'This Is Hell. Of Course There’s a Gift Shop': The 10 Best Episodes of the Week
10. The Alienist — I re-read Caleb Carr’s The Alienist last week in anticipation of the series, and I like the series about as much as I like the book, which is to say: It’s fine. It’s a ten-hour episode of a police procedural set in the 19th century. Very paint by numbers. Basically, it’s a really great show if this were 1995, but it feels very boilerplate now, even if The Alienist helped to establish the template.
9. Crashing — Week to week, I can’t figure out if I like Pete Holmes or if I find him incredibly off-putting, but I can’t help but to find his earnestness and naïveté strangely appealing. I also love his work as a warm-up comic. Like, that’s Pete Holmes’ speed. That’s what he should be doing. He’s very good at making daytime audiences laugh with jokes just outside of their comfort zone. He’s your mom’s favorite comic.
8. Black-ish — My favorite part of this week’s episode was the debate over whether the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” or The Pointer Sister’s “Automatic” is the greatest song of all time. I disagree with both choices — it’s obviously The Jam’s “Town Called Malice” — but between the two, I am decidedly #TeamAutomatic. It does have everything.
7. X-Files — This was a great old-school episode of The X-Files with a case-of-the-week and a lot of Mulder and Scully chemistry. It was so good that I was willing to forget that it made absolutely zero sense in the context of this season of the X-Files. In fact, I think the twist at the end of the season is that the X-Files exist in two different universes, and week-to-week, we’re watching episodes from different universes.
6. Riverdale — Let’s just get straight what’s going on right now: Cheryl’s mom is a prostitute; Archie is an informant for the FBI; Betty’s sister is in a cult; Betty has a long-lost brother with some clear mental issues; and we still don’t really know who the Black Hood killer is? Sounds about right for Riverdale.
5. 9-1-1 — Against my better judgement, I love this show. Ryan Murphy has successfully merged procedural with soap opera, and the characters are so good and the “cases” are so insane that it has proven to be an irresistible combination. But then again, this is a Ryan Murphy show, and when the daughter of one major character overdoses and another major character gets rebar through his head and it’s only the third episode, you start to wonder how long Murphy can sustain this (10 episodes, max).
4. Shameless — This week’s episode was nuts, and not necessarily in a good way. Carl’s wife Kassidy has got to go; she’s the most annoying character since Frank in season six. Having Frank cut off three of Debbie’s toes was a bridge too far, even for Shameless, and Ian blowing up the van? That was a rail-jumping moment on any other show, although Shameless always manages to find the tracks again. I’m more bothered with Lip’s development: He’s eventually going to find “the one,” I think, and it’s probably going to be someone we already know. I don’t think it should be Sierra. Introducing an abusive father out of the blue this week did not help matters. I think Lip belongs with the woman he met at college (not the professor, but the woman his own age with the rich parents). But you know: It’s Shameless. There’s pretty much nothing they can do after eight seasons to make me stop loving them.
3. The Chi — So, Lena Waithe’s pilot episode for The Chi was outstanding. I thought that it had the makings of one of the best dramas of the year, and it may still. However, after three episodes, the plot hasn’t advanced that much since the pilot. It’s spinning its wheels. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode, however, should propel it forward next week. I hope, at least, although I also hope that The Chi doesn’t rely on character deaths to advance the plot.
2. The Good Place — How many reinventions does this show have? How many ways can it transform itself? Has a half-hour comedy ever nailed jokes, character, and story as well as The Good Place does week in and week out? This is not a sitcom that recycles old storylines and puts a fresh new spin on them. The Good Place creates a magical new story every week. It is a miracle of a TV show. Also, I want some of that Transformers cologne, because I want to “smell loud and confusing.”
1. Counterpart — Starz’s new drama is good. I don’t want to review it in full until we’ve had a few episodes to watch — it may end up being merely good instead of really good — but so far it has successfully blended sci-fi and spy thriller. It’s like Fringe crossed with Alias only it’s darker and has better production values. J.K. Simmons is phenomenal. It’s a testament to both the writing and acting that I immediately bought into the premise in spite of how out-there it is. I am hoping that Starz has enough juice now to launch a show into mainstream conversations, because I think this is a show that warrants it.