Glee s6 ep 9

The new kids get a proper run-out this week. Spencer’s in love with good-looking slacker-ish dude Alistair, and for some reason everyone pretends that he’s been really supportive of Roderick so that Alistair will make out with him. And Mason likes Jane – and who can blame him? – but he’s being cockblocked. By his sister. I actually quite like this season’s newbies, but we’re really only getting to know them now, and with a handful of episodes to go it hardly seems worth getting invested.

Meantime, Sue’s trying to impress the school superintendent, who asks her in return for the glee club’s assistance with his 13-year-old nephew Myron’s bar mitzvah. Myron is a piece of work, it should be said, but at least he actually looks as if he might be of school age (*ahem* Alistair *ahem*). By the end he’s been recruited for the glee club, which gives Sue something of a conflict of interest when contemplating the latest – and presumably final? – iteration of her ongoing battle with Will and New Directions. I suppose you could view the resumption of this plot arc as an acknowledgment of the show turning full circle in its dying days, or as an indication that inspiration has left the writers’ room.

What saves ‘Child Star’ from end-of-series irrelevance, though, is the music, which is ridiculously good. The worst thing is probably New Directions performing Echosmith’s ‘Cool Kids’, which is a not-very-interesting version of a not-very-interesting song, but in other weeks would probably have been among the better performances. Myron’s full-on ‘Lose My Breath’ is great fun, as is Spencer’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’. The real gems, though, are the three performances from Myron’s bar mitzvah: Mason’s pointed ‘I Want To Break Free’, aimed at his sister, soars; ‘Uptown Funk’ is custom-built for the Glee treatment; and the ND version of Ariana Grande’s ‘Break Free’ is very nearly as hot as the original.

Odyssey (American Odyssey) ep 6

*SPOILERS*

This week on Odyssey, the three leads compete to see who is the stupidest, doing them, the story and the show no favours at all.

In New York, Peter’s daughter Maya is now sleeping with the wee slimeball Cameron that Peter yelled at last week, because somebody decided this show needed yet another pointless sub-plot tacked on to the spaghetti junction of storylines we’ve already got. Pimping teenagers out isn’t enough for Alex Baker, though, so while Cameron sleazes away on one side, Alex tries to broker/blackmail a meeting with Sophia via Peter on the other, using a photo of her, her late husband and the suddenly very important Yusuf Qasim.

Oddly enough, although nobody has mentioned Mr Qasim – known to the U.S. State Dept as the Jack of Spades, because he apparently wandered in from a Frederick Forsyth novel – before now, Peter and halfwit Harrison can’t get through a scene this week without this dude’s name cropping up. He’s a terrorist, except he isn’t. He was killed, except he wasn’t. And he hasn’t been seen in umpteen years, except…. Oh yes. It takes Bob less than 5 minutes to track this elusive fellow down so he and Harrison can follow him in perhaps the silliest sequence of events to have happened so far on this show. (And that is a very high bar.)

While Peter still has just about enough – if precious little – sense to realise he’s in over his head, however, and hires a secret operative of his own to help out, Harrison continues to overestimate his own ability to walk and talk at the same time and carries on “investigating” his father’s death. In practice this means that, YET AGAIN, Harrison takes Ruby-not-a-Reporter – FFS DUDE – everywhere he goes, while loudly telling everyone who will listen as well as anyone who will not, all about Black Sands and his father’s murder.

Despite a visibly terrified Bob warning him every single week that Ruby is BAD NEWS, the defiantly moronic Harrison even takes her round to the Offer house so she can make pantomime villain faces and he can ignore them. My GOD.

Which leaves us with Odelle in the oasis of comparative sanity (since Harrison and Peter aren’t there) that is Bamako. After seeing Shakir’s tv appeal about Aslam, Odelle is itching to head out to Club Cachette but instead of delightedly shoving the harbinger of death out of the door while they still can, Mr and Mrs Kindly Trader persuade her to stay put in their house while Mr Kindly Trader goes to scope things out with Shakir. Mr Kindly is, however, spooked to find Luc (yay!) has beaten him to it and is busy scoping things out with a suspicious Shakir himself! Unfortunately for Mr Kindly, said scoping involves Luc seeing right through him (Luc’s shades are basically a superpower at this point), so that when Mr Kindly does eventually shove Odelle out the door (with the best of intentions), Luc’s there with a gun, a flash drive and a smirk. Yay! Luc and Odelle finally meet! But boo! She beats him up, takes his phone, ignores his advice not to and tries to call her family, thereby – YET AGAIN – alerting Col Glen to her whereabouts because MY GOD, ODELLE, OF COURSE THEY ARE INTERCEPTING CALLS TO YOUR HOUSE, YOU MORON.

The damage already having been done, Odelle then tries to get smart and calls the NY Times nearest desk (which seems to be in Paris? Really? Nearest to Bamako?) before reuniting with Aslam at Shakir’s house and kicking Luc out – girl, will you just look at him? How could you? – but it’s too late. Evil Frank and OSELA are onto the call and poor Serena pays the price. Which sends an irate and distraught Luc (it’s not entirely clear how he avoided Evil Frank, but bygones) storming back to Club Cachette and will hopefully kickstart plenty of Odelle, Luc and Aslam adventures together because at this stage, Gregory Fitoussi and the reasonably fun Bamako plotline are the only reasons that I can think of for sticking with this ridiculous show.

Nashville s3 ep 11

Rayna’s hoping that Luke will take the high ground after she publicly humiliated him and broke his heart. On the other hand, Bucky’s more realistic assessment is that “we may need to brace for the worst”. Bucky’s right: Luke starts off by driving his pickup truck at the wedding cake, then sending the bill for the wedding to Rayna (understandably), then going round to Deacon’s to pick a fight, calling Rayna a bitch along the way. Unfortunately, Deacon smacks him around, and video of Luke getting his ass kicked by a man with liver cancer goes viral. Still, at least The Girls are unhappy when they find out, although when are they ever happy these days?

And it’s also the morning after Jeff’s recreation of the last days of the Roman Empire. The police are prepared to overlook the drinking, the drugs, and the hos, they tell Mayor Teddy, but not so much the girl found floating face-down in the pool. Layla will eventually come round, although not before Will realises that she’s now aware of him cheating on her with men and women. So their marriage is (finally) over, and Jeff is able to get the reality show cancelled, meaning that there’s nothing standing between him and Jayla4EVA, apart from the age gap, the decency gap, and the fact that she might need a few months to clear her head. Or maybe go to Harvard and get the eff away from the lot of them.

The sweetest moment of the episode is undoubtedly when Gunnar finds out that Avery has married Juliette, and kind of bro-hugs him to the ground. It’s possibly the best news of the week for Gunnar: for some reason, he’s decided not to tell Micah about the paternity test, and continue his now-doomed fight for custody. Eventually he lets Micah in on the secret, and Micah decides he wants to go with his grandparents. I’d like to think that’s the last of this storyline, endearing though Micah has been, but the final exchange between Gunnar and the grandparents suggests it might endure.

By comparison, Avery’s problems this week are kind of trivial: he’s moving in to Juliette’s house, but she doesn’t like an old chair of his. My patience would have been tried by weeks of “It just doesn’t feel like my house! It feels like I’m a guest!” so it’s fortunate that this is all sorted out quickly. There’s trouble ahead for Sadie, though, who has bought a gun to protect herself from her violent ex. I will be amazed if she doesn’t use it within the next couple of weeks. Amazed.

But it’s the Rayna/Luke/Deacon love triangle which closes the episode out. Rayna goes to Luke’s house to sue for peace, but he’s not interested. (And, much as I don’t like dude, can I say again that I really don’t blame him?) In fact, he goes on to make a point which is undoubtedly vindictive, but perhaps has more than a grain of truth. I’d actually been thinking for a few weeks that the revival in Rayna’s career – the show started, after all, with her star on the slide and Juliette’s on the rise – had gone largely unacknowledged. Well, Luke acknowledges the hell out of it: pre-Ruke, Rayna’s career was going nowhere; now, she’s got CMAs coming out of her ears and playing stadia again.

Luke rounds an unhappy day off by playing an impromptu gig at his house for 500 fans and airing a new woman-done-me-wrong song, called, I think, ‘If I Drink This Beer’, which is better than anything else we’ve ever heard from him by an almost risible margin. Maybe heartbreak suits him. And Rayna heads off to start her dance with Deacon again, although what she doesn’t know is that this time the clock (in the shape of a tumour on his liver) is ticking (growing), so she doesn’t have forever to make her mind up. I like Deacon, but in all honesty I’m kind of over him and Rayna as a couple, which perhaps meant that I didn’t enjoy this episode quite as much as some others this season. That and the fact that Hayden Panettiere, seasons 1 and 2’s MVP, is perforce being used more and more sparingly as we go on.

Person of Interest s3 ep 13; s3 ep 14

Channel 5 just loves Person of Interest. After the Big Brother hiatus, we’ve had four weeks in a row of one episode per week, and clearly someone has decided that we’ve had it too good for too long. So, like they did with season 2, it’s stupid-double-bill time.

In the first episode, ‘4C’, Reese is still in the depths of existential despair, and planning a one-way flight to Istanbul, with the clear intention of getting the hell away from Finch, The Machine, and (insofar as he can) the void left by Carter. But there’s a problem with his booking, and he ends up on a different plane. This one has an unruly passenger, who is subdued by Reese in a wonderful moment of silent comedy; a flight attendant who clearly takes a bit of a shine to Reese; and Owen Matthews, a witness being escorted by US Marshals.

Matthews, we will learn, has been involved in online drug dealing, and a lot of people – most, if not all, of whom are apparently on the plane – want to kill him. And Reese is there because The Machine manipulated his booking; getting away from it isn’t easy. It’s yet another terrific episode, balancing humour (according to Matthews, Reese’s hair has “that salt and pepper thing” that’s “like catnip to soccer moms”), action, a dash of romance, and another confrontation of the darkness at the heart of the show: talking to Matthews, but knowing that Finch is listening in, Reese says that computer guys “build something you can’t control, and when it backfires you won’t accept responsibility”. Still, by the end Reese is off getting fitted for a new suit, so we know that he’s ready to come back to work.

Which he does in the next episode, ‘Provenance’. This is even more of a romp, almost White Collar-esque in places. The Number of the Week is former Olympic gymnast turned event planner Kelli Lin, whose guilty little secret is that she’s an Olympic class thief as well, pursued around the world by Interpol dude Alain Bouchard. There’s yet more to Kelli than meets the eye, of course, in a cleverly-plotted if perhaps insubstantial episode.

There’s even room for a bit of fanservice, with acknowledgement of the implied homoeroticism in the Reese/Finch relationship: first up, Shaw apologises for interrupting a “mildly erotic moment” as Finch tries to give Reese advice on his bow-tie; Finch then takes Reese as his “plus one” to an event organised by Kelli, is complemented on how good looking his partner is, and smiles as if to say “YEAH he is”. Plus Shaw scrubbing up. And Reese’s fake moustache.

After several weeks of mythology-heavy episodes, this was something of a palate-cleanser. It was, however, more than entertaining enough to enable us to shelve, for now, the question of whether the show’s quite as good without Carter.

UnREAL s1 ep 3

A friend from home causes trouble for Adam and everyone else. Chet’s health scare prompts Mrs Chet to intervene, gently, politely, almost parentally, but entirely pointedly laying out a few home truths for Quinn. Rachel goes to see her parents. And Jeremy is really getting on my nerves.

It’s the darkest ep yet of the superb Unreal, with the main themes of family fetters, mental illness and the things people do to try and cope throwing up far more bleakness than humour. Every sub-plot is disturbing and bone-achingly sad in its own way, which is both exceptionally brave – I know I keep saying this but it’s true – for a Lifetime show and utterly compelling.

The combination of Adam’s friend Roger being a terrible human being and producer Shia being a moron leads to something appalling happening which, in Rachel and Quinn’s absence, every idiot on the show just stands back and allows, till a horrified Rachel returns and brings some sanity (ironic, given what her mother says about her) back to the out-of-control set. Rachel may or may not have got there in time, we don’t actually know, but, either way, Maya’s face as Rachel rescues her from Roger’s room tells a horribly grim story, which the show handles both deftly and devastatingly.

Mrs Chet and Quinn’s discussion is a lot less frightening, if no less well done, but I think perhaps the most interesting, most devastating moments come during Rachel’s various scenes with each of her “mothers”. The mother who raised her is a psychiatrist, a woman who seems lovely till we slowly realise she is almost sociopathic herself; obsessively using Rachel as a case study all her life, constantly diagnosing and re-diagnosing her little girl, and constantly prescribing and re-prescribing to try and fix her when it’s by no means clear she was broken in the first place.

Her mother is insistent Rachel’s talent for manipulation is a mental illness – bipolar disorder being the latest diagnosis in what an exhausted, demoralised Rachel points out has been a lengthy list – but is it? Maybe, but whether Rachel has mental health issues or not, it’s not for want of her mother trying to create some for her, if only so she can treat them, “control” them and control her daughter at the same time.

Rachel’s relationship with mother-figure Quinn has control elements too, of course, but, in its own way, is disconcertingly loving – Quinn loves, wants, needs Rachel the way she is, to work on the show. She doesn’t think Rachel needs treatment, she just thinks Rachel needs to pull herself together.

As an adult, though, Rachel – not her mother or Quinn – has to shoulder the responsibility for the terrible things she does. As Jeremy points out she “wouldn’t be here if (she) didn’t like the taste of blood.” As I’ve said each week, I agree, and her evident satisfaction with the fall-out from what she does to Anna toward the end of this week’s ep only re-inforces that. If only it wasn’t Jeremy saying it though. His judgemental attitude annoys me so much I want to throw things at his head. You’re working on this “bully tv” show as well, Jeremy, you don’t get to take the moral high ground.

Humans s1 ep 6

“You know, Mum, if you want to keep people around, you have to tell them the truth once in a while.”

Ep 6 of Humans definitely takes Mattie’s advice to heart: as well as Laura telling us her secret, we find out how Leo (as he currently is) and his “family “came to be, what the Prof’s game is (maybe) and that, Joe, now that he’s become a jerk, really can’t stop.

But for all the revelations, this never feels like an hour of exposition, just an hour of gripping tv, with the writing and acting keeping things organic, compelling, and often deeply moving.

Not Dead Fred’s cheesy, silly breakout sequence is the only thing that lets the side down – it seems to have wandered in from a 1970’s cop show way rather than a 21st century sci-fi one. But the rest of the ep more than makes up for it as a single, devastating line tells us pages about Niska, and Mia and Leo’s reunion surprises Laura, the kids and me in a number of different ways.

The most poignant, heartbreaking moments of the episode belong to the selfless, innocent Max, though, who had previously been the blandest and least well-defined of the synths we’d actually spent any time with (I’m not counting Fred since we’ve hardly seen him at all). This week, however, we actually get to know Max a little and feel for him, with heartbreaking results. I won’t forget his prayer in a hurry, either: “if you are there, and you listen to things like me, please help.” Sob.

Public Service Announcement 34 of 2015: Parks and Recreation

imageA quick reminder that the best comedy – to my mind, one of the best shows of any kind – on TV is finally, belatedly coming back to UK television: yes, Dave (the channel, not your mate/ neighbour/ Prime Minister) has rescued Parks and Recreation from down the back of BBC4’s sofa and begins screening season four on Monday 27th July at 8pm.

It’ll be shown in double-bills again, but that’s fine with me for a change because each ep is less than half an hour and BBC4 sat on it for so long (never mind season 4 – the seventh and final season finished in the US in February and is already available on DVD in the UK too) that I’d watch it in quadruple bills without complaint, I’m so happy to see it back. The plan is apparently to show season five hot on season four’s heels and then air seasons six and seven next year, which is about as quick as we could have hoped in the circumstances, I guess, so well done Dave. And Pawnee forever!