I saw some pretty good things this week. Barry is back. We Own This City looks like it’s going to be a worthy follow-up to The Wire. I finally binged the first season of Abbott Elementary. Here’s some thoughts on what I watched:
61st Street (Sunday Night, AMC)
As of this point, I really don’t see 61st Street becoming anything more than a second-rate version of The Wire so I think I’m done with it. As I said last week, I think the show would be fine if it was just about Courtney B. Vance and his family but the show is trying to tackle too much in its first season. The best shows develop naturally whereas 61st Street has been overstuffed since the beginning.
Abbott Elementary (Hulu)
Throughout this week, I binged the first season of ABC’s Abbot Elementary on Hulu. A comedic mockumentary about the teachers at a Philadelphia public school, Abbott Elementary owes a bit of a debt to The Office but, at the same time, it also quickly established an identity of its own. It was a good, heartfelt comedy, one that made a point about the importance of supporting teachers without ever committing the Parks and Rec sin of getting preachy or self-satisfied. Of the ensemble cast, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Janelle James were the stand-outs but really, everyone did a good job of bringing their characters to wonderful life. I look forward to season 2!
Allo Allo (Sunday Night, PBS)
How to get the British airmen out of France? How about sending them up in a Helium balloon? But how to keep the Germans from noticing the balloon? How about moving up the wedding of Fanny and Ernest LeClerc? Sure, why not? It didn’t necessarily make any sense but I’m used to that by now. The episode ended with the wedding and the release of what Officer Crabtree called a “carrier podgeon.” I suppose that next Sunday, I’ll learn why this latest attempt to rescue the airmen failed.
Atlanta (Thursday, FX)
This week’s episode of Atlanta was another stand-alone episode dealing with white people struggling to understand black culture. This time, the story dealt with a wealthy New York couple who, while attending the funeral of their Trinidadian nanny, discover that not only was she more of a parental figure to their son than they were but that she was also so busy raising the children of wealthy white people that she missed out on raising her own children. Chet Hanks had an odd but somehow appropriate cameo as one of the people who the nanny had raised.
It was an okay episode and, unlike the other stand-alone episodes, it was clearly not a dream. (For the same of continuity, posters advertising Paper Boi’s tour are visible during one scene.) The humor and the satire was still sharp but also notably gentler this week than it’s been all season. That said, this episode felt like a clear follow-up to White Fashion, with its portrayal of neglectful white parents who use people of color to raise their children but who, at the same time, can’t even be bothered to learn anything about their nanny’s life or culture.
Barry (Sunday Night, HBO)
Barry’s back! After all the excitement of last season’s finale, the new season Barry opened with everyone stuck in the same rut. Barry is auditioning for roles and still killing people for money. Sally is working on her television series. NoHo Hank is struggling to be a gangster. Gene is in mourning and looking for revenge. (I loved the fact that his gun was a gift from Rip Torn.) Fuches is in Chechnya, eating cereal. The first episode served its purpose. It reintroduced us to the characters (due to the Pandemic, there was a long delay between the 2nd and 3rd seasons) and reminded us of why we watch them in the first place. Bill Hader both directed and starred and showed once again that he is a talent to be reckoned with.
Better Call Saul (Monday Night, AMC)
Better Call Saul is an enthralling show, even if I’m often left a little bit confused as to what exactly is going on. Bob Odenkirk is brilliant, though this week’s episode was dominated by Michael Mando in the role of the intimidating but ultimately tragic Nacho. Perhaps because we know what’s going to happen to the majority of the characters once Walter White shows up, the shadow of death hangs even heavier over Better Call Saul than it did over Breaking Bad.
The Brady Bunch (Sunday Morning, MeTV)
Upset that his children were tying up the phone, Mike Brady came up with the brilliant idea of installing a pay phone in the house. How did that even work? Who installed the phone? Who collected the money? Seriously, this was one of Mike’s worst ideas and he was never held responsible for it.
This was followed by an episode in which Bobby got it into his head that Carol was going to kill him so he tried to run away. Would anyone have missed Bobby in that crowded house? This was followed by an episode in which Marcia got braces and the world world stopped while everyone tried to make her feel better. (Good for them! I never needed braces, by the way.) The fourth episode of MeTV’s bloc of Brady programming featured Peter saving a little girl from being crushed by a collapsing wall. Peter was a hero but he let it go to his head. Mike had to remind Peter that he was still only the middle child and, as such, had no right to feel good about anything.
Full House (Sunday Afternoon, MeTV)
I missed last week’s bloc of Full House but I get the feeling that once you’ve seen one episode of this show, you’ve seen them all. The first episode of Sunday’s bloc was yet another one where Jesse was worried that he was no longer as cool as he had once been. After being ridiculed by his old friend Scott Baio, Jesse hopped on his motorcycle and drove up to the roof of a building. Apparently, he planned to jump from one roof to another. Rebecca, however, talked him down. The funniest thing about this episode was the discovery that Jesse’s nickname was once “Dr. Dare.” Like, seriously, I get the feeling that Jesse’s fiends were probably making fun of him when they gave him that nickname.
This was followed by an episode in which Michelle’s third birthday party was ruined by the combined stupidity of Jesse and Stephanie. Michelle may have said she was happy celebrating her birthday in that dirty gas station but she was lying big time. The next episode featured Stephanie panicking due to an earthquake and Danny eventually taking her to a therapist so that she could discuss her feelings. Luckily, it only took five minutes to cure Stephanie of her anxiety. The day’s final episode found Joey and Jesse once again struggling to write a jingle together. Meanwhile, the family’s new dog, destroyed Stephanie’s childhood toy but no one cared because Stephanie’s the middle child.
The Girl From Plainville (Hulu)
Much last week, this week’s episode of The Girl From Plainville got bogged down with a lot of boring courtroom dramatics. Still, the final scene, with Michelle Carter fantasizing about her sister singing Teenage Dirtbag, was nicely done. The Girl From Plainville seems like it would be a fine miniseries if it was only four episodes long but, at eight episodes, it just feels a bit too overextended.
Happy Days (Weekday Evening, MeTV)
I watched Happy Days on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, despite the fact that the continuing popularity of this show has always escaped me. The reason I watched is because it was the three-part episode in which the Cunninghams and Fonzie went to California and Fonzie ended up proving his courage by putting on water skis and jumping over a shark. It was an important moment in pop cultural history so I felt it was important that I watch. Fortunately, Fonzie made it over the shark and Richie realized that he would rather be a journalist than an actor.
King of the Hill (Weekday Afternoons, FXX)
On Tuesday, I watched the episode where Jimmy Carter tried to heal Hank and Cotton’s relationship. It’s a classic episode, if just for Hank and Cotton’s disdainful comments as Jimmy and his secret service detail fled the scene. “Why, that’s was just a one-term peanut farmer.” “The man wore a sweater.” Take that, Carter!
On Wednesday, I watched four episodes. Hank carried the Olympic torch and learned that it was okay to be happy. Peggy overthrew the tyrannical king of a Renaissance Faire. (Alan Rickman voiced the king, which was pretty neat.) Connie and the Dale Gribble Bluegrass Experience went to Branson, where Bobby sold a joke to comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Peggy was conned out of her retirement savings but she got the money back. Yay!
Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)
The headmaster of an exclusive private school has been shot! Was it because he was too woke? Nope, it turns out that he was shot by a troubled student. The D.A.’s office decided to charge both the student and the student’s father. Personally, I found their actions to be legally dubious but the jury disagreed. D.A. Jack McCoy was okay with manipulating legal statutes but I don’t think Adam Schiff nor Arthur Branch would have been happy with what his office ended up doing.
Open All Hours (Sunday Night, PBS)
Granville’s broom fell apart and Nurse Gladys Emmanuel needed a new washing machine. In the end, no one got what they needed. That’s what happens when you’re open all hours.
Survivor (Wednesday Night, CBS)
T.J. Hooker (Saturday, Decades TV)
William Shatner is a tough cop who speaks in a very dramatic fashion. I was doing some work in my office on Saturday so I had this old 80s cop show playing in the background. (Decades TV was apparently celebrating the 80s with a TJ Hooker marathon.) The episodes kind of blended together but watching Shatner back when he was still taking himself seriously is always fun.
We Own This City (Monday Night, HBO)
The latest Baltimore-set miniseries from David Simon and The Wire crew, We Own This City premiered this week and the first episode proved to be, in typical Simon fashion, both frustrating and fascinating. The show’s political asides were heavy-handed but it’s depiction of a troubled American city was heart-breaking. Simon has never flinched from showing how political corruption, racism, poverty, and crime all come together to create a destructive cycle that’s impossible to escape. Because happy endings are nearly nonexistent, Simon’s show can be difficult to watch but each one is something that should be watched. As for We Own The City, this miniseries deals with police corruption in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent uprising. Out of the large ensemble cast, Jon Bernthal and Josh Charles are early stand-outs.