Friday, November 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Kominsky Method' - Sandy Tries to Honor a Dying Friend's Wishes in 'Chapter 1: An Actor Avoids'

Netflix's The Kominsky Method - Episode 1.01 "Chapter 1: An Actor Avoids"

As Sandy gets to know a new student better, he puts off visiting an old friend who wants to see him. Norman copes with a difficult issue at home.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's The Kominsky Method.

"Chapter 1: An Actor Avoids" was written by Chuck Lorre and directed by Chuck Lorre

Chuck Lorre is still a relative newcomer when it comes to single camera comedies. Young Sheldon has proven to be a success for him - though that could also be because of its connection to the wildly popular The Big Bang Theory. His new comedy The Kominsky Method is only the second single camera comedy he has produced. It certainly presents as a new challenge for him to hopefully find a new way to tell stories in this medium. It's also the second comedy that he has produced for Netflix. The first was Disjointed, a multi-camera sitcom starring Kathy Bates that was wildly panned and quickly cancelled. But that doesn't seem to have tampered the working relationship between Lorre and Netflix. In fact, he could be one of the top tier showrunners the streaming service is potentially targeting with mega-deals for exclusive original content. Of course, that hasn't happened yet. He's still under contract at Warner Bros. and produces three shows for CBS. So, he hasn't made the full transition to the world of streaming just yet. But it's also clearly appealing to him because it affords him the time to tell a more complete story. This premiere is 33 minutes long. It doesn't really rush through its stories. It allows things to happen at a more natural pace. Sure, it's mostly a premise pilot as well. It is establishing the relationship between acting coach Sandy Kominsky and his agent, Norman. They are two guys who have had a long working relationship with each other. Some would call them best friends but they also aren't as close as one would expect them to be either. Sandy is busy with his acting classes while Norman is caring for his ailing wife, Eileen. The largest plot point of this premiere is Eileen dying and asking Sandy to look after Norman. She needs Norman to have a best friend to ensure that he can keep living even though she is gone. And yes, Sandy is there in that final moment to ensure that Norman can pick himself up and move on even though he fears that he didn't honor his wife's final wishes. He panicked and brought her to the hospital when she was dying. She wanted to die at home. But she did die nevertheless. This represents a significant turning point in their lives. It's one that will probably forge an even stronger relationship between them. The connection between Sandy and Norman is the hook of the show. That relationship needs to be solid in order for the audience to go along with everyone else that is happening in this world. In the early going, it seems like Sandy has a life outside of this relationship. He has a daughter who is looking after him while also calling him out on his fear of death. He also has a love interest in the form of one of his students in his class. Just because Lisa is more age appropriate - there is still a 17 year age difference between Michael Douglas and Nancy Travis - the show wants to normalize this dynamic and view it as something that can be healthy to both of them. Sure, Sandy is proven to be a competent teacher. This is the life he has built for himself. The show takes a couple of shots at broad CBS sitcoms - even ones produced by Lorre. As such, it's clear that this show aspires for a more melancholy tone as it reflects on the perils of aging. That could work. The set up is mostly accomplished by the end of this premiere. So, it should be intriguing to see how things continue to develop for these characters.