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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.

Becker (1998) s01e13 – Becker the Elder

Whenever an episode of “Becker” starts, I hold my breath until the writing credit comes up. This one’s from series creator Dave Hackel, who likes doing the Ted Danson is a master doctor and basically right bastard; the episode opens with him ranting about little people. And even though it’s 1998 or whatever, they know it’s wrong because Alex Désert comments on it. Little bit later Danson’s making fun of how his Hispanic patient talks. So when “Becker” is being icky just to be icky, it’s in Hackel’s line. Andy Ackerman does do a solid directing job, however, because it’s Andy Ackerman.

The episode’s about Becker’s dad, Dick Van Dyke, coming through town. Van Dyke ran out on the family when Danson was eleven and Danson’s never forgiven him. Van Dyke’s never really asked for forgiveness either—until this very special episode, which isn’t even trying to be funny unless you count Hackel punching down (no blind or Black jokes about Désert so apparently someone said there were limits)—but since Hackel writes Becker like a complete Dick, who cares if Van Dyke had a reason to run out or whatever. It’s a waste of Van Dyke as a guest star and rather concerning the show creator hasn’t figured out when the show works.

There’s actually some decent stuff with Hattie Winston and Shawnee Smith, with Smith making Winston laugh, which is at least something pleasant. Because despite Van Dyke being a lovable career salesman, the show positions him as a deceptive dick (no pun) and then walks it back, then forward, then back, then shrugs it off and goes out on a character building moment for Danson.

Of course, Danson is an asshole so who cares. It’s okay he’s an asshole, however, because he treats a guy living on the street—apparently for free—but whatever. Sitcom is an abbreviation for a situation comedy. This episode is a very light, very thin situational drama. I watched the show because I wanted to laugh.

Nope, not this time.

All Rise (2019) s01e09 – How to Succeed in Law Without Really Re-Trying

Okay, when I said “All Rise” reminded me of “Major Crimes,” maybe I shouldn’t have cursed the show with an Ever Carradine guest star. Carradine plays an old defense lawyer nemesis of Simone Missick’s, who’s got an appeal—she wants to get alt-righter, white supremacist Ben Leasure out of jail—and Carradine’s confident because she’s up against Wilson Bethel not Missick. I mean, Missick’s only got the bionic arm, Bethel never misses. Wait, wrong shows.

Better shows.

Good shows.

Anyway, Missick wants to help Bethel but not too much. Meanwhile she’s pissing off a prosecutor (Suzanne Cryer), who’s trying to railroad some defendant in an unmemorable case but has it out for Missick and it doesn’t at all seem like Cryer doesn’t like Missick because Missick’s a Black woman. Oh… wait… it does. As it seems Cryer will be back to report Missick to her manager… maybe Cryer ought to fire her agent.

The thing about the episode is it’s directed by Cheryl Dunye, who’s an excellent indie filmmaker; usually “All Rise” is just wasting Missick and Bethel’s time, not the director’s. This episode, though, it’s well-directed but with that same tepid “All Rise” writing. At least it’s engaging to watch to see the direction. I couldn’t help wishing it’d lead to Dunye, Missick, and Bethel teaming up on something worth their talent.

Back to Carradine. She’s playing this neuroatypical (but self-aware) defense attorney who’s seemingly convinced Leasure is innocent even though he’s obviously guilty. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter if she thinks he’s innocent. It’s unclear. The show’s not smart enough to delve into the defense attorney of the guilty client thing, even as third lead Jessica Camacho is defending obviously guilty John Ales and doesn’t want to defend him because he’s a pain in the ass. I guess Ales is good? Maybe. He’s at least not unwelcome when he’s in a scene. Carradine hovers around like a threat. The scene where she has a showdown with Missick is patently absurd as Missick starts seeing herself from Carradine’s warped perspective, which has its own optics the show doesn’t seem to recognize.

Also good is Audrey Corsa, as the new law clerk in the district attorney’s office who teams up with Bethel on the Leasure case.

In addition to actually being good, Corsa also reveals J. Alex Brinson isn’t so much interested in Camacho as he is a hot to trot capital D dog, which is fine. I resent liking Brinson given he’s still the murderous spousal abusing cop from “Travellers,” also a much better show. And good.

Last thing—the episode’s weird with the other white people in the alt-right case. Michael Graziadei is a reformed alt-righter who might be a co-conspirator but gets a pass because Christian and no one talks about how “resister” Tamara Clatterbuck, sister of defendant Leasure, is actually a perjuring monster with half-Asian kids her brother wants to kill and she picks the brother.

“CBS woke” is not woke at all.

Though it’s nice to great to see a Dunye credit and pretty please, universe, let her make something else—something actually good—with Missick or Bethel.

All Rise (2019) s01e08 – Maricela and the Desert

There’s a road trip to Vegas this episode, which feels like a trope. It’s not a particularly engaging Vegas road trip, possibly because Wilson Bethel and J. Alex Brinson don’t have any chemistry together, possibly because the whole thing hinges on Brinson having to talk to a sheriff’s deputy Black man to Black man after Bethel’s just too white for it. Brinson and the deputy’s talk then gets into this whole Black men in law enforcement arena where “All Rise” revs up its performative centrism. It’s particularly eh because it’s the only thing Brinson does on the road trip. He’s just there to be a Black guy. Oh, and to talk about Brinson’s brewing romance with public defender Jessica Camacho.

Meanwhile Camacho is defending a murder suspect in Simone Missick’s courtroom and “All Rise” just doesn’t seem very serious with the murder trial. It’s unbelievable defendant Sebastian Sozzi is going to turn out guilty because his kid, Eva Ariel Binder, loves him so much. And he loves the kid too. How could he have possibly murdered the mom. Is it going to turn out White ADA Kelly Frye and Black detective Eugene Byrd maybe railroaded the Hispanic guy? Through… cultural ignorance no less.

It’s a weird episode with the murder trial. Missick’s all about protecting Binder from the system, which is cute and all but the mom’s dead or missing (Camacho’s already been busted bragging about how it’ll be a slam dunk because there’s no body in front of the kid), and it just doesn’t seem like “All Rise” is serious enough to be taken seriously when it asks to be. It’s not even clear it wants to be taken seriously, kind of like defendant Sozzi, who’s uncontrollable when Binder’s around. I don’t think Missick ever puts him in contempt because of course he’s going to be uncontrollably emotional given his pleas of innocence.

The episode ends with Bethel and Missick hanging out, which used to be one of the things the show got right. Now they seem like strangers, which might just be the writing, but… the show’s bland in all the wrong places. Camacho’s nearing annoying, the guest stars aren’t of the pilot’s caliber, and the writing is just way too flat. Instead of improving, “All Rise” is floundering, wasting both Missick and Bethel’s time. Especially Bethel’s this episode.

Evil (2019) s01e08 – 2 Fathers

So this episode has—you guessed it—two dads in it. Well, it’s probably got more than two dads in it, but only two where it’s important they’re dads.

The first dad is Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mike Colter’s dad. They estranged because it’s TV and there’s no way a guy’s not estranged with his dad if he’s on TV. The show doesn’t really get into the big stuff of the estrangement, but it appears to be over Colter’s religiosity. Not about Curtis-Hall running a hippie commune with his two wives (I was going to name the actors but there’s no point, they’re immaterial to the episode—the actors’ performances, not the characters… though sort of the characters).

Curtis-Hall is… sort of a guest star. Sort of. I mean, I like Vondie Curtis-Hall but it’s a nothing part; he looks great for seventy too, like they had to make him up to appear older. Colter and Katja Herbers head to the farm to see him because Colter sees Curtis-Hall is using the “Evil” demon sigils in his art. They drop acid, it’s a whole thing. Colter and Curtis-Hall bond over being Black men (sort of); what’s most interesting about that part is it’s more important they bond over being Black men in America than actual demons overrunning the planet.

Herbers just gets messed up and horny for Colter, which is particularly bad because her husband—the other dad in the title—is back.

Patrick Brammall plays the dad. It’s good the show found someone who sucks as bad as the kids to play the father. They really choked on the casting. Also Christine Lahti is tripled down on being the devil’s willing concubine. Kind of hoping she just goes all in on the bad by the end of the season, maybe kill one of the grandkids, who knows. It’d be something.

No Michael Emerson, which is fine. Aasif Mandvi has a romance subplot with returning guest star Nicole Shalhoub, where she reveals she has a really silly woo secret. Kind of hope she’s never back again because “Evil” will just waste her.

“Evil” wastes everyone.

Becker (1998) s01e12 – Love! Lies! Bleeding!

Either I made the comment you knew “Becker” was troubled when not even a solid sitcom director like Andy Ackerman could make an episode work or I meant to make that comment. This episode has Ackerman back and, this time, he’s able to compensate for some of writer Michael Markowitz’s stumbles. Not the misogynist stuff with Alex Désert but there are only so many miracles one can work. So, this episode’s the Valentine’s Day episode and Ted Danson hates Valentine’s Day. He has a rant about its suspect history, which doesn’t seem—based on a Wikipedia glance—to be accurate. If Danson’s going to rant about something, he’s got to be right. Otherwise he’s just a blowhard. The point is he’s right, not he’s a blowhard. Or at least when it works.

But it doesn’t work with Désert or Terry Farrell this episode. Danson implies Désert’s girlfriend is ugly and Désert freaks out, the unspoken joke (for a while) Désert’s blind so what does he care. He cares because he’s a misogynist and so’s Danson. Joy. When Danson later comforts a female patient, it takes a moment before he’s obviously sincere. For a second, you’re expecting him to dig in and humiliate her because… it’s a laugh somehow? At least in Markowitz’s mind.

The episode is Danson running into different kinds of Valentine’s Day goings on, but not specific to the holiday, just romance in general. There’s the girlfriend who stabs the cheating boyfriend, there’s the teenager who wants a vasectomy so he can have unsafe sex, there’s the female patient, who’s allergic to roses. Curmudgeon Danson just can’t get away from signs of love, not even at the office where Shawnee Smith has a whole relationship in one day over the phone (minus the consummating, which might be for the best but also maybe not) and Hattie Winston gets to… talk about her offscreen plans and shake her head at Smith and Danson. Not a great episode for Winston. Or Smith. But Smith at least gets material.

The episode’s got some successful moments, including the return of Saverio Guerra, whose every moment is fantastic. He’s back to torment Farrell and probably a little worse of a guy than Danson and Désert, but not much.

The show’s bottom is higher than before, which is good.

Evil (2019) s01e07 – Vatican III

This week’s “Evil” is a sixty-forty split between “why Catholics don’t get the mental health care they need” and “how to make an incel.” There’s more to both, obviously. The main plot is about possessed Annaleigh Ashford (who should sue her agent for malpractice) confessing to a triple homicide of Hispanic tween boys. She gives the Scooby Gang (clinical psychiatrist and lapsed Catholic Katja Herbers, true believer, priest-in-training, and hallucinogen abuser Mike Colter, and lapsed Muslim professional skeptic Aasif Mandvi) the location of the bodies and so they sit on that information instead of investigating for themselves, despite having the full power of the Catholic Church at their disposal.

I mean, they can hack into ICE and get surveillance camera footage, which might be international espionage given Vatican City and all, but they can’t take the time to go see if maybe Ashford buried the bodies where she said.

Meanwhile, nebbish Kevin Spacey impersonator and apparent sex god Michael Emerson recruits another disillusioned young white man, this time—through implication—a young white Jewish man—to the incel lifestyle. Noah Robbins goes from getting turned down by his barista to giving her a dead animal to plotting to mass murder women in the span of forty minutes, with a couple “therapy” sessions from Emerson to egg him on.

Now, we’re also finding out Emerson thinks he’s a demon and it’s his job to inspire… incels, basically. And to be a sex god who—unbeknownst to Herbers because, thankfully, her family is off-screen this episode—can make women do whatever he wants. I really hope Christine Lahti gets to play the sex-positive grandma with an appropriately attractive partner after this show. She deserves it. She’s not even in the episode and she’s one of the show’s biggest regrets. Though most of the show is just wishing Herbers, Colter, and Mandvi were on an actually good show and not this “deplorable Catholic men are in the control of wannabe demons” thing.

The politics of the show are still a little hard to discern—the Catholic Church isn’t portrayed bad, just behind the times. Also grossly incompetent (their secret manuscript from 500 years ago somehow has had all its iconography scanned and added to a wikipedia Demonology page. Yet they can hack ICE. Or maybe only because they have lapsed Muslin Mandvi on the payroll, which has optics of its own.

Hey, it’s a CBS show. You just wish it were a better one.

Evil (2019) s01e06 – Let x = 9

So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago.

And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah.

But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation.

Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?”

I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist.

Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.

All Rise (2019) s01e07 – Uncommon Women and Mothers

Tony Denison is finally back. Not for very long in sort of a “let’s defer Tony Denison some more” way, but it’s nice he’s back. It gives second-billed but at least fourth in the show’s heart Wilson Bethel something else to do this episode besides prosecute extremely sympathetic non-binary young adult experiencing homelessness J.J. Hawkins for arson. “All Rise” quadruples down on the pronouns this episode and never makes a joke. It’s got slimy businesspeople respecting pronouns. Though this episode also has Black woman judge Simone Missick telling her mother, Black woman social worker L. Scott Caldwell to trust the system to do the right thing.

Because the system’s fine, it’s the people.

So… ew. Lots of optics here.

Missick also has to be contrite to boss Marg Helgenberger at one point… while reaffirming how much, as a judge, she loves the cops. So… double ew.

Thank goodness the show realizes Ruthie Ann Miles and Lindsay Mendez can be buddies and have hijinks, this time involving them both wanting to be fire warden. I hold the opinion all television programs ever could have their opening titles cut to the “Night Court” theme song, but rarely do I ever hear it so often as when “All Rise” is having its hijinks.

Oh, and assistant assistant D.A. Bethel does get to tell off boss Reggie Lee when Lee’s ranting about the dangerous homeless because before Denison became a bookie to the Russian Mob (based on this episode’s visual indicators), he and Bethel at one point lived out of their car. Though pretty soon Bethel met Missick and found a second, better parent in Caldwell. What’s funny about the show’s schmaltz is how it’s also visually soft and upbeat. If it had any grit or grain, it’d be an interesting contract. Instead, it’s like the show is…

Oh.

Yeah.

It’s wearing its safety pin.

But the cast. But for the cast. Seeing Missick and Bethel doing straight network drama is damned interesting, considering it’s not where their futures lie. At least not in an “All Rise”-type form.

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