Let me lay this premise on you. What if 24 and West Wing had a baby and on that show, Jack Bauer was played by Maggie Q and President Bartlett was played by Jack Bauer? Does that sound like a show you’d like to watch? Of course it does! I was looking forward to checking out Designated Survivor from the first time I saw a commercial for its premiere. I did not expect the show to be good but I thought it would probably be fun. My expectation was that it would be predictable with a high cheese factor but worth watching because, you know, Kiefer Sutherland. Predictably, it won’t ever be mistaken for prestige TV drama. It has been cheesy, overly preachy, President Kirkman’s (Sutherland) chief rival has been a little too much of a mustache twirler for my liking and one of our main characters is really only alive because the plot needs them to be. Furthermore, the first half of the season was quite a bit stronger than the second, due to, in my opinion, the premature disposal of the show’s chief adversary which left it with a bit of a villain problem. When your antagonist is a large group of anonymous people, the truth is, you really don’t have an antagonist. That isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed it. On the contrary, it has been what I thought it would be and at times, a whole lot more. At its best, the show has been intriguing, exciting, funny and full of heart. The performances are great all around. Maggie Q is someone whose presence I always welcome on my TV. Kiefer Sutherland has been solid in a much different role than we’ve seen him in recently. Kal Penn and Virgina Madsen have stood out in their supporting roles. Although I’m not sure the high point that this week’s finale ends on is entirely earned, I’m excited to see where the show goes next season, especially now that it seems to have put a face on its bad guy heading into the fall.
Designated Survivor stands in stark contrast to other current shows that use a fictional White House as their setting. HBO’s Veep may just be the funniest show on TV. Unfortunately, the fact that the culture the show portrays of conviction-less and image obsessed men and women in power represents the “most realistic show about politics” on TV tends to bum me out. Netflix’s House of Cards shows a much darker and more nihilistic view of American politics. President Frank Underwood shows us what a man consumed by a lust for power looks like within the confines of our system of government. While I find these shows to be entertaining for different reasons, I very much enjoy the outlook of Designated Survivor. President Kirkman’s politics can seem naive and Pollyannaish to my cynical side, but there currently aren’t many other places in entertainment that express a general sense of optimism about the people who make our laws. Sure, there’s a good chance that pessimism is more than earned, but it has been nice to escape from it for an hour a week during Designated Survivor.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine is quietly having one of its best seasons. The show has a nice combination of workplace comedy mixed and case of the week situations that add depth to relationships while also being funny send ups of common cop show and movie tropes. This week’s episodes were delightful as we got to see Boyle, Terry and Diaz tap into their love for remodeling shows as they overhaul the break room while Perralta got to solve a mystery that involved Holt’s mom. Fox didn’t do the show many favors this season as it only aired two episodes between December 13 and April 11. The airing of the show has been so disjointed that I’m planning to watch it all over again over the summer because I think it very well could be the best season the show has put together. But I can’t really remember the first half at all other than that I recall enjoying them quite a bit. The last two episodes air this Tuesday.
- New to stream this week on Netflix is season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from the minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. For fans of the show who loved the first season and were somewhat underwhelmed by season two, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised upon viewing season 3. While it never reaches the heights of its freshman season, it strikes a great balance between the innocent naivete of Ellie Kemper’s titular Kimmy and biting humor about the world she inhabits. Because Kemper plays Kimmy with such earnestness and irresistible charm, the edgier social commentary never comes off as preachy. Episode six, “Kimmy is a Feminist,” stands out in my mind as one that highlights both Kemper’s performance and the writer’s critique of the current social climate. Co-stars Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski are a lot of fun. I’ve heard complaints that Krakowski’s Jacqueline is a bit too derivative of her 30 Rock character, Jenna Maroney, and I couldn’t argue with that assertion. But I love me some Jenna Maroney so I don’t really mind. Titus Burress gets a chance to shine in episode two in what will be a special treat for fans of Beyonce’s Lemonade. If you’ve never seen the show, I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Fey’s 30 Rock.
- Next week, I plan to talk a bit about HBO’s The Leftovers which turned out one of its best episodes ever on Sunday, only a week after airing its most bizarre. This doesn’t get the publicity of other HBO dramas, but it deserves to. There are only two episodes left and there are only 28 episodes altogether. If you haven’t started, you still have the time to get it all watched by the time the finale airs!
- And this week in the Arrowverse:
Arrow had a few fun guest appearances, but this week’s episode is the epitome of a table setter to get things in place for this week’s finale. Malcolm Merlyn! Nyssa! Slade Wilson! They’re all back! Can they stop Vigilante? I have a guess! Arrow is going to go through a bit of a transition between this week’s finale and next season’s premiere. The flashbacks that have been a large part of the story, at their best they’ve added depth but at their worst they’ve been dead weight, will finally catch up with where the series began. I’m interested to see how the show adjusts without these context adding vignettes.
The Flash surprised me by quickly running (Ha! Pun!) through plot that I thought would be saved for this week. I have some crazy, spoiler-filled theories on what is going to happen during this week’s finale that a few of us have discussed in the Facebook group. Head over there if you’re caught up or don’t mind being (possibly) spoiled.
The best Arrowverse episode of the week no doubt belonged to Supergirl. While it’s a testament to the ability of the writers and an expanded cast that the show has continued to produce high quality episodes despite the departure of last season’s MVP, Calista Flockhart, it feels really good to have Cat Grant back in National City for the last two episodes of the season. When you add other seasoned TV veterans Teri Hatcher and Linda Carter into the mix, there’s a serious amount of girl power on display this week. The title of next week’s episode is “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” which gives me goosebumps on its own. I can’t wait for the finale.