9-1-1 s1 ep 10 (and Public Service Announcement 40 of 2018)

I’ve already written about the final episode of the first season of For the People, my favourite of Sky Witness’s three launch shows. Next up, and next best, is 9-1-1. (Sorry Instinct; I’ll get to you in due course.) I really couldn’t, in all honesty, make a case for 9-1-1 being anything other than a decent procedural, with a generous side helping of the characters’ complicated private lives. But, y’know, sometimes that’s enough.

In the show’s favour, it has done an excellent job of developing its ensemble cast. It’s also always prepared to make astute use of the quickly-over-and-done plot as well as the ones which linger for an episode or more. And this episode had a decent handful of the former. First up was what looked like being a domestic abuse he-said-she-said, in which the woman’s employment of all of the cliches from the American Scriptwriter’s Big Book O’ British Tropes was driving me utterly mad, to the point where I was taking the man’s side without any examination of the facts. But the show was well ahead of me. 

Next was a death in a psychic’s uh, office? Parlour? Except the dead person isn’t dead. This isn’t a spoiler. And after that, Midlife Crisis Guy buys a big red motorbike and on his way home is cut in half in an accident, but survives long enough to make a phone call to his son, who’s waiting to see him drive up to the house in triumph. I was moved. Bobby (Peter Krause) is affected to the point where he needs to go and pray, accompanied by Athena (Angela Bassett). 

And at this point a strange thing happens. Given how alive Unpopcult is to the possibility of the ship, I thought, it’s odd that I’ve never even considered Bobby and Athena – attractive, same age, now single – as a couple. But looking at them sitting there… we’ll come back to that. Because there’s lot of other relationship drama going on. 

Abby (Connie, obvs) is trying to reclaim her home, and her life, after the death of her mother, and decides to go to Dublin, not for a weekend break either. Buck (Oliver Stark) is properly supportive, even though he’s dealing with an unfortunate situation in which a dude sitting a trailer is pretending to be him and catfishing/ghosting women online. Possibly also gaslighting. I’m not sure I know how to use these words. The show, in fact, deserves credit for the way in which the nice little Abby/Buck relationship was handled. Hen (Aisha Hinds), meantime, is trying to get back together with her boring wife Karen (Tracie Thoms, not her fault), and forswearing her nastier but evidently more exciting ex Eva. Karen eventually gives way.

All of which leads to Bobby going on a date… with Athena. You know, despite not even having THOUGHT about this as a ship I am ENTIRELY ON BOARD with it. And also with the second season, which we in the UK are going straight into on Wednesday of this week at 10pm, 9-1-1 having been a reasonably successful purchase for Sky Witness. (I can’t imagine that going on directly after new episodes of Grey’s, which it will be, will hurt it either.) Connie isn’t coming back, mind you, which is a loss.

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The Good Doctor s2 ep 2

I was a bit lukewarm about last week’s episode. This one, though, is a cracker. Lea is staying at Shaun’s apartment and, not coincidentally, Shaun is spending as much time as he can at the hospital. He has some difficulty in articulating why he’s not happy to see Lea, but it isn’t much of a mystery: she hurt him when she left and he doesn’t want to get hurt again. He’s also been practising lying, which comes in handy when he thinks that Paul, a hospital employee, might have cancer. He’s warned not to worry Paul unnecessarily and, much to Claire’s surprise, he manages to sell Paul on a battery of tests without giving the game away. But he can’t keep it up: “You might have pancreatic cancer!” he blurts. He’s right, and Paul has to decide whether to opt for palliative care or high-risk surgery.

But it’s Dr Lim who gets the Patient of the Week: Mara, a teenage girl who presents at the hospital and requests labiaplasty. Lim examines the girl and, on discovering that she has scarring from FGM performed when she was much younger, decides to go ahead with an operation to repair the damage more or less immediately, overlooking the fact that the girl has a fake ID so that her parents’ consent won’t be required. This is potentially a tricky storyline dramatically, because there really isn’t any balance to be struck on this issue. But when the surgery becomes complicated, Mara’s parents need to be brought in – “It’s not that big a deal”, Mara’s cretinous father asserts of his daughter’s mutilation, which, y’know – and a genuine medical and ethical dilemma presents itself.

This storyline resolves quite brilliantly, with a wordless payoff between Mara and Lim which is both moving and triumphant. Lim’s contempt for, and fury towards, Mara’s parents is, incidentally, quite magnificent throughout. Apparently she and Melendez are rivals to be head of surgery. Vote early, vote often, vote Lim.

Public Service Announcement 39 of 2018: 54 Hours: The Gladbeck Hostage Crisis

54 Hours: The Gladbeck Hostage Crisis (Gladbeck in its native Germany) is a two-part dramatisation, by German broadcaster ARD, of a scarcely-believable 1988 incident which spiralled out of control in the most remarkable way: over two days, police and media tracked a group of hostages and abductors across Germany and into the Netherlands, with reporters interviewing hostages while they were actually being held at gunpoint.

Its broadcast in Germany was controversially – accidentally? deliberately? I have no idea – timed to coincide with the release from prison of one of the hostage-takers, which no doubt contributed towards the strong ratings. Advance critical word, from both there and here, is good (tonight, BBC4, 9pm).

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend s4 ep 1

Although at the end of the third season we left Rebecca facing imprisonment, we kind of know that she’s not actually going to end up with a conviction for attempting to murder Trent, even if she pled guilty. So the judge refuses to accept her plea and gives her six weeks in jail to consider her position. Rebecca is fine with this, because she’s consumed by the idea that she deserves what is happening to her. About which, not for what she did to Trent, she might have a kind of point.

But ultimately it’s ridiculous, and the show calls her on it in a number of ways: her fellow prisoners, not entirely unkindly, lose patience with her when she hijacks their session with nonprofit theatre group Bright Lights in the Big House – hee – and turns it into a production number, during which she starts to realise that she’s just being self-indulgent. Then Heather skewers her as a “rich white lawyer lady who pled guilty for dramatic effect. It’s kinda gross”.

If Rebecca’s #privilege is going to be a theme, it’ll be interesting to see how this is balanced with her genuine health problems. But the greater problem, I think, will be finding a way to move the show, and its characters, towards a conclusion. The episode’s big number, ‘No-One Else Is Singing My Song’, is performed, singly and in harmony, by the whole cast, and it kinda sorta acknowledges that they’re all stuck: Nathaniel, rejected by Rebecca, goes on a survivalist adventure, from which George rescues him; Josh (absurdly) is convinced that he has some sort of disorder, and needs a session with “Dr Man-Akopian” to put him right. And when Rebecca gets out of prison – Paula taking the necessary action to ensure that Trent tells the truth – she re-unites with Nathaniel and it seems as if everyone’s really back where they started.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, though, is nothing if not knowing, so it rearranges things just a little in its final scenes: Rebecca declines a holiday in Hawaii with Nathaniel, in favour of returning to jail, this time to offer free legal advice to the inmates, presumably to bring her face-to-face with people who suffer real prejudice. It’s a slightly subdued episode; not bad by any means, but perhaps a little weary.

The Good Doctor s2 ep 1

Sometimes shows hit the ground running at the start of new seasons, and sometimes they… don’t. This wasn’t terrible by any means – it was perfectly watchable – but it was very clearly intended to do little more than remind us of where we left everyone at the end of the show’s first year, then set a course for season 2. Which meant the episode was on quite a low flame throughout. 

It’s Jared’s last day – it does look as if he’s definitely leaving – and his going-away present is running, with Shaun, a mobile clinic for the homeless. They drag a volatile man called Harry to the hospital, then misdiagnose and release him. Shaun then realises that Harry has a brain tumour, so he needs to be found and treated. Andrews, now hospital president, is sabre-rattling throughout. By the time Harry is operated on, his wife and daughter – who kicked him out because of his behaviour – have been found and are waiting at his bedside as he comes round from the anaesthetic. Will Harry wake up cured? It turns out to be a straightforwardly feel-good plot, but I can’t help but feel that the show at its season 1 best would have taken a couple more chances with it.

Andrews, meantime, has tempted a high-profile (I missed exactly why) patient to the hospital with the promise of a dazzling cure for her heart problem. This, he hopes, is going to launch the San Jose St. Bonaventure as a centre for cutting-edge surgical excellence. The proposal is to piggy-back a second heart onto her first, which is pretty cool, but there’s a complication and Melendez – now, presumably, chief of surgery? – decides not to go ahead. He and Andrews butt heads, and Melendez then goes ahead, conjuring a successful outcome with an assist from Claire and some masterful passive-aggression from Reznick. I hope that Andrews and Melendez can now move on, as I don’t want a season of them comparing penis size.

In other news, Lea is back, which is good. And Glassman’s oncologist is  played by Lisa Edelstein, which is even better.

Public Service Announcement 38 of 2018: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

It’s quite possibly the best thing on TV, and it’s back for its fourth and final season: episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, starring the insanely talented Rachel Bloom, are being brought to the UK by Netflix the day after American transmission. 

If I’m being entirely honest, mind you, I have two misgivings going in. Firstly, although the show managed its transition from black comedy about an adorable eccentric to black comedy about someone with borderline personality disorder reasonably well, there is still, I think, a landing to be stuck. Secondly, I’m going to need to be convinced that casting Skylar Astin, as a replacement for Santino Fontana, in the key role of Greg is a good idea. But the creative team behind the show has earned our trust, so let’s see how he goes. Most importantly of all, though, the world’s a horrible place just now, and we really need Rebecca Bunch back in our lives (Netflix, from tomorrow).

For the People s1 ep 10

A few weeks ago we reviewed the first episodes of Sky Witness’s slate of new American dramas: For the People, 9-1-1, and Instinct. I’ve stuck with all three, for (mostly) better and (occasionally) worse, so I’m going to report back on each of them as their respective seasons end.

First to finish is For the People, which as it happens is my favourite of the three shows by some distance. I called the season-opener the quickest 40-45 minutes of the week, and the other nine episodes have successfully repeated the formula: two or three interesting and/or entertaining Cases of the Week; Hope Davis (Jill, head of the public defenders’ office) and Ben Shenkman (Roger, assistant US attorney) as the grown-ups in the room; and their youthful staff members firing off smart triple-speed dialogue at each other. Particular credit has to be given here to Susannah Flood as novice prosecutor Kate Littlejohn; her line readings, laced with delectable and withering scorn, have been to die for throughout. In fairness, though, all of the six young leads – Flood, Regé-Jean Page as the appalling Leonard, Ben Rappaport as Seth, Britt Robertson as Sandra, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Allison, and Wesam Keesh as Jay – have been fresh and fun and very watchable.  In turn, my worry after the first episode – that the characters wouldn’t be sufficiently distinguishable – has proved to be unfounded. I even started to care about them. Apart from Leonard.

This episode was typical, and typically good. In Case 1 Jay defends a parent accused of having MDMA in her car in order to sell it to kids at a tony private school. All is not as it seems and, unusually, Kate works with him to undermine her own case. In Case 2 Sandra acts for a Chinese-American scientist accused of espionage, something of a callback to the first episode in which she unsuccessfully defended a young man accused of terrorism. I was engaged by both. Meantime Leonard is told by his politician mother that the post of Texas Attorney-General is his if he wants it – pray for Texas – and Allison is courted by the wine-tasting dude from an earlier episode.

If there is a criticism to be made of For the People – and I’m really not sure that it’s a problem at all – it’s perhaps that the show is all surface and no feeling; it doesn’t always give the impression that the characters have uncharted depths. As it happens, though, in this final episode the emotional punches landed. Most importantly of all, at the start of the episode Jill and Roger slept together, and you guys I am SO HERE for that ship. On top of that Seth declared his love for Allison, who instead chose wine dude; Kate broke down after telling Leonard that she would miss him if he moved to Texas; and Sandra finally managed to get partial redemption for the case she lost in the first episode. Soundtracking the episode’s final scenes with Radiohead’s ‘True Love Waits’, a track which isn’t just good, isn’t just great, but has a genuine and statable claim to be The Best Record Ever Made, ensured that at least one viewer had something in his eye, and will happily return for season 2.