Thursday, April 5, 2018

REVIEW: ABC's 'Roseanne,' 'Black-ish,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Station 19' (April 2-6)

Various ABC reviews for April 2-6, 2018:

Roseanne - Episode 10.03 "Roseanne Gets the Chair"
Black-ish - Episode 4.18 "Black Math"
Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.18 "Hold Back the River"
Station 19 - Episode 1.04 "Reignited"

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 ABC from April 2-6, 2018. Enjoy!

Roseanne - "Roseanne Gets the Chair"
Written by Sid Youngers and directed by John Pasquin

The two episodes that started this revival last week had their problems but it was also clear that the show was playing to a 2018 audience and had a perspective it wanted to share on a number of issues. That was refreshing and gave the revival some purpose. And now, this week the show delves into such a familiar story without a refreshing take on it whatsoever. It's the inevitable struggle of parents trying to figure out the best way to parent their children. It's just very lame and conventional. It's a key plot point that Darlene has changed so much since she was a high schooler on the original show. She may be a pushover who allows her children to do whatever they want. But she is still able to stand firm and make a deal with Harris to get her to stay here for the next three years. That's a somewhat understandable character journey that the show puts the effort into explaining. Meanwhile, it's just suppose to be accepted that Roseanne is extremely different than she was in the 1980s simply because Roseanne Barr is so different nowadays. But Roseanne and Dan are mostly playing the jokes as broadly as possible. It's annoying and not all that great. In fact, it could be quite damaging. Jokes are made about Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat being about universality and the desire to be "just like us." Now, the show never drops those names in the same way it's comfortable doing so for Wheel of Fortune and Jimmy Kimmel Live. But it's easy to understand what's going on through context clues. It's a joke made for a certain segment of the audience to laugh at the idea of inclusivity. That's troubling on a network that has always championed its inclusive storytelling with its comedies. This show can argue that it's one made for conservatives to feel safe and comfortable while still adjusting to the new realities of the world. And yet, there just isn't anything funny about Roseanne physically hitting her granddaughter and then demanding an apology for how spoiled she is. None of it really works. But the show is a massive hit and will probably give everyone the confidence to keep telling things exactly as is. C+

Black-ish - "Black Math"
Written by Doug Hall and directed by Kevin Bray

On the same night that Roseanne calls out shows like Black-ish for trying to be universal in their storytelling, Black-ish airs an episode about historically black colleges and whether or not Junior should attend one just like Dre did. It's a story about a specific experience for families that look like the Johnsons. Dre is happy that Junior gets accepted into Howard while Bow is proud he got into Stanford. There's the ongoing debate over which is a better school and if the educational system really is equal. It's still mostly an excuse for Dre to talk about segregation while not seeing things as clearly as his ideals suggest. He looks back on his time at school fondly despite his overall struggles in life. It's important to point out the diversity in black voices when it comes to Junior attending a school like Howard. That would give him a new perspective on the world that could be very enriching to his education. It could also just as easily be alienating to him once he graduates and enters the real world looking for a job where the employers judge him for cutting himself off from white culture. It's a very nuanced conversation that feels very genuine for this family. Of course, it also brings up the question if Junior will be leaving the family to attend college next season? If so, that would significantly change up the dynamic of stories in the show because the eldest two children would be gone. How would the show adjust to that change? Is that something it's interested in doing? Or will it find a way to keep including Junior since he's not apparently getting a spinoff like Zoey did. Meanwhile, the subplot with Ruby, Jack and Diane is a little silly that does delve into how comedy is often just repeating famous bits in different ways to suit one's personality. And yet, it's also just a blast to see Jack and Diane get jealous of each other's success while Ruby goes back and forth in her support as their manager. B+

Grey's Anatomy - "Hold Back the River"
Written by Alex Manugian and directed by Geary McLeod

There's a solid moment of manipulation halfway through this episode that easily freaks the audience out for a couple of minutes. The show explains that Owen and Arizona are investigating this doctor who is apparently a scam artist. But then, it plays things sincerely when he says Arizona has breast cancer. Knowing that Jessica Capshaw is leaving the show at the end of the season, there seemed like a real possibility that this could be her final story. And yet, it was also inevitable that the scan would be revealed as false. It just took a commercial break until that was confirmed. As such, it's easy to understand and root for the actions Owen takes to ensure this guy pays for his crimes. And yet, does the show support the moments of violence that Owen and Alex have here? They are both in fragile places because they care passionately about certain things. But it's still bordering on abusive when Owen storms into the doctor's office to freak him out a bit before the police arrive. He didn't really need to do that after already turning him in to the authorities. Meanwhile, Alex pushes Koracick against a wall as soon as it becomes clear that the new treatment to attack tumors isn't ready for Kimmie. It's behavior that has plagued him so many times in the past. It could pop up again to cause a bunch of problems. But here, it's mostly evidence to show just how much he has been affected by this young patient. Elsewhere, it's fascinating to see Mary Kay Place appear again as Richard's sponsor. She did an episode back in the second season. She has never reappeared since - not even during the time in Season 6 when he fell off the wagon. As such, it's a little random and hard to remember what that relationship was like the first time around. But here, it's mostly self-explanatory with Richard wanting to fight to cure her even though she has already come to accept that she is dying. Of course, that's then potentially compromised by Meredith's discovery that she can move forward with her technique without needing to get the patent from Marie. She has found a way to duplicate the success and publish her findings much faster. That's a rousing victory for her. And then, it's a crushing defeat when Maggie learns that April kissed Jackson just a few episodes ago when she was in the midst of her crisis of faith. She's better now and apologizing to everyone she hurt. But that story still ends in a surprising way that puts Maggie and Jackson's new relationship into jeopardy. B

Station 19 - "Reignited"
Written by Ilene Rosenzweig and directed by Dennis Smith

In these early episodes, the show has really played up the love triangle between Andy, Jack and Ryan. It was a big deal when she turned down Jack's semi-proposal and then slept with Ryan. It's now a big deal that she starts having sex with Jack again. And yet, it's also fascinating that Andy doesn't want to be in a love triangle. She is already perfectly happy with her life. She is at home at the firehouse. She enjoys the position she has as captain. She doesn't want to make a serious commitment to anyone. This episode fleshes out her dynamic with Jack more to make it seem like a genuine possibility. But it's incapable of being that until they have the conversation about the ring. He is ready to move forward and build a life together that doesn't exist in secret. She doesn't want that right now. However, she'll have to keep talking about it because her father discovers that the two of them are having sex. That's a solid tease for next week. Elsewhere, it seems slightly too soon for the show to be telling a story of best friends Andy and Maya having a fight where they aren't talking about what's going on in their lives. Maya is upset that Andy is sleeping with Jack again and keeping it from her. As such, she needs to confide in someone else after she learns that her brother is homeless and has been arrested. That's mostly an introductory story here. Elsewhere, it's very compelling to see Vic be visibly shaken by the job after her recent experiences. She is repressing all of those emotions because she believes any slip up will get her fired from this job. She can't even entertain those thoughts and lashes out at Ben when he brings them up. That seems like it has the potential to become very tragic very quickly. Meanwhile, Dean going to Pruitt for dating advice is mostly played for comic relief that still tries to find poignancy as Pruitt is adjusting to his new job and position in the firehouse family. Plus, things are setting up nicely with Travis routinely caring about Edith and making sure that she tells her grandson exactly what's going on with her. Again, it's a story that will more than likely end badly. But Edith sure is fun too. B