SNL: Aziz Ansari and Big Sean – Five Stars (Review)

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This episode of SNL was firing on all cylinders from the cold Putin open to to the ending scene where Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata sing “To Sir With Love” to former President Barrack Obama, this was, like the Uber sketch, a full five star effort. 

Clearly Aziz Ansari was a good influence on the writing staff this week. Although to be fair, Weekend Update managed to knock it out of the park as usual. Leslie Jones nailed it with a  bit of topical humor so spot on it made your teeth hurt.

Beck Bennett gave Alec Baldwin a rest this week as his Putin, with a little help from Kate McKinnon, ripped the new president and his “cabinet” to shreds. Best gag of the open was the “Afraid because Trump is in charge. Don’t worry, he isn’t.”

This brilliant open then moved onto one of the best monologues ever, on SNL. Aziz was funny, clever and on point with sharp humor that poked fun, and holes, in all the right places.

The first sketch, which starred Ansari, was a brilliant, but sly, lambasting of all those Golden Globes given out to La La Land. Aziz played a man who did not think the film, with its seven wins at the “Globes” was all that good.

Strong and Beck are both “bad cops” who are there to make Aziz’s character see the error of his ways. This one was a crowd pleaser and was very funny. The big finish had Kenan Thompson brought into the precinct for not liking the HBO series Westworld.

“I didn’t like the finale,” Thompson’s character says, “it could have been the premiere.” He is immediately shouted down by the two cops in charge. The highlight of the sketch, above the chair thought the two-way mirror bit, was Aziz’s character confessing that he fell asleep for a moment during the film and missed the few black characters in the movie.

Opting to leave the new president alone this week, the writers took aim and Trump’s “mouthpiece” instead, Kellyanne Conway, played, as usual, by the brilliant Kate McKinnon. As she and The Lead’s Jack Tapper bandy words, the sketch segways into a musical number.

Kellyanne sings about her fame, that she will, if Googled, appear before Kanye and the entire sequence looks like a Marilyn Monroe “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” riff. Although this is not a direct pastiche of that number at all.

“Weekend Update” featured Michael Che at his best and the segment with Leslie Jones was beyond brilliant. Ostensibly about the new film Hidden Figures (A film about the heretofore unrecognized contribution by three black women who ensured that the astronauts in NASA made it to space.) and she then goes on a riff about other black people overlooked in history.

Complaining that all Black History month ever covered was George Washington Carver and his peanuts, Jones’ rant was a comic highlight of the episode. The best bit had to be the invention of the mailbox by a black man. Her line about white people seeing all their letter on the ground was classic Jones.

The Aziz and Bobby Moynihan sketch, Five Stars; about the rating system associated with Uber,  was funny. The driver in the skit, Moynihan, is a Russian and it allowed both the passenger, Indian, and the driver to indulge in a little stereotyping.

The two men wind up bonding over their love of “Black Mirror” and their favorite episode. Both the passenger and the driver earn a five star rating and as Aziz reluctantly leaves the Uber, his new Russian pal runs him down.

Was this sketch cocking a snook at Russian relations, or just Vladimir Putin? Regardless of whether there were any underlying themes in this skit, it was brilliant.

The show finished with a touching tribute to the former president that, sadly, is not available for viewing via YouTube.

Big Sean was the musical talent this week and he was a crowd pleaser both times he performed. Aziz did not appear in all the sketches but he did well in all of the ones he took part in.  One of the highpoint’s had to be that pizza band sketch. The Bookworm sketch was spot on but in spite of the humor felt tacked on.

SNL this week almost felt like a “retro” episode. Harking back to its early days with equal measures of irreverence, gut busting humor and pithy observations the writers knocked it out of the park with this one.

 

Rosewood: Asphyxiation & Aces – Escape Artist (Review)

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Rosewood “Asphyxiation & Aces” is another one of those episodes where the killer can be identified within the first few moments of the show. In other words, before the second commercial break, the culprit; questioned and passed over by the team, is as clear as the nose on one’s face.

An escape artist and magician is found dead in a trunk at the bottom of a swimming pool. The first suspect, apart from the victim’s female BFF’s boyfriend, Nathan, Zavier Salvas did the dirty deed. A case of professional jealousy being the main motive, a life-long “also ran” who hated the younger man for getting that Vegas gig.

In this episode, however, the murder was not the main storyline. It too was an “also ran” with Rosie’s careful vetting of Adrian taking up part of the segment along with Ira Hornstock’s mysterious behavior taking up the rest.

These two plot lines were also, to an extent, filler. The big news, coming at the tale end of the episode was a “cliffhanger” meant to make the last two episodes of this season of Rosewood a couple of shockers.

Rosewood goes to see a doctor who tells him his Tawnya binge affected Rosie more than they initially thought. If you have family, the doc says, you will need them around you.

Uh-oh.

The other relationship issues, Villa and her new fella Dr. Webb, take the entire episode to solve.  Even though Rosie finally clears Adrian, Annalise is being too cautious one moment and is then temporarily “all in.” Webb is uncertain about where they stand and finally, Villa explains where the vacillating behavior comes from.

Resident Evil: Extinction actress Spencer Locke, as Danni Wagner, is the other relationship puzzle piece. Her best friend Emilio is murdered and at first Danni’s boyfriend is the suspect. Nathan, however, is a nice guy who had no issues with the murder victim.

Later they find out that Danni has an incurable disease that Emilio was using his sleight of hand skills to steal money. He was cheating at cards at a local casino in order to pay for his best mate’s medical treatments.

Ira and Daisie are also up to something. Initially, it looks like the two are being secretive for relationship reasons. Later, after Daisie gives up her pappi’s big news, Villa learns that Hornstock has applied for a captain’s position at Palm Beach.

In another one of those relationship storylines, Captain Slade puts in a good word for Ira. At first Hornstock believes that his replacement tried to scupper his chances. Later, he learns that Slade really sold Ira to the new precinct.

The former captain  turns down the offer and Slade realizes that Ira feels that Villa, Rosie and the rest of the precinct are his family.

This was an interesting episode but it was far too easy to work out who the bad guy was in the murder investigation. It was fun though to see the team clear their three main suspects.

It was also amusing to see Rosie get caught short when he and Webb try to get the surveillance tapes from the casino where Emilio was cheating. Rather interestingly, at the start of the episode, Rosie sees Villa dancing with him at the club where he and Annalise and Webb are double dating.

Clearly, Rosewood still has a thing for Villa.

The last two episodes promise to have some heavy “life-threatening” drama with Rosie’s heart condition being affected by all that boozy partying.

Rosewood now airs Fridays on FOX. Tune in and see just what has happened to the billboard pathologist’s heart.

Cast:

Guest starring Spencer Locke as Danni Wagner, Joel Swetow as Zavier Salvas, Adam Chambers as Kristoff Kade, Kendrick Sampson as Nathan Turner and Maurice Mejia as Emilio Sanchez. 

The Good Place: Mindy St Claire, Michael’s Gambit – Forked Over (Review)

 The Good Place - Season 1

The Good Place doubled up the last two episodes of season one for a surprising, to some, ending to Bad Eleanor’s adventures. “Mindy St. Claire” and “Michael’s Gambit” revealed that, The Good Place was not.

Those of us who had suspicions from the start, the “good” people, seemed far too good. Tahani, who turns out to have done all her good deeds to impress her parents and throw some shade at her perfect sister and Chidi, who made everyone in his life miserable because he could not make up his mind.

Then there was the Jason/Jianyu dilemma. While there was the issue of Good Eleanor being in the bad place, there is never any mention of the silent monk, with the maturity of a seven year old, being in the same place.

Of course the big reveal, that this has always been The Bad Place but in experimental form, was surprising. Michael tells the four that they were chosen specifically to torture one another. They are, he informs the small group, the only real denizens of the “neighborhood.”

Everyone else belongs to the “Bad Place” team. (One highpoint of the double episode finale was Bad Eleanor – a member of that team named Vicki – being cheated out of her big moment. “I rehearsed back there for three hours!” Just brilliant.)

The build up to the big reveal, where Eleanor guesses they have been in the Bad Place all along, included the brief escape of Jason, Janet and Eleanor to The Medium Place. It was amusing and meeting Mindy St. Claire gave the audience a chance to see  just how much went into the real selection process of going up, or going down.

St. Claire’s getting coked out of her head and starting to do something good for the world, only to die before she could accomplish it, put her in a different place. Her sister carrying on her plan moved the cocaine addicted lawyer up a few more notches.

Not good enough for The Good Place yet not bad enough for the alternative, the lawyer gets her own place. (And rather interestingly, still craves that nasty old cocaine. “No seriously. Do you have any?”)

This was a splendid weaving of truth, that Michael really was a new architect, and that the place he developed as The Bad Place disguised at the The Good Place. Older viewers, or folks that are fans of the old black and white Rod Serling classic anthology series The Twilight Zone may remember the segment dealing with heaven and hell.

The Twilight Zone episode was titled “A Nice Place to Visit” and starred the beloved character actor Sebastian Cabot (the English actor voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book). In the episode, a bank robber is shot dead and wakes in what he believes to be heaven. By the end of the episode, Rocky learns that he is, in fact, in “the other place.” 

The Good Place may well be a nod to the The Twilight Zone episode. The big difference here is that Eleanor actually works it out. Rocky finds out by accident. Plus, Eleanor has, through the ministrations of Chidi and Tahani, become a better person. Albeit a dead one.

In fact, as Eleanor herself points out, they all became better people. They also, she tells Michael, became a team. It is this last bit of information that gives the architect an epiphany of sorts.

He proposes that the plan be redone, with the same four occupants, but that they should all be separated. Eleanor, writes herself a note and pops it into Janet’s mouth.

Later, when her memory has been wiped, Janet arrives and hands the piece of paper. She finds “Eleanor, find Chidi,” written down. “What the fork is a chidi,” she asks. Followed by her realization that she cannot say the “f” word.

She and the other three have been “forked over” by Michael and his cronies.

If there is a season two, it would involve Eleanor finding Chidi, presumably, but this really does feel like a one shot deal here. Funny as the show was and as clever as the ending is, it would be hard for the other’s to make a connection.

After all, no one else wrote anything down before having their memories wiped. Without a hint from their recent past how could they track one another down?

The Good Place was cracking good fun and show creator Michael Schur came up with a winner. This one will be missed.

CAST:

Guest starring Marc Evan Jackson as Shawn and Maribeth Monroe as Mindy St. Claire

Lethal Weapon: Brotherly Love – The Ring (Review)

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Lethal Weapon “Brotherly Love” is almost a play on words is also a tale of two sets of brothers. A pair of real ones and  a couple of brothers in blue; Riggs and Murtaugh. Last week’s episode “Lawmen” had Roger and Martin bonding even more as friends and partners.

“Brotherly Love” sees the bond tested when Roger has heart problems and asks Riggs to lie about it. Martin agrees but later Murtaugh implies that his partner lost the tow truck that tried to steal $2 million in cocaine from the impound lot. Things get a bit tense between the two as a result.

Martin is so concerned about Roger that he heads to investigate a suspect, one Dino Brant,  on his own. The ex-con pulls a gun on Riggs, mainly because he does not believe that Martin is a cop. Roger arrives in time to help calm the situation by getting the drop on Dino.

The episode has Dino covering for his brother Jerry and Riggs covering for his “brother” Roger. “Brotherly Love” also has its fair share of comic and awkward moments. Roger briefing his team on just how terrifying Trish can be and Rigg’s agreeing that he too is scared to death of “that tiny little lady.”

Other comic moments include  Scorsese’s observation that Riggs and Murtaugh are,  “Adorable.” Martin’s own observation that he and Roger are adorable and the two detective’s “playing” Monty to get the evidence ($2 million in cocaine) released to them.

“That’s how you win the war on drugs. Two big duffel bags full of cocaine. Now let’s go clean up this city.”

The awkwardness ensues at the “arraignment” where Trish takes Riggs apart on the stand. She also forces him to reveal that Roger had a “heart attack” while they were chasing the cocaine filled car.

Later, after Roger angrily confronts his partner for dropping him in it, Riggs replies that he was under oath. “What did you want me to do? Lie?”

Roger Jr. is made to feel awkward with the long running argument about the evidence against Dino. This crops up while they look at prospective first cars for the younger Murtaugh.

Riggs and Dr. Cahill actually have two awkward moments. She questions the scars on his fingers and knuckles, he explains that his wedding ring went down the disposal and he rescued it.

The session then goes to what Martin’s reaction would be if he lost the ring and that perhaps that would be a good thing. Riggs does not agree and leaves the session early. Later, he departs again before Cahill has finished. Each time he is less than pleased with the shrink.

Toward the end of the episode, when Roger and Martin work with Dino to save his brother Jerry, who Angelo has hostage, the car that contains Riggs is pushed into the bay. He loses the handcuff key. In order to save himself, Martin forces the cuff on his left wrist off.

The action takes his wedding ring off and he watches the thing sink into the depths of the water. Worried about his partner Riggs opts to let the ring go and heads to the surface. Murtaugh, who is concerned about Martin,  plunges into the bay.

At the very end of the episode, Roger learns that his heart is fine, but his pacemaker needs replacing. Martin buys a second hand ring to replace the one Miranda slipped on his finger when they got married. Trish and Roger also kiss and make up.

This episode of Lethal Weapon was chock-a-block with moments. The car chase at the start with a laughing Riggs cheerfully chasing the bad guy, while Photronique’s  Poppin Non Stop rips it up in the background was a brilliant start. Roger having a heart attack changed the whole thing immediately.

The brothers storylines were very busy and, overall, quite funny and touching. It was, however, the plot thread dealing with the ring that carried the most weight.

Show creator Matthew Miller has never allowed Miranda Riggs to fade into the background for long. The loss of Martin’s wedding ring, and his replacing it with a reasonable facsimile, means that he is not ready to “let go.”  It was a splendid moment.

Lethal Weapon continues to be the best “cop buddy movie” made into a television series. It airs Wednesdays on FOX. Do not miss out on a great show.

Cast:

Guest starring Chris Coy as Dino Brant, Luke O’Sullivan as Jerry Brant, George Sharperson as Monty and Jim Pirri as Angelo.

‘Gotham’ Mad City: Ghosts – Destroying Penguin (Review)

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Gotham: Mad City “Ghosts” sees Ed’s plan to destroy Penguin, for his murder of Isabella, take root and reap a bountiful harvest. He uses Clayface to haunt Oswald, driving him to a murderous frenzy.

Cobblepot has moved on from his devotion to his mother and he is now focused upon his dead father, Elijah Van Dahl. His dad’s “ghost” reveals that his body been stolen and he cannot rest until it is returned and the thief punished.

The episode follows Oswald’s journey towards a complete meltdown, which culminates in his murdering his new assistant and then blowing the big live interview with Margaret Hearst.

Ed tricking Oswald into confessing his love was done very well. “I was talking about becoming business partners.”

Lee orders Jim Gordon killed and then, at the last moment reneges. Selina and her mother spend some turbulent time together and bond by the end of the episode. This process is aided somewhat by both Alfred and Bruce.

Dwight Pollard is busily rejuvenating the dead and it looks like Jerome, whom Galavan killed last season, will be making a return to the city. A face from Maria Kyle’s past turns up demanding money. He is told to ask Bruce Wayne for the cash.

The episode ends with a close up on Jerome’s resting face, his mouth stretched into a disturbing rictus sans any real color.

Gotham “Ghosts” was a good follow on to last week’s episode. While that one did have a good bit of humor, Jim Gordon speaking in rhyme to force Tetch to reveal who had Alice’s blood was beyond brilliant, this episode allowed Penguin to deteriorate spectacularly before the end credits rolled.

(Speaking of humorous moments, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean last week  killed it with her Isabella death scene mime.)

This week’s episode also seemed to indicate that Lee does still love Jim, she gets Carmine to call off the hit, and Zsasz (Carrigan) provided some more amusing moments. “I’m going to miss you” and “Good shot on Mario, I never liked him,” were funny as was the bright smile and his “okay boss” when told the job was cancelled.

The uneasy alliance between Tabitha, Butch, Barbara and Ed will be interesting. Although not as interesting as the resurrection of Jerome, who  will, at last, be allowed to become The Joker.

Kudos to Michael Chiklis and his “guilty” rant at Lee. That actor can do enraged madness like no one else.

Gotham: Mad City airs Mondays on FOX.

CAST:

Guest starring Ivana Milicevic as Maria Kyle, Jan Maxwell as Margaret Hearst, Brian McManamon as Clayface, Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska, David Dastmalchian as Dwight Pollard and Paul Reubens as Elijah Van Dahl.