Saturday, September 28, 2019

THE ‘GREY’S ANATOMY’ PREMIERE—LESS THAN A SWEET 16

I’ll admit—I’m always happy to see a new episode of GREY’S. So a season premiere, after a four-month hiatus, always conjures excitement. This year’s season premiere, though, left a lot to be desired. Here’s what was wrong with it, and what I hope this season will do

Spoiler Alert: You are advised to read on only after watching the season 16 premiere of GREY’S ANATOMY. Definitive plot points have been mentioned.

When GREY’S left us in May, there were cliffhangers all around us. Jackson was missing in the fog, with Maggie looking for him. Teddy got back together with Owen, while Tom Koracick was left setting up a crib for their baby. Amelia kind of broke up with Link. Jo checked herself in for psychiatric help, after finally admitting her issues to Alex. Andrew DeLuca went to jail for something Meredith did. Meredith got fired for it, and so did Richard and Alex for being accomplices. Aside from the firing bit, everything was resolved, and extremely unsatisfactorily.

Where do we go from here? Where, indeed!
JACKSON AND MAGGIE
Jackson’s disappearance was the gimmickiest of the lot, especially because of how ABC promoted the premiere, implying that he’d been seriously injured or may even be in grave danger. What we got from it was the surgical case of the week—some hikers he found who were literally in a cliffhanger situation. Of course his breakup with Maggie was inevitable and came as no shock. It was among the few developments in the premiere that were handled well. In fact, it was quite nice to see him bonding with Vic (from STATION 19), and there was this, sort of, instant chemistry between them. I’m not a fan of Maggie, and didn’t quite like her and Jackson together much. But I did feel slightly bad for her when she tells Jackson that they don’t like each other and hence he and Vic are none of her business, especially knowing that she was absolutely right. Kelly McCreary did that scene really well, hiding the pain with her steely exterior. McCreary really makes me want to like Maggie sometimes.

I do wish that this season, the breakup makes Maggie pull herself together and grow up a little. She needs to take a step back and assess her own life and whatever she believes people owe her, emotionally and otherwise. She owes that to herself. On the other hand, I think Jackson should really take some time for himself, even though he has a bond already with Vic. I mean, they have both admitted that neither is ready for anything yet. Also, I think it’ll be fun to see Jackson single for a while. I don’t remember what that was even like.


OWEN-TEDDY-TOM
It was so heart-breaking last season to see how the crass but well-meaning and utterly caring Tom Koracick was left setting up a crib for Teddy’s baby, while she was getting back with Owen. Tom and Teddy weren’t going to last too long, especially since it’s been quite apparent that Owen and Teddy have been end-game. Yet, Teddy and Tom had something sweet, and I did expect more emotion with their breakup. I didn’t want to see melodrama, but I also didn’t want it to simply be an assumption that Tom makes, with Teddy barely making a half-hearted apology—which is what happened. I love Teddy; always have. And I like that she had something of her own, after her late husband Henry, something that didn’t involve Owen. So it was disappointing to see a sweet bond end, especially in this manner.

I do wish we see some more closure on this front. As for Teddy and Owen, they’re ready to start a life together and all, but I hope it comes with some adjustment, some amount of dealing with being a conventional, co-habiting, co-parenting couple. I feel this way especially since they’ve never really been together that way, having simply gone from friends to what-ifs prior to this. So I’d like to see what makes them tick as a couple, because frankly, I really just saw them as the best of friends, like Meredith and Alex are, and it surprised me when their relationship took a romantic turn. And with Tom, I look forward to what they do with him, since he is definitely going to be around, with Greg Germann having been promoted to series regular this season.

AMELIA AND LINK
Their relationship has probably been the most refreshing of GREY’S romances lately. I loved them as soon as they started flirting when they were both at that conference last season. They look great together, they have this cute banter, and they have some hot chemistry. Also, their relationship bloomed with excitement after Meredith’s loss (in choosing DeLuca over Link) became Amelia’s gain. While Meredith and DeLuca’s chemistry fizzled and became a tired relationship almost overnight, Amelia and Link have had that spark throughout, even when things got a little serious when he went with her for that tense dinner with the Shepherds. So it’s nice now to see them embracing what they have, after taking a step back to assess what they want from this relationship. 

However, why, oh why would they go down a pregnancy path! It’s too soon. I wanted to see them together a bit, trying to figure this sweet, new, exciting relationship out before something definitive like a pregnancy were to come along to throw them into a make-or-break situation. I certainly don’t want them to go into a zone of angst and high emotions. I do hope the writers have a better plan than that for these characters.


ALEX AND JO
Last season, Jo unraveled and unraveled hard. It put a strong strain on her relationship with Alex, so soon after they’d finally gotten married. It drove Alex crazy that she wouldn’t talk to him, and understandably so. We literally saw what he went through when Izzie ghosted him, and he’s also had to deal with his mom, and there was also Ava/Rebecca. This emotional wringer with Jo has been poetic in a tragic way, so it was nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially after Jo gave him an ‘out’ and he chose not to take it. It was especially meaningful because it was a choice he didn’t take lightly. He committed to sticking together after giving it some serious thought, and that’s what I love about their relationship. They never overdo the emotional presentation of the deep bond they share, yet we know it’s there. However, I do think that it happened all too quickly. And I do hope that we see how they find their way back to each other in a more practical, day-to-day space, beyond simply making big commitments and grand gestures.

MEREDITH AND ANDREW
These two showed so much promise when they hooked up last year, after that awkward kiss at Alex and Jo’s wedding in season 14. They were hot, they were endearing, they were cute, until DeLuca started to act like he was entitled to be with her, and Meredith toyed with Link and him, leading both on, acting superior and then eventually being a bitch to Link. That’s when I lost interest in ‘MerLuca’. Yet, they could have kept the spark alive, but they went down a serious path, with his family issues and so on, before we even had a chance to see them together enough to want them to become a serious couple. The relationship brought out sides in them that I didn’t like, and soon, I couldn’t care less about them. So it was no surprise then when I didn’t feel shook up when he took the blame for her insurance fraud. Yet, I wanted more from it, from a plot perspective, than a quick dropping of charges and even Meredith getting away with only being given community service. Though there is some hope for that cliffhanger leading to more than just that, with her medical license being threatened. Let the complex and compelling fight begin. That aside, I still don’t like MerLuca together. I can only hope they’re not end-game. And no, I don’t say this because I think no one can fill Derek’s shoes. I don’t feel that way (Meredith's been better off without Derek). I want to see Meredith in a good, meaningful, interesting relationship, and her relationship with DeLuca is certainly not all that.


RICHARD, ALEX AND PAC-NORTH
The one thing I’ve never grudged GREY’S ANATOMY for is their over-the-top cliffhangers. Even if they have done gigantic disaster episodes in the past, with nail-biting season-enders, they’ve always made the cliffhangers count for something, making them series-defining turns and not simply gimmicks. For example, when the plane crashed, it led to the survivors taking the hospital to court and eventually becoming the owners of the hospital and renaming it to Grey+Sloan Memorial. When Alex beat up Andrew, it sparked off his entire character arc for the following season. So with Grey, Webber and Karev being fired in last season’s finale, I had a feeling that it would be a cliffhanger that wouldn’t just be resolved minutes into the new season (like the others unfortunately were in this season 16 opener). And it was good to see something come out of it that will inform the storylines going forward. We all know that they will eventually resume their responsibilities at Grey+Sloan, but I look forward to seeing how that happens. Let it inform the characters and their relationships, as it already is happening with Richard and Catherine, with Richard and Alex now working at Pacific North General Hospital. Let it show us sides to them as doctors outside of Grey+Sloan. Let this resolution take its time. There can be so much that comes out of it.

I hope this season does justice to the choices made for these characters. I hope we get to see sides of these relationships that make them feel real before things are shaken up too soon. I hope to see more of the promising new series regulars—Koracick, Link and Schmidt. Here’s to GREY’S ANATOMY's sweet 16!

Monday, September 23, 2019

THE NEW QUEEN OF COMEDY, AND THE BEST AND WORST OF THE EMMYS 2019


One of the least predictable Emmys in recent years, this year, the biggest TV awards gave us a few major pleasant surprises, yet GAME OF THRONES predictably won outstanding drama series. Here are a few highlights and disappointments from the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards

To begin with, let’s just hail the new queen of comedy: Phoebe Waller-Bridge! FLEABAG came out with a phenomenal second season this year, and the Television Academy saw it for its brilliance, and its brutally honest and unapologetic take on being single and living with some serious baggage. The tragi-comedy took home Emmys for outstanding writing, directing, and comedy series, as well as lead actress in a comedy. Waller-Bridge won three of those awards, the first two being for writing and for lead actress. While accepting the former, she said writing was ‘hard and painful’, and then when she went up to accept her acting Emmy, acting was ‘hard and painful’ as well, she said. It was hilarious, and it was exhilarating to see her fresh energy and her honest simplicity. I really wish there’d be more of FLEABAG!

The new queen of comedy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Waller-Bridge was also presented an award in the limited series category, with fellow Emmy winner Bill Hader. They made jokes about how limited series were simply shows that got cancelled after one season, or those that people wouldn’t bear to watch multiple seasons of. “No one wants to watch seven seasons of CHERNOBYL,” they said. And that if there were more than one ESCAPE FROM DANNEMORA, that would be on the Dannemora prison people! It was undoubtedly the funniest presentation of the evening. And it was such a simple idea, delivered with flair, but you know, some of the best presentation bits are based on the simplest of ideas.

Other presentations just didn’t make the mark, especially not the one by Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz. They did a sketch where they pretended to have just had LASIK surgery, making them unable to read the teleprompter properly. It might have been alright—albeit unfunny still—if it was just that. However, when they blurted out pretend ‘misread’ names while announcing the nominees, owing to their mock inability to read, I found that rather disrespectful and quite stupid to be honest. I know that this is an unpopular opinion, considering that many now want Maya Rudolph to host the Oscars and what-not, but I beg to differ.

Speaking of disrespect, one extremely harsh dig was made towards Felicity Huffman, who was recently sentenced to two weeks of imprisonment. The comment was made by Thomas Lennon who was almost like a stand-in for a host, passing commentary in sports commentating style. He simply said something to the effect of: …Former Emmy winners, don’t worry, the two weeks will pass like a breeze. It was in poor taste, and I say this not because I condone Huffman’s role in the college admissions scandal, but because she’s been extremely remorseful, and it’s quite unfortunate what she’s had to go through. Yet, I did enjoy Thomas Lennon’s bits almost through the entire rest of the show. He even gave us some real thigh-slappers such as saying that Emmy winner John Oliver was from an ‘underdog network’. We all know that HBO is anything but that! And he poked fun at Billy Porter’s hat, which had an extended brim towards the left. Let’s face it, was rather inconsiderate towards those sitting behind him, and Lennon said just that—that he felt bad for the person sitting behind Porter on the left. And then at some point, Lennon spoke about how SUCCESSION was loosely based on Rupert Murdoch’s family—the very family that had ordered him to do this job.

SUCCESSION actually won the Emmy for outstanding writing, and it was very well deserved. Among others who really deserved their Emmys were Peter Dinklage—winning his fourth one for GAME OF THRONES—and Jodie Comer! Comer was one of the pleasant surprises of the evening. The frontrunner was her costar Sandra Oh, and most people expected that if Oh were to not win, it would not to go to KILLING EVE at all. Comer was genuinely flabbergasted, and even said that she didn’t invite her parents to attend from Liverpool, because she truly believed that it would not be her year.

Jodie Comer was genuinely surprised to win
Alex Borstein, who won outstanding supporting actress in a comedy, made a statement by not apologizing for the criticism she received for not wearing a bra at last year’s Emmys. But she made a bigger statement about how women need to step out of line and take a chance to do something for themselves. On the other hand, Emmy winner for outstanding actress in a limited series, Michelle Williams—for FOSSE/VERDON—thanked her producers for paying her what she deserved, and for paying her equally. She then appealed to producers in general to pay their actresses what the actresses ask for, stating that then those very actresses could one day thank them giving them what they deserved. She added that the actresses would then say that they succeeded because of their producers and not in spite of them. That was the most powerful and the best acceptance speech of the awards. It’s baffling that ‘equal pay’ is still an issue, and everything needs to be said and done to rectify what’s wrong.

Michelle Williams gave the best speech of the awards

Other surprises included VEEP—and Julia Louis-Dreyfus—losing out at its final Emmys, but then FLEABAG was probably unbeatable. VEEP did get a mini send-off though, via a presentation made by the whole cast—something that even GAME OF THRONES got. In that spirit, it was nice to see that the show paid tribute to all the shows that have ended this last year, in a special audio-visual. Shows such as THE BIG BANG THEORY, JANE THE VIRGIN, and BROAD CITY got a brief farewell, but a few others were missing. For example, I don’t think I saw ELEMENTARY there, and that’s sad, considering that even the far inferior GOTHAM got the opening clip in the presentation. Overall though, it’s a good idea and it’s a nice way to say goodbye especially to shows that used to win Emmys, but not so much towards the end of their run. BIG BANG was an example of that this year. Hopefully this bit becomes a recurring feature. Stellar Emmy winners such as HOMELAND and MODERN FAMILY—both of which are ending this new TV season—will deserve a lot more than that in terms of a farewell though.

The cast of VEEP
But that’s next year. For now, take a look at the winners of the 2019 Emmys—a show that was quite pleasantly surprising even if it wasn’t an entertainer through and through.   

GAME OF THRONES won outstanding drama series
Here’s a complete list of last night’s winners from the drama, comedy and limited series/TV movie categories:

DRAMA

Outstanding Drama Series
BETTER CALL SAUL
BODYGUARD
GAME OF THRONES
KILLING EVE
OZARK
POSE
SUCCESSION
THIS IS US

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Emilia Clarke (GAME OF THRONES)
Robin Wright (HOUSE OF CARDS)
Viola Davis (HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER)
Sandra Oh (KILLING EVE)
Jodie Comer (KILLING EVE)
Mandy Moore (THIS IS US)
Laura Linney (OZARK)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Bob Odenkirk (BETTER CALL SAUL)
Kit Harington (GAME OF THRONES)
Jason Bateman (OZARK)
Sterling K. Brown (THIS IS US)
Milo Ventimiglia (THIS IS US)
Billy Porter (POSE)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Lena Headey (GAME OF THRONES)
Gwendoline Christie (GAME OF THRONES)
Sophie Turner (GAME OF THRONES)
Maisie Williams (GAME OF THRONES)
Fiona Shaw (KILLING EVE)
Julia Garner (OZARK)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Jonathan Banks (BETTER CALL SAUL)
Giancarlo Esposito (BETTER CALL SAUL)
Alfie Allen (GAME OF THRONES)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (GAME OF THRONES)
Peter Dinklage (GAME OF THRONES)
Michael Kelly (HOUSE OF CARDS)
Chris Sullivan (THIS IS US)

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
GAME OF THRONES “The Last Of The Starks”
GAME OF THRONES “The Long Night”
GAME OF THRONES “The Iron Throne”
KILLING EVE “Desperate Times”
OZARK “Reparations”
SUCCESSION “Celebration”
THE HANDMAID’S TALE “Holly”

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
BETTER CALL SAUL “Winner”
BODYGUARD “Episode 1”
GAME OF THRONES “The Iron Throne”
KILLING EVE “Nice And Neat”
SUCCESSION “Nobody Is Ever Missing”
THE HANDMAID’S TALE “Holly”

COMEDY

Outstanding Comedy Series
BARRY
FLEABAG
RUSSIAN DOLL
SCHITT’S CREEK
THE GOOD PLACE
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL
VEEP

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate (DEAD TO ME)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (FLEABAG)
Catherine O’Hara (SCHITT’S CREEK)
Natasha Lyonne (RUSSIAN DOLL)
Rachel Brosnahan (THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (VEEP)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Bill Hader (BARRY)
Don Cheadle (BLACK MONDAY)
Anthony Anderson (BLACK-ISH)
Eugene Levy (SCHITT’S CREEK)
Ted Danson (THE GOOD PLACE)
Michael Douglas (THE KOMINSKY METHOD)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Sarah Goldberg (BARRY)
Sian Clifford (FLEABAG)
Olivia Colman (FLEABAG)
Betty Gilpin (GLOW)
Marin Hinkle (THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL)
Kate McKinnon (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE)
Alex Borstein (THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL)
Anna Chlumsky (VEEP)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Henry Winkler (BARRY)
Anthony Carrigan (BARRY)
Stephen Root (BARRY)
Tony Hale (VEEP)
Tony Shalhoub (THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL)
Alan Arkin (THE KOMINSKY METHOD)

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
BARRY “The Audition”
BARRY “ronny/lily”
FLEABAG “Episode 1”
THE BIG BANG THEORY “Stockholm Syndrome”
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL “All Alone”
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL “We’re Going To The Catskills!”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
BARRY “ronny/lily”
FLEABAG “Episode 1”
PEN15 “Anna Ishii-Peters”
RUSSIAN DOLL “Nothing In This World Is Easy”
RUSSIAN DOLL “A Warm Body”
THE GOOD PLACE “Janet(s)”
VEEP “Veep”

LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE

Outstanding Limited Series
CHERNOBYL
ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA
FOSSE/VERDON
SHARP OBJECTS
WHEN THEY SEE US

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series
Amy Adams (SHARP OBJECTS)
Patricia Arquette (ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA)
Michelle Williams (FOSSE/VERDON)
Joey King (THE ACT)
Aunjanue Ellis (WHEN THEY SEE US)
Niecy Nash (WHEN THEY SEE US)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series
Mahershala Ali (TRUE DETECTIVE)
Hugh Grant (A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL)
Benicio del Toro (ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA)
Sam Rockwell (FOSSE/VERDON)
Jared Harris (CHERNOBYL)
Jharrel Jerome (WHEN THEY SEE US)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series
Emily Watson (CHERNOBYL)
Patricia Clarkson (SHARP OBJECTS)
Marsha Stephanie Blake (WHEN THEY SEE US)
Vera Farmiga (WHEN THEY SEE US)
Patricia Arquette (THE ACT)
Margaret Qualley (FOSSE/VERDON)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series
Ben Whishaw (A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL)
Stellan Skarsgard (CHERNOBYL)
Paul Dano (ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA)
John Leguizamo (WHEN THEY SEE US)
Michael K. Williams (WHEN THEY SEE US)
Asante Blackk (WHEN THEY SEE US)

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL
CHERNOBYL
ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA
FOSSE/VERDON “Glory”
FOSSE/VERDON “Who’s Got The Pain”
WHEN THEY SEE US

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL
CHERNOBYL
ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA “Episode 6”
ESCAPE AT DANNEMORA “Episode 7”
FOSSE/VERDON “Providence”
WHEN THEY SEE US “Part Four”

Outstanding Television Movie
Bandersnatch (BLACK MIRROR)
Brexit
King Lear
My Dinner with Hervé