As the first week of January comes to a close, here’s some thoughts on what I watched!
Abbott Elementary (Wednesday Night, ABC)
Abbott Elementary returned this week with a sweet episode in which we got to see that Melissa actually is a really good teacher and that Jacob has no idea how to do a podcast. I have to admit that I cheered a little when, at the end of the episode, Melissa revealed that, due to the contest rules being poorly written, her “classroom” had indeed won the reading competition.
The Circle (Netflix)
The Circle was back with four more episodes on Wednesday. Marvin destroyed his game by trying to be a player while Billie-Jean and Shubham ended up getting eliminated. (Shubham did not help himself by losing his temper while answering a “savage question.”) I want to like Raven but the whole “everything about Raven is perfect” narrative makes it difficult. At this point, my favorites are Tom and Xanthi & Brett. I also have to say that I found Sam to be a lot more likable this week than I did last week.
Hell’s Kitchen (Thursday Night, FOX)
Hell’s Kitchen returned and we have finally reached my favorite part of the season, when Chef Ramsay starts to show his softer and more encouraging side and the remaining chefs finally get a chance to show how good (or bad) they can be. Abe got sent home but he also get some words of encouragement. That was nice. I actually like all of the remaining chefs but it’s hard not to feel like its pretty obvious that Alex is going to win.
Law & Order (Thursday Night, NBC)
Law & Order returned with a new episode and this week and — yeesh! After several episodes that were generally intelligent, well-done, and not too heavy-handed, this week’s episode felt like a parody of Law & Order. This week’s murder victim was a undocumented immigrant who had been sent to New York City from Texas so, of course, we had to spend a lot of time listening to the cops talk about how heartless the governor of Texas was. It always amuses me how this show always features a bunch of blue collar cops suddenly talking like MSNBC analysts. I wonder if the show will do a future episode about the Democratic governor of Colorado sending people to New York? I kind of doubt it.
Anyway, it turned out the murderer was a real estate mogul who was obviously meant to be a stand-in for one of the Trump kids. In order to convict him, the prosecutors had to get testimony from a woman who worked in his office but — are you ready for this? — the woman was also an undocumented immigrant! As soon as she testified, she was deported back to Lebanon. After 20+ episodes, Sam was finally allowed to get upset about something and show a hint of personality. Whatever else you might say about this episode, it’s nice that Sam finally got some hint of a backstory. Up until last night, she was one of the most underwritten characters in the history of this show.
The show certainly tried to tug at the heart strings with this episode but it was so just so heavy-handed and clumsily written that it had the opposite effect.
Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street (Netflix)
This is Joe Berlinger’s latest Netflix true crime docuseries. Over the course of four episodes, Berlinger explores the story of Bernie Madoff. When I started watching, I was skeptical because I really didn’t feel that there was much left to be said about Bernie Madoff but both Berlinger and the show did a good job of explaining not only what Madoff did but also how he was able to get away with it for so long. Along with taking a look at Madoff’s life, the film also examined the people that he hurt (including his two sons, both of whom emerge as tragic figures).
One thing that I did learn is that, while Madoff did handle accounts for a lot of famous and rich people, the majority of his clients were just normal people who were looking for someone to handle their retirement funds. These people were victimized twice, both by Madoff and then by the government regulators. Despite the fact that none of these people knew about Madoff’s crimes, many of them lost their homes and were driven into bankruptcy when they were ordered to help pay back the money that Madoff had stolen.
The film features a lot of footage of the now-deceased Madoff being interviewed in prison. Even imprisoned and shunned by his family, Madoff still didn’t seem to feel that he had done anything wrong. This is probably the first Madoff documentary that has really convinced me that Bernie Madoff really was as evil as everyone says.
Night Flight (Night Flight+)
On Friday night and Saturday morning, I watched the Parts 3 and 4 of Night Flight’s 1983 New Year celebration. The music was good. The stand-up comedians were bad. A surprisingly coherent Ozzy Osbourne was interviewed about whether or not he had actually bitten the head off of a bat. He said it was an accident and assured the interviewer that the rabies shots were not fun.
Tough as Nails (Wednesday Night, CBS)
The blue collar reality show is back. To be honest, this show would be more interesting if it was office workers and executives being forced to do things like build buildings and unclog drains. But whatever. I like Phil Keoghan as the host. Just as with The Amazing Race, he seems to genuinely care about the people competing.
The Twilight Zone (Sunday and Monday, SyFy)
On New Year’s Day, SyFy had their annual Twilight Zone marathon! I watched a few episodes, in between watching movies and doing other things. I caught the Monsters Are Due On Maple Street and the one where Burgess Meredith breaks his reading glasses and realizes that he’ll never be able to read another book. Unfortunately, I did not catch the one with William Shatner and the Gremlin on the wing.
I watched a few more episodes on Monday. Again, I missed the Gremlin on the wing but I did see the one with the guy who was dreaming about being on death row. That’s personal favorite of mine.