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All Rise (2019) s01e13 – What the Bailiff Saw

So it looks like Peter MacNicol is going to be a regular guest star, which is fine. He exudes a lovable, not too problematic old white guy energy as Simone Missick’s new judge pal. He shows up for a single scene, to talk to her about the case she’s got going, then disappears again. I didn’t pay attention to his credit in the titles, unfortunately. “All Rise” could use MacNicol around more, especially as this episode seems to imply the initial overarching stories are winding down.

For example, the first time we get to see Tony Denison lash out at son Wilson Bethel might be the last—no spoilers. Denison’s mad Bethel thinks Denison is a murderer, with Lindsey Gort (who’s rather bad this episode as Denison’s lawyer) tries to calm things. But there are some big signs Denison’s time on the show is coming to a close. Similarly, the show’s pushing off Missick’s absentee husband (Todd Williams) for the rest of the season at least. He’s taking a job in DC to make Trump’s FBI more Black-friendly. Him taking the job comes after he introduces Missick to his white FBI lawyer friends, who are all impressed she stood up to ICE… even though they’d be defending ICE in court. And I’m not sure “All Rise” can really sell a fantasy land where Trump-BI is looking to hire Black agents who want to make justice equitable.

Besides, Williams isn’t very good. He’s bland and he and Missick always seem forced together. They really should’ve casted his part better. A modicum of chemistry would make a big difference.

The trial this episode involves Jessica Camacho defending a teen gang member (Luca Oriel) accused of murder and the D.A. bugs the room where defense attorneys meet with their clients. It kicks up a bunch of dust, including an impassioned scene from Lindsay Mendez about how gang members are people too (the show’s humanist take on it is… well, it doesn’t make up for the FBI absurdities and Mendez’s monologue isn’t great but it is a risky position, especially on CBS) and then J. Alex Brison coming down on the wrong side of the issue for girlfriend Camacho.

Not one of the show’s better episodes, but the promise of less Gore and maybe no Williams gives me hope for the future. Though I’m going to miss Denison, even if the show never utilized him well.

Becker (1998) s01e15 – Activate Your Choices

David Isaacs wrote this episode, which brings some immediate pluses. The jokes are funnier. Sometimes they’re a lot cheaper, but they’re always funny. And Saverio Guerra’s in the episode. Isaacs doesn’t give him much to do except be hilariously annoying, but it’s basically enough. If only they’d cast someone better to play Ted Danson’s ex-wife, the episode would probably have been in the black.

Instead, they got Alice Krige. Who’s got no chemistry with Danson. They can’t resist one another; while they were married, they had an open relationship… he just didn’t know about it being open. But Krige never stopped wanting Danson. Her intro is she’s written a self-help book and a lot of it is about being married to “The Angry Man” (Danson), once she’s in the episode it’s about Danson trying to resist her and not.

Krige’s got a crap character and doesn’t bring anything performance-wise to transcend it; the episode sets itself up to fail. Not making Krige at all sympathetic… it’s like the show can’t decide how misanthropic it really wants to be. Even with the problems, the Isaacs script is sturdy.

He introduces some actually interesting character details for Shawnee Smith, like her being able to speak fluent Mandarin. Otherwise, no one in the supporting cast gets anything to do. Arguably, Alex Desért and Terry Farrell get even less because the show’s brought in Guerra for the guaranteed laughs.

As I recall, the arrival of Isaacs is when “Becker” starts turning around, but I can’t trust my memory of its better days. I didn’t remember it being this middling so I’m not sure if the improvement is going to be substantial.

Maybe I’m just so nonplussed by the episode’s wastes—Guerra and then blowing a possibly good recurring ex-wife with Krige. Plus, Danson’s a really big dick to worried mom Jenny Gago during an appointment scene and, combined with Krige’s adulterous ex, it feels like the show’s saying something icky; unintentionally, maybe, but still saying it.

Evil (2019) s01e12 – Justice x 2

There’s a lot going on in this episode of “Evil” but the only important thing—the only truly important thing—is it guest stars Gbenga Akinnagbe. It utterly wastes him in a “let’s not examine this too hard” plot about him being a radio comic in nineties Rwanda who encouraged the genocide. Emayatzy Corinealdi plays a Tutsi woman who tracks him down twenty-five years later to exact her revenge. It wouldn’t be so weird if the show didn’t turn it into a commentary on 2019 America, with phrases like “punching up” thrown around. There are optics to it. And to the way the episode does exposition about the Rwandan genocide. It’s not even a lukewarm take because the show’s not actually controversial (just manipulative) and it wastes Akinnagbe and Corinealdi in what ought to be an easy to do, albeit exploitative, tense talking heads standoff. She’s got him taped to a chair in a basement, after all; it’s not like there aren’t movies to guide the writers.

The show’s big addition? Mike Colter tied up in the room too; he went to see Corinealdi because she called the Catholic Church to report… her walls telling her to avenge herself upon Akinnagbe. It’s not a good main plot, but the episode doesn’t really have strong subplots either. Katja Herbers is standing off with Michael Emerson in court, with the bad guy from the pilot back. We get some big reveals on Emerson, but then the show’s got its biggest “reveal” at the end when—spoiler but because one must—Emerson’s having his therapy session with Baphomet. Not a bad Baphomet as far as network TV goes. But if Baphomet’s imaginary, it’s just stupid and if Baphomet’s not imaginary, it’s going to have to get stupider in a different way. Just because Baphomet can look good on TV in 2020 doesn’t mean he should.

Though Emerson fits the sad old posturing incel a lot better than the seventies Bond villain with kinks for religious symbolism and too many sweaters. Will he get less tiresome? Will the family get less tiresome as dad Patrick Brammall, now getting subplots instead of Aasif Mandvi, goes away for a bit then comes back, having now been the real parent when the sick kid needs an emergency procedure to add some child in danger drama and working mom Herbers isn’t taking the call. No. No, they’ll be even more tiresome.

Then there’s Brammall’s whole Buddhist subplot where the show equates him meditating to Herbers getting back with the child rapists at the Church. Religious pluralism, big shrug. He gets some ominous foreshadowing this episode too. Not just with the possibly dying child and Herbers not having told him any information about the possible medical procedures because she’s too hot for Colter to remember.

Also a religious judges are going to be the literal death of us all moment.

It’s amazing with all the stuff “Evil” has got and has had going on they’ve never actually delivered. I’m surprised they wasted Gbenga Akinnagbe, but I really shouldn’t have been.

Evil (2019) s01e11 – Room 320

I resent how affecting this episode of “Evil” gets because it doesn’t deserve to be. The stuff about Katja Herbers and Aasif Mandvi discovering how the guy who attacked Mike Colter before hiatus is the same guy who posed as a creepy little girl in AR to stalk Herbers’s kid early on in the series… not affecting. It’s all connected in “Evil” just gets an eye-roll because it’s so contrived. Terrorizing its viewers about technology and the possible demonic influence—blah.

But Colter trapped in a hospital bed where a racist nurse (Tara Summers) is apparently killing off all the Black patients? Effective. Affecting. Even though Peter Sollet’s horror direction is lousy and the episode’s never as scary as it ought to be. It’s always manipulating, which just happens to work out because Summers is so unstoppably evil (because her white colleagues don’t care about the Black patients enough to check on them) and Colter’s so sympathetic.

There’s also a reveal on the pre-history of the show, with Herbers just now finding out she’s not Colter’s first psychiatrist sidekick. Previously he had Megan Ketch, who has longer hair than Herbers and no kids (or husband) but otherwise looks the same. No explanation of why no one mentioned Ketch’s existence to Herbers before—it’s almost like Mandvi didn’t work as steadily with Colter before Herbers came along either. Ketch teams up with them to try to catch the bad guy. The one who put Colter in the hospital, not the bad guy in the hospital.

There are all sorts of question marks and plot holes due to Colter being constantly overprescribed painkillers and unable to discern what’s real and what’s not. It’s also not clear if he’s in a Catholic hospital… seems like… no. But then yes. But then no. I guess it doesn’t end up mattering given the conclusion, which is in the open-minded “Evil” so we can find out later on Summers was really inspired by Michael Emerson (blissfully not present this episode) to kill her Black patients and get away with it because the hospital doesn’t notice all of her Black patients dying on a daily basis when in the hospital for routine things.

Maybe the scariest thing about “Evil” is how reasonable it seems Summers could get away with it.

Is it a good forty-two minutes of television… no. But it’s an effective forty-two minutes of television, which is something given how silly it gets when it’s trying to be scary.

All Rise (2019) s01e12 – What the Constitution Greens to Me

This episode of “All Rise”—the first after hiatus—seems like a return to form. At least as much form as “All Rise” has ever had; in terms of guest stars, it means the pilot. “All Rise”’s guest star caliber has dropped since then. Not anymore. This episode doesn’t just have Peter MacNicol as a “I know racism is real, but unconscious racism… not sure about that business” judge colleague of Simone Missick’s who’s presiding over Wilson Bethel’s case. Missick’s got a “bonding with the other judges” subplot she’s going to be doing post-hiatus, with MacNicol her first new pal. He’s good at it and able to navigate the character’s inherent queasiness well. The part leverages MacNicol’s likability, which CBS no doubt remembers from when he was on “Numb3rs” for years.

Speaking of “Numb3rs,” Alimi Ballard shows up this episode too. He’s a Black dad whose wife died because of doctor John Billingsley’s obviously racially motivated neglect. There’s no reuniting with MacNicol—I can’t even remember if they share a shot together, probably not given episode director Steve Robin’s penchant for close-ups—which is fine. Ballard’s… not great. He’s okay. But they could’ve casted the part better.

“All Rise” has never reminded me of “Numb3rs,” instead I always think of it as taking place in the “Major Crimes” universe where cops and DAs aren’t bigots and racists, and also because Tony Denison pops up from time to time as Bethel’s dad. Denison’s back for a scene and not a great one, but then they also bring on “Major Crimes” vet Graham Patrick Martin as an annoying young white guy (Martin’s only note) who wants to commit environmental terrorism to get back at Republican senator mom Kathleen York. Their case is in Missick’s courtroom—she has to consult MacNicol because she’s now worried Marg Helgenberger might be corrupt—and… well, Martin hasn’t improved since “Crimes” ended. He’s got less to do so he’s less annoying. The case only really stands out because Patrick Duffy plays Martin’s ecoterrorism mentor and Duffy is freaking awesome. It’s an exaggerated cameo but who knew we got to the point where Patrick Duffy was going to be one of the best actors on a nighttime drama.

The show does all right with its buzzy topics—unconscious bias, corrupt politicians—at least until Bethel lets Billingsley’s doctor spout a bunch of stereotypes about Black women’s medical conditions without a rebuttal witness. “All Rise” is very fast and loose with its courtroom stuff. We get to see Bethel’s closing argument but not the defense’s. It’s kind of annoying but also okay because the show shouldn’t aim too high. It still doesn’t have good banter between best buds Missick and Bethel, even though they’re good together.

Lots of beach scenes this episode. The show’s also going to be playing up its L.A. setting now?

Much like “Major Crimes” (and “Numb3rs” for that matter), you wish the better actors were in better productions but it’s nice to see Missick and Bethel have a steady gig. I enjoyed watching this episode a lot more than the last… I don’t know, five or six of them. Jessica Camacho and J. Alex Brinson are back to being cute, which gets cloying but at least they don’t have bad arcs.

It’s fine. Hopefully they maintain this better balance through the rest of the season.

All Rise (2019) s01e11 – The Joy From Oz

Does the Los Angeles court really have a bring your kids to work day? I’m less engaged with the dramatics of “All Rise,” which has Wilson Bethel hemming and hawing over whether or not to help dad Tony Denison with his upcoming trial or just abandon him and Simone Missick having to defend herself as a judge to her current and former peers, whose problem with her is basically she’s a Black woman but “All Rise” doesn’t have the stones to say it, than with the incidentals of the courthouse they’re creating. Chief Justice Marg Helgenberger deciding her most important duty is to make sure visiting kids have the best time on their trip is… very weird. And very silly (they stage a mock trial based around Wizard of Oz, sadly it’s for the kids and not smartly written). But Helgenberger’s awesome at being silly. She’s been fine on the show before, good even, but never so much fun.

But while she’s being fun in a C plot, Missick and Bethel are just trying to get through the episode. It starts with everyone going crazy for the cookies at the District Attorney’s holiday party, which seems like utter nonsense. A bunch of harried adults geeked out a couple cookies (because they’re not irresponsibly snacking of course). “All Rise” dares the viewer to take it too seriously.

Anyway, Bethel’s arc is all about how some crook rats out his boss and it turns out to be because of a family thing and so it inspires Bethel not to abandon Tony Denison, even though at the end of last episode Bethel was ready to quit his job and become a defense attorney. There’s also a white guy redemption thing to it. Meanwhile, Missick’s got to defend herself against asinine allegations—she apparently embarrasses attorneys in her courtroom when they’re shady or incompetent—while Rocket Romano (or whatever Paul McCrane’s conservative white judge but not racist conservative TV nonsense conservative) shoots her withering looks. It’s got a predictable end.

Missick gets a big speech about how she’s going to judge the way she’s going to judge and it’s… fine. It’s not well-written, it’s certainly not well-directed (Claudia Yarmy’s direction is best described as annoying), but Missick gets through it. See, she’s got the hashtag woke courtroom and everyone—except the white prosecutors (save Bethel of course)—thinks there finally needs to be a hashtag woke courtroom. Not sure why no one else could do it but whatever. It’s just sad Missick’s stuck on such an obvious, middling network drama instead of actually getting to act on something.

All Rise (2019) s01e10 – Dripsy

Lots of guest stars this episode—Tony Denison, Ileana Douglas (who brings so much energy to the show she ought to be added as a regular), familiar-faced Brian Howe, and then Dina Meyer for a scene. The episode’s about Simone Missick having to switch courtrooms due to a leak and then protect the defendant in a case from her incompetent lawyer (Howe). Oh, and Wilson Bethel’s got a sleepwalking burglary case—Douglas is the consulting psychiatric examiner—but mostly he’s dealing with dad Denison getting arrested.

The episode then ends with Marg Helgenberger very calmly and disinterestedly informing Missick she’s under review. Missick’s old buddies in the prosecutors office have filed complaints (not Bethel, obviously). The episode ends on a semi-solid cliffhanger between Missick’s review and Bethel debating whether or not to quit his job to defend Denison and there’s this possibility the show could be about both of them quitting to become defense attorneys and it’s the most potential the show’s had in maybe ever.

Shame it’s not going to happen.

It’s also moving day for Jessica Camacho, who ends up in Missick’s courtroom by the end of the episode but doesn’t really do anything there. Camacho is moving in with court reporter Lindsay Mendez who’s a regular but doesn’t get story arcs. J. Alex Brinson and Camacho go out on a date, which gets bumpy but also doesn’t, and he’s apparently forgotten all about new prosecutors office clerk Audrey Corsa. She’s in it for a literal shot, reminding everyone she exists but having nothing to do. Kind of weird to introduce her just to drop her but whatever.

The cliffhangers for Missick and Bethel, which are all of a sudden instead of building over multiple episodes (especially Bethel’s), reek of middling plotting and give the actors very little to work with. Though having Denison back—he’s barely in the episode though, with Bethel’s time mostly spent trying to find him lost in the system—does mean having Denison’s fantastic hair helmet back. It’s awesome.

Not sure it’s worth watching the show just for it but it’s awesome.

Evil (2019) s01e10 – 7 Swans a Singin’

This episode of “Evil” has a particular creative pedigree. Nineties neo-noir wunderkind (albeit flash in the pan) director John Dahl. Eighties and nineties sci-fi guy Rockne S. O'Bannon scripts. Seeing either of their names in the credits for “Evil” just tells of careers gone wrong; seeing both of them in the same episode, well… it feels like “Evil” is a pasture to be put out to. Though O’Bannon feels like he gets how to do an “Evil,” he knows just what contemporary middle class fears to exploit. Kids, obviously. The episode’s about a Catholic girls school where everyone spontaneously starts humming the same song from an inappropriately crude Christmas cartoon on YouTube.

But the actual fear is of YouTube influencers, particularly the make-up ones. Taylor Louderman plays the influencer, who ties into the Michael Emerson plot, natch, and she’s terrible. Also the show using Emerson as the occasional bad guy in his office sending out evil into the world isn’t working. It’s not like Emerson ever wasn’t silly, but he’s even more silly in his crappy little office engineering the downfall of western civilization. Or talking dirty with girlfriend Christine Lahti on the phone.

Lahti’s going to be all “Evil” at some point, as she starts manipulating her granddaughters this episode. While wearing red!

While Mike Colter, Katja Herbers, and Aasif Mandvi investigate the school and the humming, Colter has also got to deal with someone sending him pictures of his transgression with dead fiancée’s sister Renée Elise Goldsberry (who went from being featured guest star to third tier subplot) and Herbers has her home nonsense going on with the daughters and husband Patrick Brammall. Though Brammall’s growing on me. His performance isn’t getting worse. New Church boss Peter Scolari is just getting worse. And Lahti’s not fun anymore because she’s now just around to act as a constant threat to her granddaughters, who are obnoxious but still kids and the grandmother betrayal thing is really harsh.

Wait, forgot—the Christmas cartoon also tells kids to get stoned, because you should fear YouTube and counter it by… well, it’s unclear. “Evil” tries to terrify its audience with fear of tech but, other than calling the Catholic Church to investigate, has no opinion on alternatives.

There’s an okay cliffhanger? Or at least a surprise one. The episode woefully underuses Mandvi.

Evil (2019) s01e09 – Exorcism Part 2

This episode actually surprised me, which I didn’t realize “Evil” could do, but I was wrong. I really didn’t expect the show to head-on confront the Catholic Church enabling, supporting, and facilitating child rape with it being a-okay and turning their number one “defending child rapists” lawyer Renée Elise Goldsberry (from the show creators’ previous success, “The Good Wife,” playing a character named Renée, and giving a terrible performance) as a super-sexy woman from Mike Colter’s past who’s going to coerce him into physical relations or die trying.

When Goldsberry showed up in the first few minutes, after the show established it’s a follow-up on the episode where Colter and Katja Herbers argued over an exorcism but also Michael Emerson’s incel shooter training camp (are all psychologists bad for incels, or just the white men?), I was happy to see her. Any good guest stars would help, especially since incel shooter-in-training Noah Robbins is so bad it’d make more sense if his character were an undercover cop trying to bust Emerson and also Herbers’s decidedly not sexy husband Patrick Brammall is back and, after briefly seeming like he and Herbers might be good together, decidedly is not good with Herbers or anyone else. So, Goldsberry, who’s been not bad in the past but I’m now wondering, was a welcome sight.

Then she started acting.

I mean, the deposition thing is really bad—who wrote all “Good Wife”’s realistic-y lawyer stuff because they ain’t working on “Evil”—where Goldsberry tries to out-lawyer Jennifer Ferrin (who probably ought to find a better agent, like, real talk) while trying to obscure Herbers and Aasif Mandvi being atheists who don’t think Colter should’ve tortured the plaintiff in her exorcism. The best part is how the case resolves because it’s so obviously how poorly thought-out the plotting.

Also Peter Scolari is Colter’s new boss at the Church and he’s terrible.

The big surprise, besides the Catholic Church propaganda (guess who the incel wants to shoot? Good Catholics who don’t abandon the Church because of child rape, isn’t it progressive) and Goldsberry being bad, is Emerson’s ostensible demon. He’s less an evil mastermind and more an incompetent jackass. He has a silly “break stuff in my room” scene like he thinks he’s Kylo Ren, he’s just in his late sixties or whatever. It’s buffoonish. Though I suppose at least it’s not as gross as if “Evil” really is about being Catholic Church propaganda.

Also, also. A correction from an earlier post. Black Catholics are a thing in urban areas and “Evil” supposedly takes place in New York, just a really poorly shot one. They still aren’t in that survey I mentioned and they still seem overrepresented on the show.

Becker (1998) s01e14 – Larry Spoke

This episode of “Becker” has Steven Wright guest starring, so even though it’s not the best writing for Steven Wright, it’s still at least great whenever Wright is on screen.

Wright’s a new patient of Ted Danson’s who hears God. God’s name is Larry and Larry tells Steven Wright to repaint his apartment all the time. Not the funniest situation, but Wright makes it great. It’s actually sort of strange to see some middling plot device so perfectly executed as Wright doesn’t seem very CBS sitcom at all. He’s in jarring contrast to the rest of the show, even when the rest of the show is totally serviceable.

In addition to Wright, Danson’s dealing with a slowly dying patient, Nathan Davis, and the patient’s impatient yuppie daughter, Mary-Joan Negro. It’s not a funny subplot, but a depressing one and it’s borderline unpleasant. Especially juxtaposed against the absurdity of Wright on this show.

The episode also has Hattie Winston and Shawnee Smith stopping in at Terry Farrell’s diner for the first time. Almost more interesting—they all just talk about how obnoxious it is to deal with Danson—it also implies something about Winston and Smith’s life outside the workplace. They walk to the train together, at least on this day, which is kind of nice. Especially since Winston and Smith are in the middle of this C plot about Smith keeping a nice jacket her dry cleaner gave to her by accident.

Though the end of the episode is a little too much; all of a sudden wants to comment on Danson’s apparent atheism versus everyone else’s religiosity. Sure, Wright’s plot brings in the discussion of God… but it’s not like it’s a great concept or anything. It’s great because it’s Steven Wright doing a sitcom guest spot playing Steven Wright. His comebacks are consistently hilarious throughout the episode. The holier than thou finale really misses Wright, who doesn’t get to participate. He’s already had his big finale. The rest is regular cast wrap-up.

Still, there are a lot of solid laughs throughout. Thanks to Wright, yes, but also some with Winston and Smith.

Maybe if Danson were more enthusiastic about the hard drama stuff with Negro, but he’s still sitcom star here.

Uneven or not, it’s nice to have the laughs.

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