world and establish the supporting ensemble that works at the gym. In that regard, there are some promising developments - even though it seems likely that the focus will almost completely remain on the core trio in the family. Fortune Feimster is basically playing the same character she did on The Mindy Project. And yet, it's still fun watching Ruby kick Matthew out of her apartment with no compassion whatsoever. Meanwhile, everyone else is given their basic descriptions and exist largely within them. So, there's the struggling actor trying to invest in Off-Broadway plays, the vain fitness coach with crazy ideas, the straightforward accountant and the racist uncle. They are mostly clumped together here as they are all surprised by the lies Vince has told. But it should be fascinating to see how this show plans on pairing everyone off in the future for subplots. B-