Becker s01e12 – Love! Lies! Bleeding!

Either I made the comment you knew “Becker” was troubled when not even a solid sitcom director like Andy Ackerman could make an episode work or I meant to make that comment. This episode has Ackerman back and, this time, he’s able to compensate for some of writer Michael Markowitz’s stumbles. Not the misogynist stuff with Alex Désert but there are only so many miracles one can work. So, this episode’s the Valentine’s Day episode and Ted Danson hates Valentine’s Day. He has a rant about its suspect history, which doesn’t seem—based on a Wikipedia glance—to be accurate. If Danson’s going to rant about something, he’s got to be right. Otherwise he’s just a blowhard. The point is he’s right, not he’s a blowhard. Or at least when it works.

But it doesn’t work with Désert or Terry Farrell this episode. Danson implies Désert’s girlfriend is ugly and Désert freaks out, the unspoken joke (for a while) Désert’s blind so what does he care. He cares because he’s a misogynist and so’s Danson. Joy. When Danson later comforts a female patient, it takes a moment before he’s obviously sincere. For a second, you’re expecting him to dig in and humiliate her because… it’s a laugh somehow? At least in Markowitz’s mind.

The episode is Danson running into different kinds of Valentine’s Day goings on, but not specific to the holiday, just romance in general. There’s the girlfriend who stabs the cheating boyfriend, there’s the teenager who wants a vasectomy so he can have unsafe sex, there’s the female patient, who’s allergic to roses. Curmudgeon Danson just can’t get away from signs of love, not even at the office where Shawnee Smith has a whole relationship in one day over the phone (minus the consummating, which might be for the best but also maybe not) and Hattie Winston gets to… talk about her offscreen plans and shake her head at Smith and Danson. Not a great episode for Winston. Or Smith. But Smith at least gets material.

The episode’s got some successful moments, including the return of Saverio Guerra, whose every moment is fantastic. He’s back to torment Farrell and probably a little worse of a guy than Danson and Désert, but not much.

The show’s bottom is higher than before, which is good.

Evil s01e07 – Vatican III

This week’s “Evil” is a sixty-forty split between “why Catholics don’t get the mental health care they need” and “how to make an incel.” There’s more to both, obviously. The main plot is about possessed Annaleigh Ashford (who should sue her agent for malpractice) confessing to a triple homicide of Hispanic tween boys. She gives the Scooby Gang (clinical psychiatrist and lapsed Catholic Katja Herbers, true believer, priest-in-training, and hallucinogen abuser Mike Colter, and lapsed Muslim professional skeptic Aasif Mandvi) the location of the bodies and so they sit on that information instead of investigating for themselves, despite having the full power of the Catholic Church at their disposal.

I mean, they can hack into ICE and get surveillance camera footage, which might be international espionage given Vatican City and all, but they can’t take the time to go see if maybe Ashford buried the bodies where she said.

Meanwhile, nebbish Kevin Spacey impersonator and apparent sex god Michael Emerson recruits another disillusioned young white man, this time—through implication—a young white Jewish man—to the incel lifestyle. Noah Robbins goes from getting turned down by his barista to giving her a dead animal to plotting to mass murder women in the span of forty minutes, with a couple “therapy” sessions from Emerson to egg him on.

Now, we’re also finding out Emerson thinks he’s a demon and it’s his job to inspire… incels, basically. And to be a sex god who—unbeknownst to Herbers because, thankfully, her family is off-screen this episode—can make women do whatever he wants. I really hope Christine Lahti gets to play the sex-positive grandma with an appropriately attractive partner after this show. She deserves it. She’s not even in the episode and she’s one of the show’s biggest regrets. Though most of the show is just wishing Herbers, Colter, and Mandvi were on an actually good show and not this “deplorable Catholic men are in the control of wannabe demons” thing.

The politics of the show are still a little hard to discern—the Catholic Church isn’t portrayed bad, just behind the times. Also grossly incompetent (their secret manuscript from 500 years ago somehow has had all its iconography scanned and added to a wikipedia Demonology page. Yet they can hack ICE. Or maybe only because they have lapsed Muslin Mandvi on the payroll, which has optics of its own.

Hey, it’s a CBS show. You just wish it were a better one.

Evil s01e06 – Let x = 9

So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago.

And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah.

But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation.

Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?”

I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist.

Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.

All Rise s01e07 – Uncommon Women and Mothers

Tony Denison is finally back. Not for very long in sort of a “let’s defer Tony Denison some more” way, but it’s nice he’s back. It gives second-billed but at least fourth in the show’s heart Wilson Bethel something else to do this episode besides prosecute extremely sympathetic non-binary young adult experiencing homelessness J.J. Hawkins for arson. “All Rise” quadruples down on the pronouns this episode and never makes a joke. It’s got slimy businesspeople respecting pronouns. Though this episode also has Black woman judge Simone Missick telling her mother, Black woman social worker L. Scott Caldwell to trust the system to do the right thing.

Because the system’s fine, it’s the people.

So… ew. Lots of optics here.

Missick also has to be contrite to boss Marg Helgenberger at one point… while reaffirming how much, as a judge, she loves the cops. So… double ew.

Thank goodness the show realizes Ruthie Ann Miles and Lindsay Mendez can be buddies and have hijinks, this time involving them both wanting to be fire warden. I hold the opinion all television programs ever could have their opening titles cut to the “Night Court” theme song, but rarely do I ever hear it so often as when “All Rise” is having its hijinks.

Oh, and assistant assistant D.A. Bethel does get to tell off boss Reggie Lee when Lee’s ranting about the dangerous homeless because before Denison became a bookie to the Russian Mob (based on this episode’s visual indicators), he and Bethel at one point lived out of their car. Though pretty soon Bethel met Missick and found a second, better parent in Caldwell. What’s funny about the show’s schmaltz is how it’s also visually soft and upbeat. If it had any grit or grain, it’d be an interesting contract. Instead, it’s like the show is…

Oh.

Yeah.

It’s wearing its safety pin.

But the cast. But for the cast. Seeing Missick and Bethel doing straight network drama is damned interesting, considering it’s not where their futures lie. At least not in an “All Rise”-type form.

All Rise s01e06 – Fool for Liv

Something about this episode feels like it ran into the show’s budget. Though there’s some location shooting. Kind of a lot of it, but there’s no action at the locations. There’s standing or sitting. And it’s never on the A plot, always B or even C. On the A plot, outside Jere Burns as a terribly written slick defense attorney, everything feels like it’s under serious constraint. Burns is defending a social media star’s assistant, accused of murdering the social media star. All of the assistant’s fans are in the courtroom disrupting the proceedings, making judge Simone Missick look unable to control her courtroom so her job is ostensibly in jeopardy and Burns is being slick instead of actually lawyering and on and on.

But it’s all done cheap. It’s supposed to be lighting up social media only the show never shows how that lighting up affects anything. It’s like the show knows having social media fans dox jurors is bad, but it doesn’t know why it’s bad. Does “All Rise” even employ any legal consultants? It doesn’t seem like it does.

There’s some good stuff with Missick and court clerk Ruthie Ann Miles hanging out, but in a very humorous way not in actual character development way. I’m also not sure but it seems like Missick is having trouble not laughing at some of Miles’s best deliveries. And the stuff with Missick and Burns gets to an all right point, so it’s a shame to episode doesn’t end with it but instead subjects us to more of Jessica Camacho and J. Alex Brinson’s courtship.

So Camacho’s got a case where she’s defending a guy against Wilson Bethel, who’s got nothing to do this episode because he’s not allowed to try cases in front of Missick and instead his boss, Reggie Lee (who’s a regular?), tries it. Bethel and Camacho are trying to work out a plea deal for her client, whatever. The episode makes Bethel seem potentially shady, which he isn’t. “All Rise” is aspirational. Bethel’s a white knight. But Camacho doesn’t seem to trust him, but then she does once Bethel reminds her he’s a white knight. Their plot feels like writer Conway Preston was just trying to pad out the episode. It’s not good. It’s lazy.

Camacho and Brinson’s cutesy courtship is worse though. It’s annoying. They’re now officially obnoxious together, which is too bad because they’re both likable apart. And their relationship used to be cute versus cutesy.

I think this episode’s the equivalent of a bunt, if I’m getting my baseball metaphors right.

All Rise s01e05 – Devotees in the Courthouse of Love

Nadia Gray’s back this episode, which is surprisingly distinguishing as Gray doesn’t make much impression other than everyone making fun of her name—Ria’s hard for them—and boyfriend Wilson Bethel’s general eye-rolling at her being a supermodel brand influencer. Of course, Bethel doesn’t really want to be dating her because he and Simone Missick are best friends who complete each other but just can’t get together at least until season two if they rush things, season three if they take their time. But the show’s ready for Gray to go now. The episode takes place on the courthouse’s annual Wedding Day, when there’s a big group wedding or some such thing. Gray’s all soft about getting married, Bethel’s not interested (he can’t even say he likes her because woke white guy still guy); plus he spends the entire episode almost flirting with defense attorney Lindsey Gort.

Over in Missick’s courtroom—the show finally addressed Bethel not being allowed to lawyer in Missick’s courtroom because they’re besties last episode; took them long enough—anyway, Missick’s got a nun trial. I’m not sure if nuns on trial is a lawyer show trope but it certainly seems like a lawyer show trope. Or when nuns show up in the hospital show. It’s a trope. If it’s not a trope now, it used to be a trope, when you kept tripping over Catholics on TV. You know, before the whole “our organization exists to protect and further child rape” thing, which “All Rise” never addresses because—deep down—the show’s not controversial.

And there’s no controversy this episode, other than Missick figuring out how bad the legal system screws poor people in dollars and cents and tries to fix it. Positive change we can all agree on, this week on “All Rise.” See, progressives aren’t going too fast, this week on “All Rise.”

The episode does give Marg Helgenberger an all-right scene—her best in the show so far, even if it passes Bechdel but only because Helgenberger’s queer—and Paul McCrane’s back. They don’t give McCrane much to do except be Judge Rocket Romano but it’s fine. It’s Paul McCrane.

Last episode J. Alex Brinson and Jessica Camacho got their chemistry in sync, this episode it’s Missick and assistant Ruthie Ann Miles. Quick refresh—Miles is the experience clerk who’s supposed to hate new SJW Black lady judge Missick but it turns out they work great together. They’ve been fun to watch since the first episode, but now they’re finally getting their rapport worked out.

“All Rise” isn’t on the most even ground but it’s getting to be solid ground.

Solid, uneven ground. Uneven, solid ground. Whichever means it’s basically all right and the performances carry it.

All Rise s01e04 – A View from the Bus

Todd Williams shows up for the first scene—he’s top-billed Simone Missick’s husband who’s been MIA most episodes—and gets her off to work. They still don’t have much chemistry together. Even if Missick and Wilson Bethel don’t have romantic chemistry together, they’ve got something. Missick and Williams haven’t got anything. They’re kind of ludicrously mismatched. Sure, the show hasn’t hit the guest star casting peaks of the pilot but it hasn’t been bad. Williams isn’t bad, but he’s not an inspired choice.

And him being an FBI agent is just kind of weird. Especially given how willing the show is to get “political,” but apparently the FBI is above reproach. It’s very weird.

The episode does near that inspired guest star casting—not in terms of name or experience, but quality—with defendant Jacob Gibson. He’s the college-going young Black man who still hangs out with his… urban friends and one of them killed someone then had Gibson drive away. The big deal of the first half of the episode is when judge Missick agrees to take the jury to the crime scene. Field trip! Only then there’s an active shooter situation and Missick’s got to worry about whether she prejudiced them because they’re worried it’s Gibson’s friends who were trying to intimidate the jury. Jessica Camacho’s Gibson’s lawyer so of course she’s worrying about it too. Suzanne Cryer’s the shockingly obviously racist district attorney who wants to humiliate Gibson before his conviction. It’s tense stuff, even pasteurized into CBS appropriate milk.

You can tell it doesn’t work right because J. Alex Brinson is hanging around Camacho and Gibson the whole time but he doesn’t actually get to reflect on how white people treat Black men they suspect of being dangerous, even though the episode opens with a “previously on” recapping bailiff Brinson getting cuffed up by the white sheriff deputies.

Meanwhile Bethel’s going up against previously established not corrupt but dirty cop Erin Cummings. He’s suspicious of her evidence and does a full investigation; strangely the show doesn’t bring up Cummings’s “support me because I’m a woman” thing she tried using on Missick a few episodes ago, which might not be standards and practices but the show just showing its lack of self-awareness. But Richard Brooks is back for a scene and it’s awesome to have Brooks back for a scene. It gives Bethel a lot to do and he’s great at it but you’re still sitting there thinking… that’s Bullseye, he can do a lot more.

At least the episode ends on a reassuring montage sequence and not another “let’s work together” speech from Brinson. And he and Camacho are getting cute together. It’s hard to see Brinson as cute, given he’s son of a bitch abusive cop husband Jeff from “Travelers” but it’s starting to work.

All Rise s01e03 – Sweet Bird of Truth

I’m very curious how this episode went through standards and practices. Was there a version of it where Black bailiff J. Alex Brinson doesn’t give a heartwarming speech about how the sheriff’s department needs to work within the system to fix the system. It’s just after Brinson has approached the fellow deputy (Christopher Amitrano) pulled him over and cuffed him the day before for jogging while Black. Amitrano gets a shot to himself during Brinson’s speech, so we know if we just wait long enough and explain it to the white supremacists the right way, we can all get along. It’s toothless, just when “All Rise” seemed like it might have some actual teeth.

It’s particularly bad because there aren’t actually many Black people in the cast. Two. Sure, it’s judge Simone Missick (she’s not exactly the lead but it’s about her courtroom and experiences in it), but the show goes out of its way to imply how out of place Missick (and Brinson) feel. And this episode seems like they’re taking it really seriously. They don’t want to offend anyone, but they’re taking the institutionalized racism thing seriously. Only it’s a passive thing, people can’t really control it. But if you get too out of hand—like evil violent white supremacist Ryan Brady. I mean, hey, the show’s saying assault with a vehicle is real assault and does real damage—it’s like the show thinks it can play woke in one column but not the other. Especially since the whole episode you’re just waiting for Brinson to have some awesome speech or confrontation and instead it’s… civility. Eye-roll.

But, I suppose, much more what I was expecting from “All Rise.”

Missick and Wilson Bethel don’t hang out much this episode. It’s one of the subplots. But Bethel’s busy with the Brady case, being an earnest white savior. It only works—as far as it works—because it’s Bethel and his tense energy. We also meet Bethel’s girlfriend, Nadia Gray, and Missick’s husband, Todd Williams. The show doesn’t even pretend it cares Gray and Bethel or Missick and Williams have any chemistry together.

There’s also a cringe-y part where Bethel argues well in court so the judge rewards him by recognizing brown person have rights and the show presents it as a win. See, all the racist old white men judges want is some creative courtroom antics before they’ll recognize non-white people as people.

And you can tell “Rise” thinks that Brinson speech is pushing the envelope, even though it’s as fake as when Bethel and Williams chest bump or something because they’ve clearly never hung out in their lives and it’s unimaginable they would. But anyway.

All Rise s01e02 – Long Day’s Journey Into ICE

Going into this episode, I thought I had the show figured out. It was “‘Major Crimes’ universe,” where white cops could be progressive about gay and trans rights and so on. Still pretty invested in white supremacy, but maybe not as much as usual. And no talking about killer cops. Progressive, just not actually progressing. Going into “All Rise” episode two, I was onboard for the cast and just fine with it.

This episode, “All Rise”—in the first scene—goes all in after ICE. I had thought about how a feature of a “‘Major Crimes’ universe” was no Orange Führer, but it’s all about living in the 2019 hellhole under the Orange Führer. Simone Missick’s judge is going to be a proud activist judge. Last episode it wasn’t clear whether or not the show wanted to be overtly progressive. This episode decides enthusiastically in favor of it, with Black female judge Missick getting together with Latinx public defender Jessica Camacho and—yes, Simone Missick really appeals to Irish ancestors at one point—white district attorney Kelly Frye. They work together to subvert ICE and try to get Camacho’s client, asylum-seeker Roland Ruiz, out of ICE’s grasp with the best possible outcome for Ruiz. It’s women for the win.

But not just women in this episode, with younger white guy Wilson Bethel trying to take down old rich white guy Robert Curtis Brown because Brown bribed a witness. The arc gives Bethel a lot of emoting over his estrangement with his father, as he identifies with Brown’s kid, Ava Deluca-Verley. Sadly Deluca-Verley isn’t particularly good. This episode of “All Rise” doesn’t have that amazing guest star casting from the pilot. No one’s exactly bad… Deluca-Verley’s just not interesting, which might also be the part, but the casting caliber isn’t here.

The show’s still pretty safe just based on the energy Missick and the supporting cast get when the plan comes together. She and Ruthie Ann Miles are downright good together already, which isn’t easy as Miles is supposed to be the irate judge’s clerk. If they get a second season, I’ll bet they even have the gall to proudly identify as social justice… hmm… champions of social justice. “All Rise” isn’t bold so much as forceful. Its progressive politicking is always calculated.

And its lead performances always solid. But it’s too soon to tell if it can get away without being bold about anything.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑