Friday, April 6, 2018

REVIEW: NBC's 'Rise,' 'Chicago Med,' 'Superstore,' 'Will & Grace,' 'Champions' and 'Chicago Fire' (April 2-6)

Various NBC reviews for April 2-6, 2018:

Rise - Episode 1.04 "Victory Party"
Chicago Med - Episode 3.14 "Lock It Down"
Superstore - Episode 3.18 "Local Vendors Day"
Will & Grace - Episode 9.16 "It's a Family Affair"
Champions - Episode 1.04 "My Fair Uncle"
Chicago Fire - Episode 6.17 "Put White on Me"

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 April 2-6, 2018. Enjoy!

Rise - "Victory Party"
Written by Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner and directed by Patrick Norris

There are less annoying Lou Mazzu moments in "Victory Party." That has to be a step in the right direction for Rise. Of course, he's still very off-putting in the moments where he is actually trying to direct. He just has no real understanding of the physical limitations of this space or how inarticulate he is with what he actually wants to achieve. He thinks it's totally fine to tell two teenagers that they need to embody heat in a seduction scene. He disregards the concerns that the lightning equipment can't handle his vision. It's also completely nonsensical that they are already working with lightning cues. That's not something that should be a priority for the kids at the moment. They should be learning their lines, the choreography and the blocking of the scenes. Lou remains focused on the big picture without really caring about people on an individual level. But it's also amusing that a private elementary school in Pittsburgh has more funding than he does right now. Of course, the show also clearly wants the audience on his side in his interactions with Gail's sister because she smugly has no tolerance for him. And yet, it's just a really forced story that once again has to pivot around Gordy's behavioral problems. This show has been really intense with underage drinking. It's been a huge story. It's all that defines Gordy. But it's also extremely casual about it as well. Gail's sister and Robbie's father believe it's totally fine and normal for teenagers to sneak some alcohol into parties. That still feels weird though because of how serious the show has treated the subject. Plus, it doesn't seem like there is alcohol at this party. Gordy appears to be the only one drinking. He's keeping it to himself. And yet, it's also important later on for Simon not to be able to drive home with him throwing up afterwards. That too feels like a somewhat forced story because it's building on this romantic connection with his male co-star who doesn't have a name or distinct personality or purpose yet. Meanwhile, it's very exciting when Tracey gets to complain about Lou for an extended period of time. It's just great to see her so passionate about everything in the theater department. That passion actually translates onscreen in an empowering way. But the show mostly wants to paint Lou in a flattering light because he arranges this date for Tracey that happens to go well. C+

Chicago Med - "Lock It Down"
Written by Diane Frolov, Andrew Schneider & Danny Weiss and directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield

I've long had my objections to Natalie and Will as a romantic couple. He's always been so obsessed with her and that has never seemed like something that could foster a healthy dynamic between them. And yet, it was still meaningful that the show actually chose to explore a relationship between them this season. It's been fascinating to see the impact they have on one another. In fact, Will has become less reckless and sanctimonious this year. He's still not a great character. But he's more palatable than he was in the past. The conflict that pops up now has a lot of nuance to it that makes it understandable why Natalie feels the need to take a break. They've fought over their professional ideals of what's right in the field of medicine. Here, Natalie believes an experimental treatment could be good for their patient. She does it without Will's support and the man dies. He feels compelled to protect her once Sharon comes down to reprimand the two. And yet, that just further proves how Will has never seen or respected Natalie as a colleague. She has always just been an object of desire for him. And now, he has her and needs to protect her at all costs. That's his moral obligation and it feels patronizing to her. It's suffocating and she needs her space. The show may barely give it to her though because they work closely together. Elsewhere, Sarah once again allows her personal bias to shade her thinking when it comes to diagnosing a patient. She is shocked to learn that her father is a psychopath who is incapable of loving her. She is furious with Dr. Charles for keeping it from her. But she has no idea how to move forward with this information because she is forced to question whether any feeling she has is genuine. That's heartbreaking while still shading her interactions with the woman who steals a baby. The Code Pink does create some interesting working conditions - especially in two stories. It's harrowing to watch Maggie all alone having to stabilize a critical patient. That's intense. The tension is a little less genuine with Choi's story with Connor and Ava trying to help him over the phone until they can arrive. It also weirdly ends on the note of Connor and Ava actually being pleasant to each other once more. That doesn't quite feel earned. B

Superstore - "Local Vendors Day"
Written by Josh Malmuth and directed by Geeta V. Patel

Superstore has always recognized the diversity of its cast but it doesn't always feel the need to highlight it in the actual stories. Nor does it need to honestly. It's perfectly fine for an ensemble driven comedy to have a very inclusive cast that is allowed to be funny for specific character details that have nothing pertaining to their race. Of course, some stories still include that - like Mateo's undocumented status. But it's also just a lot of fun when Amy is surprised that no one in the store identities her as Latina. That is her ethnicity but her co-workers use adjectives that describe her personality instead when goaded into an answer to her fill in the blank question. And yes, it is still rousing in the moment when she tells her new boyfriend that it's okay that she doesn't know a ton of Spanish. That doesn't make her any less Latin. She shouldn't feel judged because of it. Of course, a lot of the story building up to that point is pretty awkward with Amy not knowing what her boyfriend is saying while Jonah feels the need to set up a double date. Elsewhere, Glenn has always been an oblivious character who doesn't always understand how his actions come across. He is always so happy and upbeat despite so many tragic things that happen to him. He's an endearing character. And yet, he's still in a position of power that makes his employees believe they need to do whatever he asks or risk being fired. He has never intended that before. When he is called out on it, it's an eye-opening experience. But that only makes him more confident to do it later on in demanding every employee buy something from Jerusha. It's an odd story that still wants Glenn to be seen as a hero because he's striving to please his wife. But it's still an abuse of power that could have far-reaching consequences. Fortunately, no one tests Glenn's resolve to see if he would actually fire someone. Plus, the cold open with the employees playing into his performance about not knowing Jerusha is excellent. B

Will & Grace - "It's a Family Affair"
Written by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick and directed by James Burrows

It's odd that Will & Grace is already wrapping its season for the year. And yet, that's the reality of the situation when only a limited amount of episodes could be produced to fit into everyone's schedules. And overall, it does seem like the show ends in a very good place creatively. A lot of this season was rough. I wouldn't say it ever really found a consistent groove. But it did get better as it went along and had several notable moments. It can still go broad like it does here with Karen's whole story. It's ridiculous comedy that Megan Mullally and Alec Baldwin clearly have a ton of fun playing. And yes, the sex with no touching is much funnier than the kissing of Smitty. But it's still not the chief focus of this finale. That instead is the relationship between Will and Grace. Everyone around them is making decisions based on not wanting to end up like them. Everyone else is worried about how close Will and Grace are. They are living and working together. And yes, it is miraculous that the two working together didn't spiral up into something that threatened their entire relationship. That seemed like the direction the show was heading in when it first introduced that plot point. Instead, it was much more subtle with the introduction that Grace is perfectly content with the life she has now while Will still yearns for something more. Here, both of them present as perfectly happy in a world that has gone crazy. Their parents are getting engaged and Jack is proposing to the boyfriend he's only known for a day. Those are fun twists. Yes, it seems like such an easy thought to put Grace's father and Will's mother together. It was very convenient while also playing into the fact that the show always views Will and Grace as soulmates that aren't sexually attracted to one another. But it's also key in making them realize that this arrangement may not be as healthy as they have always thought. Of course, there's no real indication of either of them changing it any time soon. But it does force them to take a step back and think about what their lives are like right now and if there is a way that they could be even happier with their friends and family also supporting their choices. B

Champions - "My Fair Uncle"
Written by Mindy Kaling & Charlie Grandy and directed by Claire Scanlon

Champions is already adding additional family members to its ensemble to further flesh out this world. That seems like a smart creative decision because the cast of the show still seems relatively small. It's still mostly Vince, Matthew, Michael and Ruby. Those are the only characters of importance with some recurring faces in the gym who deliver one-liners. Plus, it's becoming a little clear that the show may not have the healthy run that The Mindy Project did where it could find itself slowly and introduce family members later on in the run. This week brings in Hasan Minhaj as Michael's uncle Ro. He's the success of the family. He presents as the fun-loving uncle who can give Michael everything he has always wanted. And yet, there needed to be a twist that explained why Priya dropped Michael off with Vince instead of her younger brother. That comes when it's revealed he's a drug addict who is only reaching out now because he needs Michael's help passing a drug test. That's a crushing moment. It's still very amusing that the show brings in Mindy Kaling for almost every episode even though she always has to be covered up with ridiculous objects because she's eight or nine months pregnant in real-life. But it's also just enjoyable to see how the addition of Michael to this world has changed up the family dynamic. Sure, the story is fundamentally about the sex appeal of Vince and Matthew. It makes sense that the world has always treated Matthew well while Vince has had things rougher. But it's also just so sweet and endearing to have Matthew so obsessed with being the best uncle to Michael. Meanwhile, Vince does learn his lesson in the end and chooses to be a good and protective father to Michael instead of being the hot single dad on the prowl looking for hookups. B

Chicago Fire - "Put White on Me"
Directed by Matt Earl Beesley with story by Jill Weinberger and teleplay by Derek Haas

I have long complained about the recovery times on this show and just how completely unrealistic they are. A week ago it was unknown if Otis would ever walk again. He couldn't come back to his job until he completed at least two months of physical therapy. And now, he is walking around with no problems with a cane. It seems very easy to him. He's back to work at the firehouse. Of course, he's just on desk duty. But even then, the show expects the audience to see him as fully capable at this job. He is even able to make things more efficient for Connie even though she's been doing this job for much longer and has had a pattern of being very demanding and hesitant to anyone thinking they know better than her. It could be the show setting up a really engaging story where Otis can't return to work as a firefighter but remains a part of this family. It shows that he can still make a difference in people's lives even though he causes a potential problem by handing the missing boy over to the wrong parent in a custody arrangement. But the show still wants the audience on Otis' side to believe that he is perfectly capable of succeeding in this world. Elsewhere, it annoyingly comes out that Gabby and Cordova used to date. As expected, it becomes a huge problem for Casey and Gabby. It's mostly just a repetitive story about her not being fully honest with him and how that makes him feel like she doesn't trust him completely. It's a huge and consistent issue in their relationship. One that needs to be addressed before they can think about expanding their family again. Meanwhile, it's mostly hijinks when Severide's mom comes to the firehouse for the first time. That's a key family member who has never appeared before. And now, she shows up suddenly just as Severide and Kidd are struggling to define their relationship. It then builds to the reveal that she is getting back together with Severide's father. That seems like a mess that could turn quite destructive quickly. But here, it is mostly played for the comedy of Severide always thinking his mother is a saint despite some obvious evidence to the contrary. B