On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘Red Band Society’ pilot


Red Band Society” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 17, 2014

5. If “The Breakfast Club” took place in a hospital instead of Saturday detention, you might have something that looked like “Red Band Society.”

4. The pilot introduces us to a series of misfits battling various diseases from cancer to a coma, who live in a hospital ward that seems more like a home for teenage juvenile delinquents.

3. The characters are broadly drawn, and a touch flat in the early going — a brooding outsider who doesn’t know if his treatment is working, a studious girl with an eating disorder and a cheerleader with a terminal case of snark and an enlarged, failing heart.

2. Still, there is something compelling about a group of people who wouldn’t otherwise socialize being forced to interact — just like “The Breakfast Club” or “M*A*S*H.”

1. “Red Band Society” has potential to be excellent, but it could easily teeter toward melodramatic pap, but it’s pilot did the job of selling me on a second episode.

On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘The Mysteries of Laura’ pilot


The Mysteries of Laura” | Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” | Date: Sept. 17, 2014

5. “The Mysteries of Laura” is just awful and there’s no need to parse the phrasing; the series manages to be stupid, sexist, predictable and irritating like a tiny hair stuck in your eye that you just can’t wash out.

4. Debra Messing plays a New York police detective who isn’t afraid to shoot a suspect even when it goes against procedure (Actual quote: “Procedure is for douchebags.”), guzzle wine while on duty and play the hussy in a slinky green swimsuit or flirt with a valet in order to do a completely illegal search of a suspect’s car.

3. Oh, and she’s the mother of two preschool boys who are cartoonishly misbehaved — when she doesn’t have them drugged out on cough syrup — and is in the process of going through a divorce from an estranged husband who defines douchebag.

2. Don’t worry, Messing is a TV magic cop who is able to solve the murder-of-the week (Her boss did it!), but in a twist she’s flummoxed when her would-be ex becomes the new captain of her precinct.

1. Upon learning of this ridiculous plot twist, Messing stands up and shouts, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and though she probably wasn’t intentionally speaking for the audience, it serves as a fitting motto for a show so dumb that makes me wonder if the people in charge of networks are recovering from some form of traumatic brain injury.

On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘Doctor Who: Listen’


Doctor Who” | Series 7, Episode 4 | “Listen” | Sept. 13, 2014

5. Again I find myself at the end of another “Doctor Who” episode wondering when the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is going to do something — anything — interesting.

4. “Listen” finds the Doctor investigating the age-old mystery: What’s that under your bed?

3. The episode was gloriously shot, moody and well-produce, but the plot felt like a slightly darker version of “Monsters, Inc.,” and it again makes Clara (Jenna Coleman) the center of the universe.

2. Coleman is top-notch as Clara, but the series has become entire about how this woman — through the magic of time travel — has essentially created everything good in the Doctor’s character, from which TARDIS the Doctor stole to his heroic nature to curing his childhood fear of the dark.

1. Capaldi is still commanding when he is allowed on screen, but the Clara storyline has essentially wiped out any of the Doctor’s role in choosing his own destiny; every moment in his life seems to have been orchestrated by Clara — either by accident or purpose — and it feels like the Doctor has been hollowed out as a character, a big nothing without Clara’s influence.

On TV: General Tso’s Fall 2014 TV Pick or Pass Preview NBC Edition

September brings a new football season and a slate of new network TV programs. We at General Tso’s Revenge will be watching some of these shows because TV is a drug and we’re addicted. But even we have standards. Here’s our picks and passes for the fall season. Here’s our look at upcoming new NBC series.



STARS: Katherine HeiglAlfre WoodardAdam KaufmanSheila Vand, Cliff Chamberlain, Tommy Savas and David Harbour.

PREMISE: Heigl stars as a CIA analyst charged with briefing the president (Woodard) on world affairs. Mondays, 9 p.m. Premieres Nov. 17.

PICK OR PASS? I like Heigl, despite her public reputation as being an unpleasant co-worker. I’m willing to try an episode, but a show about a daily briefing feels dull. A very lukewarm pick.



STARS: Casey WilsonKen MarinoSarah Wright OlsenJohn GemberlingTymberlee Hill and Tim Meadows.

PREMISE: A longtime couple hold off getting engaged over fears of an unhappily e’er after. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Oct. 14.

PICK OR PASS? Oh, hell no. Pass.



STARS: Debra MessingJosh LucasJanina GavankarLaz Alonso and Max Jenkins.

PREMISE: Laura (Messing) is a tough homicide detective who balances being a single parent to her two sons and trying to get her estranged husband to sign divorce papers. Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Premieres Sept. 17.

PICK OR PASS? Is this the one where Messing is in love with a gay guy with the whacky gay neighbor and the shrill friend? No? I didn’t like that one either. Pass.



STARS: Kate Walsh, Theodore Barnes, Ryan HansenJohn DuceyTone Bell and Miguel Sandoval.

PREMISE: Walsh plays a tough judge who is hard partier, who comes in care of an 8-year-old boy. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Oct. 2.

PICK OR PASS: Walsh is another “Grey’s Anatomy” alumna whom I like, but not enough to sit through what is almost certain to be saccharine pap about the joys of parenting. Pass. 


“A TO Z”

STARS: Ben FeldmanCristin MiliotiHenry ZebrowskiLenora CrichlowChristina Kirk and Hong Chau.

PREMISE: Andrew meets Zelda — “A to Z,” get it? — and they fall in love. The series chronicles their relationship. Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. Premieres Oct. 2.

PICK OR PASS? When the series title is a play on the characters names, I’m ready for a permanent separation. Pass.



STARS: Matt Ryan, Angélica Celaya, Harold Perrineau and Charles Halford.

PREMISE: Based on the DC Comics stories, Constantine (Ryan) unwillingly protects the world from monsters and demons. Fridays, 9 p.m. Premieres Oct. 24.

PICK OR PASS? I’m predisposed to favor comic book shows, but I think this series has just the right tone to be a lot of fun.






On TV: General Tso’s Fall 2014 TV Pick or Pass Preview Fox Edition

September brings a new football season and a slate of new network TV programs. We at General Tso’s Revenge will be watching some of these shows because TV is a drug and we’re addicted. But even we have standards. Here’s our picks and passes for the fall season. Here’s our look at upcoming new Fox series.




STARS: John MulaneyNasim Pedrad, Seaton Smith, Zack PearlmanElliott Gould and Martin Short.

PREMISE: Mulaney plays a stand-up comic living in New York who gets a big break working for an old pro played by Short. Sunday, 8:30 p.m. Premiers Oct. 5.

PICK OR PASS? Memphis Paul, co-founder of this blog, enjoys Mulaney’s standup comedy. I’ve only sampled a little and also found it strong. I like to see Gould and Short back on TV, but I don’t see it as enough of a draw to make me watch a show about a struggling comic in New York. Pick.




STARS: Ben McKenzieDonal LogueJada Pinkett SmithSean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin RichardsDavid MazouzCamren Bicondova, Zabryna Guevara, Cory Michael SmithVictoria Cartagena, Andrew Stewart Jones and John Doman.

PREMISE: Police Detective James Gordon (McKenzie) fights corruptions and freaks in the violent dystopia of Gotham City. Mondays, 7 p.m. Premieres Sept. 22.

PICK OR PASS? So this is a show about Batman in which Batman never appears. TV tried this with a failure called “Birds of Prey” in 2002. The cast is strong. I’m particularly interested to see Sean Pertwee, the son of former “Doctor Who” title character Jon Pertwee, in the role of Alfred. I don’t think this series will last beyond its initial planned 16 episodes, but I’m a comic book junkie, so I’ll try it. Pick.




STARS: Octavia SpencerDave AnnableGriffin GluckNolan SotilloCharlie RoweBrian Bradley, Zoe Levin, Ciara Bravo and Rebecca Rittenhouse.

PREMISE: A group of sick teenagers live together in a pediatric ward of a hospital in this dark comedy. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 17.

PICK OR PASS? Sick kids is an atypical place to launch a situation comedy and, hell, I take anything that isn’t about some plucky young couple trying to make a go of it in New York City. Pick.




STARS: David TennantAnna GunnMichael PeñaKevin ZegersNick NolteJacki WeaverKevin Rankin, Jack Irvine, Virginia Kull, Sarah-Jane PottsJosh Hamilton, Kendrick Sampson, Madalyn Horcher, Darcy Laurie and Karyn Mott.

PREMISE: A child is murdered and two detectives (Tennant and Gunn) unravel the mystery and a few secrets in this 10-episode crime drama that’s a remake of the popular British series “Broadchurch,” which also starred Tennant. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Oct. 2.

PICK OR PASS? Of all the shows set to premiere on any network this fall, “Gracepoint” has my highest anticipation. I’ve not seen “Broadchurch,” but Tennant played the 10th incarnation of “Doctor Who” and is a highly regarded actor. This series has the best chance to capture the TV mojo of “True Detective” on network. Pick.







On Movies: 5-sentence review of ‘The One I Love’



“The One I Love” | Rated R | 2014 | 1 hour, 31 minutes | Director: Charlie McDowell | Cast: Mark DuplassElisabeth Moss and Ted Danson.

5. “The One I Love” is many movies in one package: relationship drama and psychological thriller with a science fiction twist.

4. Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass play a couple struggling to keep their marriage together after Duplass’ character cheated on her.

3. The go off to a mysterious house and confront their problems — and seemingly themselves — in a series of bizarre twists worth of “The Twilight Zone.”

2. Moss and Duplass are terrific and they play off one another very well in what were reportedly a series of ad-libbed interactions.

1. To describe the plot and its many twists is to take a bit of the fun of discovery away from this film and cliche though it might be, the journey is well-worth it in this fine, fun and baffling story.


On TV: ‘Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood’


“Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 3: “Robot of Sherwood” | Date: Sept. 6, 2014

I was predisposed against the subject matter of “Robot of Sherwood,” the third episode of the eight series of “Doctor Who.” I just don’t go in for all that Robin Hood stuff. I’ve never much cared for knights, medieval claptrap and whatnot.

And so with that baggage, it’s little surprise the episode did little for me. I continue to enjoy Peter Capaldi’s dour take on the Doctor, but he seemed a bit player in what is becoming the Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) show.

Coleman was excellent for her part. And guest Ben Miller, who played the Sheriff of Nottingham, reminded me of Anthony Ainley as the Master.

But the Doctor spent most of the episode squabbling with Robin Hood (Tom Riley), which began amusing and quickly moved to tedious and repetitive.

There was another reference to “the Promised Land,” the ongoing mystery of Series 8. And yet again, the Doctor denied he was a hero, which may explain his grim demeanor.

Still, I await a kapow moment from the new Doctor — that moment when he stands up and becomes the hero, saves the day and makes us all glad we took a ride with the madman in his box.

Nothing yet. But I keep watching and, by and large, I am entertained.

On TV: General Tso’s Fall 2014 TV Pick or Pass Preview The CW Edition

September brings a new football season and a slate of new network TV programs. We at General Tso’s Revenge will be watching some of these shows because TV is a drug and we’re addicted. But even we have standards. Here’s our picks and passes for the fall season. Here’s our look at upcoming new CW series.




STARS: Gina RodriguezJustin BaldoniBrett DierAndrea NavedoYael GrobglasIvonne Coll and Jaime Camil.

PREMISE: Rodriguez plays a devoutly religious woman who saved her virginity for marriage only to be accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine checkup. To make matters worse, the baby is a cancer survivor and her former teenage crush. Mondays, 8:30 p.m. Premieres Oct. 13.

PICK OR PASS? This premise is so stupid and far-fetched it’s not good enough to be a subplot on an 1980s soap opera. Further consideration of it might actually make a person dumber. Pass.




STARS: Grant GustinCandice Patton, Rick Cosnett, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin.

PREMISE: The CW brings to life the DC Comics superhero the Flash, a costumed crimefighter who can run very fast. Tuesdays, 7 p.m. Premieres Oct. 7.

PICK OR PASS? The CW has had successful turns with turning comic book heroes into series. They inherited “Smallville” from the defunct WB network, but “Arrow,” which is a show about a guy who shoots arrows, is a cult hit for the network. I liked the short-lived 1990 “The Flash” series on CBS, even the Flash as a character strikes me as silly. I’ll try it. Pick.


NOTE: Two new CW series, “iZombie” and “The Messengers,” both of supernatural flavor, are not yet scheduled.




On TV: Remembering Joan Rivers on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Mister Rogers


We seem to be saying goodbye to a lot of beloved stars these days. Joan Rivers died today. She was 81. When I was a boy, I sometimes stayed up late to watch Johnny Carson and David Letterman in the summers. I remember this very special, warm interview between Joan and Mister Rogers fondly. The clip is a wonderful juxtaposition. Rivers was a very funny comedian, if sometimes raunchy, wild and mean. But across from the gentle earnestness of Mister Rogers, her stage persona melts away to a friendly woman who fondly remembers her daughter growing up watching Mister Rogers. I fondly remember both of these fine entertainers who brought a lot of joy and smiles into my life in very different ways.

On TV: General Tso’s Fall TV 2014 Pick or Pass Preview CBS Edition

September brings a new football season and a slate of new network TV programs. We at General Tso’s Revenge will be watching some of these shows because TV is a drug and we’re addicted. But even we have standards. Here’s our picks and passes for the fall season. Here’s our look at upcoming new CBS series.



STARS: Téa LeoniTim DalyBebe NeuwirthŽeljko IvanekGeoffrey ArendPatina Miller and Erich Bergen.

PREMISE: Leoni plays a former CIA analyst now a university professor becomes Secretary of State after her predecessor dies in a plane crash. Sundays, 7 p.m. Premiers Sept. 21.

PICK OR PASS? It’s good to see the talented and underappreciated Leoni again and her performance is strong in the previews. Her character is sarcastic, tough and smart. Keith Carradine is in a supporting role as the president, also a smart choice. Nobody really pays attention to international news in the papers or online. I don’t know if it can sustain an audience — especially against NBC Sunday Night Football, but it looks worthy of a watch. Pick.





STARS: Patricia ArquetteJames Van Der BeekCharley KoontzPeter MacNicol and Shad “Bow Wow” Moss.

PREMISE: Cops use computers to solve crimes. Works every time. Sundays, 9 p.m. Midseason premiere.

PICK OR PASS? Oh, look. Another flavor of CSI. This one has the guy from “Dawson’s Creek” and Lil’ Bow Wow. The formula works for CBS. It doesn’t work for me. Pass.




STARS: Elyes GabelKatharine McPheeRobert PatrickEddie Kaye Thomas, Jaydn Wong and Ari Stidham.

PREMISE: A group of computer geniuses solve global problems. Mondays, 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 22.

PICK OR PASS? If I wanted to watch a bunch of kids on computers, I would go to the coffee shop across the street from my house. Pass.




STARS: Scott BakulaLucas BlackZoe McLellanC. C. H. Pounder and Rob Kerkovich.

PREMISE: It’s just like “NCIS” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” except it’s in New Orleans. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Premieres Sept. 23.

PICK OR PASS? Scroll up and see what I said about “CSI: Cyber.” Replace “CSI: Cyber” with “NCIS: New Orleans.” But it’s nice to see Scott Bakula back on TV. Pass.




STARS: Maggie QDylan McDermottVictor Rasuk and Mariana Klaveno.

PREMISE: The series focuses on Los Angeles police detectives who investigate stalking, voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation. Wednesdays, 9 p.m. Premieres Oct. 1.

PICK OR PASS? I’ll give CBS credit for finding a different angle on the exhausted police procedural theme, but leads Q and McDermott leave me disinterested. Pass.




STARS: Tyler RitterLaurie MetcalfJack McGeeJimmy DunnJoey McIntyre and Kelen Coleman.

PREMISE: An athletically challenged openly gay man (Ritter) moves to Rhode Island to become assistant basketball coach for his father’s high school team. Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. Premieres Oct. 30.

PICK OR PASS? CBS uses the words “working class” to describe this family, but TV hasn’t gotten working class families right since “Roseanne.” The premise feels flimsy and grossly stereotyped. The gay guy is bad at sports but now he’s coaching basketball. Didn’t Michael Sam get us past this much, at least? This is my pick for the first cancellation of the new season. Pass.


Previous previews:


On TV: General Tso’s Fall 2014 TV Pick or Pass ABC Edition

September brings a new football season and a slate of new network TV programs. We at General Tso’s Revenge will be watching some of these shows because TV is a drug and we’re addicted. But even we have standards. Here’s our picks and passes for the fall season. Here’s our look at upcoming ABC series.



STARS: Joshua Sasse, Mallory JansenKaren DavidTimothy Omundson, Genevieve Allenbury, Vinnie Jones and Luke Youngblood.

PREMISE: Galavant (Sasse) seeks to reclaim his lost love, Madalena (Jansen), by taking on evil King Richard (Omundson). There are musical numbers. Sunday, midseason.

PICK OR PASS? It’s like the worst of the unwatchable and inexplicably popular “Once Upon A Time” and “Glee.” We miss the high point of musical television, “Cop Rock.” Pass.




STARS: Felicity HuffmanTimothy HuttonW. Earl BrownRichard CabralCaitlin GerardBenito MartinezPenelope Ann MillerElvis Nolasco and Johnny Ortiz.

PREMISE: ABC promise a crime drama that will examine a racially charged murder and the subsequent trial that will examine race, class and gender politics. Sunday, midseason.

PICK OR PASS? If you want to watch racially charged crime drama, turn on the news about Ferguson. If you want excellent television about that, binge watch “The Wire.” ABC does not have the guts to broadcast a show that will do these weighty topics justice. Pass. 




STARS: Karen GillanJohn ChoTim PeperDa’Vine Joy RandolphAllyn Rachel and David Harewood.

PREMISE: A modern reimagining of “My Fair Lady,” Henry (Cho) tries to get self-obsessed Eliza (Gillan) to see there’s more to life than social media. Tuesdays, 7 p.m. Premieres Sept. 30.

PICK OR PASS? If you want to watch “My Fair Lady,” see Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison do it right in the 1964 film. The premise is impossible. There’s no way you can convince a millennial to get off social media. Can’t. Be. Done. We love Gillan from her time as the fearless Amy Pond on “Doctor Who,” but not enough to watch this show. Pass.




STARS: Analeigh TiptonJake McDormanNicolas WrightJade Catta-PretaChloe Wepper and Kurt Fuller.

PREMISE: Series looks at the questions two young lovers have at the beginning of a relationship. Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 30.

PICK OR PASS? You lost me at “Manhattan.” Everything on TV is set in New York or Los Angeles. Set your love story somewhere else, just for kicks. Pass.




STARS: Hayley AtwellDominic CooperEnver GjokajChad Michael Murray and Edwin Jarvis.

PREMISE: Atwell reprises her role from the first “Captain America” movie as a pioneering agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Set after World War II. Tuesdays, midseason.

PICK OR PASS? “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” quickly became tedious and dull, but the spin-off shows more premise focusing on Atwell’s Peggy Carter and having a period spy thriller. If it teeters too much into the Marvel Comics superhero minutia, it could quickly become another lukewarm DVD extra rather than good weekly TV. Pick.




STARSIoan GruffuddAlana de la GarzaLorraine ToussaintDonnie KeshawarzJoel David Moore and Judd Hirsch.

PREMISE: Gruffudd stars as an immortal medical examiner seeking clues as to why he can’t do. Tuesdays, 9 p.m. Two-night premiere begins Monday, Sept. 22.

PICK OR PASS? Gruffudd lacked the charisma to carry two bad “Fantastic Four” movies and the Sarah Michelle Gellar CW show “Ringer.” Nothing suggests this premise, which feels like a rehashed “Tru Calling,” will benefit from him as lead. Pass.




STARS: Anthony AndersonTracee Ellis RossYara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin and Laurence Fishburne.

PREMISE: A successful black man worries his family is losing its culture in the white suburbs. Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. Premieres Sept. 24.

PICK OR PASS? I’m white, so I feel like I’m going to spend every episode wondering if it’s OK for me to laugh at this? But then if I don’t watch, it makes me racist, right? What to do? What. To. Do. I know. Pass.




STARS: Viola DavisBilly BrownAlfred EnochJack FalaheeKatie FindlayAja Naomi KingMatt McGorryKarla SouzaCharlie Weber and Liza Weil.

PREMISE: Davis plays a Philadelphia law professor who helps her students when they become entwined in a murder plot. Thursdays, 9 p.m. Premieres Sept. 25.

PICK OR PASS? I live by a simple rule: Produced by Shonda Rhimes. Not watched by me. Pass.




STARS: Ryan PhillippeJuliette LewisKaDee StricklandNatalie MartinezDan FoglerIndiana Evans and Belle Shouse. Midseason premiere.

PREMISE: A body is found. The wrong man is accused. There are secrets. There are lies.

PICK OR PASS? It’s nice to see Lewis getting work, but let’s face it, I’m thinking about her from “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “Strange Days,” rather than her current work. I haven’t paid much attention to her since she became a musician. It’s always a bad idea to watch a show on a nostalgia trip for one of the stars. Pass.



STARS: Cristela AlonzoCarlos Ponce, Terri Hoyos, Andrew LeedsSam McMurray, Jacob Guenther and Isabella Day.

PREMISE: A Latino law school graduate balances the needs of her career against the needs of her family. Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Premieres Oct. 10.

PICK OR PASS? Alonzo is a stand-up comedian that’s been making the rounds of the late-night TV circuit. Her stuff is solid, with a few of those racial jokes that I’m not sure if I’m allowed to laugh at, what with all my guilt over white privilege. I hope she does well, but I’m not big on family comedies. Pass.



On TV: ‘Doctor Who: Into the Dalek’



Into the Dalek” was weaker than the season opener of “Doctor Who.”

The Daleks are headline bad guys in the fiction of “Doctor Who,” but there hasn’t been a good Dalek story since “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End,” the two-part capper to Series 4. There they were scary and deadly, nearly indestructible.

But in the era of show runner Steven Moffat, the Daleks blow up like Christmas crackers. Sometimes they serve tea to Winston Churchill during World War II (“Victory of the Daleks“) and often they’re getting run over by a flying TARDIS (“Day of the Doctor.”)

This time, a Dalek has gotten sick. And now it’s a good guy. It sees its own race as a terrible, destructive force that must be stopped. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) arrives. He’s miniaturized with a couple soldiers and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) and they journey inside the Dalek, a direct rip off of “Fantastic Voyage,” which the Doctor references either in homage or apology.

Capaldi is still a master craftsman. He renders his Doctor as harsh, detached and rude. He delivers sharp, staccato and sometimes ruthlessly funny dialogue as if the episode were written by Aaron Sorkin.

But the Doctor is the hero of this piece. Much of the time, though, he’s an ass. He’s so much of an ass that Clara properly slaps him.

The Doctor and crew repair the Dalek, which promptly turns evil and starts killing all the regular-sized people in the spaceship. Clara convinces the Doctor to try and get the Dalek to be good. He tries, but the Dalek, whom the Doctor calls “Rusty,” looks into the Doctor’s soul and sees beauty, divinity and hatred — especially for the Daleks.

Rusty murders his Dalek compatriots and pledges to return to the Dalek ship to do more murdering. The Doctor is sullen, realizing his own hatred has fueled more killing.

One character whom we scarcely meet, sacrifices herself to aid Clara and the Doctor inside the Dalek. The woman, Gretchen, reappears in the mysterious “heaven” — the same spot where the Two-Headed Man popped up at the end of the season opener — in time for tea with the equally baffling, Missy, a plot thread to be picked up later, one supposes.

Another character, Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton), asks to join the Doctor in his travels. He says no, because she’s a soldier and apparently he doesn’t like soldiers anymore. He spent years working with the Brigadier, but he’s dead now. So it is a mystery for another episode, too.

We also meet Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). He teaches at the school with Clara. He was a soldier and the experience has made him very sad. He and Clara decide to go out for drinks.

The special effects, which have generally been very strong in the revived series, were dodgy in this. When the Doctor confronts the one-eyed biological mass at the heart of Rusty, it looks like the kind of rubbish green screen work one would expect from “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and not one of the most successful programs on BBC.

I’m still enjoying Capaldi’s Doctor, even if he is cruel and distant. And even a below-average episode of “Doctor Who” is still better than most of the dreck on my idiot box.

But it was disappointing. For having a new Doctor in only his second full episode, it felt very much like I had seen most of this before.

Rental Review: ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’


What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” | 1993 | DirectorLasse Hallström | CastJohnny DeppJuliette LewisDarlene Cates and Leonardo DiCaprio.


I hated “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Oh, it’s not all bad. It’s a well-made movie. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as mentally challenged Arnie Grape, the kid brother to Johnny Depp’s Gilbert. But I hated it nonetheless.

Depp plays Gilbert, a small-town kid forced to look after his family after his father hanged himself, with warmth and depth.

936full-whats-eating-gilbert-grape-posterBut I found the film mercilessly depressing. The small-town grocery where Gilbert works is being run into the ground by the bigger, more impressive Foodland on the edge of town — a clear metaphor for the encroachment of Wal-Mart on smalltown America.

Gilbert’s mother, Bonnie, is morbidly obese and housebound since her husband’s suicide. Her family dotes on her, but Gilbert also mocks her. He uses all the classics. “Beached whale” is used a couple of times, I think. He lets the neighborhood kids, curious to see the fat woman like she was a freakshow display, look through the windows of their rundown farmhouse.

I’m morbidly obese and I guess I’m more sensitive about it than I thought. I found it all rather cruel, though Darlene Cates, who played Bonnie, is very strong in her performance.

My big gripe is the ending. Bonnie climbs the stairs to go to bed for the first time in years. She has a heart attack and dies. Mentally challenged Arnie discovers her. At first he thinks his mom is playing possum. But then he slowly realizes she is dead.

That’s some good acting by DiCaprio, who would go on to be a master of his trade.

But what happens next is an absurdity. Bonnie is fat. They say she’s 500 pounds. The local sheriff says he’ll have to get some extra men to get her out of the upstairs of the house. That seems reasonable.

Somehow Gilbert decides they’ll need a crane. And then all the town will show up to laugh at her. This is, of course, something he actively participated in earlier in the film. But now his mother is dead and his morality is resurrected. Or something.

The logical solution, of course, is to burn the house down. Which they do.

It’s a metaphor for starting over, getting rid of past baggage. I get it.

It’s also painfully stupid.

Nobody thought about a tarp, maybe some pulleys and rope to slide Mom’s body down the stairs. No. The only way was to turn the house into a Viking funeral pyre. Why not?

What the hell.

This film brings to end a long running joke between myself and my friend Andrew. While we were both unemployed back in 2008, we would often walk down to a neighborhood video store to pick out films to watch.

One of us would always say to the other, “Hey, I hear ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ is good?” This struck as very funny. We may have been drinking beforehand.

Every visit to the store, which is long closed, one of us loudly ask this question about “Gilbert Grape” and suggest we’d heard it was good. Neither of us had seen the film until now.

Sadly, Andrew, I am here to report that, no, it actually isn’t good.