Togetherness – Season 1 (HBO)
Created by Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass and Steve Zissis, the latter two of who also star in the show, Togetherness is about a middle-aged married couple (Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey) with two children, the wife’s sister (Amanda Peet) and the husband’s friend (Zissis). The married couple, the Pierson’s, are probably pretty typical (or at least stereotypical) of a middle aged, upper(-middle?) class family, struggling to stay interested in each other, both romantically, and in other ways. Alex (Zissis) is a struggling actor who has moved in with the Pierson’s because he has to. Tina (Peet) seems to be after love and wealth, probably in that order.
Like many cable shows these days, the season was only eight episodes, and at 30 minutes a pop it took a while to kind of get a nice base formed. The show had it’s moments, but like a lot of shows these days it straddles a tough place between comedy and drama. For the most part it’s not consistently funny enough to be a great comedy. The drama pieces are nice, but something just feels off about the show. And as is my primary complaint with a lot of TV lately it seems like for the most part there always has to be some crazy hook, or gasp-moment to keep people interested. Then there is of course the “will they or won’t they” aspect of Peet and Zissis’ character love affair.
Overall the show is OK, and potentially laid a nice groundwork for the future, but how the show takes the end of the season plot going forward is going to dictate a lot of how good season 2 is. At the moment though, the jury is still out.
Episodes – Season 4 (Showtime)
Season four of this show about Matt LeBlanc, playing himself, and the ins and outs of a television network is pretty par for the course. This show has stayed in my rotation for four seasons mostly because it’s a very easy watch, and also because LeBlanc is just great. The plots for the most part are ridiculous, and most of the characters are not that compelling. That is likely because most of them, like the plots, are ridiculous and over the top. Although a lot of the interworkings of the TV network are at a minimum exaggerated, and at the most impossible, some of them have to be at least loosely based on the way things actually work in this industry.
The fourth season centers a lot around the fate of the show within the show (Pucks) that is the main plot driver of Episodes, the future of the writers (who are the main characters of this show), as well as some financial problems for LeBlanc. The season has it’s moments, but for anyone that has seen one episode/season of the show, they have effectively seen them all. That being said, anyone who has enjoyed the show to this point probably won’t be disappointed with the latest season.
Shameless – Season 5 (Showtime)
Shameless is probably the most underrated show on TV. Having just wrapped it’s 5th season, the show is still going strong, although this was far from it’s best season. It’s remarkable how this cast of not only unknowns, but mostly children, has morphed into such a quality ensemble. The poverty-ridden Gallagher clan definitely has members coming and going far more frequently in the 5th season than it did in the earlier ones. That might be why it felt a little off this season. Steve/Jimmy showed up at the end of last season as a big cliffhanger surprise, but for the most part that plot when nowhere. If that is the last we see of him it was a pretty big waste.
Meanwhile Fiona seems to be the female version of Don Draper if only he were dirt poor. She pinballs from guy to guy and makes one irrational decision after another. At least with Draper he is an older person who is at the point where they are who they are. The sad part about Fiona is that she still can’t see all the destructive things she is doing.
Some of the other plots this season were not quite as strong as past seasons as well. Continuing to hope that the Gallagher kids will put it all together and turn it around is a futile effort. Every season they seem to dig themselves deeper into holes. Truthfully that is probably much more realistic to how real life goes as opposed the way most movies and TV shows end up. For once a show is doing something more “real” and part of me just wants to see something happy go on. The plot with Frank and his new friend almost felt like just a way to keep Frank around (the same way all the Joan Cusack plots felt in past seasons), but away from the kids. It was nice to not him screwing things up for them all the time, but it turns out they did that just fine on their own.
Even with a less than spectacular season, this is still a top tier show with a tremendous cast. It will be interesting to see how many more seasons they try to put together. There were some interesting cliffhangers in the closing montage, but it sure feels like this show is starting to get close to as far as it can go.
Better Call Saul – Season 1 (AMC)
Historically spin-offs do not have great track records. For every exception like Fraiser, there are at multiple things like Joanie Loves Chachi and AfterMASH. Breaking Bad was heralded as one of the pantheon shows of the “Golden Age of Television Dramas” so trying to create a spinoff from that, especially one based on a character that was mostly there for comic relief, and well-timed one-liners, is no easy task. This is exactly how things like Joey get made. And yet after one season Better Call Saul is not only amazing, but on it’s way to being like Fraiser, where you quickly forget that it was even based on another show.
Bob Odenkirk is really great as the title character. He has been around for a long time and really did great things with the Saul Goodman character. By the end of Breaking Bad he had shown some not utilized talent. And so far on Better Call Saul he has taken that to the next level. Jonathan Banks has not had much to do yet as Mike Ehrmantraut, but that just goes to show how much potential this show still has in the tank. Michael McKean has been solid as Chuck, but the rest of the supporting cast still has to find it’s footing. That is probably the sole criticism to this point. For the time being though, Odenkirk is doing a great job carrying the load. The finale was amazing, and so perfect at setting this show up for the future. Things are just beginning but this show is going to be very, very good, and it’s hard not to see Odenkirk getting an Emmy nomination this year.