On TV: Review of ‘Gotham: Selina Kyle’


Gotham” | Season 1, Episode 2: “Selina Kyle” | Date: Sept. 29, 2014

The ratings for “Gotham” are decent. The critical praise is there. What are people seeing that I’m not?

This show strikes me as campy as the 1966 “Batman” TV series or one of the Joel Schumacher films with nipples on the costumes. (OK, that’s going too far. Nothing is that bad.) But all I see is the brightly colored sets of 1966 painted turd brown, gray and black. The hammy acting remains untouched.

I mean look at Camren Bicondova. She plays Selina Kyle, who will one day become Catwoman. She runs round wearing goggles in her hair that look like cat’s ears. And she’s chosen the nickname “Cat.” This isn’t really a character. It’s an echo of a character, a shadow of something else.

Donal Logue steals a lot of scenes as Det. Harvey Bullock. He’s trying to be Vic Mackey. But this is a 7 p.m. show on a network. Not even Fox has the guts to let a cop be really dirty in prime time, where the Society of Mommies Who Hate Fun are ready to pounce at any sign of people enjoying themselves.

Robin Lord Taylor plays Oswald Cobblepot, better known as the Penguin in DC Comics lore. I admire, at least, an effort to make the Penguin, a rolly polly villain remembered for his umbrella gags and bird squawks. But this Penguin redux is no Heath Ledger remodel of the Joker.

There’s a reason why stories take place at certain times during events. That’s when the most interesting thing happens. Gotham City isn’t interesting without Batman. An emo Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) who is burning himself and getting nagged by Alfred (Sean Pertwee) in a cockney accent isn’t doing it for me.

On TV: Review of ‘The Big Bang Theory: The First Pitch Insufficiency’


The Big Bang Theory” | Season 8, Episode 3: “The First Pitch Insufficiency” | Date: Sept. 29, 2014

“The First Pitch Insufficiency” was “The Big Bang Theory” at its worst: playing to stereotypes about intelligent people and threadbare romantic comedy tropes.

Howard (Simon Helberg) is invited to throw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game. But Howard is a nerd. He has no physical skills. So there’s several minutes of bad physical comedy as he practices pitching.

Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) go on a double date with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki). Sheldon says he’s scientifically ranked the relationships in their social group and Penny and Leonard’s is the weakest.

Penny freaks out because she’s nervous about the wedding. Leonard freaks out, too, because he’s constantly afraid Penny will leave him for a dumber, prettier person more befitting her background and experience.

Oh, good. We’re doing the wedding anxiety plotline. How original.

You know what would be fun? Penny leaves Leonard. Leonard hooks up with Amy, his intellectual equal. Sheldon admits he’s gay — or at least asexual — and couples with Raj (Kunal Nayyar).

But we’ll probably do some more break-up-make-up-marriage stuff. Because that’s always fun.

I swear. The first one to have a kid is when I delete this show from my DVR queue.

On TV: Review of ‘Madam Secretary’ Season 1, Episode 2


Madam Secretary” | Season 1, Episode 2: “Another Benghazi” | Date: Sept. 28, 2014

Though many shows have yet to debut, but “Madam Secretary” is quickly becoming my favorite of the new network season.

The strength of the show so far is the believability of the characters and plots. “Another Benghazi” deals with an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. Secretary McCord (Téa Leoni) wants to pull the ambassador out, but he is reluctant to leave.

A cheapskate Senator won’t approve funds for a military guard. McCord is forced to use a private security company she once denounced during her academic career.

On the homefront, McCord’s elder daughter, Stevie (Wallis Currie-Wood), makes headlines when she leads a protest on campus. Stevie quits school rather than endure the pressure that comes from the Secretary of State’s daughter.

Stevie tries to play her mom against her dad (Tim Daly), but the parents see through the manipulation and decide to let her drop out of school for a year — but Stevie has to get a job.

McCord’s move to use private security ultimately rescues the Ambassador to Yemen. She’s further redeemed when the head of the private security firm she was once critical of tells her speech inspired the company to reform its training and tactics.

There’s an ongoing mystery into the death of her friend, a CIA agent who warned her the previous secretary of state was murdered and of a potential conspiracy within McCord’s office. After he told her, he ended up dead in a car crash.

I really like this show so far. The acting is top notch. The writing is smart. It feels real. I hope it is met with great success.

On TV: Review of ‘Family Guy’ and ‘The Simpsons’ cross-over


Family Guy” | Season 13, Episode 1: “The Simpsons Guy” | Date: Sept. 28, 2014

Apparently there is a rivalry between “The Simpsons” fans and “Family Guy” fans. “Simpsons” fans accuse “Family Guy” of being derivative — if not blatantly plagiarized — from “The Simpsons.” “Family Guy” fans set themselves up as outsiders, mocking the established, long-running “Simpsons.”

The two series made good sport of this in the hour-long premiere of the 26th season of “Family Guy.” The Griffins find themselves in Springfield after Peter offends women with a series of cartoons he published in the local newspaper. As a paragraph stacker myself, it warms me that newspapers can still be used for comedy bits beyond a homeless guy sleeping under a Sunday edition.

The characters pair off for adventures. Lisa helps Meg find self-esteem through saxaphone playing. Maggie shares her pacifier with Chris. Stewie and Bart bond over skateboarding and rebellion. Peter and Homer go drinking.

The cross-over episode poked fun at the series’ similarities in characters and their differences. Perhaps the starkest contrast came in subplot involving Bart and Stewie. Bart is bullied by Nelson. So Stewie kidnaps and tortures Nelson. Bart discovers this. He reacts appropriately: “Stewie, you’re kind of freaking me out.”

How strange it is to think that in 1989, Bart’s cavalier attitude — which amounted to a slingshot, some sassy one-liners and disinterest in school — caused schools to ban “Simpsons” T-shirts and the National Organization of Busybody Parents Who Hate Fun to protest, howl and moan about the decline in moral values.

A quarter century later, it’s Bart telling Stewie to take it easy. Stewie, who has killed people, including his mother at one point, regularly wields all forms of weaponry and is portrayed as sexually active at 1.

I found the animation in this episode to be particularly well done. The computer assistance available to animators during the life of these shows is truly amazing. A scene in which Homer and Peter host a parody of a cheerleading car wash fundraiser was particularly eye-popping.

The crossover proved largely entertaining if unsurprising. Both “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” are mature shows that have little room for growth. Their tropes are well-established and all-too predictable.

On TV: Review of ‘The Simpsons’ Season 26 premiere


The Simpsons” | Season 26, Episode 1: “Clown in the Dumps” | Date: Sept. 28, 2014

“The Simpsons” need to retire. It’s as simple as that. They’ve done everything there is to do. Twice. Probably three times. Maybe 50. That’s going to happen. A show with 600 episodes is bound to repeat a few gags, recycle plots and …

I can’t do it. I can’t be generous to “The Simpsons” anymore. I just can’t. It’s dull. And I watched the premiere of the 26th season Sunday night. I chuckled once or twice.

The plot involved Krusty the Clown being depressed and in a rut. His jokes are weak. (Oh, maybe the writers were being clever and ironic about their own show. But I doubt it.) He goes to see his dad, who dies.

There’s a roast of Krusty on TV. A couple of guest voices show up to say mean things about Krusty. Krusty is depressed and quits showbiz.

I feel like this has happened before. There are people out there who have written multiple volumes of episode guides. They could probably tell me exactly how many times Krusty has quit showbiz and Bart encouraged him to stick with it.

I could probably even research it myself, but I just don’t care that much. “The Simpsons” is like the last years of Derek Jeter on the Yankees. He couldn’t hit for high average or field his position. “The Simpsons” can’t hold their timeslot. The series’ average viewership has declined for at least 10 consecutive seasons.

Leaving with dignity is out of the question. We’re 12 seasons beyond that. “The Simpsons” are second term of Ronald Reagan, when the dementia had set in so badly he was signing things in green crayon.

This show doesn’t need retirement. It needs euthanasia.

On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ pilot


How to Get Away with Murder” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 25, 2014

  1. “How to Get Away with Murder” was the strongest pilot of our new network season.
  2. I was largely engrossed in the juicy first hour, which included the trademark Shonda Rhimes scandal, adultery and inter-office scheming.
  3. Viola Davis is a hard-edged defense attorney and law professor who selects an elite group of law students to help her defend clients, guilty or otherwise, teaching, in effect, how to get away with murder — providing the procedural of the week.
  4. The students are less interesting the Davis, who is just pure power on screen.
  5. I could have done without all the pop music and erratic editing, but I am intrigued by the murder the students are apparently covering up what appears to be the ongoing plot of the season.

On TV: Review of ‘Doctor Who: The Caretaker’


Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 6: “The Caretaker” | Date: Sept. 27, 2014

The Caretaker” brought together some of the plot threads of the eight series of “Doctor Who.” The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) finally meets Clara’s (Jenna Coleman) boyfriend, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), and disapproves of the soldier.

Danny offers Clara an interesting perspective on the Doctor: He’s aristocracy, an officer who pushes beyond their limits and puts her in danger without her realizing the potential consequences.

The Doctor’s newfound prejudice against soldiers remains murky. The revelations of the high cost of the Time War in “Day of the Doctor” may help decode this myster. Perhaps the Doctor feels self-loathing given he nearly obliterated his own people to end the war that threatened the world.

It was interesting that Danny instantly saw the good in the Doctor despite the Doctor’s bluster. He immediately noted that the Doctor scorned Danny so much because the Doctor wanted to make sure Danny was good enough for Clara.

Oh, there was also a giant killer robot that threatened the whole world. It was stopped, but it was largely a distraction from the Doctor-Clara-Danny plot.

I enjoyed “The Caretaker” the best of any episode so far this season. The title even had a double entendre, with the Doctor pretending to be the Coal Hill School’s caretaker and his larger role of caretaker for both earth and Clara.

The only nit I have to pick is this marks the halfway point of the season. I’m always in the mood for more Doctor.

On TV: Review of ‘Black-ish’ pilot


Black-ish” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 24, 2014

I read an article in the Washington Post a while back that said white people don’t have as many black friends as black people have white friends. I thought about this article as I watched the premiere of the new sitcom “Black-ish.”

I have a few black friends, probably not as many as sociologists and English professors think I should have, but none of them were at my apartment when I watched the show. But I really wish they had been.

That way I could have had a guide to tell me if it was OK for me to laugh this stuff. For example, I thought it was very funny when Pops (Laurence Fishburne) slathered his “baked fried chicken” with hot sauce. It played on the perceived preference of black people liking hot sauce on practically everything.

I wish I were confident enough in my own racial attitudes to think my enjoyment of that joke isn’t racist, but I’m not. I’m never sure what is racist anymore. Racist is a heavy word. It describes everything from KKK members with burning crosses to someone who says they don’t like hip-hop.

So “Black-ish” made me more uncomfortable than entertained. The humor seemed well-intentioned, but I found myself looking around the room — even though my apartment was empty — thinking, “Oh, can you say that?”

It’s strange. I own and listen to comedy albums by Richard Pryor, one of the great comedians of all time. I never felt bad about listening to or watching his work. But in 2014, after being bombarded with “white privilege” shaming and just trying to be a guy who gets through his day, I’m more uncomfortable with race issues than ever.

For example, the dad (Anthony Anderson) was ticked off his son (Marcus Scribner) wanted to play field hockey instead of basketball. The dad argued basketball was a part of black culture. Basketball was invented by a white Canadian guy. And if I said to a black guy, “Hey, basketball is a part of black culture,” I would probably get yelled at for insensitivity.

I know the rules. Black comics and rappers can use the n-word. I can’t. Black comics can make jokes about racial discomfort. I can’t. And anything that black comics say about race, I sort of have to accept as being funny, even if I don’t think it’s funny — not maddening or offensive, just unamusing.

So, I’ll probably not watch “Black-ish” because I just don’t want to be hassled by my entertainment this month, even if it is all my fault.

On TV: Review of ‘Red Band Society’ Season 1, Episode 2


Red Band Society” | Season 1, Episode 2: “Sole Searching” | Date: Sept. 24, 2014

Does “Red Band Society” need to be a whole hour?

The half-hour drama is essentially extinct on network television, but it might be appropriate for this series.

Because an hour with these kids is too long.

Another problem with the kids is they’re so broadly drawn, they’re almost laughable archetypes.

Kid who lost a leg to cancer is having a hard time adjusting. He’s the leader of the gang.

The other kid with cancer has worse cancer and he’s scared. He’s the new kid in school that all the girls like and challenges the leader of the gang.

Eating disorder girl is cheating at her weigh-ins. She’s the smart, brainy girl who is secretly super attractive.

The mean cheerleader has lousy parents, who happen to be a lesbian couple. She’s the rich, popular girl whose troubled by an unhappy home life and the burdens of popularity.

The grouchy nurse has a heart of gold. The young nurse is incompetent. The kid with lung disease dresses like a reject from “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.”

I would be more specific about the characters’ names, but I haven’t bothered to learn them.

I don’t want to form too many close, emotional attachments.

Oh, I’m not worried about the kids dying. The show, however, looks to be on life support.

On TV: Review of ‘The Mysteries of Laura’ Season 1, Episode 2


The Mysteries of Laura” | Season 1, Episode 2: “The Mysteries of the Dead Date” | Date: Sept. 24, 2014

I have to give the writers of “The Mysteries of Laura” credit. They waited until the second episode to go for the testicle humor.

Laura (Debra Messing), a New York City police detective, shoots a man in the testicles with a stun gun. He writhes in pain on the ground. Later, Laura says testicles. I remember this because it caused me to look up from my iPhone. (The new iOs 8 isn’t compatible with my Tetris game and it’s sooo frustrating!)

Laura investigates a woman murdered at one of those weird gyms where women workout with sheets hanging from the ceiling. I saw former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner’s wife do that once on an Arizona TV station’s tour of the Warner mansion. That memory brought a pleasant distraction from this exceptionally mediocre television show.

Laura and the forgettable supporting cast track the killer to an online dating website. See, ladies? All men are secretly rapists and murderers. Your college RA was right. Fear and hate all men. Grace told you so.

If I were a woman, I would probably be pissed off about “The Mysteries of Laura.” She’s the worst stereotype of a busy mother I have ever seen. She dresses like a homeless person and behaves like a graceless sow. I know a few a single moms. Some are very put together. Some are a mess. Most are just people. Messing’s character is a cartoon.

If I were a woman, I might be pissed off they feel the need to tart up Messing each episode. This week they made her fondle her breasts as she tried to lure a killer. Then her character — who is supposed to be a fully trained New York City police officer — is overpowered by the rapist-murderer and nearly raped — until her male backups show up to save her.

But I’m not a woman, so I don’t really care if she embarrasses her own gender. It’s probably not her fault. It’s probably so evil man, a rapist who kills women with his white privilege or something.

I am kind of annoyed the police work on this show is bad. You’d think someone at the NYPD would send NBC a note. Typically, officers undercover have guns. They’re tracked by more than just text messages. And their backup isn’t stuck in an alley flummoxed by an electric fence.

Alas, this is the kind of work that writers and producers put into a show that they want to be good. Nothing about “The Mysteries of Laura” suggests anybody ever wanted it to be good.

And if that’s the case, well, they’ve accomplished terrible excellently.