Crazy Ex-Girlfriend s4 ep 4

Rebecca’s half-brother Tucker turns up at her new pretzel stand, claiming – very obviously falsely – that his mother knows he’s there. He charms Rebecca by seeming to have all of the behavioural quirks which she had as a child; actually, it’s astonishingly creepy, but Rebecca is so desperate to establish a relationship with him that she doesn’t pick up on that. As it happens, Tucker has found Rebecca’s childhood diary and is using that as a sort of guide to how to impersonate her; and his main reason for being in West Covina is so that he can go with Rebecca to Los Angeles and just-by-coincidence come across an audition for Peter Pan. It’s not clear to me why he couldn’t just have said that to Rebecca, rather than contriving this elaborate deception, but I may be missing something.

Rebecca is entirely forgiving of him when she finds out what’s been going on. Less so of Nathaniel, who is undoubtedly in love with her, but who makes the apparently relationship-ending error of spending some money to try and make her happy. There’s a fair amount of dishonesty involved here as well, mind you, and he’s an adult, but still. And Paula bonds with her sons at an escape room, in the least consequential part of an episode which succeeded in doing little more than annoying me. But the rapey 90s ad for ‘Take Me’ cologne was good, as was Tucker’s song “I Want To Be A Child Star”.

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Public Service Announcement 43 of 2018: Blindspot

The fourth and possibly final – who knows, at this point – season of Blindspot hits UK screens tomorrow (Monday) night at 10pm on Sky Witness, with a number of potentially encouraging signs. For one thing, REDACTED is dead. Woo! Unfortunately, though, it looks like that alone doesn’t mean we’ll be rid of him and his whining – I’m guessing he’ll crop up in plenty of flashbacks, nonetheless. Boo! Let’s try another, then: OTHER REDACTED has switched back to evil! Well. As we said at the end of last season, the show really needs a shake-up and this is certainly that. But I really don’t like stories where people “secretly” act like pantomime villains for the audience while the good guys act oblivious, so l hope OTHER REDACTED switches back to good in two or three eps, rather than twenty-three of them. Third time’s the charm, then: Rich Dotcom is now a series regular! We adore Ennis Esmer round here, and his partnership with Ashley Johnson’s Patterson – the (remote, maybe, but I ship, therefore I am) possibility of PATDOTCOM! – is the greatest gift the show could possibly give us this year. I’d keep watching and reviewing just for them, but if the Chair of Truth could make another appearance and Weller could hang out with Bill Nye the Science Guy again, that would be more than welcome too.

Berlin Station s1 ep 3

*SPOILERS*

Either the levels of concentration I’ve had to invest in this show so far have paid off and everything’s suddenly clicked into place in my brain, or this week’s episode of Berlin Station was much more straightforward.

Even the previouslies seem to hint at a change: they go on for ages, presumably with a view to making sure no viewer is left behind as we head into this brave new dawn. The opening scene being a dream sequence doesn’t detract from that either – Steven Frost, with an eye on Provence, sitting waiting as the drip drip drip coming down on him and his office became a flood. You don’t need to be Freud to understand that one.

Or indeed to understand the rest of the story. One, Frost and Dr Dubenko have a terrible secret. I barely have five seconds to wonder what it could be before this new clear version of the show (and Dr Dubenko) just tells me: “This is us going to jail for running fake agents and bilking Uncle Sam, for God’s sake.” Righto, thanks Dr D! Two, The Office of Security (Office of Jerks, I’ve written in my notes – they are EXCEPTIONALLY rude) from Langley descend upon Berlin Station, thanks to another leak from Herr Shaw, so Daniel’s patron Jemma Moore is unceremoniously out, the long-suffering Sandra takes the fall for Frost, and he might have a shot at Deputy Director. Okay-doke. Three, Michelle Forbes’s asset throws his lot in with losova, without realising Michelle’s watching him do it – smile, you’re on Candid Camera, dude. Got it! Four, Hector’s cracking up over Faisal, but still several steps ahead of Richard Armitage’s Daniel, who looks awesome when he pulls a snazzy spy move with a steak sandwich and throws away his Jemma-phone, only to spoil it all later by taking no care of his regular phone whatsoever. Dude. And five, in other Daniel-related news, New Asset in Witch’s Hat and German Ally McBeal are both defiantly, and kind of obnoxiously, fighting the Armitage charm (so far); Herr Miller’s cousin is rather too obviously succumbing to it (Girl. “With you, it’s like having a dad around again”? Coming on waaaay too strong there); and Frost wants to step right into Moore’s shoes.

See? Straightforward. Busy, but straightforward. And the final scene suggests that’s by design, as storm clouds gather, thunder rolls, and the rain begins to fall, drip drip drip, onto Frost’s head. Now when did we see that before? It’s not a particularly subtle callback to the first scene, and it’s an even less subtle metaphor for trouble ahead, but after a dense, sometimes opaque couple of opening episodes which asked a lot of the audience, I’m not complaining about this one doing the work for us. I enjoyed it.

The Good Doctor s2 ep 4

It’s a bumper week of parents, children, and Secret Pain at St Bonaventure, and it kind of annoyed me. Patient of the Week #1 is Kitty, an 18-year-old free solo climber, who after her latest free solo climbing accident has a few fractured limbs. Two choices are before her: low-risk surgery which will restrict her movement, and high-risk surgery which might – might – allow her to keep climbing. Kitty opts for the latter, of course, which makes her the latest in a very, very long line of characters in medical dramas who want incredibly dangerous surgery in order to keep open the possibility of continuing to participate in a hobby. I mean, it might just be that I’ve never really been that invested in anything, but I’ll take the safe option and stay alive, thanks. At this point absurdity piles on absurdity, when Kitty’s parents have her declared medically incompetent – which she plainly isn’t, she’s just stupid – in order to override her wishes.

Patient #2, Mac, gets the best storyline of the week: he’s a young boy with a learning disability (fragile X syndrome), he’s in hospital having injured himself, and his single mother, Nicole, doesn’t want to admit that she can’t cope with him any more. It’s an incredibly difficult situation, and one in which a couple of doctors have a personal interest: Shaun has a degree of insight, of course, and a flashback or two to a foster mother of his own; Melendez’s sister lives in an assisted care facility. Eventually she makes the only choice she can, but it’s harrowing.

Meantime Glassman is still having hallucinatory visions of his dead daughter, Maddie, who seems pretty insufferable if I’m being honest. But we do, at least, discover the source of Glassman’s SP: he locked her out of the house when she was high, and she died. And Shaun is trying to work out how to apologise to Lea, who is still pissed at his behaviour towards her. Eventually they make up, but Shaun has a surprise: he’s rented an apartment for the two of them to live in. Well. 

Berlin Station s1 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

I meant to say something last week about the dingy, seedy look of the Berlin of Berlin Station, but I was busy being dazzled by the crisp, modern office wear, so I thought the contrast with the location (as shot – I mean, I’ve never been to the real Berlin, it might rival the Apple Pencil for crisp modernity for all I know) would keep till this week instead. This week, however, just about everyone on the show leans into the dingy, seedy theme.

Maybe they decided to go a different way after ep 1 and have the characters look as well as feel world-weary and generally a bit dirtied by life. Maybe the budget wouldn’t stretch to more than one nice suit each. Or maybe last week’s outfits had to go back to the hire shop. Whatever the reason, suddenly everyone, with the exception of Michelle Forbes, looks a lot less sharp and fresh, and a lot more 1970s. I mean, Dr Dubenko even wears a polo neck in lieu of a shirt and tie at one point. Dude, come on. And Hector, who had enough to worry about last week what with his treason and his having sex with his asset in front of full-length windows (way to keep it on the DL, guys), now has Claudia’s mother and the imminent death of Faisal on his conscience as well. So he abandons suits entirely and spends the whole episode looking like he needs a shower. Oh, Hector. You can’t wash away guilt.

Even Michelle seems a little less put-together than usual. She wears a nice black v-neck top/suit combo on day 1 while she’s jockeying for Steven’s job, changes to a lovely slash-neck top (sans jacket) on day 2 of said jockeying, but then somehow ends up back in day 1’s outfit when her boyfriend/husband/possible spy(?) is trying to get secrets out of her. Continuity error? Or perhaps she spilled her coffee. It probably doesn’t matter but it’s probably not a great sign that, in a week where the main female character went undercover, openly went after her boss’s job and started her own op against this dude Iosova that they’re all so excited about, I was so easily distracted by her clothes.

At least Richard Armitage’s Daniel, out on his own secret mission, manages to keep the rest of the team and the cesspit dragging them down at arms length. He’s busy trying to warn Claudia’s friend Ingrid that Creepy Cheekbones might be after her, but all it gets him is a bad-tempered lecture. Shame. It’s not all bad news for Herr Miller, though. In another change from last week, someone is following him, rather than the other way round, but Danny boy is onto him – in fairness, the guy could not have been more conspicuous if he was wearing a cowbell – of course, and is having none of it. Our hero has a cousin (love interest?) and her annoying, floppy-haired son (kidnap/threat fodder for later?) to hang out with and Cowbell is not invited. So Dan the man cuts him out of the picture, sets up a meet with German intelligence’s principal Ally McBeal lookalike, and sets her onto Creepy Cheekbones for good measure. Job done.

The best scene of the week is the last one, though: Hector, literally shouting his guilt from a rooftop; Daniel, wrapped up in his own Secret Pain, but beginning to connect the dots; and me, wondering why the eff there is no wall or at least some sort of barrier to stop people falling to their deaths. (COULD THIS BE IMPORTANT LATER? Hm.) But here I go getting distracted again. It’s easily done since, changes in aesthetics aside, this is another slow-paced, fairly dense episode requiring quite a lot of patience and not offering a massive amount in return, as yet. I was intrigued last week but I’m getting a little antsy now: two eps in, the old-school spycraft (the cobbler!) is fun, and the cast is tremendous, but the story is missing a spark. Unless it finds it soon, it’s going to be a very long season.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend s4 ep 3

Rebecca has decided that it’s time to go back to work, but isn’t entirely sure that she wants to be a lawyer any more. This point is rammed home by Jim – formerly an attorney with Rebecca’s firm, but now happily running a pretzel stand in the foyer – who performs a terrific New Jack Swing pastiche entitled ‘Don’t Be A Lawyer’ in which the title is rhymed with, among other things, “guaranteed soul destroyer”. Unpopcult is 100% made of lawyers, incidentally, and appalled by this. (On the other hand, there are indeed “so many other professions that don’t turn you into Jeff Sessions”.)

One of the very best things about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has always been that, whatever else is happening in Rebecca’s life, she’s never anything other than great at her job. And even after all that she’s been through, that continues to be the case: one of the firm’s most important and difficult clients is in the office, somewhat dissatisfied with the way in which her case is being handled, and Rebecca knocks it out of the park. But she still isn’t happy, and to start with she joins Jim’s pretzel business, then takes it over herself.

And… apart from Heather and Hector getting married, Josh dipping his toes back in the dating pond, and some excellent “narc” puns – my favourite was Narc-er Posey, but YMMV – that’s kind of it. It’s worth noting that, as might be expected from such a female-centric show, there’s plenty of stealth role-reversal. It’s Rebecca, rather than Nathan, who crushes the meeting with the difficult client; it’s Hector, rather than Heather, who wants the traditional wedding; and it’s Josh who frets about being seen as a sexual object. All of which helps to give a charming and lightweight episode something of a point. Not too much of one, though.

Public Service Announcement 42 of 2018: The Little Drummer Girl, Condor, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj

Hot on the heels of Berlin Station last week, spy season continues apace with new adaptations of a couple of old-school spy novels tonight and tomorrow.

After the success of The Night Manager a couple of years ago, the BBC has gone back to the John le Carré well with a shiny new six-part adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl. Featuring, amongst others, internationally-famous people Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Shannon, and Charles Dance, and the soon-to-be-famous Florence Pugh, and directed by internationally-renowned movie director Park Chan-Wook; someone has quite clearly spent a lot of money on this with a view to international markets. US viewers will get to see it in November, but UK viewers can start tonight (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1, if so inclined. A lot of people will be watching, but I checked out after one episode of Night Manager and I don’t like Drummer Girl’s plot, so I’m unlikely to be one of them.

Tomorrow at 9 PM meanwhile, the Universal channel rolls out Condor, based on the novel Six Days of the Condor and previous version Three Days of the Condor, but now dispensing with the numbers entirely. Max Irons – pulling a double-shift, since he pops up in Drummer Girl as well – is the lead, and again the cast includes the internationally-famous (and Oscar-winning) William Hurt and Mira Sorvino, as well as Henry from Ringer. There are ten episodes in this first season and a second has already been commissioned, which puts me off somewhat, since this looks very much like the kind of story that should be wrapped up in a two-hour movie (as indeed it previously was), or, if you really want to stretch it out a little, a six-hour mini-series. It also kicks off with a double bill, for goodness sake, and you know how we feel about them round here. So I’ve set my Sky+ to record but whether I get around to the actual business of watching is another matter. We‘ll see.

If you’re looking for something completely different however – although the title is still very much on-brand for the spy theme – Hasan Minhaj’s weekly comedy show, Patriot Act, during which Netflix tells me he will “explore the modern cultural and political landscape with depth and sincerity” starts today on the streaming service. Daily Show graduate Minhaj’s stand-up special “Homecoming King” is already there too, and it’s terrific, but as the first weekly US comedy show hosted by an Indian-American, Patriot Act is both a big deal and a little ray of hope in an increasingly terrifying landscape. As we’ve said before, representation matters. And Minhaj is hilarious, smart and utterly fearless, so give him a go.